Marcy McCreary’s new novel, THE MURDER OF MADISON GARCIA, finds Detective Susan Ford uncovering an old family’s secrets to find a killer. In honor of this new release, I sat down with Marcy for an interview about murder mysteries, writing sequels, and more.
Tell us a bit about The Murder of Madison Garcia.
The Murder of Madison Garcia is a contemporary police procedural that pairs a by-the-book female detective with her by-the-gut father (a retired detective) and takes place in the Catskills region of New York—The Borscht Belt—where the old storied hotels once dotted the landscape. It is the second book in a three-book standalone series, “The Ford Family Mystery Series.”
Detective Susan Ford notices a missed call on her phone from a number she doesn’t recognize, and when Madison Garcia, a woman with past ties to the town of Monticello, New York, is found stabbed to death the next morning, Susan realizes that Madison was the one who had called her. But why? Susan teams up with her father, retired Detective Will Ford, to find the killer, and their investigation soon threatens to uncover Madison's family’s secrets—a disputed inheritance, money laundering, extramarital affairs, an accidental death, and family rivalries—and her family is not too keen on the Fords digging into their lives. As the investigation deepens, the Fords discover that Madison was planning to confess to a long-kept secret. But someone brutally silenced her before she had a chance to reveal what it was, making nearly everyone she knew a suspect in her murder.
The Murder of Madison Garcia is the second book in the Detective Susan Ford series. How did your process change or stay the same from the first book?
I don’t think my writing process changed much while drafting the novel (maybe it’s because I’m a pantser and I just follow my instincts as I write), but the knowledge I gained after my first book was published did have bearing on how I self-edited the subsequent drafts of The Murder of Madison Garcia. Before heading into the second draft of that novel, I thought about all the advice my editor imparted to me, which I must admit, made me more adept at editing. As I cleaned up the first draft of that manuscript, I kept these questions in the back of my mind: Was there enough conflict and tension in a particular scene? Was the dialog authentic and did it move the plot along? Did the ending paragraph of a chapter make it impossible for the reader to put down? Were there any plot holes to fill? And last, but not least, did I inadvertently change the name of a character in the second half of the book?
Your novels take place in Monticello, NY, which is located in the Catskills region of New York. Could you have set your story in any small town or is there a significance with this particular town/area?
I spent my summers (1965-1982) in the Catskills resort area, affectionately dubbed the Borscht Belt because the hotels and bungalow colonies catered primarily to Jewish families. If you are not familiar with the area, I highly recommend the movie Dirty Dancing, the series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisal and the documentary, Welcome To The Kutsher’s: The Last Hotel Resort. My dad was the tummler (activities director) and nightclub emcee at The Hotel Brickman and the Kutsher’s Hotel. I lived through three eras of the Borscht Belt: its glory days in the 1960s, its waning days in the 1970s, and its demise through the 1980s. These days, the area is experiencing a resurgence as an arts and cultural tourist destination. The Catskills is a setting with its own story arc—and I was drawn to the possibilities of how I could use the location as a backdrop to my stories. My first novel leans into the history of the area and the uniqueness of that history actually affects the characters’ lives, so it was essential to the narrative that my story takes place there.
Will we be seeing more Detective Susan Ford mysteries?
Yes! I am currently working on the third book in the series, The Summer of Love and Death. It is a dual timeline narrative—1969 and 2019. Detective Susan Ford is investigating a murder that is eerily similar to her father’s first case as a detective. Only that perp is long dead, so the question is who is recreating the MO and why? Will assists Susan by tapping into his memory of that nostalgic summer (Woodstock, moon landing, NY Mets winning the World Series) to help her solve the case. I’ve always wanted to write a mystery in a theater setting, so the present day victim is the director of a summer stock production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
What is the best piece of advice you’d give an aspiring mystery writer?
The best piece of advice I ever received came from my husband, who writes literary fiction. It’s his advice that I tend to pass along to other aspiring writers: “No stick figures . . . every secondary and tertiary character should have enough depth so that readers can imagine them as protagonists in their own story.” Because I write complex mysteries with lots of characters—some merely cameo appearances—this advice is crucial. Many of my characters make singular appearances as a witness or neighbor or a waitress, and I want each and every one of them to be memorable.
Where can people order The Murder of Madison Garcia?
The Murder of Madison Garcia is available wherever you buy books! Or you can borrow it from your local library.
Where’s the best place to follow you?
Instagram (@marcymccrearyauthor) is my favorite social media platform for engaging with readers and authors, so I tend to post on Instagram quite often. But you’ll also find me on Facebook (@marcymccrearywrites), on Twitter (@mcmarcy) and TikTok (@marcymccreary).