Besides being an accomplished author of suspense novels and thriller stories (mostly dealing with crime, with a sly mix of humor), Starr Reina is also an Executive Editor for Suspense Magazine. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Los Angeles Chapter and nationally. Starr has won three ‘Best Speaker’ awards as well as ‘Best Evaluator’ at the Voice Ambassadors chapter of Toastmasters. She was a co-chair and main coordinator for the West Coast Author Premiere, a weekend long event. She is represented by the Cliffhanger Literary Agency.
Reina has appeared in a blaze and made her mark on the literary world with her Ivanovich series. The first is In the Name of Revenge and the second, Deadly Decisions. A third in the series is being penned as you read this. Reina is also the author of the young adult novella Cruel Whispers and its sequel novel Cruel Past.
Despite Starr’s busy schedule, she was happy to grant me the following interview. Enjoy!
Weldon Burge (WB): What do you find the most challenging as Executive Editor for Suspense Magazine? The most rewarding?
Starr Reina (SR): The most challenging I would have to say is poorly edited stories before they're submitted to us. I don't mean the paltry punctuation errors, but blatant misspelled words, misappropriate usages, and terrible formatting. The most rewarding? Well, I'd have to say everything else. I'm able to read the reviews, interviews, articles and stories first! The #1 reward is being part of such a fabulous magazine with a great team.
WB: You not only cohosted Suspense Radio Live with John Raab, but you were interviewed. What did you learn from these experiences?
SR: Both experiences were a lot of fun. I was able to speak with some great authors. I learned many things from various persons, such as how they write (style), their marketing endeavors, and much more. During my interviews, I was able to share some of the same information and it was a good feeling. Not to mention how my training from being in Toastmasters really helped.
WB: Coffee or tea or hot cocoa?
SR: Anyone who knows me can answer this question. Coffee, most definitely—but I do enjoy the occasional hot tea (or iced) and hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire in the winter in Big Bear.
WB: In your novels, In the Name of Revenge and Deadly Decisions, the first two books in your Ivanovich series, we have Pavel Ivanovich, a Russian heavy, and Italian mobster Carlo Mancini. How did you research to develop these two characters?
SR: Oddly, I didn't research much. I did have to be sure my Italian and Russian dialects were correct. Honestly, instinct took over and the characters and their traits were formed on what I felt was right. Teresa, another character in that series, was described in a review by J.M. DeLuc, an author who was raised in an Italian family, as “perfect ... like all your characters.” I was able to portray the characters as they should be by feeling who they are. I hope that makes sense.
WB: How has your career as a paralegal helped you in your writing career?
SR: In my day-to-day job, I come across a variety of people, cases and issues. Most are unique and some are blasé. The interaction of clients divorcing and/or one suing one another aids in character formation. Not that I base one character on one person or a aprticular situation, but different traits and issues from a variety of people are melded into one distinctive character. It also helps me see how true characters react to a given situation. Also, a situation, one-minute section of an issue, can spark all kinds of ideas for stories.
WB: How do you find the time for your writing?
SR: Good question. Sometimes, I ask myself that! Fortunately, I have a relaxed atmosphere (okay, sometimes not!) and a great boss. If I'm not busy, I'm allowed to work on whatever I want. Such as right now, being interviewed by you. Other times, I write in the evenings and/or weekends. Writing is an escape, so I like to do it whenever I can.
WB: What is your most vexing problem when writing?
SR: I have so many ideas running through my head concerning how I want a character to react, what situation I want them in, and/or how I want the ending, that I can't type as fast as my mind thinks. Therefore, some chapters come out really looking like those "shitty first drafts" as Anne Lamont in Bird by Bird would call them. When going back to edit, I stop and realize, okay, the readers are not in my head and, since I didn't finish explaining something to them, I guess I'd better really edit the hell out of this one!
WB: Do you work from an outline, or just wing it?
SR: I wing it most of the time. However, I've found using some sort of guide helps when I'm deep into the book. I'll do a chapter-by-chapter layout. This helps in determining what should or could happen next.
WB: Who is your favorite superhero?
SR: Wonder Woman, who was modeled after Diana Prince. First, I'd like to look as good. And I'd like to be able to deflect bullets or anything else! Who wouldn't?
WB: What makes a great villain?
SR: We all know evil in whatever form it takes is an essential trait of a villain. But, it's not always necessary. A villain is someone who throws out obstacles for people to overcome. If that's the case, then aren't all fiction authors villains?
WB: Professor Moriarty or Hannibal Lecter?
SR: Because I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I'd have to say Professor Moriarty. He was Holmes' chief antagonist. It was his criminal activities that Holmes fought against. Much like Pavel Ivanovich in my series. So, I guess that's probably why I'd have to definitely say Professor Moriarty.
WB: What writer has been your greater influence/inspiration?
SR: Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew mystery stories and Franklin Dixon, author of the Hardy Boys. I grew up reading those and they are what inspired me to try my hand at writing mysteries myself. Hats off to Keene and Dixon.
WB: What was the last novel that you read?
SR: Ghost Trackers by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Tim Waggoner. It gets released at the end of September 2011. I did a review for it for Suspense Magazine. All I'm allowed to say right now is, what a great book!
WB: Last nonfiction book?
SR: Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing by Les Edgerton. I was doing a study and found this to be very educational.
WB: If you could start your writing career all over again, what would you do differently?
SR: I would not have let negativity and lack of faith rule my career choices. If I'd not listened to my father—who, when I was 14, didn't believe I wrote what I'd showed him—I would more than likely have been writing this whole time. Instead, I stopped until my later adult years.
WB: What's next on your writing agenda?
SR: Currently, I'm working on the 3rd in the Ivanovich series, titled One Major Mistake, at least that is the working title. I'm also working on a paranormal novel that I'm hoping will be a good read.
WB: Last question, just for fun: Zombie apocalypse or robot apocalypse?
SR: Gee, must I answer this one? Let's see ... a robot that doesn't know its own strength and can strangle you vs. a zombie who can kill you, yet you may come back as one of the hungry dead. I'll take the robot. I don't want to come back as a zombie!
Thanks, Starr, for a great interview! Look forward to the third novel in the Ivanovich series!
Be sure to check out Starr’s Web site at www.queenwriter.com.
Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog
August 6, 2011