Cathi Stoler’s newest Nick Donahue adventure, OUT OF TIME, is a full-blown, adventure-packed novel which pulls from current events. She manages to entertain and enlighten her reader with both the premise and characters.
Nick is a unique protagonist. One doesn’t often find a gambler in the middle of this type of adventure story, though he does seem authentic. When life forced me to put the novel aside, I couldn’t wait to get back to Nick and the other characters.
OUT OF TIME takes you from New York to Kentucky, to Dubai, and back. In this adventure, Nick and his partner, PI Marina DiPietro, are hired by billionaire Adnan bin Haddad to protect his thoroughbred racehorse from death threats but, as they investigate, they uncover the real threat.
Stoler’s wonderful way with words and her ability to intersperse humor are no surprise given her career as a writer of award-winning ad campaigns.
A native New Yorker, Stoler has traveled the world and spent time working in advertising. Her life experience shines through in her writing. In a short period of time she has written an impressive collection of novels.
In addition to the novella and novel that showcase Nick Donohue, there is a series that features a PI and magazine editor and a new book about a female bar owner. There are also a couple of short stories to her credit, two of which were finalists for the Derringer for Best Short Story.
This exclusive interview for The Big Thrill provides more insight into Stoler and her writing career.
What was your inspiration for the Nick Donahue adventures?
I wanted to write a book with a strong male protagonist and remembered being in Venice at a beautiful casino filled with elegant and well-dressed people. I thought someone like one of the Blackjack players, at home in this type of International setting, who also can’t help getting into trouble, would be very appealing to write about and to read about.
While Nick is much more down-to-earth than those Venetian players, he’s also extremely clever, cool and calculating—traits that serve him well as a professional Blackjack player and as an amateur sleuth. I want readers to become totally involved in Nick’s scheme to figure out how to thwart the bad guys and literally save the day from a weapon of mass destruction. While the book has a mystery/thriller edge, I believe readers will be captivated by Nick’s personality and his unique character.
Do you pull story ideas from current events or do they just “come to you”?
Many of my stories are based on events that happen in real life. OUT OF TIME deals with terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, which unfortunately, we know very well. In previous novels, the plots have included repatriated art stolen by the Nazis, identity theft, international jewel theft, major fraud, and serial killers. Of course, I added my own spin to each of these ideas.
Your background is in fashion and advertising. What made you choose to write mystery/suspense novels?
I think the idea of writing a novel was somewhere in the back of my mind for many years. Some of my characters are into fashion and food, but the focus is always on solving a crime. I loved reading mystery and suspense novels since I was a young girl and finally had the courage to try writing one. OUT OF TIME is my sixth published novel and I look forward to writing many more.
Writing is rewriting. At this stage of your career how many drafts does it take for you to feel a manuscript is finished?
I often revise as I go, re-reading work from the day before and making changes before I move forward. It can slow the progress of the book, but I like to change or add to scenes as I’m thinking about them. Making changes along the way, it usually takes me two rewrites before I’m satisfied. And then, of course, there are changes from my editor.
What is your favorite scene in OUT OF TIME and why?
I have a few scenes I really like but one stands out in particular. In it, Nick rolls the dice and goes all in as he follows Tommy B, a New York mob boss, and the members of his crew from a warehouse to the Brown Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. Sipping a drink and hiding behind a newspaper to avoid detection, he watches them from a table at the bar, thinking he is being clever. Until, that is, one of Tommy’s goons comes over and delivers a note from the capo di tutti capi himself: This one’s on me, Nick. See you soon. Tommy. To me, this scene shows Nick as a strong, yet vulnerable character who puts aside his fear to get the job done.
If you could start your writing career over, is there anything you would do differently?
Yes. I’d start writing much sooner. I didn’t begin until I well was into my advertising career. It takes a long time to create and finish a novel, find an agent, editor, and publisher.
Do you have a specific word or page goal you set for yourself each day? How long did it take you to complete OUT OF TIME?
No. I don’t have a specific number of words planned for each day. When I sit down to write, I try to aim for one or two good scenes, probably between 500 and 1,000 words each. Some days, I just take a walk and think through where the book is going and how to structure the next scene.
What one thing would you like to share that people may not know about you or your writing?
When I was a child, I dreamt of becoming a spy. While my novel is not a spy story, it does contain a lot of intrigue, which satisfies that desire on some level.
Do you believe aspiring authors should “write what they know” or “what they want to know more about?”
Write what you want to know more about. It opens up a world of possibilities for stories and can expand your knowledge of so many things.
What do you enjoy the most about being an author?
The writing itself. Creating characters, plots and voices that tell a compelling story is the best part.
Cathi Stoler’s latest series, with professional Blackjack player Nick Donahue, includes just-published OUT OF TIME and its sequel, Nick of Time. Her urban thriller, Bar None, features Corner Lounge bar owner Jude Dillane. The second book in the series, Last Call, will be published in 2020. She is a three-time finalist & winner of the 2015 Derringer for Best Short Story, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens.” Cathi is on the board of Sisters in Crime NY, and a member Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.