Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Interview with mystery author Carmen Amato

Mystery author Carmen Amato is here today. We’re talking about her new police procedural mystery, King Peso. It’s Book 4 in her Detective Emilia Cruz series.

During her virtual book tour, Carmen will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.

Carmen Amato is the author of romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was recently optioned for film. Originally from New York, her experiences in Mexico and Central America inspire many of her books. For a copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library, visit her website.

Welcome, Carmen. Please share a little bit about your current release.

King Peso is the 4th novel in the Detective Emilia Cruz series. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco. Acapulco is known as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, with great beaches and nightlife, but it’s also ground zero for Mexico’s drug war.

There are several continuing subplots in the series, including Emilia’s hunt for missing women, and corruption within Acapulco’s police department and city government. Emilia also has a new boss in every book.

Then there is Emilia’s relationship with Kurt Rucker. He’s a wealthy gringo and she has problems dealing with that.

In King Peso, I wanted to throw a grenade into Emilia’s already fractious partnership with senior detective Franco Silvio and revisit the money-laundering El Pharaoh casino. In Hat Dance, the 2nd novel in the series, Silvio and Emilia try to close down the El Pharaoh, but can’t make the charges stick.

I threw the continuing subplots and the new elements into a margarita mixer, hit Blend, and the result is very tasty!

What inspired you to write this book?
Although I’m originally from New York and now call Virginia home, I lived in Mexico for several years. I really loved Mexico’s food, the artwork, and architecture. And beaches!

But when a drug addict disrupted our Christmas Eve church service, I saw the impact of drug cartel violence. I wanted to write about what was happening to Mexico’s society and culture, but make it gripping enough to stand out.

The Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series is based on reality. Emilia’s challenges are pulled right from the headlines in Mexico. There’s no need for me to make up bizarre serial killers when cartel violence and corrupt politicians provide more than enough inspiration. For example, Emilia’s perpetual hunt for women who have gone missing—referred to as Las Perdidas or the Lost Ones--was inspired by the hundreds of women missing from the Juarez area.

So in an odd way, I have that drug addict to thank for the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, including Cliff Diver, Hat Dance, Diablo Nights, and the latest, King Peso. Emilia might be the first female police detective in Acapulco, facing down both the drug cartels and Mexico’s tradition of machismo, but she’s doing it in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

It’s a formula has gotten a lot of attention lately, including a television series deal.

Here’s an excerpt from King Peso:

Kurt was slumped on one of the sofas, elbows on knees, head in his hands.
Emilia snapped on a table lamp, suddenly afraid.
Kurt’s head popped up. There was an expression of desolation on his face Emilia had never seen before.
“What’s going on?” Emilia asked.
He ran a hand through his hair and that indefinable confidence came rushing back, reanimating his handsome features like water filling a glass. “Did I wake you up?” he asked.
Emilia sat next to him on the sofa, unsure of what she’d just seen. “Trouble sleeping?”
“Thought I’d get a snack,” Kurt said, with the feigned artlessness that Emilia had seen too many times across an interrogation table. “I didn’t eat much with all those people here.”
Emilia hesitated. If you’re hungry, why were you sitting here in the dark?
A phone shrilled from the bedroom.
“Yours or mine?” Kurt frowned.
Emilia stood up. “Mine.”
She walked to the bedroom, skirted the bed, and reached for the phone. It stopped ringing. Emilia checked the call log.
Best partner and worst enemy.
“Problem?” Kurt appeared in the open doorway.
“Silvio.” Emilia gave a grimace as she held up the phone. “No doubt he’s drunk and wants to gloat, the pendejo.”
“Tell me you bet with him,” Kurt said.
“He was offering really great odds.” Emilia hadn’t planned on telling Kurt about her little flutter on the Copa America match. “I put down 200 pesos. It was the smallest bet he would take.”
Before Emilia fought her way into the detectives squadroom, Silvio and then-partner Manuel Garcia Diaz had been involved in a shootout during a drug bust. Garcia was killed. Initially accused of setting up his partner, Silvio was suspended without pay during the investigation. To make ends meet, he became a bookie, running bets on boxing and fútbol, and kept the sideline going even when reinstated.
“Your partner is an illegal bookie,” Kurt said. “And you are aiding and abetting.”
“The entire police department is aiding and abetting,” Emilia said dryly. Everybody bet with Silvio. She tossed the phone back on the bedside table. “Do you still want that snack?”
“You said you were hungry.”
“Right. Sure.” Kurt smiled a little too widely. “I’ll make us something.” He disappeared down the hall.
Emilia went into the bathroom. Her stomach knotted as she washed her face. Kurt was the one whose life was an open book, the one who shared from the heart and pushed for commitment. She was the one who kept secrets and stalled when things got too serious.
But now, it seemed as if that dependable dynamic was gone. Something was wrong and Emilia didn’t know what it was.
She only knew that Kurt had lied to her for the first time.
Not sure why she was doing it, Emilia turned on all the lights as she returned to the living room. The dining room chandelier came to life and illuminated the doorway to the kitchen. The lights were already on in there, bouncing off the stainless steel appliances and glossy Italian cabinetry.
Two glasses of wine stood on the table. Kurt was busy topping chupata rolls with thin slices of jamón Serrano, tomato, and avocado. “One sandwich or two?” he asked as Emilia sat down.
“Just one.”
Kurt put the sandwiches on a talavera pottery platter and slid one of the glasses next to her hand. “Here you go.”
Emilia took a sandwich despite the tension in her stomach. “Second party of the day.”
“Just the kind of people we are.” Kurt touched his glass to hers.
“Is everything okay?” Emilia asked after a minute or two.
“As long as you’re okay, I’m okay.” Kurt poured them both more wine.
“I just―.” She was cut off by the distant ring of her phone.
“Yours again, Em.”
Emilia stood up. “If this is Silvio drunk and butt dialing me, I’m going to slay him.”
She stalked down the hall to the bedroom, torn between fury at Silvio and worry that her relationship with Kurt was washing away like sand in a storm. The phone’s ring was insistent. As Emilia hit the button to talk she saw that the caller wasn’t Silvio, but the central police dispatch desk.
“Detective Cruz,” Emilia answered.
“This is the desk sergeant from Dispatch reporting a home invasion.” The male voice on the other end of the line sounded tired.
“Why call me?” Emilia said, not bothering to mask her annoyance. “Get it out to the night duty unit for that neighborhood.”
“The caller asked specifically for you. Detective Emilia Cruz.”
Emilia lowered herself to the edge of the bed. The knot in her stomach tightened into a fist. “Okay,” she said. “Give me everything you’ve got.”
“Male caller. Couple minutes ago. Reported a home invasion. One victim. Female, 42 years old. Multiple gunshots to the upper chest. Claims she’s been dead less than four hours.”
“How would he know?”
“Didn’t say.”
And you didn’t ask. This sounded like the shooter calling to taunt the police. And he’d named her. Emilia felt sweat bead up on her forehead. “Location?”
The sergeant named a neighborhood known for poverty and violence. It was a combat zone full of street kids where gangs ruled at night and only one cop dared to walk.
She’d been there before.
Emilia found herself nearly doubled over, the phone still pressed to her ear. “Did the caller identify himself?”
“No. Just kept repeating a number. Said it was a badge.” The sergeant on the other end was getting testy with all her questions. “Said to call you and have you come. That neighborhood, we figured it was some sort of hoax. The captain here thought you should be aware. You got any enemies in that area?”
“Did you run the badge number?” Emilia demanded.
“No,” the sergeant said sulkily. “We can get somebody to do it in the morning, if you think it’s important.”
“Run it,” Emilia nearly shouted. “I’ll hold.”
She forced herself upright and held her breath as the clack of computer keys traveled through the line. Blood pounded in her ears and every nerve stretched to the breaking point.
Less than a minute later, the sergeant cleared his throat.
“We got a hit,” he said. “The badge belongs to Detective Franco Silvio.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next book is Awakening Macbeth, a romantic thriller with a paranormal twist that is up for nomination on the Kindle Scout website, where readers help select books for publication by Kindle Press. Hopefully, that will be publishing before Christmas 2016.

After that, I’ll be back to Detective Emilia Cruz with Pacific Reaper, the 5th book in the series, which is slated for release in February 2017.

I’m not a swift writer, but usually manage to post every week on my blog. But the real juicy stuff, including anything about my contract for an Emilia Cruz television series, goes in my monthly Mystery Ahead newsletter.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself a writer when a close friend and I were having dinner at an Italian restaurant. I was getting close to publishing my first book, the romantic thriller The Hidden Light of Mexico City, and had several cover designs on my laptop. Before we ordered, we looked through the designs and discussed them. The waiter came over and looked at the designs, too, and suddenly someone I didn’t know believed that I could be the author of a book!

No doubt the waiter figured a good tip could be had, but the moment was a real turning point for me.

A more recent turning point was signing a contract with a major television network for a show based on the Detective Emilia Cruz series. I don’t know what will happen next but it has been an exciting journey so far!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m a full time mystery and thriller author and can’t believe how busy I am. In addition to the Detective Emilia Cruz series, I write standalone romantic thrillers.

My work day starts with a walk with the dog and a few household chores, then I will work on my current book for 3-4 hours. If I don’t have a list or an outline in front of me, I tend to waste time so every few days I take a break to organize. That’s when I catch up on social media, work on outlines, and clean my desk which often is littered with notes and things I print out to read later.

Having an accountability buddy has been essential. A good friend also has multiple projects going and we connect at least once a week. More than anything else, this accountability helps both of us to stay motivated and on track.

I’d write more if I could but have to get away from the screen now and then! Family, dog, travel, and friends, not to mention our fixer upper house, keep my life balanced.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m a great one for outlines. Before I start a new project, I outline it on a wall using sticky notes. It takes a day or so as I rearrange stickies until I like the flow and feel the story come together. Then I transfer the stickies to a big sheet of poster paper and tape it to the wall above my desk.

Once I’m knee-deep into the writing, the outline invariably gets stale and I’ll do it all over again. Usually my the end of the book, I’m working from a fresh outline of the last third of the book. The stickies are stuck to a file folder that I can carry around. This is handy because I often write scenes longhand and type, editing as I go, later.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not, I wanted to travel and tell stories!
Mission accomplished.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
You are all invited to download a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library. The Starter Library features “The Beast,” the story about how Emilia became the first female detective in Acapulco, which was first published in The Huffington Post. You’ll also get “The Angler,” the story based on a real life murder mystery, plus the first chapters of the first three Emilia Cruz novels. As a bonus, you’ll get my monthly newsletter, Mystery Ahead.

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Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for having me and helping me introduce Emilia Cruz and her circle of friends and foes to your readers. Happy reading! All the best, Carmen.

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Carmen Amato said...

Lisa, thanks for the great questions and the opportunity to chat. Happy reading!

Rita Wray said...

I liked the excerpt.

Victoria Alexander said...

Great post - I enjoyed reading it :)

Nikolina said...

I really enjoyed reading your interview, thank you!

Carmen Amato said...

Thanks to such a great readership here on Lisa's blog! So many of you have entered the raffle AND downloaded a free copy of the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library at! So glad to have you along on this writing journey :)