Julie Hyzy is the best-selling writer of the White House Chef and Marshfield Manor cozy mystery series. She is a two-time winner of the coveted Anthony Award. Recently Julie was a guest on my online radio show, Stephen Terrell: Just Us.
Stephen Terrell: Just Us is broadcast Tuesday nights at 9 pm on www.indianatalks.com. Past shows are available in the station's archives and can be downloaded to Itunes.
Julie's newest book, Grace Takes Off, was released July 2. Here are the highlights of my discussion with Julie.
I wanted to write since was just a little kid. I've been writing since I was a little kid. We recently came across some of my old stories that my mom had saved when my brother and I we were cleaning things out. We found a lot of stuff that that I had written when I was 6 or 7 years old. It's been a constant thing in my life.
When I went to college I said I was going to be an English major, and everybody said 'are you going to teach?' And I said no, I'm going to write. And my family and friends and everybody said, 'You're going to starve.' So they talked me out of being an English major and into being a business major.
I graduated from Loyola University with business major. I thought, I can write on side. Didn't happen at all. Now I was married, and I thought once have baby can stay home, and can write. Couldn't Didn't happen either
Back to the dream:
When my youngest about nine or ten, I started writing and submitting in earnest. I figured it was now or never. I didn't want to be 120 years old and sitting in a chair and thinking back and saying, I never tried or I never attempted to do it. I wanted to see. If I fail, I fail, but I wanted to try.
I started submitting. And after a while, I had a little bit of luck. I had some short stories published, then a novel. And I enjoyed writing a novel so much, I started writing a series.
Living the dream:
It's just been the best. Better than I could every possibly imagine when I was ten years old and wanted to be a writer.
Winning the Anthony Award - twice:
I got to tell you, I'm really blown away by this. It's like it couldn't have happen, yet it did. . . .
In 2009, State of Onion won the Anthony Award and the Barry Award in Indianapolis. It was my most favorite Bouchercon ever. I was so excited. Then last year Buffalo West Wing got nominated and won again. I'm so excited I can't believe it. It's pretty awesome.
A friend of mine, a very good friend of mine . . . immediately after the Anthony Award in Indianapolis, he came up to me and said "Julie. Julie. Guess what?" And I said "what?" And he said, "You have your obituary now.
On the White House Chef series:
It's been a true joy to write.We've not heard back from White House chefs. We've tried repeatedly to get the books into their radar. . . but we have no idea whether anybody has noticed them or paid any attention to them. We don't know if they are aware of them. (The next book in this series, Home of the Braised, is set for release in January 2014
On the Manor House Mysteries:
The first book, we suggested the title "Grace Under Pressure" because the principal character was Grace. The Publisher has decided to keep Grace in all the titles, which I didn't know was going to be happening. And I think it's just a genius idea. [The newest book in the series, Grace Takes Off, was released July 2, 2013].
Grace is young girl. She doesn't have Ollie's (White House Chef Olivia Paras) strength of character or confidence yet, because she suffered quite a few blows, like the loss of her mother, and her fiancé left her for her sister. So she suffered through a few things, but she's finding her strength now. She has her own story to tell and I'm having a lot of fun with her. A lot of fun, because she's discovering herself Ollie knows who she is.
Probably at this point, it's Frances, who is Grace's assistant at work. She is probably my favorite character. She's just annoying as all get-out . She's snarly and not happy. But you know that she's a marshmallow underneath. You just haven’t' found it yet. But I'm having fun with her.
Advice to aspiring writers:
I think the first thing I say is that if someone can talk you out of being a writer, then you're not meant to be a writer. Anyone who is meant to be a writer can't be talked out of it. They may push it aside for a while, they may say "Oh my God, I have priorities" and go with whatever the priorities are for a while. But if they can't be talked out of it -- if it's something that makes them return to telling stories -- then they need to stick with it.
And that's probably the number one thing -- perseverance. Because there are so many moments where things feel down, or things feel negative.
The publishing world is changing now, and the role of agents and the role of publishers, they're evolving. Still, if you're going to be publishing in a traditional manner, you're going to have to go through agents. You're going to have to go through editors. And there's a lot of rejection.
If you're going with the self-publishing route . . . there's the difficulty of dealing with rejection on the part of buyers who either don't buy the book or who buy it then review it poorly.
So it's a very tough road, and unless you believe in yourself, or you believe you have the ability to grow and change, and learn, and constantly learn, it's going to be very tough.
My best advise to anyone starting out, who truly believes in themselves, is to not give up. To constantly learn. To give themselves every opportunity to learn more. To take it in, and then let it come out through their writing.
Best writing advice ever:
I had an instructor tell me once, and I thought this was the best advice I have ever been given, you learn as much as you can. You're a sponge. You take in as much as you can, and then you let the magic come out of your fingers. And I thought that was just beautiful.
Expose yourself to as much as possible, and put it into practice as much as possible. And write every day.