How did you begin to write?
In 1970 I became a high school teacher in San Jose, California. At that time most of my students were from Mexico and there was little information about the Mexican school system available. I wrote my master's thesis on phonetic instruction concerning kids from Mexico and in 1976; I entered a doctoral program at the University of San Francisco. In 1978, I asked the Mexican government to allow me to visit 30 of their best schools in Mexico City. I sat in the classrooms, interviewed the teachers, interviewed the directors of the schools and I gave each teacher a questionnaire. The result was my doctoral dissertation-- a description of literacy instruction in Mexico. From 1978 to 1998, I continued to visit some of the schools every other year and at the ten-year mark, I replicated half of the study. In 1998, I redid the entire study. Over the years, I published many articles, some teaching materials and a couple of books based on my conclusions. In addition, I gave several speeches. Now that I am retired, I have decided to write mysteries.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
My characters are based on real people and I try very hard to make them multi-dimensional. I decided at the beginning that I would use ordinary people and thus my main characters are four high school English teachers who have worked together for over twenty-five years. During a faculty scholarship fundraiser at Central High, they had performed a parody of Dawn, a Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons song. It was, Central, You're Too Thin For Me. Rick Podowsky and The Hefty Trio had become an instant hit, and the group's name had stuck.
What inner need does writing fulfill?
As my academic writings were being published, many of my friends felt that I should write a cookbook since cooking is my passion. My mysteries handle that conflict because the main characters love to eat and drink. The four books are filled with descriptions of food and wine. Since by nature I am a researcher, I was forced to visit the twenty-eight wineries in the books and sample as appropriate (and sometimes I sampled more than what was appropriate!). In each case, I talked to the various people at the wineries and learned some wonderful stories about the lure of wine. This has been a great experience.