Today I am excited to welcome Judith Copek as she discusses her writing and more. Read through to the end to find out how you can enter her giveaway.
From Montana to Massachusetts, the peripatetic Judith Copek tells all.
When I returned from Bouchercon (2016), I pored over the souvenir book, seeking something new to write about. What was missing? Aha! No Mennonite stories or sleuths. Amish, yes, but the Mennonites are very different from the Amish. My mother grew up in a Mennonite community in Kansas, and I spent summers there as a kid. Our family was no longer associated with the church (long story)., and the Mennonites seemed very different from other people, almost scary with heir clannish ways and strange clothing. My setting would be Southern Kansas during wheat harvest) in the year 1953,a summer I remembered as a child.
A main character, Lizzie, presented herself to me, and I decided to write in two periods, 1953 and 2019. When I began writing, a major problem arose. What you see and digest as a kid are not what an adult would focus on. What was it like there today? What had I missed about the past?
Soon, I was on a plane to Wichita. My home base would be Newton, just six miles from my grandparents’ hamlet. I decided to stay at the truck stop because it had motel rooms, was open 24-7, and the amenities were a big store, a laundry and a restaurant. Not enough space here to relate my adventures, but the people there were so kind and helpful I’ll be forever grateful.
My first stop was the Harvey County Historical Society. Good information and after a long conversation with the man helping me, we discovered we were related. Next came Bethel College and their archives. Bethel is a Mennonite college. I was amazed about how truly happy the folks in the coffee shop looked, both faculty and students. I couldn’t imagine anyplace in Boston where the joy would be so obvious. Their archives were great.
Onward to the Mennonite museum. What a garden! What nice people! Next came Mom’s hometown. I found my grandparents’ house It had shrunk and the garden and chicken yard were gone. I visited the other Mennonite College where I had contacts. Before I left Boston, I connected with the Mennonite Community of Boston (MCOB) who had given me resources galore. At the college, the son of the man showing me around lived in my Grandmother’s house!. His wife actually gave me a tour. Their hospitality and kindness blew me away!
I returned to Boston with ideas for my book: the café, the house, the culture (fishing, gardening, canning, church, and family) are all there, just like in 1953. My memories of life back then became a springboard into the novel. The most difficult thing has been to write about mean Mennonites, because I don’t think there are any.
1) Describe yourself with three words:
Introverted. Curious. Driven.
2) What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Amazon reviews; Goodreads reviews; recommend to friends and give as gifts.
3) Skills my character Lizzie (in my current work has):
She knows the 14 steps of canning tomatoes. She was a missionary in the Belgian Congo and taught school in French, She also knows how to clean fish.
Question I’d like readers to answer: What makes you keep turning the pages of a book?
I’m giving away a copy of Festival Madness. It’s a mystery set in August at the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert. Both Kindle and trade paperback are available. Perfect for this time of year. The craziness at the Festival perhaps echoes the craziness in our lives right now. It’s also set in the high-tech world of Boston, another crazy place.
If you hate technology, no problem. I can send another book or ebook. (Chased By Death)
About the author
Judith’s most recent novel is Chased By Death, a woman-in-jeopardy road novel. Coming this fall is Murder In The Northwoods, a mystery set in a small town in Wisconsin. Setting and a sense of place are the springboard for her books, with characters and plot close behind. Vacations inspired World of Mirrors (East Germany) and Festival Madness (Burning Man). Judith’s current project is a mystery set-in two-time periods in a Mennonite community in Kansas.
First page of my work in process, Lizzie Bender Ledoux (tentative title):
June 25, 1953, Elivon, Kansas
What she was doing was wrong, but she did it anyway. Lizzie slid the nickel into the jukebox. She pushed the 9-B key and waited. When the song began to play, she no longer lived in Elivon, Kansas, but at Le Moulin Rouge in 1890s Paris. No more the plain Mennonite woman in a prayer cap, modest dress, and sturdy shoes, she was Jane Avril, dancing and singing, “Where Is Your Heart” in a smoky room where green absinthe bottles littered the tables and roués eyed the lovely songstress in her huge-brimmed white hat with the red marabou feathers. The lyrics tore at Lizzie’s heart as she waltzed around the empty café, swooping to wipe down the cover of the Coke machine, swaying and moving while she scrubbed off the splatters from the malt maker and the counter. She twirled as she tidied the booths, even sang scrubbing the stove.
“Where is your heart?”
When the music ended, she heaved a regretful sigh, and laid out the flour, sugar, and lard for the pies the old aunts and cousins would bake early Friday morning. A stirring of hunger grabbed her as she imagined the cherry and apple, the custard, and raisin, and especially the strawberry rhubarb pie, only made during June and July. Sixty pieces of pie, many served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Lizzie loved dancing to the Moulin Rouge song, so forbidden and so thrilling. She had sneaked into nearby Newton to see the film, experiencing a frisson when Zsa Zsa Gabor, in her fantastic hat and a silk dress, had warbled the lyrics Lizzie loved to distraction. A thirty-nine-year-old widow shouldn’t be mooning over a movie like a teenager. Once in her life she had dreamed of going to Paris, and that had never happened. She loved to recall the Pars scenes in the movie time after time, grasping them to her breast like a romantic fool.
*Note – these books may push the envelope for what some readers consider a PG rating*