Showing posts with label caper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label caper. Show all posts

09 May 2015

How to Write Mob Comedies in your own Home Town, and not get Taken Out by the Family



Land of Ice and Snow, Smoggy Steeltown, and the Italian Mob
Or…
How to Write Mob Comedies in your own Home Town, and not get Taken Out by the Family

by Melodie Campbell

It all closed in on me at the launch of THE GODDAUGHTER mob caper in Hamilton. Eighty-five people stood waiting.

The local television station had cameras in my face.  So far, it had been an easy interview focused on my awards and comedy career. The fellow was charming.  I liked him a lot.  Then he dropped the bomb.

“So…have you ever met a member of the mob?”

I didn’t like him so much anymore.

Yikes!  Hesitation.   A lot of feet shuffling.

“Yes.” I said, very precisely. So precisely, that everyone in the room laughed nervously. “In fact, I had to wait until certain members of my family died before getting this book published. ‘Nuf said.”

The ‘nuf said’ was the closure.  He got it.  Being a smart lad, he even let it drop.

Because frankly, I was speaking the truth.  I did wait until certain people died.  Some of them were in Sicily, but more were in Canada.  Some even died from natural causes.  (“He died cleaning his rifle” was an unfortunate family expression, meaning something entirely different, if you get my drift.)

This made me think about how close you want to get in a book to real life.

As writers, we research a hell of a lot.  Of course, I did research for The Goddaughter series.  Some of the study was pretty close to home, as I riffed on memories from my childhood.

My first memory is of a family reunion at a remote farmhouse in Southern Ontario. I was not quite three, and tears were streaming down my face.  Big scary uncles picked me up. They tried to console me by speaking softly. But I couldn’t understand them because they were speaking in Italian, or more specifically, Sicilian.

Those were the days of Brio and cannoli after mass on Sunday mornings.   And gossip about other relatives, one of whom was a famous boxer.  My aunt’s friend, the singer (one of a trio of sisters) who could not escape the clutches of a mob underboss in the States; he wouldn’t let her go.  I remember the aunts clamming up about this, when I ventured into the room looking for Mom. 

I was a darling of the family, with dark curly hair and big evergreen eyes. Later, when I grew up curvy and was tall enough to model, they doted on me. So my memories of growing up in such a family are decidedly warped.

They were warm and loving.  Very witty.  Loads of fun.  And massively protective.

In the screwball comedy THE GODDAUGHTER REVENGE, you will find a mob family that is funny and rather delightful.  Gina loves them, but hates the business.  She is always trying to put it behind her, and somehow gets sucked back in to bail them out.  I wanted to show that ambivalence.  You are supposed to love your family and support them.  But what if your family is this one?

How close is too close to home? I do cut pretty close in describing Hamilton.  The streets are real. The names of the neighbourhoods are real. I even describe the location of the restaurant where the mob (in my books) hangs out. I changed the name, of course, because the last thing I want is readers thinking this hot resto is really a mob hangout.  And besides, it’s fun when fans email me to say, “When they all meet at La Paloma, did you really mean XXX?” Readers feel they’ve been part of an in-joke.

THE GODDAUGHTER series is meant to be laugh-out-loud funny.  But there is an adage that states: Comedy is tragedy barely averted.

No kidding.  I’ve been writing comedy all my adult life.




The Toronto Sun called her Canada's "Queen of Comedy."  Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup. www.melodiecampbell.com
 

03 January 2015

Mess with me, Darlin'? Watch me Kill You with Words


(In which we attempt to address a serious subject in a light-hearted way)

by Melodie Campbell

Here’s some news for all you sociopaths out there, and just plain nasties: Don’t mess with a crime writer.  We know at least twenty ways to kill you and not get caught.

On paper, of course <insert nervous laughter>. We’re talking about fictional kills here.

Or are we?

My name is Melodie Campbell, and I write comic mob capers for a living. And for the loving. So I know a bit about the mob. Like espresso and cannoli, you might say they come with my Sicilian background.

This should make people nervous. (Hell, it makes ME nervous.)

But I digress. To recap:  the question offered here was:

Do you ever take out real life rage on fictional murder victims? Are any of your victims based on people who pissed you off in real life?

Oh sweetie, don’t I ever.

One of the joys of being a writer is playing out scenarios in your fiction that you dream about at night.  One of these is murder.  (The other is sex, but that would be my other series, the Rowena Through the Wall fantasy one.)

Back to grievous bodily harm. Like in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, I have my little list.

To the covert colleague who made out to be friends and then bad-mouthed me to the board at a previous job. 

Yes, you got caught red-handed. I called your bluff.  But better than that, I made your mealy-mouthed sorry hide a star of THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE.  Goodbye, Carmine the rat.  You live forever in fictional history.

He never will be missed.

To the sociopathic boss who undermined an entire department and got a kick out of making my sweet younger colleague cry: may you age like a hag and end up alone.  Oh wait – you did. And not just in A PURSE TO DIE FOR.

She never will be missed.

Oh, the joy of creating bad guys and gals from real-life creeps!  The crafty thing is, when you design a villain based on people you have met in person and experienced in technicolor, they sound real. Colourful.  Their motivations are believable, because they actually exist. No cardboard characters here! 

Of course, I may fudge a few details to keep out of jail. Names and professions change. Males can morph into females.

But fictional murder can be very satisfying. (Definitely more satisfying than fictional sex. Oops.) 

Revenge is sweet, when coupled with royalties. 

You can ignore that crack about 'fictional kills only.' Of course we’re only talking books; in my case, light-hearted murder mysteries, and mob crime capers.

That’s right: mob capers. Like I said: never mess with a Sicilian Goddaughter.

Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best when Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  Her fifth novel, THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE, won the Derringer and the Arthur Ellis.  www.melodiecampbell.com

27 September 2014

You Know You're a Writer When...


By Melodie Campbell

Recently, I read something  that got me thinking.  (Okay, have your little laugh.  I can wait.)

The quote was:

“A writer who isn’t writing is a monster.”

At first, I wasn’t sure if that meant a writer who wasn’t writing right now and every minute was a monster.  Or whether it meant a writer who was prevented from writing was a monster.

For the sake of all concerned (at least in this house,) I’m goin’ for the latter.

Which brings me to this little list.  If you are a writer, tick off the ones that apply to you and leave a comment below with the goods.  Or better still, add your own.  If you are not a writer, stand back.

You know you’re an author when:

1.    You’d rather spend time with your characters than your friends.

2.    You’ve been at the computer all day and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish seem like a major food group.

3.    Your spouse yells “Are you all right in there,” and you’re pretty sure you’ve heard that voice before.  Somewhere.

4.    Your idea of a vacation means hours and hours of time to write.  And nobody bugging you to “do something fun.”

5.    You reach for Glenlivit when the internet goes down.

6.    You could be arrested if the Feds look at your search history.

7.    You actually know the difference between less and fewer.  And consider it a hanging offense when people misuse them.

8.    You have been known to ignore phone calls from your mom, kids, husband, boss, and possibly God.

9.    Your idea of supreme hell is being trapped at a cocktail party for three hours with people who aren’t writers.

10.    You have seriously considered murdering people who say, “I have this great idea for a book, and if you’ll write it, I’ll share the profits with you.”   And the ones who say, “I think I’ll write a book someday when I get more time.”  And the ones who say, “Of course, it’s just a mystery/fantasy/romance genre book you’ve written.  When are you going to write something important?

Excuse me now.  I have a lot of people to murder, and I’m behind.

Melodie Campbell murders people regularly in her zany mob crime series, The Goddaughter.  She lurks at www.melodiecampbell.com

13 September 2014

Tagged and Bagged! This Writer of Mob Comedies Spills the Goods


by Melodie Campbell.

I should have known there would be a price. 

Back in 2012, when Steve Steinbock reviewed The Goddaughter in Ellery Queen’s Jury Box, I was ecstatic.  <So was my publisher.  Ellery Queen ROCKS!>

Steve called my book hilarious. I called Steve my hero. Little did I know, two years and three books later, that he would be tagging me on SleuthSayers.

Oh Steve, thy devilish one.

Many of you remember Steve from the days of ‘Criminal Brief, the blog.’  <There are a hundred ways in which I want to play with the word ‘brief’ right now, but I will refrain.>  Steve and I met years ago at a Bloody Words Mystery conference in Toronto. We discovered that, as teens, we shared a mutual pash <lovely Brit expression there> for Dark Shadows, the original series.

I like and respect Steve.  I also fear him slightly <EQ and all> so hastily accept the tag.

What Am I Working On?

The Goddaughter Caper.  Or A Coffin for the Goddaughter.  Or A Body for the Goddaughter.  Or The Goddaughter’s Coffin Caper.

Somebody help here!  Book 4 of the Goddaughter trilogy <sic> is nearing completion, and I need a title.  I started with the 3rd example in the list above.  I’m leaning toward the first.  Of course, Orca Books may throw all those out and come up with their own, but I’d still like to hear from readers in the comments below.

Gina Gallo and her inept mob family are back in biz.  This time, bodies are showing up in all the wrong places.  The second book in the series, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, won both the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis awards for best crime novella. <author is over the moon>  The third in the series, The Artful Goddaughter, came out last week.

For those new to the series: Gina is a mob goddaughter in the industrial city of Hamilton (The Hammer.) Try as she might, she can’t seem to leave the family business.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In The Same Genre?

Library Journal said it well:  “Campbell’s comic caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans.  Wacky family connections and snappy dialog make it impossible not to laugh.” 

When people ask what I write, I say ‘comedies.’  Then I give the genres (crime capers and time travel fantasy.) My books are comedies first and foremost.  I look for plots that will lend themselves to laughs.   
 
Why Do I Write What I Do?

A Greek Mask

Some people are born beautiful.  But most of us aren’t, and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life.  Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask.  That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.

Comedy is Tragedy Barely Averted

My younger brother is autistic.  Our home life was stressful and at times, sorrowful.  When I was a teen, as a means of self-preservation, I looked for the ‘funny.’  More often than not, I made fun of myself.  This was easy to do.  I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material.  And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.

When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side.  I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.
So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode.’  Write it funny. 

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I teach Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College in Toronto, so I’m pretty immersed in craft.  Not surprisingly, I’m a plotter. I don’t start writing until I know the ending.  But I’m a forgiving plotter.  I don’t plan out every scene.

Sometimes a plot idea will trickle around in my mind for a year.  When the ending clicks in, I sit down to do a basic three-act plot diagram.  I teach this method, and I use my own books as examples.

So… once I have my inciting moment, first, second and third crisis, and finale firmly in my head, I sit down to write.  I start with the opening/inciting moment.  Then I usually skip to the ending, and write the climax and finale.  Then I go back to the beginning and write forward.

For me, it’s important to know that I like the characters and plot enough to stay with that story for the months to come.  That’s why I write the beginning before I spend much time doing outlines.  I need to know that I can live in that world, and enjoy it.

Advice to aspiring writers:

It's not romantic.  But it's the truth.  If you are going to be a writer, you have to love the actual act of writing: by this I mean, hands on keyboard, butt in chair, all by yourself, pounding out stories that the characters in your head are demanding you tell.

Of course, coffee and a wee dram o’ whiskey help.

Melodie Campbell drinks coffee and single malt somewhere south of Toronto.  The Artful Goddaughter is now available in stores and online.