S. 8, Ep. 4: Interview with Crime Writer Alice Bienia — Debbi Mack

I knew I wanted to write a mystery and I also wanted to have my protagonist as a female who’s this strong, independent woman, she’s not going to rely on somebody else to save her, she’s determined, she’s committed.

She’s 38 when, when I opened the series and she used to be a forensic analyst worked in a lab and then a workplace incident where this mass shooter basically a former employee who was disgruntled and came back and managed to take Jorja hostage. And so that’s sort of the precursor to what happened. And after surviving that attack, Jorja realizes that she’s been living life a little too safely, tucked away in the lab. She’s 38 and she really feels that she needs to get out there and put herself out there more and experience more of what life has to offer. So, becoming a private eye is sort of a short jump for her because she’s very analytical in nature and doesn’t require a ton of retraining because she does have to pay the bills and look after herself. So yeah, that’s the character I created in Jorja.

And after surviving that attack, Jorja realizes that she’s been living life a little too safely, tucked away in the lab. She’s 38 and she really feels that she needs to get out there and put herself out there more and experience more of what life has to offer.

Debbi: That’s fantastic. How many books are out in the series?

I don’t write horribly detailed plots, but I do have to start with sort of an idea, the premise and I have to have an outline of where I’m going.

Debbi: Yeah, exactly. Right. I mean, you need something to aim for, even if your aim ends up being a little bit off, it happens.

I do like to weave in lots of twists and for me, it’s, those are the kind of books that keep me reading, right, is where, the chapter ends and you look at the next chapter and you think, oh, it’s only two pages. I gotta read this.

Debbi: Exactly. Yeah. I know. I love it when that happens. I love it and I hate it. It’s like, oh my gosh, I have to read, yet another chapter.

[T]his caribou had this massive head of antlers and he got closer and closer, and I’m thinking, what is this caribou going to do? And suddenly he broke into a run and just ran at me.

Debbi: Oh my goodness. So what authors most inspire you?

I have to like do some research along the way to, try to build in, that element of realism, even though it is fiction.

I had to do some research on that. And I do have a few friends, one friend in particular, who’s a social worker. So I did know some of the nature of the work that went along with that, but I did end up watching a number of documentaries, interviews with people that had lost their homes or somehow found themselves on the street. And so that became a really good source of information for me to try to portray the characters in my book. Not as a caricature of homeless people, but people that have a past people that got themselves there through a whole series of difficulties. And so that really meshed well with Jorja herself, her past life, and also her client’s life, having escaped the Holocaust as a child and all the trauma that got associated with that. So, yeah, I did a lot of research on that book, and yeah.

One thing I would say to somebody is, if you have this hankering to write, do it before I did like, don’t wait 40 years to start writing.

Debbi: I hear that-

I think a lot of authors have said, get into the practice of writing, even if you start off just doing half an hour a day, and building from there, but it’s sort of a practice because it takes discipline.

It’s a long game. I mean, there is the author that occasionally has a big breakout and, and everybody hears about it, but it is a long game and it takes a while to build up a career and a brand and get people to know that you’re out there. And so I think it’s good to have, maybe another job at first, to help you along the way. But, yeah, I think it’s important to start and to be consistent and develop the, develop the practice of writing. And then you can ramp up and escalate that depending on your own sort of situation.

It’s a long game. I mean, there is the author that occasionally has a big breakout and, and everybody hears about it, but it is a long game and it takes a while to build up a career and a brand and get people to know that you’re out there.

Debbi: Great advice. All of it. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish up?

--

--

New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including the Sam McRae Mystery series. Screenwriter, podcaster, and blogger. My website: www.debbimack.com.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack

New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including the Sam McRae Mystery series. Screenwriter, podcaster, and blogger. My website: www.debbimack.com.