Friday, August 10, 2012

Y'all Know Julie Kramer, Right?

Journalist turned novelist Julie Kramer writes a series of thrillers: Stalking Susan, Missing Mark, Silencing Sam, Killing Kate and now, Shunning Sarah--set in the desperate world of TV news. Julie won the RT Reviewer's Choice for Best First Mystery as well as the Minnesota Book Award. Her work has also been nominated for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark, RT Best Amateur Sleuth and Daphne du Maurier Awards.

The latest book...

An insular Amish community....A secret that won't stay buried.

SHUNNING SARAH involves a homicide victim who can't be identified without the help of a forensic artist. When she is finally recognized as Sarah Yoder, a young Amish woman, her family objects to the police sketch of her face being publicized by the media because of the biblical ban on graven images. But when TV reporter Riley Spartz finds a clue the cops miss, she uncovers a dark web of fraud and deception – driven by motives as old as the Bible: sex and money.

What they're saying...

"Remember Witness—that truly thrilling movie with Harrison Ford in his heyday? Shunning Sarah is an even better suspense story."  —James Patterson

"Julie Kramer superbly blends two very different worlds—television news and the mysterious society of the Amish. Shunning Sarah is a compelling novel chock full of all the elements readers of crime fiction crave. Riley Spartz is a very human heroine—and a force to be reckoned with. You will remember her and this story long after you finish the book."  —Linda Castillo

"This series is more addictive than 24/7 cable news. A captivating heroine you'll root for and a shocking ending you won't see coming, Shunning Sarah delivers with a satisfying punch." —Alex Kava

"A stunning entry in this dynamic series with a fascinating glimpse into two worlds unknown to most of us: the Amish and the behind-the-scenes truth about local TV news. Talk about a culture clash!"  
—Karen Harper

Get your copy:
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Let's chat with Julie, shall we?

I first met Julie at Bouchercon in 2009. We've been running into each other at conferences ever since. I confess I bought her first book because the title--Stalking Susan--caught my attention. It was a great read, and I've eagerly awaited each new Riley Spartz adventure.

Susan: Welcome, Julie, to Get Lost in a Story! I'm so excited to have you as a guest on the blog! Wow, being an investigative journalist must give you a great background for writing novels. What a wealth of fodder! How much are you inspired by actual cases?
Julie:  I've covered numerous crime stories during my career from murders to missing people to white collar crime. Many of those experiences find their way into my thrillers because I truly believe you should write what you know. That's why my debut novel – STALKING SUSAN (Sorry, Susan, nothing personal) dealt with some cold cases I'd covered.  I'm also highly influenced by happenings around me as I write. That's why you'll see references to current news events in my books. Example:  the Amish haircutting scandal in Ohio plays a role in SHUNNING SARAH – but with a twist.  

Susan: How did you do Amish research for SHUNNING SARAH?
Julie:  I grew up near an Amish farm on the Minnesota/Iowa border and have always been fascinated with their lifestyle. Southeastern Minnesota now has one of the fastest growing Old Amish communities in the country. I asked questions. I ate cashew crunch. And I imagined a dark side. Using an Amish murder allowed me to pit two very different cultures against each other:  flashy TV news and a reclusive Amish town.  Conflict was guaranteed and a good read thrives on conflict.

Susan: What caused you to switch from journalism to fiction? 
Julie:   Breaking news can be tough on family life, so I went from a full time investigative news job at a large market TV station to being a freelance network news producer - an exciting part-time job. As the kids got older, I started messing with a novel between news assignments. When I wrote news stories I had often thought, darn the facts....if it wasn't for the facts, boy could I tell a story. But rules are rules and in news, facts are everything.  So when I tried writing fiction, I was surprised how difficult it was. After a career of worrying about truth and accuracy in writing, making stuff up felt like cheating. So I had issues to work through before I felt free enough to write a novel. But once I did, I discovered my news background was excellent preparation for fiction. After all, I could type fast and was good at deadlines. 

Susan: What do you do to unwind and relax?
Julie: I take bubble baths with my husband and try not to feel stressed about word count.

Susan: Oh my, I do love a bubble bath. What is your biggest vice?
Julie:  Chocolate.

Susan: I hear you there, too! Chocolate may not be my biggest vice, though--there are other contenders for that title. How much is Riley Spartz like you?
Julie:  We both really care about the news business and the challenges journalism is facing these days with dwindling audiences and budgets.  If you read my books, you'll never watch news the same way again.

Susan: I can attest to that. Julie, when reading and/or writing, do you put yourself in the heroine’s role?
Julie:  When reading, never. When writing, maybe a little bit, but journalists learn to be objective in their news coverage and I think that carries over to my fiction. I incorporate some of my life experiences in my protagonist, as well as travails from some of my news friends.  But when it comes to characters, my books are works of fiction. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Susan: What is Riley’s biggest vice?
Julie:  Her quest to win the ratings often clashes with her quest to find love. I think that's part of the appeal of my novels, the discovery that landing a big news scoop doesn't assure personal happiness. 

Susan: What is something that not a lot of people know about you but you WISH more people COULD know?
Julie:  I developed a reputation of being ruthless in the world of of TV news, but in real life I am actually quite nice.

Susan: Of course you are--why, you're one of the nicest people I've ever met. What would you say is your most interesting quirk?
Julie:  I believe I am a fun conversationalist because I'm good at asking people unexpected questions about themselves. On the job, I've interviewed hundreds of people, many on the best or worst days of their lives. I think this has also helped me write dialogue because when people talk, I listen for the magic in their answers.  

Susan: What's on your desk right now?
Julie:    Cats. Two cats like to be near while I write. I wouldn't mind if all they did was nap. It's the fighting and walking across the keyboard I find distracting.

Susan’s GOTTA ASK:  What is your favorite scene in Shunning Sarah?
Julie’s GOTTA ANSWER: This is tough without divulging spoilers. If I knew the folks reading this had already read the book, I'd answer differently. My days as a journalist have taught me that just because a question is asked doesn't mean it has to be answered. As it is, I have to play coy and say I had a lot of fun writing the Amish scenes and have gotten great reaction to those.  Readers are welcome to pretend we're a book club and email me later to discuss my real answer.

Susan: So what's up next for you?
Julie:   Book six in the series is coming in 2013. The release date hasn't been set yet, and it's still untitled. I'm not being mysterious, that's just how publishing works. Now I best get back to writing it or this answer will be moot.

Connect with Julie on the web:

Contact          Website          Facebook          Goodreads

Julie has a question for you...
Can a journalist be a likeable protagonist these days?  In the post-Watergate era news hounds seemed to be the good guys, defending the public's right to know and exposing corruption in high places. I'm not sure the news profession is seen the same way anymore. Your thoughts?
(Leave an email address in the body of a comment to be entered in a drawing to win an autographed copy of Shunning Sarah.)
Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only unless specifically mentioned in the post. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address.


  1. Oh, Julie, off to buy this book now. These mean folks at Get Lost in a Story don't let us qualify for prizes. Great interview, Susan and interesting answers.

    Note. I am a news junkie and a huge fan of Linda Castillo. You also had me at James Patterson's Shunning Sarah is an even better suspense story.

  2. Hi Julie and Welcome to GLIAS. A HUGE Linda Castillo fan too. What a great thumbs up. Looking like my TBR pile's getting higher and higher !

    I'm not certain the news media is perceived the same way either...what an interesting thought!


  3. Great interview, Julie and Susan! The Q&A and the description of SHUNNING SUSAN (sounds like a must read!) really drew me in.

    To answer your question, I do believe that, despite an ever-increasing sense of cynicism in the American public, a journalist can be a very likeable protagonist. Any character who meets opposition in his/her quest for the truth can be incredibly heroic--it all depends on how that character is drawn. Riley definitely sounds like a compelling character. Can't wait to read this book!

  4. Nice interview. Yes, I think so. I've read a couple books about journalists as protagonists and they were likable.


  5. I think it's still possible. Journalists aren't as bad as lawyers yet. :)

    maybe31 at

  6. Real journalists, who expose the truth in the public's interest, are all the more heroic as they become more rare. I think Riley is heroic because she acknowledges the competition for ratings and the blurred line between journalism and entertainment, but she remains personally committed to the truth.


  7. I'm not sure what to say about the journalists. A lot of the time, I try to ignore the news. I never know what to believe anymore. Last night on our local news, there was a story about how horrible the olympic athletes look on the olympic website. Not sure why that was news worthy.

    Amy C
    campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  8. i think it could, i read one series about journalist and i've just love it

  9. sure, why can't they be a heroine/hero? it's all depends on how the story unfold and journalist is as good as any profession out there. but yeah, lately there are plenty under par journalist, and they put stain on the profession.

    smile_1773 at yahoo dot com

  10. Great interview! I am looking forward to reading the book.
    I think that too many reporters try to 'make and make up news' as in the recent Batman theater shooting.

  11. I think that we are too busy with the details of our own lives and what's going on with us personally to dig into the news. We depend on the tv news and newspapers to make sense of it for us. The newsmakers we trust interpret the politics and breaking news of the day and we believe everything we hear and read. The only time we hold the journalists in contempt is, I think, when we see reporters hounding a victim for a comment.

  12. I'm inclined to believe journalists are too quick to snag a story without proving their facts first. Then they hide behind the first amendment when they are called on the carpet to substantiate their work.

    But then, I think of good journalists like Gray Grantham as played by Denzel Washington in The Pelican and honest! A winning combination.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  13. Congratulations, Amy C! You won the signed copy of Shunning Sarah!