My Interview with Margot Justes
To say you’re a world traveler would be an understatement. Writing a setting in a city that an author has never been to is often difficult. Do you think living in so many cities is a definite advantage in your writing?
Yes, I think so. If you set your stories outside your comfort zone, than yes, I strongly believe that you must experience the place to write about it. You can research everything on the internet and get all the information your heart desires and more so, but I think you need soul in describing your setting, a feeling that you’re there, sharing personal experiences with your reader.
You need to sit in a café on the Champs Elyssee and watch the world go by as you sip that perfect cup of coffee, you need to get those goose bumps on your arms when you hear the bells peel in Notre Dame, or stand mesmerized on the Rialto Bridge in Venice and watch the chaos of boats maneuvering to get ahead as they fight the traffic on the Grand Canal, or visit Bath, England and walk over Roman lead pipes that are over two thousand years old and wonder who else trekked in the same footsteps. I think those amazing sensations only come from being there.
A sharp mind I have found seems to be a distinct characteristic of mystery writers. Is there any other aspect of your personality that you think gives you a distinct edge to being a mystery author?
I’ll take the sharp mind, thank you very much. No, no distinct characteristics, other than being a mystery fan. I love to read and have been a mystery fan for decades, too many to mention. The queen of elegant mysteries was Dorothy Sayers and her Lord Peter Wimsey stories. Lord Peter, the perfect hero. As a mystery writer, I should love solving puzzles, but I fail miserably and always loose. Let’s stay with ‘the sharp mind’ I like that.
I’m sure your readers would like to know, without giving away any spoilers, is your third novel going to continue with the hotel theme, or will it be an entirely new work?
My third novel A Hotel in Venice is set of course in Venice and Murano. That book will complete the trilogy. But, I’m keeping the secondary characters alive and well. They will have their own stories. I finished a novella based on the characters in the Heat of the Moment short story, (introducing Minola and her reasons for going to Paris). I liked them so much that I wanted to give them their own tale. It’s a little darker than my earlier work, and I’m very proud of it.
I’m currently working on a paranormal novel about a vampire who collects art through the centuries and the story deals with the Mona Lisa and radiation; I start in 1503 and finish in 2010. I’m having a tremendous amount of fun and I’m more than half way done with Blood Art. There is a bit of science because my younger daughter is a scientist and has been very helpful with information about lasers, radar and radiation. I came up with a new twist on an old weapon using a GPS system. All sorts of nifty stuff like glowing radioactive blood. I like using science and fiction, and best of all, I’m having a great deal of fun.
You recently completed your second novel, A Hotel In Bath, when can we expect to see it on the shelves?
I would love to tell you, but I haven’t sold a Hotel in Bath yet.
Art always play a major role in your works, are you an artist as well as an author?
I wish I were an artist, I possess no such talents, just sheer, green envy for those that do. I cut my teeth in museums, art galleries, art fairs and the like. I stated in an earlier interview, that I gave my heroine the talent I wish I’d possessed.
I find art therapeutic, and have no space on my walls to add anything else, but I have been told there is always room on the ceilings. I don’t think that is a great idea, because I collect mirrors too.
I try to ask this question of every author I interview because I like to see the variety of responses. In your opinion, from the moment you started writing until the time you held your book in your hands, what was the most difficult part of the journey?
That is an excellent question. From a personal perspective, English is my second language and I always asked myself can I do this? Am I good enough in the language to be able to tell a story well? Do I want to keep the quirks in my vocabulary or loose my identify or what I perceived as my identity? The journey to completion and personal satisfaction was tough and certainly a challenge.
From a writing perspective or a craft perspective if you will…POV is a killer. Beth Anderson has a terrific article about POV that helped me tremendously. And finally the hardest thing was letting go, I wanted to make changes and still do.
You have collaborated with other authors on various works, was it difficult to do so? Did conflicting personalities make this difficult or was diversity a benefit to the work?
I worked on two projects and both were for great causes, and I think we all had a blast, there were no issues that I was aware of, and for me diversity is always terrific because it gives me an opportunity to learn.
Is there another author out there or even a specific novel that made you want to be an author, or have always known you wanted to be a spinner of stories?
I’ve only been a writer for about seven years, prior to that an avid reader. I had no idea I wanted to write, till the proverbial tough day in the office and a great desire to be challenged.
There is not a specific author, unless you count Oscar Wilde and his biting wit. I’m always amazed at the depth of his perceptions, his ability to see weaknesses, inject humor in our frailties and be so socially relevant, even today. But as far as mysteries and romance go, there are so many, I would be hard pressed to pick just a couple.
Looking back at your completed works, is there any specific scene or character that you absolutely adored and wouldn’t change in any way, shape, or form?
That is very tough question, Sean. I always want to change, edit, the usual writing process, but my hero Peter Riley is very close to perfect for me. I created him from a very personal point of view. A reader e-mailed me to tell me she’s in love with Peter Riley, and I quickly replied ‘me too’. I think he is a marvelous, very human hero.
The scene with Peter and Minola at the Rodin museum is terrific; the fact that it is an outstanding, intimate museum and my absolute favorite may have had something to do with it.
Now probably comes the most difficult question to answer, if you had to pick one thing about being a published author that gave you the most satisfaction, what would it be?
You’re right, this one is difficult. Probably the fact that I actually finished writing it, certainly that was gratifying. In reality the whole writing process, the query letters, the rejections, the pitches and the final sale of the book to Echelon; all of it, was such an incredible learning experience, that I would have to say everything from start to finish.
Along the way, I met some very gifted authors, made new friends and found out that the writing community is incredibly helpful and generous with their time. There is a certain sharing partnership that I find absolutely amazing, especially within my own RWA Chicago North Chapter. The whole writing concept is thoroughly fascinating and frustratingly enjoyable.
Born in Poland, Margot Justes has lived in some of the world s most wonderful places, including Israel, France and South Africa. Currently living in the Midwest, she has taken her love of art and travel and cultivated it into unique settings and stories for her writing, 2007 brought her a contract for her first novel A Hotel in Paris.
She just finished her second novel, A Hotel in Bath; a novella titled A Fire Within and had two short stories published in The Heat of the Moment and Missing anthologies, currently working on her third book A Hotel in Venice and a paranormal romantic tale Blood Art
Margot Justes is a Member of Romance Writers of America, and has served on the board for the Chicago North RWA Chapter and the Chicago Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
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