Wednesday, March 29, 2023

An Interview with Ellen Byron writing as Maria DiRico By E. B. Davis

 Worry is paying a debt you may not owe…

Maria DiRico, Four Parties and a Funeral, Kindle Loc. 254


The June events schedule at Belle View is busting out all over—proms, graduations, and of course, weddings. There are unexpected bookings too, including a casting call for the pilot of Dons of Ditmars Boulevard. But soon, Mia’s fears about the cheesy reality show are confirmed . . .
Belle View quickly becomes the site of a sea of wanna-be goombahs and phony girlfriends, and some of Mia’s friends insist on getting in on the action. The production company owner and his executive producer ex-wife—who’s also very minor British royalty—have assembled a motley crew that does as much infighting and backstabbing as the on-screen “talent.” Even so, it’s a shock when a dead body is found in the pool house of a local mansion rented by the show . . .
Murder might boost the ratings. But Mia intends to make sure the killer gets jail time, not airtime . . .


Four Parties and a Funeral is the fourth book in Maria DiRico’s (Ellen Byron) Catering Hall mystery series. It was released yesterday.


This series keeps me guessing its backstory. Just when I think I know what is going to happen—it doesn’t—something else does. Of course, that’s also the reason I like the series. This is not predictable prose!


Please welcome Maria/Ellen back to WWK.    E. B. Davis

Do you plot a series arc and work the backstory to an end point? I actually don’t arc my series. I have a general idea about the ongoing storyline for my characters but let one book inform the next in terms of their growth.


Mia and her boyfriend Shane complain to each other about being brought up in notorious families that caused hurt and shame in their youths. Did Shane also come from a mob family? Yes! The Gambrazzo Family, which was based in Florida. (Fictionally, of course. 😊)


The mob Godfather, Donny Boldano Senior and his wife, Aurora, are dangerous people. Even so, why do we like them so much? Because I focused on problems we can all relate to: marital discord, kids they don’t know what to do with, aging… I also made Donny semi-retired and more interested in legit than illegal businesses. It’s a cozy series. I always keep that in mind. The prototype is one of my favorite movies from the 1980’s, Married to the Mob.


The reality show, “The Dons of Ditmars Boulevard” showcases Little Donny, who needs a career since he isn’t cut out for the mob. Although “Don” in Italian is a title of honor, in slang, it also refers to a mob boss. Why would Little Donny go on the show when it associates himself with his father, the Don of the mob? Wouldn’t that be too much exposure? This is one of the reasons Donny Senior is very unhappy with his son doing the show. But he also knows DJ is at sea and loves his son and wants him to find his path in life. And he knows that even DJ would draw the line at revealing anything incriminating or that would endanger his loved ones.


If there is a real Ditmars Boulevard, what’s it like? It’s the main drag in Queens, with shops and restaurants.


Why is Connecticut called the “Nutmeg State?” I had to look this up! It’s an unofficial nickname and no one seems to know the origin. The official nickname is The Constitution State.


I found it hard to believe that Madison’s cousin, the Anglophile, Pickney, had such atrocious manners. Wouldn’t her upbringing and interest in English Royalty influence her manners for the better? That’s so funny, because she’s based on a real person I knew! A very good question. And one I’ll put to the person in question if I ever see her again, lol.


Many of the reality show associates displayed transactional behavior. What is transactional behavior? Is it a new term for being Machiavellian? Narcissistic? It’s more upfront than Machiavellian. It’s taking a certain action knowing it will get you something in return. I.e., on a reality show like The Bachelor, a contestant may throw a fit or be nasty knowing it will get them more screentime. The producers understand this and expect it.


In the past, journalist Teri has been helpful to Mia. But she’s a pain! Why? What is it about Teri that is so irritating? I like to think of Teri as affably annoying. She enjoys getting a rise out of Mia. And she’s completely comfortable with who she is.


What’s a cafone? Basically, it’s someone who’s low-class and boorish, male or female, although I think it’s used more for men than women.


What’s a sizzle reel? It’s basically a sales reel – a short promotional video that will get buyers excited about your product. In TV, if you’re producing a pilot without a pre-set buyer, you’d put together the juiciest clips to woo a buyer.


What’s a Frankenbite? This is a reality TV term for when they cut together disparate takes to create a manufactured moment. It looks like a single shot but is different clips edited together for more of a dramatic effect.  I.e. – and this is exaggerated – a contestant might say at different times, “I hate strawberries” and “I’d like to talk to you.” A Frankenbite would be editing those moments together somehow into her saying “I hate you.”


What’s a second line? Technically, it’s the line of mourners marching after the band following a funeral in New Orleans. But it’s morphed into a celebratory quasi-parade for all kinds of events.


Is Little Island real? Yes, and it’s fantastic! It was primarily funded by Diane Von Furstenberg and her husband Barry Diller and is in the Hudson River around 14th Street at the pier where the old White Star ocean liners used to dock. Home - Little Island


What does Farkakte mean? It’s a Yiddish word that basically means “messed up” or “ridiculous.” It’s kind of a Yiddish verbal version of an eye roll.


What is Montepulciano wine? Is that a vineyard’s name? It’s a red wine varietal generally grown in the Abruzzo region of Italy, where my mother is from.


What’s next for Mia? The Witless Protection Program will launch in June 2024 and we’ll finally get to meet her no-good adulterer of a husband, Adam Grosso. And yes, he’s still her husband, which will complicate her personal life enormously – as you might expect!


  1. Congratulations again, Ellen.

    I'm curious why the publisher (I assume) made you use a pen name for this series. It seems like it's the same genre as your Ellen Byron works.

  2. I wasn't aware of this series by an author I like. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Finally, I can spell Farkakte! I only knew how to say it.

    Great interview, Elaine, and Ellen, what a great addition to the series. Looking forward to reading it.

  4. Great interview, great books. Thanks, Ellen and E.B.!

  5. Wonderful interview! Looking forward to reading the book!

  6. Hey Ellen, hope you are recovering from your gaff. The good news is that there will be a fifth addition to the series. Catch up to you then!