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!
What’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?
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.
Mary 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.