with Laurie Stevens
We are delighted to welcome author Laurie Stevens to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.
Laurie's soon-to-be-published third mystery to feature homicide detective Gabriel McRay is The Mask of Midnight and we had the opportunity to talk with her about it in advance of its release.
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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to your series lead, Gabriel McRay. What is it about him that appeals to you as an author?
Photo provided courtesy of
Laurie Stevens: This series features a homicide detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department named Gabriel McRay. When we meet him he is fired from the homicide bureau for using excessive force, something he's been prone to do. Gabriel has to go through mandatory psychiatric evaluation and it is here that he finds out he is burdened by the suppressed memory of a childhood trauma. So, Gabriel is kind of a tough guy, but he has these issues, which keep trying to surface in a number of ways. It's affected every aspect of his life — his relationship with women, his relationship with himself. He knows he needs to address it … Thus starts the series. What's likeable about Gabriel, at least in the first book, is that he makes the decision to better himself. That he wants to become a happier man.
OMN: Why did you choose to feature him in a series?
LS: Oh, I'm all about developing this character. The overlying theme behind the first book in the series, The Dark Before Dawn, is about facing our deepest fears. I do believe that that is the first step to anyone's growth. Gabriel evolves and grows through each book. In fact, the murder case to which he is assigned (in each book) somehow "sparks" whatever point he is at in his recovery process. That poses an interesting and challenging goal I have to meet in each book.
OMN: How difficult was it for you to find the right voice for Gabriel?
LS: There's a movie called Think Like a Man. Honestly, I've never watched it, but the title hit home for me. Yes, women are from Venus and men are from Mars and when an author chooses to write from the point of view of the opposite sex, she or he needs to be careful. I think choosing a man's voice was very liberating for me. I could "think like a man." I already know how women think — I am one. It's fun to walk in somebody else's shoes, particularly when you feel as close as I do to my protagonist. I'm not going to lie. I enjoy Gabriel's journey. But there are catch-phrases and ways of speaking (we'll call it that) that are unique to men, and so I've nagged my husband and other males (including my son) for tidbits to try and keep it real.
OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the series?
LS: I don't want to spoil the read for anyone, so I won't divulge what Gabriel's issues are, some of you might have already guessed. While that horrible experience has been a thorn in the side of human interaction, it did not happen to me. However, I did experience an "event" during college in which I was drugged. It's a very hot topic now. When I was researching the third book, I discovered effects that were too similar to my own experience to be construed as coincidence. Talk about a suppressed memory! At any rate, to answer the question, I guess more of me is in the book than even I was aware of.
OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?
LS: This is one of the perks of writing, in my opinion. I can't tell you how many times I've wined and dined a psychiatrist or therapist. I enjoy their consultations on the book and they seem to enjoy it, too. I usually begin by trying to answer my own questions. I do a ton of Internet research. But then, I always have questions that need the personal touch — that only a professional who has "been there and done that" can answer. Besides, that's when I can pick up the nuances of both therapist and patient. I strive for realism. One time I was describing the L.A. County morgue and it bothered me that I couldn't readily describe it. So my husband suggested we go to L.A. County General and see what it looks like. Now, L.A. County General is not just an easy place to walk into. They have metal detectors — does that tell you anything? But my husband and I snuck in and accomplished the task. Some couples go to dinner and a movie. Oh well …
OMN: Your books are set in Southern California. How true are you to the setting?
LS: Someone once asked me if I felt intimidated by writing about Los Angeles. This being the city of Chandler and Elroy. But it's where I was born and raised. I know about San Francisco because half my family is up there, but really, it's mostly Los Angeles that I know. I even went to UCLA and then worked in the entertainment business. And frankly, the city is a wonderful character in itself. The setting — mountains, inner city, slums, mansions, the beach, Hollywood, celebrities, Skid Row. Sorry, but there's a lot to work with here. Gabriel works the Santa Monica Mountain parkland. It's so beautiful in there but close enough to the city to get into trouble.
OMN: Having worked directly in the entertainment business, have any films inspired your work? And what kinds of films do you enjoy watching?
LS: Funny you should ask. I wanted to give Gabriel a worthy adversary, so enter Victor Archwood. What inspired him was actually watching those old Sherlock Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Lionel Atwill as Professor Moriarty. There's one called Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon where Moriarty (Atwill) has Holmes (Rathbone) tied down to a bed and they are bantering back and forth. I love that cat and mouse game playing. Other than anything Sherlock Holmes oriented, I enjoy crime movies. I think I've watching Godfather I and II at least fifty times each. I can recite almost every line from The Usual Suspects and Donnie Brasco is one my favorite books and movies.
OMN: What's next for you?
LS: Okay, so Random House Germany is publishing The Dark Before Dawn this May and Deep into Dusk next May (2016) so I guess I'll be terrorizing people across the Atlantic now.
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Laurie Stevens is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. A second-generation California native, she graduated UCLA's Theatre/Film/Television program and went on to work such diverse jobs as babysitting a super-agent's girlfriend and sipping cappuccinos at Beverly Hills clothing stores while her boss tried on suits. She worked for Columbia Records in product marketing and decided to follow her dreams of being a writer, which led her to becoming a sales supervisor of a telemarketing room. This experience was the inspiration for the play, "Follow Your Dreams." She is a hybrid author, having independently published her books and then signing on with Blanvalet (Random House, Germany). Laurie lives in the Santa Monica Mountains outside of Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
For more information about the author, please visit her website at LaurieStevensBooks.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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The Mask of Midnight
A Gabriel McRay Novel