Joining us today is Heather Haven, author of the humorous PI series, The Alvarez FamilyMurder Mysteries. The first book, Murder is a Family Business, was released in January by MuseItUp Publishing. The second book, A Wedding to Die For, just came out this month. We'll talk to Heather about her childhood, her writing, and what she's working on next.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Heather. It is wonderful to have you with us. Can you tell us where you grew up?
I was born in Sarasota, Florida, during the winter hiatus of the Ringling Brothers Circus. My mother was a featured performer and my father was an elephant trainer. I like to say I was born ON a trunk at Ringling Brothers Circus. I grew up in Florida, which is a great place to raise kids. You’re outside all the time. I can tell what year it was by what bathing suit I was wearing, so much of my life was spent in the water. I was a pint size Esther Williams. Honk if you remember her.
When did you begin writing?
I can remember doodling around with songs I’d hear on the radio as a kid, writing lyrics to music that didn’t have any, and singing them along with the song when I heard it again. Or I would see a person on the street and mentally create a whole backstory for them, come home and write it down. My mother still has one or two of those stories hanging around. She read me one just the other day. Pretty terrible but I think I was around eleven at the time. What do you want from a kid? Anyway, I’ve been a writer all my life.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
Yes, yes and yes, although I really like to write first thing in the morning, when I’m at my freshest. That doesn’t always work out.
What is this book about?
Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, doesn't think so. The 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.
Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and the rest of Alvarez Family, detectives all. Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.
What inspired you to write it?
I felt my mystery series had to include two important elements: the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s natural resources, and the family unit. Most importantly, I wanted to write about a funny, upbeat protagonist, such as Lee Alvarez, who had a few things going for her. Not perfect, but striving. I didn't want to have yet another protagonist who learned nothing, who was ostracized from those she loved, who owned one crummy black skirt and life was one long penance. Let’s have a joke now and then! Lee is a lover of life and tries to learn from her mistakes, of which she makes plenty. She leaps before she thinks. She also loves handbags and dancing. She has strong familial support, even though they are often one big pain in her jazzercised derriere.
Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. The first book -- which took me so long to write, planets have been formed and deteriorated in that time -- I knew had to be called Murder is a Family Business to set the tone for the series. However, the Alvarez family is a little off-center. They aren't the ‘classic’ family i.e., father, mother, sister, brother, and large dog, all driving around in a shiny SUV eating Snickerdoos. Of course, these days a family like that is harder to find than a dinosaur with feathers. Oh, wait a minute. Archaeologists are digging those up all the time from unsuspecting peoples’ backyards. That means the Ozzie and Harriet family does still exist somewhere. Helloooooo out there!
Who is your favorite character from the book?
Get ready for it – the cat, Tugger. But here’s why. Rum Tum Tugger is based on my own cat that I lost three years ago at 16-years of age. I loved that cat and still miss him to this day. I know we all love our animals but there is often the exceptional one that like certain people, you connect with in a very special way. When I write about my boy, Tugger, he comes alive again, if only for a short time.
Who is your biggest supporter?
It takes a village to write a book. I never forget that. I owe my husband, family, and my writing buddies for any success I might have.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
Yes, I am. How can any writer live without feedback? I’m very fortunate to live in the Bay Area where there are venues for writers to explore and utilize and some fabulous, generous writers, to boot. I have access to a world of good feedback and support and I thank them for all they give me.
Who is your favorite author?
Shakespeare. If we could but meet, I would like to ask the Bard, 'how did you do all that amazing, high quality work in one short lifetime and why did you leave your wife your second best bed? Inquiring minds want to know.' All kidding aside, it's phenomenal what that man turned out. Will was a true genius. Oh, yes, and P.G. Wodehouse. Funny, funny writer. Another Englishman.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have gotten an MBA or Law degree. Oh, you mean about writing? Not a thing. All roads led to here. I’m happy.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
My books, Murder is a Family Business and A Wedding to Die For are at MuseItUp http://tinyurl.com/3893lu3. Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/3rgplcq, or many of the other sites that sell books.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
Follow Heather's blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
Murder is a Family Business Youtube book trailer:
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
Write, write, write. It's very basic. You can't be a writer if you don't write. So don't talk about it, don't moan about it, don't apologize for it, just do it. Sit down and write. It doesn't matter if it's for fifteen minutes, 2 hours, or all day. The point is you're writing, even if you only get out one good sentence. It keeps the juices flowing, keeps you thinking, on your toes. Find the best time of day for you and make yourself write. Approach it as a job. Whether you feel like it or not, you have to go and do it. Soon it will become habit. That's what you want. Soon you'll see stealing fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there, an hour or two on a good day, you'll get something done. So WRITE, my darlings.
What is up next for you?
I’m in the final throes of editing the 3rd book of the Alvarez Series, Death Runs in the Family. I also have another novel awaiting my return. It’s darker, more serious, and takes place when the U.S. enters WWII, although the war is not the main thrust of it. Then there are two 3-act plays and several short stories that are tapping their toes in anticipation of work done on them. I juggle a lot of projects at one time.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Consider writing even if it’s only your family history, a memoir, something of interest only to you and yours. You’ll be better for it. Then go out and plant a tree. The world will be better for it.
Thanks for spending time with us today, Heather. We wish you the best.