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by Michael F. Stewart

My interviewee today is as interesting as her next novel Death by Misfortune. A novel which Literary Nymphs Reviews hails as “…a well written superb cop thriller that weaves a tale of Hollywood’s dirty little secrets.”

Here’s the cover copy:

After a glamorous studio party, “Psychic to the Stars” Sylvie Black is found murdered in her fortune telling booth, a blood soaked tarot reading spread out before her. Closeted Homicide detective, Bill Turner, and his partner, Kate Crandall, find themselves sorting through a cast of likely suspects, who all seem to have secrets worth killing for. They soon run up against the studio rumor mill, and Jeremy Reilly, a young studio AD determined to protect their prime suspect.

Tarot, murder mystery, celebrity and romance, a great combination. Please welcome AM Riley who has agreed to tell us more!

Hi AM Riley! I’m glad to have you here as I am fascinated by both your novel and the recent trend of women writing fiction with gay male protagonists, more on that later but first: Where did you get your inspiration for Death by Misfortune?

Death by Misfortune evolved from a story about a brother and sister who moved to Los Angeles and got involved in the crazy politics and dangers as a murder investigation reached into a production company.  The book evolved as the focus became the production assistants and their gossip mill.

The detective in Death by Misfortune is Bill Turner.  He and his partner, Kate Crandall, first appeared in my book “Amor en Retrogrado” which I released with Loose id.  Amor is probably my personal ‘history of gay rights in Los Angeles’ book because I take the reader through a super fast retro look at the 80s and 90s via the memories of a protagonist.  Bill gets his act together a little more in ‘Death’ and I have a sequel slowly evolving (very very slowly – I write at a snail’s pace)  in which he bounces back and forth from extremes of militant political correctness to paranoia while coming out of the closet.  There is nothing more exhausting than a newly ‘out’ friend, imho.

Can you tell us more about the relationships in your novels and how they drive the narrative? Jeremy and Becket, Bill and Chris and Kate?

I like my characters to be emotionally invested in the solution to the crimes.  Jeremy, in this book, is very invested in Becket, a prime suspect.  I wanted the reader to feel as anxious about Becket’s probable guilt as Jeremy does.  Bill is one of those cops who lives for his job.  His relationship with Christopher is, he fears, a weakness.  I hope he is coming to recognize that Christopher gives him strength.  Kate has drama in her personal life, as well.  She’s smart and knows that Bill is making her look good.  There’s annoyance, suspicion and resentment there, as well as admiration.  These murders bring some of Bill’s secrets to light and Kate’s reaction to him hiding things from her will be interesting.

You needed to know a lot about tarot, movie production and police procedure to pull this off, how do you research?

I’m a film editor and I’ve been working in the industry for almost twenty years.  I wanted an opportunity to write about the ‘real’ industry, not the glitz and glamour I often see portrayed in film and television.  The tarot in this book is a bit of a red herring.  Bill Turner knows nothing about tarot and continues in his ignorance throughout so, despite the fact that I have a close friend who ‘does’ studio parties as a tarot reader, the book does NOT work as a manual on tarot.

I’ve been reading procedurals, participating in drive alongs and pestering my local PD for years. I still feel that my knowledge is sketchy but I do try to double check facts before typing.  And I have a pal that does a quick read through.  He likes to skip the ‘sexy’ bits though.

Generally speaking most authors aren’t as interesting as the protagonists in their books. I’ll go out on a limb here and say you might be an exception. Can you tell me more about yourself?

I’d say that politically, I am first and foremost a feminist.  I’m liberal and believe in basic rights for everyone but I have a problem with misogynists and pederasts.

I was married to a man and have a daughter, but I prefer women.  Though I work in the film industry.  I’m not famous, I’m one of the many grunts running around in dark dank offices trying to get the work done on time.  I have lived in Los Angeles since I was eighteen and ran like heck to the West Coast where my girlfriend and I imagined we could live openly.  She moved on but I stayed.  I love L.A.

I grew up in a Chicago hockey family. I’ve got a broken tooth and a scar on my leg to prove it.

Go Blackhawks.

You publish with an imprint that produces a lot of MM romance, how would you classify your writing?

MLR Press is not the only publisher I write for.  I’ve written quite a few books with lesbian and heterosexual characters, too.  There are erotic moments in my books but mostly I’d say I write thrillers with romantic elements.  Or at least that is what I aspire to write.  I’ve found it easier to get my male gay characters an audience of late because of the popularity of the m/m genre.  I think a lot of the people I know who write gay characters have been discovering the same.

I know a lot of MM and gay writing is written by straight women in particular. Do you fall into the latter category (if you don’t mind my asking!)? What are your thoughts on the trend?

I’m bisexual.  I like writing gay or lesbian characters because those are the people I know in my real world.  Bisexuals have their own set of prejudices to work with and I have a book in the WIP folder right now that features a bisexual protag who is constantly having to prove to her lover that she is not promiscuous or flighty.  And when she falls for a man she has her own special issues to grapple with.

Many of the current crop of m/m books are penned by lesbians, as it happens.  There is a small history of this.  “The Charioteer” was written by a lesbian.  Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote “The Catch Trap” as well as a few villainous gay characters in her Darkover series.  I believe there is a gender neutral or maybe you’d call it a ‘gender queer’ place in a writer’s mind.  Gay relationships step outside conventional heterosexual presumptions a lot of the time.  That is fertile ground for a writer.

I don’t know why straight women like reading m/m exactly.  I’ve seen a lot of blogs address this topic.  There is already a long established history of yaoi in Japan which is very popular with straight women, apparently.  So it’s not exactly a new phenomenon.

So you’ve written in a number of genres drama, BDSM, mystery, paranormal…Would you say you are first and foremost a mystery writer?

I aspire to be a mystery writer.  I’m still in process of ‘becoming’ a writer.  I’ve got a fantasy in the works and some ‘just for fun’ domestic discipline fiction out there.  But I like the structure of mysteries and the way they reveal character.  They are some of my favorite books to read.  I crave ‘justice’ and the bad guy/gal getting their just desserts. As I’m evolving, I find that I prefer mystery with romantic elements, to romance with a mystery wrapped around it.

What does AM Riley do for fun?

I write for fun.  That sounds pretty sad, doesn’t it?  When the blood starts to pool in my ass, I get up and hike with my dogs.  Los Angeles has a lot of great hiking areas, and I’ve always enjoyed exploring the city by foot.  I watch Ice Hockey during the season and skate at a local rink whenever I can.  And I read.  Gobs.  I’ll get hooked on one writer and read him/her until I hear his/her voice in my head even when I’m not reading.  I read all of Michael Connelly in one month, a few years back.  Dorothy Sayers and Charlie Huston, recently.  I’m currently re-reading Marion Zimmer Bradley. I’m also an avid amateur orchid gardener.

Last question: If you weren’t a writer what would you like to be?

I’d be the NHL’s first female right winger.  Until a boarding incident permanently damaged some essential limb.  Then I’d be a sports announcer.  LOL

I love film editing.  I think I’ll do it for a while yet.

Thanks for the interview!

AM Riley is a film editor and amateur poet living and working in Los Angeles, California. In addition to writing thrillers, mysteries and erotic paranormals, Riley enjoys police blogs, politics and Ice Hockey.  To learn more about AM Riley visit her website.

Michael F. Stewart
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