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My Interview with Judy Douglas Knauer


Have you ever met one of those people you instantly took a liking too? Ya, those people. If you’re lucky you get to spend your life surrounding yourself with people just like them. Intelligent, witty, fun, entertaining. Well I have good news for you. I’m going to save you some trouble and introduce you to one of them. She happens to be a VERY talented writer too! Please say hello to my friend Judy Douglas Knauer.

When was the exact moment you decided to write a book?

I was 18 years old, lounging on a sofa with pencil and paper and thought I’m going to write a romantic western novel.  So I did.  I’ve always loved the West so researching Indians and Texas territory was fun.  The book made it to typewriter and my filing cabinet where it sits today.

Did you have a specific inspiration for the story A Dirty Way to Die?

You bet I did!  Several in fact.  The two main male characters are based on six different men who were veterans of the Viet Nam war.  The story itself started as a romance novel about professional female mud wrestlers.  The Chicago Knockers did a show at the Fairbury, IL fair right after my first romance novel was published by Berkley/Jove and I decided to interview the ladies with the romance genre in mind.  The women gave me great material, but instincts told me not one New York editor would look at a romance based on mud wrestlers.  I ain’t no dummy.  So I began the book by killing one off in my hometown of Peoria at the Heart of Illinois Fair.  My inspiration for setting the private eye’s office in Peoria was a well-known female New York editor who I overheard saying in a phrase that used the f word: no book would ever sell set in Peoria.  Never say never, especially to me.

What is your favorite aspect of being a published writer? Is their anything that you don’t like?


Being a published writer is my favorite aspect!  I make up stories because I love doing that, but I write them hoping to have them read, to have readers taken to someplace outside themselves, where I am when I write them.  If my work just sits in a drawer or box, then the circle is incomplete and that I do not like.

If you had the opportunity to go back and change any portion of A Dirty Way to Die, what would it be?


I guess I would have Manny get beat up and shot more times, since that seems to be the popular way of today’s private eye novel.  I’ll see if I can make up for that in the next two Manny Shepherd novels in the works.

Do you write full time, or do you have another occupation as well? How do you find a balance between them?

If you mean 8 to 5 as full time, I retired from those hours and a good paycheck three years ago.  Besides a minimum four hours a day writing and at least another four contriving in my head, I’m semi-fanatic about a clean house and flower and vegetable gardens having no weeds.  I sew, knit and crochet for my grandchildren when I’m not on a writing deadline, which I’m on now.  Deadlines do  not allow for balance; the book is always in my head.

What’s next in the works for you? Do you have anything planned that you would like to share?

A second Manny Shepherd P.I. novel is two-thirds done with a third outlined, but on a backburner until I finish Mourning Preyers, my second thriller.  I’ve also begun a mystery with a female journalist protagonist with criminal investigation college courses to her credit, which is my background.  Editor Tom Colgan saw first pages years ago and told me that was the direction I should take.  Naturally, I’ve written two thrillers since then and almost completely ignored his wise advice.

Has any author or authors inspired you to write? Anybody in particular you would like to be compared to?

Every mystery author whose novel was on the shelves of my neighborhood library in Peoria since I was in third grade inspired me to make up stories, maybe in particular Mary Stewart.  I was so fortunate that the librarians allowed me to keep reading above my age level.  I once got a rejection letter from an editor who told me I should not write like Ross McDonald.  At that time, I did not know who Ross McDonald was, but now see him a lot in Dennis Lehane’s work!  A few years ago I’d have jumped with the answer Elmore Leonard as who I would like to be compared to.  No one does character or moves a story with character better than Leonard.  Then along came Stephen J. Cannell novels and Lehane.  I would love to be a writing mix of Leonard, Cannell, Lehane, Tom Wolfe and Carl Hiassen!  Perfect!
Along the road to getting published, what did you find the most rewarding and most difficult?

The most difficult task along the road to getting published is just that – getting published.  The most rewarding was that phone call from a Berkley editor telling me they wanted my book.

Tell us about the area you live in, did it play into the setting of your book in any way?


As I said A Dirty Way To Die is set in Peoria, my hometown, but my P.I. solves crimes everywhere but there!  In my first novel, a romance the publisher title Ecstasy Reclaimed (by Brandy LaRue my pen name) my setting was the farm and farmstead where I live–right down to the final love scene in the middle of a cornfield!

If you had once piece of advice to ive to aspiring writers, what would it be?


One piece of advice to aspiring writers – never give up and re-write.
You think you’ve got problems?

Doc Goold calls it cognizant premonition triggered by causal hypersensitivity, but Manny Shepherd and his Vietnam vet buddy Steve Mallinotti call it Shepherd’s Luck, that time-proven knack to sense bad shit lurks just around the corner.  Manny felt the premonition slump into his gut minutes before he witnesses Steve’s girlfriend Rita Hayward get slammed in the mud to her death by a well-stacked gal dubbing herself Screaming Eagle.

Mired in shock, guilt and a drunken haze, Steve coerces Manny, who has little on his Private Investigator’s plate, to figure out why Rita died like that with them and a SRO crowd watching and cheering at Peoria’s Heart of Illinois fair.  After all, back in earlier days at Neelys Landing, Missouri, Rita reigned as a star gymnast.  So how could a simple Judo throw have killed her?

No way will Manny jeopardize his tenuous yet sensual relationship with Tazewell County’s District Attorney, Lisa Shelton, to hang around half-naked, oiled-bodied beauties with names like Virgin Witch, Passion Queen, Midnight Fire, and Holy Terror, just to expose the obvious – Princess Lay-ya aka Rita Hayward just took a bad…okay, seriously bad header.

Steve’s heart-tugging story of Rita’s journey to professional mud wrestler fame, and haunted by Rita’s single staring dead eye watching him, Manny takes the leap onto the St. Louis Slingers on-tour bus.  Shepherd’s Luck bites hard amidst boobs and bullets as Manny is targeted while he hunts down a scheming, sadistic killer.

 

Purchase A Dirty Way To Die for only $2.99 at Amazon’s Kindle Book Store, B&N’s Nook, your PC, OR at

http://www.omnilit.com/product-adirtywaytodie-446495-243.html

Please visit:  www.suspenseiskillingme.net.
What others are saying about…

 

A Dirty Way To Die

 

Manny Shepherd is a breath of fresh air for the PI scene. A Dirty Way to Die rocks, and J. Douglas Knauer writes with just the right combination of grit and savoir-faire to give the book both style and realism.

—Michael A. Black, author of Hostile Takeovers and I Am Not a Psychic, with Richard Belzer.

 

Pulse-pounding action, a flawed hero with a code of ethics, and the inside story on women mud wrestlers combine for an exciting adventure in J. Douglas Knauer’s A DIRTY WAY TO DIE.

—Luisa Buehler, author of The InnKeeper: An Unregistered Death; Grace Marsden Mysteries ~ Think Monk in a skirt solving Cold Cases ~

 

Sexy and lusty mud-wrestlers and murder. Manny has his hands full. Looking for some entertainment? You’ll find it (in A Dirty Way To Die).

—Frank J. Scully, author of Resurrection Garden, release date January 1, 2011, MuseItUp Publishing

 

Judy Douglas Knauer got her first critical author review for a poem she wrote while in second grade.  One of the little girls in her Peoria, IL Brownie Troupe disapproved of the way Judy depicted her in the poem, even though it was true.  Multiple years later her first novel, Ecstasy Reclaimed by Brandy LaRue (a pen name) sold to Berkley Publishing without ever seeing a rejection.  Years later she was hired as chief editor, reporter and photographer for The Citizen, a weekly newspaper that covered Livingston County, IL.  During seven years in the newspaper business she won 14 journalism awards including eight from Illinois Press Association. She has sold non-fiction to Buckeye Farm News, Time/Warner, and Countryside magazines and a short mystery to Over My Dead Body.  One novel never being rejected notwithstanding, she admits to having a bulging folder of rejections compiled over many years for multiple novels yet unsold.  Her motto is “You never fail until you stop trying.”  She has three published novels with the latest, her first private eye novel, released in August 2010.

 

Judy is the proud mom to two daughters and two sons and Gramma to three boys and one girl.  She lives with her husband, Dennis, on four acres about 75 miles south of Chicago.  When she’s not working on her current thriller-in-progress, she enjoys gardening, fishing, reading, cooking, refinishing antique furniture, learning, walking and travel.

 

Please visit http://www.suspenseiskillingme.net to learn more about the author and her books.

Follow her on Twitter and FaceBook!

 

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  1. January 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I love the title of this book, so much so I’m going to check it out. Great post.

    • March 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      If you like this title, you’ll want to also “check out” BAD CATHOLICS, A NOVEL, by J. Douglas Knauer at Amazon or through my website for just $2.99! http://www.suspenseiskillingme.net
      I hope you like the reads and will tell friends!
      Judy

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