Today I have an interview with novelist Joyce T. Strand. We’re chatting about her new mystery, The Reporter’s Story.
During her virtual book tour, Joyce will be having 3 giveaways:
1st Prize: Kindle Fire 7” WiFi 8GB Black plus e-book or paperback copy of The Reporters Story
2nd Prize: $25 Amazon gift card and e-book or paperback copy of The Reporters Story
3rd Prize: e-book or paperback copy of The Reporters Story
To be entered for a chance to win one of the prizes, use the form below.
Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it contemporary and historical mysteries set in California. All of her published six novels are inspired by actual events and/or real people, although they are definitely fictionalized.
Her first three contemporary mysteries feature protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, a public relations executive who encounters murder and mayhem at her Silicon Valley company. Jillian’s boss, Brynn Bancroft, solves the next two mysteries when she leaves her position as Chief Financial Officer to run a winery in Sonoma.
In Strand’s first historical mystery, a Superior Court Judge strives to discover the truth behind the mystery of a robbery-murder in a small California town in 1939. In her newest mystery, The Reporter’s Story, a house burglary in 1912 San Francisco piques a young reporter’s instincts that leads to intrigue and murder.
Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and enjoys exploring and writing about the growing wine region in the Ramona Valley near San Diego.
Welcome, Joyce. Please tell us about your current release.
The Reporter’s Story is my second mystery set in the past to feature a character who might be considered a minor hero. Emma Matheson is a reporter at a San Francisco newspaper in 1912, whose life is based on a real-life reporter of the times. She gets drawn into solving a mystery of a house burglary that the owner denies happened. Her intense desire to become a world-class, front-page reporter drives her to pursue the solution—leading to murder, intrigue, and smuggling.
What inspired you to write this book?
First, I am a mystery writer and love to create and solve a puzzle with interesting, amateur sleuths. I have written five contemporary mysteries with two protagonists who get pulled into the need to solve crimes in Silicon Valley and/or the Sonoma wine region of California.
But, as a history buff, I am also intrigued with how our predecessors might have lived. At the same time, I’m enthralled with some of the minor “heroes” who don’t necessarily receive broad recognition but who made a difference.
I decided that I wanted to search for these “heroes” and write mysteries around their lives. My first one, The Judge’s Story, featured a California Superior Court Judge set in a small California town in 1939
In The Reporter’s Story, the protagonist, Emma Matheson, is based on a real-life reporter of the time, Marjorie C. Driscoll, who originally worked for William Randolph Hearst and then in 1921 joined the San Francisco Chronicle, a competitive newspaper to Mr. Hearst, and eventually at the Los Angeles Times where she became a respected front-page contributor. A graduate of Stanford, Ms Driscoll wrote an article in The Stanford Illustrated Review in 1920, titled “In the Newspaper Field” that describes the features of a successful reporter, including the mantra “know a little of everything.” Emma’s reporting values are drawn from this article.
Excerpt from The Reporter’s Story:
Emma Matheson entered the police station. As a recently hired reporter for the Gazette daily newspaper in 1912 San Francisco, she had convinced her editor to allow her to cover the frequent house burglaries as part of her daily assignments. Emma was determined to make her mark and prove that females were capable of reporting front-page news.
The desk sergeant had come to look forward to Emma’s visits and considered it his responsibility to train the young reporter in the ways of police work. The new mayor’s directive to co-operate with the news media reinforced his inclination. He would often give her tips on which burglaries to pursue.
“Ya might wanta see about that one there on Clay Street. Bunch of jewelry and stuff stolen. Probably worth—maybe $8,000. It would take me sixteen years to earn that much. Maid reported it. Officer said she seemed jittery. She wasn’t sure of the amount but said the missus would return today so there might be more to it. Burglar musta know’d master and mistress of the house were gone.”
Emma studied the report. “But the maid was there and she didn’t hear anything?”
“That’s what she said.”
“What makes you suspicious? Why do you think it’s worth a follow-up visit?”
He said, “Look at the report. The maid called police. Then she gives a report to the officer who responded. But when the butler comes into the room, he said that he wasn’t so sure there’s a theft. He said to wait until the master or mistress return home to know for sure.”
Emma continued reading the report. “It says the maid claimed the house was ransacked. But the butler wouldn’t let the officer check it out. That is kind of strange.” She looked up from the report. “If I wanted to go there to talk to them, what’s the best way?”
The sergeant studied the address. “Ya probably want to grab the cable car up the hill. Then it’s mebbe a two-block walk—where them new houses are—painted different colors.”
Break-ins happened frequently in the city, but Emma had learned to listen to the veteran sergeant and if his instincts suggested she should follow up, then she would.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on the third novel of my contemporary mystery featuring Brynn Bancroft, which I plan to release in November 2016. Brynn is a spinoff character from my first three novels. She leaves her position as the Chief Financial Officer of a Silicon Valley biotech company to manage the winery that she and her ex-husband have purchased in Sonoma. HILLTOP SUNSET was the first of the trio; and LANDSCAPE FOR MURDER, the second. Both are standalone although the main characters are the same.
Brynn just can’t seem to avoid getting drawn into murder and crime, despite her best intentions of marketing her killer cabernet and forgetting her abusive childhood.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As a public relations professional in the high-tech and biotech arenas for more than 25 years, I had to write numerous white papers, publish by-lined articles, and draft press releases. Writing took up at least 50% of my time.
However, I decided to write fiction in 2009 when, for the first time in my career, I was unable to find a new position and my late husband suggested I should write a book—since that’s what I’d done for most of my life. I discovered quickly that fiction is different than non-fiction. Nonetheless I knew the discipline of writing and learned to turn a background paragraph into dialogue very quickly.
Including The Reporter’s Story, I have now written and published seven mysteries. I would say that I became an author with the publication of my first novel, On Message: A Jillian Hillcrest Mystery.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full-time, but I also self-publish. When I’m writing my first draft, my day is dedicated to drafting at least 3,000 words per day once I’ve plotted my story and done the necessary research. Time dedicated to editing and re-writing the remaining 5 to 10 drafts is determined by my editors and proof-readers.
Once I’ve produced a final draft, gotten it formatted and printed, I focus on the marketing process. And I also start to plot my next book.
I confess that in the evenings I enjoy watching TV. I also help out friends who might need some writing to promote their business. And I do enjoy playing with my three grandchildren. My most favorite past time, however, is going to live theater, particularly Broadway musicals.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I am a “just-do-it” kind of writer. When writing my first drafts, I don’t worry about grammar, plot, and consistency. I just write those 3,000 words or more a day. To me, writing is all about re-writing.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In my teen years, I decided that I would become an attorney. I loved Perry Mason. However, when I looked at a law book, I quickly changed my mind.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I would encourage readers to write reviews of the books you enjoy. It is so very helpful to both authors and other readers.
Thanks for being here today, Joyce!