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Jose Cardenas: Isabella Maldonado is a retired police captain from Fairfax County a suburb of Washington, D.C. Her last position was commander of special investigation of forensics. She is now an author and I spoke to Maldonado about her new book. Bloods Echo is a mystery and the first and new series featuring phoenix detective Veranda Cruz who is set on taking down the Villa Lobos cartel. I have a picture of the first book on the screen and before we finish the interview we’re gonna talk about the next one coming up. Before that, give us the plot of this book.
Isabella Maldonado: It starts off because she has a vendetta against this particular cartel and it is for very specific reasons. As you read through you find out the cartel has impacted her life and her family's life in many different ways. You learn about all that and learn about what she has been hiding from her own department which is the phoenix police department. That is where the story is set.
Jose Cardenas: As we know in the introduction, you had a long and well-decorated career in law enforcement on the other side of the country. How do you translate those experiences to those of your lead character?
Isabella Maldonado: First of all, I wanted to definitely write about a police procedural-type story. But I thought just going out of the shoot it would be a good idea if I did not write about my own department. I wanted to write about something different.
Jose Cardenas: And different because she is in narcotics. I saw your bio.
Isabella Maldonado: I didn't get involved with narcotics but in my profession I had a chance to talk to a lot of narcotic detectives and work with them in many different ways. I was definitely able to gleam a lot from those kind of things. When I moved to phoenix about nine years ago I fell in love with phoenix. What a great city. I felt like all the other authors were writing about New York, Chicago, LA, I wanted to write about phoenix because it a major city, a lot going on, and it seems like it isn't getting the kind of coverage that it needs and I really wanted to feature that.
Jose Cardenas: One of the things I think you captured very well is the sense of phoenix. Everything from the hot summer you captured that pretty good. To the desert vistas and the mountain parks we have within the city. You also captured and maybe this is more impressive because it not your background. You are Puerto Rican but she’s… it is a Mexican family you focus on here and I could relate to many of the characters you are talking about. How did you do that?
Isabella Maldonado: There is a couple different things. First of all, I married into a Mexican family so I got a lot of it there. Even beyond that… When I first set about writing this, my original thought was… I was concerned a publisher wouldn't be interested in the story because it had a Latina as the protagonist and I thought, usually it seemed to me another thing I wanted to do that was different is it seemed a lot of stories I was reading and watching in the movies and seeing on television. If there were Latinas in the book or movie they were the bad guys or the side kick. They were not the main lead character. So I thought this needs to change too and we need to feature this because this is a reality in what goes on. In this book they are on all sides of it just like in real life. Good guys, bad guys, all of it. I want to make sure I pulled all that in. I thought about the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I thought that became a huge smash success and it wasn’t because all the Greek people enjoyed it. It’s because everybody enjoyed it because there’s almost this universal immigrant experience that we all have in this nation of immigrants and everybody can relate to it. Sure enough the publisher loved it and offered a multiple-book deal. Now that the book has gotten out there I'm getting lots of fan mail and people love her ethnic family. They love cultural aspect of it.
Jose: The mother's restaurant. There were some sections I was getting hungry just reading it.
Isabella Maldonado: Everybody tells me that.
Jose Cardenas: So why did you write a book like this? You had a successful career in law enforcement and then you became a writer. That had to have been a difficult process I would think.
Isabella Maldonado: It was because police…
Jose Cardenas: Nice picture of you when you were on the department.
Isabella Maldonado: When I was on the department, yeah. Police writing is completely different from creative writing. I spent five years basically studying and honing the art and craft of writing to be able to be able to do that. I published three short stories so that I could try to figure out how to do it the long form and that was extremely helpful for me. I joined a writers group and took lots of courses and things like that so I could learn how to write in a way that was compelling to people to read. I love stories. I love reading crime fiction. I wanted to tell the stories, part of it is because in law enforcement you see things don't always turn out the way they should and I thought if I am writing the story I can make it turn out the way it should instead of the way it does.
Jose Cardenas: And a lot of details about policing and the phoenix police department in particular. My understanding you have connections?
Isabella Maldonado: I have a lot of contacts on the phoenix police department. I wanted to feature… it’s a great department and I wanted to feature that department. And they have a really great way of doing things and I wanted to reader to be pulled in and feel exactly what it is like to walk through the halls and how their procedures work and the way their radio traffic works and the way they do procedure. Every department is a little bit different, each department has its own culture.
Jose: We’re almost out of time have we have to say something about the book coming up. We have a picture of the new cover. The book is off to the publisher is that right?
Yes, it’s off to the publisher it’s going to hit the shelves in March. It’s already available for pre-order. You can order it Amazon, Barnes and noble, local bookstores. It is everywhere. And so it’s available for pre-order and the first one is already out there.
Jose Cardenas: It is the same protagonist?
Yes it’s the same protagonist and actually right now I am writing book three. That is the way it always goes. You’re always sort of writing ahead of when it’s published. So I’m writing book here, so there’s gonna be another one to the series.
Jose Cardenas: Thanks for joining us for "Horizonte" and Arizona PBS. I am JOSÉ CÁRDENAS. Have a good evening.
"Horizonte" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS. Members of your PBS station. Thank you.
Isabella Maldonado moved to Arizona nine years ago after retiring from a career as a police captain in D.C. to write her first police novel that would become a series, “Blood’s Echo.”
Other than being a Latina in a white, male-dominated profession, Maldonado doesn’t have too much in common with her protagonist, Veranda Cruz. Cruz works in the Phoenix Police Department dealing with narcotics. She is also of Mexican descent, whereas Maldonado is Puerto Rican.
“I thought a lot of the other authors were writing about New York, Chicago, L.A.,” Maldonado says. “I wanted to write about Phoenix. It’s a major city, there’s a lot going on. It seems like it’s not getting the kind of coverage it needs, and I wanted to feature that.”
The novel makes it clear in the beginning that Cruz has a vendetta against a particular cartel which has impacted her life and her family’s life in different ways. Maldonado says she knew she wanted to write a police procedural story. While Cruz is not like Maldonado, the author says she was able to glean a lot from her own career to make what she was writing as accurate as possible.
“I wanted to feature the Phoenix Police Department,” Maldonado says. “I wanted the reader to be pulled in and feel exactly what it’s like to walk through the halls and how their procedures work and how their radio traffic works. Ever department is a little bit different. Each department has its own culture.”
It was important to Maldonado to have a Latina protagonist because it’s something she rarely saw. At first it was a concern of whether it would make the publisher uninterested, but the publisher ended up enjoying it. The author says she was tired of seeing Latino characters portrayed as either the bad guys or the sidekicks, if they were even portrayed at all.
“I thought of the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,'” Maldonado says. “I thought that became a huge smash success not because all the Greek people enjoyed it, it’s because everyone enjoyed it. There’s this universal immigrant experience that we all have in this nation of immigrants.”
“Blood’s Echo” is the first book of the Veranda Cruz series. The sequel, “Phoenix Burning,” will be available in March, and Maldonado is currently working on book three. For more information on the series go here.