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Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Alex Matthews

Alex Matthews has written nine Cassidy McCabe mystery novels. I ran into Alex at a mystery writer’s conference a couple of months ago and I asked her if she’d like to do an interview for Myshelf. Here is our conversation:

Dennis Collins: How long have you been writing?

Alex Matthews: About fiften years. I always wanted to write fiction, but I didn't start until I was at the midpoint of my life. It took me that long to develop the confidence to think that I could generate enough words to fill a whole book. Before then, I didn't believe I was sufficiently creative to do it. Now here I am, all these years later, and I've just finished Murder's Madness, the ninth mystery in the Cassidy McCabe series, also available at Veiled Intent Press.


Dennis: What got you started?

Alex: During the first half of my life, I got married, had kids, got divorced, went to grad school, started a new career, and got remarried. Then I reached a point where my kids were out of the house, my second marriage was fine, and my career was thriving. Everything was quiet and stable and I couldn't stand it. I had to stir up some chaos by taking on the challenge of writing a book.

Dennis: Why mysteries?

Alex: Because they're fun. Mysteries move along at a faster clip than literature and they usually do a better job of telling stories. Plus I find it satisfying to have the good guys win.

Dennis: Was there any particular writer who inspired or influenced you?

Alex: Faye Kellerman. Her books have authentic dialogue, complex relationships, and suspense-filled plots. I wanted to try to do what she was doing.

Dennis: You have an interesting occupation. How does it help you in your writing?

Alex: Working as a psychotherapist has enabled me to understand the different ways that people think and feel, what makes them do the crazy things they do, what it's like to be abused or suicidal. I could never create the realistic characters I do without the insights I've gained as a therapist.

Dennis: Why did you choose a Chicago suburb as your setting?

Alex: Cass and I both conduct a private practice out of our homes in Oak Park, Illinois. When I say that I live in Oak Park, most people think of Frank Lloyd Wright or Hemingway, but I love the village more for its present and future than its past. It's one of the few places in the country that is successfully integrated. Oak Park welcomes people of all races, ages, and sexual persuasions. I can really identify with the values Oak Park embodies. Most of my books have a strong sense of local color, but my new book is largely set in Marina City, a landmark Chicago building.

Dennis: How many more Cassidy McCabe novels do you think there will be?

Alex: I've got about ten more stories bouncing around in my head. I just hope people don't stop reading books before I'm ready to stop writing them.

Dennis: What do you do when you're not writing or working?

Alex: I run wild in the streets. No, that's a lie. I just wanted to make myself sound more interesting than I am. What I really do is read, eat - I love going out to dinner with my husband - and hang out with my friends.

Dennis: This is your space to say whatever you want.

Alex: I believe there's a great value to self doubt. People who think they know everything or never question their decisions go through life with blinders on - as has been demonstrated recently by some public officials who shall go nameless. (I will understand if you take that last part out.)

I often debate with myself and try to look at all sides of an issue, which I think leads to better judgment. My protagonist Cassidy also has a habit of questioning herself. Most sleuths are highly self confident and always know exactly what to do. Some readers consider Cassidy's self doubt to be a flaw, but I see it as a strength.


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