Thursday, August 2, 2012

Q&A with Joyce Strand, author of the Jillian Hillcrest Mysteries

Joyce Strand is one very accomplished woman. Born in Pennsylvania, Mrs. Strand completed her PhD while raising two young children and following her husband as he travelled around the world for work. Joyce also made a career for herself in the corporate world as a communications professional, just like her character Jillian. The similarities stop there as Joyce never encountered a murder mystery in her line of work.

Joyce has always been a fan of mystery novels. Inspired by the genre, she now writes mysteries herself. The Jillian Hillcrest Mysteries follow the title character as her life as a communications professional becomes embroiled with murder, mystery, and an ex-husband intent on changing his "ex" status.

I met Joyce through It's a website for readers and authors who's goal is to promote great literature. It's a community of authors, book reviewers/bloggers, and reading enthusiasts promoting each other. I was looking to host a few author interviews and Joyce graciously accepted. So here we go, a quick ten questions with Joyce Strand:

Would you like to tell us a little bit about your series?

The Jillian Hillcrest mystery series follows PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest as she strives hard to promote her small, biotechnology company. Unfortunately, murders, her ex-husband, her neighbor, and a San Francisco homicide inspector repeatedly interrupt her and challenge her to solve a variety of Silicon Valley mysteries.

The first mystery, ON MESSAGE, starts with the arrival of a strange package and moves to a frightening call from the homicide inspector.

The second mystery, OPEN MEETINGS -- which was just released -- starts in a restaurant when a nervous woman interrupts Jillian and her reporter colleague claiming her life is in danger if he prints anything she’s told him.  Shortly thereafter the woman dies in a suspicious car crash.

Jillian Hillcrest mysteries are inspired by California cases – specifically, ON MESSAGE by the murder of a retired biotech executive in the San Diego area and OPEN MEETINGS by the illicit activities of a police network in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I noticed that you grew up reading mysteries/thrillers. Did this inspire you to write in the same genre?

Yes, I grew up reading mysteries – beginning with Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys, moving onto Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner – to today’s mystery authors such as Michael Connelly and Stieg Larsson – and many, many more in between. I’ve never stopped reading mysteries. I love the puzzles and the tension. When it came time for me to decide what kind of books would I write, there was little question it would be in my favorite genre.

You've lived in various countries through the years. Do you have a particular favorite?

I have lived in Brazil, Italy and The Netherlands. They are all different – each with their strong points. I love Italian food – it remains my favorite.  And Brazilians are as gracious as the Dutch are straightforward. When we lived in Brazil, I chose to research and write my doctoral dissertation about Brazilian politics and their transition from a military dictatorship to the democracy of today. In The Netherlands, I really loved exploring the museums and art.  And my son was born in The Netherlands – a significant event! I learned something from all of these cultures, and also came to appreciate my own.

You hold education in high regard. How does that relate to your causes?

I’m not sure how high I hold education. I know many very smart people who are not necessarily book-educated.  I just happen to enjoy learning.  More important, my brother got a PhD, so I had to get one, too!

What's your favorite book?

James Clavell’s SHOGUN is my favorite book – the author drew me into a totally different world, fascinated me with the many unexpected twists and turns of the memorable characters, and made me want more. I felt like I was actually living in feudal Japan watching the rise of a Shogun with all the surrounding intrigue, love, and battles.

How did you use your marketing background to your advantage with regards to promoting you and your books?

My marketing background in both high tech and biotech prepared me for the many steps it takes to build momentum and sell books. The implementation is different, but the requirements are similar – get the name of you and your book to as many different places as possible where target readers might be. And sustain whatever momentum you can build. Without marketing and promotion, readers are not likely to be aware of a book – no matter how well written it is.

What's your favorite way to procrastinate?

Probably watching TV.  And Tweating and Facebooking. Petting the cats. Sometimes I can use procrastinating to my advantage – if I really don’t want to write, I do housework instead. It becomes a choice of which task do I want to do the least. I get a lot more accomplished that way!

Favorite food?

My favorite food is definitely Italian pasta, led by penne Bolognese. And I also like duck – prepared in many ways.

Would you like to promote your editor and cover designer?

My cover designer is superb and captured the mood of the genre and characters. She also has provided consistency in the book series:
Gwyn Snider – GKS Creative

Also, my editor has great patience and persistence, as well as creativity.
Laurie Gibson, member of Central Coast Writers, a branch of California Writers Club

Who are you reading now?

Among others, the second Stieg Larsson mystery “The Girl Who Played with Fire” Actually, I have approximately 20 books loaded on my Kindle waiting for me to read – almost all mysteries.


Twitter: @joycetstrand

On Message

Open Meetings

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