Holli Castillo, Author of Gumbo Justice
Marilyn: Holli Castillo, a member of PSWA, came to last year's conference and we got to meet her family. I love this photo of you, beautiful, but impishness sparkles in your eyes. One of the things I remember about you is your wonderful accent--and you telling all of us you didn't have one.
Tell us where you are from and something about your background.
Holli: I am from New Orleans, born and raised. I'm a Louisiana appellate public defender and a former New Orleans prosecutor, and my first novel, Gumbo Justice, was published by Oak Tree Press in June, 2009.
Marilyn: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Holli: I've always wanted to be a writer, but never seriously thought I could. As I got older I eventually lumped it in the category of impossible career choices, along with princess and George Clooney's wife. When my first child was born, I quit my job at the D.A.'s Office to stay home with her, and decided that was my opportunity to see if I had what it took to actually write a novel and get it published.
Marilyn: Tell us about your first book.
Holli: Gumbo Justice is a mystery featuring New Orleans assistant district attorney Ryan Murphy. She's a tenacious prosecutor with a smart mouth and a self-destructive streak, trying to climb the ranks of the D.A.'s Office while fighting demons from her past. When the D.A. sends his senior prosecutors to crime scenes, she begins to see a disturbing pattern- the murder victims are previous defendants she prosecuted. At first she isn't too bothered about drug dealers and murderers getting street justice, but then the killer turns his attention to her, threatening her job, her friends, and eventually her life. With a family of cops and a relationship with a detective-- or two-- she should be safe. But the killer is someone Ryan knows and never suspects, and she'll have to figure out his identity and defeat him on her own if she wants to survive.
Marilyn: How did you find your publisher?
Holli: From a query. I had queried the big houses and received mostly form rejections. So I worked some more on the manuscript, and decided to research a little more carefully the agents and publishers who handled work like mine. I read books published by the agents and publishers I was considering, and based upon that, found a few agents and publishers I thought my book would fit in with. I queried only a few of these the next go round, and received a response from an agent. I was waiting to hear back from her when Katrina struck and put the novel on the back burner for a while. Then the agent contacted me and said she had decided not to take new clients, so I started following up with the queries I had already sent out, and Billie Johnson from Oak Tree responded she wanted to read the manuscript.
Marilyn: Is there another in the works? If so, tell us what we have to look forward to.
Holli: Gumbo Justice is the first in the Crescent City Mystery Series. I am currently working on the second, Jambalaya Justice, and have started the third and fourth, as well as outlined the fifth. Jambalaya Justice answers some of the questions left open by Gumbo Justice, and presents new challenges and a new mystery for Ryan. It should be out this summer.
Marilyn: Where can we get your book?
Holli: Signed copies are available at my website, www.gumbojustice.net, and unsigned copies are available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like my blog readers to know?
Holli: I will be at the PSWA conference in Las Vegas in June, and want to let everyone know whether they're a published author trying to hone the craft or an unpublished writer trying to break into the field, this is an informative and entertaining conference that covers a wide variety of topics. This conference is also an excellent way to make contacts.
Marilyn: Thank you for this interview, Holli, and also the plug for the PSWA conference. Anyone interested, check it out at http://publicsafetywriter.com