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
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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