By Ovidia Yu
Before coming to NUN TOO SOON, let me say I love the personalities in your earlier books—Giulia, her boss/ partner/husband, and the rest of their friends and office staff. Do they all reappear in NUN TOO SOON, which is being marketed as the first in the Giulia Driscoll mystery series rather than the fourth in the Falcone & Driscoll series? Are these characters based on real people? And why the change in the series name?
Thank you! Yes, Giulia, Frank, Sidney, and their friends and significant others are all in the new series. When Henery Press and I discussed the series, we decided on a reboot, in essence. We have a short story available for free on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Kobo that bridges the gap between Veiled Threat, the last in the old series, and NUN TOO SOON. It’s called “Changing Habits.” Giulia has a mystery to solve, of course, and (SPOILER ALERT!) at the same time she’s dealing with all the craziness of her upcoming marriage to Frank.
In the new series, Frank’s rehabbed his knee and is back as a detective on the police force. Giulia is running Driscoll Investigations on her own, with Sidney as her assistant and a near-genius MIT geek named Zane as her new admin.
Frank and Giulia are both strong personalities, and jointly running the business caused a lot of friction. Sidney was about to give them boxing lessons as a Christmas gift. So they came up with the current solution, which has saved both the business and their marriage. That’s why the new series uses Giulia’s name alone—she’s in charge.
None of the characters are based on real people. Well, the Superior General in Back in the Habit may possibly have been loosely based on my former Superior General. But without the drug-running and other nasty illegal goings-on. But other than that, no. The characters are all out of my crowded head.
The villains in your books are extremely villainous! Not what one expects from a convent cozy… (which your books aren’t). How do you come up with them?
The idea of a convent cozy makes me think of a bunch of nuns knitting and grading papers and snarking at each other throughout! I won’t write that one. Writing Back in the Habit gave me enough convent flashbacks to last a lifetime.
I grew up watching Hammer horror movies with my dad, and I’ve been watching horror all my life. Horror villains, especially werewolves and vampires are often about hiding their true nature. The villains I enjoy the most are the ones who think they’re actually the good guys. That dichotomy makes it harder for Giulia to figure them out, which in turn makes the danger closer and more intense.
Don’t look for vampires in this mystery series, though. That is, unless I write a Halloween mystery.
How closely does Giulia’s experience of life beyond the convent walls match your own? In what ways is she different? How do you feel about Cosmo? Will you ever take your readers through the dark times Giulia went through as a nun?
Only two parts of Giulia’s post-convent experience and my own match: Learning how to dress like a normal person, and re-learning how to put on makeup. I’m very glad YouTube wasn’t around when I put on high heels for the first time in four years. I was less than graceful. It was funny.
Giulia is tightly wound. She’s a stickler for rules and about doing things the proper way. She’s loosening up a bit now that she’s hanging out with Laurel and Anya (her soup kitchen friends) and especially with Sidney. Sidney has perkiness and enthusiasm enough for three people.
As for me, well, I was a troublemaker in the convent. I liked to bend the rules. So Giulia and I have very few points that touch, especially about flavored coffee. I don’t know how Giulia can drink that stuff.
I think Cosmo magazine is a hoot. When Giulia decided to give herself a crash course in how to interact with men, what better choice, she thought, than a magazine with all those relationship teasers on the front cover? She was extremely innocent back in the day. Now she reads it to keep Frank on his toes.
Back in the Habit is as close as Giulia’s adventures will come to her bad days in the convent. Giulia’s moved on. That’s not to say there won’t be more mysteries involving nuns she knows. You never can tell who’s going to walk through Driscoll Investigations’ door.
In NUN TOO SOON Giulia investigates Roger Fitch for fraud and murder with a silk tie. Without giving too much away, could you tell us a little about the book and how this case differs from Giulia’s previous cases?
Roger Fitch is an impossible client for good reason. Everyone thinks he killed his girlfriend and he’s about to go on trial for her murder. The evidence is circumstantial, but there’s a boatload of it. Giulia is all about justice, so she agrees to try and clear Fitch. This gets Giulia into all kinds of situations, including a food fight between two of Fitch’s current girlfriends. There’s also a TMZ-like pair of “investigative reporters” hounding Fitch and Giulia. On top of that, Sidney’s a few days away from giving birth to her first baby. It’s chaos.
This case is the first time we see Giulia in charge on her own. In earlier books, Frank was giving her directions and running the show. Now she’s in charge of all the separate elements: tracking down witnesses, prying information out of them, putting the pieces together, and all of it on a timeline of less than two weeks. She has to learn to delegate and to trust that Sidney and Zane will do their parts. An untrustworthy client doesn’t help. She does use Frank as a sounding board for ideas, and continues to charm Frank’s boss into helping with the occasional bit of information.
Cosmo did a few things for Giulia after all.
I’m looking forward to NUN TOO SOON and its sequels. But would you like to tell us about And You Shall Find, which sounds very different? Do you find it difficult switching between light-hearted investigations and post-apocalyptic horror?
You know all that horror I mentioned watching? And all those years in the convent? And You Shall Find is the result. I know religion and I know horror, and not much separates them. I was a Cradle Catholic, and I took everything drummed into me by the Church, added all those years of horror to create And You Shall Find. I loved writing it, partly because it’s the polar opposite of my Giulia Driscoll mysteries.
Writing Giulia is fun like jigsaw puzzles are fun. Writing post-apocalyptic horror is fun in its own twisted way. Eclectic, I am it.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not writing? What are some of your favorite reads? Your favorite brownies?
Bad horror movies! The kind where you can see the zipper in the monster costume and the characters are all too stupid to live. I have a humongous collection of them, and of MST3K episodes. The MST3K guys know their bad horror. We’re on the same wavelength.
I also knit and play a few musical instruments. And bake. I love to bake.
My favorite authors will come as no surprise: Dickens, H. P. Lovecraft, and Patricia Wentworth. Dickens created some of the most memorable characters ever. HPL, despite his many flaws, wrote some of the best psychological horror. Patricia Wentworth wrote dozens of light mysteries with a touch of romance. When I started to write Giulia, I had Wentworth’s mysteries in mind. They’re fun reads and justice prevails.
In conclusion, let me introduce you to my Killer Brownies. When you make these, never tell anyone how easy they are. Just sit back and bask in the chocoholic compliments.
Alice Loweecey’s Killer Brownies
2- 13 x 9 cake pans
2-pkgs brownie mix (I use store-brand dark chocolate)
1 batch chocolate frosting (below)
Prepare two boxes of brownie mix as directed. Undercook them very slightly (2-3 minutes). This will usually avoid crusty edges that will have to be sliced off.
Cut brownies into quarters. Take out matching piece from each pan. Spread frosting on one piece. Frost only about ¼” thick. Place other section on top. Repeat for remaining pieces of brownie.
Place all 4 giant pieces back into one pan and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. This will make them easy to cut; otherwise, the frosting gloops out when you try to cut them. Cut each piece into 4-5 strips, then cut strips into 1” squares (approx.).
About 1-1/8 cups
1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, divided
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3-4 tbl milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
In small bowl, beat 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa, butter, 1 tbl milk, and vanilla until creamy. Gradually add remaining sugar alternately with remaining milk. Beat until smooth.
Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer Horror and Scooby-Doo Mysteries, which might explain a whole lot. When she’s not creating trouble for Giulia Falcone-Driscoll, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).
To learn more about Alice, please visit her website.