San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti’s life is turned upside down when she becomes a target of the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. The Reverend, a recently-arrived cult preacher, is determined to drive sin from the city, but his gospel of love and compassion doesn’t extend to those he considers an “abomination unto the Lord.” Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, has put her at the top of the Reverend’s list. While the powerful Mercury-ruled preacher woos local dignitaries, his Army of the Prophet will stop at nothing to silence not just Julia, but anyone who stands in his way.
Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who’s caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long-lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. One aunt slides deeper into psychosis while the other disappears. Is this young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia’s not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn’t merely the messenger of the gods – he was a trickster and a liar as well.
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: October 9, 2020
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN: 0578752654 (ISBN13: 9780578752655)
Series: Zodiac Mystery #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the series will be re-released in October 2020.
Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.
Q&A with Connie di Marco
What was the inspiration for this book?
The initial inspiration for this story was the history of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple in San Francisco. I was living in the city at the time of Jones’ fame and was horrified when news of the mass murders in the jungle and the shooting of a California Congressman and others broke.
But it was the mythology of Mercury that made this story come together. Mercury was a messenger of the gods, but he also represented much darker concepts. He ruled over crossroads, he escorted the dead on their final journey, and on top of all that, he was a liar and a trickster. Jones was a silver-tongued preacher, undoubtedly with a powerful Mercury in his chart, powerful enough to convince others to follow him and give up autonomy over their own lives. He used his ‘Mercury gifts’ to control others. My evil preacher, the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle, is just as evil but perhaps a little less mad.
What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?
Oddly enough, while writing the Zodiac series and waiting and hoping my agent would be able to sell these books, I was offered a three-book deal from Penguin to write a cozy series. It was about the last thing I ever expected. So there I was, an unpublished writer, faced with completing three books for one of the biggest publishers. Could I produce something acceptable? Hopefully, something much more than acceptable? I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I had signed a contract. Fear is a great motivator, so convincing myself that I could actually do this was probably my biggest challenge and a great learning experience.
What do you absolutely need while writing?
I need absolute focus, complete quiet, no music and best of all no interruptions. I think that’s why I’ve always written at night. The house is quiet, the phone stops ringing, there’s no place I need to go. Sometimes all of that is impossible, but I do my best to achieve it. I think we write best when we can step into our stories completely and feel like our characters are real people. After all, we live with them for such a long time while we write.
Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?
With my first series, the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries, I was under a contract that required submitting each finished manuscript every eight months. I had to stick to a routine. I’d write from about 9 PM to 11 or midnight, as long as my brain would work. On weekends, I’d put in anywhere from three to six hours of writing.
Now that I’m not under such a tight schedule, I have a lot more freedom. The truth of the matter is that in the process of writing a book, I’m haunted. The story nags me and takes over my brain until I reach the end of my first draft. Once that first draft is finished, I breathe a little easier. There’s still a lot of work to do, but by then I feel I have something solid to work with.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
I think Jack, Lucky’s grandfather in the Soup Lovers’ series, pops into my mind first. Jack’s a loving but eccentric elderly man, a Navy vet, who suffers from episodes of PTSD. Jack tells time by the bells and only Lucky can interpret. He calls the walls the bulkhead and the floors, the deck. Without thinking of it consciously, I created an amalgam of my dear dad and my ex-father-in-law. So, Jack’s still my favorite in that series.
In the Zodiac Mysteries, I’ve had a lot of fun creating unusual characters, like Zora, the cranky psychic, and Nikolai, the Russian past-life regression hypnotist. I love them all, but if I have to pick just one, I’d say Kuan Lee. Kuan is an old friend of Gloria, Julia’s grandmother. He lives in the first floor apartment of Gloria’s house and practices Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Julia considers him family. He’s always there to give her good advice, to help her see problems or crimes from a different perspective and Julia’s grateful for his advice. He’s a Yoda figure who can shift the paradigm of the story.
Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?
Least favorite character in Madness? Okay, I’ve got it. It’s Gudrun, the companion of the elderly ladies on Telegraph Hill. She’s a larger than life woman, surly, taciturn, who speaks with a German accent and tries to control the household. She’s been hired to look after the elderly aunts, but in reality, she’s committed to the forces of darkness. I can’t say much more about Gudrun, it would be a spoiler.
I love all my characters, especially the bad ones! I think you have to get into the head of villains as much as sleuths. And with certain exceptions, I’ve made the killer or killers sympathetic characters. The exploration of what would cause someone to take a human life is one of the more fascinating things about crime writing – whether a thriller or a culinary cozy. Even the bad guys have reasons for what they do.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
I like to use locations that I know personally, particularly locations that could be threatening or chilling at the right time of day or night. I try to imagine how they would work in a crime story. Chrissy Field, an old military installation, now updated as a beautiful park with modern facilities, would be a good place to find a body at night in the fog. In the next book in the series, the murderer attempts to use the currents under the Golden Gate Bridge to dispose of bodies. Most physical addresses in the books don’t really exist, but Julia’s apartment does. It’s real. I know because I used to live there.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I just hope my readers will be entertained and enjoy the stories. And best of all, want to come back for more.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in Boston. I grew up there and went to school there. I majored in biology in college and worked as a lab technician until I realized I didn’t want to spend my life in a lab, so I changed my major to English lit, the quickest way to escape college. My real love was always acting. As a kid, I worked with Boston Children’s Theatre and then years later, on the west coast, returned to that professionally. I’ve always held a day job, but I’ve spent years working in TV for the most part. One day, I was on a set, chatting with one of the assistant directors about stories and films and I realized I was creatively bored. That’s when I decided to try to write a mystery – just one, that was my goal. And look what happened! Here I am, still writing.
What’s next that we can look forward to?
Next up is Book 2 in the series, All Signs Point to Murder. Because these first three books are being re-released by my new publisher, they’ll be coming out very quickly. All Signs will be released on December 1st. Book 3, Tail of the Dragon should be out about a month after that.
Then a novella, Enter a Wizard, Stage Left, will be released in e-book format. That story is set before the series actually begins and the action of the story takes place at a theater production of an Agatha Christie play and of course, there’s a murder! Then finally, Book 4, Serpent’s Doom, will be out. Book 5 is finished but needs a bit more work and I guess then I’ll start thinking about Book 6.
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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Connie di Marco. There will be two (2) winners each receiving one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on December 1, 2020 and runs through January 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.