Interview with mystery author Connie di Marco

My special guest to wrap
up the week is mystery novelist, Connie di Marco. We’re chatting about her
newest book, The Madness of Mercury.
Connie di Marco is the
author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia
Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury is
the first in the series. Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of
the Soup Lover’s Mysteries set in Vermont from Berkley Prime Crime. You can
find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy
and The Mystery Writers of
America Cookbook
. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters
in Crime and International Thriller Writers.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Zodiac Mysteries feature
San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part
of her practice. After the death of her fiancé in a hit and run accident, Julia
wasn’t able to pick up the pieces of her former life. She sought answers and
found solace in the study of astrology. Since then, she’s built a successful
business in personal consultations and writes an advice column – AskZodia — for the San Francisco
In The Madness of Mercury, Julia offers outspoken advice to a woman
concerned that her mother had become involved in a religious cult. Julia quickly
discovers she is now the target of a power-hungry preacher who’s recently
arrived in the city. The Reverend Roy advocates love and compassion to those
less fortunate, but he’s waging war on sin and his Army of the Prophet will
stop at nothing to silence those who would stand in his way. Julia is at the
top of his list.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been
fascinated by astrology and the idea of inventing a protagonist with a unique
profession appealed to me. Julia’s a woman who meets all sorts of people in her
working life, often finds herself involved in their problems, and ultimately
involved in crime. And where better to have Julia practicing her craft than in San
Francisco? It’s a city of many moods – cold and windy, foggy and mysterious,
with an interesting history and lots of secret alleys and stairways. It just
seemed the perfect place to set a mystery.
The events in The Madness of Mercury are loosely based
on the Jim Jones years in San Francisco, before he came to worldwide attention.
I was living in the city then, but like a lot of people, took no notice of
Jones until the shooting of Congressman Ryan and others in Guyana. In fact, if
Julia had been around at the time, perhaps Jones wouldn’t have gotten as far as
he did. The real mystery takes place against the backdrop of these events but
Julia is forced into taking on the Reverend’s followers, and in exposing his
empire, solves a crime much closer to home.
Excerpt from The Madness of Mercury:
“Thank God you’re there.” Gale
sounded very shaky.
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m at the Mystic Eye. Something
very strange just happened. I heard a knock at the back door. I thought it
might be you.”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes. I closed up and sent
Cheryl home. When I opened the door . . . oh God, Julia. Someone
left a dead cat on the doorstep.”
I cringed. “I’ll be right
“I’m sorry. You don’t need
to come. I wrapped it up and put it in plastic in the dumpster. It looked like
its neck had been broken.”
“Don’t argue. I’ll be there
in twenty minutes. Less than that.”
I drove the length of
California Street as fast as I could, slowing at each red light. Once I was
sure no other cars were crossing I ran through several intersections. When I
reached the Eye the shop was closed but the display lights were on in the front
windows. I pulled down the alleyway and parked next to Gale’s car. I tapped on
the door. “Gale, it’s me.” She opened the door immediately. The storeroom was
dark. A stack of empty boxes and packing materials stood against the wall. Inside,
the only light was a small desk lamp in the office.
Gale is tall and
self-assured with a regal bearing. Tonight she was completely shaken. She
hugged her arms, more from fright than from cold. “I feel bad now that I’ve
called you. I was just so freaked out. I recognized the cat, it was the little
gray one that hangs out behind the apartment building next door. I think it’s a
stray. Everyone around here feeds it, even the restaurant people, and it’s such
a friendly little thing. Some sick bastard probably gave it some food and then
snapped its neck. God, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Shouldn’t you call the
“And tell them what? I found
a dead cat? Please. Like they’d listen. Even if they thought someone had killed
it, what could they do?”
“It shows a pattern of
harassment. Might be worth making a report.” I shrugged out of my coat. “Why
are you here so late?”
“We just got a huge shipment
of books and supplies in. Cheryl’s been working late every night so I sent her
home. I had just finished stacking the boxes in the storeroom.” Gale shivered
involuntarily. “Look, let’s get out of here. Have you eaten? Why don’t we go up
the block and grab some food? Actually a drink sounds even better.”
“Get your coat. We can leave
the cars here and walk. I’ll just get my purse.”
I headed to the front door
and checked that the locks were all in place. The drapes separating the display
windows from the shop were drawn for privacy. Gale left the desk lamp on in the
office and walked out to the front counter. As she reached under the counter
for her purse, we heard glass breaking. Then I saw a flash of flame through the
doorway to the back storeroom. I screamed. The empty boxes and packing
materials had caught fire in an explosive flash. The smoke alarm started to
ring, filling the shop with earsplitting sound.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m just finishing up the
second Zodiac Mystery – Dark Sun
which will be released next year (June 2017). And I’m looking forward to working
on the third book in this series. I plan to name each book after a planet,
assuming my publisher approves, so the third book will tentatively be entitled Widow’s Moon.
I’m also working on an LA
crime story, featuring a homicide cop and a couple of very eccentric
characters, so I hope to find some time in the coming year to get back to that
and finally finish it. I have a couple of other ideas for some unusual female
protagonists, which I’ve managed to rough out but haven’t seriously tackled as
yet. They’re fresh in my mind, so with luck, I’ll finish the third Zodiac
mystery and get to all the other projects I want to work on. I do wish these
characters would stop talking to me and leave me alone so I can meet my
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not really sure –
there were markers along the way, I think. The first shock was a letter from my
about-to-be agent saying she was intrigued by my proposal. Of course, I still
expected rejection. And then, about a month later, a contract came in the mail.
I was blown away! Unfortunately, that first book didn’t sell, so I kept
writing. In the meantime, I began the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, and when the
first book in that series was ready to go, I was just keeping my fingers
crossed it sold a few copies. A few days after its release, my editor wrote to
tell me it was a national bestseller! I couldn’t take it all in. I still wasn’t
sure I was a real “writer.” I think the moment it really dawned on me was walking
into my very first panel at Bouchercon and seeing a ballroom of perhaps 200 plus
people, who were actually interested in what I was writing. If I had to pick
one moment, that would probably be it. I couldn’t avoid accepting the fact I
was a writer!
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do have a day job which
takes up an annoying amount of time. LOL! During the week, I write at night
when the house is quiet, and the phones stop ringing, from about 9 PM to
midnight and then on weekends, for as many hours as I can squeeze in. I try to
give myself one or two nights off – maybe Friday or Saturday –and I like to spend
those evenings watching international crime drama. It’s always fascinating to study
how plots are revealed, like peeling layers of an onion and often you can understand
the mechanics better by watching screenplays.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Don’t laugh, but I like to
play Freecell on the computer as soon as I settle down to work. I’m convinced staring
at those mixed-up cards gets my brain out of linear thinking and makes it
easier to write. I only allow myself three games, because it can be quite
addictive and if I don’t discipline myself, an hour will go by and I’ll realize
I’ve accomplished nothing! Molly MacRae, a writer friend, once told me she likes
to play the games in order. This was not helpful because I decided I should do
that too. (Maybe it’s some form of OCD) So, since there are maybe 100,000
variations of Freecell in the program, I’ve got a long way to go. Molly – if
you’re out there, you did not do me a favor!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be alternately
a ballerina, a detective like Nancy Drew, or a spy. All those professions
appealed to me. Thank heavens I found a sensible(?) profession!
Anything additional you want to share with the
I’m very excited about the
debut of the Zodiac Mysteries and I’m hoping my readers who know me as the
author of the Soup Lover’s Mysteries will welcome and enjoy the adventures of Julia,
my crime-solving astrologer.

Buy links for The Madness of Mercury:
Thanks for being here today, Connie!

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