Tag: Alexia Gordon

Alexia Gordon

Cate Tells Us The Truth

Last night I was lucky enough to be at fellow Miss Demeanor and USA Today bestselling author Cate Holahan’s book launch for Lies She Told. To say Cate’s latest book has been getting good reviews would be like saying Coco Chanel made a few dresses. Hank Phillippi Ryan described Cate’s latest as “intricate, intense, and completely sinister.” Our own award-winning Miss Demeanor Alexia Gordon summed up Cate’s third novel by saying, “Wow. Just wow. As soon as you think you’ve figured it out, Cate Holahan hits you with a twist you did. Not. See. Coming…A taut story.” Library Journal had this to say, “Recommended for anyone who enjoys Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn, primarily because it’s better.”  I managed to steal this master of psychological suspense away from her fans at The Mysterious Bookshop in Tribeca to ask her a few questions about writing.  Many suspense writers write series. You don’t. How do you come up with completely new ideas and characters for each book? Cate: I don’t really know how ideas come to me. When they do, however, they arrive as semi-fleshed out stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Recently, on a trip to Iceland, I saw a boiling hot spring that could melt a body. That night, I returned to my hotel and outlined an entire story about a group of bachelors that go to Iceland for a stag party and meet a female environmentalist tour guide. Their vacation won’t end as well as my own. I have a folder on my computer where I have outlines and character notes for upcoming stories. My protagonists are often sketched out with my initial idea, but they develop more during my first draft and are fully realized in my second when I re-plot the story so that it grows organically from the people in it.  Without giving anything away, what is Lies She Told about? Cate: Lies She Told centers around a suspense author, Liza, whose work-in-progress novel points to clues concerning a disappearance in her real life. It’s a twisty, psychological thriller that plays with the philosophical concepts of mimesis and anti-mimesis: does art imitate life or is it the other way around? The novel is two tales in one that intersect. There’s the story of Liza, a writer struggling to pen a new suspense book capable of reviving her flailing career, as well as to conceive a child with her husband, David, who is distracted by the sudden disappearance of his law partner Nick. And, there’s the story that Liza is writing about Beth, a mom with a six-week-old who believes her husband is having an affair. As she writes, Liza begins to see parallels in her work that hint at secrets kept by those closest to her, forcing her to confront the inspiration of her fiction. Is her subconscious picking up on information that is revealing itself in her work? Or, are the similarities all coincidences? You’ve been a professional writer for quite some time, but in your prior life as a journalist you wrote non-fiction. What made you want to write fiction? Cate: I always wanted to write fiction. I have a couple books in drawers and wrote novels in my free time. I didn’t write anything worth publishing, unfortunately, until I took the plunge and let go of the steady paycheck that journalism had provided. I loved the interviewing and research aspects of journalism, and writing everyday. But I never felt that I got to stretch my creative muscles writing for business publications. That job was more about understanding the companies that I covered, and accurately and concisely explaining a concept or point of view.  Is there any advice you wish you’d known when you started your career that you can pass on to aspiring writers? Cate: Learn your genre. Telling a good story is one thing but you have to know the readers that you are writing for and what their expectations may be. Before getting published, I wrote a couple “trunk junk” books that I thought had decent stories but didn’t fit into a genre. They were romantic, suspense, literature, comedy, all over the place tales.  What is something readers may not know about you? Cate: I sang and played piano in a rock band–though, I’m not sure that is a surprise as many novelists whom I’ve met have dabbled in music or other performing arts. I have a tattoo of books turning into birds on my left arm. The placement makes it more or less invisible unless I flip my wrist over. I think I might be just preppy enough for this to be subversive. But probably not. Tattoos are so common now.  

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Murder In D Minor is Born!

   We’re celebrating the book birthday of Alexia Gordon’s “Death in D Minor” today. The Miss Demeanors love a party, especially a book birthday party for one our own. We asked Alexia to share a little about the process of transforming Death in D Minor from an embryo to a beautiful baby. Here’s what the Birthday Girl had to say. Miss Demeanors (“MD”): So what the new book about, Alexia? Alexia:   In Death in D Minor, Gethsemane has to clear her brother-in-law of antiques theft charges, herself of murder charges, bring Eamon back from wherever he’s got to, and save Carraigfaire from a greedy hotel developer, all while dodging a killer and outwitting a law enforcement agent who may not be what she seems. And she has to do it all by Epiphany. Luckily, the ghost of a dashing 18th century sea captain shows up to help her. (No, writing back cover copy is not my forte.) MD: Was writing your second book as painful for you as many authors describe?  Alexia: Book two was excruciating. If self-doubt was a bus, I’d be road kill. I was afraid to write for fear I’d “violate canon”. Yeah, I was actually afraid to play in the world I’d created lest I mess things up and disappoint readers. How’s that for neurotic? MD: What inspired the story for Murder in D Minor? Alexia: Death in D Minor was inspired by My personal interests. Needlework, particularly embroidery, is a hobby. Colonial-era history and art crime are fields that interest me. I decided to work my interests into the story because it’s always more fun to write about what interests you. Especially when you’re in the midst of an imposter syndrome-induced nervous breakdown and have deadlines looming. Plus, I had an excuse to finagle a behind-the-scenes tour of Colonial Williamsburg.  MD: When you started your series did you know the plot or theme for the first and second one? Or did the second one come about organically? Alexia:   I knew I had to the up certain loose ends from book one in book 2 and I knew which characters I had to carry over to book 2. But the actual plot for book 2 came about organically. I pulled some ideas from my mental Rolodex (How many people who read this will totally not get that reference?) –art crime, antique embroidery, Colonial history– and puzzled out a way to make them for together with the characters I already had. M.D.:    Gethsemane talked about her family in book one. Now, in book two, we see one of her family members. How did that family dynamic change writing her character? Could we see more family members in the future Alexia:   Actually including a family member in the story meant I had to imagine how Gethsemane would interact with someone who knew her history (and secret nickname) and who would interact with her differently from someone she’d recently met. We all (at least I do) speak about our absent family differently than we act in their presence. Yes, I plan to have more family members as characters in the future. MD: Does your protagonist Gethsemane ever annoy you? Alexia:  Gethsemane doesn’t annoy me. My challenge is not to let Gethsemane become my channel to express my annoyance with other people. My fatal flaw is not suffering fools lightly. It’s hard to keep that off the page. MD: Any questions for the Birthday Girl, please chime in. After we’re done partying, we’re off to buy a copy of Murder in D Minor.   

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The Lefty Goes To…

Every year, mystery readers and authors gather in some beautiful state on the West Coast to celebrate the genre and highlight some of the best books of the year with the prestigious LEFTY award. I would like to congratulate fellow Missdemeanor Alexia Gordon for WINNING in the Best Debut Mystery category for her novel Murder in G Major.  This year the awards ceremony was held in Hawaii. The award was crafted out of Koa wood (check it out below. Thanks Alexia!) She had some tough competition from many great new authors. Just to be nominated is an honor. Winning is something extra special.  On the 22nd, we will welcome authors nominated for the Agatha in the best first novel category to this blog for a guest post series. Led by Agatha nominee Alexia, they will be weighing in on what they wish they had known before embarking on a writing career.      

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