HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Joyce T. Strand


Joyce T. Strand

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Unequivocally, without question -- I am a coffee drinker. But not just any coffee -- I prefer Peet's. And not just any Peet's - the best is Garuda. I grind the beans daily -- I'm so sure it tastes better. And no adulteration like cream or milk or sugar. I like it black - the way it was made to be. I love the aroma when it's brewing. I enjoy how the flavor blends with my oatmeal. Oh, I do restrict my intake - I don't allow me to have any coffee after 12:00 noon well, maybe 1:00 p.m. on some days. But I get in 3-4 cups in the morning.

4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The endings of all my books are the most difficult scenes. I write mysteries. I need to solve the puzzle, put the Red Herrings to bed, and fill in the impact of the crime and its solution on all the main characters -- without sounding like a Clue Board game, i.e., Colonel Mustard in the library with the wrench. Since I write a series of mysteries, I also need to leave a few minor events dangling to entice the reader to want to learn more about what happens to the characters in the next book. I struggle mightily to write a compelling final scene and typically rewrite it many times.

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
For me, writing is therapeutic. I become fulfilled when I look a page that I've filled with words. There's little that we can control in our lives -- but on that page with my words I'm in control. Well, OK. Sometimes my characters do get away from me.

Specifically with regard to where I get the inspiration for my mysteries -- each of the Jillian Hillcrest novels was inspired by a real California case. I fill in the background using my own experience as the head of corporate communications at several Silicon Valley biotech and high tech companies for more than 25 years. But I draw the crimes from the news and current cases.

9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Music is a key part of our lives. Both my daughter and son-in-law are professional musicians - she plays French horn; he plays the viola -- and makes a decent living at it! I usually listen to specific types of music based on my mood. Classical music speaks to me any time, no matter what my mood - particularly Copland, Mahler, Beethoven, Prokoviev, and Tchaikovsky. However, I LOVE going to Broadway musicals - my favorites being Les Miserable and Wicked. So Broadway tunes are very high on my list. And I appreciate jazz most when I'm happy -- even the Blues.

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I enjoy writing too much to be constrained with something so structural as an outline!

However, before I start writing I know the plot -- again, I pull from current California cases. Also, I have envisioned the opening scene, and I know where I want to end. Once I start writing, I let my characters lead me from the opening scene to the end. My problem is typically that I write too much. Therefore when I reach 90,000 words, I start to edit. When I am reasonably satisfied with a first draft, I turn it over to two family reviewers who cause me to write a second, and sometimes a third draft. Then I have 2-3 friends read it, and that causes another new draft. Once I believe I've met their requests, I turn it over to a professional editor -- and you know what happens then -- yet at least another draft. Perhaps if I did an outline, I wouldn't have such an arduous rewriting process!

13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Absolutely I still watch cartoons. Who wouldn't enjoy "Up", "Lion King", "Despicable Me", "Entangled" or "The Princess and the Frog" (GREAT jazz score)? Admittedly I do have two young grandsons. I eagerly introduce them to the Warner Brothers' cartoons -- you remember -- Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and all the wonderful Looney Tunes characters. But even before my grandsons were born, both my husband and I would sneak into the theater to see cartoon movies, pretending we had a kid somewhere with us. Animation is a true art form, and it can be highly entertaining and memorable. To this day, every time I see a roadrunner scurrying across our front yard, I utter, "Beep! Beep!" And keep a close eye on the coyotes in the area to see them fall flat on their faces as they try to catch the wily birds.

Joyce 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 to the media, investors, and the community. Joyce received her Ph.D. from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Find Joyce online at these links:

E-mail - joyce@joycestrand.com

WEBSITE - http://joycestrand.com

JOYCE STRAND BLOG - Strand’s Simply Tips http://joycestrand.com/BLOG

JILLIAN HILLCREST FACEBOOK - http://www.facebook.com/JillianHillcrest

JILLIAN HILLCREST BLOG - http://jillianhillcrest.com/blog

- @joycetstrand

Murder intrudes on 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, Harmonia Therapeutics, and its latest drug candidate in Phase 2 clinical trials for the difficult-to-diagnose and treat autoimmune disease, lupus.

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 of a series of Jillian Hillcrest mysteries.


  1. Joyce, my husband and I go to see all the Disney and Pixar movies (just the two of us!). We used to work for the mouse so we still feel like we're a part of it all.

    Thanks for stopping by and picking six.

    :) Heidi


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