Friday, February 17, 2017

Skeletons in the Attic - An Interview & Review

I'm pleased to welcome Judy Penz Sheluk to Cozy Up With Kathy as part of Mystery/Thriller Week. Judy writes the Marketville Mystery series.

Kathy: Calamity (Callie) Barnstable gets a surprise inheritance in SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC with a surprise condition; she needs to solve the 30-year-old mystery of her mother's murder. How does investigating a mystery from the past affect the present day action?

JPS: It was interesting, for me, to write the book. I didn’t have an outline, I basically wrote it as if I was the one trying to get to the truth, and the things I might have done. There were a lot of clues in the attic, stored in a trunk, which had some of her mother’s belongings, photos, etc. I suppose whenever I’d start writing, I’d become Callie for the moment.

Kathy: There’s a scheming psychic in this first Marketville Mystery. Do you believe that some people have psychic ability. Have you ever been to a psychic?

JPS: I do believe some people do, absolutely, but I also believe more people who claim they do, don’t, and are in the “business” to make money. That said, many, many years ago I went to see a blind guy who would take objects and read from them. There were about 50 people in the room, maybe more, and the objects were selected at random. When he picked the gold locket I’d put in the box, he clutched his stomach and cried out in pain. My father gave me that locket when he was dying of stomach cancer. So that made a believer out of me.

Kathy: In addition to novels, you also write short stories and non-fiction. Do you find differences in how you approach writing them? Does one type come easier than others?

JPS: Magazine articles are easy for me. After 13+ years as a freelancer, I know the right questions to ask, and most features run under 1,000 words. Short crime fiction I find incredibly difficult, which is why I’m always reading short stories. Reading is the best teacher.
I typically have a bit of an outline for my short fiction, know exactly where I’m going with my magazine stuff, and pantser my way through novels, solving the mystery, chapter by chapter, alongside the reader.

Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

JPS: I’ve been reading mysteries since my mom brought home my first Nancy Drew book when I was just a kid. In my teens, I devoured everything by Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Later on, I discovered Dick Francis, Ed McBain and John D. McDonald. The list goes on!
The first true crime novel I read was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Brilliant. Years later, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song. That one is a commitment, but worth the investment of time.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

JPS: Early on, I dabbled in “literary” flash fiction, and it did get published. However, I love to read mystery/suspense, and I try to write what I’d like to read. That said, I wouldn’t rule out writing something that was non-fiction. It would have to be the right idea.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

JPS: Skeletons in the Attic is the first book in my Marketville mystery series. Marketville is the name of the town, and it’s loosely based on Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, a commuter town about an hour from Toronto. It is published by Imajin Books.

The Hanged Man’s Noose is the first book in my Glass Dolphin mystery series. The Glass Dolphin is the name of an antiques shop owned by Arabella Carpenter. It takes place in Lount’s Landing, which is loosely based on Holland Landing, a small town just north of Newmarket, and my home for many years. It is published by Barking Rain Press.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

JPS: I love Arabella Carpenter. She even has a small role in Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville series. Arabella is smart, feisty, loves shortbread, chardonnay, and cognac. She’s also loyal to her friends—even her ex-husband, Levon— wears her heart on her sleeve, and firmly believes that authenticity matters in people as well as the antiques she sells.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

JPS: The idea for Noose – greedy real estate developer comes to small town with plans to build a megabox store, thereby harming all the indie merchants on the town’s Main Street, came to me when I saw my own small town get “absorbed” by the big box phenomenon. And I thought, what if someone was willing to kill to stop it?

The idea for Skeletons in the Attic came to me while I waited with my husband, Mike, in our lawyer's office. We were there to update our wills, and his goldendoodle kept us company while our lawyer was detained at court. The opening scenes of the book are culled directly from that experience.

Let that be your takeaway from this: everything that happens in a writer's life may end up in one of their stories.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

JPS: That was always the dream. I’ve been a freelance writer since 2003, so I knew the business, at least from a magazine perspective, though I found out getting a book published was a lot more difficult! I really wanted a traditional publisher and managed to find one, though it wasn’t easy. I’ve self-published two small collections of short stories to “test” the process, and found it quite easy. I might consider self-publishing in the future, for a different series. We’ll see how many more stories are inside of me.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

JPS: Agatha Christie. She’s been like a mentor to me since I first discovered Poirot and Miss Marple.
Sue Grafton. I’ve read every one of her books, from A to X, as well as her short story collection, Kinsey and Me. No author has given me more pleasure.
John Sandford. No one paces a novel like Sandford. The master.
Number four is a tossup between Tana French, a brilliant Irish mystery writer, and Sarah J. Henry, author of the Troy Chance mystery series. I love the way Henry builds her story, slowly and steadily. Whichever one wants to come for pizza, which happens to be my favorite food.
I’d love to invite Truman Capote, to find out what it was like to research and write, pre-internet, and of course he was a great friend of Harper Lee. But I’m worried he’d get pouty if the dinner wasn’t all about him.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

JPS: The Whole She-Bang 3, an anthology published by Sisters in Crime Toronto, Fish Tales, an anthology published by Sisters in Crime Guppies (I alternate, and read a short story from one of them every few days) and The Wrong Side of Good-bye, the latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

JPS: I love being outdoors. In the summer, I love to golf and I belong to two ladies golf leagues. Both are nine hole leagues. I prefer 9 to 18 as it takes less time and I tend to get bored by the 12th hole…but I do some 18-hole charity tournaments.
I enjoy walking my 15-month-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs. We walk 5 to 8 miles a day, depending on the weather.
I’m also a runner. I used to do marathons and half-marathons. These days I’m more about the three miler, three or four times a week, but I might do another half some day. I don’t think I’ll do another marathon. It’s more about the time commitment than anything else.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

JPS: Eggs. Tinned diced tomatoes, no salt added. Pasta. Canned tuna.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

JPS: I’m currently finishing the sequel to Noose, the sequel to Skeletons, and a couple of short stories. It can be a challenge, working on multiple projects, but it’s a great problem to have.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

JPS: Telling stories. Recently, a friend asked me about the sequel to Noose. I started telling her about it and she said, “Wow, you make it sound like these are real people.” That’s the thing, they are real to me.


Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life. You can also find Judy on Facebook ( and Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk) and on her Amazon author page,



The First Marketville Mystery

After the unexpected death of her father, Callie Barnstable figured she would inherit some old furniture and books. She certainly did not expect a house in the suburbs and definitely not a requirement that she not only live in the house for a year, but investigate her mother's murder.

As Callie gets settled in what was once her childhood home she discovers a house in ill-repair and finds herself dealing with a psychic her father put on retainer, pictures from a childhood she doesn't remember, and five tarot cards hidden under the carpeting. Is the house possibly haunted? Could it be that her mother hadn't abandoned her, but was actually murdered? With the help of a hunky contractor Callie starts to renovate the house, but who can she trust to help solve the mysteries of her past?  

The first Marketville Mystery raises a multitude of questions. What is the truth? Who can you trust? What are their motives? What really happened? In answering Callie will have to face her past, a past quite different from the one she remembers. In doing so she also makes the reader think. What skeletons may be in my attic?

SKELETONS IN THE ATTIC is a compelling novel that held me enthralled. Sheluk's writing is crisp, thoughtful, and her descriptions brought this Toronto suburb and its inhabitants to life. Callie is a wonderful character with down to earth charm and a good head on her shoulders. Sheluk deftly entwines the past and the present, making connections in unexpected yet satisfying ways. However, as fantastic as the first ninety percent of the book was, the denouement a bit of a let down. I found the ending too abrupt and the conclusion a bit pat. Up until that point I felt so in tune with the book and its characters I was ready to drive North and check things out myself! Despite my reaction to the ending this book remains a top read and I eagerly await its sequel.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kathy! I just came across this. Thanks so much for hosting me. I am happy to answer any questions.