JULIE HYZY GOES ROGUE: From Mystery to Bradbury to her next NYT besteller, Virtual Sabotage

by | Oct 26, 2018 | Extraordinary Guest Bloggers, The Writer's Life, On writing | 11 comments

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!
Rogues:  Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author?
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!

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  1. Karna Bodman

    So good to have you with us today, Julie. I remember reading your White House Chef series — terrific stories. Now I see you have shifted gears to pen VIRTUAL SABOTAGE – quite a switch and I can't wait to read it. As for your writing background, how cool is it that you began by putting together a neighborhood newspaper when you were just 10 years old and then "evolved" into a NYT bestselling author! Thanks for a great post.

  2. Julie Hyzy

    Thank you, Karna! It's so nice to be here. Thanks for your kind words about my WHChef stories and for your help when I first started that series. The White House insights you shared with me were an enormous help. I'm excited to move in this new direction and I appreciate the opportunity you wonderful Rogue Women Writers offered to allow me to visit today!

  3. Robin Burcell

    Thanks for visiting, Julie! I love lemon drops, but haven't tried the raspberry combo. (I'm with you on the no sugar thing.) And tempranillo! One of my new faves. (My daughter works part-time at a winery that specializes in that. Bokisch. It's one of their premier wines and quickly sells out.) Fellow Trekkie, here, so I totally get wanting to live in the future. There are definitely things I'd like to see happen, though I'm hesitant to be beamed up anywhere (visions of the scene in GALAXY QUEST, where they're trying it out for first time! Love that movie, BTW. Oh, yes. Doctor Who fan, too.) Anyway, I digress. Looking forward to VIRTUAL SABOTAGE.

  4. Lisa Black

    I am exactly the same about ‘just’!! Sometimes I have the self discipline to do a search and weed them out from the final manuscript, but not always.

  5. Jamie Freveletti

    Love the photo of the Bradbury letter, with that Fahrenheit 451 heading. (What a great book that was). And never knew that you wanted to be a writer since you were 10 years old. I also love Star Trek (Next Generation my favorite of the later versions). Thanks for the post and congrats on the launch of VIRTUAL SABOTAGE!

  6. Robin Burcell

    One time, I think I had characters "peering" about every other paragraph. (Trying for a new way to "look" at something.)

  7. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks so much for visiting, Julie, and I loved your post! First sentences are always a challenge, and love it when the book delivers its own ending line, although I've had the strange experience of having the last line before I can come up with the first! Ray Bradbury is a favorite of mine, too. I knew him for some 20 years through the great Santa Barbara Writers Conference, first as a teacher and mentor, and then as a fellow novelist. A warm, fascinating, vibrant man in both his writing and personally. Your note from him is priceless!

  8. Julie Hyzy

    Thanks, Robin! I'm going to have to look into Bokisch! Thanks for the tip!

  9. Julie Hyzy

    Yes!! I have people shooting a glance – or staring – shooting a look all the time!

  10. Julie Hyzy

    Thanks, Jamie!

  11. Julie Hyzy

    How wonderful that you were able to get to know Ray Bradbury! What an amazing man!