Julia Buckley has always loved Gothic romance tales. When her agent suggested she write a Gothic-inspired cozy, the Chicago mystery writer dove right in. Death in Dark Blue is the second book in The Writer’s Apprentice series and here’s the story behind the mystery.
Buckley started out as a fan of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, loved well-plotted mysteries like Sue Grafton’s alphabet series and the old Ross MacDonald novels. Her favorites were written by Joan Hess and Dorothy Cannell. She said, “It was around that time that I started writing. It took years for me to really understand my own style, and one of my most authentic writing voices is the cozy one.”
An early start for Julia Buckley
As a child, Buckley was encouraged to read often. Her father helped establish a library in their home town and served on the library board. “My siblings and I would walk there once a week and come home with a giant bag of books, which we would plow through as though we were eating candy. Books were our entertainment, and my one regret about the Internet age, for my children and my students, is that they never had a chance to live in that time when there were fewer distractions, and books were perhaps a more obvious choice in times of leisure.”
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The first book in The Writer’s Apprentice series was A Dark and Stormy Murder. The second book resolves a cliffhanger ending from the first. Buckley said she was excited to continue the story she’d begun. “To explain the final mystery I needed hundreds of pages—and a whole new book. So I was eager to get back to Blue Lake, where my characters were now facing a frigid winter, to find a way to resolve things.
“One theme that arises is the importance of a responsible press—there are both good and bad journalists in the story. Another is the necessity of imagination in order to solve mysteries, which is why mystery writers and librarians are the most important crime-solvers in the book.”
Where is Blue Lake?
Some readers have contacted Buckley to tell her they love Blue Lake. “A couple even asked where it was, because they wanted to visit,” Buckley said. “Though Blue Lake is an imaginary place, readers recognize it because it has many of the qualities of small towns they’ve seen before. I love going there, too, which is why I enjoy writing this series. More and more the town is taking shape in my mind; I would love to work with a mapmaker to lay it all out.”
By day, Buckley is an English teacher. She said she believes some of her students are aware of her writing through word of mouth. “I don’t talk about my writing in class since it is never pertinent to our syllabus. Generally I assume that my books wouldn’t interest them because they don’t fall into YA classification, although many of the young people I teach read and enjoy books outside the young adult genre.
“Once in a while a student will ask me about my books or my writing in class, but I tend to see these as diversionary tactics, as in ‘We are tired of talking about Macbeth; let’s flatter Mrs. Buckley by letting her talk about herself.’ So I try not to be lured into those conversations.”
Buckley also teaches a creative writing elective. She said, “Many of those students are generally interested in the publishing process, so I will spend more time answering their questions and, if asked, share examples from my own experience.
“I am also the moderator of a writing club, made up of terrific and creative young people who love to play with words. We have weekly meetings, and last week one of the officers said, as part of her announcements, ‘Oh, and a shout out to Mrs. Buckley, who has a new book coming out in May. Great job, Mrs. Buckley!’ I thought it was very sweet of her to acknowledge me as a fellow creative writer.”
Learn more about Julia Buckley at juliabuckley.com.