Today Connie di Marco is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about The Madness of Mercury, the latest novel in the Zodiac mystery series.
Welcome, Connie. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
The Madness of Mercury is the first book in the Zodiac Mysteries featuring Julia Bonatti, a San Francisco astrologer who never thought murder would be part of her practice. The next books to be released are All Signs Point to Murder (#2) and Tail of the Dragon (#3). And more to come after that.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
My protagonist Julia has a private practice, and she also writes an astrological advice column for the Chronicle, AskZodia. Julia receives a letter from a woman concerned because her mother has joined a so-called church and is required to sign over all her money and property. Julia advises the woman to have this church investigated. But Julia soon discovers her outspoken advice has made her the target of a cult preacher, Reverend Roy and his Army of the Prophet, who will stop at nothing to silence those who stand in his way.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
If I had to put a theme into one or two words, I guess I would say “deceit” and “betrayal.” I was living in San Francisco during the time that the crimes of Reverend Jim Jones and his People’s Temple were exposed. (There’s more information about this terrible history on my website.) And I’ve always been suspicious of those who would use faith or religion for profit or to control others, and equally appalled by people who would give up autonomy over their lives and put their faith in a guru-like figure.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
The core characters in the Zodiac Mysteries are Julia, of course, and her two best friends. Gale owns the Mystic Eye, an occult bookshop where Julia visits often and their friend Cheryl who manages the shop. Julia’s parents died when she was very young and she was raised by her grandmother Gloria. Kuan Lee is her other “family member.” Kuan lives in the first floor apartment of Gloria’s house and practices Chinese medicine and herbology. Julia considers him her honorary grandfather. I felt it was important for Julia to have real roots and connections. So I guess I’d have to say all of the core characters are my favorites and appear in every story. Julia also has a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, but it’s really her astrology clients who involve her in crime-solving.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
There’s an awful lot to draw upon when writing about a place like San Francisco. It’s a beautiful city with astonishing views, but also dark alleys and secret stairways. One day might be windy and clear, another fogbound. Julia has a small apartment near the western end of the city between the Golden Gate straits and the Pacific Ocean. She loves her neighborhood where the fog rolls in like clockwork every afternoon and she loves to hear the voices of the foghorns from her window.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
There wasn’t much research really needed for this book. Just for my own information, I did review the facts and stories around Jim Jones and his People’s Temple. I was already aware of much of the history, but it was helpful to recall how much influence, political and social, that Jones had, support that enabled him to operate in the city. Many people had great faith in him but in the end were horrified by his deeds.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I just hope people really enjoy Julia’s very first adventure!
Thank you for answering my questions, Connie, and good with The Madness of Mercury, the latest book in the Zodiac mystery series.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Connie di Marco: Connie is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be 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.