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When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
Actually, the first book I wrote was my dissertation (yawn). I’m very grateful to graduate school for teaching me that a book is just a series of short papers strung together. Once I’d figured that out, I realized that I could write a work of fiction—and that it would be a hell of a lot more fun. Anyway, that’s how Limoncello Yellow, the first book in the Franki Amato mysteries, came into being. By the way, I’m thrilled to announce that Limoncello Yellow has been named a finalist in the mainstream mystery category for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Why? Because this means that I’m going to the “Death by Chocolate” awards ceremony in New York City! (I’m seriously in it for the chocolate.)
Where did the idea for your story come from?
I wrote “Rosolio Red” for an anthology of Christmas stories that Gemma Halliday published for only two months called Cozy Christmas Capers. The idea for the story came to me in the same way that the content for all my books does—from personal experiences, from things I’ve learned while traveling and studying language and culture, and, of course, from my twisted imagination and sense of humor (cue evil laugh).
Why did you pick the setting you did?
The story starts out in New Orleans because it’s the most wild, weird, and wonderful city in the United States, but it quickly takes the reader to Houston, which is Franki’s hometown and where I went to high school (Go, Clear Lake falcons!). The best part of setting the story in Houston was that readers get to meet Franki’s family in person, instead of over the phone. Her nonna is quite a force to reckon with on her home turf, and then there’s her brother Anthony...
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
Glenda O’Brien, the sixty-something ex-stripper, is the only one of my recurring characters who is a complete figment of my imagination (although, she was inspired by a group of strippers I met when I had to make an emergency bathroom stop in Big Daddy’s strip club at ten a.m. one morning on Bourbon Street—the bathroom turned out to be their dressing room). Franki is the only character that shares any traits with me. She and I don’t always think alike, but we speak in the same bewildered/sarcastic style.
Did you face any blocks while writing the story, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
“Rosolio Red” just flowed out of me like a kind of therapy, because elements of her family dynamic come straight from mine (heavy sigh). When I write books, I don’t have blocks only because I plan about two-thirds of the plot in advance. The blocks come when I’m trying to outline my books. Now that’s murder.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
My writing space is my bed or my couch. I need to be on my back with my head and knees propped up, preferably while semi-watching a rerun of Murder, She Wrote or some old mystery on Turner Classic Movies. Oh, and my dogs (Dagoberto, Fabiana, and Gigetta) are always there with me, driving me crazy with their licking and scratching. That combination of comfort and tension is key to creating a good cozy mystery. LOL
What are you working on now?
I’m writing Amaretto Amber, the third book in the Franki Amato mysteries, and I’m also putting together a synopsis of A Poison Manicure and Peach Liqueur, which is the second book in my Danger Cove Hair Salon mysteries. Incidentally, the first book in that series is Deadly Dye and a Soy Chai, which comes out July 20th. Anyway, the synopsis for A Poison Manicure is seriously killing me.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?
I wouldn’t change genres for anything in the world, but sometimes I think I’d like to write a traditional mystery—a creepy one set in Italy, for example. It seems like it would be such a challenge to write a serious mystery, but on the other hand, I might get bored. I mean, without the laughs (yes, sometimes I actually crack myself up), I’m just not sure that writing would be as much fun.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
I probably would have stayed in academia, teaching Italian and writing really nerdy papers about Italian linguistics. But I like to think that I would have become a tour guide, arranging fabulous trips to Italy that involved lots of food and fashion. I have a years-long love affair with the Gucci store on Rome’s Via Condotti, by the way.
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Ugh, facial expressions, body language, and dialogue cues, i.e., phrases that inform the reader how the dialogue was delivered. It’s SO EASY to think of what characters would say in a given situation, but it’s SO HARD to describe how they said it and what they were doing with, like, their left thumb at the time. I actually ordered lessons from an online class about how to depict these things on paper, and it just frustrates me so much that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to read the notes. Ha, yeah. That’s me.
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