Thursday, November 4, 2010
Interview with Sunny Frazier
Sunny Frazier is an author of astrology mysteries. Her newest work WHERE ANGELS FEAR is available from Oak Tree Press. What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?
WHERE ANGELS FEAR completes the phrase “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” from Alexander Pope's “An Essay on Criticism.” My first book is titled FOOLS RUSH IN. People think it comes from the Elvis Presley song. Alexander Pope is not as famous.
What is WHERE ANGELS FEAR about?
My shy astrologer Christy Bristol is asked to find a missing person using her skills with the horoscope. It leads her to the Veterans hospital, three homicides and a sex club. Christy also has a office job with the sheriff's department and her investigation steps on some major toes.
I pulled from my background as both an astrologer and 17 years in law enforcement. The story is built around a real sex club we investigated, a candy-cane striped building that we thought was a fruit and vegetable stand. I contend that in Fresno, where I worked, we can't even do sex right.
What books have most influenced your life most?
The absurdity of CATCH-22 had a big influence on me, especially since I was in the military when I read it. There was a book years ago called THE CRAZY LADIES that gave me an irreverence in my writing. Right now, Chuck Palahniuk is a factor. Wish I had the courage to write as boldly as he does.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
J.A. Jance. She has taken me under her wing on a number of occasions. Very early in my career she took me seriously. She even made two trips to Fresno upon my request to speak to Sisters in Crime. I have the utmost respect for her and proud to call her a friend and mentor.
What are your current projects?
I'm acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press, so I'm building careers for other authors. I'm also working on my next Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A SNITCH IN TIME. I speak on marketing and short story writing and I've been asked to fly to Puerto Vallarta (all expenses paid!) for a conference. I'm also going to Canada next year for Bloody Words. In two weeks I have Mystery on the High Seas, a conference I was asked to plan. We are sailing down the Mexican Riviera for a week with three days of conference. There's a Hollywood agent on board for pitches.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Since I retired, I feel I'm being drawn away from my law enforcement ties. It makes the books harder to write. On the other hand, I think Christy may find herself on a longer leash away from the office more and more. I plan to send her to Mexico and Puerto Rico. Let's see what kind of trouble she can get into!
I also set very tough challenges for myself with the astrology. Right now I'm trying to demonstrate astrology as a profiling tool. I'm not sure it's really possible. I also want to explore the universality of astrology by going to foreign countries. I've lived in Puerto Rico, so that's a start.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
“You can't promote what doesn't exist.” Get something out there. Publishing has never been easier with small presses, Kindle, e-books. Cyber-socialize and get name recognition before publication. Don't keep sitting on that finished manuscript. Take a risk. It's not the only book you'll write. Gotta start somewhere!
And, never use the word “it.” I hate to see that in novels. “It” is a nothing word. You can do better.
Here's Chapter One of WHERE ANGELS FEAR:
The slate sky and the last of the autumn leaves drifting to the gutters gave Christy Bristol a chill that had nothing to do with November. Being unfamiliar with the city of Kearny, she drove slowly through the section known as the Tower District looking for Harvard Avenue. All the streets she passed had Ivy League names, so she knew she was in the general vicinity.
"Why did I ever agree to make a house call?" she chided herself. All she needed was the date of birth to do a horoscope, and maybe the time if the customer knew it. In fact, meeting face-to-face only muddied the astrological waters. Without meaning to, she often picked up impressions which slanted her interpretations. No, voice contact was definitely safer.
Geneva Anders was a hard woman to refuse. "I need to meet you," she'd insisted. She offered to pay travel expenses from Coronita to Kearny, a distance of twenty-eight miles. She offered to pay the full fee, even if she decided against the horoscope.
The money was tempting--charting horoscopes on the side barely supplemented Christy's salary from her office job at the Central County Sheriff's Department. But she felt guilty doing astrology for cash. The people who needed her services the most were often the ones who could afford it the least.
The homes she passed were tidy, with neatly groomed gardens and wide verandas. Vassar, Princeton, Yale--and Harvard.
"I want to be sure you're the right one," Mrs. Anders insisted over the phone. "I can't waste my time on a fake." Not very diplomatic. Christy wasn't sure she wanted to be the "right one" but she confident enough as an astrologer to bristle at the suggestion she might be a fraud.
Coming out of the closet, astrologically speaking, had been difficult for Christy. Working in law enforcement and doing horoscopes on the side wasn't a good mix. But astrology simply acted as a conduit for something even stranger--an inherited psychic ability.
Other families passed down the fine china or good silver; in Christy's clan, maternal members handed down the DNA for ESP. And they'd been doing it for centuries.
Blessing or curse, the trait passed from grandmother to granddaughter, always skipping a generation. Grandma Dolly Good had been a formidable psychic in her time, but now her visions were blurred. Christy's sister, Celeste, had exceptional talent, but she hid it behind a habit of the Dominican order of nuns. She believed that visions and the ability to transmit her thoughts were gifts from God to do His work.
And Christy did horoscopes. The chart was a tool which opened her up to a universe of premonitions. The past, the future, swirled like a galaxy through her subconscious when a chart was strong. Astrology acted as a guide for this knowledge, good and evil, as it found its way to her. And it brought all sorts of people into the orbit of her life. Like Geneva Anders.
She turned on Harvard. The branches of the Chinese Elms on either side of the avenue grew toward each other high above the street, forming an arbor tunnel. It must be beautiful in the spring, she thought, like a lacy mantilla shading the lush avenue. But on this November afternoon, it looked like skeletal fingers intertwined over her head. A scattering of leaves clung to the limbs, fighting the inevitable.
Even on a street of dwellings that could vie for the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, the Anders' place stood out. It looked French, or what Christy expected she'd see in France if she ever made it to Europe. Blue tiles shingled the mansard roof, which angled sharply downward until it seemed within reach of the ground. Windows glittered with diamond patterns of multi-colored panes. French doors on the second floor backed a rounded balcony. Despite all its beauty, the house lacked warmth and charm.
She parked her car along the curb and walked up the flagstone pathway. She wrinkled her nose at the perfectly trimmed hedges. It looked too planned out, that's what was wrong. She'd take her apartment in Coronita over this place any day. The three-story, butter-yellow Victorian where she lived wasn't classy, but house had character. And characters. Her seventy-something landlady lived on the ground floor, and prissy Mr. Maciel resided in the attic. The roses were overgrown and the lilac went unfettered in spring. Even on the bleakest days, the house radiated warmth.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught the slight movement of the lace curtain as she approached.
Mrs. Anders took her time answering the knock, although Christy felt sure she'd been the one playing peek-a-boo at the window.
"You must be Ms. Bristol." The woman was small and in her mid-forties. Like her house, she was coolly turned out. Her blond hair folded into a French twist; not a wisp dared to escape. Her flawless makeup looked professionally done, and she appeared as comfortable in a silk pantsuit as Christy did at home in her comfy old robe. Until a few minutes ago, Christy felt appropriately dressed in good pants and a chenille sweater. Now she felt downright dowdy and ten pounds overweight next to Mrs. Anders' svelte frame.
In a living room that went beyond formal, Christy perched on the edge of a sofa that must have belonged to a Louie. The antique furniture had to be the real McCoy. Anders' money wouldn't settle for less.
"I don't normally go in for this sort of thing," began Mrs. Anders as she poured tea from a silver teapot into wafer-thin teacups. "But you come highly recommended."
Christy knew her reputation as an astrologer had grown in the ten years she'd lived in Coronita, where it was easy to be a big karmic fish in a small, liberal pond. Coronita, unlike the rest of Central County, was populated by artists and scholars and people who eagerly embraced New Age concepts.
In Coronita, Christy fit in almost too well.
She knew her reputation was by word-of-mouth, but exactly which cultured mouth recommended her to someone of Geneva Anders' ilk? She flipped through a mental Rolodex of client names, but none were monied folks. At least, not on the surface. Unlike Los Angeles in the south and San Francisco up north, wealthy people in the San Joaquin Valley were harder to spot than quail in season. Their dirt-caked boots might cost a thousand dollars, their plain ranch houses worth a half a mil. One family, the Newsome's, owned a spread so large they used the family helicopter to monitor fields of cotton, melon and alfalfa; they used a beat-up truck to shop at the Canned Food Warehouse.
The tea didn't taste like Lipton. It had a bitterness that made Christy want to reach for three more sugar cubes. Mrs. Anders drank hers straight. I bet even money she's a Virgo, thought Christy.
"Do you make your living from astrology?" Mrs. Anders asked, settling back into the damask of the armchair.
Feeling as if she were being interviewed, Christy said, "No, I work at the Sheriff's Department."
"Really?" The woman's source hadn't filled her in completely. "Are you a deputy?"
"Office assistant. I work at the Coronita substation."
Mrs. Anders had trouble hiding her disappointment. "I see. My husband and I are avid supporters of Sheriff Nolan. We contribute to his campaigns."
"I've never actually met the man, but I see him on the news a lot. I hear he's a great guy."
That was the only name Geneva Anders dropped. She got down to business and grilled Christy on her knowledge of astrology. The woman apparently did some research to prep for their chat. She came off sounding like the Spanish Inquisition. Christy fielded questions about rising signs and planetary conjunctions with ease. She even considered bull-shitting to see if Mrs. Anders understood her material. Finally, tired of the game, Christy put down her cup of tea and edged forward on the couch. "Mrs. Anders, do you want your horoscope done?"
"No, but I would like you to cast my husband's chart." A note of cream-colored, monogrammed stationery rested delicately on the coffee table next to the silver tray. Geneva Anders guided it to Christy with a manicured nail. "Here's his birth date."
"Is there any particular area of his life he wants me to look at?"
"No." Mrs. Anders' face broke out in a mottled blush which clashed with the neutral tones of her outfit and hair.
She wants to know if he's having an affair. The thought shot true like an arrow to the bullseye. Christy knew she was on target.
Normally, she backed off from horoscope requests with ulterior motives. She saw herself in the same role as a lawyer, doctor or priest. Her clients asked for her services and she kept what she found strictly confidential. Even when she did gift horoscopes she sealed them before handing them over, often to the disappointment of the person paying for the gift. Her only exception to the rule were horoscopes done on children. Those she gave to the parents. Raising kids was hard enough; more power to them if astrology could help.
She would make an exception for this horoscope. Not because Mrs. Anders was rich--she'd still charge a standard fee of thirty dollars--and not because she was flattered to be noticed by a classy client. Christy knew she would cast Avery Anders' horoscope because the minute she touched the page of stationery, she felt an urgency emanating from the paper. Her sixth sense picked up something she couldn't afford to ignore. Christy felt the familiar prickle of danger.
"I'll contact you when it's ready." She got up to leave.
"There's a bonus if you get it done quickly."
"If I rush, I might miss something important. But I'll make it a priority over others I'm doing."
Later, in the car and heading out of the city, the ominous feeling continued. Whatever trouble Avery Anders was in, it was beyond his wife's expectations. Christy had no doubts that it would show up in his chart--she just wasn't sure the horoscope would do any good.