Thank you so much for being here today Joyce.
Let us begin.
SS: What can you tell us about your new Book?
Joyce Strand: Hilltop Sunset showcases Brynn Bancroft as the protagonist sleuth who evolves from a minor character in the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries and transitions from chief financial officer to winemaker. Brynn faces stalkers, murders, a disturbed love interest, divorce, and recovery from being beaten almost to death. The story tracks her transition while she solves the various mysteries to move on with her life—only to her own surprise she morphs into a different kind of person.
SS: What can you share about your characters?
Joyce Strand: Protagonist Brynn Bancroft, who is attractive and smart, does not immediately endear herself to readers. She is a bit promiscuous and demeans the emotions and feelings of others and does not allow herself to feel anything. We learn to appreciate her as we work with her to change into a more likeable, feeling person. Her ex-husband, Liam, on the other hand is personable (and quite handsome as Brynn is beautiful). He encourages her to “feel” more. Brynn’s new love interest, Todd, is amusing, flattering, and an enthusiastic lover—just what Brynn needs. Or is he?
SS: Is this book a part of a series?
Joyce Strand : Hilltop Sunset is the first of three books to feature Brynn Bancroft as the protagonist. Brynn herself is a minor character from the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, three books featuring Jillian as the protagonist. Although these books include the same characters they are each standalone and feature their own special mysteries. Each of the mysteries is drawn from a real California case.
SS: What inspired you to write this story?
Joyce Strand: The case for Hilltop Sunset was recommended to me by a colleague who is a retired FBI agent. He actually worked on and solved the case. I can’t be more explicit about the actual crime, or it will “spoil” the mystery. As for setting the book in wine country, well, I like to drink wine! And I’m learning more about wine production in the Ramona, Calif wine region where I’ve settled. It’s fun.
SS: Share some of your writing techniques.
Joyce Strand: In summary, I’m more of a “just do it” than an “outline it” writer. However, before I start to write my mysteries I always know, at a minimum, the crime, the protagonist and antagonist, i.e., the sleuth and the perpetrator, and the opening and ending scenes. Often I’ll have other scenes in mind. And before I start to write, I develop biographies of each of the key characters so I’ll know how they might behave when I place them in specific situations.
Once I start to write, I have a rule – no fewer than 3,000 words per day. Even if they’re poor words that I need to rewrite, I keep the momentum going. I typically average 5,000 words a day. A trick I’ve used to keep me going is to stop writing before I get to the end of a scene knowing how I want to end it. When I return the next day, it’s easy to get into the story because I’ve plotted it.
My characters definitely help to tell the story. Since I’ve developed their background, they react “in character” in situations and sometimes get carried away. This helps to make the story more character-driven.
SS: Well thank you for sharing that with all of us.
SS: I know there are so many books getting turned into movies nowadays how do you feel about having one of your books turn into a movie? Would you like that? Why or Why Not?
Joyce Strand: I think it would be fun to see any of my mysteries come alive on the screen. They’re set in the San Francisco and wine country areas so the background would be scenic. The characters would be embellished when actors interpret their idiosyncrasies and turn them into heroes or villains. And I envision background music that would sound ominous at just the right times, but would allow us to be surprised at the plot twists.
SS: Are there any particular books that are part of your reading list?
Joyce Strand: Oh, my. I have a Kindle full of books to read. I guess at the top of the list is John Grisham’s Gray Mountain. I’m currently reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. I enjoy mostly mysteries – which is probably why I write mysteries.
SS: Do you have a particular way of writing and can you share some tips on that?
Joyce Strand: I’ve learned much since I drafted my first book. Dialogue over straight prose makes for a more interesting story. I use short, punchy sentences for action scenes with little description. Verbs over nouns, and as few adverbs as possible; I try to eliminate the use of any form of “to be.” Finally, I encourage the characters to tell the story.
SS: I know you have written several books can you share what makes them different or what makes them the same.
Joyce Strand: My first three novels star a public relations executive in the corporate world of Silicon Valley – drawn into solving mysteries pulled from real California crime cases. Turning the skills of a publicist into capabilities to solve a crime was a unique challenge and intriguing to read. These books are set in the corporate world yet, in the end, they are “old fashioned mysteries.”
SS: Tells us something about yourself that is not related to writing.
Joyce Strand: I love Broadway musicals – or any live theater for that matter. I attend whatever live stage productions I can. Most recently I saw Steve Martin’s Bright Star at the Old Globe in San Diego. And I also saw Allegiance there (twice), a musical about the Japanese internment camps during WWII. I’m looking forward to seeing both on Broadway.
I also enjoy drinking good wine and eating at fine restaurants. And I am a reporter for a regional wine magazine.
SS: Oh that is amazing. Thank you for sharing Joyce.
SS: What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?
Joyce Strand: Just do it. If you have a story that wants to come out, just sit down and write it. Don’t worry about how it’s written, just make it happen. First drafts are intended to be rewritten.
Then if you do nothing else, hire a good editor. It’s OK to have family or friends review your writing, and some might even give you good advice, but a professional editor knows what will work and what won’t and will give you the honest advice you’re paying for.
SS: Well said and thank you again for being here.
Joyce T. Strand, Biography
Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries set in the San Francisco Silicon Valley and Napa-Sonoma wine regions of California.
Her most recent novel, HILLTOP SUNSET, is the first of a new series featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft plays a minor role in Strand’s novels ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.
Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. She focused on writing by-lined articles, press releases, white papers, and brochures to publicize her companies and their products.
Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as possible.
She received her Ph.D. from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
Hilltop Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery
A mystery set in wine country pitting financial exec Brynn Bancroft against a determined stalker, murder, a troubled love interest, and career clashes.
Brynn Bancroft learns that a former employee who beat her nearly to death has returned to stalk her and her friend, Jillian Hillcrest, also a former victim. Recently divorced, Brynn turns to a new love interest only to encounter additional unwelcome entanglements. Meanwhile, short-timer Brynn, who has resigned from her Silicon Valley company, becomes bored fulfilling her remaining responsibilities there. She begins to prefer supporting the launch of her ex-husband’s new hilltop winery while waiting to move to her next position. Between her stalker and her new love interest, Brynn faces a series of life-threatening events.
Purchase and Author Links
Amazon Paperback and Kindle
Barnes and Noble Nook
Signed Paperback: Unicorn Book Store