Introducing Cozy Mystery Author Mary Feliz
“Trying to solve the mystery is what I enjoy most about writing.”-Jon Ronson
How long have you lived in the Silicon Valley?
I moved to Mountain View in 1982 and lived in the area for 34 years. My husband and I recently relocated about 50 miles south to live at the beach.
Sounds inviting. Haven’t been that far north in California just yet.
How has living there affected your writing?
Silicon Valley is a unique area that changes quickly. It’s an incredibly gorgeous setting with a mild climate, but it’s also crowded with lots of traffic. The tech companies that originally created the area did so because of its proximity to Stanford University and a number of other large educational institutions, and education is highly valued. Movies, television, and newspaper articles have focused on some of the regions flashiest characters, but I don’t think they capture what the day to day life is like for ordinary people. I’ve tried to do that in my mysteries.
Nice touch. It would be good to get an inside scoop of what life is like inside the valley!
How long have you been writing fiction?
In the late 90s, I wrote two young adult historical novels about a young Latina woman who was a refugee in Monterey following the Mexican American war. I wasn’t able to attract a publisher and self-publishing wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, so I put them away and focused on writing communication materials for schools and other local programs. I’ve learned a lot about narrative structure since then and plan to go back and re-edit them. A few years ago, I decided to try again, and chose to write mysteries because I love them, and I knew I’d have fun writing the stories even if no one else saw them.
Oh great! I would love to hear more of the stories you wrote back then. I’m curious how you came to writing mysteries though. What made you switch?
“My life was a mystery even as I lived it.”-Melissa Gilbert
What other kinds of professional writing have you done?
I’ve worked in Corporate Communications and Public Relations for financial and high-tech companies, and did a lot of community relations writing for the schools and programs my children were involved in.
Wow, you’ve lived a writing life. In my experience writing professionally and writing fiction have been mutually beneficial, however I definitely prefer fiction!
Tell us about some of the short stories you’ve written.
I’ve written a grand total of ONE short story. It won a few contests, which was fun. I have the greatest admiration for short story writers — one false move and the story crashes and burns — they are incredibly difficult to craft. But I find it easier and more enjoyable to write novels.
Sounds like it was fun, especially if it won contests. I had no idea about the difficulty in crafting short stories.
How did you craft Maggie Mcdonald?
The series began because I wanted to do something new in the cozy mystery genre. At the time I started writing series, most of the amateur women sleuths were young single women or recently divorced women who were caterers or crafters. But I wanted to write about an older character who was happily married and juggling a career and kids. Raising a family is hard work and doing it while you’re trying to catch bad buys and launch a successful business is probably only possible in fiction, but I wanted Maggie to try. I felt that making her a personal organizer would give her access to the places people keep secret — their closets and underwear drawers.
I love her already! She sounds adorable, witty, and very capable. It takes a lot of skill to the potter of a great character.
How do you relate to Maggie personally?
Maggie shares part of my world view, but she’s thinner, fitter, braver and younger.
Do she have a sidekick?
Maggie’s permanent sidekick is her golden retriever, Belle. In each of the books, a different character takes precedence as her primary helper. But her sons and her husband Max are always helping out.
I like it. You gotta love a good sidekick!
Tell us a little about the setting for Address to Die For.
The book takes place in Orchard View, a fictional compilation of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Mountain View. The McDonalds move into a large 100-year old craftsman home Maggie’s husband inherits from his great aunt. The house is based on an actual home, The Griffin House, which is now part of the Foothill College campus and is awaiting renovation. Griffin House was designed by a prolific Bay Area architect Frank Delos Wolfe in 1903.
I’ve been thinking a lot about setting recently and it’s importance in these kind of genres. By the way, I absolutely love this book cover!
What are the elements of a good mystery?
I think the most important part of any mystery is the characters. I love the books of Louise Penny and miss her characters between books. Even the secondary characters have developmental arcs across each book and the series. I can’t begin to touch Penny’s deft skill, but I’ve tried to bring those elements into the Maggie McDonald series.
This is definitely a skill one should have in their books. Learning how to pull it off takes time though.
Can you tell us about the next book in the series?
Scheduled to Death will be released in January, Maggie works to help friend, client, and Stanford University physicist Lincoln Sinclair escape a murder charge. In Dead Storage (July 2017) Stephen Laird is held responsible for the death of a local restaurateur.
Sweet! I have the first book, and looking forward to the second and third installments. Your covers are so beautiful and captivating.
The job of the artist is to always deepen the mystery…-unknown
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Author of the Maggie McDonald Mysteries
Silicon Valley Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that extends beyond her clients’ closets and sock drawers. When murder comes to Orchard View, Maggie must set things right.
Address to Die For (Kensington Publishing) July, 2016
Scheduled to Death (Kensington Publishing) will be released January, 2017
Dead Storage (Kensington Publishing) will be released July 2017.
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