BookView Interview with Author Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed the award-winning romantic suspense author Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra, who has recently released her police procedural, Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Novel (Read the reveiw here).

Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra is an award-winning romantic suspense author with a unique point of view. Her suspense novels take place in locales across Europe and the United States, reflecting her international upbringing and extensive time as a Cuban exile and global traveler. In her duology, The Coin and The Book of Hours, her characters, Gabriela and Richard, walk the same paths as their creator, though her life was never in so much danger.

Her novels have received several awards, including the Bronze medal for The Coin at the Readers’ Favorite 2018 International Book Awards; and her short story collection, The Fish Tank: And Other Short Stories, was a twice Silver Medal winner—at the Readers’ Favorite 2018 International Book Awards and at the 2018 Feathered Quill Book Awards. This short story collection takes the reader on a ride across all genres, including tragic tales of survival of ordinary Cuban citizens in the 1960s (based on the author’s own experience of exile). NY Literary Magazine describes The Fish Tank: And Other Short Stories as “a gracefully-written, varied collection of entertaining, touching, suspenseful and thought-provoking short stories.”

The author’s creepy short story, “Retribution Served”, is featured in the anthology Book Dreams: Volume 1, and is available through all retailers.

Recently, the author delved into a new genre, detective fiction. She recently published her first novel in that genre, Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Novel, which is beginning to get very good reviews. This is, hopefully, the beginning of a series featuring Detective Nick Larson.

Ms. Alonso-Sierra’s writing career began circa age thirteen with a very juvenile science fiction short story, but the writing bug hit, and she has been writing, in one capacity or another, ever since. She has worked as a professional dancer, singer, journalist, and literature teacher in both the university and middle school levels (and not necessarily in that order) and holds a Masters in English literature. She loves to hear from readers and, when not writing, roams around to discover new places to set her novels.

Ms. Alonso-Sierra is currently working on her next novel and other short stories. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and her dog, Amber.

How often you read?

Not as often as I would like. Reading refreshes the mind; sparks imagination; agitates the creative juices. Reading is truly essential.

 Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I never write for the market. I develop my novels according to how I originally conceived them. The only thing that can change the direction of the novel is the characters. Often, the characters want you to go in a different direction than what you had originally planned them to go in. But that happens because you have to stay true to the characters, their personalities, and backgrounds. To the complications of the plot. It may not be what some readers expect, but it is what makes a good for the novel.

 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self to take creative writing classes at the same time I’m writing; to find a graphic artist/developmental editor/proofreader/formatter set up before first publication; AND to have 2-3 novels finished before publication. It helps with the marketing when you are self-published.

 What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

In paying a great developmental editor and a fantastic proofreader to go over your finished work. Some authors believe they can do that work themselves (and maybe some can), but I find that I can’t (despite having a Master’s in English). I know I will miss some things (despite reading and re-reading things for 10-15 times) that may be critical to the novel. Typos are a no-no. Those things need to be changed before formatting and publication. It is imperative that you have a professional novel out there, especially when you self-publish.

 Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?

Reading other authors inspired me to become a writer, actually. The one who influenced me the most was Mary Stewart. I loved her stories of intrigue and murder, set in exotic places around the world, where a normal woman would find herself in the most horrible situation through no fault of her own. Reading her novels opened a desire to write my own stories, set in places I’ve actually lived in, with characters that find themselves in bad situations and who, ultimately, triumph over evil. I strongly suspect, as well, the fact that I lived through an exile is what also influenced the genre of the stories I write. Then there is Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, Steinbeck, Asimov, Bradbury, Gaiman…

 Is writer’s block real?

Yes. And it is so, so frustrating. At the start of my writing career, it wasn’t a problem because my first novel had been fleshed out in my mind for months. But as I write now, some plot ideas are just that, plot ideas. They have not been fermenting for long periods of time. So, there will be many times where I will find that I sit in front of my computer and write a sentence or two and then…nothing. What I have discovered (through patience, and trial and error) is that when I have a mental block and the story is not going anywhere backwards or forwards, it means that the scene I’m currently writing doesn’t fit…that it’s not right for either the character or the development of the story. So, what I do now is I leave it for a day or two and come back to it. I find that, most of the times, I will scrap what I have written and go on another direction that fits. When I do that, then the words flow.

At other times, the writer’s block has to do with personal issues and I have to resolve those before I can write a single word.

Tell us some more about your book.

My new release is a gritty whodunit set in New York City, where I lived for many years. The crime and the detective who is in charge of the investigation, Detective Nick Larson, is as tough as the city itself. From the moment he steps on scene of a suicide, something doesn’t feel quite right. But when more questionable suicides pop up around NYC, Nick’s instincts rev into overdrive, because the crimes are looking more like staged homicides rather than suicides. And, with the way things have been going lately, it would just be Nick’s luck to have a serial killer on the loose.

What inspired the premise of your book?

A photograph I saw on social media. A selfie, actually. The expression on the woman’s face screamed vulnerability to me and that got me to thinking: what if a sick individual sees that, or knows someone like that, and makes these types of women prey?

How many rewrites did you do for this book?

Not many. Only sections that needed improvement. However, like in all other novels, somethings (sometimes chapters or sections of chapters) need to be deleted.


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