Today “Sylvia Says” takes a virtual trip to London, UK, to catch up with solicitor (lawyer) and author Maria Savva.
SM: Maria, welcome to Sylvia Says. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today, and although I’m on a “virtual” visit here in London I still remember the time I spent in this wonderful place many moons ago. London is one of my favourite cities!
MS: Thank you very much for inviting me, Sylvia. I love London too. It’s changed a lot over the years, but it still has something special.
SM: Maria, reading through your website I noticed novels in a number of different genres. Would you say it’s fair to call you a multi-genre author? And if so, what is the reason as to why you decided to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre?
MS: Yes, I think it’s fair to say I’m a multi-genre author. It’s probably because I’ve never purposefully written a novel to fit into any particular genre. A lot of my fiction is inspired by or based on true events, so the genre will depend on what the subject matter is, I suppose. You’ll find elements of romance, thriller, comedy, and even horror/paranormal in my writing. I suppose it’s a reflection of life. Nothing is ever only one genre in real life, is it? My writing seems to have become darker over the years, but I think that’s more to do with getting older and having more of an understanding of the world around me, and let’s face it, the news is never very good these days. I find that I use writing as a kind of therapy, so I often tackle dark subjects as a way of digging deeper into my own feelings and as a way of trying to make sense of what people do and why.
SM: I agree with you there. I also find writing cathartic; it helps me cope with all the negativity and darkness of this world.
In your bio I discovered you were a prolific reader as a child, just like me, and that you pretty much read most genres, or at least went through different genre phases. By the way, I noticed you read most of the good old Mills & Boon (now Harlequin) romances. I confess I must’ve gone through most of their collection when I was a young teen while at the same time becoming hooked on Nancy Drew and Three Investigator mysteries. But like you, I grew up with books, and each of them became a friend to me. What was it that got you reading at such an early age (and I see you were an advanced reading pupil at school)?
MS: Yes, I read all those Mills and Boon romances as a teenager, but soon after I started reading paranormal/horror. Then I got hooked on chick-lit for a while and then I got into self-help books, fantasy fiction, and magical realism. My writing is probably a mixture of all those things!
I was able to read before I started school, and one of my earliest memories is reading a book to another child on what I think was one of my first days at school. My brother started school a couple of years before me and I used to copy everything he did, so I probably learned to read because he was learning to read. I was a very quiet child, shy, and self-conscious with a vivid imagination. I found an escape in books. I thought books were magical, and loved to read one after the other.
SM: So when did you start seriously thinking of writing a novel, and what inspired you to write it?
MS: I always enjoyed creative writing at school. I used to enter a lot of short story competitions in my twenties, so writing was something I enjoyed from a young age. I found myself out of work in 1997, and decided to write a novel as a challenge to myself. I’d just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It’s a short book and quite simply written, yet it has a great message and it inspired me to try to think of a story of my own that could perhaps change people’s lives.
At the time, I thought writing a novel was one of those impossible things and if I wrote one I would have achieved a dream. I actually found writing “Coincidences” quite easy. However, it was my first novel, and it was more about telling the story; I wasn’t paying too much attention to how I was writing it and how the reader would interpret it. It’s not an example of great literature, but it kick-started everything for me. My style of writing has developed a lot since then, and I’m learning more about writing every day.
It’s an ongoing process, as you probably know. These days, I try to be creative with the subject matter and the words I use, painstakingly searching for the exact word in each sentence (which is why it takes me years to edit my books!). “Coincidences” was what started it all, and after I wrote that I caught the writing bug and haven’t been able to stop writing.
SM: Oh, yes! I can relate to all the editing. I sometimes find myself doing more edits years later. Crazy, I know. But back to you, out of all the novels you’ve written to date, which would you say is your favourite and why?
MS: My most recent books are usually my favourites because my writing evolves with each book and story I write, so I feel that the latest book is usually more of an accurate reflection of where I’m at in my writing life.
My favourites at the moment are probably “Haunted” and “The Spider”, and the sequel to “The Spider” (which is not yet released).
Readers have told me “Haunted” is a story that stays with them. With that novel, I hopefully achieved what I wanted to achieve - to get people thinking. I had a message I wanted to convey with that book. It’s about the consequences of our actions, and living with the repercussions of one moment of anger, and not only the way our actions can alter our own lives, but the lives of many other people.
The main character in “The Spider”, Rex, is quite interesting, and I felt his story wasn’t quite over, which is why I was inspired to write a sequel.
SM: Having come from a very busy corporate career myself, I know how difficult it is to juggle work, family/friend commitments, and writing. Many people believe writing a novel is not that difficult; you just write the chapters and off you go. But authors know the painstaking work that goes into properly constructing an engaging plotline, giving life and depth to the characters, writing between five to ten drafts of the novel before we even begin to proofread properly and edit (and this happens before we engage the services of a proofreader/editor)! I know you can relate to all of this, but I simply want readers to know this is a true labour of love rather than writing to make money. So firstly, how did you manage your time to work at what obviously is a busy and stressful job and at the same time write?
MS: I’ve often wondered how I manage to concentrate long enough to put stories together, but then whenever I stop to think about it, I believe that the chaos is part of what creates inspiration and the stories that flow from that. I find that I am always being inspired by things that happen in my everyday life, so this helps when I put pen to paper and start writing a story. I find the actual writing of the stories relatively easy. It’s the editing/rewriting process that is hardest and takes the most time, and which can be quite frustrating. I agree with you, writing is hard work, you have to love doing it or you will end up giving up.
SM: Very true! And secondly, unless one hits the jackpot and gets discovered in what I call a “black swan event” and makes millions in royalties, what would your advice be to aspiring authors out there in regard to the reality of writing?
MS: Writing is a lonely business and it often means you spend a lot of time alone in a room. You really need to find people who will support you. I was lucky enough to connect online with a great community of independent authors (including you, Sylvia!) many years ago, and that has made all the difference.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I won’t tell you to do something else instead, but you shouldn’t go into it thinking you will make money. Writing has lots of other benefits. For example, I find it therapeutic.
SM: Yes. I have to say that writing is extremely therapeutic and, although a lonely business, most of the time I find I enjoy being in the company of all the characters inside my head. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think all creatives are just a little bit crazy; otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing what we call a “labour of love”.
But I ramble... Maria, before we close off, is there anything else you would like to add, including what is the next writing project for you?
MS: I’d like to mention a few of my favourite independent authors who write fantastic books, which I’ve read and enjoyed. Whenever anyone is asked to name a favourite author, they usually mention someone famous. I’ve even seen other independent writers do that in interviews. Of course we all have famous authors who are our favourites, but let’s face it, they don’t need the publicity. Most of my favourite writers these days are independent authors and they don’t get any promotion. So here are a few I would recommend: J. Michael Radcliffe, Darcia Helle, Maria Haskins, Neil Schiller, Julie Elizabeth Powell, Jason McIntyre.
There is a whole world of undiscovered books out there, and I would ask every person reading this to try a book by one of those authors because you never know, they could end up being one of your favourites too.
As mentioned, my next writing project is the sequel to “The Spider”. It’s called “Evil Never Dies”. I’m working on the final edits now and hope to release it soon. The release has been delayed due to my busy work life this year, but hopefully it will be out next year. I’m looking forward to sharing it. I also have a collection of short stories that is almost ready to be published.
SM: Thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today, Maria. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I wish you all the best with your upcoming release! I hope next time we meet, I can physically get to lovely London in person.
MS: That would be wonderful! I’d also love to visit Australia one day!
SM: I’ll hold you to that and what’s more I’ll take you sightseeing!
For more information on Maria Savva and where you can check out her books please click HERE.
CA: For the past 16 or so years, I have been a newspaper reporter. I have always covered our local school districts and lately, my focus has been on doing features. Of course, I will write as many A&E (arts & entertainment) stories as my editors will let me. LOL. Since I did the “cops and courts” beat for 12-plus years it’s nice to chip away at and redeem the black parts of my soul. For some extra money, and I do mean a little bit, I also cover high school football and basketball games. In my spare time – and when the motivation hits me – I write op-eds* and reviews about various comic book projects and the related media on my Cary’s Comics Craze blog. So basically, I feel like I write, or should be writing, all the time. And that can be a double-edged sword.
[*Note by SM: meaning of “op-ed” – jargon speak for a newspaper page opposite the editorial page, devoted to personal comments, feature articles, etc.]
I grew up in the beautiful state of Virginia in a VERY small town called The Plains. I earned my B.A. in English with minors in secondary education and music at James Madison University. My plan was to be a band director and/or a high school English teacher. Life took some detours and here I am, where my late mother said I should have been as a back-up plan – working in journalism. Since September, I have returned to singing in the church choir and playing handbells, which has been great for my soul. I live in a lovely little city called Norwalk, Ohio, and it’s a wonderful place to call home.
SM: Life always seems to throw us detours, Cary, and here’s another one for you: I know of many reporters/journalists who have turned to writing books; so what was it that made you turn to novel writing?
CA: It really started with my writers group, which meets once a month. We read our works in progress to each other and get wonderfully constructive feedback.
I hadn’t done any fiction writing in years, so I started out just reading some of my nerdy blog posts. Having been a long-time mystery reader, I realized I always wanted to create my own P.I. or investigator. But it had to be original, not a knock-off of another character.
SM: And this brings us to Colt Maverick. What inspired you to invent this character? Tell us a bit about Colt. What is he all about?
CA: As I said, I wanted my character to be as original as possible. That’s tough when you’re writing mysteries. The name Colt Maverick came to me literally, when I was going to bed. It speaks to his somewhat rebellious nature and the name spoke to me, so suddenly I was ready to go! As an aside, many of my friends and readers say they absolutely love the name Colt Maverick. So if nothing else, I gave him a memorable first and last name.
I couldn’t just have Colt be a P.I., so I made him a retired pro football player who had been a Marine sniper. Colt is a bit full of himself; some of my readers have called him arrogant. Really, all this happened in just what was going to be an experimental scene, but I ended up loving this guy. He’s fun to write, and you just never know what he’s going to do or even say. But, as a P.I., he’s always going to end up pursuing justice for everyone involved. That’s why I started the hashtag on social media of #WhatWillColtDo or #WWCD for short.
SM: Well, he certainly sounds like an original character with an impressive background. Now, you released Colt’s debut novel not so long ago, so what’s coming up next for him?
CA: I have been working on a follow-up story for not quite a year. There have been several stops, starts and do-overs. The writing hasn’t been nearly as “easy” as the original. It’s been tough going and honestly, Colt and I are just off a couple-month “break.” But I’ve found something I can stick my teeth into – and it gets Colt into a mess at the same time. That’s where he shines. Colt is investigating a security breach related to the murder of an attorney. What’s been fun is bringing back supporting characters from my first novel. That’s challenging at the same time because, as my writers group told me early in this draft, I can’t assume everyone read the first book.
SM: Well, I can relate to that with my Mia Ferrari series. I believe there is a fine balance between not telling too much about the characters, but enough so that if a reader comes in at say, novel number three, they can still relate to the main protagonist and to the regular characters. This is not easy to do.
The same goes for continuity. Recently, I read the third book in a mystery series (written by a well known author) and a character this author had appearing in novel one ended up with a totally different name in novel three. This put me off as a reader, and it isn’t the first time I’ve come across inconsistencies in the novels of bestselling authors. If I may be so bold as to suggest a method I use for consistency: I keep a file of white cards for each character, which come out of the file every time I start a new novel—this way I’m reminded of the little things that I may no longer remember from two novels ago.
CA: That’s a great idea. I may steal that tip from you. Continuity is tough; I can’t imagine what you face with your Mia Ferrari books. I actually have a Colt Maverick sourcebook of sorts. I started a notebook devoted to the world of my novel, which details everything from who is related to whom to what they drink. It’s been helpful.
SM: That’s a great idea, Cary. I think all authors have their own methods so they can remember and ins and outs of their characters. I could go on about this topic as it would be interesting to see what other authors out there do to remember all the details when they’re giving life to their characters, but now we’re running out of time; therefore, before we conclude I have a couple of quick questions: 1. Do you have a release date for the next Colt Maverick novel? 2. Is there anything you’d like to tell potential readers out there?
CA: No release date on the sequel. Or even a tentative completion date. Not even close! I really am taking it slowly, mainly due to finding time with my work as a professional writer, but most importantly, so I can do it well. Lately I have taken to writing during my lunch break. SO many people who have read my novel have an immediate question when they see me: How is the next one coming? It’s incredibly exciting to know people want to read more about Colt, and honestly see my debut novel as the first in a series. Guess I must have done something right! Hahahaha.
To any potential readers, it’s a blessing that you support authors, especially independent ones like Sylvia and me. Also, once you do read someone’s book, please post a review or send the author an email and/or direct message on social media and let him or her know what you think. Give us shoutouts! Constructive feedback is very helpful. Personally, there’s also nothing better than knowing you enjoy what I wrote. I have taken to heart the constructive criticism on my first book; that’s only going to help push me to make the next one even better.
SM: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today. I really enjoyed learning about Colt Maverick and I look forward to reading about his adventures.
Cary, I wish you all the best with the Colt novels, and please make sure you cut me into the deal when those film options come knocking at your door. Did I tell you I’m really good with continuity? LOL.
CA: Good try, Sylvia! Hahahahaha. It has been a pleasure to be on Sylvia Says; thank you!
For more information on Cary Ashby and where you can purchase Colt Maverick’s first mystery please CLICK here.
Yes! The man from NYC is back for more on Sylvia Says. This is a first for me, hosting a great author twice on my blog. So read on, and I hope you enjoy the interview.
SM: Steven, it's great to have you back on my blog and ready to tell readers about your latest release The Ishi Affair.
SJG: It's great to be back, Sylvia. I'm thrilled to be the only author you've hosted twice on the blog.
SM: What can I say? It's that charm of yours... And the fact I love guys from NYC (blushing). But let's get you talking about your latest novel. This is book 5 of your David Grossman series. Does the new book tell a continuing story?
SJG: Each of the five novels in my David Grossman Series is an independent story. But the books do share a main protagonist, hence the series. For sure, readers who enjoy all the books will appreciate the larger arc of David’s colorful life. The first three novels--Grand View, Forty Years Later, and The Deadline— are told in the first person, so they share the intimate tone of a single narrator. Grossman’s Castle and The Ishi Affair are told in the third-person, so various characters share center-stage with David—though his brash and comic voice is sometimes loudest.
SM: So what compelled you to write this latest novel?
SJG: I’ve always had a deep fear and loathing of bullies. When I was still quite young, I learned that my mother’s family—and other Jews of the Ukraine—had suffered the casual taunts of Jew-haters and, even more, the murderous pogroms that often exterminated entire Jewish villages. My father’s boyhood was spent in Nazi Germany. Most of his extended family was able to leave before Kristallnacht. The ones who stayed behind were killed.
When I was 17, I first learned about Ishi and how his tribe, along with many other Native American tribes, were hunted down and murdered by whites for fun and profit—and that these heinous actions were often sponsored by government fiat. I learned early on that genocide was the most loathsome human expression imaginable. I knew, at 17, I would write about Ishi.
SM: Genocide is indeed one of the most loathsome human expressions imaginable. Nowadays I'd have to say I put it right up there with terrorist acts. But back to Ishi--Was there a real "Ishi" or an ancient person who you based Ishi on?
SJG: Yes, in fact Ishi is quite famous, and the last five years of his life (1911–1916) are well documented. I did quite a bit of research to learn about the Yahi, whose Stone Age customs, traditions, and technology were still being practiced in the early 20th century.
SM: What made you mesh the Stone Age era component into the modern-day story you wrote? And why did you decide on the Stone Age era in the first place?
SJG: I loved the idea that Ishi was born into a Stone Age culture while much of the rest of our nation was becoming highly industrialized. A couple days after Ishi was “discovered,” he was transported by railroad to bustling San Francisco, where he saw large sailing ships and even an airplane. This image has always fascinated me, and I knew early on that I would not write a Clan of the Cave Bear-type story. You see, I wasn’t as interested in the Old Ways of the Yahi as I was in the clash of cultures, Stone Age and Modern.
SM: How does Ishi become a catalyst for David Grossman to face certain issues in his modern life?
SJG: Human nature, for better or worse, seems to be a constant. For thousands of years, going back to the Stone Age, people have labored, fought, loved … much as they do today. Conversely, modern humans—for all their advanced knowledge and technology—are capable of expressing the most primitive, savage impulses.
SM: Oh yes. I have to agree with you there, my friend. Since mankind has walked erect, breaking away from the apes, nothing much has changed by way of their nature.
SJG: And insofar as both are human, David Grossman and Ishi are not so different in terms of their basic needs. By comparing Stone Age and Modern characters, we see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
SM: An excellent point. As for The Ishi Affair, although a work of fiction, how much did you draw from true historical facts to write this story?
SJG: Almost everything I wrote about the historical Ishi is based on well-known research. I altered only one or two minor details to accommodate the needs of my narrative. Readers should remember that we are not that far removed from Ishi’s time. Interesting note: the esteemed sci-fi writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, who is still alive and well, is the daughter of early 20th-century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and his second wife, Theodora Kroeber, both of whom play roles in my novel. And, just for the record: Le Guin’s middle initial K stands for Kroeber.
SM: This sounds like a fascinating story indeed. And before we go, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
SJG: I first learned about Ishi when I was 17 and working on an archaeological dig in northern California. That summer, after the dig, I began to write a novel about Ishi and the Yahi. Even then I knew I would combine the story of the Stone Age tribe into a contemporary tale. But I lacked maturity. I needed an adult voice to tell this story. It took me 46 years to get it right.
SM: Thank you, Steven, for doing this interview. Without your agreeing to be my guest today I would never have learned about Ishi and his ancestry. The Ishi Affair is definitely on my reading list now.
SJG: Thank you, Sylvia, for hosting me on your blog post; and the next one (and it's on my bucket list) is to do a face to face interview with you in the land Down Under.
SM: Dear Steven... I'll hold you to that! Bye for now.
NOTE TO READERS: Dear readers, please note that being an Aussie I use Australian spelling in my blog posts, but I don't alter the spelling of the guest's responses, which in this case are written in American spelling. Thank you and until next time!
THE STRANGER - A novel inspired by my muse, Ziggy Stardust: For more details on where to obtain a copy click HERE.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF DAVID BOWIE
8 JAN 1947 - 10 JAN 2016
PROLOGUE TO BLOG POST: In the late hours of Sunday, 10 January, 2016 (New York time) a star that had been shining bright for so long dimmed rapidly and then became a "Blackstar". The star's name was David Bowie. Not only did this star bring wonderful music to our planet, but he changed the life of many people, myself included.
David Bowie inspired me through life and will go on inspiring me through death; my only regret is I never got the chance to finish my latest novel in time for him to read--which was all arranged. When I rang his management company just before Christmas I was told my book would be put directly in his hands. I was over the moon. David Bowie, my hero, was going to read my novel, the one I dedicated to him as my muse Ziggy Stardust.
Rewind back a few months now to when I started writing this novel, The Stranger, and read my comment below, which I shared with friends once I heard of David's passing:
"During the last few months I've been feeling a sense of urgency about him. Like I had to hurry and finish my novel and get it to him before something happened. When the news came today I was spooked but not shocked. I'd been expecting this sad moment for some time now. Even so, it's so awful."
I will miss you, David, but you will still continue to be my muse for this and future novels. When I heard the sad news yesterday afternoon (Sydney time) I lit a candle for you and played "Heroes" really loudly. I chose to celebrate your life. You no longer suffer. You will never die in the hearts and minds of the millions who love you. You are now young and healthy again (and hopefully giving a fantastic concert in heaven).
You are BOWIE-- immortal because of us who will always remember you. You will never be forgotten.
For me, David Bowie "just is" and always will be. You really are my "Hero" and I hope you'll be waiting for me when my time comes--standing by the wall.
MY ORIGINAL BLOG POST BELOW FROM A FEW MONTHS PRIOR TO HIS PASSING:
Is it possible to spend the best part of your life with someone whom you haven't met? I'm living proof of it; so read on.
I can’t quite remember the exact year when my life with David Bowie began; but it was sometime around 37 years ago--and he never left me.
Creatives are very sensitive people who usually go around with hundreds, if not thousands, of characters, plot lines and/or song lyrics in their heads. We live and breathe this energy we call creativity; and we’re at our best when we are, as we authors call it, “in the zone”.
So why am I writing about David Bowie now? Well, as mentioned earlier, David Bowie--in one of his best known personas, Ziggy Stardust--somehow made his way into my mind, heart and soul back in the late 70s—and since then I was toast. Ziggy took over and commanded my life (sometimes much to the horror of my parents), but that's another story. In any case, I got into guitar playing and song writing to feel closer to Ziggy and explore the musical side in me. I was already a writer from the age of 12 or so; therefore, it wasn’t a problem for me to write songs. I even had my own band when I was 16 and we performed in a few places.
Then, in my early 20s, I did the “Europe” thing most Aussies like to do. By this time, I was intoxicated with Ziggy; and as soon as I arrived in London I had my hair cut and dyed bright orange, a-la-Ziggy. I went hunting for a Ziggy T-shirt in Soho along with black lipstick and nail polish, and I was reborn.
My desire to meet this man, Ziggy (or I should say David Bowie) was so great I couldn’t eat or breathe without thinking of him. In fact, I was in raptures when I drove past the Hammersmith Odeon where Ziggy Stardust performed his last concert in 1973.
By the time I got into the whole Ziggy thing (around 1976); Ziggy Stardust had unfortunately been killed off by his fans (probably along with the Spiders from Mars) and another character was born—Aladdin Sane—although I’d like to think of him as “a lad insane”--like me (although I'm a girl). Creatives can be whimsical; have many personas in which they reinvent themselves; up one minute, down the next; moody; on top of the world and planning their suicides in the space of 5 minutes, and the list goes on.
Back to Ziggy--he was no more after 1973, but this didn’t stop his spirit from influencing and inspiring me to this day. By the way, when I was in Torquay in 1985 I could have sworn I came face to face with the man himself. I was rushing up the road and this guy comes out of a shop. The shock was so great I stood rooted to the spot. Meanwhile, he walked on... Damn! Talk about those “what if” moments. To this day, I still don’t know if that was David Bowie; and I will never be able to find out unless I meet the man and ask him where he was in June, 1985.
In 1983, Bowie toured Australia with the Serious Moonlight Tour and I saw him in Sydney. I was right up the front of the crowd but couldn’t get to him. Damn, yet again! And the worst part is that I recently found out David Bowie lived in Sydney for a number of years (between 1982 - 1992), and only a few streets away from where I used to live. Aaarrggghhhhh!!!! Is fate cruel or what? If I’d known this back then, I would have tracked him down and had a long talk with him about life, the universe and everything. Yes, I really feel I’m in his head space at times and whatever he says through his lyrics or at interviews resonates with me so much that it sometimes gets spooky.
After Bowie released the Let's Dance album, I kind of quashed down my zeal for Ziggy (and David) as reality set in (you know; working, paying bills, marrying the wrong man, etc); but he (Ziggy) never left me. As I said at the beginning of this blog post, authors and other creatives live with many characters/words/lyrics in their heads. So when I recently started to look for a plot line for my 7th novel, guess who screamed the loudest to get out of my head and become my muse? Yep. You guessed it. It was Ziggy. To think he had been inside my head all this time, waiting for the right moment to make an appearance. It was like greeting an old friend--someone I missed for a long time; someone who totally understood me; someone on the same wavelength.
So now I find myself writing an apocalyptic sci-fi novel entitled “The Stranger” and my muse is, of course, Ziggy. I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi, but in Ziggy’s case I made an exception as nothing short of sci-fi can encapsulate his personality and immense charisma (this applies to all of Bowie's personas).
I am dedicating the novel to Ziggy Stardust; and when the book is released I will be sending a copy to the man who has had such an impact on my life. Ziggy may be no more, but David Bowie is alive and well. Besides, Ziggy will never die for me as long as I’m around.
For more details on where to obtain a copy click HERE.
Author Nancy Lynn Jarvis decided to step out of plotting murder for a while and to dabble into what drives all authors (besides coffee, that is): FOOD! Yes, creativity must be fed and not only with murder mystery plots. So Nancy did the next best thing, she brought together 128 mystery authors (including yours truly) and everyone contributed a recipe toward Nancy's new book "Cozy Food".
As a foodie, I couldn't resist but invite Nancy for an interview regarding her latest culinary creation put together with contributions from some hungry murder-and-mayhem-plotting authors.
So, here we go ...
SM: I was really impressed with your idea to publish a cookbook with recipes from 128 mystery authors. How did this idea come about?
NLJ: My Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries fall under the category of cozy mysteries, but their book covers and titles are a bit harsh for the category. I was looking for graphics I might use for the next book with a softer feel and happened on the cover graphic for Cozy Food. I absolutely fell in love with it and thought if ever there was a perfect graphic for a cozy cookbook, I was looking at it. So that’s what first got me thinking about a cookbook.
SM: Tell us how you compiled the book. I mean, is it in sections such as starters, mains and desserts? Are there any graphics in it?
NLJ: The cookbook is in sections, each introduced by a cozy mystery writer graphic. The categories cover everything from starters to desserts and all meals from breakfast thru dinner with a Quick, Easy, Quirky, Saucy & Even Pet Treats section for everything else. The final third of the cookbook is devoted to contributing author biographies. In many ways that’s my favourite part of the book because what some of the writers have to say is so interesting and there are a couple of pages of humorous outtakes. I say almost, because there’s that big bulge in the middle of the book for sweet things, which is where my heart is.
SM: I hope none of the mystery authors got carried away and decided to throw in a pinch or a few drops of arsenic in their recipe. Hehehe. We don't want the cops to come sniffing around.
NLJ: Nothing lethal has been reported by any readers...but then, how would we know if eating a recipe killed them?
SM: Exactly! Let's hope the coppers don't catch on. LOL
SM: Did you get any “strange” recipes like bugs on rice or something equally weird?
NLJ: Just a few (can you hear me laughing?) My favourite recipe title hands down is “Mammoth Meat Jerky Adapted for Cro Magnons and Modern Humans.” Some other great titles are: Pimento Cheese For Dummies, Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini, Dispatcho Gazpacho, The Poet’s Recipe for Salad, (which came with an original recipe in verse), Hot Grudge Sundae Cake, and (Don’t Let Lady Macbeth Near The) Lemon Posset.
SM: Wow, there are some excellent names here. I now wish I'd called my recipe for Hazelnut Pesto Tagliatelle something like "The Hazel Nut Scissor Killer Pesto". After all, tagliatelle comes from the Italian word "tagliare", meaning to cut. So my killer would have used scissors to kill his victims--hazelnut scissors! Might as well keep it tasty, right?
SM cont'd: I read Murder House, one of your Regan McHenry mysteries. Would you say Regan is food oriented in the novels? I noticed she likes a fine wine.
NLJ: Regan is definitely a foodie. She has an original recipe for Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies (in the book) and keeps dough frozen ready to bake at open houses and to take to friends and clients accused of murder. She has an herb garden and citrus trees in pots so she can pick items for food. Mostly, though, she likes to experiment with recipes. Sometimes she creates great meals, and sometimes they don’t work out well. Fortunately her husband Tom is almost a saint and doesn’t complain; he just drinks more wine with dinner if there’s a flop served.
SM: Well, I was tickled pink when you asked me to submit a recipe. So I did a quick one with an Italian origin as befits my protagonist, Mia Ferrari. She loves Italian food and coffee. But she doesn’t have too much time to cook when she’s out there solving murders. My question here is, did you identify any trends among the recipes submitted by all the authors? You know, like going for pastas and other starchy foods (as these things feed the soul of creative people), or did they go for the healthier trends with loads of salads and vegetables?
NLJ: More writers submitted dessert-type recipes than anything else. I thought that said a lot about cozy writers until I looked through “The Joy of Cooking” and discovered it was heavily weighted there, too. I had to ask for salads and veggie recipes, but I don’t know if cozy writers avoid them personally or worried that readers would because there are many other “healthy” recipes.
SM: I think without coffee and sugar of all kinds we probably wouldn't be as creative. Mind you, I still love my pasta and pizza!
SM: So we established a trend of dessert-type recipes contributed for the book, and we can safely acknowledge authors usually favour coffee, coffee and more coffee, plus chocolate or other sugars for creativity. I definitely fall into this category. But what is your “poison”?
NLJ: My poison is anything salty and spicy. While I love chocolate, if I had to chose between a plate of brownies and a bowl of corn chips and salsa, I’d reach for the chips every time. As for beverages, for me it’s good black tea brewed like my grandfather taught me to make it, which is almost as dark as coffee.
SM: Where is the cookbook available and in what formats?
NLJ: The cookbook is available on Amazon in print, for people like me who want to write in the margins of my cookbooks, and for eReaders like Kindle and iPad. The e-version is priced at only $3.99 U.S. We want to get readers to discover new cozy writers while they cook so it’s priced very reasonably.
SM: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
NLJ: Writers who contributed recipes have writing histories that are all over the board from multiple-time New York Times Bestsellers to writers doing their first book. There are recipes from writers with big traditional publishers, small presses, and indie authors. I love that everyone contributed and that this is a cookbook full of more than 220 great recipes from all sorts of cozy writers. Oh, and while doing this cookbook, I learned that cozy writers are some of the nicest, most supportive people out there.
SM: Nancy, a big thank you for putting this yummy book together and for being a guest on Sylvia Says--the blog. It's wonderful when so many authors come together and contribute to such a great idea. Those of you who have contributed, you know who you are--but if you've eaten too much chocolate and are in a frenzied state of writing, you will find your name below in this list of contributors.
Buon appetito everyone!
... Only, we’re in Detroit and not Chicago.
Picture this: Detroit in the late 1920s. A beautiful, headstrong, young girl determined not to follow in the wake of well-mannered young ladies of that period and be “married off” to the best suitor. A mysterious walk-in closet; a mother with a dark secret. Men and women with self-serving motives, gangsters and molls, booze, murder, and flying bullets!
All this, and more, will you find in author Patty Wiseman’s trilogy, The Velvet Shoe Collection, consisting of: An Unlikely Arrangement, An Unlikely Beginning, and An Unlikely Conclusion.
Patty is experiencing great success with her romance suspense series featuring 17-year-old Ruth Squire, and her “unlikely” adventures.
I’ve just finished reading Book 2 in the collection, and caught up with Patty in between book tours and literary award dinners to ask her a few questions about her unique series.
Sylvia: You picked an interesting era to write about--Detroit, late 1920s--what made you write about this time in history?
Patty: Imagine a tow-headed, five-year-old runt of a girl crouching behind the stairwell in her grandmother’s three-story mansion, listening to the grownups talk about her life during the roaring twenties. We were leaving to move to Kansas. My dad took a new job there. Kansas is where my grandmother met her second husband, and where her story took an unexpected twist. She’d fled from Detroit, Michigan, to save her life and her son’s. I’m a naturally curious being, and my vivid imagination worked over time while grandmother spun her story of intrigue. I’ve often thought she missed her calling. She should have been a writer herself. Over the years, I made a point to stay with her on any occasion I could and sat in rapture most of the time as she told the story of her life’s journey. Those stories never left me. I knew I had to write about them. Life, of course, got in the way. I put it on the back burner, but shortly before I retired, the stories grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go.
Sylvia: How did you find having to research details to write about this era?
Patty: First of all, I love, love, love that era. Partly, because of the stories I heard, but more because when I did start to research that era, the role women played during that time fascinated me. This was an era of women really coming out of the shadows, and making themselves and their desires known. I put my grandmother in that category, as well. She was headstrong, passionate, and beautiful. She knew what she wanted, and was going to find a way to have it. I found a lot of information through ancestry.com. I also have a lot of online friends who live in Detroit, who were very accommodating when I needed to verify facts about the time period. I really had a lot of fun researching.
Sylvia: Why did you name this series of books "The Velvet Shoe Collection"?
Patty: As I said before, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up. She had a huge house, and the guestroom I stayed in had a cavernous closet. I was always exploring; and one night, I found the closet didn’t end in the guest room. It actually turned the corner and continued into my grandmother’s dressing room. When I turned that corner, I was amazed. Rows of fancy dresses, jewelry and shoes! So many shoes! There were all kinds to match her dresses, but the ones I liked best were the velvet ones. Especially a red velvet pair. That’s where I came up with the name. I wrote that closet and those dresses into the books.
Sylvia: So the idea to write this series come from real life, as with most authors?
Patty: Yes. I wrote the stories from my grandmother’s perspective, but really to honor her first husband, my father’s father, who never lived to see him grow up. I had only planned on one book at first, but I got such a wonderful response, I decided to write a series. Now, people are clamoring for me to write about some of the other characters in the books and to expand on their lives. There is so much material there. I could write for years!
Sylvia: I see you are doing some book tours and talks around the country. Please tell us more about this.
Patty: In 2012, I pulled out all the stops and traveled everywhere for book signings and festivals, libraries and book stores. I hardly ever had a weekend off. What I found was women who love to read about strong women who have found a way to live their dreams. This year, I’ve slowed down on the tours and am working on a series of workshops designed to encourage women to pursue their dreams no matter what station in life they find themselves. If you follow me on my website, www.pattywiseman.com, you will be able to keep up to date on the progress of these endeavors.
Sylvia: I like the slogan on your website: "Challenge, Conquer, Change". What is the premise behind this?
Patty: I’ve been able to live my dream, and it is a passion of mine to encourage other women to follow theirs. So many women feel that time has passed them by, that they don’t have anything meaningful to contribute anymore. There are two blogs about "Women of a Certain Age" on my website. One spotlights quotes from women at various ages, and what they like most about the age they are. The other, affirms the worth of women as they get older and spotlights the man’s point of view, and the beauty they find as their partner travels through each decade.
We should never discount our influence in this world because we are aging. Too many times, women get trapped in what the media portrays beauty to be, thus creating an impossible image to sustain. We need to stand away from the television, the billboards, and the magazines, and examine the virtues we have to offer to the younger generations. We are beautiful at every age! We need to find the jewel within!
Sylvia: That is inspiring indeed! Ageing is not very kind to women because of the media, and the culture we live in, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?
Patty: I’d just like to encourage all women to explore the UNLIKELY! Many times, we fall into a pattern, and just stay on the same old treadmill. Try something new, whether it be in the books you read, the entertainment you enjoy, or the places you travel, even the food you eat. Open up your world! Explore the possibilities. It’s an exciting time to be a woman!
Sylvia: Patty, it has been a great pleasure to feature you on "Sylvia Says". Thank you, and I wish you all the best with the Velvet Shoe Collection and your workshops on inspiring women to reach their potential. I think this kind of empowerment is something we can never get enough of.
Patty: The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the interview, and for having me on your blog. I wish you all the best with your own "Unlikely Adventures" as a strong woman and novelist!
It’s been less than a month since I returned from a cruise to New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, and already I am looking forward to another one. What was so good about the cruise? Well, if you look at it from my protagonist, Mia Ferrari's point of view, it was the cute, young officers.
You can’t blame Mia, older-woman and wannabe investigator, seeing as she likes Playing with the bad boys, right? (Also the name of her first mystery adventure). Mia likes them young and good looking (even if they’re gay!), and on a cruise of over 1700 passengers and around 700 crew, one is bound to run into some young flesh ;) And she did.
But what was the real reason for going on this cruise? Namely,
relaxation, and to plan my next murder mystery, which will take place on the high seas and will feature Mia, her friends, and a host of other characters.
I will be starting to write Mia Ferrari’s next mystery adventure The South Pacific Murders in the next few weeks, and hope to release it in early 2014..
You can expect a number of murders, sexual tension, and quite a few suspects. Mia is going to be under pressure to solve these murders in a short time span, seeing as the cruise is not a long one, and she must solve the murders before the ship arrives at its destination. So the pressure is on.
This is why Mia’s creator, little me, is in need of another cruise in order to relax :)
While you are waiting for Mia’s third mystery to be released, why not grab a copy of her first two adventures? Click HERE to have a look at where you can buy them.
So, see you on board soon, and Bon voyage!
That’s right, online friendships can turn to murder—but it’s fictitious, so that’s a relief.
You’re probably wondering what in heaven’s name I’m talking about. Let me explain: some time ago, I read a couple of humorous fiction novels by British author, Carol E. Wyer. I met Carol when I used to run a vlog, interviewing authors on their respective work, and we maintained contact since. So ours is what I call a cyber-friendship.
In her novels, Carol developed a character that followed the blog of her main protagonist, Amanda Wilson. The blog follower went by the name of SexyFitChick, and she was from Australia. SexyFitChick became a good online friend of Amanda Wilson, Carol’s main character in her two novels, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines and Surfing in Stilettos.
Carol later revealed to me that SexyFitChick reminded her of me, although I don’t know about the “fit” part *laughter and wink*, but I do agree about the “sexy” bit :D
Over the next couple of years, Carol and I maintained our cyber-friendship, and I really enjoyed reading about the escapades of Amanda Wilson. So much so, that when my own protagonist, smartarse, older chick, super-sleuth, Mia Ferrari, was published in her second adventure, The Gay Mardi Gras Murders, I decided to bring Amanda Wilson (Carol's protagonist) to the land down under for a visit with Mia.
In the story, Amanda (or Mandy) is suffering from “grumpy-hubby syndrome” and so she runs off Down Under to visit with best online friend, Mia Ferrari, and catch the world-famous Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras at the same time.
As it turns out, not only does Mandy become part of an investigation into several murders, one of which involves a transsexual with a very valuable diamond that carries a so-called curse; but she is thrown into Mia’s world—a world of luxury international hotels, Ferrari cars, insidious characters, younger men, a bunch of bitchy drag queens, drop-dead gorgeous gay boys, and a lot more. To make matters worse, and really test the friendship between the two protagonists, Mandy develops a crush on Mia’s archenemy, the very good looking Detective Sergeant Phil Smythe.
I won’t go on with the plot and spoil it for you, but I want to point out that from a cyber-friendship between two authors who are continents apart was born the fictional friendship of Amanda Wilson and Mia Ferrari (our respective protagonists). This led our protagonists--both strong and independent mature women, to adventure, the challenge of overcoming rivalry between two good friends, sexual fantasies of "playing with some bad boys", and even hoping to convert a few sexy gay boys--and finally, solving a number of murders before more bodies piled up.
The message in this particular novel, The Gay Mardi Gras Muders, is that through all the obstacles of life, friendship is the most important thing there is—sometimes, friendship is stronger than love, as Mia Ferrari soon learns.
So how’s that for the power of a fictional friendship, which was born in the minds of two authors who became online friends? Personally, I think this takes friendship to a whole new level.
Author Sylvia Massara's: