I am pleased to welcome author, Joy York this week. She is a member of Rave Reviews Book Club and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Her first book "The Bloody Shoe Affair" is described as daring and thrilling. Please give her a warm welcome, leave a comment, or ask her a question. Your name will be entered in a drawing to win an ebook or paperback...winner's choice.
What inspired you to write your first book?
When my son was young, he was obsessed with story-telling and reading books. We would sit on the staircase in the foyer, his favorite place to imagine adventures, and I would make up fantastic stories. One day he asked me if we could write a story together, and we did a few short stories. As he got a bit older, I realized there weren’t many middle grade books, so I wrote one for him. I have never published it.
What books have most influenced your life?
Most people assume I was a big Nancy Drew fan, because I write a YA detective novels. Actually, I have never read the books, nor have I read The Hardy Boys. I wasn’t that interested in books until I graduated from college. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was probably one of the most influential books I have read, because it showed me you could write stories as far as your imagination could take you with no limits. The intricacy of his world was amazing. I was totally engrossed and hated turning the last page. It inspired me to take a second look at all of the classics I’d been forced to read in school, like To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. My perspective was so different and I enjoyed every one. Then I read Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, and I was hooked on detective novels and mysteries of all kinds. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie has also influenced my life because it has helped me gain insight and understanding of people, and how their life experiences affect their perceptions and motivations. You have to understand people and their frame of reference in order to make your characters believable.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I recently read We Are Liars by E. Lockhart. It is a YA book, but would appeal to adults as well. It is raw and pungent, and written in a style I’ve never seen before. It is a haunting and insightful story and noting like I expected.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I wanted to write stories for my son to amuse and delight. It evolved from there. I love the creative process of taking a single idea and bringing it to life in an engaging and entertaining story.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Lately one of my biggest problems has been shutting off my brain after I shutdown my laptop. When the story keeps writing itself in my head, and I don’t always have time to put it down! A great line will hit me while I’m driving, and I hope I won’t forget it. The really difficult thing for me is copy editing. I can read the mistakes of others, but I read right over my own, because I know what I was saying. I have learned I need to have a professional do it for me. I’m actually looking for one now for my sequel.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Make sure you get a professional copy editor that has a proved track record. I had to pay a second editor to fix errors the first editor missed. A very costly mistake. I have also read many books that list editor credits, and the mistakes are terrible. Obviously not everyone that says they can edit is a professional.
What book are you introducing to us today?
The Bloody Shoe Affair: A daring and thrilling adventure with the jailer’s daughter
In this mystery set in 1968, Christi, a shy and awkward teenager, never expected to get sucked into helping her cousin, Lily, the “double-dare-you” daughter of the county jailer, try to solve the grizzliest murder the town of Roselyn, Mississippi, had ever seen. Then again, Christi had been entangled in her misadventures before. So a whirlwind week of spying, lying, crawling through tunnels and sneaking into the jail should have come as no surprise to Christi.
Lily, a vivacious prankster, loves adventure. It’s not hard to find when you live in a house connected to the jail. Christi, a city girl, is self-conscious and afraid of everything. Still, she’s drawn to the excitement and adventure that Lily always seems to provide. Christi arrives for a visit in time to help her cousin discover what happened the night Lily observed a county deputy drop a pair of women’s bloody shoes from a bag. After a chance meeting with the accused, they learn new information that sheds doubt on his guilt. Seeking justice, Lily sets a plan in motion that takes them on an adventure of risk and surprising twists. They not only discover unexpected truths about the case, but about themselves as well.
How did you come up with the title?
Although this story and the characters are fictitious, it was modeled after a real relationship I had with my cousin, Julia. She truly was the county jailer’s daughter in rural Cullman County, Alabama. She was as beautiful and vivacious as Lily, and I was as skinny, shy, and awkward as Christi. The large family dynamic in my book was also modeled after my mother’s loving family from rural Alabama. Julia grew up playing in the jail, and when I visited, I was the unwilling and petrified accomplice to her schemes.
When we would go into the basement of the jail to visit the only woman trustee living in the jail (her mini apartment had been converted from a jail cell and was located in the basement which was full of empty old jail that were no longer use. My cousin Julia would tell me there were woman’s pointy dress shoes covered with bloody in the evidence room down there. Sometimes at night her ghost would scream down the hall, looking for her bloody shoes. It scared me to death! So later in life, I took those wonderful and terrifying memories of my visits to the jail and the murdered woman looking for her bloody shoes, and made up a story to explain the woman’s shoes in the evidence room. There is genuine love and heart in this book. I wrote what I knew and what I loved.
Tell us what you like about the main characters of the book.
This book isn’t just a detective story, its also a coming of age story about two teenager girls and their confusing emotions. The pressure teenagers feel to be popular, attractive, and “fit in” are universal, regardless of the era we live in. Even the so called “popular” kids struggle with their own angst and insecurities. Many times when you take away the structured educational and social settings and let them interact in small, casual groups, kids are often just kids who find it easier to relate and find common ground. This story follows the loving relationship of two cousins, one popular and out-going and the other shy and awkward, as they learn to appreciate their differences and to understand their personal struggles are more similar than either realized.
Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
I have learned lots of technical writing skills and learned from first time publishing mistakes. You can have a wonderful story, but if it isn’t professionally presented, it won’t get the readership you would like. It’s hard enough to market your book when it’s perfect. Take the time to do it correctly, whether you are sending it to an agent, a publishing house, or you are publishing it yourself.
This book has also made me realize that writing is my passion, and I wanted to do it fulltime. So I am now Joy York Books. I just finished my sequel, The Jailer’s Daughter’s Revenge, and I’m working on an adult detective romance.
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from the story?
My first goal is to entertain with an exciting and engaging story, so I hope that is memorable. The book was written for a young adult audience, but the variety of themes should appeal to adult audiences as well. The time period, 1968, takes many of us Baby Boomers back to a youthful and what some would call a more simple time. I hope they would remember getting drawn into a fun adventure with real characters that they can relate to. I have had several reviews where readers have said that they felt like they were sucked into the story, living along-side the characters and taking part in the scene. That is what I would hope other readers can feel…engaged and entertained.
Please share an excerpt from the book.
“Anyway, about two o’clock in the morning, I heard cars drive into the parking lot. I couldn’t stay here any longer. I had to do something, so I got this neat idea. I crawled out of my window onto the balcony. You know that old tree on the parking lot side of the house? Well, I can climb from the balcony to a limb on that tree. I’ve done it before when I wanted to spy on people, mostly when I was little. It’s easy to hide in the leaves and branches without being seen. I can see the whole parking lot real good from that tree--well, most of it, except the leaves block the cars closest to the jail.
“I saw about six deputy cars parked in the lot. All the deputies walked toward one of the cruisers closest to me. I couldn’t have gotten any luckier, because I had an excellent view of that car. They couldn’t see me since it was real dark, and they apparently had other things on their minds. They all stood at the back of the car, putting on white rubber gloves. One deputy, Orson Cougar, opened the trunk and pulled out a couple of black plastic garbage bags. The other men grabbed bags of all shapes and sizes. Next thing I knew, one of the men dropped a brown paper shopping bag. You’ll never guess what fell out!”
“What?” I dreaded the answer.
“Bloody shoes! Can you believe it? Dark colored ladies’ pointy dress flats with blood all over them. I almost fell out of the tree!”
“You’re kidding! Wait a minute. How could you possibly see bloody shoes on the ground in a dimly lit parking lot, hanging from a tree? I think your imagination has gotten the best of you.”
“I’m sure that’s what I saw, and besides, they were standing right under the parking lot lamp. Those shoes were covered with dark, red blood. As soon as the shoes hit the ground, one of the men told him to pick them up quick. I bet that whole trunk was filled with bloody clothes and stuff. I just know it! Now I have to know what happened. It’s driving me nuts. Maybe there’s a serial killer out there or something really terrible like that.”
As if this place didn’t scare me enough, now there could be a murderer on the loose. This was the kind of stuff that I was really better off not knowing. Maybe I should’ve stayed with my family out in the country.
“Do you think Uncle Bill has another bat?” I was serious.
“No, I’ve got the only one, but I’ll take care of both of us. I just happen to know where the keys to the deputies’ gun lock-up are…. even though Daddy keeps trying to change the location. He’s so predictable. He knows I always figure out whatever he tries to hide from me. You’d think he’d finally give up, but it’s kind of our little game.”
“No guns, Lily!”
“You’re such a chicken. They wouldn’t miss one little gun. You never know when it might come in handy.”
“No way! You wouldn’t know what to do with one if you had it.”
“Sure I would. Daddy takes Mama and me out on Daddy Joe and Mama Lou’s farm to let us practice. When Mama asked him why it was so important for us to learn to shoot, he said, ‘just in case.’ I’m getting pretty good at hitting the cans,” Lily said proudly.
“My daddy let me shoot his rifle when he took me rabbit hunting one time. It knocked me backwards on my butt. That was enough for me. No guns!”
“All right, we’ll pass on the guns for now. What about a knife? There are lots of butcher kni….
“Stop it! You’re scaring me. No guns. No knives! Let’s just stick to the bat. That way, if you mistake me for the killer, I’ll only have a lump, not a bullet hole or a stab wound!”
“Don’t be silly. A killer would be much taller than you. I couldn’t make that mistake.”
“Very funny.” I’m never sure when Lily’s kidding. She likes to get me going. She could be serious about the gun and knife. Better not to think about it.
“I just had a great idea. I know one way we can find out what happened. We can check the evidence room in the basement of the jail. I bet that’s where the bloody shoes are stashed. They keep all of the evidence there from crimes that were committed in this county. There’s some pretty cool stuff in there.”
“What kind of cool stuff?”
“Let me think.” She rolled her eyes up to the ceiling and scratched her chin to exaggerate her thinking process. I’m sure she had all of the items memorized by heart. “There are several illegal sawed-off shotguns. I know they came from moonshine busts that Daddy’s been involved with apprehending. There’s a file cabinet with loads of bad checks and stolen papers. I’m not sure what all that stuff’s about…too complicated. There’re some clothes from an old rape case that have been there for years. The evidence tag’s so old the dates are smudged. There’s some neat stereo equipment that was stolen from Ralph’s TV and Electronic Warehouse. Just bunches of stuff like that. The older stuff’s tagged with just a date and a case number. There was a trial a couple of years back where a piece of evidence came up missing. It turned up a month later in the evidence room after the judge was forced to dismiss the case due to a lack of evidence. Someone had put the wrong case number on it, so it was missed. Now they put lots more detail on the tags so that won’t happen again.”
“What did the man do?”
“It was a gas station holdup, armed robbery. The man disappeared as soon as he got turned loose…. Guess he was afraid they’d change their minds.”
“Why didn’t they arrest him when they found the evidence?”
“He was long gone. Daddy said he probably moved out of state and changed his name. Deputy Rudy Sikes was the one who goofed up the evidence tag. He almost lost his job. I think he got a warning or something like that. Daddy said the sheriff realized it was a mistake, a big one. It’s pretty serious to have to let a felon go free. Luckily, no one got shot in the robbery, just the Moon Pie display.”
This is one of the reasons I like to visit with Lily. Her great stories and her opportunities to use words like “apprehend” and “felon” make my life seem pretty dull. Where else could I go to feel like I stepped into a detective TV show? This is exciting stuff… scary, but exciting.
Thank you, Joy for sharing about yourself and your book.
Readers, be sure to leave a comment so your name will be
entered for a drawing to win an ebook
or paperback...winner's choice.
Readers, be sure to leave a comment so your name will be
entered for a drawing to win an ebook
or paperback...winner's choice.
Here are some links to follow or contact Ms. York: