Hamish struggles with an anxiety and panic disorder. What inspired you to write a character like this?

I always intended to use my writing opportunities to focus on the illness I have suffered from my entire life—but I was waiting for the right moment and the right character. When Hamish DeLuca strolled into my mind, he did so exhibiting every symptom I have experienced due to my illness. I wanted to personify something so many suffer from.

Fiction is a dialogue that enriches the experience and allows people to personally relate to something in its pages. I wanted to empower readers to see how what they find is a weakness often offers a unique and wonderful perspective.

I also wanted them not to feel so alone. It was also important for me to paint Hamish as a well-rounded character—who wants to get the girl and have adventures and rip up the dance floor. This is not an “issue” book, rather it features a character who happens to have a few challenges.

I am blessed to live in a time period of medicine and cognitive therapy and easy access to a psychiatrist. As are readers. I hope Hamish inspires them to vocalize their limitations and seek professional help if needed. There is no shame in recognizing that mental illness is a legitimate.

What are the challenges of writing about crime and murder as a Christian author?

I think the challenge is in trying to seep into the mindset of people who are depraved enough to commit heinous crimes. There is a death in City of Liberty as well as a violent attack that really hit close to me because I was so fond of the victims as I created them.

What I found in writing is that the good guys—for lack of a better word—are driven by a different motive. My criminals are propelled by a lack of a stabilizing force in their life.

The moment a criminal puts their faith in a human instead of God, they are easily swayed by earthly things by storing their treasures on earth. They have no true guiding light and so easily falter in a desperate attempt to search for something concrete and to give their loyalty to someone who has the strongest voice and the most allure.

In Van Buren and DeLuca, this loyalty –however poorly founded—rests with Hamish’s cousin Luca Valari.

With someone like Luca Valari—beloved by Hamish and by many readers–he walks a grey line. He is the opposite of Nate Reis who uses his influence for the good of the neighbourhood.

Yet, Luca still feels what he is doing is right: is helping people by allowing them work and profit through organized crime. The major difference behind these characters is that Nate’s actions are rooted in his deep Jewish faith.

He is accountable to a Higher Power and his love of the Torah whereas Luca is propelled by being a higher power. The psychology of this is something that I find very fascinating to write.

I think that the best books leave as much as they can to a rich reader imagination. So rather than spend my time focusing on the corpse or a murder scene, I spend time writing the perspective of my sleuths encountering that scene and usually it is enough to see it through their eyes to strike a reaction rather than a visceral description.

How did you become a fan of mysteries? Who are your favorite fictional sleuths?

I have read Sherlock Holmes since I was a little kid. And it was partly because I loved the idea of a series where I could hang out with the characters for a long time.

It is still why I read mysteries to this day—it is a sure-fire way to spend a lot of time with characters. Usually the mysteries I am attracted to are deep character pieces where the characters and relationships grow and develop alongside the suspense and crimes specific to a single book.

I really love the Richard Jury Mysteries by American author Martha Grimes, because they are witty and cozy and paint both the rural location of Long Piddleton, Northamptonshire and London in beautiful light.

As a PBS junkie, two of my all-time favorite sleuths are Christopher Foyle of the TV Foyle’s War series set in WWII era Hastings, and Endeavour Morse in Endeavour set in 1960s Oxford.

I like really cerebral detectives whose quiet intelligence is their strongest weapon. I see a lot of Endeavour in Hamish DeLuca sometimes.

Can you name some other detective series—in print or on screen—where those fans would also like your Van Buren and DeLuca Mysteries?

Julianna Deering’s excellent Drew Farthering series. Some readers have compared it to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries—and I think that is because of the agency and gumption of Reggie (as well as her wardrobe)—even though the action is set later.

I love Ashley Weaver’s Amory Ames mysteries, which are set in the same era but across the pond in Britain. Dorothy L Sayers is a longtime favorite, as is Anna Lee Huber, whose Lady Darby mysteries balance suspense with romance in a way I try to emulate in Van Buren and DeLuca.

I was really inspired by the outspoken and spirited heroines of some of my favorite 1930s flicks. Reggie shares my love of the early Frank Capra-directed film Platinum Blonde, which finds Loretta Young as a smart young reporter in a man’s world.

I also reference Mr. Deeds Goes to Town starring Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper. Of course, Reggie loves Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man.

I would be remiss not to add that if you want to know a little bit more about how Luca and Hamish ended up the way they are, you can seek out the Herringford and Watts mysteries. My previous series introduces you to Hamish’s parents—trouser-wearing Edwardian lady sleuth Jem Watts, and her husband muckraking reporter and recent Italian immigrant Ray DeLuca.

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