by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of a fun new book by T.C., or Toni, LoTempio, along with an interview with her. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Crime and Catnip. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Crime and Catnip: A Nick & Nora Mystery by T.C. LoTempio
Review by Cynthia Chow
Despite being the second choice, after the first caterers closed down, Nora Charles was delighted to have her Hot Bread sandwich shop catering the Cruz Museum fundraiser. The pressure of catering an annual gala for over two hundred at short notice was worth being able to help the museum and its curators. Just in time for Halloween, Sir Rodney Meecham has agreed to exhibit for the first time in America the grimoire of Morgan le Fay, despite previous attempts of its theft. At least the increase in security and mystery surrounding it may give Nora the opportunity to write an article for the true crime magazine, Noir.
Less welcoming is the return of Detective Leroy Samms, a homicide detective she knew in college and who infuriates her as much as he incenses her. Nora is discovering that there is a thin line between love and hate, and it’s an especially unwanted complication considering that she is sort of dating FBI Special Agent Daniel Corleone. Even both law enforcement officers being on the scene of the masquerade gala doesn’t prevent the murder of the museum’s new administrator, and neither are willing to share information on how it may have been linked to the exhibit.
Despite the Museum turmoil, Nora and her friend Ollie J. Sampson continue their search for Nick Atkins, a missing private investigator and the former owner of Nora’s eerily intelligent cat Nick. Ollie continues to receive postcards from (human) Nick they are attempting to authenticate, and deciphering the clues is perplexing. Just as confounding is that before disappearing Nick left vague hints for Violet Crenshaw concerning her missing niece, leading the museum board of director to beg for Nora’s help.
Nora’s investigative reporter instincts continue to propel her through this third in the series, which has her breaking into crime scenes, withholding evidence, and coming very close to interfering with a police investigation. Not even a concussion or two gets in the way of Nora’s investigations, and a break-in at her home only further indicates that she is getting closer to the truth. The original Nick Atkins may have given his cat the nom de plume Sherlock, but Nora is willing to do battle to keep her Nick and Nora team together. Their endeavors somehow manage to unwind the labyrinth-like plot that crosses borders and have a devastating impact on the world, proving that together Nick and Nora are an unstoppable team.
Interview with Toni LoTempio:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Toni: Since I could breathe. Seriously, I started very young. I’d read books or comics and if I didn’t like the ending, I’d change it.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Toni: My first traditionally-published novel was Meow If It’s Murder, the first in the Nick and Nora mystery series. It’s about an ex-crime reporter who returns to her hometown to manage her late mother’s sandwich shop. Along the way she adopts (or maybe it’s the other way around) a tubby tuxedo cat who belonged to a PI who’s now MIA. The cat, like his former owner, has a flair for detection.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Toni: I actually started out writing horror and suspense, and had a few books published by a small press, Whiskey Creek Press. Then I graduated into paranormal suspense/romance and self-published a few books under Toni LoTempio before I landed my agent and my contract with Penguin.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell me a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Toni: To be truthful, it kind of chose itself. I needed to bring some sort of closure to the “missing PI” end of the story and this seemed the best way.
From the book blurb: “While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her frisky feline friend, Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown.
“As Nora and her curious cat, Nick, pull at the string of clues, they begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, theft, false identities, murder, and international espionage. Nora dares to hope that the labyrinth of leads will not only help them locate the missing young woman, but also solve the disappearance of the detective. That’s if Nora can stay alive long enough to find him.”
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Toni: I have to admit my goal is to entertain, and the first person I have to entertain is myself. I figure if I’m not enjoying myself writing these stories, no one else will.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Toni: No, I keep to a definite schedule. I hold down a full-time job, so I try to write for at least two hours when I get home from work, and longer on Saturday and Sunday. This is why I have no life, LOL.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Toni: I do outline, even though the outline changes drastically from start to finish. I also keep a “story bible” which details the characters, descriptions, locales, etc. Otherwise, trust me, I would be mixing them all up!
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Toni: I’m a morning person, but to be honest I like writing in the afternoon, usually between 1:00 and 5:00—if I had my choice.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Toni: OMG yes! It is terribly hard to get published. Less than 1% of manuscripts submitted make it. I’m terribly grateful that mine found its way there!
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Toni: Well, when we first submitted Meow the manuscript was entirely different: the cat actually talked. My agent came back and said the publisher loved it, but they did not want the cat to talk; he could do anything but that! So I came up with the idea of Nick spelling out clues with Scrabble tiles. Then I had to create another character to take Nick’s dialogue. I did all that in three weeks! That was the year we had Hurricane Sandy, so that delayed things a bit, but it finally went back to the editorial board and they accepted it! I have never shouted so loud in my life as when my agent called to tell me the news. It took from April, when we submitted, to the following January.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Toni: Signing books at BEA at the MWA booth and a man came up and said, “Write something witty.” Well, of course after that I couldn’t think of a darn thing.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Toni: I have a new series, Cat Rescue, which debuts from Crooked Lane in March 2017. And some other projects in the works I can’t talk about yet. I’m also hopeful for more Nick and Noras.
KRL: How fun we will be looking for that!
Toni: Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, and my hero —James Patterson!
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Toni: I usually do a lot of research, depending on the plot of the book. For example, for the cat rescue I’m writing right now I had to do some research on diamonds. And for Crime and Catnip, I had to research the Arthurian Era.
KRL: What do you read?
Toni:I love cozies! I also review them for Night Owl Magazine! I also love reading horror, suspense, and true crime!
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Toni: I’m a Gray’s Anatomy Fan, and I love Dancing with the Stars. My all-time favorite movie: Gone with the Wind.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Toni: Read, read and write, write. And never ever give up. It took me 16 years to get traditionally published! So if that is your dream, stick to it. Trust me, there is no EASY way to get published.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Toni: People can catch up with me and my cat, Rocco, on his blog, www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com. We feature author interviews and giveaways each month! You can also keep up with what I’m up to there, too. ?
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Toni: Hm…probably that I originally started out writing horror. Think Stephen King meets American Horror story.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Crime and Catnip, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “catnip,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 31, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Click on this link to purchase this book & a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:
You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.