Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Morgan. Let’s start with what everyone wants to know, information about your latest book.
Well, actually there are two, released within weeks of each other and both dealing with women in jeopardy. LA BELLA MAFIA is the astonishing true story of Bella Capo, a woman who has survived enough for ten lives and landed on her feet. The abused child of a power broker with mob ties, she became a power herself in the club and after-hours club life along Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, later became a white woman boss in the Crips and now devotes her life to helping abuse victims and those in jeopardy through the online movement La Bella Mafia. An unbelievable read that I co-authored with true crime writer Dennis N. Griffin. Release date October 15.
Then, BETRAYED, a work of fiction inspired by events that really did happen in the late 1950s through the 1960s. The entire first part was inspired by those events, and the rest is pure fiction. However, the parts inspired by the true events are fictionalized and author’s license is taken, unlike the true story of Bella Capo.
Laurel Murphy, a teenaged ballet protégé is kidnapped, sold into a high class brothel where she is severely beaten and left for dead. But she doesn’t die and has to rebuild her spirit and her life, all the while harboring a desire for revenge and dealing with horrendous nightmares and flashbacks. She thought she had it all together with a new family and successful career in the theater. Then the unthinkable happened and a ghost from her past was seen by accident, forcing Laurel to face her demons. The Kindle is currently available on Amazon and the paperback will be released by the end of October.
I’ve read LA BELLA MAFIA and it’s a powerfully written book. BETRAYED sounds intriguing as well. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I’m working on another true story with Dennis N. Griffin that is told by the daughter of a Las Vegas character who was a mob member and a favorite of celebrities. Those who knew his public personality thought he was a great lighthearted guy and fun to be with. Behind closed doors, his family knew different and were constantly exposed to his dark side. When one mentions his name to Las Vegas long-timers, a wealth of stories are told—some funny, some absolutely shocking.
Phyllice and I are also writing the fourth Silver Sisters Mystery, DIAMONDS IN THE DUMPSTER, and this time the twin’s 80 year old mother and uncle, feisty former vaudeville magicians who love to dress in disguise and go undercover, have featured parts. So many readers told us how much they love Flossie and Sterling that we listened to them and cast the oldsters in the lead this time.
Well, you’ve got my interest with your next book! And for those who haven’t read your Silver Sisters Mystery series, Flossie and Sterling are a hoot! What is a typical writing day like for you?
I watch the news while drinking my coffee and have a bit of breakfast. Sometimes items in the new will grab me and I mentally file those away for the future or if something really intrigues me I’ll hit the record on the DVR. I usually go up to my office around 9:30 or 10:00 and tell myself that I’ll write for an hour or two. Because I always have so many balls in the air, at least two or three projects in process at any given time, I generally forget to eat lunch and remember somewhere around 3:00. The writing is interspersed with Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, Tweets and keeping my websites up to date, as that is one of the most time consuming things an author must do to keep their books visible.
Then I take a break and back to the computer. I’ll generally work until anywhere from 5:00 to 7:00. I’m a very prolific writer and accomplish a lot. I’ve been asked for one word to describe me and I think if you look up “workaholic” you’ll find my name.
Prolific certainly fits you! When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
For the most part it is me because I’m an analytical person and like to see the road ahead of me. However, every once in a while a character will catch me unaware and literally lead me down the path they have chosen. For example, I won’t give away what happened in this case, but the father-in-law in BETRAYED really took me by surprise. There I was tapping away at the keys and he revealed all kinds of things I didn’t know about him and actually made the storyline take a turn that I believe truly improved it.
When they want to speak, you have to hear what they have to say.
Oh, I agree with that. How long have you been writing?
My first published magazine article was back in the late 1970s. I wrote magazine and newspaper articles until the mid 90s when my sister, also a published writer, and I decided to create our own mystery series and the Silver Sisters Mysteries and all of the zany characters who populate them, came into being. However, the first Silver Sisters caper wasn’t published until 2006.
I still write many newspaper and magazine articles, and have written over 500 related to the writer’s world about techniques and the people populating it.
I co-wrote a book with my sister Cyndi (aka Caitlyn Hunter) and it was such a great experience. We’re presently working on the sequel and I love working with her. Since your series continues, I’d say it’s the same with you. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I love to share my ideas with my readers and make my characters come to life—not like paper doll cutouts but like real people. Many readers have told me they feel like they want to really know my characters and wish they were real.
Since I give workshops and appear on panels, I also love to share what I’ve learned through the years with both aspiring and published writers whether in person or through my articles in examiner.com or my book Writers’ Tricks of the Trade.
I’m a strong believer in paying it forward and love knowing authors who do the same. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
Until February I had a foot in Marina Del Rey CA and the other in Las Vegas NV. Then after ten years of doing this, and practically considering the 15 Freeway my third home, Las Vegas became my full-time home. I’ve loved Las Vegas since I began doing business in Sin City in variety of capacities back in the mid 80s and actually did move here once in right at the time of Desert Storm. Unfortunately, business in Las Vegas was pretty devastated by that first Iraq war and I went back to L.A. with my tail between my legs and relatively broke.
Most people picture the Strip as being what Las Vegas is like, and want to know things like how I like living in hotels, etc. I live in a beautiful residential community about 20 minutes from the Strip that is just like any other planned community. The people are friendly and we really do have grocery stores, movie theaters, big box stores like Target and Costco, restaurants—you get the picture. In other words, once you leave the Strip it’s like a big city with a friendly small town mentality.
It definitely helps. It is difficult sometimes to write about places or circumstances that you have not personally experienced. Why? Because it is easy to get it wrong if you don’t research properly. Don’t just rely on the internet, but speak to people who have either been to places you refer to or done the things you include in your stories.
For example, I spent many years as an interior designer and absolutely cringed when I read a mystery that was set at the Hi Point Furniture Market in Hi Point, No. Carolina. The author got so many things wrong I couldn’t believe it. Someone who didn’t know that business might have assumed that’s how it is, but anyone who was savvy could only chuckle or shake their head while reading some of the bizarre assumptions and scenes.
Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
Actually, two memoirs are “in the made.” That is to say they are in publication. When my mom was 80 I encouraged her to write her memoir so we wouldn’t lose all the wonderful stories about growing up in the early 1900s as the youngest and tenth child in a zany immigrant family. Laughter carried her through all of her nearly 97 years. She was proud of her manuscript but passed away in 2006 well before CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? was published. She missed her 97th birthday by about 4 months.
As for me, and I loved writing this one: CONFESSIONS OF A COUGAR is the mostly true story of basically coming of age at 42. A friend and I had three glorious weeks in England and during that time had some very fun adventures and met all sorts of young, luscious Englishmen. To find out more, you’ll have to read the book.
So sad your mom passed before the book was published. Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
My father died when I was 17 and my sister was 12, but my mother was an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction and it rubbed off on both of us. When I was in the 2nd grade, I was reading at 8th grade level, and literally devoured books. I still read one or two books a week and listen to a ton of audio books while driving.
I can’t imagine my life without holding a book or ebook in my hands. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Somehow people I know often creep into my characters. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve done that until I’m re-reading sections or proofing and recognize them waving at me from the pages. Other times I create composites based on several people I know.
In BETRAYED the character of Vince was inspired someone I adored for many years who passed away too soon. I memorialized him in the character of Vince with no parts of anyone else and captured as many of his traits and sayings as possible. And, yes, often your characters speak to you in your head. Vince said thanks, how did you know I was perfect for the part? Among the many things he did in his life the person Vince was modeled after was an actor at one time.
Oh, that’s interesting. Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?
In 2005 I took a class called “Machete Editing” that forever changed the way I looked at editing in a fantastically good way. I used many of the things I learned in some of the chapters of Writers’ Tricks of the Trade.
Books I’ve personally found extremely helpful are “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Brown and Dave King; “The Frugal Book Promoter,” by Carolyn Howard-Johnson; “The Synonym Finder,” by J. I Rodale; and “Don’t Sabotage Your Submission,” by Chris Roerden, just to name a few. I made it a point to put a bibliography in Writers’ Tricks of the Trade of books I’ve personally used and learned from for more in-depth looks at many topics I touch upon in the chapters.
I devour Chris’s books – they’re well-written and informative. I was excited she used me as a sample in “Don’t Sabotage your Submission”. “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” is a book I refer to quite often. And Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a great resource for writers. She’s written several good books about writing.
Thanks for joining us today, Morgan. Here’s a short bio about Morgan and her works:
MORGAN ST. JAMES – Author/Speaker/Columnist
Award-winning author Morgan St. James has ten published books to her credit and with the latest, La Bella Mafia, a true crime book co-authored with Dennis Griffin and Bella Capo (whose story it is), due for release October 15 she joins the authors at Houdini Publishing. http://labellamafiabook.wordpress.com
Also scheduled for release at the end of October is a haunting story inspired by true incidents. Find out more about Betrayed, at http://betrayedthebook.wordpress.com
In addition to books she has written on her own, Morgan’s funny crime caper’s include the recent government embezzlement scam Who’s Got the Money? and the comical Silver Sisters Mysteries series co-authored with her real-life sister More information about these books can be found on www.morganstjames-author.com
She has written over 500 published articles related to writing and frequently presents workshops, appears on author’s panels and moderates panels Her book Writers Tricks of the Trade launched a bi-monthly eZine for writers of the same name.