by Grace Topping
When Joanne Guidoccio created Gilda Greco, the main character in her mystery series, she gave her talent, initiative, good friends, an ability to solve murders, and $19 million dollars. What could possibly go wrong for Gilda? Reading Joanne’s most recent book in the series, Too Many Women in the Room, I soon discovered that lots can go wrong, and a money windfall isn’t always a blessing.
Too Many Women in the Room
When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.
Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?
Welcome, Joanne, to Writers Who Kill.
Gilda Greco, your main character in Too Many Women in the Room, received a sizeable lottery win and stayed in her hometown where the residents know that she is now a very wealthy woman. What affect has the win had on her life?
You began Too Many Women in the Room with a prologue, which was quite effective. With so many agents and editors warning writers away from prologues, why did you use one?
I struggled with this decision but decided to follow the advice given by a workshop facilitator: Use a prologue only if it adds an interesting and integral layer to the narrative. Starting with the victim’s POV fits both of these requirements and provides the reader with insight into the character’s motivations and thoughts during his final hour.
With the luxury of being able to spend money on whatever she wants, Gilda invests in a startup Greek restaurant—knowing nothing about the restaurant business. What prompted her to take this gamble?
While Gilda is a self-proclaimed non-foodie, she has great appreciation for the culinary talents of friends and relatives. After sitting at Chef David Korba’s table, she couldn’t resist helping him launch Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant. She had every confidence in a chef whose skills had been honed in Greece and the Danforth in Toronto.
Reinvention is a recurring theme in your novels and short stories. Why this particular theme?
Reinvention is a core theme of my own life. A cancer diagnosis at age 49 and a decision to retire at age 53 prompted me to reassess my life goals. An avid reader, I searched for fiction and nonfiction literature that would help me navigate these uncertain waters. And then I decided to write the books I wanted to read.
In addition to investing in the Greek restaurant, Gilda helps people in other ways. In one case, she established a business called ReCareering and offers free initial counseling sessions. What is recareering, and how does she help her clients? Why doesn’t she just give them money?
Setting up a ReCareering office was one of my retirement goals. After obtaining a post-graduate diploma in career counseling, I had hoped to set up a coaching business that would focus on the needs of boomers in transition. But personal and family challenges forced me to reconsider. Instead, I am living vicariously through Gilda Greco. In addition to helping boomers launch second acts, Gilda also offers her services to adolescents searching for career direction, twenty-something and thirty-something disgruntled workers, and middle-aged women planning to re-enter the workplace. In short, Gilda hopes to empower rather than give handouts to her clients.
In one of your blogs, you wrote about Toastmasters and how membership in this organization helped you. Can you tell us how an organization devoted to public speaking helped you in your writing career?
To be truthful, I didn’t expect Toastmasters to significantly affect my writing career. I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself writing more confidently and succinctly. I became more prolific and experimented with different genres.
I love your definition of a cozy mystery: …mysteries [that] appeal to readers who wish to be engaged but not horrified. Is that why you write cozies? Have you thought of writing mysteries that are darker?
During my cancer journey, I devoured several cozies a week. I enjoyed the well-plotted and engaging storylines that entertained me and kept my mind active. While I do enjoy the occasional psychological thriller, I don’t think I could ever write that “dark”…it just isn’t in me.
You are currently writing about your experience dealing with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). As a breast cancer survivor, why was it important for you to document your journey?
Sharing is caring. That is so important in the cancer community. During my own journey, I was blessed with five angels who came forward and offered tangible and intangible support. I wish to pay it forward.
With the challenges you’ve faced, how do you stay inspired?
Prayer and positive thoughts help. So does setting goals and rewarding myself at different milestones.
Your blog contains links to writings on mind, body, and spirit. Do you find these readings help your writing?
A strong mind/body/spirit connection enabled me to survive and thrive during one of the most challenging seasons of my life. Reading inspirational literature has helped me improve in all aspects of my life, including my writing career.
I was pleased to see that you set your Gilda Greco series in Canada, especially in areas I have visited and have friends. So many Canadian writers set their books in the U.S. and other countries. Have U.S. readers been discovering Gilda?
I’m thrilled with the American interest in the Gilda Greco Mystery Series and my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. I’m proud of my province and country and love sharing with the rest of the world.
Please tell us about your Mediterranean Trilogy.
While querying A Season for Killing Blondes, I decided to distract myself with a series of workshops offered by fantasy and horror writer Sarah Totton. At first I focused on the writing advice but later toyed with the idea of writing fantasy for boomer women. Not wanting to feature witches, werewolves, zombies, or other dark creatures, I thought back to my childhood and recalled my favorite fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. The following What-if scenario whirled through my mind:
What if a mermaid is transformed into an overweight, middle-aged woman and then abandoned on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England. Can she reinvent herself?
Find out more in Books 1 and 2 of the Mediterranean Trilogy: Between Land and Sea and The Coming of Arabella.
You did a terrific trailer for Too Many Women in the Room. Has the trailer helped with promotion and sales?
I’m very grateful to videographer and author Jody Vitek for creating the trailer. As for helping with sales…it’s so difficult to pinpoint what does and doesn’t correlate. I like having trailers for each of my novels.
Do you enjoy the promotion aspects of being a mystery writer? What is your favorite promotional activity?
I enjoy meeting one-on-one with prospective readers. Participating in panels, readings, and signings are my favorite promotional activities.
What’s next for Gilda Greco?
In Book 3, A Different Kind of Reunion, Gilda reconnects with former students who are grieving the death of a classmate. Haunted by a missed email that could have prevented this tragic death, Gilda agrees to participate in a psychic-led reunion.
Thank you, Joanne.