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