How lucky I am to have coaxed Heather Haven, author of the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series and two time finalist for EPIC's best e-book mystery of the year, over to RTF for an interview!
Sara, this is MY pleasure. I’ve been a long-time fan of yours and know from spending time with you in person at the Muse Retreat in 2011, you’re a caring and fun person. So is your darling daughter, Michelle, if I may add that. The time spent with both of you was terrific.
Oh the feeling is mutual Heather. Both Michelle and I agree, getting to know you and your cousin, YA author, Grace DeLuca was one of the absolute best highlights of our trip to Montreal!
Now let us jump in...
Heather, as you know, I am particularly interested in the research that goes into a story. In Murder Is a Family Business, you, with your clever mind, have not only created quirky, fascinating characters, but you've managed to invent an interesting investigative agency as well, where your heroine, Lee Alvarez, works as a private investigator. NOT your everyday private investigation firm, Discretionary Inquiries, investigates something far less tangible: Corporate Software Theft. And I have to admit that before I read this first installment of your popular mystery series, I wasn’t savvy to the fact that corporate/computer theft was a reality.
Please tell us a little more about this type of investigation. How you came to choose it as the Alvarez’ family livelihood, and maybe any inspiring moments that lightening bolted the idea into your writing mind?
I live and work in Silicon Valley. Thievery of computer software, hardware, and intellectual property runs rampant around here. Well, maybe not rampant, but it’s a lot more common than people who don’t live in the Bay Area or aren’t in the game realize. There can be big bucks in trafficking stolen goods, games, and ideas. Nearly everyone I know is into the computer biz one way or another, whether they work in IT, graphics design, computer research, program design, etc. Either that or we use the ruddy stuff so often and so long in a given day, our eyes nearly fall out of our heads. In any event, it’s a rare meeting or get-together where you don’t discuss something like “I just read an article in the paper” or “I’ve got an idea for…” In my latest book, Death Runs in the Family, I wrote about 3-D software, thinking I’d come up with the idea, only to find out a program was being developed (now out) by one of the Big Guys in computing programming.
RTF: What preparation did you do to get yourself in Lee’ Alvarez’s head? You know: Study how to use surveillance equipment, go fashion shopping, buy high heels, etc.:)
I have but to open the newspaper or watch Entertainment Tonight and wham! There you are. Fashion is everywhere. Also, I did get through college on a costume scholarship and when I went to New York to pursue acting, discovered I really like playing around with clothes more. I wound up working backstage on Broadway for 10-years doing costumes for a lot of Broadway plays. It was fun.
RTF: Any other research you’ve done for the series that you’d like to share?
Our next Alvarez adventure takes place in New Orleans. Yes, that fabulous town with history galore, jazz, voodoo, and, of course, murder! In all my Alvarez books, I like to start out in the home town, Palo Alto, then visit at least one more place. In Murder is a Family Business, we went from Palo Alto to San Francisco and Princeton-by-the-Bay. In A Wedding to Die For, we went from PA to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In the 3rd novel of the series, Death Runs in the Family, we went from PA to Las Vegas and on to Ipanema. All great places to visit. Murder is everywhere.
RTF: Your quick wit and humor are what make your stories unique, have you always had a tendency toward being a funny girl, or did you have to work at it?
I began my writing career in conjunction with working in costumes in Manhattan. One job during the day (writing), the other at night. I worked for No Soap Radio, where we wrote humorous commercials for radio and TV. The business didn’t last long, but it was a revelation for me, this humorous writing stuff. After that, I started writing nightclub acts for singers and dancers. I loved it. I loved seeing my words coming out of someone else’s mouth and making an audience laugh! Then I wrote a couple of plays; one done at Playwright’s Horizon in NYC and the other off-off. I have a history of comedy in my work.
RTF: What draws you to a story to make you want to either: stay there and read it, or drive you on to write it?
Good writing. Either the joy of reading or the joy (and frustration) of trying to create it. There is no substitute for good writing.
RTF: What was your first ever job?
I wrote a weekly column for the Miami Beach Sun on the doings of the residents living in a large complex in South Miami Beach. Who got married, who returned from Europe, who had their debut, who had a baby, you know, light-weight tabloid stuff like that. I was 17.
RTF: I love music, so I’m always interested in an author’s taste in music, do you have any favorites, artists, bands?
I do. Put at the top of my list my husband, Norman Meister. He is an incredible singer (I don’t say that because I’m married to him. It’s merely one of the perks). He also plays the guitar, drums, and keyboard. He’s the ‘Clive’ part of ‘Nigel and Clive and the British Invasion’ performing here in the Bay Area. They do this spoof, and have for seven years, where they pretend they wrote all the hits coming out of Great Britain during the mid-sixties. Further, they claim their work was stolen by the Beatles, Kinks, Yardbirds, Dave Clark 5, etc. They have very funny skits that intersperse in between the big hits from that era. Not only is the group great in their musicianship, they’re fine actors, as well. Everyone loves their act! If you want to see more about them, zip on over to their website, http://www.nigelandclive.com. It’s a hoot!
After that, I just discovered Catherine Russell. What a songstress! If you like Ella Fitzgerald, you’ll love Catherine Russell. Then I’m really into opera. Going to see Tosca next week and can’t wait!!
RTF: Wow Heather, I think coming down to see Norman Meister, in the Nigel and Clive show, has just risen to the top of my traveling list! Thank you so much for coming over to my little blog and enlightening us on your research, and giving us a glimpse into your life experiences, which no doubt have shaped the fascinating and talented person you are!
About the author:
After studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, which were produced at Playwrights Horizon and well-received. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.
One of her first paying jobs was writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week but promptly came down with the flu. Heather wrote "The Sands of Time" with a raging temperature, and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Her stint at New York City’s No Soap Radio - where she wrote comedic ad copy – helped develop her long-time love affair with comedy.
Her first novel of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is a Family Business, is winner of the Single Titles Reviewers’ Choice Award 2011, and the second, A Wedding to Die For, received the 2012 finalist nods from both Global and EPIC’s Best eBook Mystery of the Year. The third of the series, Death Runs in the Family, recently debuted, has already received rave reviews and is a finalist in the EPIC Best eBook Mystery of 2013. All three books are published out of a Canadian publishing house, MuseItUp.
Heather’s most recent endeavor is a 1940s holiday vintage mystery series starring a five-foot eleven, full-figured gal named Persephone Cole. ‘Percy’ Cole has the same hard-boiled, take-no-prisoners attitude as Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and Phillip Marlow, but tops it off with a wicked sense of humor. The first of the series, Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse, takes place on New York City’s Broadway stage during World War II, three thousand miles and sixty-odd years away from the California Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series.
Heather Haven, writer
San Jose, California 95135
Amazon Buy Page for all Heather’s books: