WELCOME, SANDRA, TO MY BOOK ADDICTION AND MORE…..
NOW WITHOUT FURTHER ADO…HERE IS ….SANDRA BALZO,AUTHOR OF “HEAVEN’S FIRE”…..
HEAVEN’S FIRE “Fireworks, Death, Romance!”
by Sandra Balzo
MBA: Tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! (What, me? Talk about myself??) Let’s see, I’m a Wisconsin native, now living in South Florida with fellow crime-writer Jeremiah Healy, who is great fun. We edit and proof each other’s work and, at dinner, we compare make-believe friends.
In my former life, I was assistant vice president of public relations at a bank holding company in Milwaukee. Starting out as a messenger, clerk, tour guide and photographer, I hung in there to become editor of corporate communications and, eventually, manager of special events for the corporation.
After nearly twenty years, though, I burned out and engineered my own downsizing. I figured I’d take advantage of my nine months of severance to do what I’d always dreamed of — write a novel and become rich and famous. A full SIX YEARS later, that book was finally published by Martin Greenberg, legendary editor and anthologist, who died just this past Saturday. I owe Marty a lot. He and Tekno Books gave many of us our start in the industry.
UNCOMMON GROUNDS turned out to be the first in my now six-book Maggy Thorsen coffeehouse series. The Maggy mysteries have been nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity awards and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.
In addition to the coffeehouse books, which are set in Wisconsin, I have a second series that features North Carolina High Country journalist AnnaLise Griggs. I’m just one book (RUNNING ON EMPTY) into that series, which will alternate with the Maggy books.
Running on Empty
A Main Street Mystery
MBA: What made you decide to write “Heaven’s Fire”?
I actually started HEAVEN’S FIRE shortly after finishing UNCOMMON GROUNDS. Or, at least, I started the first draft of it. It’s changed a lot over the years, but remained a favorite of mine, and I’m thrilled that it’s now finally available. HF is very different from my other books, which are funny, traditional mysteries.
HEAVEN’S FIRE is about a fireworks accident — the explosion of a huge shell on a barge on Lake Michigan — that kills the patriarch of a fireworks family. The building of shells and production of fireworks displays often is a family business and the dynamic that drives people to create beauty from explosives — essentially the makings of war — is fascinating to me.
Combine that dynamic with the normal conflicts of any multigenerational family — especially one that works together, throw in a female television news producer who witnesses the explosion on the monitors in her production van, and top it off with a male ATF agent who investigates the accident and, well, you have what one reviewer summed up as: “Fireworks, Death, Romance!”
MBA: Why this setting?
I was in charge of Milwaukee’s Independence Day Fireworks for more than a decade. One horrible year, there was an explosion at the Bartolotta Fireworks factory the morning after our organizational meeting. Two women were killed and, seventeen days later, John Bartolotta died of burns he’d suffered trying to get people out of the building. I thought the loss of John might kill his father, Sam, but my friend was one tough old bird. I dedicated HEAVEN’S FIRE to him.
MBA: How much research went into writing “Heaven’s Fire”?
I knew quite a bit about television — our fireworks show was broadcast each year — and event management. Happily, Sam and his oldest son, Joe, were willing to teach me about the building and firing of the shells, themselves. I couldn’t have written this book without them.
MBA: Can you tell our readers what is next or any tidbits into your future projects?
I mentioned the Maggy Thorsen series. Book seven, TRIPLE SHOT, will be out December 1st and involves a 30-year old FBI shoot-out, in which three gangsters were killed and a fourth escaped with the loot. Maggy’s coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, becomes involved when an investigative reporter from Chicago arrives to, literally, dig up dirt.
Right now, I’m working on the second book in the new series. I’d originally planned to use Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, as the setting, because I loved the concept of a tiny town that swells into a city during tourist season — lots of fictional people to kill!! But then I visited the High Country in western North Carolina and fell in love. Not one, but TWO tourist seasons — summers, when southerners escape to the cool mountains; and winters, when skiers take them over. Also, there’s a fascinating relationship between the natives (people whose families settled the place), locals (long-term residents who consider themselves natives), and the seasonal summer folk and winter skiers.
The books revolve around AnnaLise Griggs, an investigative reporter who comes home to the North Carolina mountains when her mom starts to fail. But it’s the setting and the ensemble cast that are the real stars. Along with death, of course.
- Publisher:Severn House Publishers (December 1, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-0727880796
MBA: What do you consider your most important accomplishment? Why?
I have a son and a daughter who both graduated from college in the last 18 months and are happy, healthy, and employed at jobs they love. I can’t take credit for their accomplishments — they’ve worked really hard — but in today’s economy, I’m not sure anything could make me prouder.
MBA: If you could change anything in the world what would it be and why?
Small-mindedness. I’ve lived long enough (don’t ask!!) to realize that you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked the proverbial mile in his or her shoes. I think that’s why I love writing so much. It allows me to do that.
MBA: Do you feel any deep connections to your characters? Why?
I do, with the Pasquale Firenze character, the patriarch of the fireworks company in HEAVEN’S FIRE. He’s not Sam Bartolotta, but when Pasquale talks, I hear Sam’s voice:
“What I remember was being on my feet–all of a sudden on my feet — but I didn’t know how I got there. And everyone around me, they were on their feet, too, and I could see their hands slapping together and I could see their mouths moving, but I couldn’t hear them. Couldn’t hear anything because I was standing in this place of pure light and noise, a place like nowhere I’d ever been before. And I thought, right then: This must be what heaven is.”
By Sandra Balzo
Author of the Maggy Thorsen Mystery series and Running on Empty
$2.99 on Kindle:
Visit Sandra at: www.SandraBalzo.com
- Sold by:Amazon Digital Services
- ASIN: B004VF675W
–Pasquale Firenze, patriarch of Firenze Fireworks
exciting combination. A must read. This book was received for the purpose of review from the author and details can be found at Amazon.
Thanks Sandra for visiting with us today….”Heaven’s Fire” is full of suspense,action a great read…
Sandra Balzo said:
Thanks for having me! Have a wonderful holiday weekend, everyone.
All the best,
Quilt Lady said:
This sounds like a really great read and I would love to read it. Love suspense in a book.
Kathy Garuti said:
I enjoyed reading your interview and your books sound wonderful. North Carolina is beautiful. My parents do the snowbird thing from Ohio to Murphy in the winter and have been known to avoid the Ohio summer heat as well by going their.