Mystery Thriller Week Interview: Mary Feliz


How old were you when you wrote your first story?

I have a vague memory of try to write dialogue long-hand a child and deciding that it was much more trouble than it was worth. Instead, I made up stories and acted them out with dollhouse figures or in playing dress-up with my sister.

My first real fiction project was a young adult historical novel I wrote about 15 years ago. That novel and the sequel have not been published.

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Will any of their relatives come to visit Maggie?

Maggie mentions her relatives frequently in Address to Die For, because she’s left her family and the only community she’s ever known behind for her move to Orchard View. In Scheduled to Death, part of the time pressure comes from a desire to entertain her extended family in her new home over the holidays. Maggie comes from close-knit family and has four older brothers she desperately wanted to emulate as a child. As a character, Maggie is likely to invite all of her extended family to visit all at once and then go a little nuts trying to keep them all happy. But writing about that kind of visit would incredibly difficult. If her family actually shows up on the page, it’s likely to be when they are staying with the McDonald family while on business in Silicon valley. Her parents are academics, so they might give lectures or attend them at any of the many local universities. But I never rule anything out! I’ve not delved into the lives of her brothers, their spouses, or their children. It’s quite possible one might have a career that would spawn or help resolve a mystery.

I loved the post about your Dad, my mother in law has dementia, does your family think he will every go into a assistive living place for residents with dementia? Do you think you will include that in a future store?

We recently went through a very similar situation with my mother-in-law. My farther-in-law was able to care for her at home. While it was incredibly difficult physically and emotionally, it was also a special time for them both.

It’s often helpful for those with dementia to remain in familiar surroundings as long as they and their primary caregivers can be kept safe, active, happy, and healthy. In contrast , one of my uncles who had been a physician felt very much at home when his wife moved him to a memory care facility. He spent much of his time at the nursing stations. Every patient and situation is different.

Being present and aware is often the best gift you can give yourself and everyone else. For now, things are working as they are, and we will address any changes as they become necessary. Planning ahead (and we’re all inveterate planners!) can be an exercise in futility. In my opinion, the best bet is to figure out who to ask for help with the next step turns out to be and whenever it arises. Every situation is unique because of individual needs, family situations, caregiver health and age, the type of dementia, underlying conditions, the current home and its accommodations, and available health care and support.

The male members of my family have been in the military, we are also animal lovers. I really enjoy the character who suffers PTSD and his dog.

Are you active in any of the military organizations?

I’m very interested in mental health, particularly as it relates to young adults and especially to young adults in the military.  As communities and as a nation, I think so much of our potential and the potential of our young adults is wasted because we have not yet invested enough time, energy, and money in understanding mental illness and how best to treat it. As a nation we don’t seem quite as squeamish about it as we once were, which is an enormous advancement that I hope will lead quickly to many more.

Where do you write from?

              Place in your emotions?

              Place in your house?

I start with the characters. The more I know about them and what’s important to them, the easier it is for me to know how they will respond as the pressure mounts. My subplots generally spring from a pool of experiences I’ve had, issues I care about, or ideas I’d like to explore. I’m fascinated by characters with a strong moral code who do good things for the wrong reasons or bad things for the right reasons. I don’t harp on those details in the books, but those concepts often guide the characters’ back stories or how they operate behind the scenes.

What do you enjoy most about the organizations that you belong to?

Organizations that delight me are those that encourage everyone to participate and believe that everyone has things to learn, teach, and contribute.

How much research do you do for your books?

I try to make the books accurate without being pedantic. To that end, I have experts (some of who are or become friends) review sections of the books. For any scenario that shows up on the page, right or wrong, I’m likely to have done days of research, most of which doesn’t end up on the page. Often, after checking with my experts, I can condense my original pages of explanation to a simpler and more accurate line or two. My goal is to make the resarch invisible. If the reader steps outside the story long enough to think, “Wow, she must have done a lot of research,” I’ve lost that reader and failed in my job.

In writing Dead Storage (Book Three) I consulted an Assistant District Attorney in California several times, and he was helpful.  By when I doing a final fact check, he wasn’t available, so I consulted another ADA with a slightly different perspective on the law, who assured me that my new scenario was accurate. I like the ADA’s succinct description of the process so much that I used it (with permission) in the book. I’m sure all readers find aspects of every book they read that stretch their notion of reality. The trick for writers is to find the parts of reality that support the fiction they’re creating so well that readers are able to suspend disbelief and climb aboard for the ride.

What do you want your obituary to say?What do you want engraved on your headstone?

In Schedule to Death, the body of the woman who is murdered is eventually cremated and her ashes are scattered at sea, using the licensed services of a ship that also conducts whale-watching tours.

That plan was based on a family experience that occurred in the company of a large pod of breaching gray whales on Monterey Bay. It created a powerful happy memory of our family. I subscribe to a philosophy skin to that of Suquamish Chief Seattle, who said, “Take only memories, leave only footprints.” My hope would be to leave no tangible monument behind other than happy memories in the hearts and minds of those I’ve loved. Ideally, I will have made a positive impact on the world through my love for them.




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