Please join us in welcoming author Joyce Strand to Books & Benches. Strand writes who-done-it contemporary and historical mysteries set in California, all of which are inspired by actual events. She is the author of the Jillian Hillcrest Mysteries and Brynn Bancroft Mysteries.
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.
"I felt like the characters in this book were RIGHT IN FRONT of me.. They were so real. It's been a LONG time since I have read a book where the characters were that real. I had no idea who committed the murder, and I was guessing from the very beginning. This book was awesome."
—Amazon Reviewer on Landscape for Murder
Q&A WITH JOYCE STRAND
You’re the author of eight contemporary and historical fiction novels. Do you have a preference for writing in the past or present? What led you to write in differing genres?
Writing contemporary or historical novels offers different opportunities for spinning a mystery. I enjoy both with a slight preference for my historical mysteries.
First, I like researching my books—either contemporary or historical—and get carried away learning new things that I don’t ever use. Regardless of time period, I use the setting to augment the plot. For example, in my just-released contemporary mystery, Overcast Sunset, recent crimes in the wine-making industry provide a rich background to weave into the life of my character Brynn Bancroft, co-owner of a winery in Sonoma.
For both historical and contemporary books I start with my characters. Learning about how they would have lived in the past adds a dimension to my interest and to the story. I use the setting and time period to enhance the mystery. For example, in The Reporter’s Story, my heroine had to travel around 1912 San Francisco in a combination of cable car and electric trams, and occasionally in an early automobile. I exploited the idiosyncrasies of these modes of transportation to entangle my heroine in the puzzle.
When I first started writing my mysteries, I assumed they would all be contemporary based on my characters. However, one day when talking with a friend he mentioned that his family had uncovered a memoir by his grandfather, who, he said, was a law partner in Ventura, Calif. of an author I might know—Erle Stanley Gardner. Of course, being an avid reader of mysteries, I knew the creator of Perry Mason. I asked for a copy of the memoir and became fascinated with my friend’s grandfather who eventually became a California Superior Court Judge. That interest resulted in my first historical mystery, The Judge’s Story, a mystery featuring a judge in 1939 Ventura, Calif. I enjoyed researching and writing it so much that I went on to then research and write The Reporter’s Story.
Your star character in the Brynn Bancroft mysteries came about from your Jillian Hillcrest mysteries. What was it about Brynn that inspired you to write a new series? What is one of Brynn’s best traits? Worst?
Brynn was a minor character in the first three mysteries that featured Jillian Hillcrest as the heroine-sleuth. She was Jillian’s boss and a Chief Financial Officer at a small biotech company. In the early books she was having an affair with the Chief Executive Officer. Her affair was discovered by the CEO’s wife and by Brynn’s husband. We learn that she has strayed. After 15 years of marriage her husband asks for a divorce. She was not particularly likeable.
When I started the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, I planned to write three and then spin off a character for the next three. I wasn’t sure at the time which character I would choose. However, I had several readers who expressed interest in learning more about Brynn. I was concerned about featuring her because she was not particularly likeable, but the more I got to know her, the more interesting she became. We find out that her inability to feel emotions was caused by an abusive childhood. Her husband was aware of this and tried his best to help her—but finally gave up.
Hillcrest Sunset is the first mystery featuring Brynn as the sleuth-heroine. It was challenging to transition her to become a caring and engaging person, but she begins to face her past and starts to exhibit more personable characteristics. She is a strong person and applies herself in interesting ways to become an able and engaging sleuth and by the time we get to Overcast Sunset she is well on her way to overcoming her past.
Overcast Sunset is your third Brynn Bancroft mystery. In your own words, can you give us a sneak peek at what this book is about and what readers can expect from Brynn?
The book opens with Brynn at a meeting listening to the latest details of chronic thefts in the Sonoma Valley wine country. She is grateful to have received an urgent call from an old college friend that morning and relieved to leave the meeting early to meet her. Unfortunately when she returns to the winery, she finds her ex-husband—who co-owns the winery she manages—has arrived with news that he wants to sell the winery. Brynn has come to realize that her ex is an extraordinary person and had hoped to win him back. His interest in selling the winery threatens her efforts. The repeated burglaries and the reduced hope for a reconciliation combine with the business activities of her college friend to lead Brynn to anticipate a troublesome near future—which turns out to unfold even worse than she imagines.
What is your favorite scene in Overcast Sunset?
As a reader and author of mysteries, I cannot reveal elements of the plot. However, I will say that I most enjoy the developing relationship between Brynn and her ex. There is one scene in particular that I like, but I cannot reveal it!
Now we simply have to read it to discover the mystery for ourselves! What are you working on next, and will there be more in the Bancroft mystery series?
Overcast Sunset is the final of the three Brynn Bancroft mysteries. I am currently working on the next contemporary mystery to be published in November 2017. I am spinning off a character from the Brynn books—Emma Lazarro—and re-locating the setting to southern California. The town of Ramona offers both mystery and a unique background. I have already started building the biography of the heroine-sleuth. Because this is a new trilogy requiring additional research time, I will not be publishing an historical mystery in 2017.
That's more than all right because readers have plenty of books to choose from your currently available mysteries!
MEET 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.