Sunday, April 22, 2018

ROCCO welcomes thriller author Matthew Iden!


Meow! Today my guest is suspense author Matthew Iden!



Matthew Iden is the author of the suspense novel THE WINTER OVER, a half dozen books in the Marty Singer detective series, and several acclaimed stand-alone novels. His latest, BIRTHDAY GIRL, is a suspense novel featuring Elliott Nash, a former forensic psychologist who  is now homeless but is recruited to save a young girl from a serial kidnapper (March 2018). He has visited seven continents—and written on several of them—but lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit him at www.matthew-iden.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/matthew.iden, or on Twitter @CrimeRighter.

·       Hi Matthew! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello, ROCCO. My name is Matthew Iden. I’m probably best known for my Marty Singer detective series, six books (so far) featuring a retired DC homicide cop who is battling a series of personal health issues while simultaneously fighting crime. But I’ve also written several standalone novels including a thriller set at the South Pole (THE WINTER OVER), a cross-country caper about motorcycle theft (STEALING SWEETWATER), and was commissioned to write a Kindle Worlds novel set in Barry Eisler’s John Rain world (THE B-TEAM). My latest work is a psychological thriller (BIRTHDAY GIRL) set in and around Washington DC that just came out in March.

I wanted to write from an early age, but it took a while. My original education (BA and MA) was in English literature, but I stumbled into a technology career in the mid-90s. After a decade or so of working in cube farms, I told my wife I either needed to start robbing banks or start writing about robbing banks. She kindly suggested I take three months off to try my hand at a novel. That was nine years ago and I haven’t had to rob a bank since.

·       Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?

There’s something indescribable about getting that first email or tweet or Facebook post from a complete stranger telling you, “I loved your book.” Some of my readers have been with me since the very first Marty Singer book and it’s hard to convey just how special it is to know I’m connecting with thousands of people.

And it’s the connection that counts. A book with no readers is a diary. My readers make my current life and dreams possible. “Thank you” doesn’t begin cover it.
 
·       Tell us about your newest release! 
o  
BIRTHDAY GIRL is the story of Elliott Nash, a once-brilliant forensic psychologist who is homeless and living on the streets after a horrible family trauma. Amy Scowcroft, a single mom battling her own inner demons, turns to Elliott for help finding her kidnapped daughter after the police have given it up as a cold case. Working together, they discover that they have only short time before the worst will happen.

  • ·       What was the inspiration behind this story?

Both the homeless and the mentally ill inhabit our physical world, but experience a very different version of it than most of us. I wanted to explore how and why someone like Elliott would voluntarily leave a comfortable existence and how or why someone like Sister, the book’s antagonist, might do so involuntarily…and how both come to terms with that world being disrupted. When you read or hear the personal histories of those in either situation, you realize most have led, and continue to lead, complicated lives that are worth learning about. BIRTHDAY GIRL was an attempt to crack that nut, with a hopefully compelling mystery at its core.



  • ·       Tell us about your main character.

·      
Although BIRTHDAY GIRL is an “Elliott Nash Thriller,” in some ways there are actually two main characters, Elliott and Amy Scowcroft, the single mom looking for her kidnapped daughter.

I love Amy because I saw her as a foil to Elliott who is, at times, humorless, logical, academic, and skeptical. Amy, on the other hand, is a neo-hippie, guided by “feelings,” intuition, star charts, and numerology. She manages to show Elliott that having a soft side is as valuable and useful as having a clinical detachment to life.

  • ·       Tell us something funny about one of your characters.

The name Elliott Nash came a bit out of the blue, but I realized the second I settled on his name that he a) had late-blooming hippie parents and b) like any self-respecting hippies, they would name their only child after a favorite band, so at one point in the novel, Elliott admits to Amy that his full name is actually “Elliott Crosby Stills Nash.”

She replies, “Thank God they didn’t like Neil Young.”


  • ·       Your character is at a bookstore. Which section is he/she shopping in? What book is in his/her hand right now?

Elliott is in the psychology section with a frown on his face, leafing through Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

Amy got stopped ten feet inside the door at the point-of-purchase display and has flipped to the end of The Celestine Prophecy.


·        

·       What do you do when you are not writing?

I love to travel and I’ve been fortunate enough to indulge the passion—my wife and I have been to all seven continents (Antarctica was #4) and I was lucky enough to circumnavigate the globe by boat with the wonderful Semester at Sea program as the tour’s IT manager.

Favorite international destinations/experiences include: fixing Arch-bishop Desmond Tutu’s email on the way to Capetown, South Africa; exploring Kyoto, Japan on foot; and a nighttime gondola ride through Venice…when the only illumination was the moon and the occasional lamp from a canal-side villa.

·       Where can we purchase this book?

BIRTHDAY GIRL is available through Amazon in Kindle, paperback, and audio versions (the last narrated by the very talented James Anderson Foster) at https://www.amazon.com/Birthday-Girl-Thriller-Matthew-Iden-ebook/dp/B01MUCT3SS/

·       Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? If so, what is it?

I just finished David F. Dodge’s classic To Catch A Thief and loved it for a number of reasons. For one thing, aside from a bit of generational if cringeworthy chauvinism (although there are two very strong women in it), it holds up very well almost seventy years after its 1952 release. The book is tightly plotted, the dialogue is crisp and fun, the coincidences are kept to a minimum, and there’s a surprising amount of deeper thoughts about the recently-ended war, the nature of friendship, and fate.

I also loved it because Dodge was a seasoned and observant traveler—he describes with delight a Cote d’Azur that my father saw as a young Navy seaman in the 60’s and that I visited in the 2000’s, once with my wife and again with my father.

·       Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?

My first love is actually fantasy, but my early attempts were pretty much failures. Constructing a world from scratch (while not burying your reader in its details) is insanely difficult. But I’ve got a notebook full of ideas that I may tackle one of these days.

·       Would you ever write a screenplay?

I’d love to. I’m  fascinated by how sparse the writing is, yet how much can be conveyed (a good example: Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay of Wind River).

·       How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I write long letters from the characters themselves, written in the first person and framed as though speaking to an off-camera interviewer. Loads of stuff comes out in this way, things you simply wouldn’t think of while trying to invent a well-rounded character in a vacuum. It’s also a lot of fun.
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·       Where can we learn more about you and your books?

My Amazon author page (https://www.amazon.com/Matthew-Iden/e/B00642SZQO/) has all of my writing. My website (of course): www.matthew-iden.com. I also announce things through a newsletter and I’m active on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/matthew.iden/. I have a Twitter account, but don’t know how to use it.

o   Random Quickies!

·       Pepsi or Coke? Cappuccino
·       Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark
·       Cats or dogs? Dogs
·       Do you read more than you write? Yes
·       Favorite movie? The Third Man
·       Favorite book to movie? The Quiet American (for Michael Caine only)
·       Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it can be hard to choose! ;)
Elmore Leonard
·       Hardback/Paperback or eReader? eReader
·       Favorite color? Blue
·       How many paperback/hardcover books do you own? <Gulp> 2,000?
·       Do you own a laptop or desktop computer? Both
·       What book are you reading today? Whiz Mob: A Correlation of the Technical Argot of Pickpockets with Their Behavior Pattern. It’s for research, I swear.
·       If you could live anywhere in the world it would be: the south of France: Eze, Antibes, Nice, Villefranche, Provence…anywhere in the region. I’m not picky.

 Thanks for a great interview, Matthew!

Now, kiddies....It’s Giveaway time!!!!!!

Matthew will give one lucky commenter their choice of BIRTHDAY GIRL in either audio (physical or download), signed paperback or Kindle!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, April 28!


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mysteries and Menus- Linda Wiken


Meow!

My guest blogger this week is author Linda Wiken!



Linda Wiken writes the Dinner Club Mysteries as herself, is writing the new Castle Bookstore Mysteries as Essie Lang, and has written the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries as Erika Chase.  She was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel and has also been short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada for Best Short Story. She is a former mystery bookstore owner and still loves reading all the mysteries she can get her hands on.  She also loves singing in a choir, which is not always so pleasant for her Siamese cat, Keesha, who must endure hours of practice.

Thanks ROCCO!

Do you have to be a foodie to enjoy reading the Dinner Club Mysteries? No, but it does help. I mean, if you’re a fan of the cozy mystery, that’s really enough. Because, try as she may, event planner J.J. Tanner feels compelled to do some sleuthing in each of the three books.

The food is integral to her pals and cohorts, the Culinary Capers Dinner Club, but not to solving the mystery. I mean, poison is never the weapon, I’ll declare that up front. That’s because the Culinary Capers, for their monthly dinners together, use a real cookbook found on the bookshelves of your local bookstore. So, not wanting to be sued, poison is never an added ingredient.

In the first two books, events that J.J. had planned included a murder that wasn’t on the agenda. So, what’s a conscientious planner to do but try to solve the crime. Add the fact that one of the dinner club members just happens to be a suspect – sometimes more than one, and even J.J. herself – then it’s her duty to get involved.
It helps that she’s aided by sexy P.I. Ty Devine, although he’s usually doing it to keep her out of his investigation. Or out of danger. And those Culinary Capers are proving to be as good at following clues as at following recipe directions.

In the newest book, Marinating in Murder, which just came out last month, one of their own, police officer Alison Malkovich is the prime suspect after the body of her estranged husband is found in the back of her SUV. All hands aboard for this one.
If you are a foodie, you’ll enjoy being part of their many meals and, hopefully you’ll try the recipes included at the end of each book. In Roux the Day, the second one, they used the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook and with the authors’ permission, I included some of their recipes. It was a lot of fun to do and the Culinary Capers enjoyed talking about their books, too.

Food and mystery? They do go together and present a deliciously satisfying menu.

Thanks Linda!

If you like food, you will definitely enjoy the Dinner Club Mysteries!
Titles in Order:
Toasting Up Trouble
Roux the Day
Marinating In Murder

Hope y’all caught my review of Marinating in Murder on last weeks’ blog post!

NOW IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!!!!

Linda will give away a copy of Marinating In Murder to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Contest ends midnight, April 22! Good luck!


Saturday, April 7, 2018

ROCCO'S APRIL COZY ROUNDUP

Meow!  Here are my cozy reviews for April.

We'll start with my top pick:

SHOT IN THE DARK
Coffeehouse Mystery Series
Cleo Coyle
Berkley Prime Crime
Five Paws
ON SALE:  4/17/18

As Village Blend manager Clare Cosi attempts to finalize a date for her wedding, her ex-husband becomes addicted to making dates through smartphone swipes. Clare has mixed feelings about these quickie matchups happening in her coffeehouse. Even her octogenarian employer is selecting suitors by screenshot! But business is booming, and Clare works hard to keep the espresso shots flowing. Then one dark night, another kind of shot leaves a dead body for her to find. 

The corpse is a successful entrepreneur who became notorious for his "hit it and quit it" behavior: prowling for women on dating apps, then devastating his conquests with morning-after insults. Though the NYPD quickly arrests one of his recent victims, Clare finds reason to believe she's been framed. 

Now, with the help of her ex and crew of quirky baristas, Clare starts "swiping" through suspects in her own shop, determined to find the real killer before another shot rings out. 

ROCCO sez:  The 17th instalment of this popular series does not disappoint!  jam packed with action and well crafted.  Fans of the series will love it, and new converts can easily catch up on background. A sure fire hit!  Five Paws!


WEDDING CAKE CRUMBLE
Jenn McKinlay
Cupcake Bakery Mysteries
On Sale:  4/3/18
Four and one half paws!

With Angie and Tate's wedding just around the corner, it's a happy time for Melanie Cooper and the bakery crew. Not only are they finessing the last minute details of the big day, but their bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes, has just been hired to bake cupcakes for the blockbuster book signing of a controversial author who wrote a steamy bestseller filled with juicy local gossip.

But one by one, the people Angie has hired to work at the wedding begin turning up dead. As the body count rises, the bestselling author is the next to bite the dust. Mel quickly realizes she needs to figure out how the murders are connected and why--before the killer brings the entire cupcake crew crumbling down. After all, Angie and Tate deserve their sweet happily ever after.

Book 10 in this engaging series does not disappoint!  Mystery is well crafted and it's a treat to be back with Melanie and her bakery crew!  One by one the hired workers crumble in a story reminiscent of Ten Little Indians.  Do Angle and Tate get their sweet ending? Read the book to find out!  four and a half paws.


CINCO DE MURDER
Rebecca Adler
"Taste of Texas" Mysteries
On sale:  4/3/18
Four Paws


It's fiesta time in Broken Boot, Texas, and tourists are pouring into town faster than free beer at a bull roping for the mouthwatering Cinco de Mayo festivities. Tex-Mex waitress Josie Callahan, her feisty abuela, and even her spunky Chihuahua Lenny are polishing their folkl├│rico dances for Saturday's big parade, while Uncle Eddie is adding his own spicy event to the fiesta menu: Broken Boot's First Annual Charity Chili Cook-off.

But Uncle Eddie's hopes of impressing the town council go up in smoke when cantankerous chili cook Lucky Straw is found dead in his tent. And when Josie's beloved uncle is accused of fatal negligence, she, Lenny, and the steadfast Detective Lightfoot must uncover who ended the ambitious chilihead's life--before another cook kicks the bucket.

Book 3 in the Taste of Texas series.  We're back in Broken Boot Texas where Josie Callahan is getting ready for the First Annual Charity Chili Cook-Off.   When an ornery cook is found dead and Josie's uncle is accused of negligence, she and her spunky Chichihua Lenny must discover the culprit before another cook bites the chili dust!  A solid entry in this series.  I enjoyed it very much and I'm not a big chili fan LOL. Four paws!  


QUEEN ANNE'S LACE
Susan Wittig Albert
China Bayles Mysteries
ON SALE:  4/3/18
Four Stars


A present day ghost leads China Bayles to a secret from Pecan Springs's past in this haunting mystery from New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert.

While helping Ruby Wilcox clean up the loft above their shops, China comes upon a box of antique handcrafted lace and old photographs. Following the discovery, she hears a woman humming an old Scottish ballad and smells the delicate scent of lavender.... 

Soon, strange happenings start to occur in Thyme and Seasons: misplaced items, a ringing bell, and the appearance of lavender sprigs in odd places. When a customer mentions seeing a mysterious woman picking flowers nearby and then suddenly disappearing, China must finally admit what Ruby has always known--their building is haunted. But by whom?

As China investigates, the tragic story of a woman in one of the old photographs unfolds. Annie Laurie was a young widow who'd lost both her husband and her child in the same day. She manages to survive through her lace-making business and finds happiness again only to have a suspicious death overshadow her new life.

China delves into Annie's century-old mystery and realizes that solving it could have unimaginable repercussions in the here and now.


I discovered this series a few volumes ago and am in the process of catching up on background. I particularly liked this volume because I'm a sucker for anything with a supernatural tie-in.  Like all of Albert's stories, the mystery is well plotted and satisfying. China is rapidly becoming one of my favorite sleuths.  Four Paws! 

MURDER IN THE BOWERY
Gaslight Mystery Series
Victoria Thompson
Four Stars
On Sale: April 3, 2018




The latest Gaslight Mystery from the bestselling author of Murder in Morningside Heights finds Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy searching for a connection between a murdered newsie and a high society woman with dangerous habits.Frank Malloy’s latest client is the well-dressed Will Bert. He’s searching for his brother, a newsboy named Freddie, so he can share his new financial good fortune. Frank makes quick work of the case and locates Freddie, but a happy reunion between brothers is not in the cards. 

When Will’s name is mentioned, Freddie runs off—only to be found dead a short time later. Suspicious, Frank tracks down Will who spins a tale of lust and deceit involving a young society woman, Estelle Longacre, also recently deceased.  Frank can’t be sure if Estelle’s risky behavior and the company she kept was to blame, or if her own ruthless family had a hand in her death.

Frank will need Sarah’s help to unearth the dark secrets of the wealthy Longacres and to discover if there is a connection between Estelle and Freddie’s death. Together they must navigate a perilous underground web of treachery to find the truth.

A solid entry in a long running series.  Well plotted and characters come right off the page.  Recommended!  Four stars! 


A MAGICAL MATCH
Juliet Blackwell
(Witchcraft Mysteries)
Four and a half Stars
On sale:  4/3/18





Witch and vintage store owner Lily Ivory faces her most difficult mystery to date with a case of mistaken identity that hits close to home...

Lily Ivory and her friends are planning a 1950s-themed brunch to benefit the local women's shelter. When a figure from her past shows up unannounced, threatening her unless she returns something that belonged to him, Lily's fianc├ę, Sailor, steps in to defend her. After the same man is found dead later that day, Sailor is the primary suspect. He swears he's innocent, but multiple witnesses ID him as the perpetrator of the assault. Lily vows to clear his name...only she's not sure where to start with the mounting evidence against him. 

When she sees Sailor in the neighborhood despite knowing he's in jail, Lily starts to wonder if there could be a doppelganger in San Francisco. When she's not busy helping customers find matching outfits for the upcoming event, searching for a vintage wedding dress for her own nuptials, and dealing with an ill-timed magical cold, Lily begins to suspect one of her magical foes is targeting her loved ones in an attempt to weaken her.


This is Book Nine in this series.  Once again, I'm a sucker for anything that combines mystery and supernatural. Throw in vintage clothing (any clothing, really) and I'm hooked!  Lily Ivory brings her own special blend of sassy as she fights to clear her fiance Sailor of suspicion of murder.  Plenty of witchcraft, dopplegangers and suspense to satisfy everyone!  And come on, who doesn't love a magical pig??????
Love all the books in this series.  Just keeps getting better and better.  Would love to see a Hallmark movie of this series, Juliet Blackwell!!!!!  four and a half stars!


WIN ROCCO'S REVIEW COPY OF WEDDING CAKE CRUMBLE!



To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck!  Contest ends midnight, April 15!





Monday, April 2, 2018

Blast from the Past - Mary Janice Davidson!

Merow!
Way back in 2011 I considered myself very lucky indeed to snag an interview with the undisputed queen of paranormal chick lit, Mary Janice Davidson!  Even tho we've lost touch since 2014 I and the human have followed her career.  We were very sorry to see the Queen Betsy series end, but never fear, MJ has other great ideas in the works.

To reminisce, we are reprinting our very first interview with MJ!  (No spoiler alerts necesssary, this was done in 2011, remember!!!!!)







Well, Kitties, the big day has finally arrived!  I cannot tell you how unbelievably thrilled I am to have (drumroll, please) the fabulous, queen of paranormal chick-lit herself, MARYJANICE DAVIDSON in my hotseat!

For those of you living under a rock and do not know MaryJanice, here’s a bit about her from her website:

MaryJanice Davidson invented a) her children, and b) the vampire chick lit genre. Also the Internet. She is kind to (some) children and (occasional) small animals, and enjoyes referring to herself in the third person. Appearing several times a year on the best-seller list, as well as occasional Federal "person of interest" sheets, she takes time from the living hell that is being paid to do what she loves best to seek out the nearest Cinnabon franchise. Her goals include working for world peace, figuring out how to make potstickers, and speaking at writer and reader conferences around the world. (Australia is still recovering.)

Visit her blog to check out the antics of some of MJ's heroines (Vampire Queen Betsy, FBI Agent Cadence/Shiro/Adrienne, and Jennifer Scales), eyeball book excerpts, see where she'll be any given week, play the "who do you want to play Betsy/Cadence/Jennifer in the coming movie?" game with other fans, and mock her weekly. She occasionally tolerates getting mail from readers at contactmjd@comcast.net , has a Facebook page, and absolutely zero interest in Twitter.


And now, without any further ado, I present...MARYJANICE DAVIDSON!  Unplugged and Uncensored! In my Hotseat!

R:  Hello, MaryJanice! Welcome to my hotseat!
MJ: Thank you so much for having me. ROCCO!

R: We’ll get right to it:  I have heard that your road to publication started out as an e-author. Can you tell us a bit about that journey?

MJ: Sure.  I had a decade’s worth of rejection slips from various print publishers (hilariously, many of the publishers who now ask my agent or me for cover quotes for their authors) and was pretty discouraged.  So I decided to try my luck with e-pubs.  Their overhead wasn’t nearly as high, so they could take chances on the more out there ideas (say, a secretary who loves designer shoes getting fired and run over on her 30th birthday, only to return from the grave as queen of the vampires).  UNDEAD AND UNWED was originally an e-book. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but the big paper publishers were keeping an eye on the e-pubs.  My Berkley editor, Cindy Hwang, heard about U&U, bought it online like any customer, downloaded it, and read it.  She called a few days later to offer to buy the print rights.  Since I hadn’t queried anyone at Berkley, or pitched anyone at a conference, I was pretty astonished and assumed it was all a cruel, sadistic joke.  And that’s how it all started.

R:  A very encouraging story, meow! Now, can you tell us a little bit about your writing environment and/or any rituals you go through before sitting down to write?

MJ: Mostly my rituals involve the eating of chocolate, showering my assistant with verbal abuse, and watching re-runs of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  (Dammit, Dennis can be saved!  He just needs the love of a good woman.  Or my love.)  Ironically, though I have the option of using two beautiful offices (one at our year-round residence, and one at our cabin in Wisconsin) I usually plunk down on the nearest couch with my laptop.  And also chocolate.  And also the TV remote.

R: You write contemporary as well as paranormal, and you’ve been called the “queen of vampire chick-lit”.  What’s your favorite genre to write in/read?

MJ: Right now, it’s definitely paranormal romance, closely followed by...I guess it’d be romantic suspense?  In addition to my vampire series, I’m writing a trilogy for St. Martins Press about an FBI agent with multiple personality disorder.  There’s not a witch or werewolf in sight in those books, but I love writing them!  And if I get hung up on a problem in the Betsyverse, I can switch to another manuscript to see if the log jam in my brain will clear a little easier.

Much as I love the genre, I almost never read anything in paranormal romance these days because I’m in that world so much, creating my own stories.  That sound I keep hearing, the one coming from inside my head, sounds a lot like frying eggs...that can’t be good...better read an old Carl Hiaasen novel for a while...

R:   If you could be a character from one of your favorite books (not your own), who would you be?

MJ: Wow...tough one!  Hmm...not Scarlett O’Hara (too much drama, not to mention the slow starvation during the war years).  Not one of Carl Hiaasen’s characters...their lives and experiences are hilarious, but they tend to get shot.  Same with Andrew Vachss...his books have these wonderful dark characters who had horrific childhoods and now run around New York City scamming pimps, pedophiles, and crooked lawyers.

I’d have to go with a superhero from one of my eight zillion graphic novels (I’ve been reading comics since I was 12).  The Invisible Woman, I think...she’s probably one of the most dangerous (and underrated) superheroes ever imagined, plus she’s married to a brilliant man who never so much as glanced at another woman, and her family life is so dear to her...she never loses her perspective, no matter how many villains she pummels.  I’m always amazed at how underrated the character is...she can pop an invisible force field anywhere.  Dark alleys.  Amusement parks.  THE MIDDLE OF YOUR BRAIN.  She can kill you with a thought, and no one seems to put that together and see her as very, very dangerous.  There was a parallel universe Fantastic Four a few years back where Susan Storm was big-time evil, and pretty much RULED THE WORLD.  Because she could put an invisible force field in YOUR BRAIN.

R:  If you could trade places with any author, past or present, who would it be and why?

MJ: I wouldn’t, actually!  Nope, I’m not budging from this body/life/career.  I’m well aware that I’m ridiculously fortunate:  I’m getting well paid to do one of my favorite things, I can write anything I want and pitch anything I want, over a million copies of my books have sold, and I usually make at least one best-seller list a year.  As above: ridiculously fortunate.  Would never change places.  Ridiculous.  And fortunate!

R: You’ve mentioned in past interviews an interest in screenwriting.  How would you bring the “Betsy” saga to the big screen? Who would you want to play her and Sinclair and why?

MJ: I’ve always thought Jenna Elfman (Dharma from Dharma and Greg) would be a great Betsy.  Clive Owen (though he cannot pass for a man in his late teens/early 20s, which is when Sinclair was turned by his greatest and most loyal friend, Tina) for Sinclair, just because I love love love Clive Owen.  Or Karl Urban...oh my God, the deliciousness that is Karl Urban...if I drool much more I’ll short out the keyboard again...

While we’re tossing around wish lists, I always thought Queen Latifah would be a fantastic Jessica (yes, Jessica is super skinny, but the character is far more about attitude than weight), Amanda Seyfries would be a great Laura (the Anti-Christ), and Jennifer Coolidge (the nail technician from the Legally Blonde movies) for the Ant, Betsy’s dead stepmother (currently Satan’s assistant in Hell, which only confirmed every suspicion Betsy ever had about her).

What’s exciting is that The Betsy Show (for lack of the actual title, at least for now) is coming to Germany!  They offered me a contract for a 90-minute pilot and 6 episodes, which I jumped at.  So we’ll see how that goes...meanwhile, my agent is shopping Betsy & Co. around Hollywood, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Also my toes.  Ow!  Cramp.  We actually had an offer from Disney, but turned it down...Disney’s great, but when they want the rights to something, they want EVERYTHING.  Not just stuff you’ve already written.  Stuff you might one day eventually write, maybe.  The people who shot Bambi’s mom are not to be messed with.  My agent and I kindly (and respectfully) turned them down.

R: That is interesting, meow!  Do you listen to music while you write, if so what’s on your playlist?

MJ: Not while I write, but I will admit that it’s pretty much all 80s, all the time on my iPod.  Also, One Night In Bangkok is the single greatest 80s song in the history of 80s songs.  Suck on that, Sting.

R: What do you find is your biggest challenge in keeping Betsy and Sinclair “fresh”? 

MJ: It can be tricky, because an awful lot has happened to the characters in a very short time.  And as much as I love the Betsyverse, there are only so many shoe sales I can write about without getting near-permanent brain-freeze.  Thus the shake-up seen in UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED (weirdly, despite the title, many readers assumed that was the last book in the series).  There were more shake-ups in UNDEAD AND UNDERMINED, but I’ve asked my readers not to fret too much...

*** (Caution – minor SPOILER!)

...because I’m a Disney ending writer, and Betsy WILL save the day in UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE.  The things we feared in UNFINISHED

*** (Caution – another minor SPOILER!)

will be fixed, or will never come to pass.  Or weren’t what we thought they were.  Things will work out, one way or another.  Y’know, eventually.  After another shoe sale.  And several Orange Juliuses.  And maybe a nap.

R: Meow, our readers appreciate the sneak preview! So, how far do you envision taking this series, and are any spinoffs planned?

MJ: I’d like to write at least 2 more after UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE, and while no spinoffs or planned, I’d love to do a couple of books where Laura, the Anti-Christ, is the main protagonist.  Next year I’ll be working on a paranormal anthology, UNDEAD AND UNDERWATER, which will have a werewolf novella, a story about my super hero with OCD, and a Betsy/Fred the mermaid team-up.  Be afraid.

R: Ooh, sounds great.  What do you love the most about your work?

MJ: What I love about my work today is what I loved when I was 13:  getting the clutter of stories trapped in my teeny brain written down.  Out, out, damned stories!  If I couldn’t write them down, they’d just stick in there.  Like fishhooks.  Which, you know...ow.

R: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

MJ: Quit my series of SDJs (Stupid Day Jobs) to write full-time.  It wasn’t so much crazy as scary.  Many, many people thought this was an extremely bad move on my part, not lease because I never went to college but was making a decent living doing office work.  But my husband, Anthony (he writes the Jennifer Scales weredragon series with me), was 100% supportive, and he was the one who was proved right.  Thank goodness!

About a year or two later, I did some number crunching and was amazed to realize that, if my books kept selling the way they were, I would eventually earn more than my husband, who had a Master’s from Harvard.  This had never happened in our marriage, and I wasn’t quite sure how my alpha husband would react.  So one night I said, “Uh, hon, if my books keep selling like they have, I might...I mean, I’ll probably make more money than you next year.  What d’you think about that?”  He blinked at me in surprise and said, “What, are you kidding?  I wish you were making more than me right now!”  To say he was fine with it would not even come close.  Thrilled with it.  Delighted with it.  I’ll never forget the surprise and hilarity of that moment.

R: What advice do you have for writers just starting out?

MJ:  Listen carefully:  Ten.  Years.  Of.  Rejection slips.  That was not fun.  Writing is fun, but getting rejected, not so much.  But that’s what it costs.  You’re basically in sales, and salespeople hear 9 “no thanks” for every 1 “sure, I’ll take it”.  And that’s a conservative estimate.  I started writing when I was 13, and started submitting for publication in my early 20s.  Berkley knocked on my door when I was 33, and UNDEAD AND UNWED hit shelves in 2004 (I’m 42 right now).  If I’d given up at any point in those years, I’d still be trapped in SDJs.  Hang in there.  When you get a rejection slip, send something else out immediately.  If they don’t like your book, that doesn’t mean they don’t like you (something I’ve noticed a lot of us have trouble understanding).  And write.  WRITE, dammit!  Write and submit and write more and submit again.  You will not improve if your manuscript is under your bed and you’re sick to death of looking at it.  You will not improve if the only person who looks at your work is your mommy.  Write something else and haul that sucker out when a couple of months have gone by.  Then write more.  And then more.  Write.  WRITE, DAMMIT! 

It can be tedious, and the learning curve can be long.  But the rewards are astonishing.  Unimaginable and amazing and wonderful and worth every rejection slip.  WRITE, DAMMIT!

R: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

MJ: Um...well, my mom broke the world record in silhouette shooting when I was 6, and my folks regularly won shooting tournaments.  When I was a teenager, I won a few as well.  We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, so my dad taught me how to hunt and fish, and by the time I was 14, I was regularly helping put food on the table.  (I can already hear the shrieking from the animal rights people, and I respect your beliefs though I don’t share them.  But I also hate Hamburger Helper without the hamburger, thus the hunting.  Do not speak to me of Portobello mushrooms.  Portobello mushrooms do not taste like beef.  They taste like mushrooms.)

I’ll never forget something my mother-in-law said, a woman I respect and love dearly (uh, now).  She was pretty horrified to find her son was dating a woman who was the polar opposite in almost every respect:  religiously, politically, economically, a Master’s vs. a high school diploma...different in every way (which, since we’ve been married 17 years, seems to have worked out).  She wouldn’t let my husband and his siblings so much as pick up a stick and pretend to shoot it when they were kids, that’s how little she cared for guns of any kind.  Enter moi, who might as well have walked into her  house with a 12-guage shotgun strapped to my back, hissing, “Hola, beeches!” like Ben Stiller in Ron Burgandy: Anchorman.

She was super polite and nice, but couldn’t quite hide her apprehension (“Where should I put this shotgun?  Never mind, I’ll unload it and keep it in the guest bathroom.”).  It was Easter weekend, so there were tons of relatives milling around and delicious smells in the air when she said:  “I just can’t believe you go hunting.  It sounds fairly...what do you shoot?  You shoot ducks and deer?  Oh, the poor—oh, look!  The lamb chops are ready!”

R:  And now, a little thing I call:
Just for Fun:
Day or Night person?  Day!
Cat or Dog?  Dog!  (Meow, and I liked you so much until that answer! Nothing I can do to change your mind?)
Hawaii or Paris?  Hawaii!
Ryan O’Neal or Ryan Gosling?  Karl Urban!
Favorite Drink?  Orange Julius!
Favorite TV Show?  Too many:  30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny, Sons of Anarchy...
Favorite Movie?  Gone with the Wind
Favorite Author (other than yourself J)  Carl Hiaasen and Andrew Vachss

R: This has been a blast! Thank you, Mary Janice!

MJ: Great questions, ROCCO!  Thank you. You are one cool cat.

--MJ