Round Table Chat #6

Joyce StrandRound Table Log

Here we are again for another Round Table Chat. Needless to say how much I enjoy doing this because it helps me to get to know many of my fellow writers. I hope this helps you, my readers, to determine new books to read.

Today with me I have Joyce Strand, another fabulous Indie writer and author of OPEN MEETINGS: A JILLIAN HILLCREST MYSTERY.

Hello Joyce, and welcome to Round Table Chat. Can I offer you something to drink? I have just about anything you can imagine. With that drink would you like some cannoli or crumpets with Irish butter?

Joyce – Thanks so much for having me. I’d love some coffee—I think it’s too early for red wine—and would it be possible to get a little of both a cannoli and crumpet with Irish butter? It’s so hard to choose.

Annamaria – Here we go. Enjoy.

We’ve known of each other for a while now, but many things I still don’t know. For instance, what turned you to writing?

Joyce – I think I’ve always been a writer by preference. In school, I chose to write essay questions over multiple choice. I picked a career that required writing: for more than 25 years, I wrote hundreds of press releases, dozens of by-lined articles, white papers, SEC documents, etc. as part of my job as a corporate communications professional.

Then one day about five years ago I was no longer employed. I spent day after day searching for a job. As the year progressed with few prospects, my late husband—who I’m sure was frustrated with my frustration—suggested I write a book.

“But what will I write about?” I whined, doubtful that I could fulfill such a noble goal as becoming an author.

Exasperated, he said, “Write a mystery. You read enough of them so you should know how.”

And that’s how I came to be an author of mysteries!

Annamaria – Are they murder mysteries? What kind of preparation goes into organizing the mystery, if I may ask?

Joyce – Yes, the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries all involve murders. I base them on real California cases that a publicist such as Jillian might encounter. I drew the first mystery, ON MESSAGE, from a murder of a retired biotech executive in La Jolla, Calif. For the second mystery, OPEN MEETINGS, I fictionalized a case of a network of criminal ex-police (and some current) officers in a city east of San Francisco—although I hasten to add that there were no murders in that case. Part of my fictionalizing was to add a murder. I built the third mystery, FAIR DISCLOSURE (to be published in November 2013) on an insider-trading case in Silicon Valley (and beyond.) Again, there were no murders in this case—but Jillian is called on to solve one.

To me, the most important part of a mystery is the puzzle—whodunit and why.  My job as the author is to lead readers through the maize of crimes and character activities to help them solve the puzzle. When writing the mystery, I typically start with a beginning scene to set the stage. Since I know the solution, as I write I drop clues to guide the reader. Of course, it’s also my goal to make it interesting, so I provide a few red herrings. Then I work in some suspense: will Jillian get there in time? My characters also offer suggestions. They love to surprise readers. Given that I use some repeat characters in each book, such as Jillian and her ex-husband, I have developed rich biographies from which to draw on.  Some of my readers have become anxious over whether Jillian and her ex will get back together, for example. Regardless, the puzzle is what matters.

Annamaria – Is your whole family supportive of your writing career?

Joyce – Oh, yes, my family definitely supports my writing career. My late husband suggested I become a writer and then followed up by developing and maintaining my website and shipping needs. He also was the first to read anything I wrote. My daughter created my book trailers, offered beta reader service, and Facebooks regularly to her almost 1000 followers. My brother’s wife severely edited – I mean lots of red ink – the first drafts. She also makes it a practice to give one of my books as a hostess gift instead of flowers or wine whenever she goes out. My husband’s sister provided photos and video for the book trailer and my web page and serves as a beta reader.  My son, also, was a beta reader and discovered errors, which many others had missed.  Most of my family offers my book as gifts. I feel very fortunate to have such encouraging family support.

Annamaria – You definitely are fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family. Looks like every single member of your family has a hand in helping you succeed. Sometimes I wish I had even just one forth of the support you have, but that’s life.

I didn’t now your husband passed away. I’m very sorry and offer my deepest sympathies.

As writers we build relationships with our characters, have you become attached to Jillian?

Joyce – I was more attached to Jillian during the first book than I am for the third one. However, except for our love of wine, food, and cats, we are not much alike. She enjoys living in a city; I find living in a city inconvenient. She doesn’t want children; I have two and appreciate them more every day. She likes living in an apartment; I so prefer the quiet offered by a house.  She is a risk taker; I am cautious. I doubt that I would ever have had the adventures she experienced, because I would never have done what she did to become so involved in solving the murders.

Nonetheless, I like having her around. I started the series with a goal of writing three Jillian Hillcrest mysteries. I plan to publish the third one (FAIR DISCLSOURE) in November. As I considered ending the series, however, I just could not let go. So I decided to write at least one more. However, instead of Jillian as protagonist, it features one of the other characters in the series. Jillian will just be an important side character. That way, I can still advance her story, and have the benefit of new backstory to plot new mysteries.

So I guess I’ve grown more attached to her than I intended!

Annamaria – Can you tell us anything about the new protagonist? Is she very different from Jillian? Why does she get involved solving mysteries?

Joyce – Well, I guess I can reveal the new protagonist, but there are some plot points that I can’t reveal for fear of spoiling the mystery. For clarification, however, let me repeat that the third Jillian Hillcrest mystery, FAIR DISCLOSURE, due for release in November, will feature Jillian as the protagonist.

The fourth mystery will feature Brynn Bancroft, who has been Jillian’s boss and Chief Financial Officer of Jillian’s company. She is definitely different than Jillian—a shapely blonde with a Mensa IQ.  She has an affair with the Chief Executive Officer of the company, and the CEO’s wife asks her to leave the company. She and her husband, in the meantime, purchase a winery in the Sonoma wine region north of San Francisco. Brynn plays a minor role in all three of the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, so Jillian fans will know her. In the new Brynn Bancroft series, Jillian will still be around, but more in the background.

Annamaria – so Brynn and Jillian will be swapping roles sort-of-speaking. You’ve got some exciting things happening, I do wish you the best with the new Brynn Bancroft series. Thank you so much for gracing my Round Table Chat.


Author Bio:

Joyce StrandMystery author Joyce T. Strand, much like her fictional character, Jillian Hillcrest, served as head of corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder. Rather, she focused on publicizing her companies and their products. Joyce received her Ph.D. from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA She currently lives in Southern California with her two cats, a collection of cow statuary and art, and her muse, the roadrunner.


Book Blurbs:


On MessageMurder intrudes on PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest’s routine as head communications executive at a small Silicon Valley biotechnology company. She is eagerly staying on message to inform investors, the media and the community about her company and its products. When someone near to her is murdered, a determined San Francisco police inspector involves her in the investigation, convinced she is key to solving the crime. She co-operates fully only to find that solving a murder is more hazardous than writing press releases. On Message is the first in the Jillian Hillcrest mystery series. As with all the novels in this series, it was inspired by a real California case of the murder of a retired biotech executive turned angel investor in La Jolla, Calif.


Open MeetingsJillian Hillcrest returns as a PR Executive to join with a local Silicon Valley reporter who is uneasy about the supposed DUI death of an informant. He solicits Jillian’s help along with that of her neighbor, a retired police officer, to look into events in his hometown north of the Napa/Sonoma wine country. Jillian’s ex-husband grows more and more certain he wants to re-marry her.  OPEN MEETINGS was inspired by a network of criminal ex- and current police officers in the broader San Francisco Bay Area.





Book trailer  — ON MESSAGE

Twitter: @JoyceTStrand 

Purchase sites


Paperback (Amazon):


Amazon Kindle:
Barnes and Noble Nook: 


Paperback (Amazon):


Amazon Kindle
Barnes and Noble Nook:

book trailer — OPEN MEETINGS

About Annamaria

Although born in the United States, Annamaria Bazzi spent a great deal of her childhood in Sicily, Italy, in a town called Sciacca. Italian was the language spoken at home. Therefore, she had no problems when she found herself growing up in a strange country. Upon returning to the states, she promised herself she would speak without an accent. She attended Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Computers with a minor in Spanish. Annamaria spent twenty years programming systems for large corporations, creating innovative solution, and addressing customer problems. During those years, she raised four daughters and one husband. Annamaria lives in Richmond Virginia with her small family where she now dedicates a good part of her day writing.
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