CELIA CONRAD: NO EXPERIENCE IS WASTED IF YOU LEARN FROM IT
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Celia Conrad is a family law specialist who became author. Her Alicia Allen Investigates series are receiving great feedback from the readers. Our next feature writer has a very special Christmas gift for all the fans of legal/mystery crime books. You may learn about it in the following interview.
– What is your series Alicia Allen Investigates about?
– Alicia Allen Investigates is a legal crime/cosy mystery trilogy that follows the adventures of Alicia Allen—an Anglo-Italian London lawyer with such a passion for justice it would make Portia envious. Alicia puts herself in harm’s way as she solves murders that concern her clients or friends.
A MODEL MURDER (Book 1) draws parallels between the poor treatment of women employees in hostess clubs and in law firms. The story ignites when Alicia’s new friend, an aspiring Australian model who was moonlighting at a club, is found murdered; and Alicia must find the killer while she herself is battling ill treatment at the hands of a psychotic boss at her new job.
WILFUL MURDER (Book 2) revolves around shady Wills and inheritance law as Alicia’s client’s relatives begin dropping like proverbial flies, and this feisty heroine must search for clues in Australia.
MURDER IN HAND (Book 3) spans London, New York, Sicily and Italy, and takes the potato chip-loving attorney deep into the dark underbelly of Italian Probate and corruption to stop a serial killer before he kills again. The twist is that most of those found dead are lawyers.
All three books have key clues hidden in Anglo-Italian arts and culture. And of course Alicia knows how to whip up a quick delicious pasta dish while debating clues with her lawyer cohort and love interest, Alex Waterford. So readers should be forewarned that reading these mysteries may make them very hungry for Italian fare.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I began writing the series at the suggestion of my then-agent and mentor, Paul Marsh, who encouraged me to write a mystery based on my experiences as a solicitor (aka “lawyer” in the U.S.). For the first book, A MODEL MURDER, I also incorporated my brief modelling experience. Unfortunately Paul passed away before these books were published, but he was able to read final drafts, and was very pleased with them.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– Research. I had to spend considerable time cross-checking the law so that their legal issues are factually accurate, although the rest is fiction.
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is she close to someone from your real life?
– Alicia and I share Anglo-Italian heritage and experiences within the law (thankfully I did not have to contend with as many dead bodies as my heroine does). We also share an enthusiasm for crime solving, Shakespeare, All Things Italian and various flavours of potato chips.
Alicia is driven by her dogged pursuit of truth and justice. She’s a tough little cookie, but also very empathetic so she genuinely cares about the people she tries to help. Like all of us, she’s human and has her foibles, which makes her someone to whom people can relate. I wish I had her fearlessness.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– By the time I was writing the third book, MURDER IN HAND, it took me 6-8 weeks to complete the story. The first and second books took much longer, particularly A MODEL MURDER because I was not able to work on it full time. Plotting the books and completing all the necessary research took several months for each book. The publisher, Barcham Books, brought them out in paperback first and the whole publication process including editing and printing took about two months. The Ebook versions followed a little while later but their turnaround was probably only a couple of weeks.
– Give us some info about your other book, Fathers Matter?
– FATHERS MATTER is a nonfiction legal handbook—an essential guide to child access and custody issues on separation and/or divorce. The handbook is quite popular and now in its third edition. As a family law specialist, I gave evidence on family law to Parliamentary Committees, regularly responded to Government Consultations, and the Press reported my comments on legal reform.
– Who are you?
– Nutshell version: I’m a former family lawyer, avid reader of crime fiction and an Italophile with a love of languages and travel. I have some Italian heritage that definitely influences my writing. I studied law at King’s College, University of London, and after qualifying as a solicitor, specialized in family law working for several ‘magic circle’ firms in London, and eventually left private practice to become a full-time free-lance legal writer and author.
– What are your writing habits?
– I generally jot down my initial thoughts and ideas for the plot in pencil. With the crime novels I work the plot backwards weaving in clues and red herrings. When I’m in writing mode I can write up to 18 hours a day, as when the story is in my head I just have to get the story down, although generally I prefer to start writing in the early morning and finish by about 3pm.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– I’ve seen a steady, satisfying upswing in sales in recent months, and it does appear to be directly related to a new PR/Marketing campaign, which has brought the books more into the public eye. The Amazon rankings for all the books has been climbing to respectable numbers. Due to some unusual circumstances, the series never had a proper launch when it was first published. We’ve re-launched this year, and I am happy with the increased interest from readers, wonderful reviews and fan mail it has generated.
– What are you doing to promote your book in the best possible way?
– I quickly discovered that just writing a book and getting it published is not enough.
All authors now have to build an author platform and this is something I work on every day. I am very fortunate to have found a great publicist who has helped me to put my author platform foundations in place and has worked with me to start building it. We’ve taken advantage of Amazon’s KDP Select Program by using the giveaways as the reason to create and distribute a newsy press release about each book that incorporates review blurbs and an author interview in the announcement.
Right now we’re gearing up for the next KDP giveaway on the weekend Dec. 13 through Dec. 14 as a “2014 Christmas gift” for Kindle mystery fans who will be able to download MURDER IN HAND, which can be easily read as a stand-alone.
My publicist encourages author involvement and she’s taught me a great deal about researching social media for relevant blogs such as yours, establishing online presence and making it an interactive experience. We don’t believe in mass e-mailings that can look impersonal and be automatically ignored or dumped by the recipients. All e-mail queries, such as book club correspondence, is tailor-made to show why they will love Alicia Allen.
I actually met my publicist through Goodreads, and that is just one of the many good things that have come out of working their Author Program to the best of my ability.
– When we will see your next novel?
– Next year, all being well.
– Was it tough to make translation from a lawyer to writer?
– I enjoyed working as a lawyer but have reached more people with my legal handbook than I ever did working in the legal profession. But I always enjoyed and preferred researching legal problems in my work, so that is definitely something which has stood me in good stead with all my books.
– You are living in London, your opinion on the new Sherlock Holmes TV series?
– I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To create a character such as Sherlock Holmes with his enormous powers of deduction requires a very sharp mind indeed. The new TV series has worked well.
– As a specialist in family law, would you evaluate how important it is for a child is to be raised with two parents and what is the effect on the kids if mother and father splits?
– How much time do we have? I’ve written 3 editions of my book entitled FATHERS MATTER so that’s a clear indication of my views on the subject. I really admire parents who set aside their feelings towards each other and work together to raise their children and put their children’s needs above theirs. People always think children are resilient and they are not affected by the divorce and/or separation of their parents—but they will be caught in the middle of parental conflict. Disruption and emotional upset can be minimized where parents are able to work through their problems constructively.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– What have you learned from your own experiences in life? That if the experience was a mistake not to make the same mistake again, and that no experience is wasted if you learn from it.