A Conversation with Author Anne Louise Bannon

IR– What does it mean to you to be called an author?

ALB– It’s my identity, in many respects. I’ve always been a writer/author. It’s not just what I do, it’s an integral part of who I am. For me, it’s about telling stories, whether it’s a factual story for a newspaper or magazine or news site, or a fictional story for an anthology or novel. Telling stories is how I give a voice to those who don’t have one, and that’s important to me.

IR– Can you tell us a bit about the story and its main characters?

ALB– It’s 1872 in the Pueblo of Los Angeles and there is someone terrible stalking the little town that L.A. was back then. My main character, Maddie Wilcox, a winemaker and doctor, is first upset when her dear friend, Lavina Gaines, is robbed of her inheritance. Then Maddie discovers that a young woman has been raped, and soon after, Lavina is murdered, and Maddie wants to find out who has been hurting these two and another woman, all while dealing with an outbreak of the measles in the pueblo.

IR– What inspired the idea for your book?

ALB– It actually started with a small ad in the daily newspaper of the time that I found when I was researching book two in the series, Death of the City Marshal. One Robert Gaines was publicly announcing that he would no longer pay for any debts run up by his daughter, Lavina. Well, that got me wondering who Lavina was and how that had happened. The other part of it was me thinking about someone else’s skullduggery when handling a friend’s inheritance, then it occurred to me that it would be interesting to have a main suspect who had the least motive for killing someone because he had already stolen the money.

IR– Tell us about a favorite character from the book.

ALB–  Apart from Maddie, who is one of my favorite characters, period, there is also Regina Medina. She’s a madam that Maddie is friends with, never mind that Maddie does not approve of prostitution by any means. But Maddie does take care of Regina’s employees and has come to see that neither Regina nor her women have many other options for making a living (kind of an issue in the 19th Century). It’s fun writing Regina because she’s so crass and straightforward and Maddie is such a nice Victorian woman who has a problem describing someone belching, let alone S-E-X.

IR– Do you have any “side stories” about any the characters? 

ALB– Tons of them. We get to see Angelina Sutton’s story at the end of Death of the Chinese Field Hands, and we’ll hopefully see more of it in the next book, Death of a Town Drunkard. I’m trying to figure out how I’ll share some of Regina’s story but haven’t gotten that far yet.

IR– Where did you come up with the names in the story? 

ALB– They mostly come to me. I also use a U.S. census site for names that were popular in the 19th Century. Then there are all the names of people listed on the maps of Los Angeles at the time that I have (well, copies of), and the people in the newspapers of the time.

IR– Can you share a day in the life of an author?

ALB– I try to keep a solid schedule, although I change things up, depending on the day. I start with taking care of email and (hopefully) getting some filing done. I usually work in hour-and-a-half blocks and put my focus on a specific task or two that needs doing, such as updating my website, doing publicity for my books, working on the wine blog that my husband and I run. 

Twice a week, I work outside the house, running errands and getting some extra exercise in. That exercise is incredibly important, not just for my physical health, but because that’s when I do a lot of the unseen writing that I need to do before I sit down at the keyboard. 

In the evenings, when my husband comes home, it’s time to make dinner and talk about our respective days and connect, then I go back to my desk and get some reading done while he listens to a baseball game or does other meetings.

IR– What would the title of your autobiography be?

It Was All About the Stories

IR– What made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish.”?

ALB– This is a fun one because I remember when I decided to write my first novel very clearly. I had just turned fifteen that summer and was spending a lot of time daydreaming. I liked being inside my head and the people I found there. My mother wasn’t so happy about it, though. Okay, maybe there were some chores that needed doing, not to mention lying around all day probably wasn’t the best use of my time. So, I figured there was a way I could daydream all I wanted. I just had to write it down, and the next thing I knew, I had written a novel. Getting it published? I thought about it, but didn’t really do anything until years later, when I first wrote the initial book in the Operation Quickline series. By then, I’d been reading Writer’s Digest for a lot of years and eventually joined Mystery Writers of America. And that’s when I started trying to get an agent and get published.

IR– How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block?

ALB– I keep working at it. That’s probably part of my background as a journalist (work I did for a lot of years). Newspaper editors do not care about writer’s block because you can’t put out a paper with a big blank space where your story should be, even if it fell apart three times in one day. I had that happen to me once when I first started working at the suburban section of a major newspaper. I had a small, regular feature, and everything I tried to write about just wouldn’t come together. I couldn’t get a hold of people, an event was cancelled. But I did find something. I had to. That was the job.

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

Develop tenacity. You’ll need it to finish. You’ll need it to get the editing done. You’ll need it to get it out there, whether finding an agent for traditional publishing, or doing it yourself. You’ll need it to publicize the book, either way.

IR– What are you working on in the near future?

ALB– I’m currently working on the first draft of an Operation Quickline novel. But as soon as that’s finished, it’s time to work on book five in the Old Los Angeles series, Death of a Town Drunkard. I’m starting to work out details on that latter one, such as my plot, etc.

IR– What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?

ALB– Frequently, they happen simultaneously. Sometimes I’ll have a character start talking to me and I realize I need a plot for them. Other times, I’ll realize I have a really interesting plot, and gee, who would that work for? One of the things that’s happening with the book I’m working on now is that the setting – a resort – is creating a lot of new characters because of all the employees at such a place, and a lot of who they are is directing how things are happening.

IR– Who is your audience?

ALB– I usually figure that most of my readers are going to be women, because that’s who tend to read historical mysteries. But I’m surprised at how many guys really love Maddie. A lot of them are friends, which is how they discovered the series. And, no, they’re not just being nice – they really like her (one almost cursed me out when I ruined a weekend for him because he couldn’t put the book down).

IR– How do you interact with your readers?

ALB– Any way I can. I really love talking to people about my books. I love emailing people. Facebook can be fun. Not so big on Twitter, but I’m happy to touch base with anyone who wants to touch base with me.

IR– What is your all time favorite author? 

ALB– You’re asking me to pick out my favorite child! But I am a big fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, which eventually resulted in Freddie Little, from the Freddie and Kathy 1920s series, which starts with Fascinating Rhythm. Freddie is a bit of a Whimsy clone, but very deliberately so and very American, so I think I can be credited with an homage rather than straight out aping.

IR– What is the first book that you remember reading?

ALB– Key to the Treasure. I can still see the yellow cover illustrated with black and white line drawings. It was kind of a backyard adventure. I read it several times and liked it a lot.

IR– Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests?

ALB– The running gag in the household is that my husband and I make the things most sane people buy. I make soap, kinda want to get back into cheesemaking. I sew a lot. I’m getting back into bread baking.

IR– What would your dream library look like?

ALB– Kinda like the one in one of Jasper Fforde’s books (can’t remember which one). It was basically infinite. 

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

ALB– I love this question, but I have to say, I have no idea who’s out there these days. Back when I was a TV critic, I could have cast the entire Old Los Angeles series in three shakes of a lamb’s tail. But once I gave up the TV thing, I haven’t watched squat. If she were willing to stick to the historical facts, I would love to see what Shonda Rhimes would do with the series.

IR– Name three fun facts about you or your work.

*I never wear earrings that match.
*I once sat in Helen Thomas’ chair in the White House press room.
* I once told Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) that I had been married to Dilbert. Adams said, “I’m sorry.” I said he didn’t have to be. I have a great daughter from that marriage. It just wasn’t a great marriage.

IR– What is something you can do better than anyone else you know?

ALB– Crank stories out. I am prolific, and I’m really working on being proud of that rather than embarrassed. I don’t want to intimidate my other author friends – that’s kinda mean. But, yeah, I write fast, which means I can write a lot.

IR– If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

ALB– What I’m doing now – write stories.

About The Book

Death of an Heiress (Old Los Angeles)

When the unmentionable stalks the pueblo

It starts when the inheritance that Lavina Gaines was to receive is stolen by her brother Timothy. Then an old Indian healing woman is murdered. Winemaker and physician Maddie Wilcox wants to find the person responsible for Mama Jane’s death, but is also occupied with another killer – the measles.

When Lavina’s friend Julia Carson dies trying to rid herself of a pregnancy, Lavina asks Maddie’s help finding the man responsible for Julia’s child. Soon after, Lavina is killed and her murder bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Mama Jane’s. The only motive Maddie can find involves Julia’s death, which is not the sort of thing one talks about. Not only that, Lavina’s nether garments are missing.

It’s a difficult challenge, but Maddie rises to it, searching among the many men of the pueblo, including some of her dearest friends.

How does a proper lady in 1872 get the answers she needs to stop a killer determined to stop her first?

Purchase Links – Amazon – Bookshop – VRoman’s Bookstore – B&N – Kobo – Apple – Google Books

About the Author

Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She is the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons, with Serita Stevens, as well as author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s,  the Operation Quickline series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. Her most recent title is the current stand-alone, Rage Issues. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters. Visit her website at AnneLouiseBannon.com.

Author Links

Website https://annelouisebannon.com
Blog https://annelouisebannon.com/blogs
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobinGoodfellowEnt/
Twitter https://www.twitter.com/ALBannon
GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/513383.Anne_Louise_Bannon
Library Thing https://www.librarything.com/author/bannonannelouise


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