Today I’d like to welcome debut suspense novelist Judy Kerr to Women & Words. Her first full length tome featuring Postal Inspector Mc McCall releases from Launch Point Press mid-summer. So exciting! Not long ago, I sat down with Judy for some not-so-intense Q&A.
The teaser!!~~~~MC McCall has it all: a loving partner, a nice home in St. Paul, and the job of her dreams working as a postal inspector. Assigned to an FBI joint task force, she’s excited to investigate a tricky Ponzi scheme—that is, until a critically important whistleblower goes missing. Two murders follow, and MC’s professional world starts to tilt. When her personal life also implodes, suddenly MC is drowning in the depths of darkness. Will she keep her head above water? Or be destroyed by the corruption, hidden enemies, and dark deeds surrounding her.
Jessie: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing!
Judy: I’ve always loved reading, even as a kid. A part of me always wished I could write a book. Then life happened…kids…blah blah blah. Then in, I think 2009, my partner encouraged me to pursue that writing dream. So I took a coupla classes via The Loft and the instructor was none other than the guru of all things writing, Lori L. Lake. I’d read several of Lori’s books and really liked them so I was super excited to take classes with her. I guess that was my launching point into writing…and isn’t it funny how my publisher ends up being Lori Lake and the press is Launch Point Press? Hmmm. I’d not put that all together until just now. Wow…did you see that fly?! I guess it really is spring when you see an honest to god live fly in the coffee shop, huh?
Jessie: Black Friday is your first mystery. Where did the idea for the book come from?
Judy: Writers just make stuff up, right? Really what happened was that I decided to try my hand at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) online…this was November 2009. I’ve always been fascinated with Split Rock Lighthouse and the North Shore—I love that area. And I was still working for the postal service and I decided I wanted my protagonist to be a postal inspector because no one ever writes a police procedural/crime fiction story using postal inspectors. Niche, right? So I conjured up this story using the North Shore setting and a female lesbian postal inspector protagonist. I busted well past the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo! What an experience. But then—true story (as you know)—over the next couple years, after a few rewrites and a class with the Grand Master of Mystery, Ellen Hart, the manuscript just wasn’t quite right. I heard a hard truth…my story needed to be book two in a series. I needed to go back to the drawing board and plot and write the first book. Thank you for that sound advice, by the way! <bg> And Book 1 is Black Friday. And that original manuscript…the one I held so dear all these years…well, looks like now that will actually be book three.
Jessie: How do you go about the process of spinning your tales? What’s your writing process?
Judy: Spinning my ‘tales?’ Ha! Makes me sound like some sort of creepy spider, and I know you don’t like those. LOL
Jess: You’re so right! It’s a good thing you’re not a spider or I’d have to squish you.
Judy: Def a good thing! That might hurt. But seriously…I’ve said this on a couple of Sisters in Crime panels, I look at research like sleuthing. I’m digging for the facts and all the info I can lay my eyeballs on. And I also tend to save news articles to get ideas of plotlines. The more evil, the better. Then I kind of fly by the seat of my pants—yeah, I’m mostly a pantser. However, I’m coming around to more of a hybrid process, part outliner and part pantser. That’s how I’ve been working on the second book anyway.
Jess: Every book is a new adventure, for sure. It’s great to experiment with different styles of writing. So, what kind of research did you do for this current tale?
Judy: As the saying goes, “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to…” Nah, that doesn’t really apply here! BUT I kind of felt that way when I started to research. When I started writing this book I was still working for the US Postal Service and I knew a few postal inspectors—in a good way! LOL However, they were very close-mouthed when I tried to pick their brains about writing a book with an inspector protagonist. They refused to give up anything to me…not even, name, rank, or serial number. True story. So, I read everything on their official website. I searched the internet for anything I could find on the agency. And I watched several episodes of a TV show called “The Inspectors,” which airs on Saturday mornings on CBS. In my sleuthing, I got a ‘hit’ on a Sisters in Crime chapter in a southern state that had a postal inspector as a guest speaker—I think it was back in 2009 (obviously this was a very big year for me!). Anyway, I tried to track down that inspector without any luck. But I was able to get another inspector from that area to at least respond to my email inquiries. He was very helpful and patient in answering some of the questions I threw his way. He’s now retired, but we’re still in contact and I do bounce stuff off of him from time to time. He has to remain nameless, but I’m so grateful for his help. And I’ve also had several email exchanges with the Inspection Services Media contact. I don’t even know the name of this person, but they’ve been generous in providing historical background info. The inspection service is referred to as the “silent service” and for good reason. Truth be told, I understand why they don’t want to share the intricacies of their investigative protocols, so I made up stuff. And hopefully when readers pick up the book (or ebook) they’ll have an enjoyable journey with my characters.
Jess: Tell us a little about Sisters in Crime and how the organization has helped your writing career.
Judy: I’ve been a member of Sisters in Crime (national and Twin Cities Chapter) for a few years now. Honestly, I felt like a poser for so long because the group was mostly authors and I never mentioned my writing. Then I got brave and confessed that I was working on my first novel and the support came pouring in. It hasn’t let up one bit! I’m so grateful to this amazing group of authors and readers who selflessly build each other up. They’re inspiring and just a great bunch of peeps!
Jess: SinC is totally an amazing organization, and they really are awesome people. Readers, check out the above links if you’d like to learn more. So back to the book! Judy, this is an MC McCall series book, meaning there will be more to come. Where are you at for the second book? Do you have a direction it’ll take?
Judy: Yes! I really want the MC McCall series to happen! Over the past several months I’ve been jotting down scene ideas and characters and plot threads building off of Black Friday. MC’s gone through hell in the first book and she’ll face even more challenges in book two, I think. Time will tell. J I love brainstorming with my MN Minions, you and MB Panichi. Although the second book has been on the back burner while I toil away finalizing Black Friday. This whole publishing process is overwhelming! I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I trust in Lori’s guidance and that at some point in the near future I’ll be holding a print copy of Black Friday.
Jess: I’ve heard it through the raisin vine you’ve had some short stories published. Tell us a little about them and where they can be found!
Judy: Raisin vine! Ha! Now I have visions of those Claymation California Raisins dancing in my head! And yes, I’ve had three short stories published. The first, “Stamped Unnatural” appeared in an anthology, Time’s Rainbow: Writing Ourselves Back Into American History, edited by Lori L. Lake and Christopher Hawthorne Moss back in 2017. I’m forever grateful to Lori for giving me a shot at my very first published story! Whew, what a rush! Last year my short story, “Ruby Red Heist” appeared in Dark Side of the Loon: Where History Meets Mystery, an anthology published by the Twin Cities Chapter of Sisters in Crime and edited by Sheyna Galyan, Christina Glendenning, and Timya Owen. That was a fun project and I’m so honored to have been part of it. And the third story, “Chewy Beats Crunchy” appears in the anthology, Cooked to Death: Cold Cut Files, edited by Rhonda Gilliland. The official launch for that book was at Once Upon a Crime on Saturday, May 11 from 12-2pm, and it was a great turnout.
Jess: Tell us where and when readers can get a hold of Black Friday!!!!
Judy: Where can readers get a hold of my book? That’s a great question…where can I get hold of my book? LOL Lori will have it available to e-tailers by the end of June, I think.
Jess: An author’s journey to publication is often a crazy road. What was yours?
Judy: I fretted over publication for years and years. I’ve listened to authors at Sisters in Crime and at GCLS talk about agents and query letters and pitching their books. The info is overwhelming. But I was lucky enough to have a great support group of experienced and published authors to give me guidance. To push me. To bolster me. And I have the great good fortune of being one of the authors that Lori took on at Launch Point Press. A small press with bighearted people involved. I’m still learning as I go. I’m an introvert, so the mere thought of marketing and readings, etc. is enough to send me running to the nearest corner to hide and rock back and forth mumbling to myself. I’m told it gets easier. Is that true?
Jess: Well, it does to some degree. But sometimes you just have to bail out and hide in the porta potty for a few moments of alone time LOL Judy, any parting thoughts?
Judy: Well, I guess to wrap this up: I’m grateful for you and my other writing buddies. I’m in awe of my publisher, Lori L. Lake and how amazing she is at writing, teaching, publishing, and being an overall genuinely amazing human. I’m humbled by all the support from my friends and family. And I have to say that as hard as writing a book is, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Hats off to all the authors—putting themselves out there and giving readers awesome worlds to entertain them and by which they can escape the reality of everyday life. Keep on writing! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about all this. Love ya!
Jess: Thanks for stopping by W&W, Judy! Readers, leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for Black Friday, and in one week I’ll pull the name of the lucky winner. Once Launch Point releases Black Friday, the winner will soon find a copy in their in box!
Judy Kerr has published short stories in three anthologies. She resides with her extended family in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She retired from the US Postal Service in 2017 after thirty-eight years of federal service. Black Friday is Judy’s first crime fiction novel. See more at www.JudyMKerr.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram for more mysterious Surly adventures!