New thriller and author interview from Kathleen Valenti: Protocol

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Freshly minted college graduate Maggie O’Malley embarks on a career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past. As a pharmaceutical researcher, she’s determined to save lives from the shelter of her lab. But on her very first day she’s pulled into a world of uncertainty. Reminders appear on her phone for meetings she’s never scheduled with people she’s never met. People who end up dead.


With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers the victims on her phone are connected to each other and her new employer. She soon unearths a treacherous plot that threatens her mission—and her life. Maggie must unlock deadly secrets to stop horrific abuses of power before death comes calling for her.

Kathleen, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little about your protagonist Maggie? 

Maggie O’Malley is a 20-something coming into her own. She just got her first real job at an up-and-coming pharmaceutical, moved out of her childhood home and is finally fulfilling her dream of helping humankind through pharmaceuticals. She’s a self-professed nerd, the girl who skipped the dance to do extra credit in biology. She’s also smart, gutsy, loyal, shy—and has no idea how strong she really is.

How much do you and Maggie have in common? 

There’s more than a little bit of me in Maggie, although my nerd-dom is more bookish and linguistic. (Math and science make me want to run screaming from the room!) Despite our differences in age (Maggie is—ahem—a good deal younger), she’s more self-possessed and brave than I am. If we were to meet, I know we’d be fast friends. She might not understand my emotionality (she’s very stoic), but we both speak the same language: movie quotes.

Will your characters change as the series progresses?

Maggie grows quite a bit between PROTOCOL and 39 WINKS. Life-threatening experiences tend to have that effect. She’s stronger, less retiring and has learned not so much what she wants out of life, but rather what she doesn’t. That’s an important lesson for us all.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

No, although I did turn a real-life bad guy into a fictional one in my second book, 39 WINKS. Sweet revenge!

I know you can’t give us any more details, but I’d like to hear more about that! How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

My setting is 100% fictional. I considered setting the series in Oregon, either in my hometown or a more populous area like Portland, but neither provided the kind of educational opportunities or industries that my protagonist—and my story—needed. In the end, the fictional Midwestern cities of Collinsburg and Greenville suited my needs. They have the just-right sizes (large and small), amenities, weather and ambiance I wanted, while offering the infinity flexibility of fiction.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

Maggie would definitely be played by Emma Stone, Constantine by Adrian Grenier (Vince from “Entourage”) and Ethan by Chris Pine. I just need the call from a major studio to make it happen. (ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease)


What’s the worst and best advice you’ve received as an author?

The best advice I received was from a romance novelist who told me to set word count goals—and then meet them—every single day. This got me out of the loop of editing the same sentence over and over again without progressing.

I wouldn’t say I’ve encountered any “worst” advice—maybe just advice that wasn’t a good fit for me. I think that can often be the case. What works for one writer may not work for another. We’re all different, after all, and that’s a beautiful thing!

About the Author

When Kathleen Valenti isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. Protocol is her debut novel and the first of the Maggie O’Malley mystery series. Kathleen lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running.

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New Thriller from Crooked Lane: Lies She Told

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Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.

Liza Cole has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. With stresses weighing her down in both her professional and her personal lives, Liza escapes into writing her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the same river and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

Character Interview: Liza Cole

Liza, welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

My name is Liza Cole and I’m a suspense writer. I write frequently about heroines with children, which might give the impression that I have a few of my own. Unfortunately, I don’t—not for lack of trying. Short of immaculate conception, though, I’m not sure kids will happen for me. My husband’s business partner went missing and he’s been struggling to keep the firm afloat. There hasn’t been much time for us, lately. Anyway, I’m babbling. I do that when I’m nervous. Sorry.

Who’s the character you get along with the best?

My best friend Christine has been my rock since childhood. She was there when I got depressed after my dad left and also when my mom died. She’s a fiery redhead with a sardonic streak, but she’s also the most loyal person I’ve ever known. I love her. She’s the family I chose.

Is there anyone you have a conflict with?

I didn’t really like my husband David’s business partner and friend, Nick. He always treated me as the girl David had settled for. I guess that I tied down Nick’s wingman before Nick was ready to give up the single-in-the-city lifestyle. But, I shouldn’t speak ill of him, given the circumstances. He is my husband’s best friend, after all. I also don’t really like Jake, the husband in the book that I am writing about Beth. He cheats on her right after she’s had a baby. But, he’s not real so…

Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?

As an author, I relate to her. She’s empathetic. I think she spends a lot of time wondering what it’s like to be other people and how she’d handle horrible situations, which I understand. Believe me. I think she’s a bit of a control freak for all her extensive plotting, though.

Liza, what’s next for you?

If I told you that, you might not read my book. My author is working on another psychological suspense thriller involving neighbors and a beach house.

About The Author

Cate Holahan, author of the acclaimed psychological suspense novel The Widower’s Wife, is an award-winning journalist and a former television producer. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

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Clean but not Cozy: Deadly Choices, a new Thriller from Karen Randau

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An elderly woman with an arrow in her chest. A murdered journalist. A decades-old cover-up. In Deadly Choices (Rim Country Mysteries Volume 3), Rita and Cliff Avery team up again to solve a spate of murders in their picturesque Arizona mountain town of Rim Vista. Rita’s mother Willow delivers gun-wrenching news while falling for the man who could be responsible for four deaths. And Rita must escape a string of life-threatening predicaments thrown at her by an assailant willing to do anything to scare Cliff off the case.

If you enjoy suspense, but don’t care for explicit language or adult scenes, this clean (but not cozy) thriller might be exactly what you’re looking for. Deadly Choices is the third book in the Rim Country Mysteries, but can be read as a standalone.

Karen, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little about your protagonist, Rita?

Rita Avery is a middle-aged woman raised by vegetarian hippies who legally named her Lovely Rita after their favorite Beetles song, “Lovely Rita Meter Maid.” She married Jared Warren immediately out of high school, who fought in the first Gulf War as a Marine. They had two children. When Rita and Jared were celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary at a movie theater, a disturbed young man shot and killed fourteen people, including Jared. During the next few months, Rita discovered that her entire marriage had been a lie. She found love again, married Detective Cliff Avery, and honeymooned in Scotland, where she decided to try to reunite with her mother Willow after twenty-five years. Now, she is learning that even Willow lied to Rita.

How much do you and Rita have in common?

There is a lot of me in Rita. In many ways, she thinks like me and acts like me. In other ways, she is who I wish I could be. I like her; she feels comfortable to me. While she can be friendly and engaging, she may be difficult to get to know. She is adventurous and can be fun to be around. Most of all, I feel drawn to her because she is an overcomer who believes she can accomplish anything if she is willing to work hard enough.

Do your characters change throughout consecutive books in the series, or do they stay the same?

Rita has had a dramatic character arc in the three books of the Rim Country Mysteries. She started out naïve and shallow, more concerned about fashion than the people around her. In book 1 (Deadly Deceit), she grew into an independent woman who could trust her own instincts. Because of the extreme trauma she encountered in book 1, she now has PTSD and suffers panic attacks. She barely considers fashion anymore, but she can still spot a good deal. By the end of book 3, she has accepted who she is and is overcoming her panic attacks.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

No. All of my characters has elements of people I’ve known throughout my life, but I didn’t specifically create any of them to kill them. Sometimes, I’m sorry I had to do them in.

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

My fictional setting is a picturesque small town in the mountains above Phoenix, Arizona. It is strikingly similar to the town where I live, but I’ve used aspects of other places I also like. I do a lot of research to try to be realistic in the situations, culture, and setting.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?

Ashley Judd is Rita Avery and David Boreanaz is Detective Cliff Avery.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

The best advice is to write what you know about. That makes it a lot easier to be realistic. I didn’t realize how much I knew about until I started putting it into novels, though. The worst advice I’ve heard is that you don’t need an outline. I outline by books, and then rework the outline as the characters take me in different directions than I planned.

About The Author  

Karen Randau is the author of the Rim Country Mystery series. Her fast-paced novels include Deadly Deceit, Deadly Inheritance, and Deadly Choices, each with intricate plots and lots of action and told from the point of view of protagonist Rita Avery.


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