Thursday, March 13, 2008


Acme Authors Link is proud to Welcome Julie Hyzy, President of Midwest Mystery Writers of America, to our blog.

Julie Hyzy’s newest series debuted in January with State of the Onion featuring Olivia (Ollie) Paras, a White House chef who feeds the First Family and saves the world in her spare time. The second book in the series, Hail to the Chef is scheduled for release in January, 2009. Julie’s written two books in her other series featuring Chicago news researcher and amateur sleuth Alex St. James, Deadly Blessings and Deadly Interest (which won the 2007 Lovey award for best traditional mystery). “Strictly Business,” a short story in the Bleak House anthology, These Guns For Hire, won a 2007 Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. In addition, Julie collaborated with her writing partner, Michael A. Black on Dead Ringer (Five Star – coming November, 2008) where Alex St. James works with Mike’s private eye, Ron Shade, to uncover a shocking mystery.

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My name is Julie Hyzy and I am a synesthete.
Huh? you ask. What’s that?

Do you see days of the week in particular colors? What about letters of the alphabet? Months of the year?

Maybe you’re a synesthete, too.

For me January is red. Has been since I was a kid. Monday is red, too. February is yellow, Tuesday is blue.

Have I confused you? Or are you nodding slowly, saying, “Yeah, I get that”?

Some months ago, I briefly wrote about my “condition” on my blog ( but the colorful concept is so fascinating that I decided to bring a taste of it to Acme Authors Link.

Simply put, synesthesia is a combining of the senses. For example, some people may see lavender when they taste chicken, others see bright blue when a song is played in a particular key, still others sense days of the week in particular shapes.

Is this a brain misfire? Or an opportunity for extra creativity? I like to think it’s the latter. Heck, I’m a writer. Anything that makes me feel more creative is a good thing!

Researchers believe about 1 in 2,000 people experiences this phenomenon, but I have to tell you, until recently I only knew one other synesthete—my youngest daughter (it runs in families). We both just thought we were weird (as did the rest of our family when we argued over the color of Friday) until last summer when her high school marching band performed a selection of Michael Torke’s compositions. Our band director, who chose Torke’s works: Green, Ash, and Bright Blue, explained that when Torke composed these, he *saw* these colors. The band director went on to describe Torke’s uniqueness, and my daughter and I were thrilled to realize there was a name for our weirdness. Since then, we’ve picked up Patricia Duffy’s excellent book, Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens. Perfect title except, in my world, the word “kittens” is pink ;-)

What does any of this have to do with writing? Other than the fact that Vladimir Nabokov was a famous synesthete, I like to think that this combining of senses means that I have fewer obstacles between my brain synapses. And I’m convinced I’m a better speller because of synesthesia. To me, words are hard, soft, sharp, dull, or misshapen. Hard to explain, but when I come across a typo, it “clacks” in my mouth even before I realize—cognitively—that it’s misspelled.

Altogether, pretty strange, I know. But I love it.

All this is done by instinct. I don’t really think about it, and I probably wouldn’t have given my oddity much thought with regard to writing, had I not discovered that synesthesia exists in others. Now I’m curious.
Since I’ve only recently realized there is so much information available about this condition, I’m determined to learn more. Just this week, I came across a wonderful site: Synesthesia. If you’re interested, or if you understand me when I insist “December” must be black, I suggest you take a look.

Thanks for letting me blog!
Come visit my website

Best always,

Author of STATE OF THE ONION, (Berkley Prime Crime, January, 2008) - White House Chef Ollie Paras feeds the First Family ... and saves the world in her spare time.


Anonymous said...

This is pretty interesting stuff. I think it says a lot about you as a person (having met you) and the way you dress and present yourself. Not sure I can explain how I came to that conclusion, but maybe it makes sense to you.

There is a book out there, fiction, that the main character is this...can't spell that word...and I wish I could remember the title, but I thought it kinda neat then, but now, knowing you, it is way cool.

See, this is what I learned today!

Karen Syed

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Interesting, Julie. No, I have never heard the term before, and had not thought about colors associated with days and months. Guess that means I'm not one! I do believe colors help heal, and have a couple of books on the different healing properites of varying colors.

I worked as a psychotherapist for a few years, and used color to help folks learn how to identify the reaction certain feelings had on their body and where they felt the color. Powerful stuff, colors!

Sean Chercover said...

Julie! I never knew. That is so cool about you. Wish I could see what you see...

Oh, and huge congrats on the success of State Of The Onion!

Karen - the book is called THE FALLEN, by T. Jefferson Parker. The protagonist (a police detective) has synesthesia. Great book.

Morgan Mandel said...

Julie - Thanks for your colorful blog today.
Morgan Mandel

Picks By Pat said...

Wow, that's pretty interesting! It reminds me of something I read in my early twenties, from a famous NY chef who said that food must not only taste good, but look good, because sight (the appearance of bright colors such as green broccoli) enhanced the smell and taste of food...a mingling of the senses, so to speak.
May explain why your food descriptions are so vivid!
Has anyone ever done a study to see if the greatest chefs have this ability?

Margay said...

What a great article! Until now, I thought that I was alone in this and just passed it off as a weird quirk of mine. It's nice to know that others have it, too, and that there's a term for it - synesthesia. It even sounds pretty. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Neil Plakcy said...

What a fascinating concept, Julie. I hope it's a trait you'll give to a character sometime!

Molly MacRae said...

Another good book with a synesthetic protagonist is the YA novel A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass. 13-year-old Mia has a secret. She thinks she must be crazy because every letter, number, and sound has a color. Of course we already know she isn't crazy - she's cool like Julie!

Thanks for sharing that, Julie. Synesthesia is one of those brain things that are so incredibly fascinating.

Norm Cowie said...

I see red when I eat chicken wings ... oh, wait, that's from the Tabasco sauce.


Julie Hyzy said...

Thanks for all the comments and reassurance that I'm not too wacky! It's good to have friends like all of you!

And I've learned a few things - I'm definitely going to pick up THE FALLEN!

Thanks, everybody!


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