Welcome to my second interview in the series of author interviews leading up to Mystery Thriller Week, February 12 – 22, 2017. This week’s guest is Ronnie Allen, author of The Sign Behind the Crime Series. Before we went live, Ronnie shared some great news she just received:
I woke up to awesome and humbling news from my publisher, Black Opal Books. The Board of Directors voted on Aries to be one of their three submissions for the Mystery Writers of America Nero Awards! I told ya, in 2017 I’d be busting out! Aries is Book Two in The Sign Behind The Crime Series. This book will be featured in a couple of upcoming #MTW blogs.
Exciting news, Ronnie! We wish you the best of luck.
Let’s start with the book synopsis for Aries, The Sign Behind the Crime Series, as listed on Amazon:
Lying. Deception. Cover-ups. Anger. Revenge. Death. That’s what happens when an Aries-obsessed killer combines black magick rituals, knives … and murder. Samantha Wright, a rookie NYPD detective, gets her first case, a big one, by stumbling over the body while jogging in the park. Sam has a lot to prove, both to herself and to her new precinct, on this serial murder case involving fashion icons in NYC. Together with a rough around the edges BJJ fighter, forensic psychiatrist, Frank Khaos, Sam chases down leads through the five boroughs of NYC. As the bodies pile up, sparks fly and Sam and Frank, polar opposites, go from their dislike for each other to setting the sheets on fire. But their main suspect is hooked up to an IV in a hospital bed, so how has she pulled off five murders in seven days? And can Sam and Frank stop her before even more innocent lives are lost?
Ronnie Allen is a New York City native, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, where she was a teacher and a School Psychologist in the New York City Department of Education for 33 years. Her work as a classroom teacher, staff developer, crisis intervention specialist, and mentor for teachers who were struggling prepared her for a career as a writer. Always an advocate for the child, Allen examines the horrors of child abuse through the eyes of three characters in her novel, Gemini, the first book in The Sign Behind the Crime Series.
In the early 1990s, Allen began a journey into holistic healing and alternative therapies. In 2001, she completed her PhD in Parapsychic Sciences. In addition, Allen is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner as well as a crystal therapist, Reiki practitioner, metaphysician, dream analyst, and Tarot Master Instructor. She has taught workshops in New York City and in Central Florida where she now lives.
And now, on to the questions:
What’s your writing background (schooling), backdrop (where you work at writing), and backstory (what you will tell the world when you become super famous)?
I started teaching in 1970 and became bored with just that so I begin my writing journey in 1978 when I went to acting and writing school in Manhattan. I started writing screenplays and worked in screenwriting and film until the mid 90s. Even though not produced, I wrote feature films and teleplays for TV episodes. I had three agents during the time and when my third agent was getting my scripts into three different TV series, they shut down. I began a journey into holistic health in the mid 90s, and wrote and published in nonfiction. In 2011, I began my journey into novel writing. My first book was published in 2015, the second into 2016 and the third will be released in September of this year. Schooling? Lots and lots of workshops, conferences, online classes to learn the craft.
I’ve always loved the crime genre, to read as well as write. I think I must’ve been a detective or FBI agent in a past life. I love the action, the energy, and I can take out any personal revenge on a character or situation.
Do you see the need for all these sub-genres or do you think we’ve become over-specialized, as in, a story isn’t just a story any longer, but a specific type of story?
I think having the specific sub genres help readers decide whether your book is for them or not. It’s another category for publishers to market your books.
Why writing and not ceramics, or gourmet cooking, or anything else really? If not writing, then what?
I love to cook and bake. Recently I’ve gotten into gluten-free and lactose free baking. I’m very much into health and nutrition and I’m a holistic health practitioner so I practice alternative therapies in my daily life as well as use them in the context of my books.
From where do your ideas come?
A lot of my ideas come from dreams. Others, come from fantasies with me acting as the main character whether it’s the protagonist or antagonist.
What’s your routine? Do you work out while writing, take breaks, or simply gut it out?
Since I don’t have a 9-to-5 job or young children in the house, I write whenever I want which is at least 6 to 8 hours a day, whether I’m researching, blogging, or working on marketing. Very often I write at the pool, so in between chapters or scenes I’ll do water aerobics with my dumbbells. I also bake, and over the last six months I’ve gone as gluten-free as humanly possible so baking muffins has become a hobby.
Do you think writing is a form of therapy and, if so, has it helped you work through anything in particular?
I see writing as definitely a cathartic experience. It’s helped me work through a family issue we’ve had, and I also work through some anxiety and trauma about my childhood and lifetime asthma. The latter, is a major plot in my second book, Aries, which drives the antagonist, a female killer in her why.
Do you pull inspiration from the other aspects of your life? How do you keep the creative spark going?
I do take my content for my novels from my daily life and my experiences as a holistic health practitioner specializing in alternative therapies. The therapies my characters are involved in, I teach my clients.
Pantser or perfectionist who meticulously plots out their stories?
I’m definitely a plotter, but not so meticulously that I have to stick to a definitive plan. I allow my characters to go in their own direction, and very often my characters give themselves more of a role than I had intended. When that happens I know I am in very deep POV and it works best for the plot.
Your perfect day – go.
Since I’m pretty much a free woman, even with my husband, we both like to sleep late and by late I mean even past 11 AM. We pretty much do what we want when we want. So I usually start my day with some vitamins and a muscle milk protein shake while I’m watching one of the Home Shopping Network’s. Even before that, I check all of my social media, which is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Then I might write, plot, plot for as long as I want to until late afternoon.
What has been your greatest writing lesson?
We are constantly learning the craft and no matter how many books you have out, there is still much you can learn. You really need to have an open mind in this business. I’ve learned to listen to people who have succeeded and to have what I want. In other words, listen to your critique partners, beta readers, and if you get feedback from agents really think about what they are saying instead of standing on your laurels and saying you are not changing anything. This will considerably cut down on the amount of rejections you get until you get that one yes.
If you could be a character in any novel, what character would you be?
I will choose Samantha Wright who is my heroine in Aries. She’s bright, sassy, and just becoming in tune with her psychic awareness. She’s on target with her analysis of on-scene forensics, and has a real gut instinct on how to deal with people. In addition, she has the hottest sex on the planet with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Frank Khaos. She’s one lucky woman.
And the final question, do you think writing can save the world and if so, why?
Actually, I think it’s reading that can save the world, and yes works have to be written in order to be read. I think when people open up their minds through a book, they get a different perspective on how other people live. Perhaps through a book they can learn an appreciation, for other cultures and or lifestyles. Reading is also a way to escape and a way to relieve stresses.
Thanks, Ronnie Allen, for stopping by. Best of luck with The Sign Behind the Crime Series.
And if you readers want a bit more, enjoy a short excerpt from Aries:
The rain had tapered off by the time Nick arrived at the scene and got out of the car. He didn’t neglect to notice Sam’s perfect body through her clingy sweats and T, even though she was covered in mud and blood. Her ponytail hung loose. Straggling wisps of hair stuck to her face. He smiled for the first time. His wife was never going to meet this one. Blonde and blue eyed with the perfect nose and full lips, to boot. Nope, his wife was never going to meet her.
Sam approached the other suited man who also towered over her. “Hi, I’m Sam Wright.”
It was all Nick could do, not to laugh. He knew Dingo well enough to know what went through his mind.
“Dingo Withers, lead homicide expert from Homicide Investigative Unit. What have we got here?” Nick couldn’t mistake his curt attitude and, he assumed, neither could Sam.
“What are you doing here?”
“You lucked out, rookie. My unit is housed in your precinct. I’ll be busting your ass.”
“Okay, Withers. I see this as a test, right?”
He didn’t crack a smile. “I said I’d be busting your ass, but no. It’s the job of a first responder, and you, Detective Wright, happen to be that person.”
“I was the first on scene, yes. No one has gone into these woods since I’ve been here. No civilians to interview. The scene is safe. No assailant. On first look, I saw blood still oozing from wounds. So they’re somewhat fresh. The rain wasn’t pouring down so forcefully when I was under the shelter of the trees near the body. It’s a lot of cuts, more than ten at first glance. I got up after I fell. So you’ll have my DNA evidence that was transferred because my arms touched the branches, yeah Locard’s Exchange Principle, and there’ll be wet origin footprints. Didn’t notice any other footprints going to or away from body. Ooh, ooh ooh. There’s more!”
Oh, man. How old is she?
Nick bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.
“I knew I shouldn’t have taken the direct path to the body because that’s probably what the assailant did. But I had no choice. The bushes on either side are so dense. See them over there? So there was no other way to get through. I did, though, try not to tread in the water. Didn’t stick around to make exact count of cuts. Kept my arms straight down at my sides when I ran out and my eyes on the ground. Didn’t see any weapons or possible tools. Noticed the puddle water was red, right over there where I was standing when you pulled up. Splattered up on me as I jogged through it. I haven’t gone back to the body, but looked at it through this path.”
“While I was waiting for you, I took pics on my phone of my shoe prints, the soles of my shoes, which have mud embedded in them now, the splatter on my clothes, and I documented the time, and conditions with my ID. I also noted the exact time the rain started. Also made videos of the flow of the water from every angle, except directly from the body. As I said, I didn’t go in there again. In one of the videos when I replayed it, I found…” She set the video to pause on an object deep within a bush low to the ground and gave him the phone. “This oval white thing. Looks like a band of some kind. I didn’t touch the bush, or try to retrieve it. May have some blood residue, but I’m not sure. It’s down deep enough, so I can’t tell how much rain hit it. We actually shouldn’t even be standing here. It’s within three hundred feet of the scene. The body is less than twenty feet in. I’m thinking that the killer or killers wanted the body found. They could have taken it deeper into the woods. I did see some indentations in the ground that indicated a path. Took pics of that, too. Maybe they dragged the body. But they also raked up leaves and debris, and removed them, leaving a muddy path around the body. I fell butt down into that mud.” She twisted around to show them.
Nick couldn’t help but look at her perfectly rounded bottom. He had to turn away to conceal his burning cheeks. He saw Withers do the same.
“Maybe trying to outsmart us by removing what they considered to be evidence, so what we see on the surface may not be what really is. In removing stuff, they actually told us a lot. I’m getting the impression that because of this, the murder was premeditated, carefully planned, and not random. As I’m thinking, it could be a woman. Maybe she wasn’t strong enough to pull him farther, or it was more than one woman. Can’t tell if the wounds were post mortem and I definitely couldn’t see the COD. And it stinks. Had a full meal before he was offed, otherwise he wouldn’t have released fecal matter. I know it’s not dog poop, stepped in enough of that while jogging. Nope, this isn’t dog poop on my sneakers.”
She raised her foot to show Withers. He just stared at her with his eyes widened and his mouth slacked open.
“I stepped in it next to the body. Oh, and he was laid on his back, hands down at his sides, arms and legs intact, cuts on torso, eyes open, and—”
Withers cut her off. “Are you finished rambling? How in the hell are you going to remember what you just said? I don’t see your brown book. And I need your notes, Detective.”
“Oh.” Sam plucked her recording device from inside her bra. “Always have this with me. I turned it on when I came across the body. I also recorded my prelim before you got here.”
Withers blew out a breath. “You mean to tell me, rookie, you recorded what you saw and then proceeded to give me this long-winded ramble? So now I have to go through two fucking tapes? And your complaint form?”