Friday, July 19, 2013

Guest Post: Author Joyce T. Strand

Mystery author Joyce T. Strand, much like her fictional character, Jillian Hillcrest, served as head of corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder. Rather, she focused on publicizing her companies and their products. Joyce received her Ph.D. from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA She currently lives in Southern California with her two cats, a collection of cow statuary and art, and her muse, the roadrunner.

How/why did you start to write?

Before I started to write, I read. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. My family did not have a television.  However, what we did have in my town was a library, and I traveled there frequently on my green, one-gear Schwinn bicycle. In my favorite mystery genre, I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. By the time I reached high school, I was reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and John Steinbeck. 

Certainly it’s not always the case that an avid reader becomes a writer, but throughout school and college I chose essay questions over multiple choice; and writing papers over taking exams. I wrote my way through college and graduate school. I consider my doctoral dissertation to be my first book.

Then I chose a career in public relations. During my 25-yr span as a Silicon Valley public/investor relations executive, I wrote hundreds of press releases; dozens of by-lined articles; lots and lots of background papers, SEC documents, scripts etc. Unfortunately, my career ended somewhat prematurely when I was laid off in 2008.

Now what? “Why don’t you write a book,” says my husband who I’m sure was tired of me moping around not finding a job after a year of looking.

And that’s how I started to write fiction.

How did you become an author?

Well, first I wrote a book about a somewhat idealized but flawed Silicon Valley PR executive who through no fault of her own gets drawn into solving a couple of murders. I drew the crime from a real California case, although the book is certainly fictionalized. Then, I edited the book. And I had several others edit it. And some more people looked at it and said, “You should always have your book edited by a professional editor.” So I hired a professional editor. And, by the time Draft 5 rolled around, I started to think of myself as an author.

Little did I know. I wasn’t even half way there! I hired a cover designer; a proofer; a formatter; and distributor. I started a Facebook fan page; web page; a couple of blogs; and I learned about tweeting.

Now, am I an author?  Whew. We’re still just getting started. How do you sell books? There’s Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and there’s e-books and paperbacks and hard cover. And how do you choose?

As of today, I have published two books in the Jillian Hillcrest series both as e-books and paperbacks; the third one has just started its journey through the editing process. I have a blog with more than 21,000 hits. I have almost 4,000 Twitter followers; and almost 1000 LIKES on the Jillian Hillcrest fan page. Does that mean I’m an author?

What was your first published piece?

I published my first fictional novel ON MESSAGE in December 2011.

I truly cannot remember my first published article, which I ghost wrote for a high-tech magazine. It would have been in the 1980s. I also published my doctoral dissertation in 1977. 

Where was it published?

I publish under my own publishing company: McCloughan and Schmeltz. In the U.S., the e-book version of ON MESSAGE was published in multiple e-books including Kindle and Nook. The paperback version is available through Amazon.

How long ago?

ON MESSAGE was published in December 2011; OPEN MEETINGS was published in July 2012.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I was a public/investor relations director for more than 25 years at several Silicon Valley high-tech and biotech companies. Unlike Jillian, however, I never encountered a murder nor did I get to help solve one. My career was definitely an asset to my writing, as 60% of my work involved writing marketing and investor documents. Although fiction is absolutely different than marketing writing, the writing discipline is similar.

What inspires you?

Without sounding too maudlin, my family and friends truly invigorate me. Then there are sunsets; pounding ocean surf; a great glass of red wine; an awesome musical (Wicked, Les Mis, Man of La Mancha); a hawk in flight; oh – and a good book!

Of course, a good review does a lot to make me want to continue writing, just as a bad review shouts failure.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

Through the many tools and offerings of the WLC founded by Melissa Foster, I have come to truly appreciate the benefits of supporting other authors.  By using the WLC cross-tweeting facility and featuring interviews or articles by participating authors I have grown my blog from fewer than 2,000 hits to more than 20,000 in six months. My goal is to gain at least 300 page views for each featured author, which I typically achieve within a week of tweeting. This brings viewers to my blog, raising my visibility along with my books whose covers, of course, are displayed on my blog.

Parting words

To all readers: please write reviews of books that you like. They are so important to helping us promote our books.

To all authors: support your fellow authors. You will be supporting yourself.


Jillian Hillcrest returns as a PR Executive to join with a local Silicon Valley reporter who is uneasy about the supposed DUI death of an informant. He solicits Jillian’s help along with that of her neighbor, a retired police officer, to look into events in his hometown north of the Napa/Sonoma wine country. Jillian’s ex-husband grows more and more certain he wants to re-marry her.  OPEN MEETINGS was inspired by a network of criminal ex- and current police officers in the broader San Francisco Bay Area.


Murder intrudes on PR Executive Jillian Hillcrest's routine as head communications executive at a small Silicon Valley biotechnology company. She is eagerly staying on message to inform investors, the media and the community about her company and its products. When someone near to her is murdered, a determined San Francisco police inspector involves her in the investigation, convinced she is key to solving the crime. She co-operates fully only to find that solving a murder is more hazardous than writing press releases. On Message is the first in the Jillian Hillcrest mystery series. As with all the novels in this series, it was inspired by a real California case.


Twitter: @JoyceTStrand
Purchase sites –
On Message