Friday, July 13, 2012

The Series That Ate My Brain In A Totally Good Way

By Andi Marquette

Hi, all. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Andi Marquette, and I write a mystery series at Regal Crest. That series is set in New Mexico, one of my home states.

The books alternate between main characters. That is, odd-numbered books feature, as the main character, sociologist/academic K.C. Fontero while even-numbered books feature Albuquerque police detective Chris Gutierrez, who is K.C.’s best friend. So in the series, no matter who the MC is, you’ll see a lot of the other characters coming and going through each other’s stories.

In terms of themes, I try to incorporate not only a mystery into a plot, but also deal with issues that you might be seeing or have seen in the news. Issues that affect people in a particular part of the country, but that might also affect others elsewhere in the country. And I also let my characters explore their own personal issues, because nothing happens in a vacuum. Those cops out there solving mysteries? They have personal lives, too. Academics like K.C.? They have crap going on besides those hoity-toity theories they throw around. They’re human, too. They screw up, have crushes, problems, car trouble – whatever it is. And I try to portray that in this series.

I use New Mexico as a microcosm to explore these issues. In book one, for example, Land of Entrapment K.C. has to deal with finding her ex-girlfriend’s younger sister. Problem is, the younger sister hooked up with a white supremacist boyfriend. To find Megan, K.C. has to track and find this particular group of white supremacists. Along the way, she has to deal with some of her own ghosts, and maybe come to grips with falling in love.

In book two, State of Denial, Chris is working to solve the murder of a young gay man found buried naked in the bosque (the cottonwood forests that line the Rio Grande). Part of the larger issue here is homophobia, both external and internal, and how that plays out in families and communities. Chris also has to start dealing with her difficulties in terms of relationships, and in this book, she meets someone who will push her to do that.

Book three, The Ties that Bind, stars K.C. again. This time, there’s a death on the Navajo reservation that hits close to home, and it brings up a lot from the past, and forces K.C. to think about her relationships in new ways. The backdrop for this mystery is the natural gas industry and the sprawling Navajo Nation. Oil and gas play a role in New Mexico’s economy, but they take a private toll. New Mexico is a magical place, and home to many cultures, and I wanted to try to convey a sense of that in this book, and push K.C. into realms she might never have explored or considered otherwise.

I’ve currently got book 4 under way, and it stars Chris again. She’s dealing with a murder, yes, but it’s contextualized with a larger issue that’s in the news practically every day (hee hee…not going to tell you!). And yes, she’ll be thinking about her relationships, and you’ll meet more of her family. You’ve already met her grandmother, Abuelita, and her youngest brother, John. In this one, you’ll be meeting her mother. Mmm hmm. Mom issues. Stay tuned!

I love writing this series, and shifting to Chris’s POV every other book allows me to see the other characters through different eyes, which has really been a learning experience for me. But it hasn’t been easy. Writing a series comes with its own set of things an author needs to deal with, and this one sure isn’t an exception.

I do a lot of research for each of my NM books, but in terms of the plots I spin, I want my characters to grow in realistic ways, to negotiate relationships in ways that I and, hopefully readers, would not find jarring or out-of-character. I want them to have full (and sometimes crazy) lives, beyond the crime-solving, and I want the backdrop – New Mexico – to continue to serve as its own character and petri dish for my explorations into big things and big themes. I love doing this, and I love bringing all of these things together into my plots. Sometimes the books and I argue. Sometimes we aren’t speaking. Other times, we’re having so much fun it’s like a five-day fiesta. But no matter how a writing session goes with these books and these characters, I’m learning something.  I hope that you do, too, if you decide to hang out with the New Mexico posse.

Speaking of which, I need to go hang out with them my own self. Book 4 ain’t gonna finish itself, after all.

Questions? Comments? Leave them here and I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for stopping by. And you can go to THIS PAGE on my site to read excerpts from each of the available books in the series.

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  1. It's a great series, Andi. I always look forward to the next book.

    1. Me too! I can't wait for the next book.

      I read a lot of mystery series, and Andi's NM series is one of the best, bar none. I mean that. It's SO much better than some of the stuff out there that makes the NYT best sellers list, etc. Andi's plots are more interesting; they're tight, non-formulaic, and you feel like you *know* the characters.

      I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea. ;) I told my mom Andi's books are better than most of the stuff out there, so she might sample Salsa de Andi soon too. :D

  2. AWWWW! Thanks! And hmmm. Maybe I should market Salsa de Andi...

  3. Hi Andi,
    I loved your mystery series set in New Mexico and I love your characters. It's a series of books to be proud of and I agree with Page. They were so much better than a lot of the stuff that's out there. I'm so glad you're working on another one and Ican't wait for it to come out. Keep on writing.