Interview with Heather Haven, Author of Murder Is a Family Business

Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. One of her first jobs as a writer was given to her by her then agent, that of writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week and then promptly came down with the flu. She wrote The Sands of Time with a temperature of 102 and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Later on, she wrote short comedy skits for nightclub acts and ad copy for such places as No Soap Radio, where her love for comedy blossomed. Many of her short stories have been seen in various publications, as well as 2 one-act plays have been produced in Manhattan several times. Her novel, Murder is a Family Business, the first in the Alvarez Murder Mystery series, was epublished by MuseItUp Publishing in January, 2011.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Heather Haven. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing professionally and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Murder is a Family Business?

In my twenties and thirties – back in the Punic Wars -- I spent my writing career in New York City creating short stories, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, and commercials. I even ghost-wrote a book once. The idea of writing my own book didn’t occur to me until I was in my early forties. What can I say? I’m a late bloomer.

I read my first Nancy Drew book at the tender age of nine and never looked back. I discovered I love a good mystery, in particular, humorous mysteries, and not necessarily with blond heroines. Most of the time when I read a book, I like it to be on the funny side. If I want to cry, I can pick up a newspaper and glance at the real estate or financial sections. Tears will spring to my eyes instantly.

So I decided to write a funny murder mystery series, beginning with Murder is a Family Business. After all, a writer lives inside her or his head and if I have to be in there 24/7, I’d like to have a few laughs along the way.

Q: I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

I felt my mystery series had to include two important things: the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s natural resources, and the family unit. Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. The first book had to be called Murder is a Family Business to set the tone for the series. However, this wasn’t going to be a ‘classic’ family i.e., father, mother, sister, brother, and large dog, all driving around in a shiny SUV. Of course, these days a family like that is harder to find than a dinosaur with feathers. Oh, wait a minute. Archeologists are digging those up all the time from unsuspecting peoples’ backyards. Maybe that means the Ozzie and Harriet family does still exist somewhere. Helloooooo out there!

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

I like to think it’s unique, well-crafted, and tickling the funny bone of some of life’s real problems. Lee Alvarez, the protagonist, along with her younger brother, Richard, are the products of a 35-year union between Roberto, a Mexican Immigrant who made good, and a Palo Alto blueblood, Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day Lila Hamilton Alvarez. Roberto dies unexpectedly and like most sudden familial deaths, a realignment of the surviving members takes place. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but as a rule, it will be different. Who would have thought another death two years later would help rekindle what this small family had lost with the patriarch’s death?

Q: Can you tell us the story behind your book cover? Did you choose it or did your publisher, MuseItUp, have full control? Were you happy with the decision or did you have something else in mind?

MuseItUp works very collaboratively with its writers, so I had a lot of input. I knew it had to feature a kitten and a gun, but in a totally non-confrontational, non-abusive, and humorous way. Hard to do, but it got done and with style. The cover designer, Delilah K. Stephans, is the kind of artist who is able to take what you say and come up with something so much better, so much more appropriate; you wonder how you didn’t think of it yourself. I love the covers Delilah did for both my books, Murder is a Family Business and the 2nd book of the series, debuting at the end of the April, A Wedding To Die For.

Q: How have you approached marketing your book? Do you have someone doing it for you or have you had to do most of the marketing yourself?

MuseItUp does a fair amount but the rest I do myself. I call it the Throw-The-Spaghetti-On-The-Wall-And-Hope-Some-Of-It-Sticks approach to marketing. I have no idea what I’m doing, but hey, I am half-Italian. I’m open to all sorts of suggestions, too, so go ahead, make one. See if I don’t try it.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

This series isn’t quite like anything else that I know of, which is why I wrote it. If pressed, you could say Lee Alvarez is sort of a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovitch. Lee is a quirky 34-year old divorcee working as a private investigator in the family-owned Silicon Valley investigative service, Discretionary Inquiries. D.I. specializes in the investigation of wrongful doings in computer technology. On the occasions when Lee gets caught up in a random dead body or two, her family’s right there. She’s backed by her beautiful ice-princess mother, Lila, who is CEO and head of the business. Lee’s younger brother, Richard, is the head of Research and Information Technology. Lee’s Uncle Tío is the retired head chef of a well-known Mexican restaurant. Even the new foundling kitten, Tugger, becomes head of the household in Lee’s small, two-bedroom apartment over the family garage.

Lee isn’t head of squat, thank you. But she’s got the heart of a lion, eyes the color of twilight, and the instincts of a first-rate PI, which is good, because she’s always getting herself in trouble.

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

I threw open the book and landed on page 80. This happens to be one of my favorite scenes, although there isn’t a lot of action in it. It’s more a study of Lee’s discomfort and dislike for the widow of the man who died on her watch two days previously. Burdened by guilt and responsibility, Lee endures an enforced afternoon tea, surrounded by heavily starched doilies that seem to be breeding everywhere. In one hand she holds a cup of weak tea. In the other, she balances a small plate of toast points covered with a brown spread reeking of garlic and cloves. Then her napkin starts to slide off her lap. It goes downhill from there. There are many more action-packed scenes in the book, but you told me to open to a random page and that honestly was it.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes, indeedie. A Wedding to Die For, book two of the Alvarez Murder Mystery Series, comes out April 22. I have finished the 3rd installment, Death Runs in the Family, awaiting my final edits. The 4th book is cooking in the Crockpot, so to speak. I love writing the series. I get to be all the characters, including the cat!

Q: Thank you for your interview, Heather. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My website is and you can read the first chapter of each of my books there. To purchase Murder is a Family Business, and I thank you in advance for this, hie thee over to MuseItUp at It’s also at Amazon at, or many of the other sites that sell books. There I’ll be. Murder is a Family Business will be offered in print at MuseItUp at the end of April. So fun.
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