We interviewed Jay in our November 2019 Issue #8, the Whodunnit issue. It was a perfect fit. Enjoy!
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. My second novel is Father Figure, a contemporary drama about two young women’s journeys on a college campus filled with secrets and tragedy. My third, fourth, and fifth novels are a new mystery series focusing on Braxton Campus. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com and you can buy the books via Amazon.
Hi Jay! I discovered your blog on Goodreads several years ago, and I’ve been a fan since. I am amazed at your energy. Have you always been so focused? Tell us what your secret is!
Yes, I must be honest. I usually multi-task and think ahead by days, weeks, and months. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of everything I should do as an author and a reader, even things like ‘Re-design website for Christmas.’ It comes from being a project manager for 15+ years in the corporate and technology worlds. I am super-organized, and I apply those skills to everything I do. That said, I promise, I can be lazy. If I need a day off, I take a day off. To me, it’s important to be efficient—not like an automaton, which truthfully would scare the pants off me… but like a person with goals in mind. I need to know what is due every day for the next week, so I can best prioritize my time. I know I’m most productive in the mornings, and I can’t leave timely reading until right before bed. Some days, I just can’t read while in bed, so I’ll carve out time when my day is done and before I need to cook dinner and/or go out to meet friends. It’s about balance and learning how to take advantage of small windows of time to get more done, without feeling overwhelmed by a lengthy to-do list. Now that I re-read what I’ve just said, maybe I am leaning too heavily in the automaton department. Oops!
I read that you are an avid genealogist and have discovered about three-thousand family members going back 250 years. Wow! Can you tell us what your most treasured or favorite discovery was?
Yes, I love history and discovering my roots. I keep everything on Ancestry, so you can easily find me by my name. One of the discoveries has to do with my great-grandfather who had two different birth dates, names, and families. By the time we’d dug into the story, connected with the other branch, and pieced it together, we learned that Daniel Miick had become Daniel Reynolds around 1920 because he was in debt, running from loan sharks, and thought his wife was a prostitute. He abandoned their three children and married my great-grandmother, then had six more kids. Given this was over a century ago, I can understand how it happened… but why didn’t someone put him in prison at some point? I supposed it’s a good thing that didn’t happen, as I might not be alive to tell you this story.
You cook, too!? Where do you live (ha, just kidding). What’s your favorite dish?
Come by any time you’d like. I live in the Arctic Circle. It takes a while to get here, but it’ll be worth it. Just kidding (about the location)… I’m in Manhattan near the East River in Midtown. I see the United Nations building every day when I take Baxter for his morning walk. He prefers uptown in the evenings, so we avoid the UN. I’ve had a lot of favorites over the years, but since returning from Italy last year, I insist on cooking cacio e pepe at least once a month. It’s a basic pasta dish with large spaghetti-like noodles, two kinds of cheese, pepper, and butter. Nothing else… but it’s difficult to balance the texture, flavor, and pasta cook time because it all varies depending on the amount of people you’re serving and whether you try to do it all at once or in stages. Add a tasty side salad or bowl of well-seasoned Brussel sprouts, and I’m in heaven. Bacon too. The veges must have bacon to give them the proper taste. Major rule!
Looking to your books, I see that most of them are cozy mysteries. Was this a plan, or did you find yourself naturally leaning towards this genre?
Definitely not a plan. I wrote my first book three years ago. I’d read several family dramas about secrets and siblings, then mapped out my own outline. My debut was Watching Glass Shatter, an emotional tale about a widow and her five adult sons. It’s definitely not cozy, and neither was my second, Father Figure. That has some difficult topics in it, and I daresay it’s not for every type of reader. When I thought about my third book, I knew it had to become a series in order to gain more fans and followers. Close to 50% of the things I read and watch (Murder She Wrote, Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple) are cozies, so I went with it… and now I’m working on the 6th one. In 2020, there will be a sequel for Watching Glass Shatters and two other books, one of which will also not be a cozy mystery.
Tell us a little bit about the Braxton Campus Mysteries series.
Kellan Ayrwick the protagonist. Early thirties. Quirky but cute. Smart but sarcastic. Single father. Worked in Hollywood but returned to Pennsylvania to teach at a local college. He can’t help finding dead bodies. Usually the four main women in his life bring about all sorts of havoc: (1) 75-year-old Nana D, his wise-cracking mayor grandmother, (2) Dr. Myriam Castle, an acerbic ruthless woman who’s also his boss, (3) Emma, his 7-year-old daughter who’s already turning into Nana D, and (4) Sheriff April Montague who started out wanting to put him in prison every time they spoke to wanting to spend some quality time with him… I’ll leave it at that! Each book is about family, and there are dozens of side stories to cover 100+ characters to date. While the main mystery in each novel is completely stand-alone, the changes in the supporting cast pretty much direct you to read them in order, or you might learn something you weren’t meant to learn until a later book.
My goal was to turn the cozy world upside down. I keep the 3 main rules: (1) no sexual content, (2) no violence / murder happens off-page, and (3) no foul language. Can you imagine how hard it is for a 30ish guy (Kellan) to behave but also seem realistic? I constantly have to edit him down to fit in the boundaries, but he always shines through… when pressed, I admit he’s based 50% on me, but there are a lot of differences. Let’s see who can point them out! LOL
I see that Frozen Stiff Drink, book #6 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries is due out in 2020. Can you give us a synopsis?
Yes! I am 50% done with the first draft, and I should finish it by December 1st for my alpha reader to rip it apart. The goal is to finish it in January for a few beta readers who will polish it up, then it will publish sometime in March 2020.
A winter blizzard unlike any other descends upon Wharton County. Everyone’s so busy preparing for the four towns to shut down that they don’t realize Nana D has gone missing until it’s too late. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed psychic never could’ve prepared him for this level of massive damages. Once a dead body turns up beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must turn to April to face his worst fear of all. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother? Meanwhile, 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. April wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward with an unremitting vengeance. Between helping Kellan locate Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of a prominent Braxton citizen, April’s world explodes with more turmoil than she can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about Madam Zenya’s latest premonition—the suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.
Thank you so muchd for your time, Jay. I realize that your schedule is super busy. We appreciate all that you do for other authors, too, in your reviews and blog.
Thank you! With the intro you gave me in this article, I should be cooking you dinner for a month! I truly appreciate you giving me this opportunity to shine. I wish you tons of success with your goals and future. I think you’ve got a tremendous start already (and that’s all before we even began working on this interview and feature).
Connect with Jay here
Websites & Blog:
Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney
Social Media Links
Braxton Campus Mysteries
Academic Curveball – #1 (October 2018)
Broken Heart Attack – #2 (November 2018)
Flower Power Trip – #3 (March 2019)
Mistaken Identity Crisis – #4 (June 2019)
Haunted House Ghost – #5 (October 2019)