Hi, Pari. Thanks for chatting with me. Mystery Scene praises you for your “refusal to employ hackneyed metaphors.”
Hey, isn’t there a law in this country that says you HAVE to employ hackneyed metaphors? They need jobs, too.
I’m all about equal opportunity in Metaphorland. But, boy, I was happy with that praise!
What the reviewer didn’t mention is that my writing contains enough metaphors to carpet the dark side of the moon--and they’re all hackneyed in the first and second drafts. Around the third time through a manuscript, Sasha takes over and she’s just got this incredibly unique world view.
Okay, I’ll be serious now. The Clovis Incident, your first book, has an interesting title and an interesting premise. How did you come up with the idea?
How can you be too serious about a book that has possible space aliens and a whipped-cream dependent protagonist? Come on.
The idea for the book came years ago when I read an article in the newspaper about other NM towns cashing in on the UFO market--mimicking Roswell’s successful strategy. I loved that--it just seemed so kooky. Over the years, the story gestated in my memory and I got many of the essential facts wrong -- improved them, if you will -- so that Clovis became my focus. Clovis, NM is best known for airplanes (Cannon AFB), cows (dairy farming) and Jesus (one of the notches on the Bible Belt.).
Only when I’d written around 150 pages did I look up the original article. It turns out the town featured therein was Aztec, NM -- pretty much Clovis’s geographic opposite.
You have twice been nominated for Agatha awards. Has the fame gone to your head?
Oh, yeah. I had to buy a new hat.
Actually, what those nominations do is give you a bit of credibility. Other people -- and media outlets -- take you a little more seriously. But, soon, you realize readers don’t care that much and the business of writing doesn’t either. You still have to sit your butt at the computer and work.
You blog with several other writers (many of whom have been interviewed here, and all of whom will be eventually. My net is far-reaching). How are you liking your Murderati gig?
I adore it. Nonfiction writing is such a pleasure for me -- and it comes more easily than fiction -- so Murderati offers relief--play time. It’s also creating a wonderful community of contributors and respondees.
Tell us about Bad Girls Press. Has anyone ever ended up on that site when they were actually looking for something much, much different?
I get a lot of military hits -- and assume they’re looking for porn. I like to imagine their surprise--especially since the graphics on that site are so gorgeous.
The name also caused trouble when I used badgirlspress.com for my email address. Once, I left a message for our rabbi and then had to call the temple to make sure he didn’t think it was something else.
The name, btw, came from Sara Ann Freed--the legendary editor at Mysterious Press. I met her at a writers’ conference and we really enjoyed spending time together. One night in the bar she told me that she mainly went to those conferences to meet “bad girls.” I loved the concept.
The rabbi story is cracking me up.
On your site there are many fun things, including a)you in a belly dancing costume and b) you posing with a “nuclear physicist and prominent UFO researcher Stanton Friedman.” I really need to fun up my website. But back to the pictures. When did you belly-dance? And tell me everything Stanton Friedman said to support the existence of UFOs!
Ah, yes, the belly dancing. I took it up in high school. During my first year of college in Beloit, Wisconsin, I became a small-time local celebrity--taught at the Y and had a cable television show. All this was when I was young and svelte. If you’re wondering how I could do that much and still maintain 17 college credit hours, you’ll know why I decided to transfer to the University of Michigan.
Actually, Stanton is an interesting guy. I did a mean thing to him, though. At the Roswell UFO Festival, I met some mighty weird people (also many people with wonderful senses of humor). Whenever they just got too strange, I’d point to Stanton and tell them he could answer ALL of their questions. If you really want more information on him, go to: http://www.stantonfriedman.com
The guy that really scared me was the Alien Hunter.
He had a rock-star’s following and gave me the creeps.
I'll check them out (for the sake of journalism). Your second book is called The Belen Hitch. Will you now be following the pattern of Article-Noun (used as adjective)-Noun for future titles? What are you writing now?
Heh heh heh. Yes, I’ll use the name of the small town as an adjective to modify the noun in the Sasha Solomon series.
The reason I’m finally able to answer your interview questions is that I just sent the second first draft of THE SOCORRO BLAST to my agent. This third book has been such a struggle for me -- maybe because of my big head from all those Agatha noms J -- and I’m grateful that it’s finally becoming presentable. The next Sasha book will take place in Las Cruces and Hatch, NM. I’ll be taking her into Texas for that one too . . .
You’ve done a lot of cool things and been in many places. You lived in France for a year. Are the French misunderstood by Americans? No. :)
Actually, we could all use a bit of cross-cultural understanding, don’t you think?
I suppose. You have “an aptitude for languages.” How many languages do you speak?
I’ve got passable French (French people assume I’m from Belgium, which isn’t a compliment as far as they’re concerned --but it is for me); sound like a stupid pre-adolescent in Spanish; pass for an imbecile in Cantonese -- and have also studied Beijing dialect, Russian, Italian, sign language and a tad of Hebrew.
Geez. What do you do in your free time? :)
In reading of your accomplishments, I find myself growing tired, like you are actually sapping the energy from my body and using it to accomplish more. Do people call you a dynamo or other words like that?
Am I really sapping your energy? Then why don’t I feel less tired?
No, no one calls me a “dynamo.” Most people just think I’m crazy. I do want to accomplish so much more than I am able to do. It’s frustrating. I keep thinking if only I were more organized -- but then, it’d be boring.
You seem to be a woman with many projects. What are the main irons you have in the fire now?
Ah, well. I’ve got to wrap up THE SOCORRO BLAST, and begin planning for the next Sasha book.
I’m also starting a new series featuring a 60-year-old protagonist named Iris Martin. It’ll take place in Takoma Park, MD and DC. I’ve got Iris in my head and heart now and will begin writing the book in the coming weeks.
And then there’s this cool idea for a short story I’ve got.
I need to write up the next editor interview for the Mystery Writers of America newsletter . . .
Oh, and I’m working -- slowly -- toward my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, have signed up to help with the PTA at my kids’ school etc etc etc.
And, I have to figure out what’s for dinner tonight.
I recommend something in the frozen category. They thaw nicely nowadays.
You began thinking of writing a novel while you were pregnant. Do you find that, now that the baby has emerged, it takes away from your writing time?
I have wonderful children -- they’re well behaved and fun and intelligent and just everything a parent could hope for. Still, when I’m trying to write, it’s difficult to accomplish with them in the house.
My life is extraordinarily fractured; I talk to myself a lot.
You have a lot of PR experience. Can I hire you to promote me?
No. Right now, I have to concentrate on my own writing and PR.
I love doing PR for other people; it’s great fun -- and I’d never get my own work done if I was active in my business again.
You went to the Chinese University of Hong Kong. That is very cool. How did you happen to attend that school? (My sister was born in Hong Kong, by the by).
I was going to the University of Michigan when I heard of this year-long program through Yale. I applied, was accepted, and went. My undergrad degree is in Asian Studies -- a very useful field for my life in NM :).
Pari, how can your fans find out more about their twice-Agatha-nominated author?
I’ve got three websites:
http://www.parinoskintaichert.com author website
http://www.badgirlspress.com PR and interesting women website
http://www.murderati.com blog with Naomi Hirahara, Deni Dietz, Elaine Flinn, Jeff Cohen, Simon Wood and J.T. Ellison
AND an incredible fan created a fan website for me (she’s actually registered Iris’s domain name too . . . wow.)
Thanks so much for granting the interview!
This was such fun, Julia. Thank you!