I am pleased to introduce today’s guest-blogger, Stacy Juba. Stacy is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. She is a freelance writer and former daily newspaper reporter with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit, including three New England Press Association awards and the American Cancer Society New England Chapter’s Sword of Hope Media Award. Her young adult novel Face-Off was published under her maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, when she was 18 years old. Her web site is www.stacyjuba.com.
Eighteen years old! You hear it right, folks. Now that’s impressive. Stacy, you have some significant writing accomplishments in your life, not only because you published so early, but because of the professional work you’ve done. Tell us some more about that.
SJ: I’m a new mystery author, with Twenty-Five Years Ago Today released in October 2009 and Sink or Swim scheduled for release tentatively in December 2010, both by Mainly Murder Press. I’m also a freelance writer/publicist, working with clients such as the Melanoma Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives from melanoma. (http://www.skincheck.org.) In addition, I’m a former daily newspaper reporter and have won several journalism awards over the years.
MA: Why did you choose to write novels?
SJ: I started writing short stories in third grade, and by high school, I was submitting stories to magazines. I started my first novel, Face-Off, at age 16 and found that novel-writing came more naturally to me than short story writing. I liked having the room to develop characters and allow the plot to unveil. Also, I was an avid reader growing up, and always dreamed of seeing my books in a bookstore. Once you have that experience once, you want it to happen again. The last reason is that even though I’m introverted, I have quite a lot to say. Writing novels is a rewarding way to express myself.
MA: Did your professional writing career inspire your fiction writing in any way?
SJ: It certainly did. I began my journalism career as an editorial assistant for a small daily newspaper. My responsibilities included writing obits, wedding and birth announcements, answering the newsroom phone, and compiling the 25 Years Ago Today column from the microfilm. This experience inspired my new book Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. Following in my path, the protagonist is an obit writer and editorial assistant. While researching the 25 Years Ago Today column on the microfilm, she stumbles across an unsolved murder. My second mystery novel, Sink or Swim, has been accepted for publication in late 2010. That book features a personal trainer who works in a health club. I worked in a health club during my senior year in college, and that experience lent authenticity to the gym scenes in the novel.
MA: So, tell us more about your newest novel, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today.
SJ: It would appeal to both mystery fans and romantic suspense fans. For twenty-five years, Diana Ferguson’s killer has gotten away with murder. When rookie obit writer and newsroom editorial assistant Kris Langley investigates the cold case of the artistic young cocktail waitress who was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology, she must fight to stay off the obituary page herself.
MA: Nothing like stumbling across a cold case to irritate a killer who thinks he/she has been in the clear all these years! How did you develop the character of your protagonist?
SJ: I gave Kris a job that I once had – obit writer/editorial assistant for a daily newspaper – and built her character from there. I decided that she felt responsible for a childhood prank which led to her cousin’s murder and has punished herself for years. As a result, Kris suffers from nightmares and insomnia and has a past addiction to sleeping pills. Kris works the night shift because she has so much trouble sleeping. When she stumbles across the unsolved murder of Diana Ferguson, Kris obsesses over cracking the case and bringing justice to the victim’s family. Kris feels that if she helps this other family, perhaps she can redeem herself from her past mistakes.
MA: So it sounds like you built some intriguing character flaws into your heroine. Tell us more.
SJ: Reviewer Diana Vickery at Cozy Library (http://www.cozylibrary.com/Default.aspx?id=692) noted that Kris is a bit naïve and not a hardnosed reporter, but that she has heart, desire and sympathy for her sources, something that is often missing in journalism today. Kris also has a strained relationship with her mother and sister. She has a hard time communicating her feelings and tends to hold things in, which leads to a build-up of resentment. She doesn’t trust others easily; however, Kris is a very trustworthy person herself. As a young woman in her mid-twenties, she has embarked on a journey of self discovery and is struggling to carve out an identity for herself and find her place in life.
MA: So far you haven’t mentioned anything about your nemesis…obviously there’s a murderer out there. Can you give us some insight?
SJ: I think that question makes Twenty-Five Years Ago Today a unique candidate for book clubs to discuss. After the surprise ending, readers are left with the questions “What constitutes a villain? Was the character who killed Diana Ferguson the actual ‘villain’ or was someone else the villain? Was justice served?” Readers have told me that the book stays with them for awhile as they ponder these questions.
MA: Interesting. So in some respects it may or may not be a solved-cold case! Beyond this novel what are your future writing plans?
SJ: Mainly Murder Press will publish my second mystery novel, Sink or Swim, in late 2010. It focuses on Cassidy Novak, a personal trainer who is stalked after appearing on the hit reality game show Sink or Swim – also known as SOS. I think it would appeal to mystery fans, as well as to fans of reality TV shows. In addition, I’m polishing up a paranormal young adult thriller tentatively titled Dark Before Dawn, and I’m also working on a new adult mystery series. At some point, I’d like to bring back an updated edition of my young adult book Face-Off, so I’ll be researching different options for that down the line.
MA: Well Stacy, you have had – and continue to have – a wonderful writing career. I want to thank you for stopping by the Child Finder Trilogy and sharing your stories, both fiction and personal, with us. Please visit Stacy Juba’s website for more information about her and her books: www.stacyjuba.com.