Tuesday, April 23, 2013

TBR welcomes Holli Castillo

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Holli. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Holli: Hi and thanks for having me. I am a Louisiana appellate public defender and former prosecutor.  I live in the metro New Orleans area with my family and a host of pets, including a deaf cat that appears in my current novel.  Like most writers I love to read, mostly mysteries and thrillers with an occasional romance thrown in. I am also an avid t.v. and movie watcher, mostly cop and lawyer shows but I’m also a big sci fi fan.

Holli:  When the body of a hooker is discovered in a crackhouse, New Orleans prosecutor Ryan Murphy refuses to let the case languish into yet another unsolved homicide.  She has a connection to the victim and won’t back down until the murder is solved, even if it means insinuating herself into the investigation.  And if she hides her involvement from her detective boyfriend, it’s only because he’s busy working late nights on a secret case of his own. 

When Ryan isn’t hounding the homicide detective for information or investigating the murder behind his back, she’s juggling her Strike Force cases, including a four-victim mob hit, a nasty domestic violence assault, and the armed robbery of a strip club.  At first, Ryan’s only concern is getting justice for her victims.  By the time the weekend ends, she’ll settle for staying alive.

Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Holli: This is the opening of the first chapter of Jambalaya Justice:
Dead eyes.
Ryan could think of no other way to describe them.  Except maybe dead eyes staring back, if something dead could stare.  Did eyes actually die? Or did they just stop working when the heart stopped beating and the brain synapses stopped telling them to see?  She should have paid more attention in biology.  Or was it chemistry?
Assistant district attorney Ryan Murphy let the jumbled thoughts brew in her mind like the coffee and chicory that once percolated in the battered silver pot on the dead woman’s stove.
She fought the urge to close Cherry’s eyes.  Regardless of whether the cause was biological or chemical, the woman couldn’t see anything now.  She was smiling, though, or so it seemed, dying the way she lived, with a gold-capped grin spread across her ebony face.
Ryan remembered that smile and the way Cherry called everyone baby.  She also remembered Cherry’s help, which had saved Ryan’s ass on more than one occasion.
And now Cherry was dead, her pit-stained tank pushed up to reveal a bloody, makeshift tattoo.  If anything would salve Ryan’s conscience, it was that crude smiley face, cut just above Cherry’s right breast.  The bodies of two other prostitutes had recently been found bearing the same mark, making Cherry’s lifestyle the more likely reason for her untimely death than Ryan’s tenuous connection to her.  Either way, Ryan doubted she would get much sleep tonight.
Murders were common in New Orleans, and homicides occurred for a multitude of reasons–drug deals gone wrong, gang and turf wars, or in the case of a working girl, sexual deviance carried too far.  But this was different.  Whatever his motivation, this killer wanted the world to know he thought the murders were funny.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Holli: The theme of the series is the distinction between justice and fairness, and that comes directly from my experiences working as a prosecutor and then as a public defender.  New Orleans particularly has a troubled criminal justice system, and it really didn’t take too much imagination to incorporate that whole idea into the series.

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Holli: Definite plotter. I do a scene by scene outline. As I get further in, I modify and update the outline and may move scenes around, but I always have an outline to work from.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Holli: Most of the time, I start with a personality first.  Once I have a grasp on the personality, I decide the character is going to speak.  Dialect and manner of speech is distinctive in New Orleans, and the area of town a person is from makes a huge difference in how he or she speaks, so it’s just as important for me to nail that down as it is to figure out the physical description, which usually comes next.  I also think about if I’m missing any particular roles in the story after I’ve started writing and if so, create a character to fit the role.     

TBR: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?
Holli: My favorite quote is from the character Lexie Littleton played by Renee Zelweger in the movie Leatherheads, “Being the smoothest operator in Duluth is a little like being the world’s tallest midget, if you ask me.”  

TBR: Did any music inspire your book? Do you have a playlist?
Holli:  Music didn’t inspire the book but I do listen to music that fits the mood of the particular scene I’m writing at the time.  There’s a scene toward the end of the book where Ryan is in a club and I listened to the music I wrote playing in the club Ryan was listening to so I could get the mood exactly right.  I tend to listen to alternative hard rock when I’m writing chase scenes or heavy emotional scenes.   

TBR: What's next for you?
Holli:  Right now I am working on the third in the series, CHOCOLATE CITY JUSTICE, which picks up where Jambalaya leaves off and will follow Ryan through Hurricane Katrina, bringing the series into post-Katrina New Orleans.  It should be available before the end of summer.

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Holli: A reader who disliked the book immensely wrote in an Amazon review that my protagonist made her so mad she had to stop reading so she wouldn’t throw her Kindle across the room.  While I’m never happy when someone dislikes my work, I couldn’t help but feel a little proud that Ryan Murphy was so real to this girl she could hate her enough to worry about destroying her Kindle over her.  THAT is what I call a realistic character.  

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Holli: I’m on Facebook  www.facebook.com/holli.castillo.com or follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hollicastillo

TBR: Readers, Holli will give away a copy of Jambalaya Justice to one lucky commenter. She'll pick a winner on Monday, April 29, 2013, and announce the winner here. Be sure to leave your email address so she can contact you.

Thanks for visiting TBR, Holli. All the best to you.


  1. I'm glad you found a positive side to the weird comments from a read who didn't like Ryan. Me, I like her. she's got spunk.
    JL Greger

  2. Thanks JL. I guess you can't expect everyone to like your characters. As hard as it is to accept, not everyone likes me either, go figure. Holli

  3. Holli is truly a gifted writer. I thoroughly enjoy her work and am looking forward to the next installment.

  4. Holli: Can't wait for Chocolate City Justice. Spunk or just piss and vinegar, I love Ryan.
    W.S. Gager

  5. Laura and Wendy, thanks so much for the compliments. I'm working on Chocolate City Justice right now, taking a break just to check on comments. Ryan's going to grow a little in this next one, but the trick is to let her grow while still keeping the reason people like her and the reason I wrote her to begin with. Holli

  6. I chose Wendy (from a hat) for the book giveaway and will contact her through her e-mail. Thanks to everyone. Holli.

  7. I should add Wendy is W.S. Gager.


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