Judy Penz Sheluk returns to Moving Target today. This prolific Canadian author has just launched A Hole in One, her third mystery and the second novel in her Glass Dolphin mystery series. This fall, she’ll see the release of her fourth novel in three years.
A Hole in One plays out against the backdrop of golf—but not to worry if you don’t play the game. This is a great read for all cozy mystery fans. Judy brings back her characters from her popular début novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, along with more murder, mayhem and plot twists.
Judy’s protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, is playing in a charity golf tournament, and her antiques shop, The Glass Dolphin, is sponsoring a hole-in-one contest. When Arabella’s errant tee shot lands in the woods, she stumbles upon a dead man with a gunshot wound in his chest. The novel’s title is clearly a play on words.
Judy is a long-time golfer, but she has never had a hold-in-one. “I wish!” she says. “Birdie’s the best I’ve ever done, and that was on the ninth hole of the Briar Hill course. But this may be my year. The timing would be perfect, don’t you think?”
Moving Target: Judy, you created an enjoyable world for your readers in The Hanged Man’s Noose. What has changed and what remains the same in the sequel?
Judy: My three main characters—Arabella Carpenter, Emily Garland and Levon Larroquette (Arabella’s ex-husband)— are all back, although in Noose, Emily was the protagonist and Arabella was the sidekick. They’ve reversed roles in A Hole in One, though the POVs shift between them.
What’s different? Well, Emily has a new man in her life, Luke Surmanski. Arabella and Levon’s relationship gets even more complicated. And Emily’s arch-nemesis from her Toronto days, Kerri St. Amour, has moved to Lount’s Landing.
Moving Target: Did you worry about satisfying established readers’ expectations with Emily and Arabella’s second adventure?
Judy: Of course I did. As an author, my goal is to become a better storyteller with each new book. I sent an advance copy to my friend, Michelle, and worried, What if she doesn’t like it? But she gave me the greatest compliment after she read it and said, “I’d forgotten how much I love these characters.” I hope my other readers feel the same way.
Moving Target: What are the challenges of writing a second novel in a series?
Judy: There are pros and cons. The pros are that you’ve created a setting and you’ve established your main characters. But it’s also important to write the book that can stand alone because not everyone reads a series in the order of its publication. There’s a delicate balance between repeating information from the first book, without giving any spoilers, but also without boring folks who are coming to book two after having reading Noose. But it’s a good problem to have, isn’t it?
Moving Target: Your characters’ backstories and their goals were already established when you started work on A Hole in One. Did that make it easier to write this second novel?
Judy: In some ways, yes. I knew that Arabella is a stickler for authenticity, and loves shortbread and Levon (though she won’t admit it to him). I knew Emily is always punctual, that she enjoys running, and she is a vegetarian. But in real life, people change, based on their experiences and circumstances, and so it was important to have my characters grow and evolve in this book.
Moving Target: Do you expect marketing a second novel in a series to be different from marketing a first novel?
Judy: I know a lot more about marketing than I did in 2015 when Noose was released. Back then, I assumed the book would sell itself (ha ha ha!). I soon learned that if I wanted to sell books, I would have to become more active on social media and develop a better website, and I’ve done both of these. For A Hole in One, I’m writing a number of blog posts, such as this one, over the next two months, instead of just focusing on the days around the release date. I’m also doing a number of local events, bookstores, libraries, town fairs, that sort of thing, from March through August. They may seem “local,” but you never know who you’ll reach. One thing I have learned is that you should never underestimate the power of networking. And, in my experience, events are more about networking than selling books.
Moving Target: The sequel to your second mystery, Skeletons in the Attic, will be released this fall. Would you consider writing a standalone?
Judy: Yes, the sequel to Skeletons, the first in my Marketville Mystery series, should be out this fall. I’m currently working on a standalone novel, but there are miles to go before I can sleep on that one. Still, there is something freeing about knowing that those characters will have a clear beginning, middle and end, with no need to set up book two or three.
Moving Target: Why do you write mysteries, and cozy mysteries at that?
Judy: I like to think my mysteries showcase amateur sleuths with an edge rather than the cats-crafts-recipes type of cozies, but as for the why – I primarily read mainstream mysteries (although not the aforementioned cats-crafts-recipe types). My objective is always to write a book that I’d want to buy and read.
Moving Target: Would you consider writing a mainstream novel?
Judy: My late mother had a saying, “Never throw never far away, for you’ll pick never up some day,” so I won’t say never. I might consider writing a psychological suspense novel, because I love these novels, but I have no immediate plans in place. I’ve been doing research for a non-fiction bookl that has nothing to do with the mystery genre, but it may be a few years down the road before it’s completed. I’m always juggling multiple projects.
Moving Target: On your previous visits to Moving Target, you called yourself a pantster when it comes to plotting. Does that still hold true for you?
Judy: Sadly, yes. I would love to be a plotter, because I am sure that would be easier, but I just can’t seem to do it. When I’m in full book-writing mode, I aim for a chapter a day, and honestly, I never know where that chapter will take me. The non-fiction project I’m researching will require a proper outline, but because it’s non-fiction, it will be about recreating the story versus plotting.
Moving Target: Thank you, Judy. All the very best with A Hole in One!
Amazon international bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries (THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE and A HOLE IN ONE) and The Marketville Mysteries (SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC). Her short crime fiction has appeared in several collections, including LIVE FREE OR TRI.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada. She lives in Alliston, Ontario.
Find Judy on her website/blog where she interviews and showcases the works of other authors and blogs about the writing life. For guest appearances, contact Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.