Kathy: There's a devastating wildfire in Disorderly Conduct. Have you ever had to deal with a fire or other natural disaster?
MF: I worked and lived fairly close to the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake near San Francisco, and have dealt with blizzards, hurricanes, and tornados in some of the locations I’ve lived, but never anything as terrifying as a firestorm. The possibility of summer wildfires is never far from the minds of any Californian, however. After I’d written Disorderly Conduct and sent it to my editor at Kensington, the 2017 fires in Santa Rosa broke out. My nephew’s school burnt to the ground, and they were all primed to leave at a moment’s notice. This year’s fire season has brought back difficult memories for them all.
Kathy: Maggie McDonald is a professional organizer. Do you consider yourself to be organized?
MF: I wish I were more organized. Maggie’s skills are a fantasy for me. Like any other human trait, organization is a spectrum. Those who are less attuned to time- and space-management think I’m frightfully well-organized. Others, for whom Maggie’s skills are second nature, think I’m a mess. They’re all right.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite organizational tip? What is the most important thing to remember when trying to organize your home?
MF: My husband and I moved to a tiny condo in 2016, so managing clutter is a constant process for us. We keep a cardboard box by the side of the bed in our guest room (it can be shoved under the bed if we have visitors). Whenever we discover something we can do without, we pop it in the box. Every two weeks, we take the box to Goodwill.
I think the most important thing for me to remember is that “stuff” is for people to use. If I’m not using something fairly frequently, there is likely someone else for whom it might be a treasure. And what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe that I’ll give away something that turns out to be essential for my existence. But in that case, I can buy the item again when I need it, and skip storing it. With the price of real estate in California, thinking of clutter in terms of the price you pay per square foot to find room for it can be very helpful.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MF: I love the tidy sense of justice within them. The good guys win and the bad guys are punished. No one gets hurt. That sense of knowing what you’re going to get when you pick up a book can be very satisfying.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MF: I’ve only published cozy mysteries. I have written two young adult historical novels about life in early California but couldn’t find a publisher for them. I’m considering rewriting them as romances.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MF: Silicon Valley Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald juggles family, community, and career with her need to get to the bottom of local murders. With the help of a team of whip-smart friends and a golden retriever with separation anxiety, she straightens out the clues and restores order. All the books are a celebration of community and family. Each of them also touches (lightly) on a significant social issue. In the first book, Address to Die For, it’s at-risk teens. Scheduled to Death looks at academic competition and the plight of teens aging out of the foster-care system. Dead Storage considers what might happen when an undocumented teen witnesses a murder and the wrong person is arrested. Should the teen report what he’s seen and risk deportation? Or stay mum and let the killer go free? Disorderly Conduct examines some of the problems associated with illegal marijuana growing on public lands—with the price of both water and land in California, it’s not a problem that will vanish, despite legalization of cannabis cultivation. I try not to beat people over the head with the social issues, but I think that they are unavoidable in any mystery, and the conflicts are timeless. Like it or not, many of these issues have always been with us, and no one has yet come up with the perfect solution.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MF: That’s like asking a mother about her favorite child! If I do, I’ll never admit it, though I sometimes prefer the animal characters to the humans. Just as you might have many friends and family members, but choose one to contact when you’re in a particular mood, my preferences change depending on whose story I’m writing and what mood I’m in.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MF: Yes and no. I’ve always loved mysteries, particularly The Moonstone, which is said to be the first novel of detective fiction. It’s also set in an English country house, which has since been mainstay of the classic British mystery. And about twenty years ago, I stumbled on a series of books by Laura Van Wormer, who writes romantic suspense for Mira. Her mom and my mother went to the same church. While Laura writes about flashy Manhattanites, the books often mirror the tropes of a British Village mystery like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series. In place of the tight-knit hamlet of St. Mary Mead, Laura’s characters inhabit the “villages” that can be found within a big city workplace or behind the walls of a pre-war apartment building. My delight in that incongruous setting made me look at even more unexpected locations. And what could be a greater contrast for an old-fashioned murder mystery and amateur detective than the heart of high-tech—Silicon Valley.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MF: Beyond simply wanting to spin a story, the challenge of traditional publishing captivated me. It’s an uphill battle that only the most stubborn survive. And I’ve got plenty of stubbornness! Some people want to climb the world’s highest peak. For me, publishing a book was a similar quest.
Had I not been able to find a traditional publisher for my first Maggie book, I planned to try again with the second and the third. I wasn’t interested in self-publishing because there is so much you have to master to be successful at it. With traditional publishing, the only skill set I needed at the beginning was the writing. Since then, I’ve picked up skills in marketing and other forms of promotion, but I’ve learned most of what I know in those arenas to self-published authors.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MF: Louise Penny, who is as funny and charming in real life as any of her quirky characters. Wilkie Collins, who wrote The Moonstone. Josephine Tey, if only to ask why she stopped writing after only a few wonderful books. And then I think I’d invite a screen writer with a subtle wit – perhaps those who adapted Morse for the screen or the people who write The Brokenwood series. I’d love to better understand the challenges of bringing great and beloved mysteries to the screen and the tradeoffs they make in attempting to be true to the medium and to the original work.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MF: Tami Hoag’s The Bitter Season. I’m enjoying how she deftly unfolds the story from a variety of different points of view – very much like Wilkie Collins did in The Moonstone. It can be maddening for a reader to switch back and forth, but deliciously maddening when done right. Collins and Hoag both do it right.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MF: I recently moved to California’s Central Coast, which has a wealth of wildlife and natural history. I’ve just begun to nibble away at the massive feast that bird-watching can be. I know most of our ducks and will soon tackle the shorebirds! E-bird has become my new best friend!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MF: Fresh fruit – usually Watsonville strawberries. Coffee. Milk or half and half (for the coffee). Something crunchy. I try to satisfy my crunchy cravings with jicama and carrots, but sometimes, it just has to be a cookie.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MF: A fifth Maggie McDonald book, Cliff Hanger, is currently in production, and I’m working on the sixth. After that, I may give Maggie a break to settle into her empty nest as the kids go off to college. I’ve got a few ideas for a new series but am strenuously avoiding distracting myself with them while I focus on Book 6.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MF: The amazing satisfaction and thrill that comes when all the threads of a story come together and gallop toward the end. It’s a rush!
Disorderly Conduct (A Maggie McDonald Mystery) by Mary Feliz
About the Book
Cozy Mystery 4th in Series
Lyrical Underground (July 10, 2018)
Print Length: 233 pages
Professional organizer Maggie McDonald manages to balance a fastidious career with friends, family, and a spunky Golden Retriever. But add a fiery murder mystery to the mix, and Maggie wonders if she’s finally found a mess even she can’t tidy up . . .
With a devastating wildfire spreading to Silicon Valley, Maggie preps her family for a rapid evacuation. The heat rises when firefighters discover the body of her best friend Tess Olmos’s athletic husband—whose untimely death was anything but accidental. And as Tess agonizes over the whereabouts of her spouse’s drop-dead gorgeous running mate, she becomes the prime suspect in what's shaping up to become a double murder case. Determined to set the record straight, Maggie sorts through clues in an investigation more dangerous than the flames approaching her home. But when her own loved ones are threatened, can she catch the meticulous killer before everything falls apart?
About the Author
Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She’s worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises competed in whaleboat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character’s stead, but Maggie’s skills leave her in the dust.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaryFelizBooks https://www.facebook.com/mary.feliz.581 Twitter: @maryfelizauthor
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