Overcast Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery
Brynn Bancroft’s enjoyment at running her former husband’s winery is overcast by a rash of troubling burglaries and her inability to reconnect with her ex. When she receives an urgent phone call from an old college friend, she welcomes the interruption. Unfortunately, her friend’s business activities intrude on her routine. Then her ex-husband threatens her marriage hopes when he considers selling the winery. When the burglaries escalate, a sense of foreboding plagues her, hinting at trouble to come.
Q: Welcome back to the Fossend Publishing blog Joyce. Can you give the readers a brief overview of your book, Overcast Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery.
A: Overcast Sunset is the third Brynn Bancroft mystery—a standalone with repeat characters. Brynn has left her job as chief financial officer of a Silicon Valley biotech firm to run her ex-husband’s winery. Unfortunately her enjoyment of her new life is overcast by a series of burglaries and her inability to reconnect with her ex-husband. When she receives an urgent phone call from a college friend, she welcomes the interruption. However, the burglaries escalate and her ex-husband threatens her marriage hopes when he considers selling the winery.
Overcast Sunset will be released November 10, 2016.
Q: Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself, and when your interest in writing began.
A: I headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley for more than 25 years—a career that required a considerable amount of writing marketing materials, including by-lined articles. I became interested in writing fiction following a layoff in 2008. My late husband remarked that I should write mysteries—since I read enough of them. It seemed like a good idea, especially when I encountered the ease of publishing offered by e-books and Amazon.
I uncovered an interesting murder mystery in the news on which to base my first mystery and have turned to real crimes to plot all of my historical and current mysteries – although they are definitely fictionalized.
Today I live with my cat and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and enjoy exploring and writing about the growing wine region in the Ramona Valley near San Diego, in addition to writing mysteries.
Q: Overcast Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery, is the third book in The Brynn Bancroft Mystery series. What is it about Brynn as a character that made you want to write more than one book about her?
A: Brynn started out as an unlikeable character but because of her association with my initial heroine she participated in the early mysteries as a sub-character. The more I got to know her, the more interested I became in following her progress toward becoming an engaging character interested in more than making money. So when I finished the three Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, I turned to Brynn with enthusiasm. She developed into an able sleuth and an engrossing character—someone we can root for.
Q: Did you face any challenges when writing Overcast Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery?
A: Crimes in wine country tend to be complex, such as, ponzi schemes of selling off high-end bottles multiple times; or investment in futures that never happen. To turn them into suspenseful mysteries was challenging. But the thriller occurs with the actions of the villains as the sleuth/hero tries to solve the crime. I enjoyed creating my villains and they helped make their crimes compelling.
Q: I have enjoyed reading about Brynn Bancroft and Jillian Hillcrest in their respective series. Are you planning any more series that will feature these characters?
A: Although Jillian and Brynn might pop up in future books, they will not be featured sleuths. I plan to move on to a new location with a character that I will spin out of the Brynn Bancroft books – Emily Lazzaro. She is the daughter of the winemaker at Brynn’s winery and lives in the wine country in Ramona, Calif, near San Diego. Therefore we will continue to see wine as a part of the next mysteries, but we will move to southern California to explore a new setting.
Q: Do you have any specific writing routines?
A: When I am writing, as opposed to researching or marketing, I set a goal of 3,000 to 6,000 words a day and do not stop until I’ve reached a first draft or rewritten the second, third, or fourth. I typically set aside writing time and do not allow interruptions – smile! Sometimes it even works. I write the 3,000 to 6,000 words even if the writing is bad. Occasionally, my rewriting of poorly-written first drafts turns into my best prose.
Q: As an author, what is the best thing about writing?
A: I love writing. It’s fulfilling to create a sentence, paragraph, page and turn it into a story. I enjoy exploring how my villain can best tantalize my heroine; and I like creating those flaws in my heroes that allow the villain to exploit them. And as a lover of mysteries I am enthusiastic about figuring out the puzzle and dropping little hints to lead and red herrings to mislead the reader. I even have fun rewriting the story to address my editors’ red pen markings.
Q: As an author, what is worst thing about writing?
A: As a writer of mysteries, I find endings the most challenging. I tend to want to wrap everything up in Agatha Christie style, with Hercule Poirot gathering everyone in the conservatory and explaining who did it and how. I have explored various ways to pull the strings of a mystery together and most recently solve it a clue at a time, some of the solving leading to other puzzles, so that over a few chapters we know the solution.
Q: Writing can be hard work, what do you do to relax, or when you need to step away from the computer for a bit?
A: I am fortunate in that I’m retired and have the days to write. Therefore, I usually stop writing between 5:00 and 6:00 o’clock and enjoy reading, watching TV, or going out to dinner or a play. The break helps me prepare for the next day’s writing. If I do need to work at night due to a deadline, I take a break of at least a half hour of exercise. It really helps stimulate me if I get away from writing if only for a half hour.
Q: Do you do a lot of research for your books? If so, how important is research for you?
A: I research both my current and historical mysteries. For my current-day mysteries, I search for information about the crime on which I’m basing my plot; police procedural and jurisdictions; background information, such as winemaking; setting; and information on relevant criminals
My historical mysteries require much more in-depth research. In current-day mysteries I know how my protagonist communicates by cell phone, travels to her nearby town, and conducts queries on the internet. In my historical mysteries, I have to learn all of the background information, such as the existence and use of telephones; travel by trolley or horse and buggy; and pouring through newspaper archives to uncover information. The historical setting frequently plays a role in creating the mystery.
I love doing research, particularly historical research. Figuring out how people lived in a different time adds another dimension to my writing pleasure.
Q: What type of writer are you. Are you a plotter or Pantser? Do you work in a dedicated space? Do you need silence or listen to music?
A: First, I am one of those people who needs silence when I write. When music is playing, I want to listen to it and it slows me down.
I do tend to work in the same place – on my favorite chair with my laptop. Sometimes moving to a different place will help me move on.
For my current mysteries, I choose the crime around which I build the plot. Then I create biographies for the main characters, followed by a clear beginning and ending concept. Then I start to write and let the ideas come to my fingers.
For my historical mysteries, I’m inclined to do much more of an outline due to the need to understand the background of the time period in which the book is based.
Q: What’s next for Joyce Strand?
A: My next book will promote Emily Lazzaro to head sleuth. She will uncover a mystery in the town of Ramona, Calif. in the Ramona Valley wine country near San Diego. I plan to publish the book in November 2017.
Quick fire round
Sweet or savoury - Savoury, but I do enjoy sweet almost as much.
Beach or countryside - Beach.
EBook or paperback - I love the convenience and ease of purchase of e-books.
Classic or modern - Definitely modern.
Sun or Snow - How about cloudy!
About the author
Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it contemporary and historical mysteries set in California. All of her published seven novels are inspired by actual events and/or real people, although they are definitely fictionalized.
Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. Strand lives with her cat and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and enjoys exploring and writing about the growing wine region in the Ramona Valley near San Diego.