Just when you get comfortable, something changes...

Please check back for my new location or email me at for info.

See You Soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Ravens Eye is On: Juliet Blackwell

Juliet is a woman who realizes that real life can imitate art and make you a successful writer along the way. Her real life interest in art was parlayed into a clever series on a art forger turned detecive that brought her high praise. Now she turns her pen to paint a picture of a witch trying to keep out of the public eye until dark deeds by demons compel her to ditch the cloak of privacy and cast her spells to save the day. Juliet's writing is smart and fun, with a serious dash of the supernatural thrown in. Living out in San Fransicisco bay area has given her a great perspective on those who live their lives in more unusual ways than the rest of the world. When I met Juliet, I knew right away she was one clever, bright and fun woman. I am very proud to have her on the spotlight.

Q: Why do you write mysteries? What in specific draws you to them?
:When I first started writing, I think I was drawn to mysteries because I read so many of them, and also because there’s already a basic structure for a plot: a crime, an investigation, the discovery of the murderer. As a beginning writer, it was comforting to know where the story was going. But now I think I like mysteries because of the puzzles they present, both to readers and to writers. I love planting clues, and following the characters, and changing my mind about whodunit because one of my characters decides to go off on their own. It’s such fun!

Finally, I love a happy ending. I guess in mysteries the “happy” part is somewhat mitigated by the fact that, after all, there was a murder, and loss of human life is huge. But I love that there is a resolution at the end of the story, as there so rarely is in real life. The murderer is discovered, justice is served, and things are put aright once again.

Q: When did you begin the process of writing your first book? What did you find the most challenging?
:My first book was Feint of Art, which I wrote under the pseudonym of Hailey Lind (a family name) together with my sister Carolyn. We both have backgrounds in academia: I was studying anthropology, and Carolyn teaches history and women’s studies at Old Dominion in Norfolk. But creative writing was brand new to us, and it started as a “sister project”, just for fun to see if we could actually do it! After writing scholarly articles, fiction seemed so fun and free…but of course it comes with its own set of challenges. There was a whoooole lot to learn, and the manuscript for Feint of Art went through many, many revisions. We had to learn about pacing, building suspense, creating memorable characters, even fundamentals like not starting dialog with a lot of “well” or “oh” or “Hm”s. We’re both big readers, so we sat down and analyzed the books we love the best, and tried to figure out why. Ultimately, the biggest challenge was to actually finish the book, and then to do the big re-write…it’s a heck of a lot of work!

Q: The Art Lovers mystery series, you wrote that your sister Carolyn, was it harder to work with a collaborator, especially a sibling, or easier?
:Both. How’s that for indecisive? My sister and I are very close, and I miss her constant input as I write, and the loooong phone conversations we had when we thrashed out plot points, etc. But I have to admit that writing by myself means no more tussles over certain aspects of the storyline (she can be SO unreasonable! Good thing I’m such a saint ;-).) It’s also a rather more streamlined process –when we’re writing together, we have to re-write A LOT to make sure the plotlines aren’t lost when one or the other of us makes a change. We’re currently writing the fourth in the Art Lover’s mystery series together, however, so I still get to have my sister fix.

Q: Why the crossover to supernatural, in particular, witchcraft?
Juliet:My Aunt Mem used to come through California every year and visit with us. She was (and continues to be) a magical woman in many ways – she has a deep, generous laugh, a huge heart, and twinkling eyes. She was also able to read the future with regular playing cards and tea leaves. Her readings and insights were startling –she finally stopped practicing when she predicted the deaths of two friends – it was too traumatic for her. She told me that some things are best left in the hands of fate.

I think that early influence opened my mind to a lot of things…afterward I lived in Santa Cruz, California, and Mexico, and Spain (where I met a lot of Romani “gypsies”) and then in Italy. In all those places there is more of an open acknowledgement of something beyond the world we see in our everyday lives.

In short, the supernatural world has always fascinated me, so when my editor at Signet asked if I had “anything paranormal” tucked away in a drawer somewhere, I came up with the idea for Secondhand Spirits, whose protagonist, Lily, is a natural witch of enormous powers, trying to make her way in San Francisco.

Q: How many books do you plan for the witchcraft mystery series? Do you think witchcraft could become the next “hot” genre, as vampire and werewolf ones have become?
Juliet:I’ve already finished the second in the series, A Cast-Off Coven, and have the third one outlined, so I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon! Unfortunately, that decision is more up to the readers and the publisher than to me, but I would be happy writing several books in the series. Witchcraft is such a deep font of plot ideas and subject matter that I’m sure I won’t run out of things to say soon. Also, there are a number of fascinating characters that would be great for spin-offs…!

Great question about the next “hot” genre. I think in many ways, witchcraft doesn’t have the same sexy draw of the vampire and werewolf stories because in those, the paranormal critters are generally the objects of desire. Their unknown quality is part of what makes them so sexy. When the witch is the protagonist, she’s more in control…so to me, it’s a slightly more mature look at the genre, with the female protagonist as a real “actor” in her own story, if that makes sense. I hope readers agree!

Q: Is there anyone, author or otherwise, in particular you draw inspiration from? If so, how has that influenced your writing?
:I mentioned my aunt Mem above. Another of my mother’s sisters is a writer and used to own a bookstore, as did another brother, and yet another sister was a librarian. And my mother, of course, who was a schoolteacher, an editor, and a lifelong reader (and a great, loving mom). She adored fiction, and always believed that to be a writer was a most noble activity, whether or not you ever published. I think from all of them I learned to love words, and love working with them. Though I want to publish and love building a fan base, I think it’s important not to forget to relish writing, and reading, every day.

As for authors, I love: Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters, Linda Barnes, my friend Sophie Littlefield (whose first book comes out in August, yay!), Tim Maleeny, Sherman Alexie, Nick Hornby, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Richard Russo, David Sedaris, Anne Lamott…Good heavens, the list goes on and on! I think every book I read teaches me something –hopefully for the good, but even for the bad. Nothing like a really poorly written book to illustrate how I don’t want to write!


About This Blog

Blog Archive