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Interview: Debra Mares, Author of The Mamacita Murders

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Author Debra Mares is the granddaughter of a Mexican migrant farm worker and factory seamstress.  She was born and raised in Los Angeles, is the first to graduate college in her family, and grew up dancing Ballet Folklorico and Salsa. Ms. Mares followed a calling at 11 years old to be an attorney and a voice for women.  

Debra Mares currently resides in Orange County, and appreciates international travel and culture. She has been a county prosecutor in Riverside, California since 2004 and is assigned to the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit. Ms. Mares co-founded The Women Wonder Writers, a community outreach organization as well as co-created The Write of Your Life, which is a mentorship and writing program for at-risk young women throughout Riverside County.

The Mamacita Murders is her first novel and first in a series of legal thrillers and chick lit mysteries.
Could you please tell us a bit about your book?The story?The characters?

The Mamacita Murders is a courtroom drama and mystery lit. It’s also the first book in the series. It introduces Gaby Ruiz, a Latina prosecutor, who investigates what happened to Laura, a 17-year-old sex worker who is found assaulted and left for dead in a gang- and drug-ridden motel. Gaby’s girlfriends from The Mamacita Club help her solve the crime along with her love interest, Investigator Dylan Mack, from the Special Homicide Team.

How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?

I wanted a title that was unique and memorable. After a recent night out salsa dancing, a friend of mine nicknamed me “Mamacita.” I loved it. The next day, I heard a salsa song with “Mamacita” in the lyrics. The song rocked. I researched whether The Mamacita Murders had been previously used as a book title; I discovered it hadn’t. It became both my book title and series name.

As for the cover design, I had a clear vision of what I wanted—the backdrop of a walled city, a gun and feminine image. Adam Perlman from Perlman Creative Design worked his magic and created something completely in line with my vision. He’s really talented.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?

“In the quest for justice, there are sometimes injustices. The guilty are not always convicted and the innocent are not always freed. My job as a prosecutor is to help justice prevail, not stifle it.”

What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?

Blogging, interviews, reviews and social media like Facebook and Twitter. It’s fun to connect with people all around the world online.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I wake up at 5:00 a.m. and write three pages in longhand of anything on my mind–from personal struggles, shopping lists to scene outlines. Then I work on my novel for an hour. When I return home from my day job as a prosecutor, I spend two more hours writing. I wake up the next morning and do the same thing all over again.

What are some ways that you like to relax?

Massages, yoga, reading, bubble baths, salsa dancing, dining out, running on the beach, drinking red wine or Siberian rose tea.

What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?

Latina crime fiction authors like Xyta Maya Murray and Michele Martinez.

What author would you most like to meet and why?

Paulo Coelho. He has so many words of wisdom and expresses life and love so deeply in his writing. Being in his presence would be inspiring and moving.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?

I’m working on Book 2 of The Mamacita Murders. Gaby Ruiz will be called on again to investigate a crime. And I’d like to see her get her love life in order sometime soon!

What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?

At 11 years old, two years after I won my first and only writing contest, I decided I wanted be an attorney.

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