Friday, February 15, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Michele Martinez

Please give the readers a brief bio on you the person and the writer.

I'm from a fairly modest background. I grew up in inner city New Haven, Connecticut. My dad, who was Puerto Rican and Spanish first-language, ran education programs in the state prison sytem in Connecticut while I was growing up. Through his influence, I was always committed to public service and always fascinated by crime. I put the two together with my dream job, working as a federal prosecutor in New York specializing in narcotics and gang cases, focusing on reducing violent crime in minority neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. From there, when I was looking for a more flexible schedule as a mom, it was a natural transition to writing crime fiction.

Tell us about your current book?

In Notorious (out February 26), federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas is going to trial against rap music legend Atari Briggs, who has drug-dealing and murder in his past. The book starts off with a bang when Atari's lawyer is assassinated before Melanie's eyes in a car bombing minutes after meeting with her about the possibility of the rapper turning state's evidence. The race is on to solve the bombing before the people behind it can get to Melanie.

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

I write suspenseful legal thrillers that are smart, gritty and realistic but also sexy and fun. They've been described as Law & Order meets Sex And the City. They feature a savvy, educated Latina protagonist. Her love life, her family, her life as a working single mom, and day-to-day living in the big city are big parts of the books. I'd like readers to come away feeling totally entertained and in love with the characters. I want them to have a great reading experience, a heroine they can identify with, and and insider's view of New York life and law enforcement.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I have kids! I write while they're in school. If I'm under deadline, I write at night after they're in bed, too. If I'm under really serious deadline, I'll get up really early or stay up really late, but I like my beauty sleep so I try to avoid that.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?

I live for the moments of inspiration, when the muse strikes, when the characters take over and tell me what's happening, and I feel like I'm living the story in my head. Melanie's done everything from gun battles to having sex on her desk with a hot FBI agent. Writing that stuff is plain fun!

On the other hand, my least favorite part of the job is the isolation of keeping my butt in the chair day-in and day-out, because I'm a pretty extroverted person, but unfortunately that's the only way to get the work done.

What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

That you can't hand-sell every copy of your book. Early in my career, with the first couple of books in the series, I did an inhuman amount of traveling and personal appearances on the theory (which many new authors share) that I should leave no stone unturned in promoting my work. It took a toll, and I think I reached a point of diminishing returns. I've now cut back a lot on touring, and I'm spending more time promoting on-line, as well as more time writing -- which is what it's about, after all.

What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?

Having people I've never met email and tell me that my books affected them. Usually, it's along the lines of the characters are so real, or the story kept them up all night, or they can't wait to see what happens next in Melanie's romantic life. Occasionally I get truly special ones. I once had a Latina teenager write to tell me she dreamed of becoming a lawyer, and my books made her believe she'd succeed. That was a highlight.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

As I mentioned above, I'm trying a new strategy these days of traveling less and maintaining a bigger web presence. I have a great website,, and if you go to my website and click "Blog," you'll see that I'm also part of in a totally hilarious, wild and meaningful blog called The Lipstick Chronicles. It's me and five other women authors, plus frequent guest bloggers. We do humor, personal stuff, politics, you name it. We have a big readership and get a wonderful discussion going, with new content every day. Check it out.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

That it's hard work.

Name your top five favorite writing books.

I don't read a lot of books about writing. I just read a lot of books, period. I read fiction I love, and I try to read "above the lines" to figure out what the author's doing that so right. I learn a huge amount that way.

But I do think that Stephen King's On Writing is amazing.

What do you do to make time for yourself?

I try to get some exercise every day. I think that's really important when you sit at a desk as much as I do.

Do you do anything to promote Black History Month?

I've participated in Black history month as a parent, but not as an author. I'd love to in some way if asked.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

You can go to and either click on "Contact Michele," or click on "Blog" and post a comment at The Lipstick Chronicles. I'd love to hear from readers, and I'd also love to see more women of color commenting on The Lipstick Chronicles.

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