CLP Blog Tours brings Julie Moffett here today to talk about her fourth Lexi Carmichael mystery novel, No Place Like Rome, published by Carina Press (Harlequin).
About the book:A Lexi Carmichael Mystery: Italy might seem like a long way to go to hide after a disastrous date. But when sexy uberhacker Slash (no, that’s not his real name) asks me to go with him to Rome on an investigation, the timing is sort of perfect. My messed up love life becomes the least of my worries though, after the dead body, the near-kidnapping, and the discovery of a top-secret encrypted file that even I can’t hack. With time running out, there’s only one thing to do: call in the legendary Zimmerman twins and my best fluent-in-Italian friend, Basia, to crack the code. Now if only someone could help me solve the mystery of whether Slash is flirting, or if all the kissing is just one of those “when in Rome” things… But when we finally uncover the secret someone would kill to keep, it’s up to me to solve the case and save the lives of my best friends. Just another week in the life of geek-girl Lexi Carmichael. Read about Lexi’s previous adventures in No One Lives Twice, No One To Trust and No Money Down.
Excerpt from No Place Like RomeI’ve loved listening to music since I was a little girl. Not because I’m musically gifted, but because notes, themes, chords and tempo all have an intrinsic mathematical logic that speaks to me. After all, music is defined by its numeric divisions, such as a beat, a measure or a bar. Musical scales are actually harmonics based on the numerical ratios present in the Fibonacci series, which are a sequence of integers beginning at zero and one and continuing with each new number being the sum of the previous two.
I know all of this because I’m a geek first-class. My name is Lexi Carmichael and I’m a mild-mannered twenty-five-year old who, thankfully for music aficionados, is not employed in any part of the music industry. By day, I work as the Director of Information Security at a hot new cyber-intelligence firm just outside of Washington, D.C. By night, I’m a gamer, book nerd and fangirl (Bond, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings). I’ve got long brown hair, no discernible curves and zip in the social skills department. I double-majored in mathematics and computer science at Georgetown University with a specialty in cybersecurity. Ask me to talk about a rigorous axiomatic framework or computational complexity theory, and I’m all over it. Ask me to make small talk and I’ll imagine myself jumping off a bridge.
Yet here I am, dressed in my fanciest dress—okay, it’s my only dress—and attending an opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with a man whose social skills and intellect far exceed my own. Small talk is inevitable, and I have a sad feeling that my observations on the Fibonacci series in Don Giovanni won’t fill more than a few minutes.
My acquaintance’s name is Slash, which is short for “backslash” in hacker lingo. I’m pretty decent myself at the keyboard, but Slash is a hacker of extraordinary ability. Of course, Slash isn’t his real name but so far he’s never felt compelled to tell me what his family named him at birth. In fact everything about Slash is a mystery, except that he assures me he’s Italian-American and he works, at least partially, for the NSA, where I was once gainfully employed. He’s so good at what he does that he’s watched around the clock by a team of FBI agents who I’m pretty sure are instructed to kill him rather than let him fall into enemy hands.
Tonight, Slash looked jaw-droppingly handsome in three piece suit and tie. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a date because I’m quasi-seeing my boss, Finn Shaughnessy, and Slash knows that. But Finn’s and my situation is fraught with complications and I’m having a hard time sorting it all out. Maybe Slash doesn’t care about Finn or maybe he does. I wouldn’t know either way. Technically, the word date wasn’t mentioned once in relation to our evening. So, as far as I know, this is just Slash’s goodwill gesture to expand my personal horizons into areas, up until now, unexplored.
Interview with Julie MoffettJulie, you have thirteen published novels--wow! How long have you been writing, and how did you start?
Well, I published my first book in 1993. I wrote it because publishing a novel was something I’d always wanted to do. It was a Scottish historical romance with a strong heroine and two leading men. It wasn’t overly sexy, just an unusual romance featuring a woman who had to choose one man, even though she loved them both. Luckily, I was clueless that this was not standard at the time, and sent in the manuscript on my own to several New York publishing houses. I had two offers on the book within two weeks.
I actually wrote my first book in the second grade when I penned a love story between Prince Valen and Princess Tina who met, fell in love and got married on Valentine’s Day. I still have it. It was a big hit with all the girls in my class. The boys held their noses. After that I won a 3rd grade poem contest about a haunted house. I followed up that with a stint on my college newspaper, and later moved into international journalism. Eventually I got brave enough to pen a novel for publication purposes.
What do you like best about writing?
I love writing because the voices in my head finally get heard! It’s a wonderful, magical, frustrating and agonizing process.
What’s your least favorite thing?
My least favorite part is putting my bottom in a chair and writing every day. Writing and wrestling with my Muse is really hard work.
How did you come up with the title No Place Like Rome?
My first novel in the Lexi Carmichael series, No One Lives Twice, is a word play on a Bond movie because my heroine, Lexi, is a Bond geek (and in the spirit of full disclosure, so am I). Since then, I have kept NO as the first word in all the titles in the series. I love the title of the latest book, No Place Like Rome. One of the main characters in the series, a sexy uberhacker named Slash, is Italian-American. He enlists Lexi to go with him to Rome to help his uncle who is accused of hacking money from the Vatican Bank. I’m not sure Rome will be the same after a visit from Lexi!
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I do. I am a proposal writer for a defense contractor in the Washington, DC area. Proposal writing is quite similar to fiction on occasion!
How would you describe your book in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)
Get your geek on in No Place Like Rome with hacker extraordinaire, Lexi Carmichael. Spies, Geeks, and Lies, oh, my! #mystery #romance #adventure
Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?
I write with an outline. I know, boring. I’m a total plotter. Think Dragnet: “Just the facts ma'am.” I need to know the plot up front and all the way to the end, including the series arc. That doesn’t mean things don’t sometimes take an unexpected turn. They do. But I’ve always got a goal in mind. I really wish I could write by the seat of my pants, have curly hair (it’s as straight as it gets), and brush my teeth with my eyes closed. But we are who we are.
Do you have imaginary friends? When do they talk to you? Do they tell you what to write or do you poke them with a Q-tip?
My first imaginary friends were the Chipmunks when I was three years old. I kid you not, Alvin was my closest buddy. My mom said the Chipmunks hung around for some time. As I grew up, I just replaced the Chipmunks with other characters in my head. Finally, I decided to write stories about them. My characters talk to me all the time, no Q-tip required. The first time I heard an audio book of one of my novels was surreal. The voices in my head were actually talking aloud! That was a real ‘whoa’ moment for me.
Sophie’s choice: Do you have a favorite of your characters?
I think my favorite character is Lexi herself. She’s such a conundrum. She’s smart enough to know she needs people and a life outside her “virtual existence,” but she doesn’t know quite how to go about it. Enter her best friend, Basia, who is essentially the expositional character in the series. She plays off Lexi’s inexperience and offers suggestions to help bring her out of her geek shell with sometimes—-well, most of the time—unexpected results.
Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Honestly, things, people, and events in real life inspire me. A lot. So, to know me is to be in danger! You could be in my next novel in one form or the other.
Are you like any of your characters?
I think there are definitely parts of me in Lexi. I’m also a lot like her best friend, Basia, but much less of a fashionista!
What song would you pick to go with your book?
Here is the soundtrack that I typically listen to while I’m trying to write... “Mommy, play with me, please,” “Can I have a popsicle?” “Mom, he’s in my stuff again!” “He breathed on me.” “MOM!!!”
I'm not sure that's on YouTube, but I've heard it often! Who are your favorite authors?
Okay, I like Michael Crichton, Robert Crais, Dean Koontz, Lisa Gardner, Stephen King, Tess Gerritsen and Nora Roberts/JD Robb, among a thousand others. Favorite book of all time: Watership Down by Richard Adams. The rabbit fantasy thing just does it for me every time.
Which author would you most like to invite to dinner, and what would you fix him?
Oh, Lexi and I would have a blast at dinner eating cookie dough ice cream and chocolate éclairs. But a dinner with Slash would be eventful to say the least. A good Italian wine, some spicy pasta, all while playing a game of strip poker. Hmmm...
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I just finished The Farm by Emily McKay. It’s a young adult vampire novel. It’s not my typical reading fare, but someone whose taste I trust highly recommended it to me, and I enjoyed every page. I just purchased I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. I’m looking forward to reading that book, too. Both of them are in e-book format.
Do you have a routine for writing? Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?
Are writers with young children allowed to have a writing routine? I simply snatch every writing moment I can find. Someday, I’ll have a real writing schedule, or at least I hope so!
If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? (Don’t worry about the money. Your publisher is paying.
Egypt. It’s on my bucket list to see the pyramids. Then I could know for sure if they were engineered by aliens or not.
What are you working on now?
Just finished up the next book in the Lexi Carmichael series, tentatively titled, No Biz Like Show Biz, and should be sending it out to my editor any moment now. Lexi goes undercover on a reality television dating show to catch a hacker. Hilarity ensues, of course!
Of course! And I'm looking forward to hearing more about it!
About the author:
She grew up as a military brat (Air Force) and has traveled extensively. Her more exciting exploits include attending Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan, backpacking around Europe and Scandinavia for several months, a year-long college graduate study in Warsaw, Poland, and a wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland where she fell in love with castles, kilts and brogues.
Julie has a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Language from Colorado College, a M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is nearly finished with her M.Ed. Able to speak Russian and Polish, she worked as a journalist for the international radio station, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Washington, D.C. for eleven years, publishing hundreds of articles. She now works as a proposal writer and research advisor for a defense contractor in the Washington, D.C. area.
Julie is a single mom with two sons, who keep her quite busy. She belongs to Romance Writers of America and Washington Romance Writers where she served six years on the organization’s Board of Directors. She was also the Market News Columnist and Feature’s Editor for the organization’s monthly newsletter, Update, for eleven years.
Connect with Julie:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy the Book: