ABOUT THE BOOKAfter taking over the fortune-telling parlor run by her late con-artist mother, Alanis McLachlan is trying to make up for her mom's con jobs by tracking down old customers and making amends. When Martha, one of the most loyal clients, comes looking for a way out of her abusive marriage, Alanis does everything she can to help. But helping Martha leads to unforeseen consequences . . . including murder. When Martha's husband is found dead, the police show up at Alanis's door. And things only get more complicated as she tries to clear her name from the top of the suspect list. With her growing mastery of the tarot and her own formidable con artist skills, can Alanis find her way to the truth before the killer gets to her first?
INTERVIEW WITH STEVE HOCKENSMITHSteve, tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Fool Me Once is the second novel in a series about a reformed con artist turned tarot reader turned crime solver. It picks up where the first book, The White Magic Five & Dime, left off. But you don't need to have read The White Magic Five & Dime to understand the new book. Readers can dive right in. To be honest, one of my least-favorite chores when writing a series book (I've written a bunch!) is weaving in all the necessary back story so that new readers won't be confused. But I do it anyway, every time. If someone stops reading for even a second to say "Chuh? Who is this person they're talking to?" then I'm in trouble. So I make sure it never comes to that!
If you had an extra $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
Time. That's what I really need: about 20 more hours per week. At the moment, I'm writing these Tarot Mysteries with my friend Lisa Falco, writing a series of middle-grade mysteries with science educator "Science Bob" Pflugfelder, launching a series of middle-grade graphic novels with my friend Chris Kientz, working a day job with a long commute, raising kids, walking dogs and, every so often, trying to eat, exercise, and sleep. Know anyone who sells time in a bottle? I think Jim Croce was really on to something with that.
Who would you pick to write your biography?
Forcing a writer to do my biography would be cruel indeed. I'm so boring! So I would spare my fellow scribes and say that Antonin Scalia should write it. It would probably turn out to be a pretty nasty piece of work – like Scalia himself – but as long as he's writing about me, he won't be writing Supreme Court decisions.
What is your most embarrassing moment? Or moments.
Oh, it's definitely plural. I have soooooooo many – and it feels like I remember them all. A classic would be the time I was being interviewed by a blind fan for a radio show for people with visual impairments. He said something nice about my books, and I replied with something like, "You can't see it, folks, but he's reading that off a cue card I wrote." It was meant to be a joke about being interviewed for the radio, but it took me about half a second to realize, "Oh, my God . . . he's blind . . . and most of his listeners are blind . . . and I'm an idiot . . . "
What makes you nervous?
Heights. Crowds. Noise. Speaking in public. Speaking to strangers. Speaking to acquaintances. Speaking. Centipedes. Kirkus.
Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
That's an interesting choice. I feel like I'm already both. It just depends on when you catch me. (I can also be a lonely idiot and a sociable genius. Or that's what it feels like sometimes, anyway.) I guess if I were forced to choose, I'd go with sociable idiot. I could live without having brains, but I wouldn't want to live without my family, friends and dogs.
Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
I love quirky, cynical, sarcastic women, and Alanis, the hero of the Tarot Mysteries, was inspired by several I've known over the years. A few editors who took a look at the manuscript for the first book thought that her wisecracking, world-weary ways made her unlikeable and overly masculine. Well, [CENSORED] that! Fortunately, the fine folks at Midnight Ink didn't feel that way, which is why the series ultimately ended up with them.
Who are your favorite authors?
The author who had the biggest influence on me was Kurt Vonnegut, though I don't think you'd necessarily guess that if you read my books. I do stuff that's much more plot-driven. But little echoes of Vonnegut's humor and outlook on life show through from time to time, I hope. Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle were big influences, too. I'm also extremely fond of (presented with no particular rhyme or reason) Catch-22, David Sedaris, Little Big Man, Carl Hiaasen, Lonesome Dove, Elmore Leonard, Fight Club, Ursula K. Le Guin and True Grit.
What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I'm reading two things at the moment. One's a history book about train robbers in the 1890s. It's on my Kindle so I can read it on the StairMaster at the gym. Unfortunately, it's the kind of history book that only historians should or even could read. The amount of research and detail is amazing . . . and overwhelming. A rip-roaring read it is not.
The other book is Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction. I have it in my favorite book format: musty old used paperback. Man oh man, is it of its time. I'm enjoying it, but the forced hippie-dippy-trippiness of it can be a bit much. I'm going to the beach with my family in a week, so I'm looking forward to some lighter, more straightforward fare. I already have a bunch of Rex Stout and John D. McDonald paperbacks set aside for the trip, so I should be set.
What would your dream office look like?
Probably a giant banana. Or a monkey's armpit. I have weird dreams! If we're talking about the kind of office I'd like to have in reality, it would be small, quiet, and isolated. No windows. No neighbors. Not even any dogs. No distractions of any kind. Just me, four walls, a computer, whatever reference material I need, and a pot of coffee. Ahh . . . paradise.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing the sixth book in the middle-grade series I do with Science Bob. After that, I need to outline a story for the graphic novel series. Then I'll have to rush straight into the third Tarot Mystery. Once that's done, I plan to finally have my nervous breakdown. I've been meaning to squeeze it in for a while now, but I never have the time.
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