Hi there, guys and dolls! Can you believe that the new year is right around the corner? It seems like Christmas was just a few days ago… oh wait, it was. What was in that egg nog anyway? Anyhoo, so glad you could tear yourselves away from the leftovers and mistletoe to join me in another great confab with a fellow Cozy Cat Press scribe. This month, my good friend and fellow sassy lady Nanci Rathbun joins me by the martini pitcher to talk about her Angelina Boneparte Mysteries. Yours truly must say she has really enjoyed TRUTH KILLS and CASH KILLS immensely (glowing reviews to follow later in the new year) and can’t wait for the third. So settle on down and enjoy getting to know another terrific writer.
1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.
My series is set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and features Angelina Bonaparte – Boe-nah-par-tay, please. Angie is Sicilian-American and insists on the correct pronunciation, not the Gallicized version that Napoleon used to gain acceptance at the French court. Angie is a fifty-something woman who opened a private investigation business after her long-term marriage ended. A former librarian, she decided that her research skills would stand her in good stead in her new career. Her professional business suits cover sassy lingerie. I guess you could call Angie a woman who re-invented herself after kicking her cheating husband to the curb.
Milwaukee homicide Detective W.T. (Ted) Wukowski has issues with women in dangerous professions and, in Truth Kills, the first in the series, he makes sure Angie knows it. From inauspicious beginnings, they develop a mutual respect and trust that eventually leads to a relationship.
Mix in Angie’s overprotective papa, who has ties to organized crime; the religious aunt who helped raise Angie; her grown children and young grandchildren; Family (as in the Godfather) lawyer Bart Matthews; and handsome gay man, Bobbie Russell, whom Angie met on the first case and who remained in her life as a friend and unofficial assistant. The cast of regulars and occasional characters blossoms into life in the Angelina Bonaparte series, with the city as its background.
2. What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you?
I wish I were more disciplined about my writing hours and days, but I must confess that I get pulled away by other commitments more often than I’d like. I work with a writing coach, though, so our weekly sessions force me to get words on the page.
As for my process, I’m more of a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) than a plotter (outline every aspect before writing), although when you write mystery novels, you need to be very aware of plot. I find that, as I write, my characters tend to take over. That happened with Bobbie, who was supposed to be a very minor character, but who would not let me relegate him to a page or two. He’s become a major character in each of the books.
I use a laptop, so I can write anywhere I’m free of distractions. I find it very hard to write in noisy places like coffee shops, so I’m generally in a quiet environment when I work. Good thing I don’t have small children at home any more!
3. What exciting moment or moments that made you realize that you were really an “author?”
I was over the moon when I signed my first contract with Cozy Cat Press, but the realization that I was an “author” really hit me when a box of TRUTH KILLS was delivered to my door and I held the book in my hands. I did a little touchdown dance in my living room that day! It was rather like holding your newborn baby, but the labor for my books lasted much longer than for my children. I felt the same thrill when CASH KILLS, the second in the series, arrived.
4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?
I find it’s good to step back for a bit when I’m not sure how to proceed in the writing. While walking my dogs (Gizmo, now in doggy heaven, and his successor Teeny), I often experience moments of flow, when the plot coalesces and I understand the next steps. Sudden inspiration comes to me in the oddest places – the shower, while driving, while people-watching in public. I like to ask myself how the characters would behave in a given situation and consider options. Since my work is very character-driven, that seems to get me unstuck.
5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?
I was the little girl who always had her nose in a book. I loved the classic children’s stories, but Nancy Drew really sparked my imagination. I think that’s when I became a mystery reader. In early adulthood, I picked up a copy of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night and was struck by the elegance of her prose and the fascinating interplay between Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey. Sayers showed me that mysteries can also be great fiction. So did P.D. James, who recently died. Her works are should be required reading for any writer of detective fiction, with her expert command of language, setting, characters and plotting. As for Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone novels – well, it doesn’t get much better.
I read widely in other genres and in literary fiction, also. Harper Lee, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Patrick Rothfuss are a few who come to mind. Can you tell that I like works that tackle strong themes of justice? That’s what the mystery encompasses, after all!
So true, Nanci! Friends, get to know my gal pal a little better. Visit her website — www.nancirathbun.com, follow her on Twitter — @nancirathbun, click to her Facebook Author page and join her on Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7199317.Nanci_Rathbun. While you’re at it, be sure to pick up her latest CASH KILLS on Kindle. Until next year, dear readers!