Having read Joyce Scheider’s last novel Fear Dreams, I was only too delighted to join Joyce on tour with her latest release Her Last Breath.
My leg on the tour is fab because I got to find out lots of wonderful stuff about this very interesting lady.
I really hope you enjoy this Q & A.
My advice? Grab a coffee and settle down…this is a really awesome read!!
I’m delighted to finally get the opportunity to *meet* with you. I’m hoping we can find out a little more about who J. A. Schneider really is, so I have a few questions for you.
First of all we would love to know a little about your background..so I’m going to go easy with my first question…
As a former member of staff at Newsweek, you must have some fascinating stories to recount. Are you at liberty to share any of them with us?
Jacqueline Onassis for lunch (so skinny: Tom Wolfe would have called her one of those Upper East Side X-ray ladies, but she was…ethereal)
Other celebs who passed us Little People on their way to interviews/lunch: Kurt Vonnegut off his meds wandering the halls (“Where’s the damned bathroom!?”); Bono serenading a water bubbler; Joanne Woodward (Paul Newman’s wife) bringing cookies (sweet sweet lady!); political bigwigs…
And what came from all that was, people are just people and “famous” ones usually just want to be left alone. What really really stands out are the former writer/employees who’d quit the second they had a successful novel out, then would come back to visit, friendly & encouraging, asking: “Why are you still here? Leave and write!”
That made an impression: wow, just give me a garret & let me write!’
I am seriously well impressed your knowledge of languages. French, Spanish and Russian?? Now I know we would all love to hear about a ‘certain’ trip to Sochi!!!!!
‘Oh *grin*, yeah, I love languages, seem to have an affinity for them – though I can’t add 2+2; really, there I’m thick as a plank!!
Anyway, I started French at age 11, became a French Literature major in college (that’s how we Yanks say university), then fell in love with Spanish when I heard it spoken, then grew fascinated with Russian when I heard that spoken, one summer, at the Middlebury Summer Language School.
I just like communicating.
Once, when my kids were small, one of ‘em asked, “How come you speak all these foreign languages?” And my answer was, “Because there’s no such thing as a foreign language. You just want to communicate, and it comes.” (But I also worked hard at the Spanish & Russian; really did the homework.)
Sochi was actually the lesser adventure. After graduation, before Newsweek, I was sent on a “make-friends” US-USSR student exchange. Included, a hike: my group (Americans, East Germans, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Russian) trekked into the Caucasus Mts near the Black Sea.
Our leader, a very funny drunk named Lev (gym teacher in winter), warned us: “Stay on the trail! Don’t wander off!” So I wandered off. Saw the most…interesting…bush by the side of the trail, just HAD to inspect the foliage, reach in, pick a leaf…so naturally the interesting bush turned out to be the top of a tree rooted 40 feet below, and down I tumbled into the ravine. That wasn’t the bad part, cuz I was unconscious!!
The BAD part was when they got me back up (somehow), loaded me and my cracked ribs into the bed of a pickup truck, and went bumpety-bump down rutted mountain roads to get me to a hospital in Sochi…where the doctors were nice. Really!!
Then my Russian friends who felt bad brought me flowers – only it was August, & the flowers were gone-to-seed golden rod, & I was allergic. Sneezing with cracked ribs, wow, pain. I kept telling my American roommates, “Tell them to stop”, but they couldn’t, they felt bad so the golden rod and dried August flowers kept coming, & I kept sneezing. Makes for a funny story though…also sweet!! If you can get past “government,” people are sweethearts….
More serious was getting arrested in Leningrad with 3 other American students. End of a sweltering day, we’d just gotten back from trudging around Peter & Paul Fortress, and in the middle of the room was a big, round table holding a carafe of water and six glasses. We were parched, there were no sinks and…problem: the water was pea green. The door was closed, we thought we had privacy, and we just started to laugh. Wheee, oh hilarity, the water’s baby-bile color, ha ha…
Then we heard BANG, BANG, opened the door, and standing there, in the ill-lit hot hall, were three thick-necked guys in TRENCH COATS bellowing “Vwi aristoveni!” (“You are arrested!”) And we were – for “spreading anti-Soviet propaganda.” As you read this, my friends, give thanks every day that you live in a free-speech democracy, I am passionate about this subject…
It turned out okay. We were held in the neighborhood Komsomol cells! OMG…picture stupid, naïve, maybe spoiled young Americans in Communist cells, no joke!
So what saved us? Our US group leader was an Episcopalian (like Church of England) priest, who insisted on wearing his Roman collar & whole dark outfit all summer. A serious fellow. Well, he heard & came running furious at us because we’d been warned, pre-trained before leaving the U.S.: “Don’t offend them, don’t photograph drunks, garbage, slums, etc.” – and we didn’t, we were good – but nobody said don’t laugh at their pea green water. Turned out our room was bugged. All the rooms in the hotel we called “Ol’ Stinky” were bugged.
Anyway, angry Father I-forget-his-name SCARED the thick-necked guys who arrested us – they thought he was some kind of American official, & it was generally decided that this bunch of 21-year-old American idiots weren’t worth an international incident, so they let us go, but we got chewed out by Father Whatsisname.’
I read in your Bio on Goodreads that the three main literary influences on your life are:
Arthor Conan Doyle
Such popular writers, all three.
Can you share with us your favourite book from each and why & how they influenced you?
‘Ah, the joy of these authors! But they’re in reverse order of my love…
Conan Doyle’s SILVER BLAZE is my favorite for a) the luscious literacy of his words, b) his invention of a mind so brilliant to consider what isn’t there!
Holmes says, “There’s the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime;” and Detective Gregory says, “But the dog did nothing in the night” – and Holmes says, “That was the curious incident.”
Wow. Developing a mind that unique – you feel Holmes, and that is art (really feeling the character, being stunned by him).
Agatha really churned them out, but I only love two: DEATH ON THE NILE & MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Just so clever, with writing super-compressed (I love brevity), characters terrific & different, and of course the highly unusual plots. Amazingly inventive!
Now Ira Levin, my favorite!!
I have read THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL over & over. I also harp to anyone who’ll listen about Levin’s brilliance, and the loveable intensity (key word; intensity) of his characters. Open to any page & be amazed. (I also love Rosemary’s Baby & have learned a lot from it.)
What I love most about Levin is his brevity, his astonishing ability to say so much – action & emotion – in few words. Plus, of course, his amazingly original concepts!
One of my most favorite, still-shocking, great scenes is in The Boys From Brazil, where Lieberman, the aging, sickly Nazi hunter, finally gets the chance to interview a female former wardress at Auschwitz, now in a German prison. His sister died at Auschwitz! He’s waiting, emotionally coming apart, for the woman’s lawyer to bring her from her cell…and finally, the door opens, and the lawyer leads out a small woman with “a disappointed mouth.”
That’s…it! The “disappointed mouth” gives the whole character – no need to describe her gray and bent, her drab uniform, surroundings etc. Imagine facing the end of your days with “a disappointed mouth.” Harrowing. The rest of that scene is beyond brilliant. Levin also works in humor in places where you won’t believe you’re laughing – like…that prison scene? Lieberman asks the wardress the birth date of her dead dog. Major plot point, also funny…
Other brilliant depictions are of Rosemary Woodhouse’s husband and oh so well-meaning “friends.”
Years after I’ve read and re-read Rosemary’s Baby, every scene and gesture is still subtle, yet shocking.’
Joyce, you have written a collection of novels, termed the ‘Embryo Series’. For those of us not familiar with these books, can you tell us a little of what they are about?
‘Cops-&-doctors medical thrillers, especially after the first one: “Is a malignant genius tinkering with women’s bodies…?”
My husband Bob did a lot of OB before switching to cardiology (heart disease in his family, he felt pulled). Once an OB friend was telling him, all excited, about IVF and its advances in curing diseases in utero.
I thought about all human discoveries – from fire to atomic energy – and the unsettling fact that they can be either good or very bad if they fall into the wrong hands…thus that first Embryo story was, uh, born.
After that, the two protagonist young physicians help their cop friends solve crimes when attack/sex assault victims are brought to the hospital. (There’s a need for hospital staff helping police more; too many bad guys slip through the cracks.)
I have recently read & reviewed your novel ‘Fear Dreams’, a psychological thriller.
Where did the idea for Liddy’s character come from?
‘The idea for Liddy came when I heard about a friend’s friend, crying, desperate that she was losing her mind. She wasn’t (she’s okay), but I got to imagining a very bright, creative woman, whose life and whole psychology is threatened after trauma.
She even fears she’s seeing a ghost.
Can she hold on – especially with a husband who’s very logical, insistent on “facts?” The story tells how even the most rational of us can end up doubting our sanity.’
You can read my full review of Fear Dreams here
Your latest novel is ‘Her Last Breath’, congratulations!!!! Can you share with us the inspiration behind writing this novel?
My inspiration is Kerri Blasco, a tough, tender, & highly intuitive NYPD detective who once again, as in FEAR DREAMS, is helping a character who’s desperate and vulnerable.
The story is a psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men: Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man. Protesting her innocence, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them – or even her closest friends? Kerri Blasco, investigating, battles her police bosses believing that Mari is innocent…but is she?
I really love Kerri. She has a LOT of female intuition, & hates the cops jumping for too-easy arrests. Alex Brand, her Detective Sergeant boss, is amazed by her “hunches.” Other cops are too.
Kerri is…nice, also funny; doesn’t lay it on too thick that the male cops sometimes go too much “by the book;” they don’t “feel” their way through cases.’
I’ve read that you have ‘insider’ experience of the medical world. How has this influenced your writing?
‘Oh my goodness, yes!! It all comes down to medicine.
Decades of hearing Bob just…talk, describe human experience at its most desperate, have influenced me. Maybe that’s why Detective Kerri is so caring.
Then, too, there are the little details.
Just today I was describing Kerri asking a suspect if she’s been using heroin. The suspect says No. I asked Bob, “What effect does heroin have on the eyes?” And he said, “It constricts the pupils.” So Kerri immediately knows the suspect is lying…because her pupils are constricted.’
And finally Joyce, can you reveal any details/ideas for your next novel? We would love to get a peak into Joyce Schneider’s mind!!
‘A glimpse into my mind would be continuous, colorful chaos. It’s always teeming in there. I’m noodling around two story ideas, actually, both of them still murky.
I wish I knew, I wish I knew!!!’
Thank you so much Joyce for taking the time to be so open and informative with your answers. It was an absolute pleasure to *meet* you and I sincerely wish you all the best with your new release Her Last Breath.
Her Last Breath is available now.
Purchase link: Her Last Breath
Please see the poster below to follow the rest of the tour.