|Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet some fo the newest mystery readers on your bookseller's shelves. This week we welcome Ann Prospero, whose debut mystery Almost Night is a new release from Dutton.
Hello, Ann! Tell us about yourself.
Miami is the city I grew up in and it's the city I write about. A giant,
complex, complicated city where the sun light bounces off water, the
buildings, windows, and people; traffic jams at all hours; tropical leaves
and flowers are abundant; there is rain and more rain; and degradation,
crime, dirt, water, brilliance. I remember riding a city bus at the age of
eleven, going downtown alone, shopping in the only Burdine's department
store and the five and dime next door. I was safe. My three children played
outside with other neighborhood children and I had no fear at that time
they'd be harmed. Now few parents allow their children to play outside
unattended. But I stayed in that amazing city where I went to high school
and to the University of Miami and bore my children. I left when I could no
longer tolerate the heat.
Are you coming to mystery writing from another job?
My graduate degree was in English literature and I studied city planning and
landscape architecture. When I was offered the position as editor at the
botanical garden Fairchild Tropical Garden I thought the job had been made
for me. I remember taking daily walks around the Garden to relieve job
stress. After ten years I took a job at the University of Miami School of
Medicine and later on the University's main campus. I was editor and writer
at both campuses and left as editorial director in the University of Miami
Department of Publications. During all that time I wrote many free lance
articles, feature articles, and a column. One of my awards was from the
Atlanta Art Papers for an article I wrote on the artist Anna Mendieta-One of
the Best of the Decade. I'm proud of that one. When I left the University of
Miami and prepared to leave Miami, I started my book ALMOST NIGHT. And I
finished it in Durham, North Carolina. I am lucky enough to be able to write
fiction full time.
What led you to write mystery?
I began ALMOST NIGHT because I'd given my writing group an assignment: Try
to write about the experience of being awake in the middle of the night so
that the reader will have the same experience. One thing led to another and
I said, "I've got a dark imagination. Go with it." At the time I was reading
as many mysteries as I could get my hands on, some better than others. The
one I was reading was a good one, but I said, I can do better than that. I'm
not sure I did, but I've tried.
Tell us about your road to publication.
I began the book not knowing how to write a novel, much less a mystery. I
wrote the thing, the first go round, by outlining mysteries to see how it
was done (I couldn't find any recipes.) I also read books analyzing what
other writers did and what was successful. I didn't read only mysteries, but
many other books. I read and read and wrote and wrote, trying to figure out
how to do it.
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
The inspiration for the plot came from a neighborhood serial murder in
progress at the time. (Can you believe it? In my neighborhood! No wonder I
had a dark imagination.) I became fascinated with the subject: Why would
someone kill over and over again? Why do women, in particular, become
victims-to murder, to abuse. My theory, in the end, was that there is a
continuum of abuse which at one point steps over the line from psychological
to physical to sadistic murder. And then there was the question, how do you
tell who is a serial murderer and who isn't? I also immersed myself in the
homicide police culture and studied the grief that survivors feel and
experience. I questioned pathologists and gynecologists. Then of course I
Who are your influences as a writer?
I first read a lot of John Updike and became aware of the tremendous courage
he has to be able to write as he does. I read Elizabeth George, I read early
P.D. James, who is an extraordinary writer. I read and read. I'd say my most
important influence in writing has been John Updike. Though he isn't a
mystery writer, any good writer must engage the reader and want him or her
to turn the page. That's suspense!
Tell us about plans for future books.
I am currently working on a second book with Homicide Detective Susannah
Cannon as the protagonist. The more I write about her, the more I understand
her and know her. My characters have a way of revealing themselves to me as
I become open to them.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Though my web page is not yet up, I'd like to hear from readers, especially
about what is most important to them in the book. My email address is
firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll let you know when the web page is ready.
Thank you, Ann, and best of luck with your next book.
Readers, we have a review of Almost Night here at TMR.
May 8, 2000