Friday, July 06, 2012

ParaCozyMysMo - Juliet Blackwell - Witchcraft Mysteries & Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries

Please welcome Juliet Blackwell to The Qwillery as part of ParaCozyMysMo! In a Witch's Wardrobe (A Witchcraft Mystery 4) was published on July 3, 2012!

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery! Writing quirks! What are some of yours?

Juliet:  Quirks...hmm...I often get up at 4 in the morning. Is that a quirk? Believe it or not, I’m not really a morning person but I find the absolute stillness of that hour perfect for writing. I get more done between the hours of 4 and 7 than the whole rest of the day!

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers?

Juliet:  My favorite writer, early on, was Elizabeth Peters, who wrote paranormal as Barbara Michaels. I think she's the reason I came to love mysteries! More recently, my favorites in the mystery field are Victoria Laurie, Sophie Littlefield, and Kate Carlisle. But I also read a lot of non-mystery-- my current favorites are Barbara Kingsolver, Richard Russo, and Sherman Alexie.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Juliet:  I'm a little of both. I pretty much pants my first, extreeeemely rough draft. I like the excitement that comes from not knowing exactly where the story is going, and what will happen next; and I believe that if I'm excited about the story, that will translate to my readers. However, once the first draft comes together I do a "backwards outline" from the existing story. With the overview I can spot areas that need more action, or change plot points, or find weak spots. Then when I re-write, I focus on making sure the plot is solid. On the third (and fourth, and fifth…) revision I work out details of setting, description, research, and wording.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Juliet:  Consistency. My writing really suffers if I don't sit down with it every day, whether I feel like it or not. Also, there's always a point in writing the novel where I feel *so* sick of the whole thing, and can no longer "see" the story, much less any of its charm. I've been through it so many times now that I understand I have to simply push on through, but it's painful. Beyond the actual writing, the hardest part of this career, for me, is promoting my books. I find it so awkward to try to sell myself...I love meeting readers and enjoy meeting colleagues at conferences, but it feels so rude to ask people to buy my book! I'd rather just hide in my room and write!

TQ:  Your most recent novel is In a Witch's Wardrobe (A Witchcraft Mystery 4). You also write the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series. What inspired you to write mysteries with paranormal/supernatural elements?

Juliet:  I've always had a fascination with the theme -- I mentioned Barbara Michaels, above, who wrote paranormal mysteries way back when. I adored Dark Shadows when I was far too young to be watching it (I used to sneak behind the couch and watch with my older sisters, against my mother’s orders), and was always intrigued by hints of other dimensions in books and movies. My first mystery series, about an ex-art forger, was more traditional (non- paranormal), but when my editor asked me about something otherworldly I jumped at the chance to stretch my wings a little and discover whole new worlds.

TQ:  Do you base your paranormal/supernatural elements on existing lore, make things up or both?

Juliet:  I often start out with ideas derived from existing lore --frankly, my imagination is not nearly as inventive as the things people have come up with over the years! The Middle Ages were particularly ripe for wild stories and traditions. But such folklore or historical tidbits always inspire other ideas, and then I run with those. So I guess you could say I do a little of both, gleaning information from available sources but then adding my own elements and ideas…and using artistic license to make the lore fit the plot, of course.

TQ:  What sorts of research have you done for the Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries? What is the oddest bit of information that you’ve come across in your research?

Juliet:  For the Witchcraft mysteries I rely a great deal on information I learned as an anthropologist, when I focused my studies on medical and health systems across several different cultures. I also read a great deal, of course; given the history of witchcraft in Europe there is no shortage of detailed, arcane information about witches and their craft. Finally, I have attended coven meetings and have interviewed witches and witnessed their brewing and casting. Similarly, with the Haunted Home Renovation series I have interviewed actual "ghostbusters" and psychic mediums, as well as reading ghost stories and touring and looking up the strange histories of known “haunted” buildings. I’d say the oddest single bit of information was about the Hand of Glory: the severed left hand of a hanged man, which was turned into a candle holder and worked as a sort of magical flashlight and master key – it was said to open any door and make the place as bright as day.

TQ:  Tell us something about In a Witch's Wardrobe that is not in the book description.

Juliet:  I think this book shows a great deal of character development. Actually, now that I write that it seems a little silly, after all shouldn’t *all* books show character development? But in series fiction, while each individual novel has its distinct, self-contained plot, one of the things I most enjoy is building a sense of the characters through their backgrounds and interactions over the course of several books. And of their love lives, of course…but I don’t want to give too much away on that score. Suffice it to say that In a Witch’s Wardrobe offers up some interesting developments about two important men in Lily’s life: Aidan and Sailor.

TQ:  In In a Witch's Wardrobe who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Juliet:  The easiest, by far, is Oscar! He's Lily's sort-of witch's familiar, who is normally a cross between a gargoyle and a goblin but who transforms into a miniature potbellied pig when he's in the company of regular humans. He's so much fun, and has such a great outlook on life. I'd say the hardest to write is Lily, the main character. I find Lily to be very complex and strong-willed, and there are many times when she pretty much refuses to do what I'm asking her to do. It's a strange feeling when a character that *I* made up has a mind of her own, but it happens all the time.

TQ:  Which character in the Witchcraft Mysteries or the Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries has surprised you the most?

Juliet:  Sailor. He started out as a sullen, cantankerous psychic who very reluctantly agrees to help Lily. He's still sullen and cantankerous, but it turns out there's more to him than I first thought...and Lily's noticed, too. There are some surprises with him in In a Witch’s Wardrobe.

TQ:   Other than being paranormal/supernatural mysteries, do the Witchcraft Mysteries and the Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries have anything in common?

Juliet:  I think all my protagonists have a real interest in history, and what has gone before. That includes the main character of my non-paranormal art forgery series, as well. Also, they’re all based in San Francisco and the great Bay Area, which is where I grew up and where I returned to live after a decade or so on the East Coast and abroad. Finally, I hope they all feature strong, independent women committed to their careers, their friends, and their families.

TQ:  What's next?

Juliet:  At the moment I'm finishing up Tarnished and Torn, the Fifth book in the Witchcraft Mystery series. Murder on the House, the third Haunted Home Renovation novel, is in production and will be coming out December 4th. And as soon as I finish up Tarnished and Torn, I'll start on the fourth in the Haunted Home series, which I’m really looking forward to!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Juliet:  Thank you for having me! It’s always a pleasure!

Witchcraft Mysteries

In a Witch's Wardrobe
A Witchcraft Mystery 4
Signet, July 3, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily Ivory is living her dream of owning a vintage clothing store—and practicing magic on the side. But when she encounters a sinister sleeping spell, Lily comes face-to-face with a nightmarish evil...

Taking a night off from running her successful San Francisco clothing store, Lily attends a local art deco ball where vintage fashions steal the show. But when a young woman at the event falls under a mysterious sleeping sickness, Lily senses that a curse was placed on the woman’s corsage.

Before Lily can solve the woman’s magical ailment, she’s asked to assist in investigating a string of poisonings in the Bay Area Witchcraft community. She’s gained the trust of the local covens by supporting women’s charities through her clothing store. But soon, Lily suspects that one of her new acquaintances might not be so well intentioned and could be dabbling in dark magic and deadly botany...

Hexes and Hemlines
A Witchcraft Mystery 3
Signet, June 7, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily gets called away from her vintage clothing store to give police a witch’s take on how the leader of a rationalist society could be murdered, surrounded by superstitions he discredited.

Evidence points to dark witchcraft. Lily’s determined to use magic of her own to find the murderer, before everyone’s luck runs out.

A Cast Off Coven
A Witchcraft Mystery 2
Signet, June 1, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Lily Ivory is not your average witch. She runs a vintage clothing store called Aunt Cora’s Closet and has the magical ability to sense vibrations of the past from clothing and jewelry. When students are spooked at the San Francisco School for the Arts, Lily is called in to search for paranormal activity. She finds a dead body—and a closet full of old clothes with some very bad vibes.

Secondhand Spirits
A Witchcraft Mystery 1
Signet, July 7, 2009
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Love the vintage—not the ghosts

Lily Ivory feels that she can finally fit in somewhere and conceal her “witchiness” in San Francisco. It’s there that she opens her vintage clothing shop, outfitting customers both spiritually and stylistically.

Just when things seem normal, a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area. Lily has a good idea that some bad phantoms are behind it. Can she keep her identity secret, or will her witchy ways be forced out of the closet as she attempts to stop the phantom?

Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries

Dead Bolt
A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery 2
Signet, December 6, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Turner Construction’s latest restoration project is a historic Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco. This time general contractor Mel Turner has to work around the owners who insist on sticking around—along with some ghosts that insist in their own way that the work stops...

The ghosts aren’t the only ones standing in the way of the renovations. A crotchety neighbor, Emile Blunt, secretly wants this house, and could be behind some of the disturbances. But when Emile is found dead, it’s Mel who appears guilty. Now she must restore the building—and her reputation—before it’s too late.

If Walls Could Talk
A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery 1
Signet, December 7, 2010
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Since she took over her father’s construction business, Mel Turner’s made quite a name for herself remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But now her reputation may be on the line.

At her newest renovation project, a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, Mel is visited by the ghost of a colleague who recently met a bad end with power tools. Mel hopes that by tracking down the killer, she can rid herself of the ghostly presence of the murdered man.

Mel’s only clue is an odd box she discovers inside a wall at the job site. If she can make sense of its mysterious contents, she might be able to nail a killer—before she herself becomes the next construction casualty...

And coming in December 2012...

Murder on the House
A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery 3
Signet, December 4, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Bed and Breakfast...with a side of ghosts.

Since word has spread that contractor Mel Turner can communicate with the spirits of the dead, it's been difficult to maintain a low profile. She embraces her new reputation, however, for the chance to restore an historic house in San Francisco's Castro District. The new owners, who hope to run a haunted B&B, want Mel to encourage the ghosts that supposedly roam the halls to enhance the paranormal charm.

The catch: Mel has to spend one night in the house to win the project. But during the spine-chilling sleepover, the estate gains another spectral inhabitant—when someone doesn't survive the night. And as Mel tries to coax the resident spirits into revealing the identity of the killer, she risks becoming the next casualty of this dangerous renovation.

About Juliet

National bestselling author Juliet Blackwell (aka Julie Goodson-Lawes, aka Hailey Lind) started out life in Palo Alto, California, borne of a Texan mother and a Yankee father. The family soon moved to what were, at the time, the sticks of Cupertino, an hour south of San Francisco. Walking to and from kindergarten every day she would indulge in her earliest larcenous activity: stealing walnuts and apricots from surrounding orchards.

By the time she graduated middle school, the orchards were disappearing and the valley at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay had become the cradle of the silicon semi-conductor. A man named Steve Jobs was working in his garage in Cupertino, just down the street. Juliet's father advised his daughters to enter the lucrative and soon-to-flourish field of computers.

"Bah" said Juliet, as she went on to major in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz (they had, by far, the best parties of any department). Rather than making scads of money in computers, she read, painted, learned Spanish and a little French and Vietnamese, lived in Spain and traveled through Europe, Mexico, and Central America. She had a very good time.

Juliet pursued graduate degrees in Anthropology and Social Work at the State University of New York at Albany, where she published several non-fiction articles on immigration as well as one book-length translation. Fascinated with other cultural systems, she studied the religions, folklore and medical beliefs of peoples around the world, especially in Latin America. Juliet taught the anthropology of health and health care at SUNY-Albany, and worked as an elementary school social worker in upstate New York. She also did field projects in Mexico and Cuba, studied in Spain, Italy, and France, worked on a BBC production in the Philippines, taught English as a second language in San Jose, and learned how to faux finish walls in Princeton, New Jersey. After having a son, moving back to California, and abandoning her half-written dissertation in cultural anthropology, Juliet started painting murals and portraits for a living. She has run her own mural/faux finish design studio in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, for more than a decade. She specializes in the aesthetic renovation of historic homes.

Finally, to round out her tour of lucrative careers, Juliet turned to writing. Under the pseudonym of Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover's Mystery Series with her sister Carolyn, about an ex-art forger trying to go straight by working as a muralist and faux finisher in San Francisco. The first of these, Feint of Art, was nominated for an Agatha Award; Shooting Gallery and Brush with Death were both IMBA bestsellers, and Arsenic and Old Paint is now available from Perseverance Press.

Juliet's Witchcraft Mystery series, about a witch who finally finds a place to fit in when she opens a vintage clothes shop on Haight Street in San Francisco, allows Juliet to indulge yet another interest—the world of witchcraft and the supernatural. Ever since her favorite aunt taught her about reading cards and tea leaves, Juliet has been fascinated with seers, conjurers, and covens from many different cultures and historic traditions. As an anthropologist, the author studied and taught about systems of spirituality, magic, and medicine throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Halloween is by far her favorite holiday.

When not writing, painting, or haranguing her funny but cynical teenaged son, Juliet spends a lot of time restoring her happily haunted house and gardening with Oscar the cat, who ostensibly belongs to the neighbors but won't leave her alone. He started hanging around when Juliet started writing about witches...funny coincidence.

The Giveaways

There is a giveaway of In a Witch's Wardrobe (A Witchcraft Mystery 4) with this interview. You can also enter to win the Grand Prize by using the Rafflecopter. The comment you leave to enter to win In a Witch's Wardrobe may also be used to enter to win the Grand Prize. Both Giveaways are open internationally.

To Enter to Win a Copy of In a Witch's Wardrobe

What:  One commenter will win a copy of In a Witch's Wardrobe (A Witchcraft Mystery 4) by Juliet Blackwell. The novel is generously provided by Penguin.

How:  Leave a comment. Please remember - if you don't leave a comment your entry will not be counted.  You must also leave a way to contact you. Entries without contact information will not be counted.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Saturday, August 4, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

To Enter to Win the Grand Prize

How:  Fill out the Rafflecopter

Terms and Conditions

1) There will be one winner of the Grand Prize.

2) The Grand Prize is separate from any giveaway associated with individual author visits during Paranormal Cozy Mystery Month.

3) You must leave a way to contact you with your comment. If you do not leave a way to contact you, your entry will not be counted.

4) The Grand Prize Giveaway is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address.

5) Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

6) Giveaway Terms and Condition are subject to change at any time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Enter me! Need some new spells for cleaning the kitchen...I'm hoping there's one in the book!


  2. This sounds great! I'm loving learning about some many new to me cozy authors. Thanks for the interviews and giveaways!


  3. I like mysteries and I like stuff with ghosts in it. That's a lot of books to win there!

    @timlewis on Twitter
    lewis dot tim at gmail dot com

  4. Great interview! I've been wanting to read the Witchcraft Mystery series for a while, but now I'll have to put the Haunted Home series on my list as well. Thanks for the giveaway!

    drakeLa90 at aol dot com

  5. I've read all the books in both series to date, but really enjoy Mel Turner's series the most. I just find her a really engaging character.

  6. Very beautiful interview! Lily seems amazing.
    Thank you for the giveaway!

    artgiote at gmail dot com

  7. Hi

    Great interview and post. I enjoy learning about "new to me" authors through blogs and twitter. I enjoy reading mysteries and it is an added bonus when there is the paranormal involved.

    Thanks for the chance.

  8. I enjoyed the interview. These books all sound good.


  9. Nice interview. I haven't read these but they look like very enjoyable reads. Thank you.


  10. Nice interview! Both of these series sound really good.

  11. Thanks for a fun interview! I'm always looking for new mystery series and these sound fabulous!


  12. I love Juliet Blackwell! I started reading her renovation series and immediately fell in love with it! I can't wait to read this series next!

  13. I enjoy Juliet Blackwell's books and I'm looking forward to the newest, In a Witch's Wardrobe.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com
    GFC: Barbara E.

  14. Sounds good and fun. I wanna read this book. Thanks for sharing :)

    filiafantasy at gmail dot com
    GFC as Filia Oktarina

  15. Great interview! Juliet Blackwell is a new author for me. I can't wait to read her books!
    GFC: Molly Frenzel

  16. Great interview, this is the first time I hear about this series. Thanks for the information and the giveaway.

  17. I Have Secondhand Spirits at the top pf my TBR pile - I love idea of these books! :-)


  18. thank you for the giveaway!!!!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  19. I love Juliet Blackwell's writing style. I have Secondhand Spirits and Hexes and Hemlines and they are awesome. Thank you for spotlighting this fun and prolific author!

  20. Ooh! Thanks for the interview and giveaway ladies. I don't have this one yet and am all kinds of excited. I get like an addict waiting for my book fix in between series books!
    - lavendersbluegreen(at)yahoo(dot)com

  21. Juliet Blackwell is a new-to-me author and would love to sample her work given half a chance! :)

    Cherry Mischievous
    cherrymischif-spamme [at] yahoo [dot] com

  22. Oh this sounds just like something I would so enjoy! I've been eyeing several of these books.

  23. Wow, to get up and write at 4 a.m. takes some kind of talent. WTG

    Juliet. Thanks, for the review, sounds like my kind of books, too.
    dayleb at telus dot net

  24. Love it when you get to know more about the author. Thanks for the great interview.


  25. You stirred up good memories in the interview when you mentioned the Barbara Michaels books---I just devoured them as they came out.

  26. I'm adding too many new cozies to my To Be Bought list... ;)

  27. I love this series. I've only read the first two, but they were great!