Saturday, July 08, 2006

INTERVIEW: Twist Phelan: The Story Behind Her Name, Her Books, and Her Annoying Gorgeousness

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Twist: is that the name on your birth certificate, or is it a nickname with an interesting story behind it?
My mother is a biochemist who worked on the Cambridge Project with Drs. Watson and Crick. I’m named after DNA. Could have been worse, I suppose—“Helix,” anyone?

Ah, so brains run in the family. One can’t help but notice on your website that you are, in fact, beautiful. Added to that, you are “a retired trial lawyer who now enjoys world travel, endurance sports, and writing mystery fiction.” Geez, Twist. How does one accomplish that by the age of, what, twenty-five?
How I look I’ll attribute to genes, lots of sunscreen, and a good colorist. (I’m not really blonde; I like to think I’m not really dumb, either.) And I was fortunate in my choice of law practice: plaintiff’s securities fraud (I sued brokers, syndicators, attorneys, accountants and other corporate scoundrels).

Well, I could go enviously on about your accomplishments and brazen beauty, but let’s move on to your books. Your latest book, Spurred Ambition, sounds exciting. Tell us about it.
Spurred Ambition continues the story of business attorney Hannah Dain, who is trying to decide whether to take a job with an East Coast law firm or make a life with her boyfriend, Cooper Smith, in Arizona. At the beginning of the book, Hannah finds herself in the middle of an anti-Indian protest while rock-climbing. She escapes, but makes an enemy. This becomes the least of her worries as a recent family revelation sends her on a hunt for a missing person—someone who may not want to be found.

Then Hannah meets Tony Soto. From the moment he saves her from a rock climbing mishap, Hannah is drawn to the Native American/Latino who is passionately committed to the betterment of his tribe. This attraction jeopardizes her relationship with Cooper and enmeshes Hannah in a complicated financial fraud where more than money is at stake. Only by making a difficult choice can Hannah unravel the scheme—and save her life.

Your protagonists are lawyers. When you were a lawyer, did you have dreams of becoming a writer someday?
No—I was happy telling stories to juries and reading. Never gave much real thought to being a writer until I typed “Chapter One” on the first page of what would become Heir Apparent, my first book.

What’s been your most notable experience as an author?
The best experience has been meeting other writers and readers—what a terrific group!
For most notable, probably my adventures researching my books: learning to rodeo, riding my bike across the country in less than a month, barely avoiding arrest for climbing up the outside of a bank, to name a few. Details can be found under “Adventures with Twist” on my website, www.twistphelan.com.

Whose mysteries do you most enjoy reading?
Too many to list! My taste ranges across the board—if it’s a good book, I’ll read it.

Very diplomatic of you, Twist. You contributed recipes to A Second Helping of Murder (Poisoned Pen Press, 2004) and Dishes to Die For . . . Again. (Crime Writers of Canada, 2004) Are you a good cook?
I’m afraid that “cook” is a noun, not a verb, to me.

I did watch Anna, who owns a fry bread stand on the Tohono O’odham Indian Community, make the recipe for Indian Fry Bread that I contributed, and I stop and eat some every time I visit the area for research.

You got your degrees from Stanford. Do you live in California?
No. I love to travel, and prefer living in different places.

You are drawn to endurance sports. Have you always been an athletic achiever?

Yes. Again, I blame my genes—both my parents have enjoyed sports all their lives. Triathlon, skate-skiing, surfing, outrigger and surf ski paddling, long distance cycling, horse sports of any sort (polo, jumping, roping), mountain hiking, weight training, yoga, Pilates ... I like them all. Except climbing (can’t get over my fear of heights).

Would you call yourself a driven person?
I’m very happy to find so many interesting opportunities waiting for me every morning.

Again, very judicious answer. That’s the lawyer in you.

Rock climbing: why?
Good question, as I’m afraid of heights. It suited the story that I wanted to tell, literally and figuratively. I figured if my protagonist Hannah Dain had to learn how to boulder, I should, too.

What are your current writing projects?

I am finishing up False Fortune, the next book in the Pinnacle Peak series, which features the sport of paddling. Look for a few of my short stories set in the financial world in upcoming anthologies and mystery magazines. And based on my experience as a commodity futures trader, I am working on a standalone crime novel set on the trading floor.

My standard question: will you be at Bouchercon in the fall?
Wouldn’t miss it! And I love talking to other crime fiction fans—just look for the 5’12” blonde with a Band-Aid on her knee.

Thanks so much for sharing, Twist! And you can look for the short brunette woman who looks as if she loves pizza more than endurance sports.

8 comments:

Liz Lytle said...

Had the pleasure of meeting Twist in May at Festival of Mystery near Pittsburgh. She was just as witty and charming as in this great word portrait. Julia, thanks for asking the questions I didnd't have time for. The series is densely plotted and the characters draw the reader in. (Twist, I was the post-op gal on walker with cast up to the knee)

Liz Lytle said...

Had the pleasure of meeting Twist in May at Festival of Mystery near Pittsburgh. She was just as witty and charming as in this great word portrait. Julia, thanks for asking the questions I didnd't have time for. The series is densely plotted and the characters draw the reader in. (Twist, I was the post-op gal on walker with cast up to the knee)

Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Liz! Thanks for the comment, which is even more emphatic when made twice. :)

I hope the cast is off!

Liz Lytle said...

Sorry for duplication. First time blogger mistake!

Julia Buckley said...

No problem, Liz. I was just joking. I once sent seven identical e-mails because my computer was slow and I kept hitting "Send" impatiently. So I have very little room to judge. :)

Shane Gericke said...

Twist bought me a drink at a convention once, so I'll forever be a fan. Terrific writer, too. Kudos to Julia for a nicely done interview!

Shane Gericke

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, Shane. I'll have to remember to ask Twist to buy ME a drink at the next convention. :)

Anonymous said...

You should write a book about "lying";you're quite good at it!