Monday, June 4, 2018

Life Before "Author Judy": Part I

By Judy Penz Sheluk

One of the most common questions I receive when I attend author events is "What did you do before you were an author?" And the truth is...quite a few different things, none remotely related to writing mystery novels. And yet...each one influenced me in some way. This month, I'm going to talk about my very first job, at age sixteen, as a grocery store cashier.

The store was called Sunnybrook Food Market and it was located at Midland and Lawrence in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, about a mile and a half walk from my house, and a ten minute walk from school. To say Sunnybrook Food Market—long since out of business— was a discount grocery store would be putting a gloss on it,  but they were willing to train, and they paid us every Friday without fail.

Now you might be wondering how that job impacted my writing all these years later, and the short answer is, it didn't—with one exception. There was another student there, Camilla. Once Camilla knew that I liked one of the stock boys, she made it her mission in life to date him. And she succeeded.

Fast forward a few decades to The Hanged Man's Noose and you'll meet Camilla Mortimer-Gilroy. Those of you who have read the book know that Camilla is the woman responsible for breaking up my protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, and her ex-husband, Levon Larroquette's marriage. Coincidence? I leave it for you to decide.

I left Sunnybrook a year later (not entirely my idea, if I'm being honest -- it seems they actually expected me to pay for all the chocolate bars I ate). As for Camilla, I don't know what became of her, and I don't remember the name of the stock boy, but in my fictional world, they got married at eighteen and divorced at twenty. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

What was your first job? And how has it impacted your life?


  1. Immediately after HS graduation, I started working as a motel maid. So much to learn about people while cleaning up after them. The motel manager used to line us up every morning and pick the pretty girls to clean his office and the lobby. My introduction to real life--and I can shine up a bathroom in no time.

    1. Motel maid -- that would be a job I would not like to have, and really appreciate those who do it. I assume you always tip the maids when you stay at a hotel/motel?

  2. I loved this :) What a cute excerpt from your life! And, it goes to show, you never know what will eventually work its way into your writing :)

  3. Thanks Loretta. You're right. Everything is grist for the mill.

  4. Ha! I remember an early job at Scarborough Centenary Hospital; there was a boss named Mr. Thurston. I decided then I'd kill him off in a book someday. He needed it.

    Funny, I haven't thought of him in years. I've found even more deserving people to kill off since then.

  5. Susan, it's time for Mr. T to get his comeuppance!