by Sandra Murphy
& Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we are interviewing mystery author Dianne Emley, reviewing her latest book Fast Friends, & giving away a copy of the book–details at the end of this post.
Fast Friends by Dianne Emley
Iris Thorne’s life echoes from childhood to adult in this latest episode. The book starts in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles, flashes back to an earthquake that happened when she was fourteen, and brings events from both worlds crashing together.
For Iris, the quake brings back memories of a neighbor’s murder. The murdered man was Gabriel Gaytan, father of Dolly and grandfather of Paula, Iris’ best friend. While Dolly had her own problems, mental and marital, Iris always appreciated Dolly’s kindness.
Now years later, in the wake of the second earthquake, Iris receives a garbled message from Dolly who thinks her husband Bill is trying to kill her. Unfortunately, because of communications problems after the quake, the message is delayed and arrives after Dolly’s supposed suicide. Bill asks Iris to help him find Paula, gone for many years so Iris is understandably confused when she sees Paula at the funeral and Paula says her dad told her to come.
Paula’s brothers couldn’t be more different. Junior does everything Bill tells him to do. Thomas (now known as Gaytan) is running for office—against the former police officer who arrested his grandfather’s murderer. Iris is pulled into the family intrigue when Paula claims to have Grandfather’s real will, not the bogus will submitted by Bill.
Iris is in the midst of being promoted at the office, being courted by her boss’s former boss as well as Thomas and a boyfriend she’s taken back twice (and regretted both times), while trying to restore her apartment after the damage from the quake. Paula wants to profit from the will by selling it to Bill. Iris has another plan, one that will have long term benefits. Complications in the form of Angus and Bobby, former friends of Paula, decide any benefits should be theirs.
While classified as a mystery, this book has many sub-plots that tie into the main story. It’s also a character study as the reader learns about what motivates each of the players—and just who is capable of murder.
Author Interview: Dianne Emley
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Dianne: Since I first picked up a crayon. Literally. I would look through books before I knew how to read. I thought the white space after the chapter breaks was left for me to finish the story. I’d take my crayon and write the three words I knew how to write: YES, NO, ZOO. Then I’d print my name.
Lorie: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Dianne: My first novel, Cold Call, was originally published in 1993. I’ve recently gently edited it and have republished it for the first time as an e-book and trade paperback. It was the first in a series of five mysteries about Iris Thorne, a sexy, single, investment counselor in the go-go, “greed is good” late 1980s who keeps stumbling over murders to solve. In Cold Call, Iris investigates the murder of her deaf friend Alley, the office go-fer. The investigators, led by Iris’s old college flame, dismiss the murder as a gang initiation. Iris thinks there’s more at play and discovers that sweet, quiet Alley had some big secrets that put Iris in jeopardy of not just losing her life, but again losing her heart.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Dianne: Yes, I’ve always written crime novels. I’ve tried to write “mainstream” books, but somehow a body always drops within the first five pages.
Lorie: 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.
Dianne: My latest series features Nan Vining who’s a Pasadena, California homicide detective and a single mom who’s obsessed to find the man who stabbed her in an ambush and left her for dead. In fact, she did die—for two minutes—before fluttering back to life. She’s now haunted by other worldly visions which she doesn’t know are fever dreams or messages from beyond. I decided to set a series in Pasadena (my hometown) featuring a mid-sized metropolitan police department because, as the former Pasadena police chief used to say, “Pasadena has big city problems, but everybody knows your name.”
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Dianne: I write to keep readers turning the pages, to make them invested in what happens to the characters, to provoke an occasional giggle, and to make them want to turn on the lights to see what’s lurking in the dark corners of the room. I write to entertain, to distract the readers from their daily lives. What I hope they take away is a feeling of, “Wow, that was a great read” and “I can’t wait to read her other books!”
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Dianne: I’m disciplined in my writing, as the professional writers I know tend to be. I get up early and am sometimes at my computer by 6:00 a.m. I write until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, taking breaks for coffee and lunch. I write Monday through Friday and usually put in a few hours on Saturday mornings. I write whether I feel like it or not. If the writing is really not working out, I’ll do something else, go to the gym or something completely different. I may come back to it later or I may pack it in for the day.
Lorie: 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?
Dianne: I outline in a fashion. I spend a lot of time thinking about a book before I sit down to work on it. I spend a lot of time naming characters and fictional places. I try to work through the story and consider the major plot turns. Everything, of course, can change many times before the book is finished.
Lorie: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Dianne: I wrote my first book, Cold Call, found an agent right away and it was sold right away in an auction with three publishers. I have had books rejected mid-career, though, so I’m completely familiar with that unique trauma.
Lorie: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Dianne: After my first book was sold to Simon and Schuster, fulfilling a lifelong dream to be a published author, I was sick in bed for three days. My editor at the time said, “I’d hate to see what happens to you if you hit the New York Times bestseller list.”
Lorie: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Dianne: Doing a reading at an outside event and being swarmed by bees. The event coordinator started waving a folded newspaper over my head to keep the bees away. I couldn’t stop laughing. Somehow, I got through the reading. Sold some books too!
Lorie: Future writing goals?
Dianne: To keep writing, publishing and getting better. To make readers happy to read my books.
Lorie: Writing heroes?
Dianne: Patricia Highsmith—master of psychological suspense. Vladimir Nabokov—master of the unreliable narrator.
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Dianne: If I mention a real place, I visit the place or consult someone who has knowledge of it. If I’m writing about a real situation (especially as concerns the police work in my Detective Nan Vining series), I consult my law and order experts that I’ve cultivated through the years.
Lorie: What do you read?
Dianne: I read what everybody reads, I guess. I like mysteries and thrillers. I like “literary” books and love to pick up classics. Right now I’m re-reading Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I also enjoy biographies and autobiographies. I also read newspapers and magazines—especially cooking and gardening magazines.
Lorie: Favorite TV or movies?
Dianne: TV, The Sopranos is my all-time favorite show. Currently, I enjoy Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Movies, my favorites tend toward the classics like The Godfather parts I and II, Chinatown, Hitchcock, Scorsese.
Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Dianne: Keep writing. Get and heed good editorial advice. Don’t give up. It’s not about the writing, it’s about the rewriting.
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Dianne: Anything that excites people to read books is a good thing. I have a Kindle and love it, although I also love “book” books.
Lorie: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Dianne: I worked in a machine shop and ran a drill press. Everything I can think of that might surprise people, I don’t want to share!
Lorie: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Fast Friends, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Friends”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 28, 2012. U.S. residents only.