Interviews by Catherine Chant

What They Say

“Geniuses can be scintillating and geniuses can be somber, but it’s that inescapable sorrowful depth that shines through—originality.”
—Jack Kerouac

 

 

Catherine Chant

Catherine Chant is the author of a young time travel series available at Amazon.com and other online retailers, and two installments in the Vampire Diaries franchise via Amazon’s Kindle Worlds. She teaches several online classes for writers throughout the year, and her popular workshop GROW A BOOK: TURNING YOUR STORY IDEA INTO A WORKABLE PLOT is now available as an eBook, exclusively at Amazon.com.

Grow a Book by Catherine Chant

For more information about Catherine, her books and her workshops, please visit her website at http://www.CatherineChant.com or find her on social media at http://www.Facebook.com/CatherineChantNovels and http://www.Twitter.com/@Catherine_Chant

 

Spotlight

 

 

August 2017

Interview with Award-winning Mystery Author Theresa Varela


Mystery Author Theresa Varela

 

What inspired you to write mystery books?

My earliest memories are of my mother reading at the kitchen table late into the night. Her stacks of Agatha Christie novels spawned my collections of Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames mystery books at a very early age.

I’ve been told that I am always asking why? This type of inquisitiveness fires up my desire to resolve the who’s, the how’s, and the what’s in stories and in life. I love solving crossword puzzles. Having answers helps me to make sense of things that have played out in my life and for those I have relationships with including those I work with in mental health.

If one asks questions, invariably, there can be solutions to problems. Once characters introduce themselves to me, they can easily inspire me to write mysteries or novels. My characters are the ones who guide me into the emergence of whatever types of stories that I write.

When you start a new mystery, do you plot it all out from the start (all the clues and red herrings) or does the story evolve as you write it?

My stories evolve as I write them. This includes both my mysteries and novels. When I write I listen to the stories as they are told by the characters. My job is to edit and to revise as needed but the nuggets of the stories come from the characters.

I’ve tried to plan books out chapter by chapter but that has, up until now, been what seems to be a waste of time since I don’t really stick to the outlines. I write my ideas down, usually on the subway as I head home from work, but generally I sit and write as though I’m reading the story for the first time.

I was genuinely surprised at the turn of events for my first mystery, Nights of Indigo Blue. I could feel the protagonist, Daisy Muñiz’s, bafflement as she learned the process of the murderer and the explanations for their actions.

Over the years, my first novel, Covering the Sun with My Hand, has offered me new insights and understandings that I never had when I initially wrote the story. Julia fights to forge a path unlike the ones her mother and others in her family had already established. Julia refuses to apply to the community college in Brooklyn that her teacher attempts to entice her to attend and instead goes to one in New York City. She views this action as a step up and out of her existence as a ‘Brooklyn girl.’ It wasn’t until recently that I realized Julia’s ill-fated affair with Daniel takes place in the exact neighborhood that she fought to stay away from that reveals a different type of settling that women may unconsciously conceal from themselves.

What are you working on now?

My current work in progress is a novel entitled Coney Island Siren. This stand-alone book took me by surprise because I never contemplated writing such a surreal sensual thriller. The protagonist, Maggie Fuentes, is a young nurse, who believes she is living the dream with her sexy but deeply troubled, sociopathic lover, Frank, who is a police officer. Maggie, a flea market aficionado, comes across a journal written by Ellen in the early 1900s that becomes a life road map for Maggie if she would only allow the stark truths in her life to light the distortions that she’s come to accept.

The poetry that emerged on paper written by Ellen astounds me. The style is quite different than poetry I’ve written before. It is true to the language used in the early nineteen hundreds. I feel as though Ellen has spoken through me when she shares the poems and the passages of her life in Coney Island as a young woman who struggles with the effects of poverty on her family while being keenly aware of the different existences of the affluent. In the journal, Ellen’s trials with her rich companion, Tom, demonstrate the urgency of survival that Maggie is both fascinated and repelled by as the story unfolds.

Do you prefer to write mystery series books or stand-alones?

First, I’d like to say that I prefer to read mystery series books over stand-alones. Once I’m hooked into a character I love to watch the development of personality, the nuances, and the creation of a history for that persona. I love Matthew Scudder who is the main character in the Lawrence Block series. He’s lonely, plods the streets of Manhattan alone, and is settled at the bottom of the heap as he begins to create a life as a private investigator after a tragedy pulls him away from his job as a New York City police officer that takes place in the neighborhood I currently work in.

My Daisy Muñiz character also has lots of room to develop. We meet Daisy when she is newly sober after reaching a bottom of her own with the death of her boyfriend, Lou. Daisy is acting her way to right thinking and trying to make sense of herself and her world when a doctor she had a brief romance with is killed at the hospital where she is still trying to fulfill her role as a valued worker.

In the first book of my series, Nights of Indigo Blue, Daisy meets the charming detective David Rodriguez who has been recently transferred from his post in Chicago. The two are catapulted into investigating the death of the prominent surgeon at Windsor Medical Center. Daisy’s challenge is to be open to the newness in her life while dealing with the reminders of the all too recent darkness she had experienced.

The second book in the series, The Cherry Blossom Murders, focuses in on the homicide of one of Daisy’s close friends. This novel very gallantly stepped aside when Coney Island Siren elbowed its way into my laptop.

Authors are encouraged to write about things that they know. The hospital setting, medical life, the realm of spiritists. and the Orisha tradition that she begins to explore are areas in which I have personal knowledge. Some of my readers have mentioned to me that Brooklyn is a main character in my books. It’s true that I’ve lived in and have loved Brooklyn all of my life and it is a place very much alive where my characters interact.

What is your typical day like?

My typical day starts out either with a run or walking my dogs and playing extreme fetch with them before readying myself for work in the mental health field. I’m a psychiatric nurse practitioner in a shelter for women with mental illness in New York City. I complete evaluations for the women that helps with the determination of best housing choices, provide education and counseling, and for some, when needed, I prescribe medication.

When I get home from work in the evening, it can be a challenge to turn on my laptop and get to the business of writing. Because I often jot down my ideas, snippets of poetry, and sometimes, full pages of dialogue in a small notebook or in my smart phone; I can easily transfer those pieces into my documents and then incorporate them into my novels.

I try to make sure to have at least one to two days free during each week so that I can pour myself into my novels and turn off all the noise that’s around me except for maybe a bark or two from my Llasa Apso, Ginger, and Yorkiepoodle, Chutney Marie.

Do you have a favorite character from your books?

Julia Acevedo, the protagonist in my first novel Covering the Sun with My Hand, is indeed my favorite character. Julia is a woman who attempts to think through her problems and when life meets her head on is left with the task of facing realities that are frequently more complicated then she had anticipated. Julia loves almost to a fault and often places the needs of her family members before her own.

In the novel, we meet Julia just as she’s about to start college and we travel with her on a lifetime journey as a Latina who struggles with her twin brother’s mental illness, family expectations, and fulfilling her heart’s desires when she realizes that she is the one in charge of her destiny. I have a book of short stories about Julia and the other characters that is waiting patiently for me to return to finish.

There’s great opportunity for the creation of many stories when fully developed characters are produced. I have written a play also called Covering the Sun with My Hand that was inspired by the novel. I’m planning to have a full stage reading in New York City this fall in preparation for the production of a full length play. Stay tuned for these. The revision is remarkable in that we have the same characters and yet the story is told with an entirely different take. I’ve learned so much about writing and about letting the characters tell the new version of the story while remaining true to what they wanted and not to what my preconceived notions were.  

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block, and if so, how do you overcome it?

I don’t think that, for me, writer’s block truly exists. There are always mounds of projects waiting to be worked on and new ideas that formulate in my mind all of the time. The problem is that for many reasons I won’t sit down to write and spend time with the craft that I love.

An outsider may perceive my lack of blog posts or a lengthy interval between the first and second book in my mystery series as writer’s block. Instead, my head may be cluttered with multiple projects or personal or family issues. For instance, this past year I have been caring for my father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The amount of time I usually set aside for creativity was quickly absorbed with caretaking. I’ve just made some changes in how we are dealing with his decline and he is now residing in a wonderful assisted living residence. I can be his daughter and a writer again and that was something I greatly missed this past year.

For me, overcoming the inability to sit and write is usually helped by my meditating as often as possible and engaging in some form of physical exercise such as running or dance where I can loosen up my muscles and allow my creativity to flow on full throttle.

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery by Theresa Varela

Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery

Daisy Muñiz is ready to embrace a fresh new start in her brownstone apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when she is thrust into the midst of the mysterious murder of Windsor Medical Center’s most prominent surgeon, Arthur Campbell.  As the secrets of the Campbell family are revealed, Daisy is forced to delve into her own troubled past and she becomes the unwitting ally to Detective David Rodriguez.

 

 

About the Author

Award-winning Puerto Rican author Theresa Varela was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She is the recipient of International Latino Book Awards for Covering the Sun with My Hand in 2015 and Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery in 2016.

Dr. Varela holds a PhD in Nursing Research and Theory Development, and currently works with the mentally ill homeless population in New York City. She is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and a member of Las Comadres Para las Americas, and is on the Advisory Board of the Latina 50 Plus program.

She is co-founder of La Pluma y La Tinta, a Writers’ Workshop. Connect with Theresa at Twitter @Theresa_Varela or her blog, LatinaLibations on Writing and All Things of the Spirit, can be found at www.theresavarela.com