Spotlight on Alretha Thomas, author of “A Penny For Her Heart”

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Alretha Thomas

I’m excited to have Alretha Thomas, author of “A Penny for Her Heart”, on my blog today! Thank you so much, Alretha!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you, Leigh, for featuring me on your blog. I love having the opportunity to share more about myself with your readers. I was born in Oakland and raised in San Francisco. I came to Los Angeles when my mother passed away. I was 14 and she was only 36. That was a pretty rough time for me. However, my faith in God got me through, and I graduated salutatorian of my high school and went on to major in journalism at USC. Upon graduating I realized I really wanted to write fiction versus news copy. I started writing plays for my church and from there they were produced in the Los Angeles area. In 1999, I wrote Daughter Denied, a novel loosely based on my childhood. After unsuccessfully trying to land an agent and a book deal, I self-published in 2008. Fast forward to 2017. I’ve written eleven novels consisting of two series. My Cass and Nick series was picked up and published by Soul Mate publishing. The second series is the Detective Rachel Storme series: Justice for Jessica, Losing Lauren and A Penny For Her Heart.

Leigh: A Penny for Her Heart is set against a political backdrop. What inspired you to choose this backdrop for the book?

When I started the series, I decided each installment would have a distinct backdrop. Justice for Jessica’s backdrop is the world of wealth. Losing Lauren’s backdrop is the world of entertainment and as you mentioned, A Penny For Her Heart takes place within the political arena. I hadn’t planned that book three would be the political book, but the timing worked out well, especially considering all the drama surrounding the 2016 presidential election.

Leigh: How does this book differ or expand upon the first two books of the series?

Each book in the series is told from alternative POVS—Detective Rachel Storme’s and the friend and or relative of the victim. In Penny For Her Heart, unlike the earlier two books, the friend of the victim was in competition with the victim. The latest book also expands on the lives of the secondary characters. I don’t want to give things away, but Cassie, Rachel’s aunt, has a major development in her life. I also introduce the captain of the Buderwood Hills Police Department. He’s referenced in the previous novels, but in Penny For Her Heart, there’s an actual scene where readers will get to meet and hear him. Finally, this book contains more comic relief than the other books, complements of the character Vince Rossi. He’s married to Vanessa Johnson Rossi, Penny’s best friend. Vanessa is the alternative POV in the book.

Leigh: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What drew you to the mystery genre?

I realized I wanted to be a writer in the fifth grade. My English teacher assigned a short story project and I wrote a love story. That begs the question, what did I know about love at ten? LOL! But apparently, I knew a little something because the next day my teacher told us we all had done a great job but that one story stood out. It was mine. I was shocked. She read it aloud and the look on my classmates’ faces was priceless. They were really into it. I knew at that moment I wanted to be a writer. I made what seemed to be a natural segue into mystery. My Cass and Nick series is what I would call romantic suspense. All four books in that series, Married in the Nick of Nine, The Baby in the Window, One Harte, Two Loves, and Renee’s Return, have elements of suspense. In 2014 my first mystery novel was published—Missing Melissa. I was hooked. I love writing mysteries, coming up with red herrings and plot twists. It’s like playing chess.

Leigh: What was your favorite book in childhood? Which books have influenced you the most over the years as an author?

As a child, I loved Sounder by William H. Armstrong. I also read Madeline and Alice in Wonderland. Books in adulthood that have influenced me are novels by the late Bebe Moore Campbell. I also enjoy the works of Terry McMillan, the late Frank McCourt, Jodi Picoult, Gillian Flynn, and James Patterson, to name a few.

Leigh: What are you working on currently? What can you tell us about it?

I’m currently working on a mystery/suspense novel involving a mother and stepdaughter. I can’t say too much about it now, but it’s slated for traditional publishing.

Leigh: How much research do you usually do for a book?

I try to write what I know, so I don’t have to do a great deal of research. You’ll find many of my books have someone who works in investment banking. That’s because I worked as an assistant for over a decade in that industry. I’ve written novels that involved acting and the entertainment industry. I was heavily involved in acting in the 90s and have since returned to the business. Regarding police procedure, I have talked to detectives and I have relied on the internet. It’s amazingly resourceful.

Leigh: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Leigh, I have learned a lot over the years, much by trial and error. As I mentioned, I majored in journalism. It’s nothing like novel writing. I had no clue when I wrote my first book. My biggest struggle was with structure. I joined writing groups and learned my craft. I’m by no means perfect, but I’ve come a long way. I now have what I call a creative confidence. I trust myself when writing, and I’ve developed a process that allows me to put out a strong product.

Leigh: What do you do to relax? What are some of your hobbies?

I love reading for pleasure. It takes me away. I also enjoy theatre, going to the movies and concerts. Television is really good nowadays, and I have a few favorite shows like—Scandal, Shades of Blue, This is Us and a few others.

Leigh: Where can readers find out more about your work?

Website: http://alrethathomas.com/

Blog: http://alrethathomas.com/index.php/blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alretha.thomas

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlrethaThomas

 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Alretha-Thomas/e/B005IIRH00/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

IMDB: Alretha Thomas at IMDB

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2003288.Alretha_Thomas

Thank you very much, Alretha, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thank you for having me, Leigh. It’s been a pleasure.

 

Bio: Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming. This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s “One, Woman Two Lives,” starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha’s first novel, “Daughter Denied,” was launched in 2008 and in 2011, Alretha launched “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” Her third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine,” was launched in 2012 and spawned a four-book standalone series affectionately known as the Cass & Nick Series. In 2014, Soul Mate Publishing acquired all four books, “Married in the Nick of Nine,” “The Baby in the Window,” “One Harte, Two Loves,” and “Renee’s Return.”
Alretha became an award-winning author in 2014 when she received the Jessie Redmon Fauset Fiction Award for her novel, “Four Ladies Only.” In 2015, her first mystery novel, “Missing Melissa,” was released to rave reviews. In 2016, she embarked upon a new mystery series called The Detective Rachel Storme series. “A Penny For Her Heart” is the third book in the series. “Justice for Jessica,” and “Losing Lauren,” are the first and second books in the series, respectively.
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A Penny For Her Heart (Detective Rachel Storme Book 3) by Alretha Thomas

Strong, Classy Heroine

A Penny For Her Heart (Detective Rachel Storme Book 3) by Alretha Thomas, 328 pages, July 10 2017, Genre: Mystery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

I received an ARC copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review by Leigh Holland.

A Penny For Her Heart is the latest installment in the Detective Rachel Storme series from author Alretha Thomas. The book can be read separately from the others as a stand alone. Although this is the first book in the series I’ve read, I intend to pick up the others. Thomas switches perspectives between two strong female characters, Vanessa Rossi and Rachel Storme. She did this masterfully as I never had any trouble keeping up with whose perspective I was reading. I enjoyed being able to see events from the point of view of both the detective solving the murder and the best friend of the victim, forever touched by it.

Vanessa is a bright, ambitious, hard-working political aide who decides to come to city hall on a Saturday to get some work done. She discovers a horrifying murder scene in the ladies’ bathroom. She alerts the guard who looks inside and phones the cops. They confirm that the victim in the stall is Vanessa’s co-worker and best friend, Penelope (“Penny”). Over the course of the story, Vanessa comes to realize her best friend had kept a lot of secrets and even lied- to her, and to everyone. Vanessa, however, has also been keeping a secret from her husband. When he calls her on it, she realizes that even the best intentioned people lie. How well do we really know those closest to us? Are they going through something they believe they can’t talk about? If we don’t really know our nearest and dearest, what awful secrets must strangers hide?

Rachel Storme is honest, dedicated, and relentless in her pursuit of justice for the victim. She shows empathy towards those hurt by the crime and an understanding of human motivation. She doesn’t need her gun or fists most of the time to solve the crime or to get potential perpetrators to talk. She is quick in her assessments and organizes her team well. She has a good ‘gut’ for hunches, too, knowing things aren’t always as cut and dry as they seem. Rachel Storme is a heroine with class.

The plot is very good. I love that the mystery is set against a backdrop of political backstabbing and office politics, giving us many possibilities for the killer’s identity. As information was gained and the net kept widening, it was enjoyable to try to piece together the enigma and solve the crime, traveling the journey with Storme.

I very much enjoyed A Penny For Her Heart. I’d recommend this book to lovers of the mystery genre.

This book is available at A Penny For Her Heart.

Other books by Alretha Thomas include:

Justice for Jessica

Losing Lauren

Four Ladies Only

Missing Melissa

Married in the Nick of Time

The Baby in the Window

One Harte, Two Loves

Renee’s Return

Book Description:

Vanessa Johnson Rossi’s dream is to work in the White House. Not as the leader of the free world, but as chief of staff, overseeing the executive office of the president. As an assistant working at Buderwood Hills City Hall, she finds herself getting closer to realizing her dream when a plum position becomes available that would put her a step closer working directly for the mayor who has personal connections to the White House. But Vanessa’s hopes are dashed when her best friend, Penelope Newhouse, lands the coveted job. However, when Vanessa discovers Penelope murdered less than a hundred feet from the office she dreamed of occupying, her disappointment turns into devastation.

Detective Rachel Storme and her team are put on the case and she soon finds herself delving into the underbelly of politics in search of the killer. The clues point to a litany of suspects, including the mayor. As usual, Detective Storme is determined to solve this case—a case so chock-full of dark and sinister twists and turns, it has her questioning her own competence.

Author Biography:

About the Author
Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming. This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s “One, Woman Two Lives,” starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences. In between plays, Alretha’s first novel, “Daughter Denied,” was launched in 2008 and in 2011, Alretha launched “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” Her third novel, “Married in the Nick of Nine,” was launched in 2012 and spawned a four-book standalone series affectionately known as the Cass & Nick Series. In 2014, Soul Mate Publishing acquired all four books. In 2014 Alretha’s indie novel, “Four Ladies Only,” was awarded the Jessie Redman Fauset Fiction Award. In 2016, Alretha launched the Detective Rachel Storme series. The first standalone book in the series is “Justice for Jessica,” and the second book is “Losing Lauren.” “A Penny For Her Heart” is Alretha’s eleventh novel and the third standalone book in the Detective Rachel Storme series.