What can you tell us about your new book Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles)?
Mitzi: Normal for Norfolk is the first in a new quirky crime/cosy mystery series co-written with by famous sidekick bear Teddy Tedaloo. The novel features ursine protagonist Thelonious T. Bear. Thelonious is a bit different from most bears you might know. A photojournalist by profession, he drives a Mini Cooper, wears a deerstalker hat, and is a big fan of jazz musician Charlie Parker. In this debut novel, Thelonious is leaving big-city life in London to take an assignment in the Norfolk countryside, where he hopes to make a new life for himself and live a simpler existence. Instead he lands in the middle of a series of brutal murders of village publicans, ending up as the main suspect, thanks to the inept DCI Horatio Sidebottom of Norfolk Constabulary CID. The novel is full of quirky characters straight out of Norfolk (or at least the Norfolk we discovered!) such as Fag-stain Man, Zimmer-frame Granny, Lord Nelson the flatulent dachshund, a beekeeper, a frisky B&B landlady, a grumpy vicar, and a pub owner who serves pheasant road kill.
What attracted you to the setting of Norfolk for your book?
Mitzi: A friend invited us to stay at her family’s old farmhouse in Norfolk and things just began to take shape from there. I had no idea we would even set the book in Norfolk. In fact, I had no setting at all in mind. Had we not visited my friend and had all these quirky and random things happen, Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) might instead have been Ice Cold in Iceland featuring Bjork look-alike serial killers!
Tell us about the inspiration behind your story.
Mitzi: Teddy and I already had the idea for the protagonist Thelonious T. Bear firmly in mind, but that was all we had! I pretty much jotted down the entire plotline for the novel over a pint of local ale in a Norfolk village pub. And the more places we visited, the more the book developed. There are incidents and people in it that are actually real, such as the snooty barmaid at the gastropub and the carwash that wouldn’t let you leave the soap cycle. When people say truth is stranger than fiction, you better believe it!
This is the first book in the series, so what can you tell us about the next installment?
Mitzi: I’m not one for spoilers, but yes, we’ve already got the plotline in mind as well as the location. This time Thelonious will be sent on a photojournalism assignment in the American South, where he ends up becoming embroiled in yet more criminal activity due to a case of mistaken identity. Now you might wonder how a photojournalist teddy bear can be mistaken for a criminal, but rest assured, if it can happen to anyone, it can happen to Thelonious!
You have written a lot of erotic fiction, as well as other genres, so which do you prefer?
Mitzi: I don’t like to think in terms of genre. I find that these labels too often restrict people’s perceptions of what a writer is actually writing about, especially if you start bandying about the word “erotic”. I find that most of my work is a conglomeration of genres rather than fitting into the category of a specific genre. I tend to mix and blend and create something that doesn’t fit a mould. Too much of what’s out there is manufactured, be it books, films, television, and music. It’s much more fun and creative to play around with genre and give people something they didn’t expect. The feedback I get from readers appears to indicate that I’ve been successful in achieving this. I’m not one for being slotted into a box—and I think my work reflects this.
You have a web TV channel, Mitzi TV, so please expand in this for us.
Mitzi: Mitzi TV is a series of videos featuring “quirky” London. It’s mostly impromptu material; we never know what’s going to happen or what will be said by either myself or the people I speak to. I’ve covered events such a teddy bear festival, a Harley motorcycles meet-up, an amateur musical pub night in London, Morris Dancing, and a vintage car festival (I interviewed Formula One race car driver Tiff Needell and shoe couturier Jimmy Choo for this one). I even went hunting for jellied eel in what should have been the East End, instead finding it in “Sarf” London. It’s all just good fun. I’m pleased that in the course of conducting my interviews I’ve given airplay to some very worthwhile charitable causes, particularly animal-related.
You host many erotic writing workshops about the country, what do these consist of?
Mitzi: I fell into this by accident about 12 years ago when I was invited to teach a workshop for a writers group in the north of England and things took off from there, leading to me becoming known as a pioneer of erotic writing workshops in the UK and mainland Europe. I’ve taught erotic writing at literature festivals, for university master classes, and on residential courses from the Isle of Wight to the Greek islands. My workshops are conducted as serious writing workshops that get writers to see that “erotica” doesn’t have to be smut or porn and that it can actually be literature. The courses help writers break through their barriers so that they can craft quality prose, be it for a literary or mainstream novel or something more for the genre markets. I get a wide cross-section of people on my courses, from professionally published authors to newbie writers and those who are just looking for a creative outlet. I’ve found that most people, if they genuinely put in some effort and set aside their preconceived notions, come away from my courses with the ability to write better and, equally as important, to think differently about what it is they are writing.
You have written for many publications, which experience has been the best for you?
Mitzi: I really enjoy writing fiction above all else. I have written many non-fiction pieces, quite a few related to the craft of writing, but fiction is much more liberating. You can do anything you want and go in any direction you want.
What is your writing process?
Mitzi: I don’t really have one!
What is next for you?
Mitzi: I have a novel coming out in autumn 2013 called Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray. It’s a sequel to Oscar Wilde’s classic Faustian work, picking up where he left off and moving the character from Victorian London through the decades on up to the present day. Obviously I’ve had to deal with the aspect of Dorian’s purported death at the end of Wilde’s novel in order for my story to work. Dorian was already a bad boy when Oscar got through with him, so trust me when I say he’s truly debauched and corrupt in my novel. There’s some rather shocking content in my book, so don’t expect a light-hearted little ditty! I’m also working on a couple of anthologies, the first being Darker Edge of Desire, which is a follow-up to my Gothic title Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance. It will be out in spring 2014. The other is, of all things, zombie related and aptly titled Love, Lust and Zombies, which will be out in time for Halloween 2014. I think that’s going to be a really fun one!
Normal for Norfolk (The Thelonious T. Bear Chronicles) website: http://mitziszereto.com/normalfornorfolk/
Mitzi Szereto website: http://mitziszereto.com
Mitzi Szereto on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mitziszereto
Mitzi Szereto Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/mitziszereto.fanpage
Mitzi TV: http://mitziszereto.com/tv
Teddy Tedaloo Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/teddytedaloo.fanpage
Teddy Tedaloo on Twitter: https://twitter.com/teddytedaloo
Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog: http://mitziszereto.com/blog
Mitzi Szereto Google+ official page: https://plus.google.com/b/105002950509883985630/105002950509883985630/posts
Mitzi Szereto MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/mitzi_szereto