Ma-row! My guest today is author Joyce Tremel!
Joyce Tremel was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. Her flash fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and her non-fiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. She lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband and a spoiled cat. Her novel, TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW is the first in the Brewing Trouble mystery series. The second book in the series, tentatively titled TANGLED UP IN BREW, will be released late next year.
- Welcome Joyce! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO. I’ve loved mysteries ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book, but I only began writing seriously about twenty years ago. TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW is my fourth completed novel, but the first one to be published.
- Tell us a bit about your latest book , TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW. Where did that idea come from?
TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW is the first book in the Brewing Trouble mystery series. Maxine “Max” O’Hara is just about to realize her dream of opening her very own brewpub in Pittsburgh. Max doesn’t believe her assistant when he tries to convince her that some of the things going wrong are acts of sabotage until she finds him dead in the brewery. Her homicide detective dad thinks Kurt’s death was an accident, but Max knows it wasn’t and vows to find the killer.
I’m not quite sure where the idea came from. My agent had submitted another manuscript to Berkley and the editor liked it but it wasn’t cozy enough for their line. She asked if I’d be interested in writing a cozy. Of course I said yes. I tried to come up with a hook that hadn’t been done before. I did some research and discovered there were no cozies involving brewing and I thought that was a unique angle. I wrote a proposal and three chapters and they liked it.
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I start with a brief character sketch for the main characters—what they look like, a little of their background, etc. When I wrote the proposal for this book, I knew that my protagonist was petite with short black hair, that she had five older brothers and the oldest was a Catholic priest, that her dad was a homicide detective. I also had descriptions of her assistant, and the new chef who was an ex-professional hockey player and would be her love interest. The minor characters kind of unfold on the page as I write.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
Kind of both. I don’t write a detailed outline, but I do write a one or two page synopsis before I begin that covers what I want to happen in the book. It usually changes quite a bit as I write the book. Sometimes the characters don’t cooperate!
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Both are important, but I think the characters make the story. If you have a fantastic plot but no one cares about your characters, no one is going to care one bit about that plot. If you have characters that readers love, they might forgive a plot that’s a little less than fantastic.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
I think my biggest challenge was the long road to publication. Being a member of Sisters in Crime—especially my local Pittsburgh chapter—played a large part in keeping me inspired and motivated. That and the fact I was too stubborn to quit!
- Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
How about agent stories? How much space do I have, lol? TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW is my first published book, but I’m on my FOURTH agent. My first agent left the business when her husband became ill, my second agent got her dream job at a publishing company, my third one left agenting to go back to school for her PhD, and my current agent had better not go anywhere. EVER.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Right now I’m working on the third book in the Brewing Trouble series. Book 3 involves Oktoberfest, ex-Cold War spies, and a dead Sousaphone player. I’m waiting for revisions on Book 2—tentatively titled Tangled Up In Brew. It takes place at a Beer and Burgers festival where a nasty food critic is murdered. I also have a book featuring a police secretary protagonist that I hope sells one of these days and I’d love to write a mystery set in the 1940s. I kind of have an obsession with that era. I have a million ideas for other books that I’ll probably never have time to write.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
I don’t write quickly—I tend to edit as I go along, so I’m at my desk most of the day to make sure I get enough written. I usually sit down at my desk around 7am and check email, etc. I’ll write for a few hours, then take a break in the afternoon and do household things, run to the store, or work in the yard if it’s nice out. After dinner, I’ll usually put another hour or so at my desk.
- If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
That’s a tough one to answer. I don’t think I could narrow it down to three!
- What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Don’t give up. If the first book you write doesn’t find a home, write another one. And another. The best way to learn to write is by doing a lot of it. Read books in your genre to learn what works and what doesn’t. If you keep learning and keep writing, sooner or later you’ll write something someone wants to buy. There’s some luck at play, too—the right thing landing with the right person at the right time.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I can’t think of anything! It’s probably sad that I’ve never done anything all that crazy.
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I have a second degree blackbelt in Taekwondo.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
I couldn’t handle any more questions, lol! Interviews are hard!
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Visit my website at www.joycetremel.com.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? I’d say Day. I used to be more of a night person, but that’s gradually changed over the years.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat, of course! You’ll be happy to know there’s a kitten named Hops in the book. Hops is on the cover wearing her oh-so-fashionable hot pink cast.
Beach or Pool? Hmm. Neither? I prefer mountains and forests. It’s a bonus that I don’t have to wear a swimsuit there.
Steak or salad? Both!
Favorite Drink? Beer, of course. And it must be GOOD beer.
Favorite Book? To Kill A Mockingbird.
Favorite TV Series? Right now it’s Gotham. NCIS is a close second.
Favorite Movie? I can’t narrow it down to one. I liked The Sting, Young Frankenstein, Casablanca… Notice that all of them are more than twenty years old.
Favorite Actor: I don’t have one.
Favorite Actress: Same here.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? I’ve never had a martini so I’d have to say Pina Colada.
Hawaii or Alaska? Neither? I’m not much of a traveler. Although if I won a trip to Germany or Ireland I wouldn’t turn it down!
Thank you, Joyce. Folks you can find out more about Joyce at:
Joyce will give away one signed copy of TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW. To one lucky commenter!
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Contest ends midnight, December 6. Good luck!