Interview with Sylvia Massara

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Argentina but emigrated to Australia with my family at the age of 10. Interestingly, I didn't speak a word of English when I arrived here, and this was a difficult time for me. Children, however, are very resilient, and the experience of being a migrant in a country where discrimination was a lot worse back then (I'm talking early 70s), toughened me up, and I set out to show everyone who I really was.

Ironically, I came first in my spelling class after less than 6 months of living here. This said a lot for the education system back then. It was obvious my schoolmates didn't read too much :)

By the time I was 12 years old, I was writing screenplays of shows like Starsky and Hutch, and passing the screenplays around for the whole class to read. They loved my "weekly" episodes. I also wrote a few other screenplays with characters such as the nameless cowboy in Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter". I was also involved in the writing of school productions.

Hollywood always influenced my imagination. In fact, ever since I was 5 years old, all I wanted was to be an actor. This never materialised, but my make-believe world developed from the many TV shows and films I used to watch, as well as all the novels I read during my early teens, starting with The Three Investigators and The Nancy Drew Series and followed by the historical romances of Barbara Cartland, and later, the more contemporary Harlequin/Mills&Boon romances.

At age 16, I wrote my first novel, a historical romance, and sent it off to a publisher for a lark. The funny thing was, the publisher wanted to publish it. First, though, he wanted me to expand the novella that it was (at 35K words) to 80K words. Like a fool, I decided not to do it. I could kick myself now for not having done it. Imagine, I would have been published at 16!
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'm pretty much a 'multi-genre' author; and right now, I'm working on the 4th novel of my mystery series--The Mia Ferrari Mysteries. Mia Ferrari was inspired by one of my favourite genres--the 1940s black and white Hollywood films known as 'film noir'. I love smartarse, flawed characters, who can be wicked for their own ends, but who all the same try to bring the bad guys to justice. I'm talking the likes of Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe.

I created the Mia Ferrari series with two things in mind: 1. Mia is an older woman in her late 40s. In real life, women in their late 40s and beyond usually become 'invisible'. This is a sore point with me as we have so much to give of ourselves, especially our wisdom among other things. Our society doesn't appreciate older women, and so we are relegated to the 'has-beens' bucket.

With Mia, I decided to change all this. Mia is a vibrant but flawed woman who's been through some tough times in life, and most recently came off an 18-year marriage to a man who dumped her for a younger woman. Mia is bitter, she's resentful, and she doesn't suffer fools gladly, but she's tough and she'll leave no stone unturned to help a victim of crime.

Mia also has a chip on her shoulder because she couldn't get into the police force when she was younger (due to height restrictions imposed back then). She's a little spitfire at 5 foot nothing, but her application to the force was rejected. One of the people who was instrumental in getting her rejected (even though the height restrictions had just been abolished) was Detective Sergeant Phil Smythe, now her archenemy.

Mia works as a Duty Manager in the international world of hotels, where anything and everything happens: murders, suicides, temperamental chefs throwing knifes at innocent kitchen hands, demanding celebrities, criminals carrying out shady deals, etc. Of course, where Mia goes, trouble follows, and she becomes like an in-house detective, always a step ahead of the cops, and specially her archenemy, whom she takes great pleasure in antagonising. As far as Mia is concerned, this is payback time for Detective Phil Smythe.

2. The other thing that made me create Mia was my love of the 1940s movies where wise guys are tough and wise girls are 'dames'. But with Mia, the setting of the novels is modern contemporary. However, the mysteries are fast-paced, and peppered with a bit of film noir black humour. Mia also has a weakness for younger men and fast cars like her trusty Ferrari. Corny, isn't it? A Ferrari owning a Ferrari :)
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have so much to write, and write it in my own style and not to somebody's formula. I was almost accepted once to write for Harlequin, but once I read their guidelines, such as boy must meet girl by page 5, I decided to become an "indie" author and create and write what I like in my own way. I'm a bit like Mia Ferrari, a stubborn, older chick with an attitude and a love for younger men :)
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I've had a very difficult life so far filled with loss, betrayal, emotional pain and most recently, a chronic pain condition. All I have left these days is my writing and my cat. I take joy in both. The greatest joy in my writing, however, is that I get lost in the stories I write and therefore enter a totally different world where anything is possible and where the characters are my family. When I'm what creatives call "in the zone" I'm no longer Sylvia; I'm in another dimension where anything is possible.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are the wonderful people who open their hearts to my characters (and therefore to me indirectly), and who share in the adventures of my creation. If I can make my fans laugh, cry, or both, then, I've done a good job with the story. If I conjure up any kind of emotion in my fans through my novels, then I am a true author.
What are you working on next?
I put Mia Ferrari on hold for a while because I was inspired to write a sci-fi romance, The Stranger; which I dedicated to my long-time idol, David Bowie. Ironically, while I was writing the novel, I managed to locate David Bowie's management company in NYC; and knowing he was a voracious reader, I asked if I could send him a copy once the novel was finished. His agency accepted and assured me they would put the book in his hands. I was so happy about this! I had dreams that David would love the story so much that he'd buy the film rights to it or something along those lines. Unfortunately, before the novel was finished, the world suffered the loss of this great man and I was plunged into deep grief. Having been an admirer of his for over 30 years, and he influencing a huge part of my youth, it was like losing a family member for me. I still can't believe he's gone. When I finished the book I dedicated it to his loving memory.

Now, I'm working on my 4th Mia Ferrari novel, but I'm still in the planning stages.
Who are your favorite authors?
Agatha Christie, Philippa Gregory, C.J. Samson, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs. I also love the old vampire chronicles Anne Rice used to write. And of course, no one tells a story like Harper Lee.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My cat, who ironically shares the same birthday as David Bowie--I didn't realise this until after David Bowie passed on, doesn't necessarily inspire me to get out of bed; she forces me! LOL. Mia (yes, I named her after my character, Mia Ferrari) thinks she's a superstar because she shares a birthday with my idol, so if I don't get out of bed by 7am to play with her, she chews on my hair! And, by the way, she often wakes me between 4 and 5 am so I can get her breakfast ready. To coin a well-known phrase: "Dogs have masters and cats have slaves." Need I say more?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love to watch films--especially the classics. There is so much to learn from films and how plots and characters are developed. I also read a lot, and of course, like most authors, I'm addicted to coffee.
What do you read for pleasure?
I go through phases with what I read. Right now, I'm really into mystery/suspense. I also enjoy historical mysteries like those written by C. J. Samson. I love anything Renaissance and around the period of the Tudors. C. J. Samson writes mysteries based in the time of King Henry VIII.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I've only ever tried a Kindle, and I quite like it. I'm done with turning pages, even though I said I'd never give up physical books, but an e-reader is great, at least for fiction. For non-fiction, I still like to turn the pages, especially with the many art books I have of Renaissance paintings.
Published 2016-08-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Stranger
Price: $5.95 USD. Words: 85,640. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: March 15, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » General
A sci-fi apocalyptic romance with moralistic issues. Rhys is on a mission in order to determine Earth's destiny, but his judgement is in danger of becoming clouded when he meets and falls in love with a human. Rhys is forced to weigh up the collective evil on Earth and its causal effect on the greater good of other life in the universe against the love he has for one woman.
The South Pacific Murders -- A Mia Ferrari Mystery #3
Series: The Mia Ferrari Mysteries, Book 3. Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 75,290. Language: Australian English. Published: March 8, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
A killer is on the loose onboard a cruise liner. A number of doctors from a medical convention are being murdered one by one. The ship’s captain asks Mia and her travelling companions to take over the investigation. A secret sex club and horse racing bets are the only clues that can uncover the identity of the killer, but will Mia be able to solve the mystery before the killer strikes again?
The Gay Mardi Gras Murders - A Mia Ferrari Mystery #2
Series: The Mia Ferrari Mysteries, Book 2. Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 73,120. Language: Australian English. Published: August 5, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
Mia Ferrari, smartarse, older chick, super sleuth, is back! This time, she is up to her neck in drag queens, a rare diamond with a curse, and murder most foul against the backdrop of Sydney's world famous Gay Mardi Gras. A female impersonator is murdered and Mia has to juggle drag queens, handsome gay men, a transsexual with a dark past, a young cop with sex on his mind, and much more.
Playing With The Bad Boys - A Mia Ferrari Mystery #1
Series: The Mia Ferrari Mysteries, Book 1. Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 75,150. Language: English. Published: March 5, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
(4.33 from 6 reviews)
A woman plunges ten floors down an atrium and lands on a baby grand piano in the luxurious Rourke Hotel Sydney. The police rule this as a straight case of suicide; but 48-year-old hotel duty manager and wannabe investigator, Mia Ferrari, thinks otherwise. As Mia sets out to unravel the mysterious death, she comes up against an unsavoury cast of characters who will do anything to shut her up.
Like Casablanca
Price: $3.95 USD. Words: 62,750. Language: English. Published: January 29, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » Chick lit, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(4.50 from 4 reviews)
What does internet dating and Casablanca have in common? Nothing, unless you go to Rick's Cafe and find out what dating blogger, Cat Ryan, is up to. Cat's doing research for her internet dating blog, and the place she chooses to meet her many dates is Rick's Cafe in Sydney. But what of its disturbingly handsome owner, Rick Blake? What does he think, seeing her with a different man each time?
The Soul Bearers
Price: $5.95 USD. Words: 100,420. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Inspirational, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(5.00 from 8 reviews)
Partly inspired by true life events, this is a story of courage, friendship and unconditional love. Alex, freelance writer and survivor of child abuse, shares a house with homosexual couple: Steve and the disturbing Matthew. Alex finds she is inexplicably attracted to Matthew and must battle with her repressed sexuality and fear of intimacy.
The Other Boyfriend
Price: $3.95 USD. Words: 60,880. Language: Australian English. Published: July 22, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » Chick lit, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(4.62 from 13 reviews)
Sarah Jamison is on a mission to find a boyfriend for her lover’s partner; and Sarah’s best friend comes to the rescue with an idea so crazy that it just might work. Enter the enigmatic Mike Connor. Sarah hates the man on sight, but her body tells her otherwise. Mike Connor is smug and full of himself; even so, Sarah thinks that with his help she can finally be with the love of her life.