I love the New England Crime Bake for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that I always end up meeting fabulous new people and making new friends. This year, I had the pleasure of meeting J.P. (Joy) Choquette, who was new to the conference. She was such a delight that I wanted all our readers to meet her too, so she’s here today letting me interview her.
Liz: Tell us about yourself and your books.
I’m J.P. Choquette and I like to spy on people. Well, that’s not completely true; I prefer to think I’m just curious about human nature. Actually, I got my BA in psychology because I am fascinated by people and their motivations.
Epidemic, a fast-paced medical suspense set in the lazy rural area of northwestern Vermont was my first book and came out earlier this year. My second, Dark Circle, will be released in February 2014. Right now I’m working on my third book, yet another suspense, also set here in northwestern Vermont. This one might turn into a trilogy or series . . . we’ll see!
Liz: Have you always written suspense? Why?
J.P.: Yes, as far as novels go, suspense has always been “it” for me. I’ve kept a journal for ages and ages and written lots of bad poetry and many short stories, but writing suspense novels is such an incredible treat. I think it must harken back to my first hero, Nancy Drew. I always saw myself as her fluffy friend Bess, actually, but Nancy was just so much cooler than me. And she had that sweet blue car AND the handsome boyfriend (sigh).
Liz: The Wicked Cozies all write about a New England setting. Tell us about where your books are set, and how that influences the story.
J.P.: My novels are set in northwestern Vermont, where I work and live. To me, the setting is extremely important: it influences everything. From the characters themselves to the situations they deal with–generational poverty and drug addiction, elder care and mental health issues–that simmer below the surface in so many small towns. Vermont is incredibly beautiful, but like many places, it also has a very complex system of people, industries, mindsets and cultures that meld together. This makes for an interesting story and offers a great opportunity for spying. I mean, people watching with great curiosity.
Liz: What do you like to read in your downtime?
J.P.: I love mysteries/suspense/thrillers and oddly, I also really like reading spiritual growth and DIY-type books and publications. I suppose it makes me a well-rounded reader though sometimes I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde.
Liz: What are you working on now?
J.P.: I just put the final touches on Dark Circle, a novel about Sarah Solomon, a woman who moves with her husband to Vermont after a traumatic event in her life. They come to this beautiful gated community, hoping for a fresh start. But the neighbors are weird, distant and almost hostile. And while Sarah is hiking in the woods behind her house, she sees the ghost of an Abenaki Indian woman. At least, she thinks it’s a ghost. Sarah has spent some time in a psychiatric ward and is on some pretty heavy doses of medication. She begins to research the tribe and in the process uncovers secrets that people in the area want very much to stay buried.
Liz: And just for fun – someone asked me this question once and I thought it was a hoot. If you were stranded on a desert island, what ten people, living or dead, would you want there, and what would you all have for dinner? Don’t forget dessert 🙂
J.P.: Oh my goodness, this is going to be a funny one because, as above, my readig preferences are all over the place. Hmmm, let’s see:
1. Agatha Christie—because I mean, come on!
2. Sue Grafton—I’d love to talk to her about her career and if she ever thought to herself, “Good grief, I have to write how many more books in this series?!”
3. Louise Penny—I am very much enjoying her Armand Gamache series right now. Plus, she lives just over the border from me so we could share 70 spf sunscreen.
4. John Grisham—this is one amazing author. Not just the books he’s written but the way he writes them and the longevity of his career. Impressive for sure.
5. & 6. Deb Macomber and Stephen King—OK, I couldn’t get two people with less in common maybe, but I have learned a lot from each of their nonfiction books. I have yet to finish one of their novels (cheeks reddening) but their nonfiction work is great. I share the resource of Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” to students in my novel writing class.
7. Elizabeth Berg—she’s outside my genre but her work is breathtaking. I think she’s a phenomenally great writer and I’ve read every one of her books.
8. Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez who co-wrote, “Your Money or Your Life,” a book on living more simply/frugally. Without reading this book when I worked full-time, I don’t think I’d have ever been financially able (or brave enough!) to quit my day job. I did and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, for my career and sanity.
9. Martin Luther King, Jr.—because he is my hero.
10. Mother Theresa—because she’s my other hero.
For food? With this diverse group I think we’d have to go with a potluck. And for dessert (the most important course in my opinion—actually, let’s start with dessert in case a tsunami comes and blows us away before the rest of the meal), chocolate. In any form. In fact, as many forms as possible. Who knows how long we might be stranded here?
J.P., thanks so much for joining us today! We hope you’ll stop by again. And readers – tell us with whom you’d want to be stranded on a desert island!