Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk, Author of The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery

What made you decide to be an author? I’ve been a freelance journalist since 2003 and have written for dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. I’ve also been the Senior Editor at New England Antiques Journal since 2007 and the Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine since 2010. Those roles require assigning freelance content, editing, and writing features and non-bylined filler. But I’ve wanted to write a novel since I read Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery when I was about eight. That book tells the story of Emily Starr, who wants to grow up to be a journalist/writer. In fact, I named my protagonist in The Hanged Man’s Noose, Emily Garland, after Emily Starr. During Christmas break in 2011, with 10 days off all my jobs and no real plans, I decided to start The Hanged Man’s Noose. By the time my “vacation” was over, I had about a dozen chapters. I finished the first draft by the summer of 2012. It’s been a great ride so far.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least? The Best: Life is full of “What if” moments. I love taking those moments and turning them into storylines. For example, in The Hanged Man’s Noose, a real estate developer comes to a small town with plans to convert an old elementary school into a megabox store. In the town I lived in when I wrote Noose (Holland Landing) development was definitely a hot button. I simply took that premise and said, “What if people were mad enough to kill over it?” Then I created the fictional town of Lount’s Landing. The Least: Marketing. I do it, but I’d rather be writing! 

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing? I’m an only child of very strict parents who immigrated to Toronto, Canada, three years before I was born. The concept of sleepovers was completely foreign to them. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom reading (Nancy Drew was an early favorite) and making up stories in my head. I still read a lot (though not in my bedroom) and I’m still making up stories, only now I write them down. I take everything in all around me—the way people talk and dress and interact with one another. Everything, as they say, is grist for the mill. 

Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book--as if the words came of their own accord? I wish! What does happen, however, is that I’ll write some dialogue or a scene and there’ll be a voice in my head saying, “Emily would never say or do that.” It doesn’t matter how much I labored over that scene, I listen to that inner voice and start over. 

You’ve written one published novel, have another out for consideration (Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery), and are now working on the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose What’s your favorite time management tip? I try to limit the time I spend on social media. I’ll schedule Facebook posts a week at a time, for example. Social media is necessary, but it can also be a major time suck. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an organized writer? A complete pantser. I’ve tried outlining and it just doesn’t work for me. I wrote a blog post about my efforts to change: 

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Schedule time to write every day, the same way you’d schedule work, exercise, meal preparation, etc. Even if you only have 15 minutes some days—life can get in the way—you’re 15 minutes further ahead than if you hadn’t written a word. 

Did music help you find your muse with this book? If yes, which song did you find yourself going back to over and over again as you wrote? The reverse. I write listening to talk radio—Newstalk 1010 and Talk Radio AM 640. Both stations are broadcast from Toronto. I have my favorite hosts, but I’ll switch if the topic being covered isn’t interesting to me. I get a lot of ideas from talk radio.

Tell me more about The Hanged Man’s Noose. Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in a tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of the Glass Dolpin antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme—before the murderer strikes again. 

How about a short excerpt from The Hanged Man’s Noose?

Chapter 1

Emily Garland stared at the blank white page on her computer screen. Less than five hours to meet her Urban Living deadline, and she still hadn’t come up with a new way to spin the same old condo stats.

She blamed the lack of concentration on her upcoming meeting with Michelle Ellis. Why would the editor-in-chief of Urban Living Publications want to meet with her in person? Outside of the obligatory appearances at builders’ conventions and awards galas, Emily couldn’t remember a time when she’d met with Michelle face-to-face. Certainly she’d never been invited to her office.

She glanced at her Timex Ironman watch. 11:03 a.m. Time to get writing.

While it’s common knowledge the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) high-rise market is through the roof, most people don’t realize how far along it has come: as of this reporting period, high-rise condominium suites make up approximately 60 percent of total new homes sold.

According to the Urban Building Association (U-BUILD), several factors are behind the condo surge, including a shortage of land. With limited supply, the cost of detached, semis, and townhouses has continued to escalate.“Condominiums are a practical alternative,” said Garrett Stonehaven, a prominent real estate developer and CEO of HavenSent Developments, Inc. “Builders are also ‘right-sizing’ to create more space-efficient and, thus affordable, units.”

Right-sizing for affordability. What a bunch of hooey. After ten years of writing about the residential housing industry, Emily had been around Garrett Stonehaven enough to know he didn’t have an altruistic bone in his handsome, six-foot tall body. At least not once the television cameras stopped rolling.

But it didn’t matter what she thought. The camera loved him. The readers of Urban Living loved him. Which was why Emily quoted him, every chance she got. It was called job security, a precious commodity to a freelance writer. She wrote a while longer and then honed in on the closer.

“As the builder/developer of CondoHaven on the Park, we are interested in foreign and local investment potential,” said Stonehaven. “But our primary focus is, and always will be, building homes for people to come home to.”
Complete blather, Emily thought, entering the somewhat archaic -30- to denote The End. She looked at her watch. There was still plenty of time to get in a five-mile run.

Emily arrived at the offices of Urban Living Publications at promptly five p.m., punctuality being both the curse and the reward of living life eternally on deadline. The offices took up a generous portion of the forty-fourth floor. Someone was doing okay. The going rate for commercial real estate in the financial sector was in the nosebleed section of dollars per square foot.
A petite fifty-something bottle blonde in a navy blue power suit marched out of a glass-walled office. “Emily, dear, so glad you could make it.”
“Michelle. Good to see you.” Emily held out her hand before Michelle could get into the whole hugging, air-pecking-on-the-cheek business.
“Come to my office. We need to talk.”
The office was far more luxurious than Emily could have imagined. Emily had always thought editors and publishers were crammed into windowless, paper-infested cubbyholes. This was definitely a far cry from the cramped Queen Street quarters where she’d interned for a small press publisher right after graduation. Those offices had mounds of manuscripts threatening to buckle battle-scarred tables and bookcases overflowing with titles from past to present, bestsellers and busts and dreams turned to dust.
Michelle’s office, on the other hand, featured a bank of windows with a view of the city’s waterfront. A handful of sailboats dotted the late season waters.
The remaining walls were covered in paintings, although none were immediately recognizable, at least to Emily’s untrained eye. She suspected they might be by up-and-coming artists. She’d heard Michelle was heavily into the art scene. A massive mahogany desk—real mahogany, not the laminate look-alike she had in her own home office—held nothing but a twenty-seven-inch iMac, a twisty-looking acrylic sculpture in shades of gold and cobalt blue, and a silver-framed photograph of a fine-boned teenager, his straw-colored hair and peach fuzz whiskers glinting in the noonday sun, his clear blue eyes looking up with adoration at a tall, handsome teenager standing next to him.
“My son and his best friend,” Michelle said. “The sculpture is from an Aboriginal artist in Northern Manitoba. But enough of the pleasantries. I’m sure you’re curious to know why I asked you here, Emily, dear, instead of sending the usual email. Or calling.”
“A little curious.” Hoping for the best, expecting the worst. Already a little tired of the “dear.”
“I’m assuming you’ve heard the Huntzberger acquisition rumors?”
Word on the street had Michelle and a couple of silent partners in negotiations to purchase Huntzberger Publications. Emily debated feigning ignorance but instead opted for the truth. Publishing was a small world. No way Michelle would believe she hadn’t heard. “Yes.”
“They’re all true. Like many publishers these days, Huntzberger has been bleeding red ink. With the possible exception of tabloid journalism, people simply aren’t buying print like they used to. But Huntzberger’s loss is Urban Living’s gain. My partners and I believe that properly managed, and with some innovative investments, publishing can be more than profitable, it can be lucrative.”
Once again Emily wondered why she’d been summoned. As a freelance writer, she wasn’t exactly privy to any corporate secrets. “I’m sure it’s a wonderful opportunity.” She straightened her posture and attempted to look suitably impressed.
“More than you can imagine. The official announcement of the acquisition was sent to all the media outlets earlier today, embargoed until tonight’s six o’clock news. From that point onward, we’ll be known as Urban-Huntzberger, Inc. My partners are in the process of preparing our IPO. These things take time, but we’re hoping to get listed within a few months.”
Preparing an Initial Public Offering, getting listed on the stock exchange. It had definite possibilities. Maybe Michelle was going to offer her a full-time job, one with benefits: dental, medical, paid vacation. A girl could dream. “Who are the partners?”
“They prefer to remain silent investors for the moment, though that will change when we go public. But you needn’t let such things concern you. I’ll remain editor-in-chief for all Urban-Huntzberger publications, and you’ll continue to report directly to me on any assignments. Which brings me to today. We would like to offer you an assignment. But this one is a bit, hmmm, different.”
Emily shifted forward in her seat. “Different?”
“It would involve relocating.”
“Relocating?” Emily realized she was beginning to sound like a bit of a parrot. “To where? For how long?”

Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you?


Twitter: @JudyPenzSheluk

Buy Links: The Hanged Man’s Noose is available in print and eBook at

and all the usual suspects, including

Amazon, Barnes & Noble: and

Judy, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.

Thank you.


  1. Thank you Sharon, for the opportunity to guest on your blog. I welcome any comments or questions!