We’re lucky to have Julie Hyzy, the NYTimes Bestselling author of a string of mysteries talking to us about her writing process, a close encounter with Ray Bradbury, and the challenges of parallel parking an old Ford LTD sedan as a teenager. Read on!
Rogues: Which is harder to write — your novel’s first sentence, or the last?
First sentences, by far. Every novel starts the same way: with my jazzed brain dancing with new-project excitement. It’s as though I have a million shiny jigsaw puzzle pieces bouncing around in front of me. All of them are SO important, so attractive, so exhilarating. But then I take a deep breath and realize that if I attack them all at once, I’ll wind up with nothing but a jumbled mess.
Choosing the perfect point to work from in order to build the whole picture in a satisfying way is the hardest part for me. I agonize forever. Then I type, erase, repeat.
By contrast, last sentences almost always deliver themselves—though that’s not to say I haven’t struggled over a few of them as well. I tend to play around with a final scene for a bit and at some point, the right words emerge to form language that I’m particularly satisfied with. Boom! Done!
What do I do then?
Go back and revise the first line again, of course.
Rogues: What’s your favorite word?
If by favorite, you mean the word I accidentally use most often, it’s probably “just.” At the completion of every novel, I do a word search and invariably have to change buckets of them. For favorites I use on purpose, it’s probably “launched.” Fun, active verb. I do adore the word “luminous” although I don’t use it often.
Rogues: Where do you like to write?
At home in my cave. At least that’s what the family calls it. In here, I have everything I need: Desktop computer, comfy chair, books, window, calendar. If I need chocolate or coffee, I’m not far from the kitchen.
Rogues: What do you do when you need to take a break from writing?
My two favorite things: I read or I eat. Sometimes both at once.
I have several TBR piles, all of which contain more books than I’d be able to get through in a year, even though I usually have multiple titles going at once. I know that many people prefer to read one book at a time. I have at least one book going per pile and, when I sit down to relax (or have lunch), I reach for whichever one is closest.
Eating is one of my absolute pleasures. Whether we’re dining out, or gathering around a table with friends, or I’m spending a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, food-related activities take up a whole lot of my mental and physical energy. I enjoy trying new combinations and I absolutely love researching new restaurants. How else do you think I achieved my VIP status on OpenTable?
Rogues: If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be?
I would want to be born fifty or even a hundred years from now. I have high hopes for the continued evolution of humankind (which probably explains my Star Trek obsession) and I’m optimistic about the future. And consider the technology! In Virtual Sabotage, I offer a view of where current technology may take us. But there are so many possibilities, I can’t even imagine what we’ll have at our disposal by the end of this century. I’d sure like to see and experience it all.
Rogues: What’s your favorite drink?
Non-alcoholic: Water. Lots of it.
Alcoholic: It’s a tossup. Either a raspberry lemon drop martini (no sugar on the rim, please) or a full-bodied red. Right now I’m partial to tempranillo.
Rogues: When you were ten years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. For a short time, I thought acting would be fun, but writing has always been my passion. At age 10, I was producing a neighborhood newspaper that I sold for five cents a copy, netting me fifty cents per week. (We had kind neighbors.) By then, I’d also started my first mystery series.
My eighth grade English teacher wrote a note in my autograph book (remember those?) telling me that she expected to see a published novel out of me some day. That meant a lot to me then, and it still does. The coolest part? She and I have reconnected to become grown-up friends!
Ray Bradbury is my author hero, no two ways about that. Someday, if you haven’t already heard the story, let me tell you about my interaction with Ray Bradbury (Rogues: Check out the letter she received!). The world is a better place because of that awesome man.
Rogues: Describe your very first car.
How about the car I learned to drive on? My parents had a light brown Ford LTD with a black vinyl roof that we named Frances. No idea what year it was because we bought her used at Crazy Frank’s on Western Avenue in Chicago. Frances was huge by today’s standards. I learned how to parallel park driving her which means I can parallel park just about anything.
Rogues: Do you write what you know or what you want to know?
While I much prefer to write what I want to know, the truth is that much of what I do know gets sprinkled in there whether I intend it to or not. I love researching and, if I’m not careful, I can lose whole days chasing one interesting detail after another. Research is that addictive. There are so many fascinating tidbits to uncover. The trouble comes later, after the book is published and I’ve forgotten a good deal of what I learned along the way. Apparently, old information needs to make room for new stuff moving in—juicy stuff that I’m eager to share.
If I could remember even half of what I learned along the way as I’ve written my twenty-plus novels, I’d be a shoo-in on Jeopardy!
Rogues: Thanks Julie!