Hi everyone. I’d like you to join me today as I interview Joyce Strand who’s volunteer this week to be on the proverbial HOT SEAT as I ask her questions about her , her writing, and of course, herself.

Robin Leigh Morgan: Please introduce yourself.  Joyce T. Strand: Please meet Joyce T. Strand, author of the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries On Message and Open Meetings, and avid reader of mysteries and suspense thrillers. I LOVE Broadway musicals, and attend as many as my budget can support.  

I served as a PR professional in high tech and biotech companies for more than 25 years in the San Francisco area. I live in Southern California near San Diego with my two cats, my collection of cow statuary, and my muse, the roadrunner.

Robin Leigh: Tell us about your latest published novel. Joyce: Open Meetings is a Jillian Hillcrest mystery. PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest is having lunch with a reporter colleague when a woman enters and begs him not to print anything she’s told him because they will kill her if he does. A few days later, the reporter tells Jillian that the woman was killed in his hometown in the California wine country. Police ruled her death as an accident in a car crash caused by driving while under the influence of alcohol—except the woman had vowed never to drink again. Jillian joins with the reporter to investigate the suspicious death, and they both uncover far more than anticipated.

   Robin Leigh: What are the two latest books you’ve already published? Give us about a five sentence description for each? Joyce: In addition to Open Meetings, which I described in the previous response, I have also published On Message, the first Jillian Hillcrest mystery. Jillian, the head of corporate communications at Harmonia Therapeutics, is eagerly staying “on message” to inform investors, the media, and the community about her company. 

A call from a homicide detective interrupts her routine when she learns of the murder of a friend. She encounters a determined San Francisco police inspector who is convinced she is the key to her friend’s murder, which he subsequently connects to another killing. With the help of her ex-husband–whose attentiveness to her suggests he wants to amend the “ex” status–and a retired middle-aged intrusive motherly neighbor, Jillian fits together disparate pieces of the puzzle to help solve the crimes.

Robin Leigh:  What can you tell us about your current writing endeavor?  Joyce: I am currently finishing the third Jillian Hillcrest mystery, Fair Disclosure, which is going through the editing process. Jillian and her ex-husband are enjoying a play at a local community theater when a scream interrupts the production upon discovery of a bludgeoned volunteer. When it turns out that the victim is someone Jillian interviewed for a job at her company, she becomes involved in another crime, drawn ever deeper by a second murder, an irate investor, and suspicious stock trading in her company.

Robin Leigh:  Can you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite scenes in your latest novel?  Joyce: From Open Meetings

Chapter 1

“You absolutely cannot print anything I told you. They’ll kill me.”

Jillian Hillcrest looked up from the lunch menu. She saw a non-descript, thin, brown-hair-in-a-bun, middle-aged woman dressed in jeans and a white V-neck top frantically approaching her lunch companion, a local reporter. Jillian watched as the reporter quickly stood up, uttered a brief “Excuse me” to Jillian, and put his arm around the woman, leading her outside. He appeared to be trying unsuccessfully to calm her along the way. She continued to plead with him that he must never repeat what she had told him. 

Jillian was interested in what the woman was saying to the reporter. Somewhere in his late 40s, the tall and slightly stooped Miles Smith was a stringer for a local newspaper and also had a blog focusing on city, county, and state government. He had a history of investigative journalism that impressed and fascinated Jillian. For example, he had uncovered a county assessor’s officer who collected for property value assessments that weren’t done, and then funneled the money into personal bank accounts. So she was intrigued about whatever it was the frightened woman did not want Miles to print.

Robin Leigh:  What was the inspiration for your latest novel?Joyce: All of the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries are inspired by real California cases. Actual events of the murder of a former biotech executive in La Jolla, Calif. led to On Message. A series of crimes committed by a network of former and current police officers in the San Francisco bay area suggested the core plot for Open Meetings.

I based my protagonist, PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest, on my more than 25 years serving as the head of public relations at high tech and biotech companies in Silicon Valley.        

Robin Leigh:  How did you decide what the title of this book would be? If this book is part of a series, then the books in the series.  Joyce: Open Meetings refers to the California Brown Act that guarantees citizens’ rights to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. As part of her responsibilities as a PR executive, Jillian works with local communities as a representative of her company. In Open Meetings much “not-open” corruption draws her into trouble as part of her community relations duties.

On Message is a phrase used by public relations practitioners to indicate communicating a particular point, or message, and continuing to reinforce it through repetition in various situations. Since Jillian is a public relations practitioner, it seemed like a good title to connote the book’s environment.

Robin Leigh: Would you consider yourself to be a plotter or a pantser?  Joyce: When I start writing a new mystery, I know the main characters, opening chapter, the crime—which is based on a real case—and the conclusion. Jillian and her friends guide me through the bridging chapters. Frequently, the antagonists gets an upper hand, and another murder occurs, or Jillian disappears and her ex-husband has to track her down. I let them guide me as I write as long as we are headed toward the intended conclusion.

Robin Leigh: What made you decide to become an author?  Joyce: As an out-of-work public relations professional, I was spending a frustrating time trying to find a job – for more than a year. My husband, who I’m sure was tired of my moping, suggested I write a mystery. I had always been a writer. Throughout my career, I wrote my doctoral dissertation (which I consider my first book), dozens of by-lined articles, hundreds of press releases, lots and lots of white papers, fact sheets, and many other documents. To become an author, I had to learn how to write fiction—and I’m still learning.

Robin Leigh: In your latest novel, who’s your favorite character male/female? Tell us why.  Joyce: In Open Meetings, I tend to favor Jillian’s friend and neighbor, Cynthia Anderson, a retired SFPD police officer. She is friendly most of the time, but we gain insight into her police persona as she helps Jillian and her reporter friend to track down the truth about a dead informant and her own husband’s death 20 years earlier. I like her because she is a strong—but understated—woman who chose a typically male career of a policeman, and someone who still engages in solving crimes when presented with them. She also loves to cook.

Robin Leigh: Do you set aside a specific amount of time to write, write/answer emails, and market/promote your book[s]?  Joyce:  Setting aside a specific amount of time sounds so organized. I’m really a “just do it” kind of person, although when I set goals I typically achieve them. When I’m in the middle of writing a mystery, it becomes my primary driver, and I usually devote more time to it than marketing. However, I also like to see results. So I gear my marketing efforts to achieve a certain number of likes, followers and hits.  That helps guide my input so that my efforts are effective. 

Robin Leigh: Do you read books outside the genre you write in? What are they?  Joyce: I read mostly mysteries and thrillers. However, my favorite book is Shogun a historical novel about medieval Japan. I do enjoy historical fiction especially if a mystery is involved. So I guess you could say that I read historical fiction, which is outside my typical mystery/thriller genre.

Robin Leigh: What must you have around you when you write; food, drink, music, etc?  Joyce: Above all, coffee in the morning. No music – I need silence. (Yes, I was one of those students who had to go to the library to study.) I definitely need my computer—not just for writing but to research. Having a cat on my lap can be helpful, but also distracting. I use food as a way to take a break and bribe myself to write just one more chapter.

Robin Leigh: When you were an aspiring author you needed advice. What advice would you give to those aspiring author in those shoes today?  Joyce:  First – if you want to be a writer, just write. Don’t worry about your first words being perfect. You’ve got the editing process to re-write as much as you want.                                                          

Second, if you self-publish, make sure your book or short story is error-free. You can control errors and typos. Do not allow your output to be posted as an e-book with formatting errors, typos or spelling and grammatical errors. Readers deserve perfection, and they expect it.

Third, help other authors. You can learn much from them.

Fourth, market, market, market. Be prepared to learn more ways to market, and market some more.

Robin Leigh: Is there anything else you’d like to briefly tell us about your book, your writing, or yourself.  Joyce: I’d like to ask readers to please show your appreciation for a book by posting reviews. Aside from the fact that it takes us authors years to bring a book to market and so we appreciate hearing from readers, our sales and marketing efforts rely on reviews.  We really need them to be successful.

Thank you so much, Robin Leigh, for the opportunity to do this interview.


Where can we find your book?

Open Meetings  Amazon:

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/cent6zr


Barnes and Noble:

Nook: http://bit.ly/YiHW6V

On Message  Amazon:

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/crog4om

Paperback: http://tinyurl.com/d8wbtem

Barnes and Noble:

Nook: http://bit.ly/ZGTO3c

Where can we find you on:

BLOG: Strand’s Simply Tipshttp://strandssimplytips.blogspot.com

FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/JillianHillcrest

GOODREADS:  http://bit.ly/Xx8kab

TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/joycetstrand

Are there any other internet sites you would like to tell us about where we can find you?

WEB PAGE:  http://joycestrand.com

Joyce: THANKS for your time in allowing me to interview you.  Robin Leigh: You’re quite welcomed, it has been my pleasure. I believe my readers as well as yours will be pleased with this informative interview.

If you have any comments or questions for Mandy, I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear from you or answer your questions.

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