I’d like to introduce you to the sixty-second interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Mary Ann Schradi, who writes as Mimzi Schradi.
Hi, Mary Ann! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. You write mystery novels as Mimzi Schradi. Why did you choose that name?
I thought it was kind of catchy. Also, it is my nickname from my childhood. My friends still call me a shortened version of it.
Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
I have been writing all my life but in different capacities. I used to teach drama and write plays. I used to teach Creative Writing and write poetry. I always wrote curriculum when I taught. Now, in my life, that I focus mostly on writing and music, I write fiction, as well as memoir, non-fiction, poetry and dabble now and then in songwriting.
Your mystery novel, PsyChic in Seattle, is the first book in a series about the adventures of Tangie Seraphina. It was published in July, 2012. Can you tell us about the book? What inspired your to write it?
I wanted to write a book that told the truth. There is a lot of truth in fiction. Fiction frees you to write about anything you want—and one day, I decided to write about a young woman who tells the truth and wants to be taken seriously by her peers and colleagues. I think she achieves her goals in this first book and in doing so discovers emotions, strengths and talents hidden within her being.
The book is set in Alaska and Washington. Why did you choose those states for the setting? Did you do a lot of research for the book?
I chose Washington, because I live here and I love the state. I love Seattle and especially the Queen Anne neighborhood, where part of the novel takes place. If I lived in Seattle, that is where I would live. I live on a small island, about an hour north of Seattle, which is really a world apart—but I visit the city often to attend plays, festivals, the opera and the ballet.
I chose Kodiak Island in Alaska, because I have friends that go there all the time, and they talk about Kodiak with such love and respect for the environment there—and it intrigues me. I did do a lot of research for this part of my book. I also researched Eastern Washington and Idaho a wee bit.
How many books do you have planned for the series? How many are finished? Are you working on a book now?
So far, four. I have one published—PsyChic in Seattle, another one finished—Frantic in Fiji, soon to be published, and I am beginning a third one—Poisoned in Paris. I have a fourth one planned by title and idea only—Buried in Budapest.
Would you give us a brief excerpt from one of your books?
Sure. This is one of my favorites from Book One, when Tangie remembers her breakup with her former fiance’.
Anyway, being as I’m my own boss, and talk to myself a lot, Pebbles is my confidant—and right-hand-canine on many cases. He’s also the ultimate guard dog—all twenty pounds of him.
Don gave Pebbles to me a few years ago—Actually seven years ago today. Back then, I loved being twenty, going on twenty-one—I loved life…right before Reality hit me in the face with a capital R and I figured out Life doesn’t always love you back. Today is the anniversary of my break up with Don—when my first—and only—boyfriend told me of his decision to enter the priesthood. Since then I’ve had seven years bad luck with men…I blame Don. He started it all. I remember the heartache like it happened yesterday…One never forgets misery…
Strolling through the campus of Seattle University, Don and I amble down the path to the library to study for finals…or so I think. While walking past the student union, Don, like a magician with a black hat, extracts a white furry bundle out of his jacket.
Mesmerized… I say, “Oh Don, you bought us a dog—A Westie! How did you know I love Westies?”
I pick the little pooch up and start nuzzling him. Love at first sight.
“You’ve only told me like 100 times…every time we pass Mac Dougall’s Westie Farm…up in Arlington.”
“Ah…yes…on the way to your parents’ home…Funny…Hint, hint…I never thought you paid attention to my reveries…”
“I always listen to you…and Tangie…this is your dog.”
“We should name him Pebbles…because we love to walk the beach…”
“Tangie, call him whatever you wish—He’s yours. He’ll watch out for you.”
“Oh, Don! Dogs are for fun…I have you to protect me…”
“I won’t always be here.”
“What? Do you have a fatal disease?”
I place my hand on his heart and brush his lips with mine.
“You can’t do that anymore,” Don says with more emphasis, and pivots his body away from my caress.
“What? Touch your heart?”
“No…Kiss me…On the lips.”
“Oh—Now it’s mouth cancer. You don’t even smoke. Don, you’re perfectly healthy!”
“Yes, I am…Tangie—That’s not the point. Listen to me…you know I attend Mass every day.”
“I love that you’ve got religion. Maybe after we get married, you can study to be a deacon.”
“Tangie…Angelina…I can’t marry you.”
“Oh Don…Cold feet, huh? That’s okay. I’ll wait. I love you enough…and I know you love me.”
“I do love you…Tangie…Angelina…but…look into my eyes…”
“No.” My eyes begin to tear up. “Whatever it is…I don’t want to know.”
“I love it when you call me that. No one else does.”
“You know, you’re an angel.”
“No, I’m not. I’m a hot-blooded woman…who loves her man…and this enchanting little bundle of fur he gave me.”
I start shaking and could feel tears running down my cheeks as I whisper, “Please, Don…don’t say anymore.”
“Angelina…I hate shattering your dreams…”
I pet the pooch for comfort. He licks my hand and the tears start falling. “My dreams? What about our dreams?”
“The last thing in the world I want to do is hurt you.”
“What are you saying, Don?” I begin to plead with him…I hate the choking sobs that rise to my throat. I anticipate that with his next sentence…the axe will fall…my dreams will become dust…and my worst fear will become reality.
“I’m leaving you, Tangie.”
“Leaving?” I scream silently, trying to block out his entire message to me. Like a drowning victim, I petition him…“Are you going on a trip?”
“No. It’s permanent.I can’t be with you anymore.”
I collapse like a discarded rag doll on a stone bench alongside our path and embrace the fur piece cradled in my arms—my security blanket. The puppy kisses my cheek, as the branch of a weeping birch brushes me on my eyebrows. I glance at the threatening tree for a minute, welcoming the distraction, however painful. It rests within a cluster of brother and sister birches. I remember sitting on this bench before, under these deciduous trees…in autumn…when these very same weeping trees danced…costumed in gold leaves kissed by the last sunbeams of summer. Now, in winter, sorrow consumes them…they hang limp…no dancing, no happiness, no warmth…stark naked amid the grey of the day. Mad at me, no doubt for disturbing their solstice slumber…No doubt when the wind picks up, they’ll whip me with their branches, urging me to move on…and so it goes…No help from Mother Nature…I look up at Don and begin to groan, pleading, “What do you mean, Don…That you can’t be with me anymore? Am I poison or something?”
“No…of course not, Angelina. You’re wonderful…I love you…But, I’m relinquishing my hold on you…I’m moving out of town. I’m…I’m entering the priesthood.”
“The priesthood! You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I’m not,” Don says, as he positions himself on the icy bench, alongside me—and Fur Ball. He encircles my frozen body in his arms and hands me a handkerchief.
I blow my nose and say, “ I thought we would be together…for our last year… Seniors at Seattle University—Then…in the summer…after we graduate…there would be a wedding—our wedding…How could I not see this coming? Sweet Jesus! I see everything else.”
Don attempts to soothe me…He lowers his voice, grasping the icicles that used to be my hands, as he explains, “You see that I love you…and I do…but this is my ministry…I cannot refuse it…It’s a vocation…Honestly, please believe me when I say, I tried to give it up…my call to service…but it’s overpowering…”
Don gently squeezes my hands and forces me to look at him.
“Tangie, It’s definite…I’m entering Holy Angels Seminary on Monday.”
The wind starts blowing, brushing my hair across my face like a whip. The trees bend towards me…ready to strike. My eyes sting…I close them—blocking out my pain, my awareness, as I feel the warmth of Don’s hands thawing out my icy blood. God, how I love his hands…
With as much force as I can muster, I will myself to disregard what he is telling me…I put his right hand on my cheek and pray for a miracle…Then I slip into a world of my own making…but it only lasts for a fleeting minute. I open my eyes and know I have no choice. I must kindle the dying fire inside me and live, or nourish my dreaming—fading away…to nothingness. My pride keeps me going…calling me back from my despair. My body stiffens and I force myself to resist Don’s touch…Pushing him away, I stand up, abandoning him…allowing him his solo position… with the hovering branches—which now hurl their threats upon him. I start shouting, “Do you even have a clue to what you are doing, Don? Do you know what you are giving up? Holy Angels? You’re leaving me on Monday? That’s two days away! What are you thinking?”
I can’t stand it. I bury my head in the puppy and start wailing—loud sobs whose treble pitches carry across the campus and rise above the wind like banshees.
Three students, dressed in ski gear, come frolicking along the path, stop in their tracks and stare at me like I’m a sideshow. Who cares? Let the world know—Love is a four-letter word. I dab at my eyes and wipe my nose with my wrist.
Don notices the onlookers, but with a flicker of his eyelashes, dismisses them and continues his litany. He is unflappable. His words come across clipped and distant. I don’t recognize my lover any more.
“Tangie,” the future priest chants, “I won’t be taking many belongings. I want you to have my guitar, my books, and my mother’s homemade quilts that you like so much. Where I am going, there’s no room for them. They’re yours, if you want them. I’ve arranged with the seminary to start next week, so we could spend my last two days…together. Peacefully. Unstressed.”
I stare at Don and bite my lower lip until I taste blood. I snarl at him, no longer in control of anything I say. “Peacefully? Unstressed? Great! You really are something, Don…I can’t fathom you…and you don’t even get it—you’ll never know how I feel. This is your ridiculous idea of fair play? What a bargain! You get God… and I get this crummy dog.”
The crummy dog starts licking the tears streaming down my cheek and he doesn’t stop until I sit down again. Don then takes over, enfolding me, for the last time, in his huge arms…as the sobs consume me. Grief devours my heart and soul…My mind flashes back to my dad dying…abandoning me as a child…The same empty feeling…Me having no say in my despair. Don brushes his hand on my chin and his eyes stare into mine…as he swears to me, “I will always love you, Tangie…Never doubt that I love you. I promise I will be there for you…if you ever need me…Even though I can never marry you, I will keep you forever in my heart…I will be your life-long friend.”
I think to myself…Two years together…and now this…
Yes…Two years ago, on Christmas Eve, Don gave me an engagement ring. I study the ring now as it shines at me through my blurry vision. I can barely see through my tears, which by now are flowing like Snoqualmie Falls. Snoqualmie Falls—used to be our favorite romantic weekend destination…we escaped there whenever we got a chance. How can I forget? It’s the place where Don proposed to me…after we hiked around the falls and devoured a seven-course dinner at the lodge. I cherish the memory of us…strolling outside to look at the mammoth falls all lit up…under the winter stars… and then…I remember Don asking me to be his…forever. That life-changing event seems like so long ago…and me—being a sucker for romance—I take him at his word—Forever! What a fool! —A forever fool in love.
I inch the ring off my finger, looking at it’s precious gleaming for the last time. With my eyes, I kiss it goodbye, open Don’s hand, and return it to him. As I close his fist, with my still freezing fingers, I whisper, “I release you from your promise to me. Have a holy life.” I pick up the scruffy little puppy and snarl, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t need a friend. I have a dog.”
I turn my back on him and start walking away, at a brisk pace, willing my legs to move. My heroics don’t last long…a voice whispering in my ear urges me to make peace with him…and it is this voice that eventually wins out—you see…I still love him. I cease sprinting my way to the dorm and stop in my tracks. I shake my head, pet the puppy, turn around and begin moving like a snail with a heavy shell in the snow, inching my way back to Don. I observe him sitting like a frozen statue on the stone bench. As I draw near his presence, I notice his large, gentle hands in his long blond hair, his shoulders shaking. From my vantage point, I can hear him sobbing…Perhaps his heart is broken… like mine. I take a deep breath, tiptoe towards him and tap him on the shoulder. Don looks up and stares at me with red swollen eyes, a look of wonder crossing his face as he attempts a smile. I notice tears staining his rugged face. He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out…He has no more words.
I hear myself announcing to him, “You’d better be an absolutely stupendous priest…because if you aren’t, I’ll storm into that seminary like a swarm of avenging angels …and before everyone, snatch you back!”
You are a member of the Pacific Northwest Women’s Writers, NWWW group. What is that and how did you get involved with them?
It is a group that started, under the leadership of Betsy Diedrick a few years ago to support women writers in the area. She asked me to join and I did. Right now they are working on publishing an anthology of writings by the members. They also have workshops and meetings open to men and women.
Do you have a favorite review of your book?
Yes—from R. Cominsky, a gentleman from North Carolina, who bought it for his wife and she suggested he read it. He loved it. Made my day…it is as follows:
5.0 out of 5 stars
Really enjoyed the book. Great mix of mystery, romance, some comedy and intrigue.
Loved the references to the beauty and awe of Alaska and the charm of Seattle. Hope for a sequel.
What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
So many. I will try to be brief. David Morrell. He wrote a great book: The Successful Novelist. Every author should read it. I love the detective stories written by Andrew Greeley and Colin Dexter. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which is really a mystery story. And then there are Dickens, Victor Hugo and Shakespeare. As a thank you to The Bard, I include a quote from Shakespeare in the front of all my mystery stories.
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
I don’t have a website—yet. I am on facebook—with my name, Mary Ann Schradi. My published book, PsyChic in Seattle by Mimzi Schradi, is available on Amazon.com/books and on Kindle, as well as available in bookstores.