Jessie: Enjoying the pleasure of the holidays in the wilds of New Hampshire
Jessie: I noticed your sleuth’s name is Nora Charles. Were you inspired by the fictional character of the same name in The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett? Are you a fan of the Nick and Nora films?
T.C.: Absolutely! I loved the Thin Man movies and I have every one of them on DVD! While my Nick Charles is a furry black and white tuxedo, I like to think that he’s every bit as dashing – in his own way – as the fictional human one.
Story about that: I’d been writing paranormals and getting nowhere. My former supervisor told me I should write a story about my cat. I went home, turned on the tv, and The Thin Man was on Turner Classic. Then I started thinking…and the Nick and Nora mysteries were born!
Jessie: You write mysteries featuring a cat that helps to solve crimes. Is it safe to assume you are a cat lover?
T.C.: OMG very safe. I’ve had seven cats over the years, all of them rescues or adopted from shelters. ROCCO, the model for Nick, was adopted from the Clifton Animal Shelter six years ago. I got him as a companion for my gold tabby Maxx, who was a rescue from South Jersey. From the minute ROCCO stepped out of the box and lifted his paw, he was the boss! (or at least he thinks he is)
Jessie: You set Meow if it’s Murder in California. Is that a region close to your heart?
T.C.: Yes, even though I was born in New York and grew up in Jersey, I’ve always loved California – the weather especially. A good friend of mine lives in Pebble Beach/Monterey/Carmel area and I’ve visited there many times – I love it! Especially San Francisco! So it just seemed sort of natural to me to set the series in Northern California.
T.C.: This version doesn’t – but the original version did. In the first draft, Nick the cat was actually the reincarnation of Nick Atkins, a PI who was killed investigating the murder of a presumed drowned socialite. Nora found she could actually talk to the cat – but when it was submitted to the publisher, they loved everything about the book EXCEPT the talking cat, so I had to find another way for the cat to communicate with Nora – hence the Scrabble tiles. As to whether or not this version of Nick the cat has paranormal capabilities, well, cats ARE supposed to be psychic to some extent….
Jessie: I love to hear about other writers’ working habits. Would you share your writing process with us?
T.C.: Well, first I write an outline that I end up pretty much changing, and then I try to write at least 1-2 hours at least three days during the week and four hours each day on the weekend. I have a full time job so that’s how I have to work it for now. I have to have ROCCO next to my feet, chewing on the cable wires, and plenty of music on the CD player – Phantom of the Opera is a favorite!
Jessie: Mysteries are my first love but other genres also have appeal. Do you write any other sorts of work?
T.C.: I actually started out writing horror stories and some of them were published by Whiskey Creek Press (they’ve since gone out of print) then I switched to paranormal romantic suspense and self published three: No Rest for the Wicca, Raven’s Quest and Raven’s Kiss that were pretty well received, but I think the cozy mystery niche is my favorite!
Jessie: Are there any cozy mysteries written by others you’d like to recommend to our readers?
T.C.: Gee, where do I start! I’ve met so many writers from their appearances on ROCCO’s blog, where we generally have interviews and giveaways at least every other week (www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com) Some of my favorites are, Midnight Louie, of course, by Carole Nelson Douglas, the Cat in the Stacks mysteries by Miranda James, the Diva mysteries by Krista Davis, The Magical Cat mysteries by Sofie Kelly, Second Chance Mysteries by Sofie Ryan, Italian Kitchen Mysteries by Rosie Genova, Psychic Eye Mysteries by Victoria Laurie, the Haunted Guesthouse series by EJ Copperman, Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown…gosh I must have at least fifty more! Too many to list here LOL. If you check out our blog you’ll find lots of great writers and books! Rocco also reviews books for Night Owl online magazine, mainly cozies, so if anyone has a book they’d like him to review, please contact me!
Jessie:What can readers expect next from you?
T.C.: Well, I’ve just finished up another cozy series my agent will be shopping around, and then there is the next Nick and Nora mystery, due out next December! Nora’s sister Lacey finds herself in a spot of trouble… Visit my website, www.tclotempio.com or ROCCO’s blog for current information on new releases!
About the Author…..
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She lists among her favorite mystery/suspense writers Erle Stanley Gardner, Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, as well as EJ Copperman, Steve Hockensmith, Victoria Laurie, Ali Brandon, Rita Mae Brown, Miranda James and Sofie Kelly to name only a few! Toni is also passionate about her love for animals, as demonstrated with her four cats: Trixie, Princess, Maxx and, of course, ROCCO, who not only provided the inspiration for the character of Nick the cat in the Nick and Nora mystery series, but who also writes his own blog and does charity work for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read! Toni’s also devoted to miniseries like The Thorn Birds, Dancing with the Stars, reruns of Murder She Wrote and Castle (of course!). She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuts Dec. 2, 2014. She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York.
Where to find them: