August was a busy month for me. I had two book release. Flour in the Attic, (as Winnie Archer) which is book
How did you develop your character and choose your location?
My series ideas have always started with the characters. I first developed Lola Cruz as a woman with whom my daughter could someday relate. At the time, there was not much diversity in these types of book series. I wanted to create a character that represented my daughter’s Latina side, who loved her culture, but who was also completely American. Before long Lola had a family, a passion for PI work, and the series was born. The series is set in Sacramento because that is where we lived at the time and I wanted to write within a familiar setting.
Ivy Culpepper, from the Bread Shop Mysteries, started with a name. I love the name Ivy and I always thought Culpepper was a fierce last name. Viola! She existed in my mind. I chose to create a fictional central California coastal town for the setting of these books because it was so different from Sacramento, the setting for the Lola Cruz books, and from Bliss, Texas, which is the setting in the Magical Dressmaking Mysteries. I grew up in California and have such wonderful memories of visiting towns like Abtos and Santa Cruz. I wanted to revisit these places in the Bread Shop series.
What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
I love being able to spend time with these characters who are so much a part of me. When I sit down to write, I feel like I’m hanging out with friends. That is absolutely the best part of being a writer. It blows my mind sometimes when I realize that so many people have read my books and therefore have basically been inside my imagination. I’ve brought entire communities to life. Knowing that my books resonate with my readers is a fantastic feeling.
On the flip side, the writing life can be isolating. I have to be very intentional about meeting people and doing things outside of my writing world. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Every one of my main characters, and some of my victims, have characteristics or life situations that pull from real life. I think there are elements of myself in each of my heroines. I like to say that Lola Cruz is my alter ego…if I were a young Latina sassy smart PI! With each book, the characters evolve and become more and more themselves, but there will always be little pieces of me in them.
My stories almost always have some real life element in them. The mysteries are often “ripped from the headlines”, and then molded or combined or finessed to become the mystery I want to write about.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
That’s a tough question! I think that life is a journey, and while there have been struggles along the way, I don’t know that I would change anything if I had the opportunity to. I pushed through the hard times with the writing career, never giving up, even in the face of rejections early on. I guess I’d tell my younger writing self to hang in there, because it will happen!
If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I have given this some thought, specifically with the Lola Cruz series. Jennifer Lopez’s production company considered it for a TV series years ago. Unfortunately they passed, but now my dream is that Gina Rodriguez discovers the books. I really do think there is a place for Lola Cruz on the small screen. My dream cast for that series (based on Timothy and Jimmy/Mark being a bit younger!) is:
Lola: Gina Rodriguez
Jack: Timothy Olyphant
Manny: Jimmy Smits or Mark Consuelo
Reilly: Merrit Wever
I always envisioned Sandra Bullock from her Hope Floats era, as Harlow Cassidy in the Magical Dressmaking Mysteries.
And Emma Stone is my Go To inspiration for Ivy Culpepper.
Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have an all time favorite author, but I have a long list of overall favorites!
Agatha Christie, of course. I spent my high school years reading every one of her books.
I currently enjoying Ruth Ware’s novels, and I have read all of Liane Moriarty’s books. I’ve been enjoying Elin Hilderbrand’s novels lately. I read pretty widely and am always discovering new authors.
If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Agatha Christie, for sure. She’s almost mythical to me. I would love to know her and see how her brain works!
Barak and Michelle Obama. To have a conversation with these two incredible and influential people would be amazing and impactful.
Oprah Winfrey. I grew up watching Oprah. I admire what she’s accomplished in her life, and her altruistic nature. I’d love to spend time with her.
Gina Rodriguez. This woman is inspirational. She’s become such a powerful voice in Hollywood and I admire all she does to support diversity in her industry.
If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
I’ve been a teacher (mostly middle school) for many, many years. I started teaching out of college, then took time off to raise our kids. That is when I began to focus on writing. I’ve gone back to teaching through the years, both because it’s hard to make a living as a writer and because I love being in the classroom with students and sharing my passion for words, language, and books. I don’t know if I’ll go back to the classroom again, but if I couldn’t write, that’s definitely where I’d be.