The Word Nerds were stoked to meet Kristi Belcamino at Murder and Mayhem this past fall. Her third book, “Blessed are those who Weep” released yesterday and continues her Gabriella Giovanni. She was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with us for a Q&A.
WN: Tell us about Gabriella Giovanni. What should a new reader expect from her adventures?
KRISTI: Gabriella Giovanni is an Italian-American crime reporter working in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She is sensual and feminine and tough. Her own dark past haunts her, but also gives her the ability to relate to people who are suffering. Families of the dead open up to her and she puts their stories in the paper because she believes that people deserve much more than just a name in the paper when they die.
She is also somewhat of a chameleon, able to shift from a fancy dinner with the mayor or sheriff to staring down a serial killer sitting in a jail cell to chilling with tough gang members on the streets of Oakland.
She gives it a valiant effort but usually fails miserably in attaining the la bella figura philosophy her Italian mama taught her – to look your best at all times. And she is not a woman who picks at a salad at a restaurant. She is part Italian so she loves to cook and loves to eat even more. And exercise? She gets enough of that walking around her Italian neighborhood in North Beach, San Francisco.
A new reader should understand that while sometimes it appears that Gabriella thoughtlessly rushes into situations that are dangerous — personal risk takes a back seat to her passionate nature that pushes her to stop at nothing in her quest for justice and the truth.
WN: How does your work as a crime reporter impact your books?
KRISTI: For better or worse, I have seen and done things that the average person hasn’t because of my work as a crime reporter. I’ve sat in on autopsies, talked to serial killers, held the hands of grieving family members, and flown in an FA/18 jet with the Blue Angels.
When I write fiction, I draw on the emotions I experienced as a reporter to make Gabriella’s experience as authentic as possible. I also believe I have a good ear for dialogue because as journalists we are all natural eavesdroppers looking to capture the different voices we encounter on paper.
And, of course, some crimes I’ve covered as a reporter do end up in my books as inspiration in the fiction world I’m creating.
WN: What was easier as what was harder as your wrote your latest novel from when you started?
KRISTI: It was easier to write book three in the Gabriella Giovanni series, Blessed are Those Who Weep, because I know the characters so well and I have much more confidence in my ability as a writer. I finally understand story structure. In my first book, Blessed are the Dead, I had to learn how to be a fiction writer. I wrote the book and then spent a year reading books on the craft of fiction, basically giving myself a home M.F.A. But at the end, I knew how to write a book.
Writing book three was harder because for the first time I was on a tight deadline to finish. I had an editor waiting for my work and a publishing date to make. I wrote Blessed are Those Who Weep in four months. By June 2016, I’ll have had four books published in one year, so it’s been a bit of a chaotic, fun ride.
WN: Were you a reader as a kid? How has that influenced you as a writer?
KRISTI: I feel like all I did as a kid was read. And I’ve always wanted to be a writer but never got the confidence to do it until I was in my 40s! When I was in fourth grade, I read a crazy number of books and my teacher gave me a kid’s thesaurus as a gift. Inside, she wrote that she knew I would be a writer one day.
WN: What books/authors have captured your attention lately?
KRISTI: I’ve re-discovered Patricia Cornwell. I’ve ripped through her two latest books. I used to be a big fan and somewhere along the line stopped reading but now am happy to be back in her fan stables.
I’ve also had a fantastic time discovering new authors I met at Bouchercon, such as Matt Coyle and Julia Dahl, and my new pals, Nancy Allen and Carey Baldwin.
WN: What’s a question the Word Nerds should have asked but didn’t (and answer it.)
All these questions were great fun to answer so maybe a boring one, like where can readers find out more about my books and me? I’m at kristibelcamino.com and blab on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kristibelcaminowriter.