An Interview with Laura DiSilverio

Please help me welcome Laura DiSilverio, author of the Mall Cop Mysteries and the Swift Investigation Mysteries. Laura is joining us to celebrate today’s release of the newest Mall Cop Mystery, ALL SALES FATAL.

I met Laura at the 2011 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Conference (have I mentioned I love that con?) where she signed my copy of the first Mall Cop Mystery, Die Buying. I read it in a single night and I’ve been a Laura DiSilverio – and E.J. Ferris – fan ever since. I’ve already got my copy of All Sales Fatal via pre-order – and I’m thrilled to have Laura join me today for an interview.

On with the questions!

Where did you grow up?

My father was an Air Force pilot, so I grew up all over.  I was born in Georgia, then lived in Texas, Washington, the Philippines, Oklahoma and Mississippi before going to college in San Antonio, Texas.

What inspired you to start writing?

I have always written.  I can remember writing short stories about Viking princesses when I was seven or eight.  It’s just in my DNA, I guess.  I wrote my first complete novel in college, a category romance, and submitted it to Silhouette.  I was too naïve and uninformed about the publishing business to recognize that the rejection I got from a Senior Editor and VP was, in fact, very encouraging.  I cried buckets and then moved on to writing a Regency romance or two and then a police procedural (unhampered by any knowledge of actual police procedures), before “giving up” writing temporarily to concentrate on my Air Force career and raising a family.  I returned to novel writing in 2004 when I retired, specifically to write and parent full-time.  I got my first contract in 2009, my first book (Tressed to Kill, writing as Lila Dare) came out in 2010, and now my eighth book is on the shelves.

If you could go back in time and share one writing lesson with “new writer you” before starting your first manuscript … what would that be?

Take your time and enjoy the process!  I’m coming back to that lesson just now.  You can’t get too tied up in the results over which you have virtually no control—sales figures, covers, how the book is marketed, what reviewers say—if you’re going to be a novelist, you have to get your joy from the process of writing and re-writing.

All Sales Fatal is the second book in your Mall Cop Mystery series featuring ex-military cop Emma Joy (“EJ”) Ferris. What inspired you to write about such an unusual heroine?

Well, I started with wanting to set a mystery series in a mall, because malls are full of fascinating people and potentially humorous situations.  And when I started to think about who my protagonist would be, I realized I didn’t want someone who would be trapped behind a cash register all day, or confined to one store.  That brought me to the idea of a mall security officer.  And when I started to think about who that should be, I realized I wanted to make it someone who aspired to more, who had some real policing skills, so that there would be some conflict inherent in her situation.  So, I created Emma-Joy Ferris, a former military cop whose leg was injured by an IED in Afghanistan.  She can’t pass police physicals, so she’s signed on as a mall cop while she rehabilitates. She’s dealing with body image issues now that her leg prevents her from doing a lot of what she used to do, and disappointment over not being able to return to “real” policing, as well as investigating murders at the mall and starting a new romance.

You currently write several mystery series, including the Mall Cop Mysteries and the Swift Investigation Mysteries. What first drew you to writing mystery, and what is your favorite aspect of writing mystery novels?

I guess I write mysteries because that’s what I mostly read.  I love the puzzle element, the challenge of beating the fictional detective to the solution, so plotting is probably my favorite aspect of writing mysteries.

Do you have a favorite author? If so, who and why?

I don’t have a favorite author.  Different authors and types of books appeal to me at different times, maybe depending on what’s going on in my life, how I’m maturing, what my writing needs.  Right now, I’m in awe of Nabokov.  I recently read Lolita for the first time and I was amazed at his skill.  He hooked me on page one with a completely unsympathetic protagonist (a pedophile), and reading that book is making me look a bit harder at the conventional wisdom re “likable” narrators, sparing use of adjectives and adverbs, and more. On the mystery front, I admire (in no particular order) Craig Johnson, Cornelia Read, Elizabeth George, Rick Riordan, Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, Elaine Viets, Hank Philippi Ryan, Reed Farrell Coleman, and many, many more. I’m currently reading Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic.

Other than your own protagonists, who is your favorite fictitious detective – and why?

Hm.  Picking just one is tough!  I like the characters that age and grow, have life crises, career ups and downs, personal relationships that bloom and fail, moral dilemmas to confront.  Folks like Harry Bosch, Sharon McCone, Walt Longmire, Adam Dalgleish, Lydia Chin and Bill Smith.

What do you find most difficult about writing mysteries?

There’s always a point, about two-thirds into the book, where I can’t see how to get from where I am to the end.  I usually know what the end is by then, but I can’t connect all the dots to get there logically and interestingly.  I usually have to stop drafting for a couple of days and do some brainstorming.  I get out of my office and let my subconscious sort things out.  I always get there in the end, but I guess part of my process is that crisis which seems, each time, unresolvable.

What piece of advice would you most like to share with new authors just completing their first manuscripts?

If you think it’s done, it’s not.  Revise it at least a couple more times than you think you need to, get critiques from your writing group, let it sit for a month and read it again before sending it to agents.  Be prepared to continue to revise it during the submission process as you get feedback from agents.  Then, get started on the second book (not a sequel)!  Don’t wait to sell the first manuscript before starting on book two.

The Mall Cop Mysteries feature a cast of unusual, often quirky supporting characters (my personal favorite is Grandpa Atherton). Do you invent your supporting cast before writing your manuscripts, or do your characters develop spontaneously during the writing process?

Yes.  Some of both.  Grandpa Atherton was pretty well fleshed out before I started writing, but Joel has grown a lot as I write, and Jay initially started out as “handsome cookie guy with mysterious past,” but he became more real as I got into the story.  I try to make my characters real and I think they get “realer” as the series goes on, as I learn more about them, as they acquire more history with each other.

Do you have any upcoming signings or readings?

I’m teaching a Write Brain seminar for Pikes Peak Writers on 15 May (check their website or mine for location which is TBD), appearing at the Wisconsin Festival of Books on 15 June, and teaching at Mystery University (sponsored by Mystery Writers of America) in Waukesha, WI on 16 June.  Check my website for appearances later in the year (I’ve got events booked all the way out to November).

And now, the speed round:

- Plotter or pantser?

Pantser.

- Coffee, tea, or bourbon?

Tea.

- Socks or no socks?

Socks in winter, not so much in summer.

- Cats, dogs, or reptiles?

Dogs (although I like cats, too.)

- For dinner: Italian, Mexican, Burgers or Thai?

Any of the above!  Probably Italian, Thai, Mexican, burgers.

ALL SALES FATAL is currently available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and a variety of independent booksellers. The Amazon summary:

For mall cop E.J. Ferris, catching customers who “forgot to pay” is quite a change of pace from her former life in the military. But when a real crisis heats up her climate-controlled domain, her old instincts come back quicker than last year’s skinny jeans.

On good days, Fernglen Galleria is a tranquil haven of capitalist splendor—but today is not one of those days. Arriving for her morning shift, E.J. spots a sleeping homeless person outside the east entrance. But the teenage boy turns out to be neither homeless nor asleep. He is, however, dead.

With half the security cameras sabotaged, no one can be sure what happened. E.J. is determined to help solve the case—whether Homicide Detective Helland likes it or not. Uncovering a deadly conspiracy right in her own mall, E.J is about to catch a killer, or get put on lay-away for good…

A little more about Laura DiSilverio:

Laura DiSilverio spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer before retiring to write and parent full time.  She writes the Mall Cop mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime) and the Swift Investigations series (Minotaur) under her own name, and the Ballroom Dancing mysteries (Obsidian) as Ella Barrick.  Suspense magazine named the mall cop debut, DIE BUYING, one of the Top Four cozy mysteries of 2011.  She lives in Colorado with her husband, tween and teen daughters, and Wire-haired Pointing Griffon.

Laura DiSilverio can be found on Twitter (@LauraDiSilverio) and blogs at http://lauradisilverio.com/category/blog/

Laura, thank you so much for joining me here on the blog and letting me share your release day! It’s been great fun to learn more about a fellow mystery author, particularly one whose works I love!

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17 Responses to An Interview with Laura DiSilverio

  1. Marji Laine says:

    This series sounds intriguing! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    • sspann says:

      Thanks Marji – if you like mysteries, or even just a good romp of a book with lots of humor, you will absolutely love this series. I highly recommend it.

  2. Heather Webb says:

    Great interview, Susan.

    Laura, we share the Air Force brat upbringing, though my dad was a transportation commander and not a pilot. He finally retired as a Colonel only about 5 years ago.

    I haven’t read the Mall Cop Mysteries but A.) how does one ignore such an awesome title? and B.) I love the idea of there being so much drama at the mall. What teen girl wasn’t a mall rat, at least to some degree? I can’t believe someone else hasn’t exploited such a great idea! I’ll be picking up a copy for my mother-in-law (who adores mysteries), but you better believe I’ll be reading it first.

    I also wanted to say thank you for the reminder about “waiting until a manuscript is ready”. I’m nearing the end of a massive rewrite and I can’t wait to send it off! BUT, I don’t want to be too hasty and scare away my dream agent. Being patient is excrutiating sometimes.

    Anyway, happy release day and thank you for sharing with us! I’m looking forward to this great series.

    • Laura DiSilverio says:

      Thanks, Heather. I will admit the mall setting attracted me because of its endless possibilities for humor and bizarre happenings. Hang in there with the manuscript. That agent will still be there when the mss is truly ready. Best of luck with it.

  3. What an original idea for a heroine! Kudos for creativity. My daughter is in retail and spends her days working at the mall…I’ll have to bring this series to her attention. I bet she’ll love it!

    And I so relate, Laura, to that point one hits when panic sets in and it seems like there’s no way the plot will all come together. I recently hit that same spot again with my second manuscript. I agree with your strategy of stepping back and mulling on things. It does all work out in the end…we just have to trust our subconscious minds will figure it all out!

    Best of luck with your writing endeavors. Thanks for the great interview!

    • sspann says:

      Your daughter will adore it Julianne – I’m sure of it.

      And I have that panic moment too! When I first saw Laura’s response to that question I had an “oh my goodness! It’s not just me!” moment – that happens with my mysteries too and it was really neat to learn other authors have the same experience.

    • Laura DiSilverio says:

      Julianne–Thanks for commenting and for your kind remarks. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who panics and flails before a novel works itself out! I hope yours has come together.

  4. Wow! What a fun interview.

    Ms. DiSilverio, the Mall Cop Mysteries sound uniquely witty. I have a sister-in-law in retail, I’m ordering for her too… but shhh, don’t tell her, she might be floating around here somewhere.

  5. Laura DiSilverio says:

    Hi Candie. I wouldn’t dream of mentioning it to your sister. :-) I hope you both enjoy the book.

  6. LJ Cohen says:

    Ooh–these look really interesting. Always on the look out for books hubby and I can both read and enjoy. I think this series is just the ticket!

    • Laura DiSilverio says:

      LJ–Let me know how your hubby enjoys them. I hear from men readers frequently about this series.

  7. Hi Laura! Great interview! I have so much admiration for mystery authors – all the loose ends to tie up! And that you make it all work as a panther is amazing! Can’t wait to read your books!!

    • Laura DiSilverio says:

      Hi Arabella! I love the plotting and tying up loose ends. Thanks for wanting to read my books and for dropping by.

  8. Um, that was meant to be “pantser”. Damn itty bitty keyboard!

  9. Hi Laura,
    First off- WOW! That is amazing that you write so many different series! Do you work on them simultaneously? And if so- do you find it difficult keeping you characters straight? I’m am a fairly new writer- and I soo appreciate your advice. If you think it’s done. It’s not. Lol- that is GOLD!
    Thanks so much for giving such a wonderful interview!

  10. Laura DiSilverio says:

    Hi Janet–I don’t usually draft two books simultaneously, although I might be drafting one in the morning and doing typeset edits on another in the afternoon. I don’t have trouble keeping my characters straight–that’s almost like asking if I have trouble keeping my friends straight–but I do occasionally find myself putting a character in the wrong series! Good luck with your writing!

  11. Piper Bayard says:

    Hi Laura -

    I had the pleasure of meeting you at the RMFW Conference last year. I purchased a copy of Die Buying for my mother-in-law. She absolutely loved it. Can’t wait to check out All Sales Fatal.

    Terrific interview, Susan. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Laura a little better.