I have the pleasure of hosting author Carmen Amato today, who generously answered multiple questions!
ELF: What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre(s) you like to write in?
CA: First, thanks so much for having me today and letting me introduce your readers to the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series and KING PESO, the latest mystery. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco, taking on Mexico’s drug war and culture of machismo.
Mystery is one of the most popular genres, possibly because suspense is so addictive. We love to escape into an absorbing story but it’s not a mindless escape. We have to pay attention, follow the clues, and puzzle out the crime. Personally, I love to chase the motive and the relationships between characters.
Basically, a mystery reader is pitted against the plot. Can we guess whodunit before the big reveal? The experience of reading a well plotted mystery with a well-developed main character is compelling, and yes, addictive.
ELF: What was the most difficult thing to overcome on your path to becoming a published author and how did you conquer it?
CA: What a thought-provoking question! I think the most difficult thing I had to overcome was bad advice.
Several years ago, before I wrote KING PESO and the Detective Emilia Cruz series, I was trying to get an agent for my first book, the romantic thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. During my search for an agent, I connected with a well known US fiction author. She was a real publishing insider and I had high expectations. Our conversation went something like this:
Well known author: The novel is set in Mexico. All the characters are Mexican.
Me: That’s right. It’s about the lives of the people fighting the drug cartels. And Mexico’s class structure.
Well known author: New York will never touch it. And a New York agent is the only kind worth having. New York agents are looking for the next Sex and the City. Glossy. High heels. New York.
Me: This is a thriller. It will take readers inside Mexican culture, the way Martin Cruz Smith’s series does for Russian culture.
Well known author: New York won’t buy a book with all Mexican characters. And your main character is a maid. At least couldn’t you make her American? You know, a college girl from Pittsburgh named Susan or Tess who goes to Mexico on a cultural exchange program to work as a maid for a semester.
I hung up the phone, absolutely crushed.
The character had to be Mexican, it was integral to THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. Dejected, I put the book aside and started another project, which grew into the Detective Emilia Cruz series. Would I run into the same attitude with a series about the first female police detective in Acapulco?
Then I found the Inspector Silva mystery series by Leighton Gage. All the characters were Brazilian! The series was well-written, immersed in Brazil’s culture, and had a strong following. It made me see that readers loved learning about another culture as they unraveled a mystery.
I pushed ahead with CLIFF DIVER, the first book in the Detective Emilia Cruz series and am thrilled that KING PESO, the 4th book is out. Readers have embraced Emilia and her version of beautiful but deadly Acapulco. The books have even been optioned for a television series.
I never met Leighton Gage, who passed away a few years ago, but he’s the role model who made believe in my characters and have the courage to ignore bad advice.
ELF: What would be your dream place to visit and why?
CA: Someday, I’d like to take a cruise to Antarctica. It’s about as different an environment from Mexico, where the Detective Emilia Cruz books are set, but I have always been fascinated by polar history. I think it comes from growing up in very snowy central New York.
ELF: Which author(s) has/have been the most influential to you and how or why?
CA: In addition to Leighton Gage, there are three authors who have really influenced me:
Ken Follett: His earlier works including Night Over Water, Triple, The Key to Rebecca and The Eye of the Needle all have a tension-filled storyline, interesting characters with complex relationships, and multiple voices that are all integral to moving the plot forward. Not to mention the hot sex scenes.
P.G. Wodehouse: I discovered this British humorist in high school and have read dozens of his books and short stories.His world is that of 1920’s England. All of his books have an invariably tangled plot, crazy characters, and perfect phrasing (“he writhed like an electric fan”) that never grow old. My favorite is The Code of the Woosters.
Robert B. Parker: The creator of the Spenser mystery series is a study in perfect-pitch dialogue. Some of his books are a series of conversations that are so well crafted that virtually the entire plot/mystery is revealed in this way. His action scenes are never gratuitous which means they pack a big punch. My favorites are Potshot and Hugger Mugger.
ELF: What do you do to mentor others?
CA: I belong to a small writing critique group moderated by mystery author Donna Andrews. We all mentor each other. Our meetings are very lively!
ELF: What is your writing process?
I’m an outline addict. Before I start a novel I create an outline. I scribble “scenes” on sticky notes and post them on a wall. I’ll arrange and rearrange until I like the flow at which point I’ll tape them to a poster and hang it over my desk.
That preliminary outline usually survives to about the middle of the book, at which point I’ll have had better ideas and will repeat the sticky note process. For King Peso, I did this three times. By time the book was done, the last poster was a mess, with some stickies overwritten in red and others hidden behind a snowfall of new ones.
ELF: What scares you the most or makes you the happiest about writing?
CA: I’m happiest when editing what I’ve already written. The first draft is the hardest, because you are inventing from nothing. The editing process, which for me includes much of the authentic details about the setting, food, and culture, is the best part about being a writer.
ELF: What is one of your hobbies and how has it enriched your writing?
CA: I’m not sure you can call exercise a hobby but I need to work out to stay sharp and even have a Pinterest board called that! We used to have a house with a pool and I’d always get fresh ideas while swimming laps. Now, I’m more into yoga and long walks with the dog.
At some point, especially in the morning, as the pooch and I amble through the neighborhood, I’ll figure out a sticky plot element. For example, we were walking when I realized that there could be more than one killer in King Peso and said “A-ha!” out loud on the street corner. I couldn’t wait to get home and write down what I’d just “found out.”
Another a-ha moment came when I decided to write a story about how Emilia Cruz came to be the first female police detective in Acapulco, in response to so many reader questions. The only place to find that out is in “The Beast,” the short story that I wrote in response to all the requests. It’s part of the Made in Acapulco story collection available on Amazon OR you can get it for free here as part of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. You’ll also get my monthly email newsletter, Mystery Ahead.
In addition to “The Beast, the Starter Library includes “The Angler,” a story based on the true-life murder of my pastor, Father Richard, in Mexico City. The drug addict who disrupted Christmas Eve didn’t kill him; in fact his murderer has never been caught. But in “The Angler,” Detective Emilia Cruz will bring the killer to justice.
Thanks for having me and happy reading! All the best, Carmen
by Carmen Amato
by Carmen Amato
GENRE: police procedural mystery
King Peso is the fourth book in the sensational Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series recently optioned for both television and film. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco, where Mexican drug cartels battle for control and politicians are bought with blood money.
Three cops are murdered, execution style. Emilia worked with them all.
Her partner’s wife is killed in a home invasion. Was he the real target?
Is Emilia the next?
She hopes to be assigned to a task force to investigate the killings, but is instead directed to a new police unit championed by Acapulco’s ambitious mayor and overseen by a shady union strongman. But when Emilia stumbles upon a falsified report, she will conduct a private investigation, even as another murder victim carries a stark message for her.
Home is no refuge for Emilia; hotel manager Kurt Rucker has a shocking secret that could tear their relationship apart.
Unexpected help comes from a frightened attorney and a famous movie star, but each new clue to the murders unravels the one before. Meanwhile, Emilia’s ongoing hunt for a missing girl, a continuing series subplot, leads to the infamous El Pharaoh casino, a place she knows only too well.
What do a casino and a cop killer have in common? Emilia bets on her partner, but his gamble could cost both their lives.
“I think I’m on the task force,” Emilia said. “Because I worked with all three victims.”
She’d crossed paths professionally with all three of the murder victims, although none had been a close colleague. She hadn’t even met Salinas, just talked to him a couple of times on the phone. But he’d been honest with her and done what he said he would do. A rare and rapidly disappearing commodity these days.
“Who else worked with all of them?” Kurt asked. “Silvio? What does he think?”
“Franco worked with Vega on the arson case, too.” Franco Silvio was Acapulco’s senior police detective and Emilia’s perpetually surly partner. “But he never met Salinas or Espinosa. He wasn’t invited to the meeting, either. None of the other detectives were.”
“Even Loyola?” Kurt asked.
Emilia shook her head. Loyola, who was junior to Silvio, had been made acting lieutenant of detectives several months ago. He now rarely worked cases. “Not invited. He only knew Vega from the arson case.”
“What are you telling me, Em?” Kurt paused. “That you’re a target, too?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” Emilia stared at the lights twinkling in the dark ocean as the unseen swimming dock bobbed. “The El Trio killer could be another cop. Someone on the inside who is being specific about their victims.”
“I can’t believe you waited to tell me, Em,” Kurt said, exasperation and sudden anger in his voice. “You live here. If you’re in danger, that means everybody in this hotel is in danger. I have to know things like this.”
Emilia bristled. “I’m telling you now, aren’t I?”
Kurt turned to look at the ocean again, elbows propped on top of the wall. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wish you were invested enough in us . . . in this relationship . . . to tell me things when they happen. Not a week later. Because you’re thinking how things impact us. Not just you.”
Emilia concentrated on the pinpoints of light out in the bay. Why did they keep having the same conversation and why was it always so hard?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
For a copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library, visit her website
Follow her on Twitter @CarmenConnects.
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The tour dates can be found here