Judy Nickles, also writing as Gwyneth Greer, has been spinning tales since she could hold a #2 pencil. When bad weather threatened, her elementary teachers called on her to tell stories to keep the other students from focusing on the storm clouds outside.
For better or worse, she still hangs on to the faded copies of her own 1950’s era parodies of the popular television show Dragnet: Fishnet, Hairnet, and Butteryfly Net, and most of the essays, stories, and poems she wrote in junior high and high school. Later, she wrote The Big Valley ‘fan fiction’ for an online site. Where Is Papa’s Shining Star?, Finding Papa’s Shining Star, The Showboat Affair, and Dancing with Velvet were published in print and also as ebooks by The Wild Rose Press (voted Best Book Publisher for the fifth time in 2012 in the Readers’ Poll for Preditors and Editors). The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall, inspired by a visit to the Ft. Smith Visitor’s Center, a restored ‘social club’, was contracted as an ebook by Champagne Books and nominated for the 2012 Novel of the Year.
A genealogist for over 30 years, Judy believes that stories are everywhere and wishes she had time to write all of them. Her writing philosophy is “Shred the rejection, take a second look, rewrite, and resubmit.” Her favorite possession is her Kindle Fire. She is having her adolescent rebellion 50+ years late and recently took a ride in a vintage B-24
Q.What is your current project? I just finished a three-book romantic suspense series, The Dreamland Series.
Q. What led you to write this book? I live near Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was quite the ‘gangster hideaway’ back in the day. The idea for the story came off the back of a menu at the only ‘club’ still in existence from that era. One day I was downtown and happened to pass the Ohio Club and stopped to peek in. The next time, I got up the courage to go inside and sit upstairs where the casino used to be. I kept feeling I wasn’t alone and glanced up to see a life-sized cut-out of Al Capone, complete with cigar, grinning at me. Then I read the back of the menu which told the club’s history including that of the magnificent and massive bar which had to be brought in piece by piece and reassembled. On my third visit, I sat downstairs across from the bar, and the waiter told me I was sitting backed up to the entrance to the tunnels Al supposedly used to traverse the town. I make liberal use of those in the books.
Q. Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest? I don’t know if she’s “new” or not—I actually think she’s not—but I just read and reviewed a “cozy” type mystery by British author L.B. Hathaway, Murder Offstage. It’s the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read the rest as they come out. It was a clean, fun read.
Q. What books have most influenced your life? Growing up, I read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and I think they hooked me on mystery and suspense.
Q. Have you had an interesting experience in the research of one of your books? The Showboat Affair came from a trip to Branson, Missouri. A friend talked me into going, and we did the dinner-show thing on the Branson Belle. On the way out I said, “Oh, this would be a great setting for a book. I think I’ll write “The Showboat Murders”. She was horrified. “No! Write “The Showboat Affair.” So I did. (It’s under the pseudonym Gwyneth Greer.) Then I visited Ft. Smith, Arkansas, where the visitor center is a restored—umm, how shall I put it delicately?—bordello. There were pictures on the wall of some of the girls who “worked” there, and it made me sad to think of them. So I wrote The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall as a sort of catharsis. (It’s also written as Gwyneth Greer.) I usually bring home a story from every place I visit.
Q. Which character would you like to be friends with in real life? I think I’d have to choose Penelope Pembroke (of the cozy mystery series). She’s older and has been around the block—a survivor. She’s independent and goes after what she believes to be right. Sometimes she makes the wrong decisions, but when life knocks her down, she doesn’t stay. I identify with her more than with any of my characters because I became a single mother at the age of 34 when my husband died. I had to survive my circumstances, too, just like Penelope. Also, I patterned her father Jake Kelley after my ‘adopted dad’ who was a veteran of WW II and had a big influence on my later life.