Monday, December 1, 2014

Joan Curtis, The Clock Strikes Midnight

AUTHOR: Joan C. Curtis
BOOK TITLE: The Clock Strikes Midnight
GENRE: Mystery/Suspense
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing

NOTE:  If you're interested in doing a review on The Clock Strikes Midnight, please leave a comment with your contact information and Joan will arrange to send an electronic copy to you.

Please tell us about yourself. I’m a communications consultant turned mystery writer. I’ve spent the last 20+ years working with businesses helping them develop better interpersonal relations within their organizations. I have a doctorate in Adult Education. In my capacity as a communications consultant, I pubished 4 business books. Those included information about hiring and keeping talent as well as communication issues.

Now I’ve turned to the much more rewarding world of fiction writing. I say more rewarding because the fiction enables me to tap into my creativity. That’s been great fun! I’m sure you know all about that, Penny. Your creativity amazes me.

Please tell us your latest news. My latest news is that The Clock Strikes Midnight was released just a week ago. I’m excited to have my very first work of fiction available for readers.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? I would have to say I’m a part-time writer who wants to be a full-time writer. I do spend as much of my time writing as I can. I’m still doing seminars and workshops related to communication in the business world. I’m still a wife and a mom as well as the caretaker of 5 four-legged creatures. All that pulls me from full-time writing.

What I try to do is write 500 new words every day. If I’m working on a novel, those have to be new words in the novel. If I’m in between, then my 500 words can be blogs, short stories or flash fiction.

When and why did you begin writing? I began writing seriously in my 30’s. I sent a story for a Reader’s Digest competition (national). It won second place and the editor contacted me. That story was about the summer following my father’s death. I was 8 years old. It was something that had been inside me for a long time. Once I wrote that and had it published, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I suppose I always had the writing passion, but that story gave me the confidence to move forward.

What inspired you to write your first book? The first book I wrote will never be published. I call it my “practice” novel. I wanted to see if I could write a novel. The task seemed daunting to me. I really didn’t know that much about the craft of writing, but I quickly learned. Writing that first book enabled me to learn and to improve and finally to begin a new project with a new goal: publish.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? I’m speaking Italian! I am half-Italian. My father was born in Caserta Italy. Unfortunately he died when I was 8-years-old. Nonetheless, he left me with the Italian bug. I love everything about the country and have spent the last ten years learning what I can, including the language.

What are your thoughts about promotion? The first thought that came to my mind, Penny, was YUCK! It is so hard. When I set about writing a novel, I just wanted to see if I could do it. Then, I set about getting a novel published. Yippee! That happened. Now, the hardest part of all is getting the word out about it so people will buy my book. Naively I suppose I thought if I wrote a good book, people would buy it… Ha! The market is full of good books. The challenge to all writers is to figure out how to tell readers about their books. Recently I did a webinar for Southern New Hampshire University for their creative writing students. The title was What Does It Take to Write, Publish and SELL a novel. Clearly it’s a three-prong process.

What is your marketing plan? I’m putting my book on all the major sites that recognize mysteries. One thing I want to do is get people to read and review my book. I’m seeking reviews from mystery bloggers. I currently have several, but want more. I’m also appearing on writer’s blogs with guests post opportunities. These focus on writing tips and strategies. My blog also has a number of posts that relate to tips for writers as well as book reviews of other books I’ve read and interviews with authors. My goal in marketing is to create a name for myself in the fiction/writing world without constantly pumping my book.

What are your current projects? I am currently working on a cozy mystery series. The first one is under contract with MuseItUp. It’s title is The e-Murderer. It’s all about a young woman who gets dangerous, sinister e-mails, which are later linked to a series of murders. The story heats us when the main character becomes the target of the e-murderer. I’m now working on the second book in that series.

What genre do you write in and why? I write mystery/suspense. I chose this genre because this is what I like to read. I also love woman’s fiction but that was too broad a genre. The Clock Strikes Midnight started out in the woman’s fiction category in its early drafts. As the book evolved, it clearly became more of a suspense book with a strong mystery component. I turned to the cozy mystery genre with my second and third book because it was easier to place in a genre. I selected cozy because I wanted an amateur sleuth character.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting. Here is the blurb from The Clock Strikes Midnight: The Clock Strikes Midnight is a race against time in a quest for revenge and atonement. This is a story about hate, love, betrayal and forgiveness.

If you found out you had only 3 months to live, what would you do? That’s the question Janie Knox faces in this fast-paced mystery full of uncertainty and tension that will surprise you until the very last page.

Hiding behind the fa├žade of a normal life, Janie keeps her family secrets tucked inside a broken heart. Everything changes on the day she learns she’s going to die. With the clock ticking and her time running out, she rushes to finish what she couldn’t do when she was 17—destroy her mother’s killer. But she can’t do it alone.

Janie returns to her childhood home to elicit help from her sister. She faces more than she bargained for when she discovers her sister’s life in shambles. Meanwhile her mother’s convicted killer, her stepfather, recently released from prison, blackmails the sisters and plots to extract millions from the state in retribution. New revelations challenge Janie’s resolve, but she refuses to allow either time or her enemies to her stop her from uncovering the truth she’s held captive for over 20 years.

What comes first: the plot or characters? For me, the characters come first. Although The Clock Strikes Midnight has a strong plot, the characters pave the way for action and they are the ones making decisions. I tried to use an outline for The e-Murderer, but it soon fell by the wayside. The characters had their own ideas and they are usually better than mine!

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why? The character I disliked (I wouldn’t say hate) the most was Eloise, Marlene and Janie’s mom. I’ve read a lot about child neglect. Eloise was a neglectful mom who cared more about herself than her children. She was very spoiled and some might even say narcissistic. I’d love to hear from my readers, though. Which character did they dislike the most?

As for Ralph… well, he was pitiful. He made a mistake when he married Eloise. That mistake cost him a lot. I don’t condone his behavior, but I do pity him.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind? Most people think if you don’t write historical fiction, there is no need for research in writing fiction. That is a huge myth. I spend a lot of time researching many things, including: 1) The weather at the particular time of year where I’m writing 2) The place I’m writing about, even if it’s nearby 3) The people I’m writing about. Their likes and dislikes, common to people in that region 4) The professions my characters choose. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, business people 5) The language—dialogue. How people speak whether they are “redneck” southerners or adolescents or from Great Britain. 6) The events at the time of writing 7) The list is endless…

What advice would you give a new writer starting out? Keep writing and don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to criticism. Don’t let rejection stop you, learn from it and move forward. There is a craft to writing. Not everyone has the talent. If you have the passion, learn the craft and keep learning.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun? Strong characters and good writing. If there’s even one point-of-view error, I stop reading.

What book are you currently reading? Just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Great book.

What do you like or not like about it? Okay, so you caught me. I found one point-of-view error, but I like her books so much, I kept on going. I like that she writes from 3-4 points-of-view. There’s a mystery involved and each person has a little bit of the puzzle. She also wraps things up nicely in the end. There are no pieces hanging.

What seven words would you use to describe yourself? Enthusiastic, disciplined, a people-person

Describe your writing space. OMG a mess, but I keep trying to clean it up. My cat sits on my desk on a cat blanket net to my computer.

Excerpt from The Clock Strikes Midnight…

“Daddy, when I get my kitty, can I name him Davy?” she had asked, yanking Marlene’s Davy Crockett mug full of M&M’s from her grasp.
The colorful candy spilled all over the backseat of the car.

“Mama, tell Janie to—”

“Janie, behave,” Daddy said, admonishing her for an instant with his eyes from the rearview mirror.

“Malcolm, look out—!” Mom screamed.

Janie slammed into Marlene. Pain. The world tumbled topsy-turvy. The mug flew across the interior of the car, colors of the rainbow falling all around her.

Then, everything went black.

When she opened her eyes, Mom’s blood-streaked face rose in front of her out of the darkness.

“Wrap your arms around my neck, honey.” Mom lifted her from the wreckage.

Janie clutched her doll by the dress while the rain beat her curly hair flat.
Marlene stood on the side of the road.

“Try to walk,” Mom said, toppling her from her arms.

Her head pounded and blood trickled down her leg. She leaned on her good leg and limped in the direction of her sister.

“Mama, where’s Daddy?” Marlene asked between sobs.

Mom took Marlene’s hand and yanked her forward with Janie in tow.

Marlene lurched back toward the smashed Oldsmobile with smoke billowing from its hood and a big tree lying across the roof. The Davy Crockett mug lay shattered by the back tire.

“Daddy! We can’t leave Daddy!” Marlene yelled, picking up pieces of the broken glass.

They had left Daddy that day and piled into an old Chevy pick-up truck with a bashed in headlamp, belonging to a man with carrot-red hair. Mom pushed them inside the truck and ordered the man to get help. But by then it was too late for Daddy.

It was too late for all of them.


  1. Interesting interview, ladies. Thanks for sharing your story, Joan. Congratulations on your book and on the new series. Best of luck with your writing. Enjoy every moment.

  2. Thanks for hosting me today. I appreciate the nice interview. Nice meeting you Beverly!

  3. Great interview, Joan and Penny, both the questions and answers.

    Joan, I enjoyed your FB launch party. I was there every minute. I didn't win anything, but it was still fun. ;) I'll have to read your blog post about the FB launch.

    Best wishes for your new book and your future writing endeavors. Interesting about your new cozy mystery series coming out soon.

  4. I think every writer writes a practice novel!

    Nice interview.