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An Interview with Joyce Tremel upon receiving an offer of representation.


Joyce Tremel (Mysterywright1 on QT) has signed with agent Meredith Barnes of .

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
IN SPITE OF MURDER is a humorous mystery. The protagonist is a 6 foot tall, red-haired secretary for the Spite, West Virginia Police Department named Irma Jean. I kind of think of her as a cross between Stephanie Plum and Daisy Duke. At the beginning of the book the police chief drops dead in her office, and her ex-husband is made acting chief. When they find out the chief was poisoned, the mayor orders them to keep quiet about it. Irma Jean takes it upon herself to investigate.

I was a police secretary for ten years. People kept telling me I should write a book with a police secretary protagonist. I never gave it a second thought until I ended up losing my job. Not too long after that I came up with the first line of the book.

How long have you been working on this book?
I started it three years ago, but I only dabbled with it at first. I had another book I was revising and spent most of my time on that. It's only in the last year or so that I got serious and finished it.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I'm too stubborn to give up. I was discouraged at times, but whenever I felt sorry for myself, my fellow Pittsburgh Sisters in Crime members would give me a good swift kick in the butt.
Is this your first book?
This is my third book. I had an agent for my first book which didn't sell and she dropped me. I queried the second one with limited interest. I love that one. I still hope it sees a bookshelf one of these days.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I edit as I go along, and I've done at least four rounds of revisions so far. I'm working on another one now for my agent.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
This one I wrote from the hip and it showed. I wrote myself into a corner a couple of times and it was hard to get back on track. The next book gets outlined!
How long have you been querying for this book?
I only began querying this book over the summer. I queried Meredith in June, she requested a partial, then the full, then asked me to revise and resubmit. I sent the revised version at the end of September and she offered representation (with another revision to do!) on October 13th.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent about forty queries for this book and got about twenty rejections. I had six or seven requests for partials or fulls. The rest never responded. For my first book I think I sent over 100 queries, and about 70 for my second book.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Don't give up! I've seen too many writers send out twenty queries and quit. It takes an extraordinary amount of patience and perseverance to get an agent. Have a lot of other writers critique your query before you send it. Don't just slap one together and hit send. Read every query on Janet Reid's Query Shark site. Jessica Faust also critiques queries every Wednesday. Meredith Barnes has an #askagent on her blog every week. Follow agents on Twitter--there's an #askagent on there quite often. Join groups like Sisters in Crime, Pennwriters (you don't have to live in PA), RWA, etc.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure! Here's the basic query. I'd tweak it each time I sent it out to gear it toward the individual agent. For those of you writing queries, note that the query has the same humorous tone of the book. Let the agent see your voice!

Police secretary Irma Jean Bennett’s day goes to hell when the Chief drops dead in her office. It’s bad enough that the mayor wants to keep the murder investigation quiet, but the new acting chief of the Spite Police Department (who happens to be her ex-husband) agrees with him. Since her ex isn’t exactly Einstein, she figures the only way to find the killer is to do it herself.

When her pink-Cadillac-driving mother shows up on her doorstep, Irma Jean realizes finding a killer might be an easier task than putting a halt to Mama’s matchmaking attempts. Even though Mama’s run out on husband number five, it doesn’t stop her from trying to fix her daughter up with the hunky guy renovating the downtown hotel.

Between dealing with Mama, keeping her ex at bay, fending off the hunky guy, and avoiding the mayor, Irma Jean discovers the Chief had more than a few secrets. Before she can figure out which one got him killed, her main suspect ends up dead. On top of all this, she loses her job when the mayor gets wind of her activities. Now if she doesn’t find the killer, she’ll never get her job back. Even worse—she’ll have to move in with Mama.

IN SPITE OF MURDER, a mystery, is complete at 78,000 words.

I was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers. I figured writing was a better way to keep myself out of jail. My fiction has appeared in Mysterical-e, and my non-fiction has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police magazine. I am a member of Pennwriters as well as Sisters in Crime, and a founding member of the crime writing blog, Working Stiffs.

I would be happy to send you the completed manuscript.