Welcome! Today I’m featuring a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Sleuthing Women II, which is an anthology of 10 novellas by various authors. Today’s post is an interview with Judy Alter, one of the authors of the novellas. Purchase links, a link to Goodreads, etc. will be below the interview!
Interview with Judy Alter
First let me say a huge “thank you” to Ms. Alter for being willing to answer my questions for this interview!
Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day? Do you enjoy your day job?
Ms. Alter’s Response: No day job any more. I retired seven years ago as director of a small academic press. I loved my job and retirement was hard at first. My work at the press dovetailed beautifully with my writing career—I learned things from work and met a broad range of people who helped my own writing, and I like to think my success at the press was enhanced by my personal knowledge of the writing world.
Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?
Ms. Alter’s Response: I try to write every morning. Afternoons are for those pesky, odd business chores associated with writing—marketing, finances, etc. And evenings are for reading. Life gets in the way of this ideal schedule a whole lot of the time. My daily goal when things are going well is a thousand words a day. A consistent pace like that keeps my mind engaged in the work and the ideas flowing—well, usually. I keep the TV on, muted, and rarely glance at it. Music is a distraction.
Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?
Ms. Alter’s Response: I’m a pantser, and my characters tell me where my story is going. Sometimes they do and say outrageous things that lead me to wonder how I’m going to get out of this or that corner, but they usually lead the way. Listening to my characters is one of the first pieces of advice I got when I was a newbie, all those years ago, and I’ve always found it valuable. I don’t outline, but I have rough notes on where the story is going when I sit down to write.
Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. Alter’s Response: My break into publishing came at a convention of Western Writers of America. My then-husband struck up a conversation with a California agent and said, “Let me tell you about my wife.” The agent sent me to a NY agent, and my first book was published by Wm. Morrow & Co. But that NY agent robbed me of about $1,000 in royalties—I was dumb and green and didn’t know better. After that I got many rejections, but I never thought about quitting. I thought about quitting the agent merry-go-round and did. After stints with a major New York publisher and then a small press, I am happily now indie published.
Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Alter’s Response: My books generally go through only two or three revisions. Because I edit as I go, they are fairly clean when I reach the end of the first draft. I do a major edit, with beta reader suggestions at my elbow, and then I go back and do kind of a polish edit. I have a beta reader I’ve relied on for forty years. Occasionally circumstances have forced me to set a manuscript aside, and then I must re-read to pick up the reins. But I never deliberately set one aside until I’m satisfied with it.
Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?
Ms. Alter’s Response: My villains are all products of my imagination, because I like to think in life I know very few if any villains. But sometimes I’m afraid my fictional creations are a bit stereotyped because they are drawn from villains I read about. I think the televangelist in my novella may be that way—he made his first appearance in Deception in Strange Places and reappeared in The Color of Fear.
Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?
Ms. Alter’s Response: I don’t think friends or family members show up per se in my work, but certainly some characters have traits of people I’ve known show up in my characters. One of my daughters claims my Kelly O’Connell protagonist is highly autobiographical and she’s probably right—a single mom who loves old houses and established neighborhoods.
Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?
Ms. Alter’s Response: I’ve written several historical novels about real people—Libby Custer, Jessie Benton Frémont, Lucille Mulhall, Etta Place, Cissy Palmer—and maybe I’ve run out of subjects that intrigue me. I’d love to do another historical novel, but after investigating several women I’ve yet to find another who captures my interest enough to devote at least a year of my life to her story.
Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?
Ms. Alter’s Response: Any list of books I think are great reflects two areas of interest—mysteries and food—rather than books that I think will be great as lasting literature, books that will be read a hundred years from now. I’d choose two by Ruth Reichl: My Kitchen Year and the novel, Delicious; two by Susan Wittig Albert—Loving Eleanor and The General’s Women; An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, from Terry Shames Craddock series, one of those break-the-stereotype mystery series; Connie Spitzer’s The Erotica Book Club for Nice Ladies, and Polly Iyer’s spell-binding Indiscretion. I have a whole long list of more titles.
Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?
Ms. Alter’s Response: Books that have influenced my life go back to childhood—The Wind in the Willows, The Bobbsey Twins, The Little Colonel Stories, and on up to Nancy Drew books and Francis Parkinson Keye’s steamboat books. Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose gave me sort of a writer’s goal (I’ve never reached that height), and Mary Stuart held me spellbound. In recent years I’ve been influenced by several cozy series—Albert’s China Bayles herbal mysteries, Ellery Adams’ Books by the Bay series, Deborah Crombie’s Scotland Yard mysteries, Cleo Coyle’s Coffee house series, Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand mysteries. I could go on, but my list must stop somewhere.
Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d spend a day with Kelly O’Connell of my first mystery series. We have a lot of interests in common—kids, old houses, city life, etc., but I’d teach her to cook. Can’t imagine I created such a non-cooking heroine.
Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Alter’s Response: I do read my reviews, and I’m learning how important it is to respond to them (unless they’re nasty). I only respond if I can do so in a pleasant tone.
About the Author
An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of seven books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, Desperate for Death, and the novella, The Color of Fear. .
She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House and Murder at Peacock Mansion. With the 2014 The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries, followed by the 2017 title, Pigface and the Perfect Dog. In 2016, she returned to her Chicago roots to write the historical novel, The Gilded Cage, which uses one unusual woman’s life to examine social structure and labor relations in the late 19th Century.
Judy’s historical fiction, stories of women of the 19th-century American West, and her mysteries are available in print and ebook on Amazon, B&N and other platforms. Retired after twenty years as director of a small academic press, Judy is single parent of four and grandparent of seven. She lives in Texas, sharing her cozy cottage with her Bordoodle, Sophie.
Follow Judy at her blog, “Judy’s Stew,” http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com or on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/judy.alter and https://www.facebook.com/Judy-Alter-Author-366948676705857/, or on Twitter, where she is @JudyAlter.
Thank you again to Ms. Alter for being willing to answer my questions today! Below you’ll find the purchase links, Goodreads link, and a link to the Rafflecopter giveaway. Finally, if you wish to visit other sites on the tour, click on the banner at the bottom. That will take you to the main tour page where there is a list of tour participants! Thanks for joining me today!
Purchase Link: Amazon