Guest Post and Contest with JULIET BLACKWELL!

Hello my lovelies! Today we have a special treat–a guest blog by the lovely Juliet Blackwell! I’ve been so lucky to get to know Juliet, and I absolutely adore her books. Her latest, Hexes and Hemlines, came out this week. There’s information about that book in this post, and there’ll be information on how to enter a contest to win one of Juliet’s books after she’s done talking. 😉

But first of all, let’s have Juliet’s very awesome bio. She’s done so much and she’s definitely one of my heroes.

Nationally bestselling author Juliet Blackwell writes the Witchcraft Mystery series (Secondhand Spirits, 2009; A Cast-off Coven, 2010; Hexes and Hemlines, June 2011; Obsidian). If Walls Could Talk launched the Haunted Home Renovation series in 2010; Dead Bolt, the second in the series, comes out in December. As one-half of the sister duo dubbed Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Art Lover’s Mystery Series–including Agatha-nominated Feint of Art and the most recent, Arsenic and Old Paint (September; Perseverance Press). A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France, and is now a painter in Oakland, California. She served two terms as president of NorCal Sisters in Crime.

Contact her through her website,, and join her on Twitter @JulietBlackwell and on Facebook!


Misunderstandings and Magic: Why Bring the Paranormal into the Mystery Genre

It’s such a pleasure to be asked to write for the blog of a good friend…and Nicole’s the best! Do we have conference tales to tell…;-) Thanks for having me, Nicole!

I’ve been asked many times: why muck up the mystery genre by adding the supernatural? Why bring witches and ghosts into a classic mystery story?

(Besides the obvious, of course, which is that paranormal themes are cool, and fun, and interesting. And you get to hang around extraordinary people like Nicole Peeler…)

But as a writer, the very best thing about bringing the world of the “paranormal” into the mystery genre is that it opens up a whole new world of mysterious possibilities in fiction.

It couldn’t have come at a better time: The advent of modern technology has killed off a huge chunk of old plot stand-bys.

Cell phones are a particular bane. Consider the free-floating angst that motivates so many storylines, all those misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with a simple phone call: In Casablanca, what if Ilsa had just been able to call Rick and explain why she didn’t meet him at the train station? Or in An Affair to Remember, if Deborah Kerr’s character texted Cary Grant from her handy Blackberry to tell him she’d been hit by a taxi?

In a mystery novel, let’s face it: anyone investigating a murder these days would probably make sure they had their cell phone with them, and that it was charged. How often can you manage to get your protagonist stuck somewhere without the possibility of calling for rescue, or back-up, or a simple clarification? There are only so many dead zones.

And don’t even get me started on the internet…what happens to all those wonderful scenes where characters used to need to track down reclusive experts or ancient libraries to dig up arcane information? Now so much of that info is available with a few clicks of a mouse…and unfortunately, to paraphrase author David Sedaris, “tapping at a keyboard is not an inherently dramatic activity.”

It’s boring. And boring has no place in genre fiction.

A little magic throws a fabulous monkey-wrench into the banality of modern life. The cell phone doesn’t work because…um, yeah, it throws off a witch’s vibrations, so she won’t use one. That’s the ticket! Besides that, maybe someone cast a spell to bend time, and there are a few ghosts and maybe a demon or two lurking, and they sure as heck don’t adhere to conventions of modern physics. And there’s only so much information available on Google when it comes to things like that.

Suddenly, a person finds herself with a plot.

Often in novels that feature so-called “amateur detectives”, one doubts motive: normal people don’t often get involved in murder investigations, and if they do, they work with the police, and/or wisely halt their snooping as soon as they’re threatened/ shot at/beat up. But bring magic into the mix…and suddenly there’s a crime that the all-too-normal-human police can’t figure out, and maybe a hex or two left on doorsteps, and what’s a witch to do but step in and take care of matters?

In my latest Witchcraft Mystery, Hexes and Hemlines, natural witch Lily Ivory steps into a murder investigation that has the police stumped: the leader of a local rationalist society is murdered amidst symbols of bad luck: a black cat, a broken mirror, on the thirteenth floor. As someone with special paranormal talents, Lily is in a unique position to help suss out whether the man’s death had anything to do with tempting the fates. And when the main suspect turns out to be someone Lily knows, and a friend is threatened by an evil practitioner, and an aging Satan worshipper enters the mix…a witch might be compelled to use magic to find the murderer before everyone’s luck runs out.

Lily may not have a cell phone, but she’s got a direct line to ancient powers. In fiction, as in life, that’s a lot more interesting.

How great is this post? As an urban fantasy writer, I’ve thought a lot about what bringing the supernatural into “our” world does for writers, but I’ve never thought of it from the “genred”-perspective of the mystery writer. It’s so true about how much technology has mucked up the author’s job, and I love Juliet not only for applying this to the paranormal-trend in today’s fiction, but also that she effortlessly quotes Sedaris’s “Nutcracker,” one of my all time favorite essays.

So Juliet rocks, her books rock, and I hope that this post not only made her fans smile but also made some new readers want to pick up her books. To facilitate this call to Juliet, I will hold a contest to win any one of Juliet’s books, including the new one, Hexes and Hemlines. The winner chooses!

To enter, please comment below with one thing you like about adding paranormal elements to fiction! I’ll choose a wiener at random next Friday, June 17th. I know you’ll love Juliet’s books as much as I do!

Posted by Nicole Peeler

Author, Professor, Lover, Fighter

25 thoughts on “Guest Post and Contest with JULIET BLACKWELL!”

  1. I do not expect to win, seeing as I was just picked for the Hounded book (that does not mean I don't want to win. yeah I'm greedy/realistic like that.) but, I think that Ms. Blackwell makes some valid points. I was actually surprised that this was a debate in the literally world.

    That being said, I think the best thing about combining two seemingly different categories is the element of surprise. I had a professor in college that use to say, "The most interesting thing is pairing things that are not similar together and watching how well they can weld together." — I always thought that was so profound on so many levels. And likewise I think it applies to these two genres. KEEP PAIRING THE DIFFERENT ladies.

  2. Hi Juliet,

    Supes and Paras aren't that new in mysteries. Writer's have been adding a little magic to their stories for over 20 years. It makes things more interesting when a reader has to work a bit harder to find the killer before the hero or heroine does now. At my age, anything that makes the brain cells function is a good thing.

  3. My favorite thing is the opening of minds and ideas. What better way to make people think about the idea of a witch living next door then to make that witch such a "normal" character as Lily? It gives you all kinds of mystical curve balls too! A witch REALLY cannot drown? Wax museums are scary? Wow!! I love it all!

  4. I like the blending of paranormal into mysteries especially if the are Cozies. for me it can make it more fun in trying to figure who done it. There are now different ways to add twists and turns. It can also bring different funny scenes into play.

  5. I am constantly amazed by the variety and scope of imagination writers produce. Paranormal elements really allow that imagination free reign, and I love it!

  6. Hey Nicole, Julie THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE CONTEST!!!!!! I LOVE paranormal/supernatural/fantasy and especially if there are fantasy elements in real life situations. I think I love it because it gives so many more plot twists and just generally makes the story more exiting. Plus the fact that you can make so many paranormal characters and different rules for your story. Pure Awesome. Can't wait to read Julie's books! xox Zakiya

  7. oh and please don't include this as part of the contest, but I didn't mean to call Juliet Julie, it's just that I have a friend called Juliet and I call her Julie. Sorry!

  8. OMG! I totally love Juliet's books too!! I love having the paranormal mixed with the normal. It's one of my fave things about UF too! I liked the feeling of being grounded in reality yet still having the paranormal aspects to make the story extraordinary!

    Soooo can't wait for Hexes and Hemlines!!

  9. I loved the first two in the series and know I will dig on the third one. The premise and locale is just so awesome. Lily's familiar is so ornery and funny….I also want to shop at Aunt Cora's Closet.

  10. And I guess I should actually answer the question….adding paranormal to the mystery adds some spice. Communicating with ghosts like E J Copperman and Casey Daniels have their characters do. Lily being a natural witch adds a conduit for her to utilize as well as being her way of life.

  11. I think adding paranormal to a good mystery just adds layers of interest~you will find yourself getting "deeper" into the story=)

    Thanks for such a fantastic giveaway!

  12. I love it when a paranormal element is added to fiction as it makes the story more interesting and can give it more ways to grow. It is sometimes neat and sometimes frustrating depending on the usage as different worlds have different rules for their paranormal elements.

  13. I love supernatural elements in mystery stories… as long as they are not "sprung" on the reader near the end of a story, a deux-ex-machina kind of way. If the author can maintain consistency in the laws/physics/rules of his or her world, anything goes.

  14. Hi, Juliet. I like the paranormal elements in mystery because it makes it more difficult for me to predict how a character will work him or herself out of a bad situation. To use a television example, I loved in Buffy when Willow "read" all the baddie magic books by literally absorbing the text into her body. Cool visual and much more interesting than various scenes of her researching 101 different ways to avenge your lover.

    Also, if Nicole-love her stories-recommends you then I think I'ma have to add some files to the Nook. It's a trial, but we all have our burdens to bear.

  15. Paranormal elements make a story unpredictable. It throws the unknown into a story line and makes the danger more pronounced. The impossible suddenly seems possible and its a rush to the readers senses. Well, to mine anyhow. Thanks for entering me in your giveaway.

  16. Yay, I have heard amazing things about this book!

    I am truly in love with any type of Fae element in a paranormal book. They are so diverse & can change so much!

  17. Okay so I DO have these on my TBR list and now it looks like this is going to the top now!

    One thing I like about paranormal elements, Hmm …well I love the unpredictability of it all. It's the otherness from the paranormal elements that brings in the 'anything can happen' that draws me in.

  18. I like the idea of a girl next store who is secretly a witch. I love when there is some paranormal within a story set in my world. You never know what a stranger at a grocery store really is. 😉


    kjovus at gmail dot com

  19. Paranormal adds spice. I hope I am the "wiener" chosen at random. Freud would be proud.

  20. I'm guessing since the post ask for my email I don't have to post it here. I think paranormal elements in other novels open the appeal to more readers. I'm more likely to pick up a book with paranormal elements than I am one without.

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