New Release from Author James J. Cudney

Author James J. Cudney joins me today to discuss his newest release, Frozen Stiff Drink. A prolific author (and reader), James has 8 published works and over 1000 book reviews on his blog.

With so many books out there and so little time, I can say that I have enjoyed reading one of James’ books, and I certainly intend to read more.

SJJ: What genre does your newest release, Frozen Stiff Drink, fall under?

JJC: Mystery (somewhere between a cozy and an investigation)

SJJ: Is this a genre one you usually write in or are you trying something new?

JJC: I write in both the mystery and contemporary family drama genres. This is the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries.

SJJ: And Who is your target audience for this latest book in your series?

JJC: Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth novels. I’ve turned the sub-genre a bit upside down by creating a male protagonist who is a single father and by writing in the first-person perspective. Usually the cozy world is focused on women and written in third person.

SJJ: When was the release date of your latest novel?

JJC: It was released on March 18th, 2020.

SJJ: Please tell us a little about your new book.

JJC: A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead and a second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?

Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.

Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic's latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.

SJJ: I have to say this sounds intriguing.

Where does the story take place?

JJC: On a college campus in a fictional town in northcentral Pennsylvania.

SJJ: James, what inspired you to write this story?

JJC: I grew up watching daytime dramas, dreaming about college life, and reading Agatha Christie. I had to write a series that took this all into account. So… there are always cliffhangers, the plots are quite convoluted, and it’s focused on academia-related murders.

SJJ: Did you have to do any research for this story?

JJC: I had to do a little medical research to understand the effects of the weapon used to kill the victims. It was quite fun!

SJJ: I agree, it can be fun to research these sorts of things.

Was any part of this book particularly difficult to write?

JJC: Not at all. Once I had my outline, I ran with it… the only concern I had was managing 3 murders when there are normally only one or two.

SJJ: How did you come up with the title? Did you have any other working titles?

JJC: All my titles are plays on words, where Word 1 and 2 mean something and Word 2 and 3 mean something: Frozen Stiff and Stiff Drink. It’s perfect for the story.

SJJ: I like that idea!

Who designed the cover? Did you have much input in the design?

JJC: When I send the summary and the book to the publisher, I provide suggestions on which building to use on the cover (always changes in the series depending on where the murder happens), what colors to consider, and which key objects to highlight. They create a draft, I provide input, then we close on it.

SJJ: What is one of your favourite lines or quotes from the book?

JJC: “It had been a day. If I could’ve returned it for a refund or shoplifted a new one from a discount rack, I’d have been better off.”

SJJ: Is there one scene you enjoyed writing? Please tell us a little about it if you can.

JJC: Writing the murder scenes is always fun because you get to pretend a lot. I envision the anger or passion coming from the killer. I think about how the victim would react, if they are aware they’re being killed. I decide who will find the victim and how it plays into determining the murderer’s identity. It’s a lot of imagination.

SJJ: I too enjoy writing death scenes. You really do have to use a lot of imagination.

Does your book have any message or is it purely entertainment?

JJC: I think it’s purely entertainment, but ultimately, the lead character, Kellan Ayrwick, is a model citizen and thinks the way I wish others would think – kindness, tolerance, dedication, determination.

SJJ: How long did it take you to write and edit this story?

JJC: I wrote the first draft in 4 weeks. It took 4 weeks to edit in and review with a few beta readers. And it took 2 more weeks to finalize with an editor. Just under 3 months.

SJJ: Holy Cow! I need to take a lesson from you.

During editing, did you have to delete a scene you liked but because it didn’t move the book forward, it had to be removed?

JJC: Not in this one. Everything stayed, but I did have to add 3 more scenes. I had to add a few red herrings to throw some potential guilt in various places.

SJJ: Who is your favourite character? Your least favourite character?

JJC: Favorite: Kellan, of course. He’s who I wish I could be if I had no limits. And Nana D… she gets all the best lines. She says what she wants, doesn’t care what others think, and almost always, she earns the most respect from anyone.

Least Favorite: I love them all… everyone plays a part.

SJJ: Just for fun! If this book became a movie, who would you like to see play the main character and if there’s a villain, who would play that role?

JJC: Kellan is a 33-year-old athletic guy, so… it’d have to be someone sexy but smart… perhaps one of the Hemsworth brothers.

The villain… well… I can’t give that away, but the judge who dies is a recurring character. I think he’s best played by John Lithgow.

SJJ: Where can readers purchase your new book?



James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College. I’ve spent twenty years building a technology career in the retail, sports, media, and entertainment industries. I enjoyed my job, but a passion for books and stories had been missing for far too long. I’m a voracious reader in my favorite genres (thriller, suspense, contemporary, mystery, and historical fiction), as books transport me to a different world where I can immerse myself in so many fantastic cultures and places. I’m an avid genealogist who hopes to visit all the German, Scottish, Irish, and British villages my ancestors emigrated from in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind, and my body. I decided to pursue my passion by dusting off the creativity inside my head and drafting outlines for several novels. I quickly realized I was back in my element growing happier and more excited with life each day. My goal in writing is to connect with readers who want to be part of great stories and who enjoy interacting with authors. To get a strong picture of who I am, check out my author website or my blog. It’s full of humor and eccentricity, sharing connections with everyone I follow—all in the hope of building a network of friends across the world.

When I completed the first book, Watching Glass Shatter, I knew I’d stumbled upon my passion again, suddenly dreaming up characters, plots, and settings all day long. I chose my second novel, Father Figure, through a poll on my blog where I let everyone vote for their favorite plot and character summaries. It is with my third book, Academic Curveball, the first in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, where I immersed myself in a college campus full of so much activity, I could hardly stop thinking about new murder scenes or character relationships to finish writing the current story. I can’t believe I’ve finished writing the sixth book in this series. Come join in the fun…

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