Stacy Juba, a Blackstone wife and mother of two young daughters and former Milford Daily News reporter, has dug into her past to create fictional alter egos in her mystery novels.
Stacy Juba is living a double life.
Actually, several of them.
The Blackstone wife and mother of two young daughters has dug into her past to create fictional alter egos in her mystery novels.
In a case of art imitating life, the former reporter, physical therapist and Reiki healer has been reborn as the feisty heroine in "Twenty-Five Years Ago Today."
A former reporter for the Milford Daily News, Juba published in October 2009 her most recent novel, an engaging and well-researched tale of a long-unsolved murder that threatens to create more victims.
Her literary doppelganger, newsroom newcomer Kris Langley, is an idealistic and stubborn obituary writer hooked on sleeping pills who turns a routine assignment into a dangerous hunt for the killer of a young cocktail waitress.
Just as Juba did as an editorial assistant in Milford, Langley starts digging into the waitress's murder while researching items for a "Twenty-Five Years Ago Today" feature in her fictional paper, The Fremont Daily News.
And like her whodunnit, clues to Juba's passion for writing mysteries can be found in her own past.
Relaxing in her home study where an Edgar Allan Poe figure sits by her computer, she recalled, "I've been writing my whole life."
"I grew up reading Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew stories. In the fifth grade, my teacher encouraged me to start a series about a detective named Cathy Summers. I published my first novel, 'Face Off,' about ice hockey when I was a senior in high school," she said.
Juba attributed her longtime interest in mystery novels with strong female characters to a teenage fascination with the television character Kris Munroe on "Charlie's Angels" which was played by actress Cheryl Ladd.
"This girl-next-door had it all. She was gorgeous, smart, fun and could overpower any scumbag who crossed her path," she wrote in a blog posted on her Web site, www.stacyjuba.com. "Someday I pledged that I would be a detective just like her."
For the 36-year-old Bellingham native, reporting on everyday life around Milford from 1995 to 2000 provided the on-the-job training to write her first mystery novel.
An award-winning reporter, Juba fleshes out with observant detail the newsroom politics and small-town atmosphere where secrets fester but don't go away.
The aging editor-in-chief is a cranky news hound from another era. The high octane managing editor is a study in blonde ambition. The police reporter is a cocky know-it-all.
Juba packs well-rounded characters, accurate police procedures, a plot that moves briskly along and takes several unpredictable turns and the predictably unpredictable red herrings that keep readers guessing.
"As a reporter, I had to learn to write tight and rewrite. I had to express complex information in a way readers could understand. In the newspaper, I used lots of quotes in my stories. That gave me a feel for how real people talk. I'm familiar with police logs and police procedures and what goes on in the police station," she said.
To make her novel realistic, Juba went to a firing range to learn to shoot a pistol like her heroine and interviewed Lt. Jim Haughey, a retired Bellingham police officer, to learn about cracking unsolved cases. "I wasn't that good a shot," she admitted.
Under contract with Mainly Murder Press, she expects to publish in December her second mystery suspense novel, "Sink or Swim," about Cassidy Novak, a contestant in a reality show who discovers a stalker has been knocking off other participants and now has his eyes on her.
And reflecting her interest in alternative medicine, Juba is now writing the first novel of a mystery series built around character Deirdre Sheridan, a psychic healer who owns a "quirky New Age shop."
While in manuscript form, her novel "Sign of the Messenger" received a cash award as a recipient of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant.
After leaving the paper, she devoted herself to fiction writing and later married sportswriter Mark Juba who is now a teacher at Blackstone-Millville Regional High School.
Now raising her 2- and 7-year-old daughters, she "steals time for writing" by scribbling in a notebook while watching them at the playground or tapping away on her laptop on family outings.
From starting her novel to publication, Juba spent nine years on "Twenty-Five Years Ago Today," a sometimes discouraging start-and-stop process that involved rewriting three separate manuscripts, working with an agent and then finding a publisher on her own.
Looking back, she believes the best advice she received was to make her protagonist Kris Langley "edgier" so readers would find her more interesting.
So Juba gave her young sleuth insomnia, an addiction to sleeping pills and her own dark secret that figures in the final untangling of the plot.
By attending workshops and taking online courses on mystery writing, she's learned to prepare more detailed plot outlines "so I know where all the roads are going to lead."
MetroWest Daily News