Hi there! I'm thrilled to join this group of blogging mystery writers, Lethal Ladies Write!
I’m even more excited that award-winning crime fiction author, Kristi Belcamino, agreed to let me interview her for my debut post. I’ve been a fan of Kristi’s ever since reading an article, which showcased the opening lines of her debut novel, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD:
Another boyfriend pissed off with me over a dead body. Or in this case, two dead bodies.
How could I not keep reading? So I did. And then I *cough* stalked *cough* Kristi at a writer’s conference until she signed my copy of BATD.
Let's meet Kristi:
Kristi Belcamino is a Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Award-nominated author, a newspaper cops reporter, and an Italian mama who makes a tasty biscotti.
She writes books featuring strong, fierce, and independent women facing unspeakable evil in order to seek justice for those unable to do so themselves.
Her first novel in the Gabriella Giovanni Mystery Series, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, was inspired by her dealings with a serial killer during her life as a Bay Area crime reporter. She is also the co-author of LETTERS FROM A SERIAL KILLER, co-written with the mother of the girl kidnapped and killed by the serial killer who inspired BLESSED ARE THE DEAD. Her first YA novel, CITY OF ANGELS (Polis Books) was released in May 2017.
Thank you for joining us, Kristi. How did your career as a journalist influence your award winning *Gabriella Giovanni* mystery series? Is Gabriella semi-autobiographical?
When I was a newspaper reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was one story that changed my life. A little girl was kidnapped on her way to the school bus stop. I spent more than a year talking to the man who kidnapped and killed her. During our jailhouse interviews, the man soon revealed he was a long-time serial killer. He gave me horrific details of what he had done over the years.
A few years later, I had kids, quit my job and moved to Minneapolis. I had two little girls. I found myself growing increasingly paranoid. Even if they were playing in our fenced-in back yard, I would find myself constantly checking on them to make sure they were safe. I realized this was no way to live or raise children.
Because writing has always been a form of therapy, I sat down to write a book about the man who had told me details about such awful things. But when I sat down, it ended up becoming fiction. Writing the book was a form of therapy. I was able to get this guy out of my head. For the most part.
As far as being semi-autobiographical? Gabriella Giovanni is the polar opposite of me in many ways. She lives in the cool part of San Francisco where I could never afford to live. She is outgoing. I am introverted. And so on. Writing about Gabriella Giovanni’s life was a fun escape for me especially during Minnesota winters, where it was negative thirty degrees outside, and I was in my pajamas with two toddlers running around screaming. By turning on my computer, I could be Gabriella Giovanni taking a stroll through North Beach and eating a cannoli in the warm sun.
What inspired you to collaborate on LETTERS FROM A SERIAL KILLER with the mother of one of his victims? How do you find balance while submersing yourself in such a heartbreaking, senseless tragedy?
After lugging a giant box full of notebooks and letters from a serial killer (and even his birth certificate), I decided it was time to tell the story. Stephanie Kahalekulu, who had raised the little girl who was kidnapped and killed, had become a friend. We had kept in touch over the years and talked about sharing our letters and our stories. We trusted each other implicitly. It’s awful, and God knows, I can’t possibly compare my experience to what Stephanie has lived through, but the reality is we have a special bond because of our dealings with this man and what we know and what he told us.
The second part of your question – I keep my balance with my faith and with the knowledge that even in the darkest tragedies, there is always hope and light and goodness to be found.
Congratulations on the recent release of your debut young adult mystery, CITY OF ANGELS. What inspired you to change categories?
Living in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots was another experience in my life that made an indelible impression. In many ways, it shaped how I now live as an adult. When I had finished my first mystery, Blessed are the Dead, my agent told me to write another book that was completely different. At the time, I didn’t think I had another book in me, but one day sitting down in downtown Minneapolis with a stack of notecards and despairing of ever having another idea for a book, I remembered living in downtown Los Angeles. I thought, “That’s a story I can tell.”
What are you working on now?
I don’t know if it’s because I’m Italian-American, but I’m usually too superstitious to give very many details about my WIPs. I am writing a standalone thriller set in Minneapolis. It took me about thirteen years of living here before I felt I could authentically write about my new hometown. I think it’s the best book I’ve ever written. But I think every writer feels that way about their latest book.
In fiction writing, do you have any advice for up-and-coming mystery authors?
I’ve written about ten different answers to this question and erased them all. I think the only advice I can possibly offer is to write as much as possible, always be working to improve your craft, and don’t give up.
And for a few fun Kristi Belcamino facts:
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Beach or lake? Beach
Favorite dessert? Crème Brulee
Share an awkward/fun moment from your journalist days.
Just one? Oh man, there are soooo many. I suppose one is the time Jerry Seinfeld rolled his eyes at me. Nah, that just makes me grumpy to think about. I know, I have one about baseball great and Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson.
When I was writing for the Monterey Herald newspaper, I had written a story about a naked man driving down the road masturbating and causing a car crash. I’m sure some cop gave a great quote to make it even funnier.
That weekend my husband and I went to brunch at a restaurant where I knew the owners. When I walked in, they mentioned the story, and we laughed about it. About twenty minutes later when we were eating, I looked up, and the owner was standing there with Reggie Jackson. I practically spit out my eggs.
“Reggie wants to meet you.”
He’d been carrying around my newspaper article all week showing people, he said.
Having Jackson, aka Mr. October, ask to be introduced to me was very surreal. Definitely better than having a famous comedian roll his eyes at me. Oh, I forgot my Clint Eastwood story where there was a printing error in the newspaper and a big blob of ink-stained a picture of him. Every edition of the paper sh