Please welcome Thea McAlistair to The Blogger Girls!
When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?
My first story that I remember was a fan fiction of a book about fairies at the age of 10 or so. It was a school assignment, but I don’t remember exactly what the assignment was.
My first non-school related piece was something like a YA take on Lord of the Rings around age 14. It didn’t get past a couple pages but I probably put almost as much planning into it as Tolkien himself would have. Sometimes I think I should go back to it, but I’m pretty sure I can’t get my mind wrapped around young YA.
Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?
Definitely when I find the time. I work full time (45-50 hours a week), so sometimes I have to get creative. I have, however, found that if I have a clear goal or deadline, even one with no consequences like NaNoWriMo, I’m much more likely to sit down and actually work. No Good Men and its sequel Boiling Over are results of NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo, respectively
Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?
I start with characters or maybe a brilliant flash of a scene. I piece it out from there: who are these people? How did they end up in this situation? How will they get out of it? That can usually carry me to a couple thousand words and then I need to dip into the well of music or other fiction to bring back the spark. Sometimes it takes longer than I want.
Where did the desire to write LGBT romance come from?
It didn’t start as a particular desire. I consider No Good Men a mystery first, a romance second. But that’s sort of the thing, isn’t it? There isn’t a “reason” for the characters being LGBTQ any more than there’s a “reason” for real LGBTQ people to exist. It’s time we accepted that.
How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?
I’m very well educated in history, so I know some basics. If I need a particular fact, Google is very much my friend. And I’m fortunate that there are still some films from the period I write in, so I can listen to the cadence and word choice of characters my characters were supposed to have related to if they were real people.
What’s harder, naming your characters, creating the title for your book or the cover design process?
The book title was hardest, by far. Trying to capture 65,000 words in just one to five? Insanity. I was very fortunate to work with Raevyn and Natasha at NineStar Press on my cover, and we came up with something really great pretty quickly. Character names have never been hard for me. Because I’m writing historic fiction, I can pull up baby name lists for the appropriate era and ta-da I have 100 names to choose from.
How do you answer the question “Oh, you’re an author…what do you write?”
I say “historical mysteries.” If pressed further I’ll open that out to “LGBTQ noir-style historic mysteries set in the 1930s.” I get a lot of incredulous stares and polite nodding. Niche genres whooo!
What does your family think of your writing?
Don’t know, they haven’t read it yet haha!
Tell us about your current work in process and what you’ve got planned for the future.
Book 2, Boiling Over, is with NineStar going through the publishing process. I have a draft 0 of Book 3 going and I’ve got ideas for four or five more after that. I can’t let my boys go, it seems.
I dabble in fantasy from time to time, but I haven’t gotten very far with them. Not sure what the issue is, but it is an entirely different process than the mysteries. I guess it’s because with a historical book, you know that there are facts you can look up, and with a mystery, you always know where your endgame is. With a fantasy, literally all bets are off.
Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?
Make friends with other writers. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to give up only to have my writer friends buoy me back up. And their help is invaluable for working through issues with the story. Plus they are always open to commiserating with you.
About No Good Men
In 1934, almost everyone struggles to pay the rent, and Alex Dawson is no exception. To support his writing habit, he moonlights with his mentor Donnie as a bodyguard for the mayor. It’s dull work, until the night a handsome, golden-eyed stranger catches his eye–and both his boss and his mentor are killed when his back is turned.
Jobless and emotionally adrift, Alex vows to find the murderer before the corrupt police can pin the blame on him. But he soon discovers he’s in over his head. The golden-eyed stranger turns out to be a mob boss’s cousin, and a suspicious stack of money in Donnie’s dresser leads Alex to discover that his mentor and the mayor were involved in something more crooked than fundraising dinners and campaign speeches. As the death count rises amid corruption, mob politics, and anarchist plots, Alex realizes that the murders aren’t political or even business. This is the work of a spree killer, and Alex and his new boyfriend are the only ones who can stop them.
Available at: Amazon
An Excerpt from No Good Men
Mob money could buy a lot, but apparently it couldn’t buy taste. Every single architectural detail of the Ostia struck me as garish: from the chandeliers dripping crystals to the thick wooden accent panels to the gold-painted cherubs carved into the tops of the columns. But my opinion didn’t matter; I was just hired muscle.
The club had opened the previous December—about two seconds after booze turned legal again—and attracted all sorts of upper-class clientele, including my boss, Mayor Roy Carlisle. They called him the White Knight of Westwick, and he ran on the rather ironic platform of driving various ne’er-do-wells out of the city. But again, not my business. My job was to hover just behind him in case something terrible happened. Nothing ever happened though, no crazed attackers or falling pianos. The worst crisis I’d run into in the ten or so months I’d been working for him was a freak rainstorm at a garden party, and I had to hold my jacket over his wife Emma’s head to protect her hair.
Still, it was a dollar a night to stand around, and that was more than other people were getting. The Depression had wiped everyone out, including me. If I hadn’t taken up bodyguarding, I would’ve been thrown out of my room in the boardinghouse faster than I could say eviction. Writing pulp stories wasn’t a lucrative day job, and even less so at the beginning of a career.
Which was why, despite my thoughts on the decor, I was pleased to be at the Ostia. Everyone said they had the best acts in town, and I couldn’t disagree. That night they opened with a pretty, button-nosed redhead. She was French, or at least she had a good enough grip of the language to sing in it. I didn’t know what she was singing about, but it sounded sultry enough as she made eyes at our table.
Carlisle lapped it up, ignorant or indifferent to Emma turning bright pink beside him. She didn’t say anything though. Maybe she’d taken a lesson from other political wives and learned to swallow her pride or risk becoming divorced and destitute. Not that she didn’t deserve to be proud. She was still pretty at thirty-five—ten years Carlisle’s junior—blonde and delicate with huge blue eyes.
She must have gotten her looks from her mother, because her father had the smashed face of a bulldog and towered over even my own six feet. Seated to his daughter’s left that night, Marc Logan also stewed in silence, his hand alternately crumpling the napkins and patting Emma reassuringly on the knee. His own blue eyes, the haunting color of old ice, bored a hole into the side of Carlisle’s head.
Their dinner guest for the evening, Mrs. Green, likewise noticed his glare and apparently decided the best course of action was distraction. “Emma dear, did you see what Miss Kepler was wearing the other night at the Peterson soiree?” she tittered as she coiled the chain for her hanging glasses around a finger.
“Hmm?” Emma turned her head just enough to keep her husband in her peripheral vision. “I’m sorry; what were you saying about the Kepler girl?”
“Her dress!” exclaimed Mrs. Green. “It was scandalous! So low-cut. Anyone would have thought she was selling herself. Her father should never have let her out of the house like that. Don’t you agree, Mr. Logan?”
Logan blinked slowly, no doubt trying to come to terms with the dullness of a conversation centered on someone else’s clothing. “While I have to agree that she was… improperly dressed for the occasion, it is quite difficult for a man to say no to his daughter once she’s gotten her mind wrapped around something.” He glanced at Emma, who smiled weakly.
Mrs. Green continued along the thread of scandalous attire, but I let my attention slip back to Carlisle. Oblivious to the rest of his table, he continued to stare at the French singer. While such behavior wasn’t unusual for him, that night it was so obvious that even I was becoming uncomfortable. I glanced at my watch and suppressed a groan. It was only half-past ten. Donnie wouldn’t be around for another hour and a half.
“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Dawson?”
My attention snapped to Emma. “Yes, ma’am,” I answered, hoping she hadn’t noticed my boredom.
Her mouth quirked like she was in on some joke I didn’t know the punchline to, but she said nothing else. Instead she turned to her father, placed a hand on his shoulder, and whispered something in his ear. He grunted in response. Carlisle didn’t notice the exchange, or maybe didn’t care. Mrs. Green kept nattering away.
The song stopped, and the French girl took a bow. We all clapped, Carlisle too enthusiastically, and Emma barely at all. The girl swept off the stage to a table off the wing for a break, and she was replaced by a dark-haired woman with too much makeup. The new woman sang with a rough alto voice, occasionally throwing appraising looks at Carlisle, though he didn’t return them. Once the French girl left, his attention had returned to the food. The rest of the table did the same.
With my charges occupied, I took the chance to look over the room again. Nothing out of the ordinary. Diners, waiters, a glossy bar at the back. The maître-de waving through a man who had just entered… I realized I knew the man weaving his way between tables. Donnie was terribly noticeable with a thick, out-of-fashion beard and pocket-watch chain draped across his waistcoat. I looked at my own watch again. It was only eleven.
About Thea McAlistair
Thea McAlistair is the pseudonym of an otherwise terribly boring office worker from New Jersey. She studied archaeology, anthropology, history, architecture, and public policy, but none of those panned out, so she decided to go back to an early love – writing. She can often be found muttering to herself about her latest draft at completely inappropriate times.
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Congrats on the book release! Thank you for the interview and excerpt!