A murder mystery is always intriguing, but when you add humour to it, it’s even better. And that sums up today’s guest, Heather Haven. Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win one of Heather’s very entertaining e-books.
In the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, the protagonist, Lee Alvarez, works as a private investigator for Discretionary Inquiries, that specializes in corporate software theft. Please tell us a little more about this type of investigation. How you came to choose it as the Alvarez’ family livelihood?
I live and worked in Silicon Valley, so computer software, hardware, and intellectual property thievery is a lot more common than people who don’t live here might 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. 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 it was already developed for television and computers and came out recently. Now that I’m no longer in the field, so to speak, but a full-time writer, it’s harder for me to keep up with it all. I have to rely on my friends and research to keep me in the loop.
I know what you mean. If it wasn’t for my kids, I’d still be in the 20th century. Why did you choose your particular genre?
I love mysteries, always have. The first book I can remember reading as a kid, aside from Uncle Remus, was Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock. I was nine at the time and it changed my life. I absolutely loved it! So when I decided to write a novel, I knew that would be the type. You know, a writer lives in her or his head 24/7 on a project. You’d better like what’s going on in there.
Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?
You’re kidding, right? Breathes there a writer with soul so dead, that never to her/himself has said, “What are you doing? Are you crazy? Become a nurse.”
Yup, know that feeling. Am I doing the right thing? Gee, my bank account is a little low, etc. Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?
My little desk area at the back of the kitchen. It’s all set up. I write at a computer, either my tower or the laptop. I have carpal tunnel, so I can’t write longhand. Also I have a bad back, so I like to get up every twenty-minutes to a half hour and move around a bit. That’s a good time to play with one or both of my cats, Ellie and Yulie. Playing with a pet is good for the soul.
Yeah, I agree. I just love our little Bichon pup, although I think I use him to procrastinate. What type of research do you do for your books?
It depends on where the story is going. Sometimes I don’t even know until I get there. Then you can research something like crazy, only to have it wind up being cut! In the first novel, Murder is a Family Business, a pivotal scene was supposed to take place on a Coast Guard cutter. I researched about the Coast Guard, the type of boats/ships they use, their protocol for boarding another ship at sea, all that stuff, for weeks. It’s complicated and it has to be accurate. However, things being what they are, only one sentence of what I’d learned wound up in the book!
In A Wedding to Die For, I’d read a newspaper article about an Egyptian family that pilfered from a little-known King’s tomb for generations. I had the idea of transferring the location from Egypt to Mexico, tying it in with the Aztecs and Toltecs. There was a lot of research on that book, plus museum visits, but it was a lot of fun!
With Death Runs in the Family, which revolves around foot racing, I was lucky to have a few people I could go to for answers on the sport, because I knew next to nothing. Right now I’m writing the fourth of the series, DEAD….If only, which takes place in New Orleans, a town filled with history, jazz, voodoo, and, in my book, murder! My husband, Norman, and I have been there twice to do research (and have fun) and plan to go back in a couple of months. I don’t know if I’ll do the city justice, but I will certainly try. In all my Alvarez books, I like to have the research accurate. Otherwise, it can throw a reader out of the story. I know it does for me.
The Alvarez Family Mystery Series is humorous and so is The Persephone Cole Vintage series. Have you always been a funny girl, or did you have to work at it?
I like funny. I gravitate to it. To me, writing funny is serious business. I began my writing career in conjunction with working in costumes in Manhattan. I had the theatre job at night and wrote during the day. 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, that you could make money writing funny stuff. After that, I wrote 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. Even though I have a history of comedy in much of my work, I do write other types of novels. One came out recently, Death of a Clown, which is a noir mystery, based on my parents’ time in Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Your life gets more interesting by the minute. How ironic that Death of a Clown is serious. Now, what was your first job as a writer?
I wrote a weekly column for the Miami Beach Sun (now defunct) 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 only seventeen-years-old, and got paid twenty-five bucks a week. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was so happy. I only did it for one summer, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
Death Runs in the Family
Lee Alvarez’ ex-husband, Nick -- a man she divorced with joy in her heart and a gun in her hand – sprints back in her life only to disappear again. She’d love to leave it at that, but could he be responsible for the recent death of her cousin, who keeled over at the finish line of a half-marathon in front of hundreds of spectators? As PI for the family run business, Discretionary Inquiries, Lee follows the clues to Vegas, where she joins forces with Shoshone PI, Flint Tall Trees. Together they uncover a multi-million dollar betting syndicate, a tacky lounge lizard act, and a list of past but very dead runners, plus future ones to off. At the top of the ‘future’ list is the love of her life, Gurn Hanson. Hoping to force the culprits out in the open, Gurn and Lee’s brother, Richard, vow to run San Francisco’s famous Palace to Palace 12K in only a few days. Can Lee keep the two men she loves from hitting the finish line like her cousin? With more at stake than she ever dreamed possible, Lee is in a battle against time to stop the Alvarez Family’s race with death.
Heather, this has been an extremely interesting interview. Holy smokes. Anything you’d like to add before we wind up?
Yes! As Auntie Mame says, “Life’s a Banquet and most sons-a-bitches are starving to death.” So get out there and live. And read a book. And plant a tree. Three things you’ll never regret.
And call your mom once a week! Thanks, Heather. This has been great. Readers, here’s your chance to win one of these hilarious yet serious books by leaving a comment.
Heather Haven, writer
San Jose, California 95135
Heather's blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp
Heather’s author page at Amazon: