Of course, at the time, I was a server at Joe's Crab Shack in Merrillville, Indiana and she, her husband, Curt and a couple of friends of theirs came in for lunch. I mentioned that I was writing a book and she told me about the White House Chef Mystery series. I've since read the first two and am working on Eggsecutive orders, the third book in the series. (Buffalo West Wing and Affairs of Steak are currently available online and in bookstores, like Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble)
Julie also took time out to read an excerpt of a short story I was working on, which will end up on the blog in due time.
The one thing I can definitely say about Julie is that she is very pesronable, friendly and has none of the self-absorbed, standoffish affectations that some famous authors have. She's refreshingly down to earth and am very fortunate to call her a friend.
Julie's a busy woman, but she made some time to answer a few questions and for this I am very grateful. But enough about me, let's hear what she has to say...
FOC: I love the White House Chef Mystery Series. How did you come up with the idea of using the White House as a backdrop for a mystery series, let alone a protagonist who is a chef employed by the White House?
Julie Hyzy: Actually, a gentleman by the name of Marty Greenberg (he's no longer with us) came up with the concept after Laura Bush named Cristeta Comerford the first female in the role of White House executive chef. Marty contacted me and asked me if I'd be willing to write the series. I jumped at the opportunity, of course. What I didn't realize at the time was that there were other authors vying for the job. I'm very fortunate that they liked my characters, plots, and ideas for future books enough to give me the job.
FOC: The recipies in the back of each book are a nice touch. Are you, like, an undercover Rachel Ray who makes up her own recipies or do you just enjoy cooking?
Julie Hyzy: Neither! I'll eat out whenever I get the chance. Although I enjoy cooking now and then, and I really have fun trying out new ideas, all the recipes in the back of the WHChef books are provided by a professional. You've heard of ghost writers? I have a ghost chef!
FOC: Your original work background is in Finance, but you left that career to pursue being a writer amidst a lot of dissenting opinions. How did you find the courage to go against the tide and follow your dream all the way to the Bestsellers' List?
Julie Hyzy: The truth is that I looked at my life, and even though I was proud of everything I'd accomplished (including raising kids), I'd never made writing a priority in my life. It always came in second, or third, or fifty-seventh in line after other things that were more important. I came to the realization that someday I might be a hundred years old and looking back on my life. I knew I would be terribly disappointed in myself if I hadn't actually tried to pursue my dream. I needed to give it my all, no matter what. Even though I knew I might fail, pushing my dreams aside because I was fearful was completely unacceptable. I had to do my best so that I would know I'd done my best. And so I gave it everything I had, and I continue to do so every day.
FOC: The Manor House Mysteries are a recent addition to your body of work. Tell us a little bit about this series.
Julie Hyzy: I'm thoroughly enjoying writing this series. Grace has a lot more in common with me than my WHChef series does. Grace works at Marshfield Manor (named for my beloved Marshall Field's) in North Carolina. Marshfield is an immense tourist attraction/museum/home and Grace is its curator and manager. She works directly for the elderly owner, Bennett Marshfield, and finds history and mystery in every nook and cranny. This is a fun series, with a cast of characters I truly love. The third in the series, Grace Among Thieves, comes out June 5th and I just signed a contract for three additional books. Very excited!
FOC: Which writers influenced your work and made you want to write in the first place? Which writers inspire you to sit down and pound out a page or two after you've read them?
Julie Hyzy: I wanted to write from the time I could manage a pencil, but writers who influenced me were Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew books), Ray Bradbury (I absolutely adore him!), and Sue Grafton. Have to admit, I enjoy Diana Gabaldon, too. I go back and re-read Bradbury and Grafton often, just to admire their words, their characters, their stories. I strive to be a better writer every day because of them. They're wonderful authors whose works truly speak to me.
The latest White House Chef Title
The forthcoming Manor House Mystery (out June 5th)
UPDATE: Julie has two new books out-A White House Chef Mystery titled Home of the Braised and Grace Takes Off, a new entry in the Manor House Mystery Series. Both are available on Kindle and regular mainstream bookstores now.