Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Conversation with Mystery Author Thalia Filbert

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Thalia Filbert

We are delighted to welcome Thalia Filbert — the pseudonym used by five bestselling mystery authors — to Omnimystery News.

Last week we featured an excerpt from Thalia's new crime novel, Beat Slay Love (Thalia Press; October 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats), and today we are thrilled to have been able to pose a question to each of the authors.

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Thalia Filbert
Photo provided courtesy of Thalia Filbert

Omnimystery News: How common are serial novels?

Taffy Cannon: Historically there have been quite a few serial novels written by a single individual. Charles Dickens published The Pickwick Papers that way, and some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were first published in serial form. More recently, Tom Wolfe published his initial draft of Bonfire of the Vanities as a serial in Rolling Stone.

Group serial novels are more complicated, and in recent times date to a book credited to Penelope Ashe in 1969. Naked Came the Stranger was published anonymously by a group of Newsday reporters in 1969. Their goal was to write a potboiler in the tradition of current bestselling authors such as Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins. Each of a group of authors wrote one chapter, and reputedly some of those chapters had to be redone because they were too well written.

Naked Came the Manatee originated as a series written by a group of South Florida writers (including Dave Barry, Carl Hiassen and Edna Buchanan) for serialized publication in the Miami Herald Tropic Magazine in 1996. The Florida story involves a manatee named Booger, and one chapter began: "Call me Booger."

OMN: What was the inspiration for Beat Slay Love? And what was your role in crafting the book?

Lise McClendon: We were inspired by a desire to write something new and different: a group novel that wasn't like the serial novels of old, which tended to spin off into ridiculousness. For this we spent quite a bit of time working on the idea, finding something — in this case, a revenge killer of TV chefs — that lent itself to a variety of locales and, um, creative modes of homicide. (Yes, we are criminally creative.) In the same vein we chose foods that reflect a part of the US we either live in or know well. My section is set in Montana, on Flathead Lake, and involves bison and huckleberries. Others explored the wonders of barbeque, lobster, and Californicated food.

I was one of the writers; we each wrote two sections of the novel. It was also my job as wrangler and sometime editor (we all did some editing during the process) to steer the story to a tidy conclusion, instead of the nonsense way some serial novels end. I didn't write the ending myself but I pointed the way in the wilderness, I feel. It was an exhilarating process to feed off each other's ideas and energy and produce a coherent whole of a fun, funny novel in the end.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

Katy Munger: My five top cocktails for the holidays:

1. The Seniorita, also known as the Paloma: a margarita with grapefruit juice.
2. The Manhattan, for the male of the species.
3. The Peartini.
4. The Lady Chatterley. Drink responsibly, lover.
5. The Berry Drop, invented for Beat Slay Love.

Recipes for all these cocktails are in the booklet, Thalia Filbert's Killer Cocktail Party, available by emailing [email protected]. Cheers!

OMN: How much of you or your experience is in your books?

Gary Phillips: My first published mystery novel, Violent Spring, years ago was set in the current aftermath of the 1992 riots, or civil unrest if you like, here in my native Los Angeles. The fires were touched off when the four officers who beat motorist Rodney King were acquitted on criminal charges. I was the outreach director for a foundation then that granted monies to community organizing efforts. In that context, and given my other experiences had been as a labor union rep and a community organizer myself, my job took me form the housing projects in Watts, church basements in East L.A. to house meetings in Beverly Hills. I knew the terrain and some of the players coming out of the conflagration working to rebuild the city.

So I asked: what if I had a black private eye and he had to travel to these various enclaves and more to solve a crime in a city still raw from recent events? Those novels and his short stories specifically reflect a socio-political landscape. But since then I've written stories about professional thieves, an ex-showgirl turned cold cash courier, a pro football players with impulse control issues, a pulp hero aviatrix set in 1930s L.A. and on and on. Other characters who populate these tales are often an amalgam of people I know — this was the case in Violent Spring — and other times certain types we've seen in the news.

In the case of Hannah Wendt in Beat Slay Love, even given we knew we were having a bloody delicious romp, while I've never had the impulse to off a celebrity chef, I sought to inhabit her skin when it was my turn to write from her viewpoint. I guess like an actor you look for a way into their head, what is it about them, no matter how flawed or bent they are, that you can identify with on some level? What is that psychological hook you can grasp and in that way hopefully see the world as they do? If I can get to that, then just maybe I can empathize with them — we've all been insulted at some point or another for instance — and while I wouldn't be that kind of person hacking up chefs in creative ways, I can give that kind of person dimension on the page.

And because you asked Katy for a Top 5 list, I thought I'd follow up with a list of 1980s grindhouse flicks to watch while you sample one of each of those cocktails:

1. Chained Heat — Stella Stevens as the hardnosed captain of the guards in a seething women's prison. Tamara Dobeson and Sybil Danning as leaders of the prisoners on edge racially. Nominated for two Razzie awards. That says it all.

2. Ms. 45 — A feminized Death Wish … a mute seamstress takes justice into her own hands after being raped and humiliated.

3. Repo Man — Whacked out lowlifes in L.A. repossessing cars, with one such vehicle flying away in the end.

4. They Live — Drifter John Nada finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that power brokers are really aliens manipulating us. Oh where's my pair of the next Trump rally?

5. Trancers — Future cop Jack Deth time travels back to big hair 1985 L.A. to hunt down Whistler who can turn people into zombie-like creatures. It don't get better than this, my friends.

OMN: Many readers have a mental image of what the characters looks like. If Beat Slay Love were to be adapted for television or film, and you're the casting director, whose agents are you calling?

Kate Flora: Sometimes there's an actress around who is just perfect for a role, and having spent a lot of time with Hannah over the course of writing Beat Slay Love, I know she'll be perfectly rendered in the film by Amy Schumer.

Really, the challenge is who will play some of the other central roles? For Jason Bainbridge? I admit to a secret fondness for Jack Black, who can be so charming with just a single quirk of his eyebrow. I can just imagine his body language when he's eating something great and his expression when he's eating something awful, and picture him almost dancing around his kitchen, clad in his slovenly clothes, as he prepares a spectacular meal.

I'd love to shape the question for readers, and put up a slate of actors to play the icy FBI agent Kimberly Douglas. Who's the right cool blonde for this role? Scarlet Johansen is too sexy. How about January Jones? Shailene Woodley? Maybe Emma Roberts? I'll bet the other authors would come up with a completely different list.

And a final note from Thalia Filbert: We wish you all a joyous holiday season with your families and friends!

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Thalia Filbert is a pseudonym for five mystery authors with over 75 novels under their collective belts. Beat Slay Love is their labor of collaboration, and joy. They hope you have as much fun reading it as they did writing it.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Beat Slay Love by Thalia Filbert

Beat Slay Love by Thalia Filbert

One Chef's Hunger for Delicious Revenge

Publisher: Thalia Press

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Aspiring chef Hannah Wendt has a multitude of talents — prowess in the kitchen and in the bedroom — but also a penchant for disposing of bothersome chefs. Wronged by those who steal her recipes, ridicule her weight, and denigrate her talents, Hannah has turned in her apron as sous chef and food stylist to plow new territory — her overpowering hunger for revenge. Hooked on how tasty payback can be, soon she is bumping off famous chefs who've burned her ego with spectacular culinary flair.

Food blogger Jason Bainbridge begins to see a pattern in the killings. He forms an uneasy alliance with cool, hard-charging FBI agent Kimberly Douglas as the search heats up to catch the sexy, chef-obsessed killer.

Beat Slay Love by Thalia Filbert

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