The January edition of The Big Thrill includes an interview with me by Julie Compton, author of TELL NO LIES. The Big Thrill is the online newsletter for members of the International Thriller Writers organization. ITW is a great organization for both readers and writers of suspense fiction.
Here’s the interview:
Cat Sitter On A Hot Tin Roof by Blaize Clement
By Julie Compton
Blaize Clement is the author of the best-selling Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series, which features the plucky Florida pet sitter and amateur sleuth, Dixie Hemingway. In the fourth book of the series being released this month, Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, Dixie thinks she’s made a great new friend who’s in hiding from a sadistic husband. When her new friend is murdered, Dixie is determined to bring the husband to justice. Until she learns there is no husband.
Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof has been called a “taut and topical mystery, filled with local color from Florida’s Sun Coast.” The Big Thrill caught up with Dixie’s creator to ask her a few questions about her popular series and what led her from her former profession – psychotherapy – to writing.
You say in the bio on your blog, “I’ll write a Dixie Hemingway mystery every year until I run out of ideas.” How did you come up with the original idea for the series?
Story ideas grow so organically that it’s hard to remember exactly how they began. I wanted a character who had keys to other people’s houses, so decided on a pet sitter. I live close to Siesta Key, which is a beautiful and quirky place, so I set the story there. While I was playing around with the idea of a pet sitter, I wrote a scene in which she finds a man drowned in a cat’s water bowl. I hadn’t intended that, but there it was. Everything else just evolved from that one scene.
Tell us a little bit more about Dixie. Is she anything like you? Or anyone else you know?
My friends say Dixie’s smart-aleck mouth sounds a lot like me, but I’m sure they exaggerate.
Were you a big mystery reader before you started writing? What made you turn to writing, in general, and writing mysteries, specifically?
I’ve always written. I think I was eight when I wrote my first book. As I recall, it was about a dog, so I guess I’ve come full circle. I’ve always been a voracious reader, too, and read all genres. Before I started writing mysteries, I wrote several nonfiction books in psychology, some literary short stories, lots of essays, and a play. Always, my primary interest has been in people and why they do the things they do. That’s really what a mystery is, so no matter what I start out to write, it usually ends up some kind of mystery.
You were a psychotherapist for many years. What role has this profession played in your second career as a writer?
Most people think psychotherapists sit in an office saying “And how did that make you feel?” That’s part of it, but I also did a lot of psychological testing for criminal and civil courts. An attorney would deliver reams of material on a client — medical records, school records, legal records — that had to be considered in light of whatever my testing found. My job was to cut through all the extraneous stuff and present a coherent personality to the court. People’s futures depended on me doing it well. Now, when I’m writing about fictional crimes, my experience in preparing those reports is as helpful as the answers I got to “And how did that make you feel?”
You’ve said that you learn more about a person by asking “What’s your favorite color? Favorite book? Favorite movie?” than by asking “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” So, tell The Big Thrill readers: What is your favorite color? Your favorite book? Your favorite movie?
My favorite color is a yummy shade of cantaloupe, a pale orangy-coral. I painted my kitchen and one wall of my dining room that color.
My favorite book is always the one I just finished reading — if I loved it. At the moment that’s Out Stealing Horses by Pers Petterson, because it’s layered and demanding and fiercely honest.
Favorite movie is Defending Your Life. I have to see it at least once a year, and always end up crying and vowing to live more courageously. I love it because its deep meaning is presented in a funny, wacky story.
Tell us the story behind your name. Blaize is so unusual.
Um…well….uh…I got it because a few people have caught fire in my presence. That’s all I’ll say about that. Maybe I’ll write a memoir some day about it.
What’s next for Dixie Hemingway? For Blaize Clement?
The fifth Dixie Hemingway book is written and ready for publication in 2010. It’s so odd to always be thinking a year ahead in her story! As for Blaize Clement, I’m superstitious about telling personal plans until they’ve jelled, but they definitely involve writing more mysteries.
For more information about Blaize Clement and the Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series, visit www.blaizeclement.com.
Contributing editor, Julie Compton, originally hails from St. Louis, Missouri, the setting for her debut novel and legal thriller TELL NO LIES. An attorney by profession, Julie most recently worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Wilmington, Delaware, but stopped practicing when she moved to Florida with her husband and two daughters. She now writes full time.