by Grace Topping
Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters
Watch out Southern California! There’s a new entertainment attorney in town and she’s got game. Only problem is, it’s not the one she should be playing. Corrie Locke belongs behind a desk, not behind a Glock. She should be taking VIP calls, not nosing around a questionable suicide. Instead, she’s hot on the trail of a murderer.
Luckily, she’s the daughter of a late, great private eye, and she’s inherited his love of sleuthing…and illegal weaponry. It doesn’t help matters that her gene for caution is a recessive one. Corrie finds herself in the center of a murder case, unearthing suspects in shocking places. With a cold-blooded killer on the loose, Corrie will have to up her game, or die trying.
Seeing an author launch her first book is so exciting. Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters is the first book by Lida Sideris, and it’s evident from this well-crafted mystery that she devoted the same level of hard work to her writing as she does to her day job as a lawyer. Lida was one of two national winners of the 2014 Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America (MWA) Scholarship for Mystery Writing. Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters may be her first mystery, but it definitely won’t be her last.
It is a pleasure to welcome Lida to Writers Who Kill.
“Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters” is a fast-paced book inhabited by quirky characters and packed with humor. When the doorbell rings, according to your main character, Corrie Locke, “This better be about life, death, or lottery winnings.” Humor is a hard thing to pull off, but you did it beautifully. Did you start out to write a humorous murder mystery, or did humor creep into your writing? What’s your secret to getting a good balance of humor and drama in your writing?
Thank you kindly, Grace. Yes, from the start, I intended to write a very light mystery, so light that it could float if not grasped firmly with both hands. My hope is that my readers feel a lift after finishing the book. I don’t know of any secret to balancing humor and drama, other than to write, rewrite, rewrite and rewrite…about 120 times.
You work as an entertainment attorney, the same field as your main character. What has been the hardest thing writing about the field you work in? Have your co-workers accused you of writing about them?
I worked (past tense) as an entertainment lawyer, but now I run a legal non-profit. The challenge was in determining what aspects of the industry to include that would propel the story forward, but mostly, I found writing about the field I worked in fun and not hard at all. Co-workers did ask if they appeared in the book, but truly, I can’t write about people I know. It’s too close to home. I enjoy collecting impressions of people and situations that brush past me; I flesh those out and incorporate them in my writing. For instance, the star athlete in my book was invented after I happened to have a short, chance encounter, on a golf course, with a basketball legend. We exchanged all of two sentences, but he left me feeling that he was a good, kindly soul… and a possible cat lover. Hence, a subplot was born.
Corrie is an attorney, but she wants to be a private investigator like her father, who she shadowed on many of his cases. She misses the “mad rush of catching bad guys doing bad things to good people.” Are we going to learn more about the adventures she had with her father who mysteriously disappeared?
Somewhere along the way, clues will be thrown onto Corrie’s path about her dad’s disappearance. As she learns more, so will readers.
How did the experiences she gained at a young age working with her father prepare her for her current job and the bizarre people she meets in the entertainment world?
Corrie suffers from a lack of confidence in her new job since she’s a newly minted lawyer in a cannibalistic industry, with zero experience, but her tough side won’t let her fold. At least not without a bit of a fight. She honed the toughness when she shadowed her dad. She’s comfortable in the P.I. world, whether she’s willing to admit it or not. She knows her way around weapons, legal and otherwise, crime scene investigations, and shifty characters. She’s also adept at inventing plausible lies, as needed.
In a subplot, a star athlete wants Corrie to find his Siamese cat who brings him luck, and a hip hop artist, who believes he’s been kidnapped and returned by aliens, wants her to investigate what’s happening to him. Is the field you work in as crazy as depicted in your book?
Veera Bankhead is my favorite character—a hip, sassy security guard who is attending a questionable law school at night. What inspired Veera? Will we be seeing more of her in your next book?
Veera was inspired by Queen Latifah, who seems to me to be the perfect best pal. She appears fun, reliable, street-smart, has a stellar attitude with a ready smile, and is not afraid to take risks. And yes, Veera will be back.
In high school Corrie practiced target shooting using a silencer and participated in knife-throwing contests with her dad. As a result, she is skilled in defending herself by various means, including using a Japanese shuriken. She’s quite a woman. Do you possess any of these skills? How much, if anything, are you like Corrie?
I wish I possessed a few of Corrie’s self-defense skills. The closest thing I have to a weapon is my crystal nail file. And I’m pretty sure that’s legal in California. J As far as similarities between Corrie and me, we both have the swimming skills of a snail.
Corrie is playing it cool, but there are two possible love interests for her—her long-time friend, Michael, who drives like an old lady, and James Zachary, an assistant district attorney. She’s confused about her feelings for Michael and her budding attraction to James, who easily makes her angry. Do you have a favorite between them?
Like Corrie, I go back and forth. Should she stick to the attractive, intelligent, safe, warm blanket type with the sweet cooking skills (can any woman resist a man who knows his way around the kitchen)? Or should she go for the absurdly handsome, slightly dangerous, unpredictable, bullfighter type who also happens to be a lawyer? We should all have such decisions to make.
Corrie’s mother blames her husband’s addiction to Bogart films and Perry Mason for his interest in becoming a private investigator. This from a woman who hid a webcam in her room to watch who gets into her clothes closet. What prompted your interest in writing a mystery about a PI wannabe? Will we be seeing more of Corrie’s mom?
In high school, I cracked two small time cases – one involved tracking down a missing pet turtle, and the other involved uncloaking an obscene phone caller (without benefit of caller ID). I really enjoyed solving both, but the only PI path I wanted to pursue was on the page. And yes, Corrie’s mom will be back to make more trouble for her daughter…while trying to keep her in line, of course.
Your book would make an excellent movie. If it were produced, who would you like to see play some of your characters?
Thank you so much, Grace! In Southern California, encounters with celebrities are almost inevitable. I happened to meet Sarah Shahi (of the TV series, Person of Interest) who I think would be the perfect Corrie. Attractive, strong, yet feminine. And I’ve also met Zachary Levi - the perfect Michael (the safer, kinder, love interest). You already know about Queen Latifah.
What’s next for Corrie Locke and the characters that exist in her world?
Michael will be accidentally implicated in a homicide. It’ll be up to Corrie to save him.
Thank you, Lida, for joining us at Writers Who Kill.
To learn more about Lida, visit her web site: http://www.lidasideris.com.