by: Connie di Marco
Series: Zodiac Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: October 8, 2020 (re-release)
Publisher: Suspense Publishing
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The Zodiac Mysteries feature San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part of her practice. Julia sought answers and found solace in astrology after the death of her fiancé in a hit and run accident. Since then, she’s successfully built a clientele of the city’s movers and shakers.
In The Madness of Mercury, Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, makes her the target of a recently-arrived cult preacher who advocates love and compassion to those less fortunate. But the power-hungry preacher is 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.
Hi Kim. Thanks so much for hosting me today. It’s great to be back here!
A lot of things are going on and changing for you. I have to admit, it’s exciting and sad at the same time. It’s going to be really hard for me to not call you Connie Archer!
LOL! You can still call me Connie Archer, I’ll answer to that name. It’s a little distracting to have two different Facebook pages and two different websites, but I just have to remember where I am.
I can imagine. You’ve signed a deal with Suspense Publishing and are re-releasing your Zodiac Mystery series. Congratulations. On the surface, I can immediately see the difference between your series. The Soup Lover’s Mystery series takes place in a small fictional town in Vermont. The characters are all like family and the gathering place is a small cafe. The Zodiac Mystery series takes place in San Francisco and your protagonist is an astrologer. What else can you tell me about the Zodiac Mystery series?
Well, both series, the Soup Lover’s and the Zodiac Mysteries are “traditional” mysteries, at least that’s how I think of them. And both series have an amateur sleuth, so in a sense, they’re both considered cozy mysteries -- Lucky in Snowflake, Vermont and Julia in San Francisco. The Soup Lover’s series has worked as a “village mystery,” in other words, we meet the same cast of characters at the By the Spoonful Soup Shop, and the murder victims and murderers enter stage left. They come from outside the village. The only local who is actually killed is Harry Hodges, the auto mechanic in A Broth of Betrayal. But that murder had an upside – Guy Bessette inherits the auto shop and plays a role in A Clue in the Stew.
In the Zodiac Mysteries, there’s also a core cast of characters – Julia, her two close friends, Gale and Cheryl, her grandmother Gloria and her surrogate grandfather, Kuan Lee, an acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, who lives in an apartment in her grandmother’s house. Their neighborhood is North Beach in San Francisco and if there’s a center of activity, it’s the Mystic Eye, an occult shop owned by Julia’s friend Gale. It’s just that having an urban setting opens up a whole range of story possibilities.
Tell me about Julia Bonatti.
Julia’s 36 at the start of the series. I liked the idea of giving her that age, because she’s still young, but past the uncertainty and naivété that can happen in the twenties. Old enough to have learned some hard lessons, but young enough that she can survive some death-defying experiences. Her life took a turn when her fiance was killed in a hit and run accident two years previously, and she wasn’t able to continue with her plans for a teaching career. She stumbled into the Mystic Eye one day, where she met her friend Gale and turned to astrology, hoping to find answers to her own life situation. What she found was a whole new profession and lifestyle.
Click here for a quick view of some of the sites Julia sees around her city.
The Madness of Mercury was inspired by actual events. How did you manage to take something that was gruesome and graphic and make it welcoming and cozy?
Well . . . uh . . . I hope it’s not gruesome or graphic! The idea that intrigued me came out of the events of the Jim Jones years in San Francisco. Jones had become a major player in the city with a huge following. Society people loved him, and politicians were in his pocket because he could control so many votes. This was a few years before the ultimate conclusion in Guyana to his so-called ministry. What I’ve tried to highlight in the book is Julia’s bafflement that so many people would follow someone blindly, turning over their property and life savings. And that anyone who would speak against him, as Julia does, would be targeted and harassed. All of this is backdrop however to the main murder mystery that hits closer to home for Julia. I can’t say much more, because it would be a spoiler!
I’m sorry. I initially thought the book would be more along the lines of what happened in real life. With The Madness of Mercury, you simply took how the people of San Francisco viewed Jim Jones and the influence he could have on people. See what happens, when I ask questions before reading a book?
The Mercury retrograde period plays a big role in this book. What is it and why is it important?
So much is made of Mercury retrograde in general, perhaps too much. Mercury retrograde is a time when communications gets snarled or lost in cyberspace. There can be crossed communications, but it’s a good time to plan strategies. It’s not the best time to sign contracts or make written commitments.
“The Madness of Mercury” of the title refers to the silver-tongued, Mercury-ruled, charismatic preacher who can sway crowds but is anything but ethical. It also refers to another character who’s thinking is skewed because of natal aspects.
This book is set just before the holidays, it’s the dark of the Moon (the last three days before the new Moon), Mercury is retrograde and Julia’s business is in a predictable pre-holiday slump. All the various myths and threads of Mercury do tie in and make ultimate sense.
My first love is romance. I use cozy mysteries as a palate cleanser. I don’t really like seeing people get killed, but I love the mystery of figuring out why they were killed and by whom. Does Julia have a romantic interest?
Julia’s very much alone and still grieving for her fiance and the life she’s lost. Her friends nag her about dating again, but she’s still reluctant. She’s not sure if she even wants to leave herself open to any more loss. I haven’t decided if Julia should have a romantic interest. Originally, I intended that, but she might have a lot more freedom as a lone wolf figure. I’m just not sure yet what would be right for Julia’s adventures but I’ll keep you posted, Kim!
I can understand her not being ready for someone else. Was there anything about The Madness of Mercury that actually surprised you?
I did quite a bit of research into the events in San Francisco during those years of the People’s Temple power. I was there at the time, but really never gave them a thought. I have to say I was taken aback at the man’s influence and the events that transpired around him. He had come from the south and decamped when allegations of abuse started to arise. He decided on San Francisco as his next stop and didn’t move his flock to Guyana until the same accusations began again. Here’s a link to much more information about him from my website if anyone is interested. All of it is pretty shocking and it wasn’t until a group called the Concerned Relatives was formed and put pressure on Congressman Ryan to investigate the compound in Guyana, that everything came to light and led to the ultimate disaster. So, yes, reading about it all again was shocking.
You’ve been living in the world of Snowflake, Vermont for four or five years now. How difficult was it for you to move to San Francisco and immerse yourself in that world?
Oh, not hard at all! I actually began this series even before I started the Soup Lover’s Mysteries. It was always there waiting to be born, I just had to get back to it. San Francisco is a beautiful city, but it has lots of history and secrets, so it will be a treasure trove of stories to mine. At least I certainly hope so!
Wow. I had no idea you started writing/thinking about this series, before SLM. When and where do you write?
I usually write at night – from about 9 PM to midnight, or as long as I can keep going. I’ve tried writing first thing in the morning, after a cup of coffee, but so many things interrupt and pull me away – dust bunnies, hungry cats, phones ringing, emails I have to respond to right away. Too many distractions. Somehow at night, the house quiets down and that’s the time I can focus best.
I know you aren’t a full-time author. Do the people at your day job know you write books?
Yes. LOL! I’m sure they think I’m quite eccentric and they keep a close eye on me when I have a knife or a letter opener in my hand!
Lol. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me, Connie.
A big thank you to you, Kim. It’s been great to visit with you, and I hope you enjoy The Madness of Mercury and Julia’s adventures soon!
Purchase The Madness of Mercury from:
You can read my review of The Madness of Mercury here.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
Places to find Connie di Marco:
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