I loved candy stores, because they sold newspapers too. I used all my dimes for newspapers instead of candy. I loved them. But I never went to journalism school and never dreamed of being a reporter. In fact, I wondered in awe how the heck reporters ever got all those stories. Especially when I accidentally became involved in one as a teenager. Where did they get all that information?
Then I arrived in Miami and needed a job. In a creative writing class that I took to learn how to write a novel, I met a newsman who invited me to apply to the small Miami Beach paper where he worked. I stumbled into journalism! It was an accident, a lucky accident. How neat to make a living writing news stories while I wrote the great American novel in my spare time, I thought. I was so naïve. It never occurred to me that the whirlwind of daily journalism would leave me no time to read a novel, much less write one.
Do you think your journalism work made you a better fiction writer? How so?
Definitely. I learned so much about people, matured, developed the discipline of multiple daily deadlines, and met talented and brilliant professionals who generously shared their expertise and friendship. I wrote thousands of news stories, a goldmine of experience to draw upon in the future, to fictionalize, shape and build into novels.
How do you feel about being dubbed "the queen of crime" by The Los Angeles Times?
Embarrassed. I’m more comfortable doing the interviewing, not being the subject of interviews and articles.
The book's preface says "This is the novel I have yearned to write for half my life." Can you elaborate on that? Why have you long wanted to write this book?
Dark stories and rumors whispered down generations about the notorious outlaw John Ashley and his sweetheart, Laura, haunted my dreams and stirred my soul from the moment I first heard their names decades ago.
On my first job as a reporter, I learned to frequent the morgues, the one at the Medical Examiner’s Office for corpses and the other for old clippings at the newspapers where I worked. That’s where all the stories were. Life and death, and the first drafts of history.
As a rookie reporter and the Miami Beach Daily Sun, I came across a yellowed old column. The Sun began to publish in the 1930s, when stories about the Ashley Gang, wiped out in the ‘20s, were still relatively fresh.
That long ago columnist had written that Laura, John Ashley’s sweetheart, hanged herself at the gang’s Everglades hideout after John and his gang were killed in a fierce gun battle with the law. How sad, I thought.