If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Interview with Shelley Costa

by Grace Topping

A Killer’s Guide to Good Works
by Shelley Costa

Senior Editor Val Cameron is back at her desk in New York. When her curator best friend returns from an abbey in England, she invites Val to see a priceless relic that has mysteriously found its way into her carry-on. But by the time Val arrives at the museum, her friend has been murdered—and the relic is gone. Val soon learns that a young monk at the abbey has also been murdered. Is there a single killer at work? What dark purpose is attached to the relic that’s led to two murders? When Val discovers her apartment has been broken into, her native New York feels like a place she no longer knows. Now she has to unmask a killer who will stop at nothing to fulfill an ambitious plan—and Val Cameron is just the latest person to stand in the way.

I had the pleasure of meeting Shelley Costa on the last day of a Malice Domestic conference, when we both collapsed on a sofa exhausted from all the conference activities and then rode to the airport together. It was only later that I discovered her books and learned that she had been an Edgar nominee for Best Short Story and an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. You never know whom you are going to meet at a mystery conference. I’m delighted that I got to meet Shelley and now learn more about her.

Welcome to Writers Who Kill, Shelley.

A Killer’s Guide to Good Works is the perfect title for a book that tells the story of how taking something good to extremes can be bad, even evil. What inspired this book? 

Shelley Costa
It’s hard to say. Certain things floated separately—a monastery, Val in her work life in New York, stolen holy relics, the murder of Val’s best friend, an abiding interest in the Mexican Inquisition—and I wanted to find the points of intersection. I wanted to describe the crazy and murderous pursuit of prophecy at any cost. In trying to find the trails and connections, once I decided on the central holy relic, the monastery needed to be a Carmelite monastery since that order had its beginnings on Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land. I was able to connect the dots between that relic and that setting. This is how, for me, plotting works.

First you send your main character, Val Cameron, off to the Canadian Northwoods chasing down a thriller writer in Practical Sins for Cold Climates, and in this book, chasing stolen religious artifacts and the killer of her best friend. Is that any way to treat a New York editor? Tell us about her.

Part of what makes Val Cameron interesting to me is that she plays well as a fish out of water. In the Northwoods, she has no wilderness skills and she needs to solve a cold case murder. Double sources of tension! In A Killer’s Guide, she’s back in her native New York City, so you’d think she’s a fish in water again, but not when her best friend is murdered and it becomes terribly clear that the killer thinks Val Cameron knows too much. Val’s character makes us contemplate what we think we can safely count on in our own natures—that we may only think are our strengths, and how we allow ourselves to be diminished by what we see as our shortcomings. I like that. Through it all, Val is intrepid, and always keeps the goal in sight—solve the crime and deliver the killer to justice.

Antony Bale, her best friend’s brother, sounds like part monk and part intelligence agent. He’s a bit of a mystery. Is there more to him than meets the eye?

Isn’t there always? Considering he shares narrative point of view with Val and a couple of others, Bale both reveals and conceals a lot about himself. He has U.S. Intelligence experience he skims past (much more would be irrelevant to this particular story), laying groundwork for some interesting possibilities in future tales. He is a man on a seesaw of doubt and faith—of all sorts. What I love about Bale is that he’s comfortable with that ambiguity and tension.

Bale says that he is a lay member of his Carmelite community. What exactly is a lay member?

A valued member of the monastic community who does not take vows.

Bale observes of the young members of the community that they come from “. . . struggling neighborhoods where the 'calling' to the monastic life often signified security and even a kind of stature.” Could the same be said about Bale? What drew him to the monastery and what keeps him there?

Interesting question. I don’t think Antony Bale experienced that same draw to the monastic life that he identifies in the new, young monks who come from difficult home situations. For Bale, monastic life offers a kind of purposeful living that appeals to him, and he has great affection for the goodness and constancy of his fellows there.

Val Cameron’s aunt Greta Bistritz works for the Artifact Authentication Agency. Are there organizations that actually authenticate artifacts? It sounds like there are lots of fake artifacts out there.

The Artifact Authentication Agency is a dear invention of mine that I hope to visit a lot in my novels. Is there such an outfit, a semi-forgotten “office” in the U.S. Department of Commerce? I’m pretty sure not. But I invented it as a key piece in my current tales because my absolute and reliably favorite murder mysteries involve art and artifact theft and the murders that occur in their wake. It still makes me giggle to think of the Agency as a dusty arm of the federal government, since doing so guarantees it a delicious kind of autonomy in the absence of much bureaucratic oversight. 

Avital Korngold (Tali), Master of Situations, is a delightful character. Will we be seeing more of her? And what does a Master of Situations do?

I adore Avital Korngold, my canny and beautiful 13-year-old Orthodox city girl who is grappling with her identity and traditions. She offers her services as a Master of Situations because, at the tender age of thirteen, how can she possibly be a Master of Situations? It’s as if you slap a sign on the side of your Honda that declares you’re selling X-PERT COMPUTER HELP when, in truth, you’ve got nothing to back it up. There’s an element of Magical Thinking to all this, which abounds in American literature, and always has.  We are who we say we are. Does that make us con men, magical thinkers, or Masters of Situations? In Avital’s case, she’s trying to ground herself. Tali also figures in book three, Rules of Divine Assistance, which comes out next June.

Is Burnham Norton Friary in England, where Bale lives, an actual place? Did you visit it to do research?

It used to be. Burnham Norton Friary was one of the many monasteries pulled down by King Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541. All that’s left of it is a smallish ruin you can Google. But, not to be defeated by Henry, I rebuilt it for A Killer’s Guide to Good Works. Writing fiction is, finally, a form of Magical Thinking, I suppose.

Your Val Cameron series is much darker than your Miracola Mysteries series. Why the move from your cozy mystery series that features Eve Angelotta and her family of Italian chefs?

When Simon and Schuster did not “re-up” for more cozies, I saw my opportunity to move into the larger, deeper, darker mysteries I had always wanted to write. I love deep character work in a book, distinctive voice, really atmospheric settings, and themes. As a writer, I like slipping in a point or two about life, about the human condition, about what, as I see it, matters. To do all these things, I need more room in a book, if you know what I mean. More space beyond investigating the crime and exposing the killer. 

I understand that you are a real fan of Edgar Allan Poe, lecturing on Poe at events and penning The Everything Guide to Edgar Allan Poe. What do you think Poe would make of today’s mystery genres?

He’d view them with quiet glee. I’m not sure any of today’s mysteries in their various forms would strike him as altogether new. He himself was writing crime fiction of all sorts--from the Dupin detective stories to first-person tales of murder and horror. In many ways, he was an American literary forefather of crime fiction, so it would please him that the genre was thriving in the 21st century.

Even with my Italian heritage, I’m with Eve’s grandmother—no cannoli. Are you a fan? Do you enjoy cooking?

A fan of cannoli? Not particularly. Which is probably why, when I was experimenting, the filling in the recipe at the end of the book runs more to whipped cream than the usual cannoli cream. Frankly, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth; my go-to for indulgent eats runs more along the pathetic line of potato chips. Salt, grease, aah! As for cooking, mostly I enjoy it, but it’s not what I’d call a passion. But I was drawn enough to it that I could write the family and investigative lives of a restaurant family. My first cousins on the Costa side are all chefs, and they’ve loved the books.

What’s next for Val Cameron in her series and for Eve Angelotta in the Miracola series?

The Miracolo Restaurant Mysteries are dormant. Maybe down the road another publisher will snap them up and woo me to write more. As for Val Cameron, Rules for Divine Assistance comes out in June. This book is my imagination off the leash. It’s Val at a different age, chasing down a stolen mysterious golden artifact from Philly to New York, Milan, and finally Greece. It’s a playful story with a lot of heart as Val takes on some very surprising characters. In her own way, like her friend Avital Korngold, Val Cameron is a Master of Situations as she risks her own neck and people and things precious to her.

Thanks, Grace, and Writers Who Kill, for the opportunity to talk about my work!

Thank you, Shelley, for joining us today.

To learn more about Shelley Costa and her works, visit her website:


E. B. Davis said...

I'm always interested in how authors enable their MCs leaving jobs for the more interesting pursuit of crime-solving adventures. How is Val able to pick up and go?

Shelley Costa said...

Hi, E.B. Yep, that sort of thing is a problem for the amateur sleuth, isn't it? In the first Val book, PRACTICAL SINS FOR COLD CLIMATES, she is actually sent to the Northwoods on business, which is the only reason she'd go. So that works. In the second Val book, A KILLER'S GUIDE TO GOOD WORKS, she lives and works in NYC, and the murder of her best friend occurs in NYC, so Val juggles her time. She's also partnered with Bale, since it's his sister who's murdered, AND she checks in with the homicide cops. So there are plenty of hands at work on investigating the crime. Thanks for your interesting comment.

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks for telling us about your intriguing series. You characters sound like they have real depth and personality.

One of my daughters worked on several excavations prior to construction and had to have numerous artifacts authenticated. (None of them had value beyond their historic significance, like buttons from Revolutionary War uniforms.) They used the services of museums and experts, usually in academia.

And my other daughter interned at the Smithsonian, which works with many other resources to do this work.

I'm looking forward to reading one of your books soon.

Gloria Alden said...

Hi, Shelley! I've enjoyed all your books but have yet to read the latest. I am looking forward to reading it, too. Hope to see you at our next meeting in November.

Art Taylor said...

Enjoyed the interview here--and while I knew Shelley's fiction, of course, I didn't know about the Poe book. Fun stuff all around!

Shari Randall said...

Count me as another Poe fan!
I'm a longtime fan of Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss (art historian) series. I adore all things artifact and art, so I'll look forward to your new book.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I love art and artifact novels, and look forward to reading your books.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Shelley, for visiting us at Writers Who Kill and for the terrific interview.