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?
– Coffee, tea, or bourbon?
– 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.
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, 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!