M.L. Ortega was raised in the North by Southerners and thus learned to embrace dichotomy, which shows in her writing. With humor at the wheel, dark subject matter rides 'shotgun'.
Moving frequently throughout her childhood, her family finally settled in California, where she eventually married and had four children. The children have grown and moved away, leaving her in the care of a very patient husband and two independent cats.
1. Where did the idea for TURN KEY CONDITION come from?
I work in a school office. One day my son came home from a college class dealing with human sexuality and told me a startling statistic on the estimated number of people who have been abused as young people. All staff members are mandated reporters, meaning they have to report even a suspicion of abuse to authorities. I wondered how someone with that kind of history would react to such a suspicion. Would it bring back terrible memories?
2. What was the inspiration behind the main character, Maggie?
When I did research into the subject I was surprised at the number of very successful people who had survived that experience and wanted to present a character who reflected such resilience, living a regular life with a lot of humor.
3. What do you think made Maggie, a cleaning lady, a suitable detective?
She’s not a cleaning woman, per se. This is a single mom who does any odd job that comes her way to support her family. That kind of hands-on attitude gave her innate qualities to solve whatever comes into her life and threatens her family.
4. Can you briefly describe the relationship of Maggie and Jane?
Sometimes the most opposites of people make the best of friends. They seem to make up what is lacking in the other person and appreciate the traits they themselves don’t have. That’s why you often see a shy, introverted person becoming best friends with a gregarious one.
5. Do you enjoy watching crime shows like CSI?
I enjoy them but at the same time was frustrated by them. There were the gritty shows like Law and Order, Hannibal and Justified. Then, the odd misfit detective shows like Perception. British ones like the new Sherlock Holmes and the Agatha Christie ones aired on Masterpiece Mystery. But none that reflected the reality of many of the School Resource Officers I’ve met at school – many of them Hispanic.
6. What was your writing process like when writing this novel?
I began on a spring break, set up an outline and set each chapter as the events of a day keeping a time frame that resolved the events in the book within about a week. For some reason, that kept the ball rolling. I go into more detail about this on an article on my blog entitled “My Writing Process” http://mlortega.wordpress.com/
7. Who are the authors that you admire most?
Although there are many good women mystery writers, I’ve just recently found Desiree Zamarano, who’s a Southern California Sisters in Crime member and pretty good writer.
8. What do you hope readers will gain from your novel?
More understanding of abuse survivors, interesting insight into Hispanic culture. A new TV network for Hispanics, NUVO, has just come on the scene and it reflects the bicultural experience I see in the friends I have and my co-workers. There’s a sense that hispanics/latino(a)s are neither fish nor fowl. They have their own culture.
9. Do you feel your book is an inspiration to Latina readers?
Not exactly an inspiration but I hope the proverbs take them back to their childhood years where usually grandparents voiced these sayings. Full disclosure here: I am not Hispanic but have an outsider’s view into the culture through my fellow office workers and outside friends. It’s their thoughts and feelings I hope to express through Fortunado (Tuna) Rocha, one of the characters in Turn Key Condition.
10. What is your next project?
Shampoo and Condition, Book Two of Conditions Series in which Maggie’s sister-in-law drops dead in a beauty salon called “Ro-Sham-Bo” and Tuna again buffers Maggie from the dangers of criminal investigation.
UP NEXT: A review for Turn Key Condition