by: Connie di Marco
Series: Zodiac Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: August 8, 2018
Publisher: Midnight Ink
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San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but when her former boss and current client asks for help she agrees to go undercover at his law firm. Three people have received death threats and the only common denominator between them is a case long settled--the infamous Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s astrological expertise provides clues but no one wants to listen. Before she can solve the mystery, two people are dead and her own life is in danger. Julia must unmask the killer before he, or she, takes another life.
Hi Connie. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
Hi Kim ~ I’m so glad to be back visiting with you again! Everything’s going well. Lately I’ve been very busy getting ready for my blog tours.
Good. You’re blog tours are always interesting and informative. Congratulations on the upcoming release of Tail of the Dragon, book three in your Zodiac Mystery series.
Thanks so much, Kim! It’s really exciting to know that Julia’s third adventure will be out very soon. I felt like the day would never come, but now that the final edits and touch-ups are done, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I just hope readers find it as exciting as the first two books.
How do you think Julia has grown over the course of the series?
Hmmm. That’s a great question. Well . . . Julia still has a big hole in her life from the death of her fiancé a few years before, but she is coping better. As she says to a friend in Tail of the Dragon, she’s happy with her work and her clients, she’s busy with her astrological advice column in the newspaper and she has the support of her friends and her family. Her family of course really only consists of her grandmother Gloria and Kuan, her grandparents’ good friend. But she’s happy even though she doesn’t feel she’s quite ready for romance or passion in her life. Just a heads up – there’s a romantic theme in this third book, and knowing what a great lover of romance you are, you’ll have to let me know what you think about this new development in Julia’s life, okay?
I’m flattered you remember that about me! I’m definitely looking forward to reading the book. What type of research did you have to do for Tail of the Dragon?
I’ve probably done less research for this book than any other book I’ve written, even the books of the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries. I really can’t say I’m fond of research, but I’ll do the work if it ties in with a subject I need to know more about. I want to make sure my facts are authentic or can be shaped to fit the plot.
One area that has consistently come up is the history of San Francisco. It’s been both fun and informative to incorporate that in the Zodiac Mysteries. In fact, I’ve probably learned more history about the city now than I did when I lived there. For example, Julia spends an evening at the Fort Mason Center, a center for arts and entertainment, and a place I know well. But what I didn’t know was that the original fortifications date back to Revolutionary times. Chinatown is a wonderful part of the city too and I’ve been doing a lot of research on its history. Did you know that in the great quake of 1906 records were destroyed and many Chinese-Americans became “paper sons,” i.e. they could claim citizenship and no one could prove otherwise?
That sounds really interesting. How do you come up with the titles for the books?
It’s really a collaborative effort with my publisher. Originally, I had planned to use the name of a planet in each title – for example, Dark Sun or Widow’s Moon. I felt the title should reflect the astrological clue that helps Julia solve the crime. I chose the first title in the series, The Madness of Mercury. Mercury in a natal chart indicates the way we think and speak and communicate and the Mercury reference has to do with obsessive people with a badly aspected Mercury and it’s also a reference to the “silver tongued” evil preacher, who can sway people with his words.
The second title, All Signs Point to Murder, was my publisher’s choice. Mine was Dark Sun, but perhaps their choice was better. (No astrological reference in that title, right?) This book, Tail of the Dragon is (and I hope it’s not a spoiler) a reference to the South Node of the Moon, the Dragon’s Tail or Cauda Draconis in ancient astrological terms. The South Node of the Moon indicates skills we’ve developed in past lives, while the North Node refers to the path we must take in this incarnation.
Very interesting. I love all the covers for this series. They’re colorful and standout. Do you have any say in what they look like?
Publishers always assign an artist to each series. The choice is theirs and they try to create covers that will sell and “brand” a series as they think best. And you’re right, these covers are amazing. Some readers have remarked that they love the covers, and others have said, they expected a “cozier” book more in keeping with the covers. One thing I do love about these is that the artist has incorporated lots of astrological symbols in every design.
Whoever has done your covers has done an incredible job. Do you ever write a book and surprise yourself with the way it turns out?
I’m laughing here! I’m always surprised that I’ve managed to come up with a good plot and have actually finished the book! Every time I tackle a new project, I wonder how I ever did it in the past and how I’m going to get through all that struggle again.
When I wrote A Broth of Betrayal, in the Vermont series, which is actually a revenge story, I hadn’t considered that my murderer might have killed years before. Don’t ask me why. I should have. But as I was writing, I realized that, hey, yes, he dispatched one of those people very cleverly and at the time it was regarded as an accident. That concept fell into my lap as I was writing and not only that, it was the motivation for the murderer to be killed himself. Everything was tied up in a neat little bow.
It’s really a wonderful feeling when you know you have a first draft and have gotten to the end. You have something that can be shaped and made better, and I’m even more surprised when I hold the book in my hands and realize I really wrote this!!!
In the past, I’ve asked Connie Archer about her writing style. As a reader, I feel your series are completely different. Do you approach writing for the Zodiac Mystery series differently from the Soup Lover’s series, since you have to add in the zodiac factors?
Not really. I think the “feel” of each series is different. For one thing, the Zodiac Mysteries are written in the first person. Everything that happens is from Julia’s point of view. The Soup Lovers’ Mysteries, on the other hand, are written in the third person and so more points of view can be introduced and the reader gets to know each character more intimately.
Initially, I had a hard time deciding which way to go. But finally, I felt that Julia’s adventures in the Zodiac Mysteries would feel a lot more immediate and compelling written in the first person. I’m not comparing myself by any means, but you’ll recall that the Sue Grafton books are also written in the first person. Everything we know about Kinsey is from Kinsey herself or through Kinsey’s point of view.
That said, there are both similarities and differences. Both Lucky (in the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries) and Julia (in the Zodiac Mysteries) are amateur sleuths. I wanted Julia to be a little older and more urban than Lucky. Julia is 36 when the series starts and I chose that age because I believe it’s an age at which you’ve let go of a lot of the naiveté of youth and are much more aware of who you really are. But don’t take that as a slur against Lucky. Lucky is younger, but smart and perceptive as well.
In the Vermont series, the village is a very safe place and trouble always comes from the outside. And there’s always a connection to someone we know in the village. One example is the clan in A Roux of Revenge and we learn that Janie’s mother had a strange life before she came to the village.
The Zodiac Mysteries differ in that they take place in a city setting where the possibilities for crime are all around. Julia gets inveigled in crime solving in order to help a client or someone close to her. One thing that’s a device that has to be honored in this series is that the clue that will break open the investigation is an astrological clue that only Julia can know. It’s kind of tricky to work all that out and so I always make sure I’ve set up charts for the important people in each book so I don’t make a mistake that someone knowledgeable in astrology would call me out on.
And one last question, if Julia was a real person and I could sit down and talk with her what do you think she would say about you?
She’d probably complain that I give her way too many problems and difficulties and make her life too dangerous. She’d criticize me for sitting safely at my keyboard while I send her away to break into a dangerous religious cult, or face a murderer and barely escape by the skin of her teeth. She’d wonder why I make her life so hard! But she’d also tell you a secret that only she knows –that her author would probably love to live the adventurous life that she does!
I love that answer. Connie thank you for your time.
Thank you, Kim! It’s been great to visit with you again! I really hope you enjoy Tail of the Dragon!
Pre-Order Tail of the Dragon from:
The Zodiac Mystery Series:
The Madness of Mercury ~ Review
All Signs Point to Murder ~ Review
Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
Places to find Connie di Marco:
You can follow the Tail of the Dragon Blog Tour here.
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