Interview with author Julie Strier and Review of her novelette, “The Woman in the Woods”.
“The Woman in the Woods” is offered FREE when you sign up for Julie Strier’s Newsletter at http://www.JulieStrier.com
Reviewer: Serena Soape
The Woman in the Woods is a short novelette about a long-distance hiker who takes an immobilizing fall and has to rely on the kindness of a begrudging old woman living deep within the woods. She seems harmless enough, but he quickly learns that looks can be deceiving. Be careful who you trust.
Julie Strier has written a page turning novelette with “The Woman in the Woods”.
It was thrilling and haunting yet mysterious.
I was curious to learn more about this woman in the woods as she had a creepy sense right from the beginning.
This is exclusive to her newsletter subscribers so be sure to sign up so that you can read it.
I received a copy of this story from the author in exchange for fair and honest review.
The Woman in the Woods Excerpt
I turned and placed my hand on the knob, but before I opened it, I knew what was behind the door. I could smell it – that savory aroma of sweet peppery spiced I had never smelled before today. Without hesitation, I threw the door open. Before me stood a mountain of dried meats, the shelves full of jerky. Jerky stood upright in open mason jars, some large jagged chunks, others think little sticks, organized by thickness and size. The shelves filled half the closet. The other half was a drying rack. Rib meat hung from a rod, seasoned and drying until it was ready to be processed. Whatever animal she caught wasn’t too big, the rib cage was about the size of my own. A small deer, maybe? Or a young bear?
While my brain rattled off the possibilities, my hand shot forward and grabbed a stick of jerky and before I knew it, that sweet, savory flavor filled my mouth again. My stomach rumbled, and I moaned, the taste unlike anything I had eaten before. When Connie found me, I was still too out of it to appreciate the complexities of the meat. I gobbled down half a stick of jerky, my hand reaching for another piece when I heard a loud thump behind me. I jumped, spilling a container of jerky onto the shelf, and turned to find the source of the noise. Connie stood at the threshold of the kitchen, her fist upon the counter. She lifted her hand up and slammed her fist back down, rattling the cabinets above. The bowl I had been using for peels jumped off the counter and fell to the floor with a clang, peels spilling everywhere.
“I told you not to touch anything. I turn my back for one minute and I find you stealing food. After all, I’ve done for you.” Her face fell.
“It’s not what it looks like.” The jerky bobbed in my mouth.
Her mouth twisted into a scowl and she glared at me.
“I was looking for the trash,” I continued, feeling like I owed her an explanation, “the bowl was full, and I was looking for the trash so I could empty it and keep working.”
“Which is how you ended up in the meat pantry eating my jerky?” A strange, faint tap accompanied her words. I looked down to find an ax hanging from her hand, the flat part of the blade thumping softly against her work boots. “That’s my food, my supplies to get me through the winter. You hikers are all the same, taking things that aren’t yours. I told you not to touch anything. I told you not to make a mess.”
Julie Strier Interview
Q: What first sparked your interest in writing your first book?
A: I’ve always been interested in writing books. I’m one of those writers who grew up always wanting to be a writer. But then, life, and work, and being an adult got in the way. Eventually, despite wanting desperately to be a writer, I was doing everything but writing. On the rare occasion I did write, I couldn’t finish anything. Every project I tried, I abandoned.
Then, in my late 30’s, my daughter came along. I adored everything about being pregnant, morning sickness aside, but with the highs come the lows. After my daughter was born I left with some pretty heavy postpartum depression. On the outside I may have looked okay, but inside I was falling apart. I felt like I was losing my identity. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Then a curious thing started happening. My sleep schedule was torn apart, held hostage by the demands of a newborn and soon, I found myself awake morning after morning at 5 am, when the rest of the house slept. For two glorious hours, sometimes longer, it was just me and a delicious cup of hot coffee.
At first, I used that time to knit and watch youtube videos. That quickly got old and after a week I decided to try to use the time to write. I had always wanted to write, and there I was with a little spare time, so why not?
Initially, I didn’t know what to write. I just played with voices in my head, or explored thoughts that sounded interesting. Then I found an old slush folder on my hard drive, full of pieces and starts and stops.
I came across a few hundred words, a rough sketch of an idea I had picked up from a writing podcast. In one episode, they mentioned a writing website called WriteOrDie.com. It’s basically one big textbox that you type into, except if you stop typing for long enough, it erases your work. It’s supposed to help motivate writers to write.
But my writer brain wondered what if it were real — what if there were a website where you could contract to do something, like write a story or finish some big project, and if you didn’t do it in a certain amount of time, a hitman would come and kill you.
Something about that old piece spoke to me, and I decided to pick it up again. So, in those quiet early morning hours, I went to work on that idea, fleshing it out. The premise changed quite a bit, but somewhere along the way the piece grew legs and I started wondering if I could turn it into a book. (And I did! This later went on to become Dangerous Contracts 1.)
Every morning I got up early and wrote. I just put one word in front of the other until it was done. Once it was finished, I realized that writing a novel didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would – it only took a few months to write the first draft (editing is another matter). Instantly, I had the bug to write more. But more importantly, I started to feel like myself again. Writing saved me.
Q: You now have 4 works for us to read:
1. One is with The Crimson Falls Novellas, called “Returned Home”, Did you enjoy writing this?
A: Very much so. Crimson Falls was a collaborative project set in a shared world created by seven other mystery, thriller, and suspense writers. While our novellas are our own works, there are many aspects in each story that were influenced by the other authors.
I really enjoyed the constraints of the project. While most people think that constraints can affect creativity, I found the opposite to be true — there was so much possibility within the limitations. As soon as we started talking about the project in our group, a story came to mind and I knew what I wanted to write. I knew what the big twist in the story would be right away — that came to mind almost immediately. I also think Returned Home is some of my finest writing to date.
2. Two are the Dangerous Contract Series! What is your favorite part of this? Will there be a #3?
A: I really like the action and fast-paced nature of book 1. In book 2, I enjoyed playing with dual point of views (POVs), flipping between the main character, Thomas Butcher, and his wife, Sonia. I really like multiple POVs in books that I read, and it was a lot of fun writing from two different perspectives. I also think having multiple POVs gives the reader greater insight into the Create or Die universe as a whole, and Thomas and Sonia’s marriage and life together.
Dangerous Contracts was designed as a duology, so as of right now I don’t foresee adding a third book to it, but you never know. There is a little bit of wiggle room in how it ends for me to open the world back up if I wanted. But as of right now, I’m eager to explore other worlds.
3. Now, this novelette! What a cool idea! Can people leave reviews anywhere?
A: Thanks! The Woman in the Woods was my first attempt at writing psychological horror. I’ve been exploring different aspects of my work, and this genre is one I’ve always loved. I remember adoring stories like The Lottery, or Lord of the Flies, or The Yellow Wallpaper when I had to read them in school, so I decided to try my hand at the genre. The Woman in the Woods is a result of that exploration, and I really like how it turned out.
It’s short, clocking in under just 10,000 words, which makes it a quick read, but I’ve been told the story lingers in your head long after you’re done. Readers can leave reviews for The Woman in the Woods on Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51098048-the-woman-in-the-woods
Q: Is there any truth to your stories?
A: Yes, tucked away in characters and themes. For example, in Dangerous Contracts, a large part of Thomas and Sonia’s relationship mirrors my marriage. There’s a scene early on in book one where Sonia kisses Thomas’ bald spot on the back of his head. I do the same thing to my husband.
Also, a large part of both Dangerous Contracts books is about parents losing their children. For my day job, I’ve worked for the same couple for 17 years, and when I was pregnant, they found out their youngest died while traveling abroad. He passed away from a pulmonary embolism at 19 years old. In a way, I think Dangerous Contracts helped me process some of my feelings about Dale and what his family was going through.
Q: Do you have a favorite character? Why?
A: I like Lilith in Returned Home, because she’s tough. In real life I’m a big softie, but inside there’s this hidden tough rocker-chick side of me. Mostly she exists in my head, and sometimes in my clothing choices.
I also like Bradley Barnes in The Woman in the Woods. Even though it’s a short piece, you learn a lot about him and get a real sense of who he is. I also have a bit of wanderlust, and while I wouldn’t necessarily go long distance thru-hiking like he does, I understand the feeling and longing to wander, to get off the grid and get lost somewhere remote from time to time.
Q: How long did it take you to write this Novelette?
A: The first draft? Not long. A few weeks? Maybe a month? But I’m starting to find that the process takes longer than that to finish a story. The first draft is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m a lean writer, so once a piece is written I go back in and add depth and detail through various editing passes. Taking editing into consideration, overall it took me maybe four months until The Woman In The Woods was at a place where I felt happy with it.
Q: When did you realize you were a novelist?
A: Not until Returned Home came out. There was something about the joy of having three books published and out into the world that filled me with a sense of pride. All the hard work, the hours, and years, and early mornings I spent at the keyboard, took physical form. It made me realize that I wanted to keep writing, and more importantly, that I could, if I just kept at it.
Q: With this being your third release, do you think you will always explore suspense, thrillers and horrors?
A: I think there will always be some aspect of my work that has suspense, thriller, and horror elements, though I don’t know if I will always stay true to those genres. There are a lot of stories I still want to explore. Some of the stories in my head have a science fiction bent, or a romance leaning, or something else entirely. The genre I write in is dictated by the larger story I’m trying to tell.
Q: When do you typically write? Where do you write? Set this up for us…
A: I still write first thing in the morning when the house is quiet, though I no longer get up at 5 am. I get up around 6, which gives me about an hour of writing time before I have to get ready for work. My office is next to my daughter’s room, so I listen to the swoosh of her sound machine (we keep it on ocean sounds) while I write. A cup of coffee steams next to me as I work. I keep the lights in my office low, so I’m still kind of in that sleepy in between state of not quiet being conscious. And then I get to work on my computer. While I love the *idea* of handwriting drafts, the reality is I’m much faster on a keyboard.
Q: May I ask who your favorite authors are? Books?
A: I love almost anything written by Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Poppy Z. Brite, and Stephen King. I’m also a big fan of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigro, and The Box Man by Kōbō Abe. Really, I’m a fan of strange, interesting stories.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a published author?
A: I enjoy interacting with my fans and hearing about what they enjoyed about the crazy worlds I’ve created. It’s always interesting to see the deeper meaning that people find in my work.
And of course, I enjoy just getting my stories out there in general. It’s fun to get these characters and stories out of my head and into the real world where they can have other lives. It’s also the only way I’ve found to get them to shut up. 😉
Q: Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
A: These days, most of my hobbies include chasing toddler around and keeping her from climbing the world. But I’m also an avid knitter, and can be found with my knitting needles in hand most days. I’m also really into houseplants and fishkeeping, two hobbies I recently got into in 2019.
Q: Do you have another book on the horizon? If you do, would you like to tell us a little bit about it?
A: I have two different stories in the works right now – one is a suspense-thriller that follows a serial killer and his descent into madness. The other is a futuristic sci-fi thriller that makes social commentary on how eager we are to call out people on social media, circumventing our due process in the United States. They’re both still in raw form, but I’m hoping one or both will develop into my next full length novel.
Lastly, Do you prefer Print Book or eBook?? Audible?
A: Both print and ebook are fine with me. I can’t do audio books. At least, not for fiction. There’s something about how my head works where I need to see the words on the page with fiction. I need to take in the world by reading about it, instead of having someone read it to me. Nonfiction is another matter though. I can easily listen to audiobooks if they are nonfiction. I think part of this also has to do with *where* I consume audio. Typically, I listen when I’m driving, and since I have to focus on the road, I can’t get into fiction like I’d like. Instead, I listen to a lot of podcasts and nonfiction so that I can learn during my commute.
Here’s where people can find Julie:
The Woman in the Woods – Is a newsletter exclusive. Readers can get a copy for signing up for my newsletter at http://www.JulieStrier.com.
The Woman in the Woods on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51098048-the-woman-in-the-woods