Interview with Giveaway ~ All Signs Point To Murder by Connie di Marco

How long do you generally let a story idea ‘”stew” in your brain before you start the book?

It’s hard to say, ideas rattle around in my head all the time, but since I’ve been writing, I’ve been under deadlines, so if I have a good idea or the kernel of an idea, I try to grab hold of it and start plotting the mystery.  I hate to waste time when something good pops into my head.  Once I start, then the story can percolate and I can shape it and add more elements to it.  I don’t want to wait too long because I don’t want the inspiration or the impetus to disappear.

Is there something on your bookshelves we’d be surprised to find there?

Well, my reading tastes are very eclectic.  Mostly I read mysteries and thrillers, but I’ve certainly read lots of astrology books (as you can probably tell from all that astrological knowledge I’ve been able to incorporate in the Zodiac Mysteries).  You might be surprised to find I have lots of books on occult subjects, like candle burning, development of psychic powers, Wicca, secret healing properties of herbs.  I’m fascinated by arcane subjects.

Tell me a funny/odd/interesting anecdote from a reading, or book signing.

I remember the first mystery conference I attended – Bouchercon – a few months after my very first mystery book was published.  That book was A Spoonful of Murder from the Soup Lover’s Mysteries that I wrote as Connie Archer.  One of the questions I was asked at the panel was how I had chosen the murder weapon in that book.  I was stuck.  If I mentioned what the murder weapon was, it would have been a spoiler.  I would have given the killer away.

I couldn’t possibly talk about that, so I said (which was true) that I was looking into the possibilities of farm equipment.  That generated a big laugh from the audience.  Seriously, I had been looking at videos of corn threshers and wondering how I could use them in a murder plot.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in front of one.

What distracts you the most when you’re trying to write?

Ringing phones, emails, music, chatter, FB messages, all of it.  I do much better without visual or auditory distractions.  It’s easier to sink into another world if there’s nothing pulling you back into a present reality.

What book are you reading right now, and why?

I usually have a couple of books going, maybe more.  I just finished Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman, a terrific book.  I’m starting a Michael Connelly book that I hadn’t managed to get to before, The Wrong Side of Goodbye and I’m reading City of Fortune by Roger Crowley, a non-fiction history of the Venetian Empire.

What book have you recommended most recently?

I’ve recommended Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo to a few people.  Dennis is a former screenwriter, now a psychologist and the author of a fictional series featuring a police psychologist – Daniel Rinaldi.  Writing from the Inside Out isn’t a how-to book at all.  The author discusses the obstacles that hold us back as creative people and how important it is to recognize and own and incorporate those issues in our work.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote isn’t really a quote, at least as far as I know, but the title of a Raymond Chandler novel –Trouble is My Business.  I’d like to hang those words over my computer monitor so I see them every time I sit down to write.  It reminds me that I must keep creating obstacles, problems and challenges and defeats for my protagonist, so readers won’t get bored and they’ll keep turning pages.  

Is there anything in your book you’d go back and change?

No!  And I say that because once you’ve written a book, revised it fifty times at least, agonized over it, went over it again with an editor and a copy editor and read it a few more times to make sure there are no mistakes or typos, the idea of changing anything seems absolutely horrifying!

What inspired your last book?

The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the Zodiac Mysteries, was inspired by the Jim Jones phenomenon in San Francisco years ago.  I was living there at the time and, like most people, didn’t pay much attention to Jones until the murders of the Congressman and others in the jungle, and then of course, the poisoning deaths of his congregation.

I thought it would be interesting to use a similar situation as the backdrop for the main story.  Julia, my protagonist, writes an astrological advice column (anonymously) for the newspaper.  She receives a letter from a woman who’s concerned about her mother.  Her mother has joined a church, but is required to sign over her property and life savings.  Julia speaks out vehemently and advises the woman to hire someone to investigate this so-called church.  She then finds she’s been targeted by the preacher’s followers, she’s driven from her home only to find herself in the midst of a totally different murder plot.

All Signs Point to Murder, Book 2, was inspired by a real murder I knew of several years ago.  When I learned the so-called facts and details that caused the alleged murderer to be charged and imprisoned, they just didn’t make sense to me.  So I began to imagine there could be a totally different scenario.  I took the story apart piece by piece and wondered if the person accused of the crime was not the guilty party, but that a whole other plot had taken place. That was the inspiration for this current book.

Do you write as you go, or do you have the book all planned out from page 1?

I like to have a road map, so I approach it in a storyboard fashion.  My favorite thing to do is to use colored post-its, laying them out in chronological order.  I find that working like that avoids a lot of pacing problems later.  I use one color for the main plot, another for a subplot that might weave in and out and connect with the main story, another for red herrings and another for where I want to drop clues.  Then I convert all of that to a written outline.  I can still run into problems, but approaching it this way saves a lot of backtracking and a lot of time.  Once I start writing, inspiration might strike, and I can be flexible, but I know if I stick to the outline, I’ll know where I’m going.

What is your view on self-publishing?

I was very lucky to find an agent early on with the first book I had written.  I realized later just how fortunate I was as I talked to other writers who had been trying for years to find an agent, or find the right agent.  I have many writer friends who’ve chosen to self publish, who’ve written some great books and won awards.  And any stigma that once existed toward self-published writers is quickly disappearing.  I totally understand why authors choose to self-publish.  The large and small houses must turn a profit and so they’ll always be looking at the bottom line, i.e., sales.  Their choices of what to publish must fit within very tight criteria that often has more to do with statistics than art.

What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?

I think I’d have to say The Borrowers.  I can’t remember now how many books were in that series, but I loved them!  I thought the idea of tiny people living under the floor and baseboards was magical.  Later I discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.  I think that’s where my love of mystery and adventure stories began.  I wanted to be Nancy Drew.  She didn’t have homework, she didn’t attend school, she didn’t have a job and in the earlier books she drove a roadster and was an independent young woman.  Where the money came from was never mentioned, so maybe Nancy was a trust fund baby.  Who knows?  As a teenager, I kept reading mysteries, all the Sherlock Holmes stories, Agatha Christie – Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot – Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers, all the golden age classics, and just kept going.

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Just write, however you like to do it.  Keep going and turn off the editor in your head and finish.  Finishing is very important.  Get to the end of your story.  There’ll be lots of time to revise and re-write and polish, but if you don’t finish, you’ll have nothing to work with.

How do you react to a bad review?

The very first review I ever received was a one-star on Amazon.  I didn’t see it, but a friend told me about it, and told me not to look.  She was very upset.  So of course I had to look.  It was the craziest thing.  A woman wrote that she liked the story until the murder happened!  Then she criticized my protagonist for investigating.

Maybe I should have been upset, but it was so odd, I just couldn’t take it seriously.  My friend pointed out that reviews were very important, but frankly, my editors at the publishing house loved the story.  That was the important thing for me.  I honestly didn’t care what one reader was compelled to write.  Then as time when on reviews kept coming in and they were very positive.

If someone has a justifiable criticism, I do take it seriously and think about it, but I would never respond to a bad review.  There’s just no point.  Some people will love what you write, others might hate it.  There’s not much you can do about any of that.  For myself, I can’t imagine going to the bother of writing a negative review.  Why?  It serves no purpose.  I’m not a critic, I’m just a reader.  I can’t imagine going out of my way to rain on anybody else’s parade.

What is your favorite scene in your book?

I’m a big thriller fan, so even though my first series was a culinary cozy series, I always made sure in those books and in the Zodiac Mysteries, that there are some real sort of “Perils of Pauline” scenes at a point where the story is reaching a climax.  I don’t want readers to be bored, so I love to write scenes where my protagonist or an important character is in grave danger.

In the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, my protagonist rescues a woman from a burning building, tries to save another from suicide (she fails), saves a young girl from death and dismemberment at the last minute, and in one book almost becomes a murder victim herself .

In the Zodiac Mysteries, Julia Bonatti, my San Francisco astrologer, gets up to her neck in crime and mayhem.  In the first book, The Madness of Mercury, she determines to save an elderly woman from a religious cult that plans on murder and Julia herself is kidnapped.  I’m always looking for ways to create a nail-biting scene.  I’m very fond of the scene in which the murderer plans to do away with Julia in All Signs Point to Murder, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.  You’ll just have to read the book!

What makes your novel standout from the crowd?

San Francisco is a city I’ve always loved and has its own moods and atmosphere.  So I’ve really wanted readers to feel as if the city itself is a character.  Julia’s profession is unique and because of that, she rubs shoulders with a very eclectic bunch of recurring characters – psychics, mediums, past life regression hypnotists –her compatriots at The Mystic Eye, a fictional bookstore she frequents in the city.

The Zodiac Mysteries are really traditional mysteries in an urban setting with thriller elements.  I always want Julia to get into some serious trouble in every book because those are the books I like to read, the ones that keep you reading into the wee hours with some hair-raising death-defying scenes.

Do your characters really talk to you?

Sometimes.  Yup.  They do.  I think when a character is very clear and firm in your head, you don’t even have to think how they’d respond in a given situation, and that makes point of view and dialogue very easy to write.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?

Right now, I’m working on a novella for the Zodiac Mysteries that will take place before the start of the series and explain a bit how Julia’s current life came to be.  How she met her two close friends and set up her new life after the sudden death of her fiancé in a hit and run accident.

I’ve finished the third book in the Zodiac Mysteries, which I’ve tentatively titled Tail of the Dragon.  Of course, there’ll be more work when my editor’s comments come back, but in the meantime I’m roughing out an idea for the fourth in the series.  And I’ve started work on another type of book, a police story set in Los Angeles.  I’m about 10,000 words in and just have to find time to finish it.  I wish I could clone myself.

In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with?

I’ve never even thought about anything like that, and frankly, I’m not sure it would be easy to work with another author.  Of course, it would be lovely if some very famous person wanted to work with me, but I’d be nervous about that.  I think it would take a very special partnership to be able to create something with another person.  There are plenty of writing teams, I know, and they have their own ways of working, but you would really have to be on the same mental wavelength and yet be able to iron out the differences.

How many books are in your TBR pile?

Arghh, probably hundreds.  Writers get tons of free books at conferences and of course, I buy some too, even though I try to be good.  I have books stashed everywhere in the house, my bookshelves and tables and every other surface is groaning with books.  In my dreams, I imagine having one whole room that could be a library.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I hope they’ll be entertained most of all.  I hope they’ll enjoy the journey and think of Julia as a good friend with whom they’ll be embarking on another adventure.  Julia can get in lots of trouble while my readers stay safe within the pages.

Finish the sentence- one book I wish I had written is….

Most recently, I loved The Girl on the Train.  I’ve read it a couple of times and who knows, I may read it again.  I found the structure of it very interesting, the time shifts, the first person narrative from different women who converge at the end.  I also loved it because the book and the film offered a really tight thriller featuring three strong female roles.  Not something you see every day.  Some people have told me they really did not like the book, but I thought it was fascinating.  I loved it!

 

Series: A Zodiac Mystery (Book 2)
Publisher: Midnight Ink (August 8, 2017)
Genre: Cozy Mystery
ISBN-10: 0738751073
ISBN-13: 978-0738751078
ASIN: B01M14L2YK
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository

all-signs-point-to-murder

The stars predict a wedding-day disaster, but San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never expected murder.

Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.

Giveaway

1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card
 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of All Signs Point to Murder

Giveaway ends on August 24th


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Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, available for pre-order now, will be released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

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Excerpt ~

The building on Guerrero was a once proud Victorian with bow front windows. It had since been broken up into six small units and fallen into disrepair. I drove around the block several times before I managed to find a parking spot a few doors down. The shops on the main street were long closed and the streets deserted. I shivered and let the car heater run another minute to warm up before I left the comfort of my little metal box. There was something about this chore that made my stomach go into knots. Rummaging through a dead woman’s possessions was bad enough, but what if I found something that implicated Moira in a crime? Should I remove it and risk the police finding out?

I climbed out of the car, careful to lock it and approached the long stairway leading to the front door. The wind had died down and now fog danced around the streetlights. It was eerily quiet. No lights shone from any of the windows. I hoped all the residents were safely tucked up in their beds by now. I climbed the cracked granite stairs to the entrance. The weathered door stood ajar, listing slightly on its hinges. I grasped the handle and twisted it, but the lock mechanism was out of commission. Inside, a bare overhead light bulb hung from a chain. It cast a meager glow down the long corridor, cannibalized from a once grand entryway. The hallway smelled of dirty cat litter, moldy vegetables and cigarette smoke. I followed the corridor to the end, and stopped at the last door on the right.

I slipped the key into the lock. It offered no resistance. The door opened immediately. Had it not been locked? I caught a slight scuffling sound and cringed. I hoped no furry long-tailed creatures were waiting inside for me. I reached around the doorway and felt along the wall. My fingers hit the switch. A rusting chandelier with two bulbs missing illuminated the one large room that was both Moira’s living room and bedroom. I tested the key with the door open, locking and then unlocking it. Now I felt the resistance. The door had definitely been unlocked. I stepped inside and shut it behind me, making sure the lock was secure. Was it possible someone had been here before me and left without locking the door? Or had Moira simply been careless?

I had to make sure I was alone in the apartment. There were no hiding places in this sparsely furnished room. I checked under the bed just to be sure and opened the closet, terrified that someone or something might jump out at me. The closet was narrow, filled with a jumble of clothing, half on the floor. I walked into the kitchenette and spotted a doorway that led to the back stairs and the yard. I tested the handle on the door. Locked. I checked the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and then the shower stall in the bathroom. I was alone. I had been holding my breath and finally let it out in a great sigh.

I started with the drawers in the kitchen and checked the counter, looking for any notes with names or phone numbers. There was nothing. The kitchen was surprisingly clean, as if Moira had never used the room. Inside the refrigerator were a few condiments, a half-eaten unwrapped apple and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I quickly rummaged through the drawers and the freezer to make sure there were no bundles of cash disguised as frozen meat.

The main room housed a collection of hand-me-downs and broken furniture, ripped curtains and piles of clothing in various spots around the floor. Had she really lived like this? I heaved up the mattress, first on one side and then the other, making sure nothing was hidden between it and the box spring. Under the bed, I spotted only dust bunnies. I pulled open each of the bureau drawers, checked their contents and pulled them all the way out to make sure nothing was behind them. I opened a small drawer in the bedside stand. Amid a loose pile of clutter was a dark blue velvet box embossed with the letter “R” in cursive gold script. Could this be from Rochecault? I was fairly certain it was. Rochecault is an infamously expensive jeweler on Maiden Lane downtown. How could Moira have shopped there? Was this what Geneva had meant when she said her sister seemed to have a lot of money to spend?

I opened the box and gasped. An amazing bracelet heavy with blue stones in varying colors rested inside. The setting had the slightly matte industrial sheen of platinum. Moira couldn’t possibly have afforded this. Shoving the box into a side pocket of my purse, I decided I was definitely not leaving this for the police to find, and slid the drawer shut.

I scanned the room. Moira hadn’t been much of a housekeeper and it didn’t appear as if there were many hiding spots. I headed for the desk, a rickety affair with two drawers and a monitor on top. I clicked on the hard drive and waited a moment. The monitor came to life and asked for a password. It would take someone much more talented than I to unearth its secrets. Under a jumble of papers and unopened bills, my eye caught a small black notebook. This looked promising. Perhaps it was an address book that would give us all of Moira’s contacts. I dropped my purse on the floor and reached for the book. A searing pain shot through my skull. Blinded, I fell to the floor.

***

Excerpt from All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2017 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. What a great in-depth interview!!!  Really enjoyed it!

  2. Celia Fowler says:

    I agree with Cheryl — what a wonderful interview, very interesting and entertaining.  Thanks for featuring Connie and All Signs Point to Murder on your blog!

  3. Hi Lori ~ Thanks for hosting me today! Loved your interview questions!

  4. Amazing post! 

  5.  Hi Connie di Marco,

    Love your idea, 2nd time reading your post and i found in your post some helpful information about product reviews !

    Keep it up please, will visit regularly for update posts! 

    For Adventure Gears Lab <a href="http://adventuregearslab.com">click here</a>.Thanks!

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