Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mystery Author of the Month, Holli Castillo

I’d like to welcome mystery author, Holli Castillo. 

Patricia: Holli, where did you grow up? Did your childhood contribute to your desire to be a writer?

Holli: I grew up in the suburbs in what is considered the metro New Orleans area but is really just outside the city.  I have wanted to be a writer since I wrote my first story in kindergarten, when I was five.  I don’t know that anything significant in my childhood contributed to my desire to write, but my imagination was encouraged by my parents and my teachers.  If anything, the fact that my childhood was kind of mundane and boring made my imagination even wilder.  I wanted drama—I got decent to good grades, my parents weren’t divorced, my mother didn’t work, we had the normal pets.  I would create stories and scenarios for everyone I met. A car backfiring was a gunshot, a baby crying was being kidnapped. I hated normal.

Patricia: Where do you live now? Do you use that locale for settings in your novels?

Holli: I live pretty close to where I grew up, although I did live in different parts of New Orleans when I was in college and law school.  Everything I write is set in New Orleans.  At first I tried to avoid the cliché New Orleans settings, such as Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, but one of the criticisms I received on my first novel was that there wasn’t enough New Orleans in it. I had New Orleans food, our dialect, areas of town in New Orleans, but I think people expect to see those clichés when the story is about New Orleans, so I’ve incorporated more of that in the second and third novels.

Patricia: What inspired you to write your most recent novel?

Holli: Hurricane Katrina inspired Chocolate City Justice.  I wrote the first novel, Gumbo Justice, prior to Katrina.  Before I got a contract, Katrina happened.  I stopped looking for an agent or publisher for a while after Katrina, trying to get everything back in order at home. During the interim, I started to think that maybe agents and publishers wouldn’t be interested in novels set pre-Katrina, so I had to make the choice of either updating the first novel to incorporate Katrina, or writing a whole new novel. I started working on Chocolate City Justice, planning to then make Gumbo Justice the second book in the series instead of the first, and Jambalaya Justice, which I had already started, the third, instead of the second. Before I got very far into it, I ended up getting a contract with Oak Tree Press on Gumbo Justice, so Chocolate City was put back in queue to be the third book.

Patricia: When did you “know” that you wanted to be a writer?

Holli: I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t feel like I could seriously consider it as a career until after I quit the New Orleans D.A.’s Office, where I was a prosecutor, to stay home after my daughter was born.  I ended up getting a position with an organization appointed to handle criminal appeals, a job I could do from home, and finally had the time to start writing. 

Patricia: Name three of your favorite authors in the mystery/suspense genre. What makes them your favorites?

Holli: John Sandford is one of my favorites, mostly because I am in love with Lucas Davenport.  Reading the Prey Series was one of the things that motivated me to finally start writing, so I owe a lot to John Sandford.   I also like Janet Evanovich, because I really like the interaction between Stephanie Plum, Ranger, and Joe Morelli. I also like the zaniness of her novels, although some of her plot devices are recycled from earlier works.  My third would be Tami Hoag, mostly for the dash of romance in her traditional thrillers and mysteries. 

Her first novel, Gumbo Justice, the 2011PSWA award winner for Best Published Novel,  was released by Oak Tree Press after being delayed when she was incapacitated for almost a year due to a head-on collision with a drunk driver. This was followed by the second in the Crescent City Mystery series, Jambalaya Justice, which received honors for best unpublished novel in the PSWA 2011 writing competition.  The third installment, Chocolate City Justice, is scheduled for release at the end of 2013.   Holli resides in the metropolitan New Orleans area with her husband, who is the model for Big Who in the series, her two daughters, two dogs, and two deaf cats, one of which is featured prominently in Jambalaya Justice
Holli Castillo is a Louisiana appellate public defender and former New Orleans prosecutor.

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Holli is offering a giveaway of both Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice to one person drawn randomly from anyone who leaves a comment at the end of the interview.