Monday, March 24, 2014

Q&A: Greg Messel, author of 'Fog City Strangler'



Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol.  Fog City Strangler is his seventh novel and is the fourth in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper.

Follow news about Messel’s writings and books at www.gregmessel.com.

Thanks for coming to the book club today, Greg!  Before we begin the interview, I have to ask.  Who made that beautiful cover?

Greg:I'm very proud of the covers of my books and "Fog City Strangler" is one of the best. My publisher has a team of designers and I am always excited to see what they will come up with. I'm never disappointed. I've been in book stores, book fairs and book signings from Costco to the Los Angeles Festival of Books. I believe the cover is the first reason someone picks up your book. You have just seconds to get someone's attention and a good cover really does it.

How did you get into the mystery/romance genre and what is it you like about it the most?

Greg: It's the genre I most like to read. I always wanted to write a mystery but was not sure I could do it.  I also wanted to write a series. Thankfully, one day when I was walking around San Francisco, Sam Slater and Amelia Ryan were born in my imagination. I also love the 1950s. Very interesting time and it's a different planet than where we now live. I have some memories of San Francisco in the 1950s and I have built on those. I love San Francisco in all decades but I think it's a wonderful canvas for my stories.

A mystery evolves as you write it. "Fog City Strangler" definitely changed as I wrote it. I'm very happy with the story and plot but it's very different from what I first imagined.  That's the fun of writing a mystery. You have to create a mystery and solve it yourself before you start writing. Then you slowly reveal it in an interesting and hopefully suspenseful way to the reader. 

Who is your main character and would you like to tell us more about him/her?

Greg: I really like Sam Slater. I've been asked in interviews how much of Sam is really me. Sam is tall, handsome, athletic, irresistible to women, brave, tough--it's practically autobiographical!  Just kidding. I wish. Sam is a really good person who tries to help people but is very capable of handling himself when the bad guys threaten him and especially when the love of his life--Amelia--is in peril. And that's fairly often. Sam is a good guy to go have a beer with or accompany to a football game. He does both things in "Fog City Strangler."

What about secondary characters?  Would you like to introduce them?

Greg: Amelia Ryan, who in the third book became Amelia Slater, is hardly a secondary character. In many ways she's the main character in "Fog City Strangler." Amelia is feisty, very curious and funny. There are two parts to Amelia. She's the beautiful TWA stewardess who lives an exciting life. Airline stewardesses were very glamorous figures in the 1950s. They were also the victims of discrimination and harassment as objects of desire for the affluent mostly male passengers on airliners. Amelia lives in this world but when she is on the ground in San Francisco, she morphs into a hard nosed private eye herself, who will stop at nothing to get at the truth. Amelia is very brave and gets herself in some real jams in "Fog City Strangler."

Every book of fiction has a pivotal point for the reader that they can’t forget.  What do you think is one of the pivotal points in your book?

Greg: Amelia Ryan becomes part of a nationwide advertising campaign for TWA and her face is suddenly on billboards all over San Francisco. The timing is bad considering that the Fog City Strangler is stalking young blonde women. At the end of Chapter 9, Sam Slater begins to realize that the billboards may cause a problem. Here is that excerpt: 

Sam stared off into space contemplating the meaning of the tumultuous day when Amelia became a public figure. 

Things would never really be the same after today. Amelia and Sam had crossed the Rubicon. Her face was all over the city and even on Times Square in New York

Now everyone would know Amelia. She was out there for public consumption like Prell Shampoo or Pepsi-Cola. Tonight all over San Francisco, men were gazing up at billboards looking at Amelia's smiling face. 

One of those men was undoubtedly the Fog City Strangler. 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell your readers?

Greg: Even though "Fog City Strangler" is part of a series, it is a stand alone novel. I hope readers will give the whole series a try. Keep up on the latest news about my books at www.gregmessel.com

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