by: Connie di Marco
Series: A Zodiac Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: October 26, 2021
Publisher: Suspense Publishing
Amazon | Goodreads
Julia Bonatti wasn’t always a crime-solving San Francisco astrologer. She was a young woman, engaged to the love of her life, preparing for a teaching career when tragedy struck. Her fiancé was killed in a hit and run accident.
As Julia struggles with her loss and attempts to find meaning in her life again, she takes refuge with her grandmother Gloria. But there’s little time for grief or rest because Gloria, a retired seamstress, needs Julia’s help. Gloria’s been hired to create costumes for a production of Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death at the newly opened Theatre Mars in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.
Theatre Mars is a stunning jewel, the cast is supremely talented and the script is brilliant. What could go wrong? Julia gets the first hint of trouble when her new friend, the owner of The Mystic Eye bookshop, warns that all might not go well. Opening night will take place during the dark of the moon, the last three days before the new moon, a time that bodes disaster for any new project. The dire prediction comes true when the lead actress is murdered before the final curtain, echoing the play itself. Julia discovers a vital clue to the murder, but a clue that puts Gloria’s life in grave danger. Can Julia rescue her grandmother before it’s too late? And will a black cat play a leading role?
I’m great, Kim, and I hope you’re doing well too. Thanks so much for inviting me today! It’s wonderful to be visiting with you again.
Thank you. It’s always great when you visit. You currently have three full-length novels in your Zodiac Mystery series. Why did you decide to go back and write a prequel?
I was really inspired by the emails and FB messages I received from readers. I sat down to start Zodiac #4 (Serpent’s Doom, a full-length novel that will be out in April 2022) but the messages from readers began to nag at me. One person wanted to know more about Gloria, Julia’s grandmother. Another asked how she had found her black cat, Wizard, and someone else wondered how she first became interested in astrology. So, I thought, why not backtrack and address all these questions in a novella?
As you mentioned, Enter a Wizard Stage Left is a novella, that introduces the characters of this series about two/three months after Julia Bonatti’s world is turned upside down. I’ll be honest, it took me until the end of the book to realize what the title meant. Why do you think it was important to write this novella?
Well, to be honest, perhaps I was procrastinating all the work of beginning the fourth book in the series (Serpent’s Doom). Writing a novella was a new experience for me and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It was very freeing to write a story without having to account for the past history and restrictions of continuing the series.
You know I’m a fan of yours. Your Zodiac Mystery series is more mystery than cozy mystery. Unlike your cozy mystery series, my heart tends to take a beating with this series. Do you take a different approach to writing a traditional mystery as opposed to the way you approach writing a cozy mystery?
No, not really. Certain elements are frowned upon in a true cozy series – violence, sexuality, swearing. Although murder is acceptable!
But no matter the genre, a mystery writer still needs a good, strong plot and memorable characters. The act of murder doesn’t come out of a vacuum, so there must be strong motives and psychological depth to the characters no matter the genre.
I’m remembering something that still makes me laugh. I took part in a mystery panel at a local library a few years ago, and our moderator, a writer friend, introduced each of us. I was sitting at the end of the table and when she got to my name, she said, “And Connie . . . Connie writes dark cozies.” I laughed! But I took it as a compliment.
It’s safe to say that Michael, Julia’s fiancé, was killed in a hit-and-run accident. To date, his death hasn’t been solved. Do you plan on that changing in future books?
Oh yes. How could I resist? Zodiac #5, untitled as yet, will finally solve the mystery of Michael’s death. Each book in the series inches a little closer to the truth, although Julia keeps hitting dead ends. Until Zodiac #5. No spoilers.
Ooookay. I just had to release the breathe I was holding. So, I now know book five is going to be emotional for me. Thank you for the heads up. Going from Enter a Wizard Stage Left to Tail of the Dragon, how do you think Julia has changed or grown as a person/character?
She’s fairly devastated in Enter a Wizard. It’s only been a few months since her fiancé’s death but she’s trying her best to keep up a brave front. Over the series, her friends and clients help her healing process and she’s now able to live a full life. There’s still pain and confusion, but she has found her path in life.
Do you see yourself, anytime soon, going back to writing cozy mysteries again?
I’m not planning that, at least for now. I absolutely loved writing the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries (as Connie Archer). I became very attached to the characters and the village and it was a great experience for me. The odd chronology of that Vermont series is that I had already written the first three books in the Zodiac Mysteries, but they hadn’t been picked up by a publisher. So when the opportunity came to write the Vermont series, I was thrilled. Those five books were published before any of the Zodiac Mysteries came to life.
Piggybacking off my last question, what’s next for you?
I’ll definitely continue the Zodiac Mysteries. I have a rough plot outlined for #6 which will explore Julia’s friend, Gale’s, past. I believe Julia has a lot more crime-solving adventures in front of her, even after she’s solved the mystery of Michael’s death. I’ve started work on a ghost story with historical implications and even romantic elements. (I know you love romance stories, Kim.) And I hope to do more work on that in between the Zodiacs.
Connie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me.
Thank you, Kim! It’s been great visiting with you! Happy reading and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the Zodiac Mysteries!
Purchase Enter a Wizard, Stage Left from:
The Zodiac Mystery Series:
The Madness of Mercury ~ Review
All Signs Point to Murder ~ Review
Tail of the Dragon ~ Review
Enter a Wizard, Stage Left (Prequel) ~ Review
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series was re-released in October 2020.
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:
You can follow the Enter a Wizard, Stage Left Blog Tour here.
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