LA Mystery writer Nancy Cole Silverman has enjoyed a successful Hollywood radio career working in both sides of the microphone -in reporting and management- before she decided to do what she’d always wanted to do most – write fiction – and created the Carol Childs mystery series.
Carol is a 40 year old LA cub reporter who has to prove herself to a wonder boy boss half her age, while also being primary custodial parent to a 16 year old son. Yes – there are challenges a plenty there for this would be Wonder Woman. . . many of them ones Nancy has met herself in real life . . .
Show Notes Summary
In this interview you’ll discover:
Why she says God has a sense of humor
The similarities between her and her hero Carol Childs
Why Carol has to prove herself more than a man would
The mystery in her own life that became a plot line for one of her first books.
Why she’s given up riding, although she still crazy about horses.
The Benjamin Franklin quote that became her mantra
Nancy can be found at www.nancycolesilverman.com
On Facebook at www.facebook.com/NancyColeSilverman/
And on Twitter @Nancycolesilverman
For more details, a full transcript follows: Note – this is a “close as” rendering of our full conversation with links to key points.
But before we hear from Nancy, just a reminder that the show notes for this BingeReading episode are available at the website www.thejoysofbingereading.com
That’s where you’ll find links to Nancy’s websites and books, as well as a free E book, and information on how to subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss future episodes.
And now here’s Nancy.
Jenny: Hello there Nancy, and Welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us.
Nancy: Thank you so much for having me, its wonderful to be here.
Jenny: You’ve had a very successful radio career and you could be forgiven for thinking you really had nothing more to prove. . . so I’m just wondering –
Was there a Once Upon A Time moment when you realised you wanted to write fiction more than anything else?
Nancy: You know that’s a really good question – there were several – and one time, probably the beginning of it, was when I was working at a news station in Los Angeles and I realised that the stories I was doing, if you could put the headlines together you’d have a really good novel.
Of course the news director didn’t want to hear that, he banished me from the news room and said “Don’t say that again.” And then later, when I had retired from radio, I thought you know, I’ve had such an interesting career…. I’ve met so many interesting colourful people.. and I was too old to go back into newsrooms working for people half my age, so I thought “I’ll just make it up.” So that’s what led to the Carol Childs mysteries.
Jenny: I love this 40-year -old cub reporter with a wonder boy boss who is half her age – and I’m sure a lot of women could identify with that situation.
Nancy: I think so, as women we are always are doing such a balancing act. You know I was doing a balancing act in particular, so I could pull it from my own life because I was a single mother with two kids and it was always a matter of deciding which jobs I could take, considering where my family was, that responsibility had to come first.
So for Carol it was natural thing for her when the station said there’s an opening in the news department for a cub reporter and she’d been doing well on the business side but she jumped at it and said “Oh I want to do that.”
The news director did not want a 40-year-old mother working for him and so she has to prove herself. And that is a natural position many women find themselves in. When an opening does occur and they lean forward for it, the first thing they will find is someone doesn’t want them there and they have to prove themselves.
Jenny: Totally I couldn’t agree more, that’s my experience in journalism – you’re right.
You’ve said the mantra for the Carol Childs series was “When in Doubt Don’t” – and that it was inspired by your “smart sassy and fearless” grandmother.
Nancy: It was!
Jenny: I think you also confessed, “I wish I had followed that particular piece of advice.” Do tell us. Was there a life changing moment when you didn’t follow it? And thought “I so wish I’d listened.”
Nancy: Oh so often. So often. You know that was my grandmother’s statement. She’d say to us “You know girls, when in doubt, don’t’” I had two sisters and girl cousins and we’d all roll our eyes and say “Yeah yeah Grandma, we know what’s going on. We don’t have to worry about that.” And then so often I got half way down a pathway and I thought oh yi yi yi if only I’d thought this through!! I have several of those expressions and I have them in my office. But that one in particular I thought was wise. That was my mantra, yes . . .
Jenny: And yet you also say if you had listened to it then Carol might never have been written.
Nancy: That is true too. There are good and bad sides to that, but Carol always thinks “Oh boy, Okay, I should have listened.” And Sheri her best friend challenges her a lot because that’s what best friends do, and I couldn’t have written Carol without Sheri because really she is her opposite, she is everything that Carol is not.
Carol can survive on fast food and a low budget. She can stretch her money and raise her kids on what she has. She can survive on a reporter’s low salary while Sheri is a trust fund baby who has never really had to work. Her father did very well and left her in a comfortable position, and they are good friends because they have kids the same age.
Jenny: You’ve been praised for your “ripped from the headlines” story lines. Is this do you think a legacy from your days in journalism?
Nancy: I think so. I’m a “newsie.” I follow the news, I grew up in newsrooms. Really, what we know about news are those 30 second news blips we hear as we go about our day.. I find it fascinating what goes on in a news room, what goes on in getting all the information you need to make those stories.
So when I sat down to write the Carol series, I would pull from news headlines that are current and the things I knew about, – it was a bit of a mash up of all those things but it gives you a very real feel on the page.
Jenny: What do your readers tell you they like best about the series?
Nancy: They find it very fast paced; readers like things that are fast and quick.. Gone are the days – I say unfortunately- of the sagas. There have been some wonderful sagas – Michelin wrote wonderful sagas, but people today don’t seem to want to devote the time. They like it to be quick and fast and something happening on every page.
Having said that, they also like the character development. Carol’s world seems very real to the reader who picks up the book because the characters are really drawn from my own experiences. Carol is flawed, we know that right now she is trying very hard to be a successful reporter, she is a very flawed character. She makes a lot of mistakes. She is a good person, she forgives herself and forgives others and when she makes a mistakes she gets right back up and keeps on going.
Jenny: In more general terms (moving away from specific book focus)
Is there one thing you’ve done in your writing career more than any other that’s been the secret to your success?
Oh yes. Discipline: The secret to success with writing is discipline. You have to show up every day and be committed to it. To be gripped by the passion of wanting to get a book out. In my radio career I was disciplined.
I enjoyed each day, I looked forward to what stories I was going to do, who I was going to meet, what the story was about . . .and the business opportunities that presented themselves. I worked all my up from writing copy to being general manager of a sport radio station. And I tell you, God had a sense of humor.
I did not belong as the general manager of a sports radio station, but they were looking around for someone who understood the structure of a station, how it runs, someone who understood contracts and hiring so forth and I was fine for that, I knew what I was doing there. But I lived with a calendar by my side, I didn’t really know too much about the programming side, as far as the actual content went,
My real passion though was news and talk, which I enjoyed. As far as the writing goes though, I think you just have to be passionate about it, passionate about your product and your story. That doesn’t mean though that every day you are excited about what you are doing, Some days you do just have to push through with scenes until you find the excitement again.
Jenny: I see you wrote a number of stand alone novels before you started on the mystery series. What attracts you to the mystery genre, and why do you think mysteries and thrillers are so popular right now?
Nancy: Escapism? I think truly it takes you out your normal life whether you are bored or not happy with your current situation, you know that 330 pages or so along the way the crime is going to be solved, you’ll have learned something and hopefully had a chuckle and we are excited by it.
I like mystery. I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book – and the idea of needing ten thousand hours of anything before you can be truly masterful – and even though I’d written since I was a little child I was always attracted to mystery. The very first mystery I wrote was at school, and I always have loved the the “What if?” and “Who knew?” aspect of things. – but really it comes down to escapism, and being taken out of your own realm for a few hours.
Jenny: Is there a mystery in your own life that could be the plotline for a novel?
Nancy: Actually what started me writing the Carol Childs mysteries – I had written five or six stand alones as I say you just have to write an awful lot of stuff and some if it is gong to be accepted, but most of it may not see the light of day.
I am no different from anybody else, I have had my share of rejection letters, and then some, but you need to keep going.
But I had an experience that led to my writing – I had a house that I was selling and I couldn’t sell it so I decided to lease it. I ended up leasing it to a group of far right extremists. I had no idea who they were, they were presented to me by a reputable realtor as a “nice couple” and I was drawn into a situation where they were not going to pay me, they were not going to move out, and they decided this house was now theirs and belonged in their country.
You heard that right – it belonged in their country. And I ended up becoming a witness for the FBI with a group that was associated with the Montana Freemen in this country. It was a long court case and it was very interesting and when I finally got my house back I thought I’ve got to write this, but I really didn’t fully understand how to.
I thought “I’ve been a victim” and I blamed myself. I said to myself “How could I have been so stupid as to have landed up in this?” Which is what victims do, they blame themselves. And then I wrote it about it – as a serious book first, and then as a comedy and then I put it behind me.
Jenny: that sounds fascinating what is that book called, I must admit I haven’t come across it.
Nancy: You can’t get that one It was called When in Doubt Don’t and it was one of the first I put out there. It is no longer available. It did get a lot of interest and it led me on to write Shadow of Doubt and that was really the first of the Carold Childs mysteries.
Jenny: It was like your trainer wheels . . .
Nancy: Yes it was my trainer wheels . . . .It was my experiment. I needed to give birth to that and after I’d finished it I said to myself, “Now I am going to do something that is fun” and I started on the mysteries. I write soft boiled mysteries. I am published by a house which does a lot of cozies, but I do soft boiled, far to the right of the cozies, There is no sex or violence on the page, because in the newsroom we couldn’t ever be explicit.
Jenny: I think that one of the things that draws people to series is the setting, I was partly drawn to your series by contemporary LA, Hollywood, the newsy angle… and I wonder, if you were going to organise a literary “magical” tour for your series where would you Tripadvise people to go?
Nancy: Oh I love that question! Well now Carol lives in the San Fernando Valley. She lives off Dickens Street in Sherman Oaks, just below Mulholland and her best friend lives in Mulholland she is living in the family house that her father built, he was a successful producer and built this “mansionish” house at the top of Mulholland that looks over the city and you can see the ocean from there.
And I would like to start you in the Valley at Carol’s house and then we’d drive up Mulholland and have coffee with Sheri and of course Sheri doesn’t do anything that’s just basic so the coffee would be great and then and then we’d drive down to the radio station which is loosely based on KMPC, the radio station the book is based very loosely on.
And then we would go down to Venice because it is a very colorful city where you see everything from hippies generation to young actresses skateboarding down the boardwalk in bikinis and then the pier and several good restaurants. It has a very diverse community with so many different cultures here. Last Christmas I took my husband out the day after Christmas Day and we went to a real Korean bath house and went for Korean dinner. It was lovely! You can do so many different things in this city.
Jenny: Turning to Nancy as reader: As you know this Joys of Binge Reading podcast was partly sparked by the discussion of the growth of “binge reading” – the “Netflix phenomenon” – when readers can get the next book on Kindle at midnight it feeds the habit
Nancy: I am a binge reader I confess… Years ago I – have lived several lives – I lived in Europe for four years, and during that period I read everyone of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series – and that was in the days before E books..
I have read just about everything Michael Connelly has ever done, I love Joyce Carol Oates, I’ve just finished one of the Louise Perry Inspector Gamache series. l try to sample something off the best seller list and try and spread my interest.
I read Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton to keep in touch with what they are doing, because people who like them would probably also like me, but I also try and keep in touch with new and up coming writers, people I meet at conventions and so forth.
You owe it to give back, and people will ask you to read their work. And then of course when you are writing – and at present I am working on Book Five in the Carol Childs series – you are really awfully busy – sometimes too busy to read but I do still try and get in a couple of hours of reading a day.
Jenny: Circling back to the beginning, at this stage in your career, if you were doing it all again, what would you change – if anything?
Nancy: Gosh I got a degree in journalism with a minor in speech and drama. I would like to have gone back and done an English degree. I wish I’d had more time to study the greats, spent more time there. I do read quite a few of the classical writers, but I would have loved to have studied them more.
I’ve created this home office and I love working from home. I don’t go anywhere during the hours of prime time traffic. I write in the morning and I might go out to lunch in the middle of the day, but I avoid the busy times. I don’t really want to return to the workaday workforce I get an awful lot out of my writing, I enjoy it and I hope others do too, I’ve got several other things I’d like to be doing and I treat it as a fulltime job.
Jenny: That brings us to what next for Carol Childs. You have just published Book Four, Beyond a Doubt, and you’ve mentioned you are working on Book Five, and I think you have talked about doing a break out series with the Hollywood psychic Misty Dawn as the central character.
Nancy: I have. Misty is a typical older person. She came to LA as a young person driving a van and selling love potions. She was a psychic to the stars. She shows up on Carol’s door step and Carol being a good person took her in as a house keeper and companion. She’s a great snoop, because people don’t really notice she’s there or if they do take her seriously. She is a chatter box, she’s easily confused, I am playing around with some ideas.
Jenny: The name Ronald Reagan comes to mind!
Nancy: Yes! Nancy Reagan had her psychic – and it could have been Misty Dawn! She doesn’t need props like tea leaves or tarot cards – she has a genuine gift. She has been used by the FBI to find a body in Book One; she has got a legitimate power, but as she has got older her memory is not as good as it was, so she is fallible.
Jenny: Without wanting to be guilty of giving away spoilers I must admit I was interested in the change in romantic status between Book Three and Four and I’m keen to see what happens there..
Nancy: Oh yes, well, Eric Carol’s original love interest of course is a cop and there is always something between cops and journalists – a bit of sexual tension – but you know Carol doesn’t want to be tied down again. She married young and had her children, and she wants to preserve her independence, so she doesn’t get too close to men. You are not going to find a romance novel here, she is attracted to men and they come and go in her life, but she is not going to give it all up for a diamond ring.
Jenny: I know you love horses and I wondered if you’d ever thought of doing an equestrian series.
Nancy: Oh well you know I love horses. As a matter of fact when I first retired from radio I launched a newspaper for Southern California, The Equestrian News. You know when you launch a radio station you look for market need. You ask what sort of people would listen and are there advertisers for it. Is it marketable? I did the same when considering launching a speciality newspaper. It was a real niche publication.
LA is the largest equestrian city in the US. Not so surprising because we are a large city and we are largest in many things. It went along for about seven or eight years, it was going along very well.and then I had a serious accident.
If I had not had that bad accident I would not be writing the Carol Childs mystery series. I had a beautiful horse and he took off with me one day and then he stopped and I didn’t.
I had had several falls and my husband said “You know you can’t keep doing this” – and much as I hate to say it, he was right. I still have some interests in working with children with disabilities and horses – children and veterans riding, and the people who work with them For some small children when they get on a horse, it is the first time they sit eye to eye with their care givers…
I did mention a little bit of it in a book called the Centaur’s Promise. But jumping, dressage? No I am not doing that any more.
Jenny: Well Nancy it’s been great talking, but our time is drawing to a close. Where can people find you on line?
My main website is Nancycolesilverman.com
I have some short stories you can listen to there in addition to my books or go on Facebook or the Carol Childs Mysteries on Facebook.
On Facebook at www.facebook.com/NancyColeSilverman/
And on Twitter @Nancycolesilver
Jenny: Thank you Nancy and goodbye!
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