We are delighted to welcome author Solange Ritchie to Omnimystery News today.
Solange introduces FBI forensic pathologist Catherine "Cat" Powers in The Burning Man (Morgan James Publishing; May 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with her to talk more about the character and series.
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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about your new series character.
Photo provided courtesy of
Solange Ritchie: My lead character is Dr. Catherine ("Cat") Powers. She is a FBI forensic pathologist and agent who is at the top of her game — called in by local authorities when serial killers are on the loose. She is a strong, powerful and headstrong woman struggling to balance the demands of a career that takes her all over the country and a young son, Joey, who needs her at home. I believe these work life balance issues are something many career women can relate to.
OMN: How do you expect Cat to develop over the course of the series?
SR: Both Cat and her six-year-old son, Joey, will develop over time. As a result of her career, she has trouble establishing and keeping romantic relationships. That will change over time. Joey also has a character arc which I cannot reveal — but will shock readers when it is revealed.
OMN: Into what genre would you place The Burning Man?
SR: It is a gritty psychological thriller. It is both a mystery (meaning Cat must solve crimes that have already occurred) and a thriller (meaning she must prevent future crimes from occurring). I do not like labels but it is something the publishing industry requires.
OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.
SR: The Burning Man takes you inside the mind of the serial killer. You learn his background and what makes him "tick." I believe this makes his character flaws and psychosis much more real and believable.
OMN: Is the storyline based on any real event?
SR: The method of the kill in The Burning Man is very loosely based on a real life case out of Florida many years ago. In the case, a doctor met and fell madly in love with a patient whom he married. She was ill with cancer and died. Because he loved her so, he used chemicals to place her body in a state of suspended animation. The Burning Man's use of chemicals in the kill is somewhat based on this idea.
OMN: Describe your writing process.
SR: I always have my beginning scene and my ending scenes in mind. I am fortunate to write professionally as a lawyer each day which gives an innate sense of story and timing. I let the characters and the plot speak to me as a write. Sometimes I struggle because I know I have to kill off a character to make a plot work. But it needs to be done. With each book, Cat and Joey remain constant characters — but others will change. My process is simple. To be a good writer, you have to literally take the reader into a scene. What is the character hearing, touching, tasting, seeing, what does the air and environment feel like? What is the character's reaction to all of this? What is their emotion? Only from closing one's eyes and putting yourself in the character's shoes, does this process become effective.
OMN: How did you go about researching the plot points of the story?
SR: As a trial lawyer, I am a natural researcher. I do a lot of work on the Internet and also interview experts. Each fiction book produces a binder that is about 3 inches thick with articles and research. My most exciting topics of research thus far have been in two areas. Serial firefighter turned arsonist for novel number two in the series called Back Burn (working title not yet released) and in the area of international sex trading of women for Sex Slayer, the third in the Dr. Catherine Powers series (working title not yet released). I find that through research characters become more realistic.
OMN: If we could send you anywhere in the world to research the setting for a book, where would it be?
SR: I am lucky enough to have traveled pretty extensively in my life. I have always been fascinated with Java and Bali. These very old, ancient cultures have always been an interest to me, as well as their beautiful people and surroundings.
OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you say to aspiring writers?
SR: The best advice is just to keep writing, even if you think and know the writing that day is terrible. The best and most prolific writers treat it as a job, not just a hobby. The harshest criticism was my first novel (which is sitting in a closet) being rejected by everyone that I sent it to. That was a tough pill to swallow. My advice would be "never give up and never surrender" — my personal motto for life as well as the writing process.
OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …".
SR: I am a thriller writer and thus I am also naturally inquisitive. Only with a lot of research and hard work can one produce a book that people want to read and feel compelled to read, such as The Burning Man.
OMN: You mentioned earlier the working titles of the next two books in the series. Did you have a working title for this one, too?
SR: The Burning Man was my working title when I wrote it. It is related to the killer's m.o.
OMN: How involved were you with the cover design?
SR: I chose to work with a publisher that would give me control over the cover design as well as the lay out and cover wrap. I scouted book stores looking at covers and tried to come up with something original and eye catching. The cover looks like it is being eaten away by acid — just as the killer in The Burning Man uses acid as part of the method of the kill. The cover also feels leathery — again a reflection of what happens to human skin as it is burned and affected by chemical agents. The type face on the cover and throughout the chapters looks like it has been eaten away by acid — all reflecting the killer's m.o.
OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from readers?
SR: I really enjoy hearing from readers. I had a bar/hotel owner in New Zealand tell me that she was literally mixing drinks while stealing a page or two read behind the counter. That was so hysterical. I love that kind of support and feedback. It is very rewarding.
OMN: Suppose The Burning Man were to be adapted for television or film and you are the casting director. Whose agents are you calling?
SR: I could see Julianne Moore or Charlize Theron playing Dr. Powers. Both are strong, capable women who are incredibly beautiful yet have an inner quality of brains and beauty about them. I would be honored to have either play Cat.
OMN: Have any specific authors influenced how and what you write today?
SR: I love thrillers and spy novels. I've always been a big James Bond fan. Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, of course, had connections to Jamaica where I was born and his beautiful estate there, Golden Eye, is available for rental. His golden typewriter still sits in the room where many of the books were penned.
OMN: When selecting a book to read for pleasure, what do you look for?
SR: When selecting a book, I always look to the first scene. Is it captivating? Is there action right away? I hate books with too much prose and descriptive content. I want to know what is going on — not what color the sky is (unless it helps to set the mood for a scene). I also look for type face. For me, it was important to do a trade sized paper back, because I wanted something easy to read. As a child, I was 3 months premature and back then they did not know what they were doing with oxygen in incubators, so my eyes have always been a problem. I started wearing glasses at age 7 and graduated to contacts as age 14. I am legally blind in both eyes without lenses.
OMN: What kinds of films do you enjoy watching?
SR: I am a big Thomas Harris fan as well as Stephen King. The action and suspense of the Bond films helped inspire the "who done it" of The Burning Man.
OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.
SR: Top 5 places to visit: Java, Moorea, Paris, Venice and Hong Kong. I have been fortunate to have visited Moorea, Paris and Venice and would love to go back. Also I would like to visit Havana, as I remember my Jamaican grandmother sharing stories with me about how it was a "hot spot" for the rich and famous prior to Fidel Castro's revolution.
OMN: What's next for you?
SR: What's next for me are book tours, TV and radio appearances related to The Burning Man. I want to get Back Burn and Sex Slayer published. My publisher has looked at Back Burn and wants to work with me on it. I am working through the first draft of the next Dr. Cat Power novel, working title is Time Bomb, which is currently at about 44,000 words and needs to increase to about 50,000 words for my publisher. So it is very busy and exciting time — one which I am enjoying very much.
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Born in the beautiful tropical island of Jamaica of a Jamaican father and a French mother, Solange Ritchie immigrated to the U.S. at age 11. Since then, she has been a dynamic force for change. Despite the demands of a busy legal career, she has achieved a successful writing career. Dubbed "the Case Saver" by her legal colleagues, she was awarded the State Bar of California's Solo and Small Firm Section's highest award, the Myer J. Sankary Attorney of the Year Award for 2014. With a passion for philanthropic work, Solange serves on numerous charities and legal boards, including the California Women Lawyers Association, The Orange County Bar Association, The Community Court's Foundation and El Viento.
For more information about the author, please visit her website at SolangeRitchie.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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