Miami Interviews- Laurel Peterson


Feliz Año Nuevo

I’m welcoming Cozy in Miami’s 2017 in with a revival of my Miami Interview series. Laurel Peterson is a frequent visitor to the Magic City. Beyond her love of Miami and mysteries, Laurel & I share something else in common. We are both poets. (Laurel, I also have a poem or two  published in The Distillery.)

This is what Laurel says about how she got into mystery writing. “One eighth grade afternoon, the bully on the bus was worse than usual. I came home and wrote a story of revenge in my journal. What satisfaction to leave her bleeding (on paper, of course!) on the playground. Thus was born my career as a mystery writer.” I agree with her. There is satisfaction in righting wrongs and getting some bloodless revenge. Writing is an amazing tool for overcoming grief, trauma, and hardship. If you have ever written away your woes, please leave us a comment about it.

Now onto the interview~~

Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.

As northerner whose summers are all too short, I love the heat and have been to Miami several times. We have family there, and my husband and I also use it as a gateway to the Keys. The last time I visited Miami was for a writing conference through The Writer’s Institute: The Center at MDC, which has so many terrific literary programs. I took a workshop with the amazing Mat Johnson on structuring the novel. All the conference organizers thought I was nuts because I walked from the hotel to the college, a total of about 15 blocks. In New York, that’s nothing, but they seemed to think it was endless. One day, enticed by the pretty waterfront park, its touristy shops, and its wonderful sculptures, I got lost. I finally found my way by asking directions, but I barely made it to my workshop on time—and, of course, I was all sweaty. Mat said to me later, “You had your maps app, right?” I had totally forgotten!!

What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

Barbara Parker’s Suspicion of…  series was great fun. Two lawyers—one white and one Cuban—tackled tricky cases together. But as a mystery lover, Carl Hiassen is not to be discounted. !!

Tell us about your writing and main characters.

My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was recently released by Barking Rain Press. My protagonist Clara Montague has intuitions and a bad relationship with her mother. At the beginning of the novel, she’s been traveling around the world for fifteen years because her mother Constance ignored her intuitions and, as a result, her father died. (The girl knows how to hold a grudge!) Now, she has a dream that her mother is in danger and feels obligated to return home. Shortly after she arrives, Constance is jailed for murder. Did she do it?

Of course Constance refuses to tell her anything, so Clara enlists the aid of brother and sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies and wealthy socialites with political ambitions, to dig out Constance’s secrets. But what are the Winters’ motivations for helping her?  And why does the mere fifteen year age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?

In addition to writing mysteries, I also write poetry. One chapbook, Talking to the Mirror, was published by The Last Automat Press. The second, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, was published by Finishing Line Press. My full-length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in January 2017.

Laurel Peterson Shadow Notes Cover compressedWould your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?

Clara is a world traveler; it’s something she loves more than almost anything else. While she wouldn’t blend in with the local culture, she would love to participate in it—attending the art openings at the Museum of Contemporary Art, tasting all the different versions of Latin cuisine, walking on the beach, and, because she is a landscape architect, visiting the Miami Beach Botanic Garden, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables.

Fairchild Tropical

I hope you will follow Laurel on her blog and social media. And I hope you’ll come to Miami to see the sights and sample our Latin cuisine.


Miami Interview # 19


Joan Leotta and I crossed paths due to poetry not mystery. Oh, we both write mysteries but it was via a comment I made about my newly published chapbook that got us talking about Miami. Joan is a writer of short stories, romantic mysteries, poetry and more. She and I are members of Sisters in Crime/Guppies and her short story appears in their latest anthology, Fish or Cut Bait. I stock my Nook with short story collections for 15 minutes reads and I can’t wait to read Joan’s contribution, Egidio Decides to Fish.

IMG_1649 (2) close up me

1. Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.
My encounter with the Magic City was during its down time—around 1961. My grandmother took me to Miami. In the 1930s she and my grandfather spent all of February in Miami every year. A widow since the late 40s she wanted to see Miami again. I think we stayed in one of the old hotels from the art deco days, but it was in decline. What was not in decline, tho and was absolutely wonderful was Wolfie’s! We could walk to it/ And we ate breakfast or lunch there every day. I was 13 and I loved it—the wait staff fussed over my Grandmother and treated me like a little princess. The sandwiches were gigantic. The walk along the palm trees to get there from the hotel, the hotel pool—all of that was fun. Grandma loved seeing her old haunts but was a bit sad they were run down.
In later years when she heard the city had become a Cuban enclave she was excited and wanted to go again, but she became ill before she could explore the new Latin beat of Miami—she loved experiencing new cultures, new places, and even tho Miami was on the decline, I have inherited her love for the city and cant wait to experience it today—Avenue Ocho, here I come!

2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?
All of Edna Buchanan’s Britt Montero books—but if pushed to name just one, I would say Act of Betrayal because it sets Brit on a path to discover some new information about her Dad (deceased). I admit that one of my fave parts of each novel is Montero’s frequent stops for Cuban coffee—I can practically taste it!


3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.
I’m an eclectic writer—journalism,(lots of food and travel, formerly more business), poet and short story writer, (a collection of my short stories, Simply a Smile is now available) picture book author, (Whoosh is coming out in August) and the author of a four part series called Legacy of Honor , women’s fiction, historical, light romance. The series traces the contributions of an Italian American Family to our national history—through the women. The struggles of Giulia in desiring to leave the nest to help the war effort in World War Two are followed by her younger sister’s romance with a Korean War soldier and her own desire for schooling. Giulia’s daughter becomes a nurse and goes to Vietnam in book three, and in book four, Giulia’s granddaughter apprentices as a journalist with her father’s cousin in Rome and in the process discovers secrets about her own family and uncovers an art smuggling ring taking advantage of the chaos of the First Gulf War to loot items of value in Kuwait.

4. Would your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?
My main characters, in each of the books would love Miami—especially the Miami of today with its Latin beat—These strong women would relate to strong Latina counterparts and conversely I think the women and young girls of Miami would enjoy my heroines—strong women who balance love of family with talents, desire to serve their country with their talents and intelligence and balance that need to serve family with the need to find and define themselves and their future path.
In Italian we say, una faccia, una razza, one face, one race—so I and my heroines, all of us Southern European, all of us having confronted difficulties because of our coloring, our cultural distinctiveness, and our immigration, would feel right at home in Miami. VIVA!


Find Joan Leotta on Facebook.

And find her latest novel, Secrets of the Heart on Amazon [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] .


The Magic City


I am not sure why Miami is called the MAGIC CITY.  Sure, we get blown away about every 20-30 years and we rebuild ourselves. Sure, if you were to approach by boat in the dead of night and see our glittery lights and neon it might seem magical. Sure, money is disappears and manifests like a magic trick. (Think fraud capital of the world! Thank your higher insurance rates on Miami-Dade county!) But, but, but . . . that does not make it the fabulous kind of magical.

But I tell you what does —

The view of the bay this morning:

Biscayne BayThe fact that people come here from around the world. We are a destination city. And sometimes, if you are lucky, it happens to be a friend that you have known for 13 years but have never met in person. I am talking about the lovely, talented and delightful Candace Walsh.

Candace Walsh RV Reyes WynwoodI got to give her and her family a quick tour of Wynwood our Street Art/Hipster district after Sunday brunch. She is working on a novel after the success of her memoir Licking the Spoon. If you haven’t read it I highly suggest you do. It is the story of her coming of age in the editor world of NYC, moving to New Mexico, working for Mothering magazine, coming out, falling in love with a woman, and FOOD. Gourmets take note you will LOVE her memoir.

In case this is not enough magic for you I give you these notes from the universe that are stenciled on the sidewalks of Wynwood.

P1070401 P1070402Back to editing and writing my soon to be e-published short stories. FYI — I have learned that I should always go opposite of instinct when it comes to hyphens. What I think should be hyphenated should not and vice versa.