L.A. Chandlar - An Art Deco Mystery Series
L.A. Chandlar is the National Best-selling author of the ART DECO MYSTERY SERIES with Kensington Publishing featuring Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and a fresh take on the innovation and liveliness of 1930s New York City. Her debut novel, The Silver Gun released in 2017, followed by the sequel, Agatha Award nominated, The Gold Pawn. Book 3, The Pearl Dagger releases 2019. As our Author of the Day, Chandlar tells us all about the first book in the series, The Silver Gun.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Silver Gun is about.
The Silver Gun is the first in the Art Deco Mystery series that takes a fresh look at the liveliness of 1930s New York City, featuring Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as one of the main characters. When Lane Sanders, aide to the 99th mayor of New York, is threatened by one of the most notorious gangsters in the city, even the mayor can’t promise her safety. Lane must figure out how the secrets of her past are connected to the city’s underground crime network –before someone pulls the trigger on the most explosive revenge plot in New York history.
Why did you decide to do a fresh take on the 1930s New York City?
When I moved to New York City shortly after 9/11, I saw the city in a different way and it inspired me. The was broken and yet there was such compassion, amazing art, humor, and an indomitable spirit. At the same time, I’d picked up a biography on Fiorello La Guardia. When I saw his gumption, his hilarious maneuvering of politics and the press, and his artful and fearless spirit that always fought for the little guy, I began to realize that the Thirties is often overshadowed by the Depression. We often just think of shanty towns and soup lines, but there was so much more than that going on. It was very similar to my time when I moved to New York. The art and architecture was stunning. The humor and cocktails were flowing. The absolute vitality even in the midst of the Depression, was beautiful. It’s a recurring theme of beauty out of ashes. I wanted to write that part of the story.
How much research did this book require from you to make the history part feel realistic?
Well, the best historical fiction requires a lot of research. For me, that actually as a blessing, because for the longest time, I had a hard time figuring out how to make the time to write when life was extremely complicated with a new city, no friends or family for support, new job, AND my husband and I started a family. So what I could do, was read. I read everything I could get my hands on about the era, the city, and La Guardia. So honestly, I’d done about three years of research before I started writing seriously. But the best part of research, is actually living in the city I write about. I’ve lived there for almost 18 years and I am always finding new gems, new insights to how us New Yorkers work, and the feel of living in the city. You can’t get that from books.
Tell us more about Lane Sanders. What makes her tick?
I love Lane. She is the embodiment of the Art Deco era right along with her family friend and boss, Fiorello La Guardia. She’s a positive vibrant person yet with a broken past. And just like all those who were part of the Lost Generation, she’s faced with the tension of the day, and has to wrestle with whether it will make or break her. I love that tension. She’s an expert at experiencing life, soaking it all in. Fiorello appreciates her intuition. She was raised by her eccentric aunt who is an artist as well as a society lady. So I had to think about how Lane would be with someone who raised her who is of the Dorothy Parker or Gertrude Stein ilk. Not to mention the other family figure in her life, an old spy who helped her acquire her more colorful language. She has been a joy to develop. A lot of women were ahead of their time in the thirties, and there was much more acceptance of them than there was post World War II. The people of the Thirties have a lot more in common with us than you might think. Lane loves her red shoes. So you always find me sporting them, too.
What appealed to you about including crime bosses and an underground crime network in the story?
Well, Fiorello took office right when Prohibition ended, so the city was absolutely brimming with gangsters. And in real life, he took on so many of them and with his own brand of panache. He was a stitch! In fact, I include a lot of actual historical facts and escapades of his. If you read something that seems over the top, more than likely he actually did it in real life. Always read my Author Notes to find out! He was spectacular. So to be true to him and the era, it was actually a necessity to be authentic. Plus it was fun messing around with with all.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
At home I love to cook and I love to explore New York City and of course I am an avid reader. But I also do motivational speaking for the corporate world and for writers specifically. When it took me so long to figure out how to spend more creative time in life, when life was already full and busy, I had so much fun. And it dawned on me that creativity is far more important than just a hobby. It feeds our souls. Yet it quickly gets relegated to the back burner as soon as life gets complicated. I decided I wanted to help people figure that out. I love teaching and speaking, so it’s a joy. As part of experiencing my books and New York, I also give tours of the Met. There are scenes at the Met in my books, and I take people to where those scenes take place, then give a lecture on a very cool 1930 mural by Thomas Hart Benton that has overlapping themes with my books. Then we end up at the wine bar at the front for wine and live music. It’s my absolute favorite event.
This is the first book in your Art Deco Mystery series. How do the other books tie in with this one?
The Gold Pawn and The Pearl Dagger are sequels, but they can both be read as a stand-alone. If you’re a series type reader, though, you’d enjoy beginning with The Silver Gun. In The Gold Pawn, Lane has to face the ghosts of her past when a new king pin arises.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
The hardest thing in being a writer is something I teach about consistently. And it helps me because I’m basically giving myself a pep talk when I teach it. Writers are the most consistently courageous people I know. Because it takes undying bravery to not only write a book and finish it, but to put it “out there” for the world to critique. It’s tough! It’s a subjective industry and if you’re not careful, it can eat away at your self-confidence and self-worth. So I’ve learned to try to distinguish between self-doubt and self-awareness. Self-doubt always tears down. And it’s a waste of time. If you catch yourself reading social media, and you get overwhelmed at other people’s accomplishments, schedules, awards…it often turns into “I’m not good enough. I’m not enough.” That’s self-doubt and throw it away – change the channel – take a walk. However, we all need to grow and learn and we always will. So self-awareness tells you that you need to learn and grow. And it turns into, “I think I need to learn more about a certain aspect of writing. How can I do that?” But boy, it’s tough, and the best writers learn it well. They remind themselves why they write, and why they love it.
Where do your ideas come from?
I use a lot of real life issues and shenanigans from Fiorello as pivotal points for a good plot. I also use old crimes. But for everyday affairs, I like to imitate real things that I have done in New York. Outdoor bars and museums, City Hall, I go to the Transit Museum to see what transportation looked like in the thirties, etc. AND I like to visit speakeasies. They make you feel like you’re going back in time.
Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?
Of course Fiorello La Guardia, and I try to be true to his spirit. And there are quite a few cameo appearances all over the place. Aunt Evelyn’s capacity to be an artist and have friends in all places, high and low, came from a friend of mine who is an artist. She’s not like him personality-wise, but the way her art and her friendship draws people to her and crosses divides is a beautiful thing. And there’s a villain whom I created based on a scary person I ran into on the sidewalk once. Gave me the heebie jeebies.
What are you working on right now?
I have a stand-alone fictional novel based on the stories of Christmas and Hanukkah traditions that I had worked on several years ago for a talk I do. I love it so much. I am also working on book 4 of the Art Deco Mystery series, The Cloud Club.
“Tensions rise at The Cloud Club where businessmen of New York hold court, looming over the city seventy-seven stories above in the famed Chrysler Building. After a high-powered attorney is murdered just outside the doors, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and his trusted aide, Lane Sanders, discover two street urchins who finger the famous mobster Louie Venetti for the murder. The NYPD finally has the ammunition to take him down. However, questionable evidence and the threatening rumor of an impending disaster about to hit New York, leads Lane and the mayor to dive into their own investigation to find the real killer. The Cloud Club holds the key and unless they solve the crime and thwart the rumored disaster, everything will end high in the sky in a fiery conclusion.”
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I am on social media a lot and love to interact! FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter are my go-tos every day. For all of my social media and my newsletter:
I love my newsletter because I always include a vintage cocktail recipe that is from my books (I have a very high click rate! I think it’s because of that;-), and also a link to my YouTube channel where I have behind the scenes videos of places in my books. New York Then & Now. Here’s a link to a favorite video that includes the then and now of a lunatic asylum in my books. It is no longer an asylum…you’ll have to watch to see just what it is now. Enjoy!