Interview: Mary Feliz

Please welcome Mary Feliz, author of Address to Die For. And bonus! Address to Die For is on sale for the low, low price of $0.99 for the entire month of September!

ADDRESS+TO+DIE+FORWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

My perfect day would include a long walk on the beach with family and friends, a nap, a good book, and a chatty dinner, easily prepared, easily tidied up, with strawberries for dessert. Luckily for me, my husband and I recently moved to a tiny condo on Monterey Bay with many miles of beach for walking. It’s located outside Watsonville, where the bulk of the world’s strawberries are grown.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

Blue is my all-time favorite color. It was my grandmother’s, too. I have some blue lamps she received as a wedding present and they fit into my eclectic decor as if that’s where they’ve always been. Clothingwise, I like to get away with jeans and sneakers (or even bare feet) whenever possible.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Too many to count. If I had to pin down three, right at this moment, I’d beg to name four. Two would be classics: Wilkie Collin’s The Moonstone, and Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar. For more modern writers, I’d choose Louise Penny, whose characters stay with me long after I’ve finished her books. And Laura Van Wormer, who writes for Mira, helped me see that “English Village Mysteries” can take place anywhere, including her settings: a major television studio and a brownstone in the heart of Manhattan.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Maggie McDonald's sidekick golden retriever Belle and her best pal Mozart
Maggie McDonald’s sidekick golden retriever Belle and her best pal Mozart

Almost never. Now that I live in a condo complex, I sometimes have to drown out extraneous noise. I own a pair of fetching ear muffs — the kind that people who work with chain saws wear to protect their hearing. They are a great “do not disturb the writer” signal. I will occasionally listen to classical music when I’m editing, but I find music all-encompassing. Listening to music is a wonderful experience, but it’s distracting when I’m writing.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

A chocolate cookie that accompanies a cup of tea or coffee. My characters frequently eat cookies. To quote the main character, “In Orchard View, cookies are currency.”

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Oh dear. This is like true confessions, isn’t it? Before our move to the beach, I lived in a Silicon Valley community filled with successful people who took the education of children very seriously. Unfortunately, they didn’t share the same goals or methods. And that dichotomy made tempers run high, creating animosity, polarization, and some very spirited internet discussions. Everyone had the children’s best interests at heart, but many people demonized those who disagreed with them. One day I looked at some of the things that were being said online, and thought, “what if all these people were actually as bad as they are described in these posts?”

Of course, that was just the seed. All of the characters in the books are completely made up. Real people aren’t consistently interesting enough to be book characters.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

My themes tend to circle around the issues that communities struggle with and which have no easy solutions. I’m very interested in why people do the right things for the wrong reasons, or the wrong things for the right reasons. I often discover themes in the final edit that I had no idea I was writing about. That’s one of the real treats of writing, I think.

Tell us about your main character.

My main human character is Maggie McDonald, a professional organizer whose world is running amok. She grew up in a Central Valley university community, and sometimes feels that the people of Silicon Valley are a breed apart. As she discovers the quirks of the area, I hope that readers do, too. The animals are a huge part of the story and tend to play tug-of-war with the limelight. They help me reveal more about the human characters and have been lots of fun to write.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

That’s a diabolically tricky question! Maggie goes after injustice and aims to restore order with the passion of Joan of Arc. Her approach to organization is more Julia Child than Marie Kondo. Like Julia, she shares her skills to give others a means of having fun and getting more out of their lives. She has no patience with rigid organizing principles. She relates to animals as James Herriott does and does her best detecting when she’s among them.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

I’d ask everyone to bring a dish to make the food easy and interesting. I’d have to invite Wilkie Collins, Josephine Tey, Louise Penny, and Laura VanWormer, since I mentioned them earlier. I’d also invite Candace Calvert and Nancy Herriman, who started this journey with me when we were all struggling with an online course: Intro to Fiction. We’re still in touch and we’re all writing and publishing.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently finishing Dead Storage, Maggie McDonald’s third book, completing final edits on Scheduled to Death, and promoting Address to Die For. Promotion is all new to me, but I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. My contract with Kensington/Lyrical Underground is for three books. I don’t know yet whether they will choose to renew the contract, so I’m noodling around several different plans. I’d love to write more about Maggie and Belle and their friends, but it would also be fun to do play with stories that take place in a more rural locale, like my new beach home and the agricultural and tourist industries that surround it. In addition, I have two ‘finished’ historical novels that focus on a young Latina who comes to California prior to statehood and the Gold Rush. I wrote them early in my career and would love to polish them up and see if they might find a home. That’s a problem most authors have, I think: too many ideas and not enough time.

And never enough readers, either, so we cherish every one of them. I want to thank everyone who reads and everyone who teaches people to read. They are the reason I’m able to spend my days with Maggie and Belle and share their stories. I’m very grateful.

*****

Professional organizer Maggie McDonald’s super power is bringing order to chaos. She plans a seamless move to California’s Bay Area. Instead, her husband stumbles on a body, launching a police investigation. But vandals plague the neighborhood and murderers roam free — loose ends Maggie can’t help but clean up.

*****

MaryFeliz5895_C5x7PrintMary Feliz called Silicon Valley home for thirty years and learned firsthand that the high-tech heartland is really a series of small towns filled with quirky characters and customs. She’s worked in the Fortune 500 world and for mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends professional organizer conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her literally in the dust.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Interview: Mary Feliz”

  1. Sounds fascinating! I love the idea of characters doing the wrong thing for the right reasons or vice versa. Looking forward to checking out your books. Thanks for visiting us!

    Like

  2. Welcome, Mary! Wonderful interview. Love that your series is set in Silicone Valley, and that your MC is a professional organizer whose own world is in chaos 🙂 And, oh, you’re so right about authors having the problem of too many ideas and not enough time!

    Like

  3. Thanks everyone for the warm welcome! Please let me know if you have any questions. I recently received a review from a reader who liked the characterization, plot, etc, but did not like the fact that Maggie was married and her husband was sent on a business trip in India just when things were falling apart. She wrote that if I’d wanted a strong female character, I should have written about a woman who was single, divorced, or widowed.

    Maggie has no plans to divorce her smart, funny, supportive husband, a man she met when he was a freshman at the university and she was a senior in high school. In fact, it’s only because of Max’s emotional support and assistance that she has time to do any investigating, run a business, and be a great mom to her two kids. Before Max and Maggie moved to Silicon Valley from their tight knit campus community, they worried about how the pace of life might change and vowed to keep their marriage and their family as a top priority. But it’s tough for them, just as it is for all young families, particularly those with long commutes and demanding careers at which they wish to excel. They have to make difficult tradeoffs. Sometimes they make the right choices and sometimes they might wish they’d chosen differently.

    The tension those tradeoffs create was something I felt needed to be a part of their story, even though a happily married couple is unusual in a cozy mystery despite Agatha Christie’s early introduction of the crime-busting duo Tuppence and Tommy and the popularity of Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora Charles.

    I’m curious about what other readers think. We know that married women can be a strong, capable, professional, problem solver, but can a married woman be a strong female lead in a cozy mystery? Can a husband still be considered supportive if he’s halfway around the world and doesn’t dash home at the first sign of trouble? (In the book, he and Maggie both assume their problems are fleeting. Even if he flew home, his problems would be solved by the time he reached Maggie.)

    Like

  4. Great interview–and a surprise and delight that I’d be included at your dinner table. I LOVE these new mysteries! It’s been such great fun to share in your writing journey, talented friend. Go get ’em!

    Like

  5. Welcome! And how fun. As a reader, I like all kinds of strong women, including married ones. I will say, however, that I do tend (and I didn’t realize this until I started to comment her) to prefer stories where the woman isn’t married in the beginning of the series. Hmm. I will have to think on that. I suspect I enjoy the arc of their story, as the woman and her partner find each other and develop that relationship. Also, I think I lean toward a partner who is more central, and not just part of the scenery. That’s more important to me than married/not married. What an interesting point, though.

    Like

  6. Welcome, Mary. What a delightful premise and book. Your reviewers comments about married/unmarried/single women is definitely food for thought. I point to the classic Sayers books and Lord Peter as proof that married sleuths work, but of course, the stories were almost all Lord Peter’s! My protagonists are single ladies and it works for them in their circumstances. Although Catherine Swope is living with Mike. Each are strong enough personalities in their own right to not interfere with the other so the close relationship works.

    I enjoy the Rita Mae Brown Sneaky Pie books – but when Harry and Fair got back together, I was cautious about reading the first “married” book. Again, both are strong characters with their own lives. Other married sleuth books that I enjoy tend to have both partners as strong characters and both have his or her own life as well as the spouse potentially being involved in solving the mystery.

    Like

  7. Nice interview, Mary. And I think a character can be strong enough to lead a series be she married or single. It all depends on the character.

    Like

    1. I think I didn’t want to write the romantic dance, but the ongoing day-to-day romance of a long marriage. Which is a bigger romance, I think. And, Peg, about those cookies! I led my eldest son read an early draft, and he mentioned, while we were munching chocolate chips, that these Orchard View people sure ate a lot of cookies. One of the recurring themes in Silicon Valley life is that there are so many different nationalities living here that sometimes you just have to admit you don’t understand, throw up your arms, and say, “it’s a cultural thing.” So that’s how I explained all the cookie eating in my head. It’s part of the culture of Orchard View!

      Mary…if you get a chance, I’d love a picture of my books at Bouchercon!!

      Like

  8. Thanks for visiting, Mary! I saw your book on a table at Bouchercon. I went to a panel today on Strong Lead Characters and the panelists were all writers who have strong female characters in different ways. Kristi Belcamino’s Gabriela Giovanni starts single and ends up at least in a partnership (I don’t think they are married yet). Rachel Howzell Hall’s Eloise Norton is in a troubled marriage. I think Karen Salvalaggio’s character is single and I confess I don’t know about Yrsa (and I’m not even going to try and spell her last name). But they all said the same thing. It’s not whether the character is married or single. It’s that she’s real, and flawed, and keeps going despite it all. And I think those characters can be either married or single. Sure, I like seeing a relationship develop (I’m writing that now), but I don’t think that’s an absolute must. As any married woman can tell you, there are a lot of ups and downs in marriage that can make for a very interesting relationship arc.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s