Today I’m over da moon to welcome Bella Books author, Catherine Maiorisi to Women and Words! Catherine pens some awesome romances and the NYPD Detective Chaira Corelli Mystery Series. Catherine’s newest romance, Taking a Chance on Love, will be released by Bella on June 18th. Catherine has graciously agreed to give away TWO copies of Taking a Chance on Love and TWO copies of Ready for Love to four lucky readers who drop a comment below. Paperbacks for US winners and ebooks for international. Check out our chat below
Hey Catherine! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing!
Neither of my parents went beyond the eighth grade but both loved to read and they made sure I had books from an early age. So thanks to them I have always been an avid reader. But though I always enjoyed writing the business reports my consulting business produced, I never had a desire to write fiction. Until I retired. Then, looking for something to occupy my workaholic self, I challenged my retired self to write a mystery. Of course, I had absolutely no idea how to write fiction, forget about writing a complicated mystery; so I did what always worked for me. I turned to books. Before writing one word, I spent nine months reading about writing.
From the moment I actually began to put words on the page, I fell in love with writing. I discovered the imagination I’d always thought I didn’t have. And, though I’ve never been able to meditate, when I’m totally focused on it, I experience writing as meditation.
I know you have a tale to tell about your path (slog?) to publication. Spill!
When I finished writing my first mystery, my wife and my two best friends read it and gave me feedback. They all liked it but I wanted an impartial opinion so I joined the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and submitted the first fifty pages to their Mentor Program for a critique.
The published writer who did the critique was really encouraging but she pointed out the same writing problems identified by my wife, so I began rewriting. Now that I was hanging out in the professional writing community, I began to think about publication so I decided to query agents. After about fifty queries I was frustrated. Those agents kind enough to respond (and most didn’t), rejected it based on the one-page query letter, not the book I’d written, which they never asked to see. So I stopped querying, kept rewriting the book and wrote the second book in the series. I also wrote several short stories that were published in anthologies.
Somewhere along the way I wrote a short story about the love interest in the mysteries so I could understand her background. To my surprise, that story turned out to be a romance. I liked it so much that I responded to a call for romance stories and it was published in the Best Lesbian Romance of 2014. I had never read a romance before I wrote “The Fan Club” but suddenly I was interested and reading lesbian romances. When I began to wake up in the middle of the night with two women conversing in my head I thought I was losing it, but my wife assured me it was my imagination working. Those conversations led me to write Matters of the Heart, my first book-length romance. I was thrilled when Bella Books accepted the manuscript. It was my first published book.
Where did the idea for Taking a Chance on Love come from?
It actually started with the image of a woman reading to her two young daughters and watching her obviously distressed wife pace outside the room. I have no idea where the image came from. As it turned out, the book I wrote around that scene didn’t work. With input from Bella Books, I realized I had written two books in one. That scene actually appears in the second book tentatively titled The Disappearance of Lindy James. Taking a Chance on Love is the first of the two books.
How do you go about the process of spinning your tales? What’s your writing process?
If it’s a romance, I generally start with an image, a fragment of dialog, a character, or even a scene. In fact I collect these “romance story ideas” as they occur and usually create a document and write down everything that comes to me at the time, some turn out to be several scenes or chapters, some may just be a note of the idea. At any one time I might have thirty of these on file. Often while I’m working on something else my mind will go back again and again to a specific story idea and each time I take the time to add whatever I’ve thought of, then go back to what I was doing. When it’s time to start a new romance, the idea that’s been calling me back to it, is usually what I start with.
For the mystery series I now know the setup and the characters. Chiara Corelli is a detective in New York City who solves murders and brings the bad guys to justice. But what I need is the story. It could be based on a character, a newspaper article, a specific issue or a title. For example, the genesis of A Matter of Blood was a woman I knew who was cruel and manipulative and had no scruples. I thought she was despicable so I killed her off in the book. Better be nice to me.
Once I have the idea, I start writing and I go wherever my imagination takes me. My only goal is to write down the story. I don’t outline or figure out ahead of time the important plot points–like in a romance how they meet or what keeps them apart or in a mystery who the killer is or what clues point to them. And I don’t edit as I write. My first drafts are messy and sprawling and incomplete. But once I know the story I rewrite and rewrite to shape it, to make it work. It takes longer than writing to an outline but it’s more fun for me.
- What kind of research do you indulge in?
I placed Taking a Chance on Love in Hackensack, New Jersey where I grew up and there aren’t any issues or places or situations that I needed to research. However, in The Disappearance of Lindy James I researched post-partum psychosis; in Matters of the Heart, heart conditions; in No One But You premature babies and in Ready for Love being multi racial. In each case I read library books, bought books, and did internet research.
In the mysteries, I’ve researched PTSD because Chiara has it and questions about investigations or murder. In A Message in Blood, which I’m writing now I’m having to research police policy about holding suspects and the handling of rape kits.
I try to be as accurate as possible but I always remind myself I’m writing fiction.
Is Taking a Chance part of a series?
While Taking a Chance on Love is not part of a series, it is the first of two books with the same characters. The Disappearance of Lindy James picks up six years after Quincy and Lindy’s happily-ever-after and is more general fiction then romance.
My NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli mysteries are part of a series. The first, A Matter of Blood, was a 2019 Lambda Literary Award finalist in the Best Lesbian Mystery category. The Blood Runs Cold, the second, is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist and a 2020 Goldie Finalist. The next few months will be exciting, or should I say tense, as I wait to learn whether the book has won either award. I’m currently writing A Message in Blood, the third in the series.
How have writing organizations helped your career?
I’m an active member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. These two organizations have provided friends and priceless support from published and unpublished writers plus invaluable access to police officers medical examiners and a whole host of resources I could never have connected with on my own.
I’m also a member of The Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS). It has connected me with an enthusiastic group of lesbian readers and writers of lesbian books from all over the world. It has also provided the opportunity to meet my readers face to face at the annual conference. For example, at the GCLS conference in Pittsburgh I had the opportunity to talk to a reader who had carried paperback copies of all my books from California so I could autograph them. My little author heart beats faster just remembering it. But just as important, are the friends I’ve made around the country and the world.
Where can your fans or soon-to-be fans get a hold of your books?
All my books are available from my publisher Bella Books (bellabooks.com). If you don’t have an account it’s easy to set one up and easy to load to a reading device. The books are also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as some independent bookstores like Mystery Loves Company (mysterylovescompany.com).
- What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?
As I said, I love reading and I love writing. I work hard at making my books the best they can be both in terms of the writing and the themes and I am always striving to improve both. As you can see from my answer to the research question above I often tackle difficult issues in my romances. Though none of my characters is perfect, they are all strong, some more likeable than others.
I love getting feedback from readers and I always appreciate a review. But the most important thing to me is that you enjoy my books.
Check out the 411 on the books:
Taking a Chance on Love
Officer Quincy Adams is a hero. She pulled eleven people from burning cars and risked her own life to save the twelfth, a woman trapped in her car that could explode at any moment. But the situation triggers a flashback to seeing her lover die in Afghanistan. Recognizing she’s sinking back into darkness and hopelessness, Quincy heads to Maggie’s Lesbian Bar seeking light and life.
Lindy James is a loner. She’s only at Maggie’s to celebrate her best friend’s birthday. But something about the bedraggled woman whose image is Breaking News on the TV, touches her heart and she agrees to drive the stranger home.
But Quincy doesn’t want to be alone. Lindy agrees to stay as long as Quincy doesn’t expect sex or ask personal questions. One night turns into three sexless but intimate nights. Then Monday morning Quincy asks Lindy for a date. And Lindy flees.
Thrown together by a devastating accident, but kept apart by fears from the past, will Quincy and Lindy take a chance on love?
After watching the woman she’s professed to love for more than twenty years marry someone else, Renee Rousseau vows to free herself of the unrequited love before she and her friends meet the married couple in Paris. In ten weeks.
Then Renee encounters Lady Constance Martindale—the only other woman she’d ever imagined a future with—and she’s sure the universe is playing with her. Sixteen years ago they’d agreed to a casual, time-limited relationship. But when it turned to love, they both panicked and Constance dumped Renee before Renee could dump her. A first.
But the past is the past and sixteen years is a lifetime. Can passion be renewed? And what about her love for the woman who just got married?
Catherine Maiorisi is a Bella Books author. She has published four romances, Matters of the Heart, No One But You, Ready for Love and Taking a Chance on Love.
Catherine has also published two books in her NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli mystery series. A Matter of Blood was a 2019 Lambda Literary Award finalist and The Blood Runs Cold is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award finalist and a 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society Goldie finalist. A Message in Blood, the third in the series, will be available in January 2021.
Remember, drop a comment below to be entered into the drawings for the book giveaways. Even if you don’t win, you can support Catherine and Bella by purchasing the books at the above link. AND don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads/wherever else you can! It really helps, honest!