Today we host a newly minted author, Julie Hennrikus, writing as Julianne Holmes
KF: Julie Hennrikus, we’re delighted to have you visit us at Maine Crime Writers today.
You’re launching your first book today. It has a great title: Just Killing Time. Tell us about the book.
JH: Just Killing Time is the first book in the Clock Shop Mystery series. Ruth Clagan is a clockmaker, the latest in a long line of clock makers. She inherits her grandfather’s shop in Orchard, Massachusetts, and moves back to decide what to do with it, and to help find his killer.
KF: Something our readers love to hear about is a writer’s journey to publication. So tell us a little bit about yours.
JH: I’ve often said that writing is a solitary effort, but getting published takes a community. The best thing I did was to join Sisters in Crime, and to take classes and workshops. I also started going to Crime Bake every year, meeting people, pitching novels, and trying to figure it all out. Three years ago several of my friends got contracts for cozy series. I met their agent at Crime Bake, and we talked. He couldn’t sell the proposal I sent him, but when other opportunities came up, the fact that we’d met already helped a lot.
I should also mention that my first publication was a short story in Level Best Books. In fact, I’ve had three stories published in Level Best Books anthologies. Those stories definitely boosted my confidence.
KF: Writers often talk about the loneliness of the writer’s life and the challenges of handling rejection. Did you have a writers group or other supports during the process?
JH: As I said, Sisters in Crime, specifically the New England chapter, has been a great resource for me over the years. Remember that group of friends who all got contracts around the same time? Five of them decided to start a group blog, and invited me to be part of it. We call it the Wicked Cozy Authors. The group is Jessie Crockett, Barbara Ross, Liz Mugavero, Edith Maxwell, and Sherry Harris. This group of women are more than just my blogmates. They are my friends, my cheerleaders, and my support system.
KF: A lot of your work has been in the theater world and so I’m curious, how did your work in theater translate into Ruth’s life and a clock shop?
JH: Theater is excellent training for being a mystery writer. The dramatic structure in mysteries is the same as it is for plays. Characters wear clothes/costumes, sets are the shop, the town. Everything works to serve the story.
In this series, the Cog & Sprocket is the name of Ruth’s shop. What are the tools (props) she uses? How does the shop look, smell, feel? What’s the lighting look like? What is Ruth wearing? What does that tell the reader?
Theater has taught me that every decision matters, so I think a lot about them, and try to sketch the world I want the reader to fill in with detail.
KF: Tell us a little more about you. How did a nice woman like you end up wanting to be a crime writer? Is being a publisher writer a lifelong dream?
JH: As you well know, some of the nicest people in the business write crime fiction. It’s probably been about twenty years since I said, aloud, that I wanted to be a writer and committed myself to doing the work to make that happen. I started taking workshops, and I was writing good but boring stories. After a while, I realized that the genre I loved to read was crime fiction, so I decided to explore that. Being published is a long time dream. I’m beyond thrilled.
KF: Your book is set in the fictional town of Orchard, Massachusetts. Is Orchard based on a real town? What are the challenges of blending the real with the fictional?
JH: Orchard is not a real town. It is in the Berkshires, but the real town that inspired Orchard is actually in Western, Mass. I was driving home from a show at Double Edge one summer night, right after I’d signed the contract for this series. My GPS took me home a different way, and one minute I was going right at a fork in the road, then I rolled into a Williamsburg. It was Orchard, or at least a good basis for Orchard. A town center, different style buildings in varying stages of restoration. Very New England. So I moved it a little farther west, and started building Orchard.
KF: I know that you are using a pseudonym for the book. Why is that?
JH: Given the contract for this series, writing under a different name made the most sense. Holmes is a family name (my father’s mother was a Holmes), and Julianne Holmes Hennrikus was going to be my name until my grandmother convinced my mother it was too long. So I became Julie Anne. When I needed to find a new name to write under, I didn’t have to look far.
KF: Can we look forward to more clock shop mysteries? And if so, do you have a title for the next one?
JH: I have a contract for two more books. Book #2 is written, and being edited. The working title is Clock & Dagger. Book #3 is being plotted—I’m a serious plotter—and is due next spring. I’m doing research on clock towers. Talk about plotting opportunities! Have you ever seen the counter weight in a clock tower? The mind whirs…
Blurb about JUST KILLING TIME: Ruth Clagan may be an expert clockmaker, but she’s always had a tendency to lose track of time. And when trying to solve a murder, every minute counts…
Ruth’s beloved grandfather instilled in her a love of timepieces. Unfortunately after her grandmother died and he remarried, Ruth and Grandpa Thom became estranged. She’s wanted to reconnect after her recent divorce, but sadly they’ve run out of time. Her grandfather has been found dead after a break-in at his shop—and the police believe he was murdered.
Now Ruth has been named the heir to Grandpa Thom’s clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, in the small Berkshire town of Orchard, Massachusetts. As soon as she moves into the small apartment above the shop and begins tackling the heaps of unfinished work, Ruth finds herself trying to stay on the good side of Grandpa’s bossy gray cat, Bezel, while avoiding the step-grandmother she never wanted. But as old secrets and grudges start to surface, Ruth will have to kick into high gear to solve the killer case before someone else winds up dead…
Julianne Holmes is the author of Just Killing Time, the debut novel in the Clock Shop Mystery series and is the pseudonym for J. A. (Julie) Hennrikus, whose short stories have appeared in the award-winning Level Best Books. She serves on the boards of Sisters in Crime and Sisters in Crime New England, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America. She blogs with the Wicked Cozy Authors WickedCozyAuthors.com. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She tweets as @JulieHennrikus. Visit JulianneHolmes.com