Today I’m happy to introduce Julie Wray Herman. I met Julie several years before she sold her first book. At the time she was heading up the Houston Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Julie’s always been a dedicated writer who works at her craft, and she has also known the value of understanding how the publishing industry works. She assures me that she hasn’t actually buried anyone in her garden, but she has found gardening to be a good way to work off frustration, anxiety, and chocolate chip cookies. In fact, she is a Texas Master Gardner. Julie lives outside Houston, Texas with her husband, two angelic teenagers, and — at last count — one dog, two cats, two horses, and the creature who lurks in the pond. When Julie has time, she plans on taking the “All Strays Apply Here” sign down from her front porch. She currently serves as the Chapter Liaison for Sisters in Crime and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America and the American Crime Writer’s League. That said, let’s get to the questioning.
1. Julie, you are the author of the Three Dirty Women Landscaping Service Inc. mystery series. I remember when you got the idea for the first book in the series. Did it come to you as an image, an idea, a bit of dialogue. . . ? You were working on another mystery at the time and decided to switch gears so you could write the first book. Would you share with us how the one book became three and how you sold your first book?
This series was one of those happy serendipitous events. I had the idea while working with friends – we were landscaping Sue’s yard and brainstorming new careers for her when Becky, the third woman on the landscaping team, said, “Let’s start a landscaping company and call ourselves Three Dirty Women.” It was Houston in July, and we were in fact, three very hot and dirty women. I had just been daydreaming about the fact that stress can change people’s personalities, sometimes leading them to behave in ways that were uncharacteristic and Boom! I saw the series right there under Sue’s azaleas. (Writers can write anywhere, anytime.) I ran inside and scribbled a few notes. The ladies later decided that it would be much easier for me to write the books than to actually start the company, so there I was with a good idea — What loyalty does friendship demand of you when your friend behaves in a suspicious manner — and a terrific title – Three Dirty Women. When the acquisitions editor for a new line called me and asked if I had anything “southern” in the drawer. I had been working on another project which is not at all southern, but since they had a checkbook and were waving it in my direction, I thought immediately about Korine, Amilou and Janey. She bought it. (An important note to share here is that this call did not come out of the blue. I had met this woman at conferences and had shared my first manuscript attempts with her. She liked my writing style but needed something specific for this line and I was lucky enough to have an idea that fit.)