Interview with Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra, Author of Hanging Softly in the Night
22 Dec 2020
What can you tell us about your new release, Hanging Softly in the Night?
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 or who inspired you to become an author?
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…
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Wow. How to choose? Some of these may be obscure to some readers, but they impacted me a lot. The order I’ve placed them does not mean order of importance. And there are many, many more.
Romeo and Juliet — William Shakespeare
The Crystal Cave – Mary Stewart
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
Green Darkness – Anya Seton
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
Shakespeare. Hands-down. Would love to ask him how he remained so prolific in an era with no writing technology, of political turmoil (and greatness), and where he came up with such wonderful vocabulary choices and his narrative style. Would love to ask his reading lists as well.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
The creation of my characters, main and secondary, and how they interact with one another. Love to write dialogue.
What is a typical day like for you?
Typical day: Wake up at six. Pray. Get coffee. Answer emails and do marketing, as necessary. Check sales. By 9 am, I am writing or, at least, in front of my computer. Sometimes the scenes flow. Other times, I struggle to write. Usually, the latter happens when my subconscious is not happy with the way the scene is written. After 2 or 3 days of struggle and utter dissatisfaction, I realize I have to discard what is there and start again. By then, the new scene is right and it works.
What scene from Hanging Softly in the Night was your favorite to write?
Actually, it was the first chapter of Hanging Softly in the Night that was my favorite scene to write. Loved setting up the storyline, the suicide, the presentation of all my main characters (Larson’s team I call them), the first gut suspicion, the red herrings, and the “what is really going on” question.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Yes. What my character, Richard Harrison, told Gabriela Martinez, the woman he was protecting, in my first novel, The Coin: “Life is too damn short. In a second, everything could go up in smoke.”
Words to live by.
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