A Conversation with Author Maria DiRico

Mia Carina is back —in charge of the family catering hall, Belle View Banquet Manor, But some events—like murder—are not the kind you can schedule . . . — Long Island Iced Tina (A Catering Hall Mystery) by @ellenbyronla

What inspired the idea for your book?

I’ve always been fascinated with art heists. My protagonist works at a catering hall, so I decided it would be great fun to have a stolen painting missing for twenty years show up at a very unlikely location – among the gifts at a baby shower.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?

How much fun it was to create an extreme baby shower.

Who is your audience?

My audience is readers who love emerging themselves in a world where they relate to the characters so much they wish they were real, and want to be challenged by a mystery that stumps them. 

What has been your favorite reader feedback?

A woman wrote that her husband has dementia and the man she’s known so well for over fifty years is disappearing. She said my books provide her with an escape from the sadness and tragedy of what she’s living through. I cried when I read this. With her permission, I turned what she wrote into a graphic to share with friends and fellow authors to show the difference we can make in peoples’ lives. 

What is your all-time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing?

Wuthering Heights. The passion and poetry of that book never ceases to astound me. Visiting the Bronte Parsonage and walking the moors they walked is #1 on my bucket list. However, I do have to say that re-reading the book with the combined perspective of the #metoo era and being of a certain, less romantic age, Heathcliff isn’t sexy, he’s abusive and horrible! Still… love this book.


If you had a secret room that opened by pulling a book on a shelf, what book would you choose?

Why, Wuthering Heights, of course!

What was the defining moment that made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish?”

A TV writer friend started a small writers’ group for four of us. I decided to challenge myself by trying to write what I love to read – a mystery. I had no idea whether it would be published. As it turned out, it won the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, but that particular manuscript never sold.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Set a weekly word or page goal and stick to it. Find a couple of beta readers whom you trust and let them read it when you feel it’s ready for eyes besides your own. Listen to their feedback but discern the difference between what’s geared toward making your book the best it can be and notes that lean more toward how they would have written the book if it was their idea.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

Leah Remini would be great as Mia Carina in the Catering Hall Mysteries. Anne Hathaway would be an excellent casting choice for Maggie in the Cajun Country Mysteries. And now every romantic lead looks Rege Jean Page from Bridgerton in my head!

If you went on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

Dame Agatha, so I could trap her in a car for hours and dissect her plotting technique.

About The Book:

Mia Carina is back in the borough of Queens—in charge of the family catering hall, Belle View Banquet Manor, and keeping her nonna company. But some events—like murder—are not the kind you can schedule . . .

Mia’s newly pregnant friend Nicole plans to hold a shower at Belle View—but Nicole also has to attend one that her competitive (and mysteriously rich) stepmother, Tina, is throwing at the fanciest place in Queens. It’s a good chance for Mia to snoop on a competitor, especially since doing a search for “how to run a catering hall” can get you only so far.

Mia tags along at the lavish party, but the ambience suffers at Nicole’s Belle View shower when a fight breaks out—and then, oddly, a long-missing and valuable stolen painting is unwrapped by the mom-to-be. Tina is clearly shocked to see it. But not as shocked as Mia is when, soon afterward, she spots the lifeless body of a party guest floating in the marina . . .

Italian recipes included!

Buy Links: Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play – IndieBound Bookshop

About The Author:

Maria DiRico is the pseudonym for Ellen Byron, author of the award winning, USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mysteries. Born in Queens, New York, she is first-generation Italian-American on her mother’s side and the granddaughter of a low-level Jewish mobster on her father’s side. She grew up visiting the Astoria Manor and Grand Bay Marina catering halls, which were run by her Italian mother’s family in Queens and have become the inspiration for her Catering Hall Mystery Series. DiRico has been a writer-producer for hit television series like Wings and Just Shoot Me, and her first play, Graceland, appears in the Best Short Plays collection. She’s a freelance journalist, with over 200 articles published in national magazines, and previously worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Ellen lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.

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