Meet Mystery Author Judy Clemens

L. McMaken
Cincinnati, OH

I met Judy Clemens a few years ago when she visited my library for a “Mystery Night” complete with mystery authors and a pie baking contest. She is a fantastic mystery writer, an awesome speaker, and very gracious with her time.

I met her again last week at Books by the Banks, The Cincinnati Book Festival and she agreed to an interview for Reader’s Entertainment. If you’re searching for a great new mystery writer, look no further then Judy Clemens.

First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from? Past jobs, awards, the usual bio stuff.

I live in Ohio now, but have lived in seven different states!  My hometown was in northern IN. My college degree, from Goshen College, is in theater, and I worked as a union stage manager in Philadelphia, PA, until my kids were born.  Then I stayed home to be a stay-at-home mom, and got my writing really going.  I had always written, but didn’t concentrate on it until then.  People always say when you have a baby, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” but my motto was, “Write when the baby sleeps!”  My first novel, “Till the Cows Come Home,” was nominated for both the Anthony and the Agatha for Best First Novel.  Now, besides writing, I work part-time at a metal recycling yard in the office.  It gets me out of the house, and reminds me how to be social!

What do you write?

My published books are all mysteries for adults.  My agent has several YA and middle-grade novels, some fantasy, some mystery, which I hope will someday be published!

Who has been the most difficult character for you to write?

Hmm.  I don’t know that there’s been a particular character, but the last Stella book was really difficult.  Not sure if it was because I knew it was the last of the series, or if she and I were both just exhausted!  : )

What characters are lying on your “office floor”? Why didn’t they come to life on the page and do you think they ever will? Or why not?

I wrote two novels about a character named Priscilla Madison back before I even thought of Stella.  I loved them at the time, but they were my “learning” books.  I look at them now and cringe to think I actually sent them out to agents, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

How much time does it usually take you to write a book?

It depends on different things.  If there’s a short deadline, it could be a few months.  If there’s not yet a contract, it could take a few years!

Any funny “researching your book stories” to share with readers?

When I was researching the first Stella book — she was a dairy farmer — I traveled around with a vet for a day to get a feel for the job and to learn some about cows.  The day ended with a C-section.  He suited me up, and there I was, with my hands and arms halfway in a cow’s uterus!  Slimy.  It quickly became the first chapter of the book!

What do you find is the hardest part of writing?

Sitting down everyday and getting the words in.  Especially in the middle of a story.

If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be? Why?

That’s a hard one.  Both of them have been through so much tragedy I wouldn’t actually want to be either of them.  And I definitely wouldn’t want to be a dairy farmer like Stella — that’s just hard work.  Casey has a pretty good life traveling, but I’ve never much liked camping, so that would be out, too.  I guess we can say I like to write about people different from myself!

Who is your favorite hero that you’ve written? Why?

Oh, boy.  If I say Stella, Casey will beat me up.  If I say Casey, Stella will.  Can I just say I love them both?  And the most FUN I’ve had writing a character has definitely been Death.  As one reviewer said, “Death gets all the good lines.”

Who is your favorite fiction hero written by someone else? Why?

Emily Pollifax, written by Dorothy Gilman.  She is an older woman who takes charge of her life when she feels empty.  She’s not afraid to try new things, she’s tolerant of other people, and she has all kinds of exciting and dangerous jobs, all over the world.  What’s not to love?

What do you think makes a good hero?

Someone who isn’t afraid to be themselves, who stands up to “bad guys,” and has a sense of humor.

If you could have dinner with any writer living or dead, who would it be and why?

C. S. Lewis.  I’d love to ask him about his Chronicles of Narnia, and talk to him about theology.  He had such an interesting and profound take on Christianity and what it meant to live well.

Name your five favorite authors. Yes, only five!

Dorothy Gilman, Elizabeth Peters, Harlan Coben, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers

What authors are in your TBR pile?

Robin Mellom, JT Ellison, John Kachuba, Lee Child

What authors do you always read?

Oh, my.  So many!  In addition to the ones above, there would be Angie Sage, John Flanagan, John Delancey, Diana Wynne Jones, Deborah Turrell Atkinson, Obert Skye, Sarah Dessen…I can’t possibly name them all.

Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?

I played the oboe, flute, and piano when I was a kid.  Still play the piano sometimes, and lead singing at church.

What is the one question you never get ask at interviews, but wish you did?

Here’s some really great chocolate, would you like some?

You can find out more about Judy and her books at

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