Jeff Markowitz is the author of the darkly comic mystery/thriller, “Death and White Diamonds,” as well as three books in the Cassie O’Malley mystery series. He loves to write early in the morning.
“You can usually find me at my computer at 5:30 in the morning plotting someone’s murder,” he joked.
When he’s not out looking for dead bodies, Jeff keeps busy as the founder and Executive Director of a network of programs and services for adults with autism. Jeff is a proud member of the International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.
I met him a number of years ago when I hosted an AuthorFest at Schaumburg Twp. District Library. He actually came in from New Jersey to be at my event, which featured panel discussions with authors of numerous genres. He’s dedicated to his writing career, has a great sense of humor and a wonderful smile. I purchased one of his Cassie O’Malley mysteries and I’ll be reviewing the book he’s about to talk about.
- Gotta Write Network: Though “Death and White Diamonds” has just been published by Intrigue, you’re best known for your Cassie O’Malley mystery series. Tell us about the tabloid reporter who really does have a nose for news. What kind of assignments has she been given in the past?
Jeff: Cassie O’Malley is a woman whose life has not lived up to her expectations. As an undergraduate at Princeton University, Cassie had her life’s plan neatly mapped out in a three-ring binder. Shortly after graduation, she married her college sweetheart and less than a year later, he died in his sleep. When we meet Cassie, she’s in her mid-thirties, widowed nearly fifteen years, living alone in a condo at the edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, her dream of becoming a big-time investigative reporter having been replaced by the reality of her job writing about space aliens and sea monsters, psychic spies and Siamese triplets, for a barely reputable tabloid magazine. And she’s good at it. She’s successful, but hardly happy.
And then there’s the small matter of the dead bodies…
- Gotta Write Network: How difficult is it for a man to write from a woman’s perspective?
Jeff: Genre fiction has not always treated women kindly. For many years, female characters in genre fiction existed in order to be rescued, and to admire the male characters doing the rescuing. Genre fiction has always loved the “damsel in distress.” But the truth is, the mystery genre would not be thriving today if mystery writers weren’t writing characters, both male and female, who are three-dimensional, men and women who may sometimes be larger than life, but who are never written “smaller than life.”
It’s important for me to remember that the story I’m telling is Cassie’s story. The murder mystery is the vehicle to tell her story. I am gratified when my readers, particularly my female readers, tell me that they find Cassie O’Malley to be a believable character who can carry not only a story, but a series.
- Gotta Write Network: In your latest novel, what should have been a romantic getaway for Richie and his girlfriend, Lorraine, ends up in murder. The problem is Richie doesn’t have any memory of killing her, but he’s holding the knife. How in the world did he get into this situation? What’s a young man to do?
Jeff: Why do bad things happen to good people? That is, I think, the way that Richie would explain his dilemma.
“If murder was my stock in trade, if I made a habit of killing, a refrigerated truck could be useful. I wondered how hard it would be to drive the big rig. But I was no killer and I was surely not a thief. I wasn’t even a truck driver. I was just an entry-level data-analyst caught up in a web of circumstance and conjecture, a simple man trapped in a complicated world, an innocent man hiding behind a truck full of bluefish.” (Death and White Diamonds, p. 66)
- Gotta Write Network: Who is assigned to Lorraine’s case?
Jeff: Detective Johnson and his partner Detective McGowan are working a missing person’s case when the investigation leads them to the offices of GlobalCo where they learn of Lorraine’s disappearance (and also of certain financial improprieties).
“People always wanted answers. Detective Johnson had been a cop long enough to know that answers were an over-rated commodity. People would be much happier, the detective believed, if they would stop asking so many questions.” (Death and White Diamonds, p. 89).
- Gotta Write Network: How do you add dark humor to a murder mystery? Not everyone can pull it off, but you do.
Jeff: Not to add humor to a story. Instead, I try to find stories where the humor is inherent in the premise.
- Gotta Write Network: Was it difficult to get into Richie’s POV?
Jeff: Richie is deeply disturbed. Writing from his POV was the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer.
- Gotta Write Network: Did you find yourself continually changing the plot to build suspense?
Jeff: I often worry that I don’t have enough plot to sustain a novel. (I’ll get midway through a book and find myself wondering whether I’m writing the great American novella). This time was easier. Whenever I needed to ratchet up the suspense, I could always kill another character or abuse another corpse.
- Gotta Write Network: Who are your secondary characters in the book? Do they support the protagonist or are they out to prove he’s guilty?
Jeff: I hope I’m not revealing too much of the plot here, but most of the secondary characters are dead or missing.
- Gotta Write Network: Is this a new publisher for you? How long before acceptance and holding the book in your hands?
Jeff: Yes, “Death and White Diamonds” is my first book with Intrigue Publishing. I wrote the book over the summer in 2013, queried Intrigue in the fall, signed the contract in February 2014 and released the book in December.
- Gotta Write Network: How are you promoting this novel?
Jeff: Promotion? Am I supposed to be promoting the novel?
• Gotta Write Network: Told you all he had a sense of humor.
Jeff: I’m spending a lot of time on social media in conjunction with personal appearances. I’ve always enjoyed blogging (jeffmarkowitz.wordpress.com) but these days I’m also active on facebook, and god forbid, I’m even starting to tweet. I’ve gotten a lot of support from the community of mystery readers and writers at Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers.
- Gotta Write Network: What are you currently working on? Will it be a real challenge to balance promotion and writing another book?
Jeff: I’m currently exploring a couple of book ideas, another stand-alone as well as perhaps one more novel in the Cassie O’Malley series. For the next few months my focus will be on promotion.
Jeff’s other books: