Interview with Connie di Marco, author of The Madness of Mercury, a hot new paranormal-themed mystery from Midnight Ink!
PYN: Tell us about your latest book!
Connie: Hi Kirsten ~ The Madness of Mercury is the first book in the new Zodiac Mystery series. Julia Bonatti, my amateur sleuth, is a San Francisco astrologer who never thought murder would be part of her practice. She planned on a teaching career and a quiet life with her fiancé, but when he’s killed in a hit and run accident she can no longer continue. She turns to astrology to find answers and instead discovers a talent for helping others and embarks on a new career.
Julia writes an astrological advice column, AskZodia, for the city’s newspaper. When she receives a letter from a woman concerned that her mother must donate her property and savings to a church, Julia speaks out and advises the woman to investigate this so-called church. Unwittingly, she becomes the target of the city’s recently-arrived cult leader, the Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. She’s harassed and threatened and ultimately forced out of her apartment by his followers, the Army of the Prophet. That’s just the beginning of her troubles, because every step she takes leads her deeper into danger until she ultimately discovers a murderer much closer to home.
PYN: What prompted you to write this book or series?
Connie: I’ve always wanted to set a mystery in San Francisco. It’s a fascinating city with many different faces, not to mention the home of a lot of fictional detectives, all the way back to Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. I also wanted to create a protagonist with an unusual profession and astrology seemed to fit the bill. In her practice, Julia comes into contact with all sorts of people from all walks of life. There’s no end to the situations she can become embroiled in.
PYN: I have a soft spot for paranormal-themed mysteries. But what type of mystery is this? Cozy? Noir?
Connie: Julia’s an amateur sleuth which automatically puts her into a cozy category, but I think of these stories as traditional mysteries. The Madness of Mercury isn’t hard-boiled at all, but does have a heavy dystopian element given the power that the evil Reverend Roy wields. I also like to put my characters into dangerous situations so I guess you could say there are thriller elements in this particular book too. Madness has a hint of the paranormal with a séance and a possible ghost, plus a bevy of characters who practice the occult arts.
PYN: I love the Mercury Retrograde angle! Can you tell our readers about what makes Mercury Retrograde so problematic?
Connie: So much has been made of Mercury retrograde! It isn’t really dire or terrible at all. When the planet appears to be in retrograde motion from the viewpoint of the earth, it’s a time when communications gets tangled, lost or generally messed up. Checks are lost in the mail. An email doesn’t go through. Schedules change and deadlines are missed. Mercury rules anything to do with communications (and writing) and so, for example, it’s not a good time to sign contracts or make written commitments.
The Mercury theme and the mythology of Mercury crops up throughout the book. We all remember that Mercury was the messenger of the gods, but he was a shady character. He ruled over crossroads where suicides were buried and could pass between the domains of the living and the dead. A pivotal character in the book suffers from a badly aspected Mercury in her chart. She’s stubborn, perverts reality, her thinking is skewed. The evil Reverend Roy is a Mercury ruled character. He’s a silver-tongued Gemini who uses his gifts to manipulate others.
PYN: What sort of research did you do for your astrologer character?
Connie: I’ve always been fascinated by astrology and many other occult subjects and over the years I’ve collected a small library. I didn’t have to do much research to create Julia, but I did have to do some work planning realistic charts for my characters – both murderers and victims. I wanted each of them to have a “real” natal chart that Julia uses to solve crimes. This involved playing around a lot with the positions of the planets so that one victim could have a chart that might indicate a propensity for getting into trouble. I wanted any mention of a birthdate to be authentic, especially if someone who knew a lot about astrology happened to read my book.
PYN: Can you tell us one fun/interesting paranormal fact you learned in your research?
Connie: Well, strangely enough, when I chose the title – The Madness of Mercury – it was a reference to the dark side of the god. What I didn’t know was that it’s a term for a neurological disorder caused by the inhalation of mercury fumes. Hat makers were particularly susceptible to this. It was news to me, but it still works for the title because it implies a condition of insanity.
PYN: What’s next?
Connie: The next book in the series will be titled All Signs Point to Murder. Originally, I thought I’d use the name of a planet for each book, but the new title was the publisher’s choice and I think it’s a good one.
PYN: Anything else you’d like to add?
Connie: Julia’s best friend runs The Mystic Eye, an occult bookshop in North Beach that Julia spends a lot of time at. And occasionally volunteers her services for their psychic fairs. I hope to incorporate some of the fun practitioners of the occult arts that Julia rubs shoulders with — past life readers, psychics, Tarot readers, Wiccans – lots of fun characters.
Kirsten ~ thanks so much for inviting me! I hope you and your readers will enjoy Julia’s adventures in San Francisco!
Book title: The Madness of Mercury
Publish date: June 8, 2016
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Specific tags: mystery, San Francisco, astrology, North Beach, cults
About the book: The Zodiac Mysteries feature San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part of her practice. Julia sought answers and found solace in astrology after the death of her fiancé in a hit and run accident. Since then, she’s successfully built a clientele of the city’s movers and shakers.
In The Madness of Mercury, Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, makes her the target of a recently-arrived cult preacher who advocates love and compassion to those less fortunate. B ut the power-hungry preacher is waging war on sin and his Army of the Prophet will stop at nothing to silence those who would stand in his way. Julia is at the top of his list.
This smartly written debut from di Marco (who wrote the Soup Lover’s Mystery series as Connie Archer) sets the stage for a promising series.
~ Kirkus Reviews
di Marco’s series starter features a clever plot and a smart and feisty heroine with feet firmly planted on the ground while she searches the stars.
~ Library Journal
Links for The Madness of Mercury:
About the Author
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury is the first in the series. Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the Soup Lover’s Mysteries set in Vermont 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, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.
Social media links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/zodiacmysteries/ (Connie di Marco Author)