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Thursday, January 18, 2018

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR N.M. CEDENO

N. M. Cedeño writes mystery, science fiction, paranormal mystery, and children’s poetry. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I took a while to work my way up to novels. First, I wrote kids’ poetry and stories. Then, I branched out to short stories for adults a few years later. Finally, around age 30, I realized one of my stories needed to be a novel, but it took me a few years to figure out how to write it.  

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I submitted children’s fiction to publishers for years without success. Then, around 2008, I started submitting 250 word stories to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s monthly photo contest. A couple of my stories were selected as runners-up in 2009 and 2010, so I decided to try writing full-length short stories. My first short story to be published was in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact magazine in 2012. By that time, I’d been writing for at least nine years.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
My novels are all indie published, but I still submit short stories to magazines. Hybrid.

Where do you write?
I write at home, mostly in the office or at the kitchen table.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
For years, I wrote to the sound of squabbling children. Now I write to the sound of squabbling children and a dog barking out frequent proximity alerts: Truck! Squirrel! Person! Dog! Cat! Silence might be nice.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Details in my stories are drawn from real life. For instance, I like to put favorite restaurants in stories. I included a rollover car wreck in a book, and I’ve been in one. I once gave a character a variation on a job I had held. My science fiction stories frequently involve current social issues that I tweak to fit my needs. However, most of my stories involve murder, and none of the murder plots are taken from my life.

Describe your process for naming your characters?
Naming characters is a complicated process!  I use a baby name book to choose names that fit the personality of the character. I also Google names to make sure they are either really common or completely unique.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Real cities and towns, but with fictional buildings added. I’ve set stories in Houston, Dallas, and around Austin. Most of my fiction is set in Texas.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
In my Bad Vibes Removal Services stories, the character of Lea is a graduate student who studies the daily lives of ancient people. Her quirk is that she replicates the clothes, hairstyles, makeup styles, or even perfumes common to the ancient civilization she is studying, and sometimes wears them to work. Lea is also extremely sensitive to emotional atmosphere in buildings, and she sees ghosts!

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I refuse to buy desserts I can easily bake myself: no grocery cakes or bakery cookies, cupcakes, or brownies unless they’re something truly extraordinary.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. I’d love to be able to write witty dialogue and intelligent characters while displaying a knack for comedy and creating humorous situations the way Sayers did in that book. Sayers broke a main rule of mystery writing by ending not with the capture of the murderer, but with the execution of the murderer after the trial. She showed the psychological ramifications of the execution on her detective. She could only do that because she was a brilliant writer who could create characters that readers were invested in knowing, characters whose lives and emotions mattered to the reader.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
To have taken a marketing class in college.  I didn’t foresee how much I would need to know that kind of stuff.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Places that advertise kolaches, and don’t sell any actual kolaches, but instead sell sausage rolls are my pet peeve. Kolaches don’t have meat in them, people! Some kolache shops sell sausage rolls (klobasniky), but that doesn’t make the sausage roll a kolache any more than selling a cinnamon roll in a donut shop makes it a donut. How would you like it if you wanted a donut, and the sign said the place sold donuts, but it really only sold cinnamon rolls? This is a Texas Czech thing.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
If I already have basic necessities (food, water, and shelter) as a given, then books, pencil and paper (or tablet or laptop) for writing, and chocolate.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
When I was in college, I had a summer job as a customer service representative (CSR) answering phones to schedule air conditioner repairs. Think of summer in Texas and cranky people with no A/C. The dispatchers used to bet on which of the CSRs would cry after being screamed at and cursed at by customers.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I don’t have a “best book” of all books. I’d have to give you a list with “best” books by category, such as Best Classic Novel--Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I have other “bests” for traditional mystery, romance, suspense, fantasy, and other categories.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean! The beach is my happy place.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Neither. Suburban Texas girl. Access to museums, live music, and plays when wanted, but space for hiking and walking your dog through fields and trees, preferably with lazy cows and deer watching you as you go.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Until recently, I’ve only written stand-alone novels and short stories in different genres and subgenres. However, I now have a series in the works based on my Bad Vibes Removal Services short stories. I wrote three short stories, and then the novel, The Walls Can Talk. I have three more short stories in the series completed, which will be published in a few months, and am starting the next novel.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I write more short stories than novels, which allows me to write in different genres from day to day or week to week. I can’t stick to one genre! However, nothing I write contains graphic violence or graphic sex.

The Walls Can Talk, A Bad Vibes Removal Services Novel

The Hanovers inherited an ancient Irish castle that’s been moved to central Texas. But once they move in, they find not all is well in a home that seems straight out of a fairy tale. When things are moved in the middle of the night, is the explanation treasure-hunting teenagers or someone more malicious?

With a terrifying ghostly presence haunting their days and break-ins threatening their nights, the Hanovers reach out to a private detective, the famed Montgomery of Montgomery Investigations, and his employees at Bad Vibes Removal Services to resolve matters using the equipment he invented that detects and deciphers emotional residue and sound patterns long embedded in walls.

The Bad Vibes crew — Lea, Kamika, and Montgomery — are used to solving cases involving death. But usually Lea is the only one who sees the spirits. Not this time! This ancient Irish ghost seems bent on breaking all the rules, forcing the team to find new ways for removing old souls. Now the team finds themselves dragged into a convoluted drama of betrayal, murder, and hidden treasure. With their clients’ lives on the line, Lea, Kamika, and Montgomery work to identify the criminal behind the break-ins and free the castle from its haunted past.

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