Fossend Publishing

Fossend Publishing

Monday, 8 December 2014

Hilltop Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery

Hilltop Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery

A mystery set in wine country pitting financial exec Brynn Bancroft against a determined stalker, murder, a troubled love interest, and career clashes.
Brynn Bancroft learns that a former employee who beat her nearly to death has returned to stalk her and her friend, Jillian Hillcrest, also a former victim.  Recently divorced, Brynn turns to a new love interest only to encounter additional unwelcome entanglements. Meanwhile, short-timer Brynn, who has resigned from her Silicon Valley company, becomes bored fulfilling her remaining responsibilities there. She begins to prefer supporting the launch of her ex-husband’s new hilltop winery while waiting to move to her next position. Between her stalker and her new love interest, Brynn faces a series of life-threatening events.

Interview with Joyce T. Strand
Q: Welcome Joyce.  Can you give the readers a brief overview of your Book, HILLTOP SUNSET: A BRYNN BANCROFT MYSTERY.
Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.

In HILLTOP SUNSET, financial executive Brynn Bancroft faces off against murder, a stalker, divorce, a troublesome new love interest, and career misgivings. At the same time, she transitions from an emotionless, somewhat promiscuous woman to a caring, committed individual, while she loses interest in managing numbers as a career and becomes intrigued with making wine.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and when your interest in writing began.
I’ve always been interested in writing, without being aware of it! I recall in middle school choosing the “essay” questions over “multiple choice,” and throughout my education experience always choosing to write research papers rather than take a test. During my 25-year career as public relations professional, I drafted hundreds of press releases, dozens of by-lined articles, white papers, fact sheets, and much more. I always found writing therapeutic.

However, I started writing fiction following a lay-off in 2008 when it became more difficult than usual to find a job. My late husband said – and I’m sure because he was finding my unemployed whining annoying – “why don’t you write a book?” and I said, “What kind of book?” thinking he meant something in high-tech or biotech since that’s where I spent my career. Instead he answered, “A mystery. You read enough of them.” I’ve now published my fourth mystery! And I consider myself an author, not a public relations professional. Yay!

Brynn was a minor character from the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, and it seemed appropriate appealing to evolve her so that I could depart Silicon Valley and move to the wine country and learn about making wine. Also, I draw the mystery plots in my books from real California cases. A retired FBI agent friend of mine suggested the case for HILLTOP SUNSET. It was one he worked on and helped solve.

Q: What challenges did you face when writing HILLTOP SUNSET: A BRYNN BANCROFT MYSTERY? 
I wanted to develop Brynn from her promiscuous, unfeeling self to a renewed more committed and feeling individual. However, I needed to present her as the protagonist from the beginning of the book in a way that readers would engage with her. So I couldn’t make her too unlikeable or they wouldn’t turn the page. On the other hand, in order to show her transition, I had to make her a bit of a jerk initially. I used her ex-husband’s feelings for her to indicate redeeming characteristics, but I rewrote the opening chapters several times in order to present her as an unlikeable character worth following.

Q: I really enjoyed reading about BRYNN BANCROFT in your JILLIAN HILLCREST MYSTERIES series.  Will there be more BRYNN BANCROFT books?
I am planning two more Brynn Bancroft books, unless I uncover additional plots or reasons to write more. I plan to release the second Brynn Bancroft mystery in November 2015.

Q: Do you have any specific writing routines?
Yes and No. First, I do designate days, weeks, or months for writing. When I am writing, I require myself to write at least 3,000 words a day - no matter how bad the writing. After all, I can always rewrite, but it's important to maintain momentum. I do not designate a particular time of day for writing - I just write whenever I feel like it - so long as I write at least 3,000 words (and by the way, I average about 5,000 words a day unless I'm in the zone and then I've written as many as 10,000). I find that helps to take a day off occasionally, if for nothing else, to refresh and think ahead. But it has to be planned. I can't just not write during my designated writing time.

Q: What are the best and worst things about writing?
Writing creates something out of nothing. It turns a blank screen or piece of paper into a story full of characters who speak to us. I find that incredibly therapeutic – that I can control that kind of creation.

But I hate finding a typo in a printed copy even after it’s been proofread dozens of times; or envisioning a better clue to a mystery after the book is on the shelves; or wishing I’d named a character something else. And reading bad reviews – oh, that’s painful, especially if I agree with them!

Q: Do you read?  If so what type of books do you read?
I read mostly mysteries and thrillers and some historical novels. In my youth, I focused on the classics and yearned for existential insight. Today I relish a great puzzle of a mystery with maybe a bit of romance and it’s OK if I learn something along the way.

Q: Do you have a favorite author?  If so, who and why?
My favorite mystery writer is John Grisham. Not only do you get to read great thrillers, but you also learn about law firms, capital punishment, state supreme courts, insurance companies, etc.

However, my favorite novel is Shogun by James Clavell. I learned so much about medieval Japan while working my way through level after level of real-action chess moves of the characters. And another all-time favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird with the most endearing hero ever, Atticus Finch.

Q: Do you do a lot of research for your books?  If so how important is research for you?
Accuracy engenders credibility. If there are factual errors, readers cannot engage. Research can help corroborate facts or avoid errors. For my mysteries, for example, I checked out police procedure, location details (so that I didn’t put a luxury home in the middle of a slum!), criminal behavioral symptoms, wire tapping procedures, and much more.

I’ve set my next book in 1939, which required much more research to define the time without cell phones, the internet, or television. I enjoyed the challenge and learned so much about what it was like to live in the late 1930s in between the Great Depression and the beginning of WWII. 

Q: Tell the readers something interesting about yourself that others may not know.
I love the theater, particularly Broadway musicals. I attend whatever shows I can and try to get to New York City once a year. I also like jazz, particularly traditional and big band jazz, and classical music, especially Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Oh, and I am a reporter for a regional wine magazine, and help publicize various local events.

Q:  What’s next for Joyce Strand?
I plan to publish “The Judge’s Story” mid-year 2015. It tells the story of a judge in 1939 Ventura, California who joins with a precocious 16-year old witness at a trial to help an accused juvenile criminal. It is based on the memoir of a judge from Ventura! This initiates an “unheralded heroes” series for me of novels based on real people whose lives suggest interesting stories.

I will publish the second Brynn Bancroft mystery in November 2015.

Quick fire round
Sweet or savoury 
oh, I can’t choose. I love both

Beach or countryside

EBook or paperback

Classic or modern

Sun or Snow

About the author

Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries set in the San Francisco Silicon Valley and Napa-Sonoma wine regions of California.

Her most recent novel, HILLTOP SUNSET, is the first of a new series featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft plays a minor role in Strand’s novels ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.

Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. She focused on writing by-lined articles, press releases, white papers, and brochures to publicize her companies and their products.

Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as possible.

She received her Ph.D. from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

If you would like to learn more about Joyce you can visit her website, or follow her on facebook, goodreads and Twitter - @joycetstrand. 
Joyce also has a great blog called Strand's Simply Tips

To purchase the book please click one of the following links:


  1. Thank you so much for this really fun interview. I so enjoyed responding to your questions. What a great opportunity to meet new readers!