I’ve been asked to be the spokesperson for the WHY IS GILLIAN ROBERTS RETIRING AMANDA PEPPER CONCLAVE that is in the workings – but I refused.  I mean, after THIRTEEN books – the latest and out now – A HOLE IN JUAN – and two Emma Howe books – I think Gillian Roberts deserves this break she’s taking.  How much more could we ask from this absolutely wonderful writer?  So she wants to try something new…should we drag her through town and display her at the town square?  Stamp our feet, wave placards, cry with crocodile tears?  We could, but that would be mean spirited after all the joy she has given us – and the terrific adventures she’s let us tag along with her on… (and don’t shake your head at my poor use of grammar here – I’m speaking from the heart – so who really cares?)  Instead, let’s just wish her luck with her new book and tell her to hurry the hell up so we can all read it.

By the way – In case some of you didn’t know -Judy taught at the University of San Franciso in their MFA in Writing program for nearly a dozen years.  And…ta da…she will be resuming her fiction classes ( 8 sessions) in March at Book Passages (independent book store in Corte Madera, California) in March.  If you live nearby or in the San Francisco Bay Area, and would like to learn from one of the best – give Judy an email at:  Judygilly@aol.com

Now come and chat with us – Judy will be watching – so remember what I said – she’s earned the break, so be nice, okay?

Judy_portrait_024_large GILLIAN ROBERTS   http://www.gillianroberts.com

EESo, Judy – at what point in your day do you find it difficult to remember who you are?  I mean, you’ve got Judy (Jude on occasion), Gillian, Amanda, Emma and Billie – and heaven only knows who the hell else is lurking around.  Whew!  Did you ever see that great Joanne Woodward movie – "The Three Faces of Eve"?  Joanne only had to contend with three faces – you’ve got five!

GR,etc:  Dear heart, I don’t know quite how to say this, but…Amanda, Emma and Billie are…fictional.  That is: not real.  (Are you okay?  Did I break it to you too abruptly?)  It doesn’t seem fair to count them as ‘me’.  I have enough problems being two-faces as Gillian and Judy!

I’m okay…really.  I’m over it.  If you wanna stick with just two, that’s okay with me – but look at all the fun you’ve had being so many great dames!

EE:  Many writers I know have quotes – or inspirational reminders nearby as they work.  Do you have one?  Care to share?

GR,etc:  For many years, I had the following taped to my computer:  "Don’t Write it Right.  Write it Down."  I can’t remember whose wise saying it was, but I still love it as a way to face the terrors – and maintain my usual low standards.  (These days, I have a little golden milagro of a stack of books pasted to my compute screen.  You never know…)

Oh, will you listen to her?  Low standards?  Ha!  I should have such low standards!

EE:  What is the most important thing you tell your writing students?  Give us something we can all hang our hat on.

GR,etc:  Do it.  Don’t talk about doing it, don’t plan to do it: do it.  And then do it again.  Writing is a lifelong apprenticship – begin it now.  (But that’s two things.  Or three…)

Great advice.  No, the BEST advice.  How many of us are guilty of that before we sat down and bit the bullet?  Any of our readers care to tell us their tale of ‘I’ll-do-it-when-I-have-time-itis’?

EE:  Okay, Judy – let’s hear who you’d love to have all to yourself in a softly-lit corner of the bar next month at LCC?

GR,etc:   I promised the person I wouldn’t say.  I want to see your look of surprise when you find us in that dark corner…

Oh, you little devil, you – you’ve got Redford showing up,huh?  I know he’s your neighbor in TiburonThought I was living in a cave up here in the Northwest, huh?  Ohhh…I’m so excited!  I better rebook that facial I cancelled.  I’ll just stop by to say hello, that’s all.  I promise.  Sorta.

EE:  Rumor has it that all those trips you take to Guatemala are to finalize the decorating details for the rehab spa you’ve established for writers who can’t stay off the internet and continuously miss their deadlines.  Now, we don’t expect you to name names…but I have it on good authority that your twenty room casitas (with private bath) are booked up until 2010.


GR,etc:  Your authorities aren’t so good, cookie.  I told you when you tried to register that we’re booked until 2017!

Note:  I kidded Judy about the trips she and her husband take to Guatemala on purpose.  But here – in her words – is the real reason.  I wanted everyone to know about this wonderful and selfless act.  I should think a round of applause in in order, don’t you?

GR,etc:  Of course, in truth, it’s my husband who’s been there a kazillion times, translating for a group of volunteer doctors.  I have no skills.  I don’t mind taking credit for his good works, though.

It takes few skills, Judy – to be a giving person…and you have them in spades.

EE:  Okay, here’s a tough one for you:  What would you do if you weren’t writing?  Other than join the Peace Corps.

GR,etc:  Unable to drop the writerly habit of peeking behind (metaphorical) curtains, needing to unearth (fictional) people’s embarrassing secrets – I’d undoubtedly annoy the hell out of everybody I met until somebody had me arrested for trespassing.

Oh, I love that answer!  Between all of us writers – we could sure as hell populate the jails!

EE:  Writers like to say they lie and get paid for it.  I know I do.  So, what about you, Judy?  When do you find lying acceptable?  Okay, how’s little white lies then?

GR,etc:  My sad secret is that I have real trouble lying in real life, so I do try to avoid it.  But small evasions of unnecessary truths: ("What a beautiful baby!"  "No, you don’t look fat,"  "This is the best book I’ve ever read!" – that final one is to be said to me by kind people) – are always in season.

Ahem.  So you really didn’t mean it when you told me I didn’t look fat?   

EE:  Mysteryville is abuzz with talk that many of your English teacher fans are up in arms over Amanda Pepper taking leave.  I’m also hearing rumors that the plan a march in San Francisco next week and are heading for Tiburon.  I guess you’ll be out of town?

GR,etc:  Yup.  Casita #5, Antiqua, Guatemala.

Want company?  I could handle a few days off…

EE:  Okay, Judy – let’s get serious here.  Which living person do you most admire?  Besides me, that is.

GR,etc:  Really, really seriously?  Right now: Nancy Pelosi, for being all the things she is, has done, and represents – but also, all the voters who put her in position to be Speaker of the House.

Admirable choice.  She’s the epitome of ‘You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby’.

EETime for the Walter Mitty Dream, kiddo.  Tell us yours.

GR,etc:  I hate to be sappy but – to me, the best part about being a writer of fiction is the chance to be all different sorts of people and to live many lives.  Before I settled into writing, I thought about being a lawyer (so I’ve written/become one), a psychologist (so I’ve written/become one) and always wanted to be taller, thinner, younger, braver and smarter – so I’ve written that character, too.  And of course I’ve wanted to avenge wrongs and take revenge from time to time.  That’s the real perk of being a mystery writer, even though of all of my victims, only two were "real" people.  Poor Mr. Mitty needed a computer in which to live out his dreams and sometimes get royalty checks for them, too.

Not sappy at all.  A reason – I think – many writers would identify with…  I know I do.  And I’ve killed off a few dastardly antiques dealers I knew in real life.  And I’m not sorry either. 🙂

EE:  We all have favorite books we revisit – which book do you find you read again and again and again?

GR,etcThis is really embarrassing.  I’m sure real writers have a lodestone book, and I’ve tried and tried to think of one myself.  But aside from reference books, or re-reading classics as research while I was writing the Amanda Pepper books, I can’t think of any I intentionally re-read.  Could this be related to the fact that I’m a compulsive book-buyer with no desire to be cured, so there are close to 1,000 waiting-to-be read books in the house?

Possibly. 🙂

EE:  So now that we know Amanda is retiring – what’s up next?

GR,etc: For both of us, new adventures.  She’ll have to tell you about hers.  As for me, I’m working on a historical novel set in Colonial Mexico during the Inquisition.  I can’t seem to get away from murder, but apparently being garroted and/or burned at the stake doesn’t need ‘solving’.  So Gillian might also be taking a vacation on the Riveria or wherever she’s been while I wrote all those mysteries for her, and this might be a Judy book.  I honestly don’t know, and that’s scary.  But that’s probably what makes it an adventure.

And one we’ll all be waiting for!

My thanks to Judy for visiting with us – for willing to play with Evil E – but most of all – for being one of the truly lovely women I’ve been priviledged to know in Mysteryville.


Hope to see you next week when Bob Levinson takes the plunge.  Oh, what an interview that’s gonna be.


  1. Guyot

    Nicely done, both of you.

    I have never heard a good writer say they lie and get paid for it. The best writers try like hell to tell the truth. What’s better in fiction than truth?

    And Evil, if you look fat, then I look like a grounded dirigible.

  2. louiseure

    Hey you two! Nice to see Gillian/Jude popping up here. As Cornelia noted in the comments to yesterday’s blog: Jude is always right.

    And here’s a big unpaid advertisement for Gillian/Jude’s “Eight Weeks to Stronger Fiction” class at Book Passage. I had never written one word of fiction before I took her class. Five months later I had FORCING AMARYLLIS.

  3. Gillian Roberts

    Thank you, Paul and Louise. How modest you are, Louise–given the innate talent and smarts with which you entered class, all you needed was a little point in the right direction. (And as I learned yesterday: I’m always right!)And by the by, forgive the BSP but–I’ve written one more Amanda Pepper than lovely Elaine tallied up, and #14, All’s Well That Ends will be at a bookstore near you in precisely one week.Thanks, Elaine, for your one-of-a-kind interview style! Much fun…

  4. Elaine Flinn

    Oh, my many personality dear Judy! Mea Culpa for blowing it and getting your new book title wrong. You may flog me (gently) in your new book’s Inquisition scene as penance.

    Let’s pretend I didn’t goof: Be sure to run out and buy Judy’s new book -ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS!!!

    I’ll slink away now…

  5. Elaine Flinn

    Oh, Guyot? Thanks for saying I’m not fat. That alone demands forgiveness. I actually prefer to think of myself as Rubenesque. :)And you’re not a dirigible either…just comfy. 🙂

  6. Pari Noskin Taichert

    There are so many points in this interview, it’s difficult to comment without writing a couple of volumes.

    The first time I met Judy was at Malice. I sat next to her at a booksigning in a large basement room with dozens of authors. Everyone was lining up to have her sign. No one had heard of me.

    She managed to make every single fan feel wonderful, valued, loved — and somehow still found time to be gracious and encouraging to this new writer.

    In the three years since then, she remains one of the most lovely people I know.

    You are, too, E.

  7. Elaine Flinn

    Yes, Pari – that’s why I invited Judy to be a guest at OTB. Most readers know so little about their favorite authors – and I wanted Judy’s legions of fans to witness her great wit and discover how highly regarded she is in the mystery community – and how her classes have helped develop so many wonderful writers such as our own Louise Ure.

  8. Cara

    I’ve heard you speak many times, Judy – on panels, workshops – you name it but this interview is quite special…you shine!

    The first time I met you was in an elevator with Marilyn Wallace at a Bcon (?) in Boulder…am sure you don’t remember but I was just a fan and remember being in awe of you two as you held the door and said which floor my dear? All night long I kept telling my roomate…yes, she was so nice, they were so nice…I almost touched them…Cara

  9. Cara

    I’ve heard you speak many times, Judy – on panels, workshops – you name it but this interview is quite special…you shine!

    The first time I met you was in an elevator with Marilyn Wallace at a Bcon (?) in Boulder…am sure you don’t remember but I was just a fan and remember being in awe of you two as you held the door and said which floor my dear? All night long I kept telling my roomate…yes, she was so nice, they were so nice…I almost touched them…Cara

  10. Elaine Flinn

    How lovely, Cara. I frequently kid here and say I only know the best people -and I do! – but in Judy’s case – double that.

    And I’ll bet we’re embarrassing her with all these compliments. 🙂

    Stop blushing Judy!

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