Featured Thriller Author
Interview with M. Diane Vogt
Elaine S. August
Vogt successfully uses a contemporary blending of colorful Tampa flavors
with a judicial touch to keep you one step behind the guilty. M. Diane
Vogt’s third novel Gasparilla Gold is due out late this year. It
continues with the Judge Willa Carson series. Diane’s writing triumphs,
when picking up on all the flavors and settings as she walks us around the
Tampa area so uniquely - you feel as if you are a part of the blend that
has been captured by her love of the city. Diane Vogt is, in fact, a
southern girl at heart - retaining her Alabama roots that keep shining
through when she discusses favorite things. A wonderful dinner party,
setting out the china, music, and of course, some lovely jewelry from
shopping excursions - all make up one part of the author who has a long
track record as a most respected trial attorney. Her career has taken her
into co-authoring PeopleWealth’s book, Keeping Good Lawyers and
is honored by her peers with being chosen to join the few as ‘a Leading
Florida Attorney’. This background infuses Willa with all the makings
for the dynamic character she presents.
Carson, your main character and protagonist, is a wonderful blend as a
feminine woman, with all the caring and senses about her - and moves into
a no-nonsense mode without you even noticing - as a U.S. District Court
Judge. How closely does Willa resemble you?
is many things I and all women should aspire to be. She is strong and
intrepid, knows her mind, is comfortable in her body and her life.
She keeps a healthy balance between work and play, and she focuses
on what's important to her. Like Willa, I am a risk taker, and we both go
after what we want. The rest of her qualities, I'm still working on!
Willa's fears are not my fears. Her main character flaw is a deep fear of
abandonment following the death of her mother when Willa was a teen. My
mother is very much alive and well. I chose this Achilles heel for Willa
because she could then be fearless otherwise--another goal of mine.
had an extensive legal career as a litigator and professor in both Florida
and Michigan. Have your own personal experiences lead you into the paths
of some questionable situations just right for hidden homicides?
many writers, I get most of my ideas out of the newspaper. When a homicide
occurs in the arenas where I've had some experience, I'm always
astonished. The main theme of all the Willa books is that nothing is ever
what it appears. My personal experience bears this out. So often, I am
absolutely sure I know the answer to something, but that knowledge is
based on incomplete information. Willa blunders around and eventually
figures it out, all while looking so cool, calm and collected to the
certainly is unique for a setting with the cultural and architectural
diversity contrasting the military establishment. What actually inspired
you to use this locale for your books?
moved to Tampa in 1992 and just fell in love with the area. Tampa has a
rich cultural history, a unique blend of "Old South" and
"New Florida," and a very friendly atmosphere. On the commercial
side, there were no mysteries set here, so I thought mystery readers might
be ready for a new experience.
is the biggest influence that drives your writing?
goals are to write a continuing series with a long life that can be
enjoyed in both print and on film; involving inspirational characters
readers care about; dealing with issues that require some thoughtful
consideration by the reader; and provide both of us with a fun learning
admire your absolute decision to 'keep the story' - clean! How do you view
the challenges and trends in today's market by doing so?
writing "clean" stories is more popular than you might think. My
youngest reader so far is age 9 and my eldest (that I know about) is 95.
I believe I reach a broader audience with a "clean" story
than I would otherwise. Besides, I need to write things my mother and
grandmother can read without embarrassing me!
the many demands on your time - practicing law, writing and serving on a
number of community tasks - how do you avoid burnout and could you tell us
about some of your favorite achievements? Have you incorporated some of
this into your stories?
think of myself as a life-long learner. My work in improving job
satisfaction for lawyers has taught me that goal directed behavior is the
single most significant indicator of human happiness. To stay happy and
productive (and happy and productive and happy . . . ) is my main goal in
life. There are any number of reasons for doing that, not the least of
which is the "use it or lose it" reality of the human mind. So
burnout isn't a real problem for me because I use my goal setting
techniques to keep myself in balance--or at least, that's the theory! :)
often allow Willa to learn about things that I want to learn about; to
struggle with people I struggle with; and to enjoy the things I enjoy.
For example, I absolutely love the cafe con leche, the strong Cuban
coffee with milk that Willa guzzles by the gallons-full. She and I drive
the same car and we both have collected an extensive Herrend Zoo. But I
also give her things I will never have, such as a grand old home on a
private island, a five-star restaurant, and an enjoyment of running.
have stated that taking the reader up to the end to solve the mystery is
your preference. How do you find your writing differs by doing this,
rather than leading us up to the scoundrel?
is a very difficult thing for me to do, because once I know who the killer
is, I can never "un-ring the bell." I ask my readers to tell me,
"when did you figure out who did it?" If the answer is anything
other than, "not until you told me," I head back to the drawing
board. Like most things about
the Willa Carson series, the reason I try to keep the reader guessing is
that I prefer to read books in that style myself. I figure if I like it,
other readers might, too.
your ending ever different than planned because you found a different path
the time. It's a lot of the fun of writing for me.
you interested in joining 'the bench' as Willa did and continuing your
circle of accomplishments?
not!!! I have several friends and acquaintances who are judges. For the
most part, I feel it's a very hard job with very few rewards. I feel very
grateful that there are good people who are willing to serve our legal
system and our society in the role of judge. Alas, I am not so altruistic!
is due out in the Fall of 2001. Following Silicone Solution and Justine
Denied - both Wilhelmina and George Carson have gone through some
challenges and revelations. Will they be back with their sunsets, sipping
cocktails, and allowing the evening breeze to work magic?
course they will. My plan is for George and Willa to live forever. As long
as the readers enjoy them, that's what I plan to do.
seems the marketplace for mystery remains the most popular genre today.
Why do you think people are so fascinated with a character falling from
grace and the 'murder' element in a story?
of my readers are more interested in the "puzzle" aspects of the
murder or other crime than the psychological abnormalities of murderers.
My books have no on-screen violence and there is always a strong
human emotional motive for murder. I think those who read the darker side
are seeking to scare themselves to death!
Justice Denied, George shares the stage with Willa. Will this
continue and will there be other new main characters?
there will be other main characters in each new book. For example, in Gasparilla
Gold, we learn quite a bit about Willa's secretary, Margaret Wheaton
and Willa's dad, James Harper. In book four, Six Bills, another
whole cast of characters will be with us. Each of the Willa books has
three story lines, all of which are related to the plot: the main murder
mystery, the sub-plot having to do with Willa's courtroom, and the
"Willa story," having to do with what's going on in Willa's
personal life. George and Willa will always have a major role. The
supporting characters will vary.
do you see as the difficulties in the industry today?
book business has more opportunities for writers now than at any time in
the last twenty years, just because getting published is easier than ever.
Print on Demand technology and companies like iUniverse (who has a
contract with MWA members) make getting your work into print and keeping
it there much easier. The struggles are still with getting the books to
readers and the amount of competition for readers this abundance of
publishing opportunities has created.
are your thoughts for writers trying to break into the publishing world?
happiest writers I know are the ones who go into the business with a
realistic view of what's involved and a genuine love of writing. So I
would say that developing those two traits will serve any writer well
these days. The third most important trait is a genuine willingness and
desire to market your own work. Publishers don't have the time or the
money to do as much as they once did. If you're not going to promote your
work, you are less likely to sell it to a publisher in the first place and
substantially less likely to sell it to readers. While a publicist can do
much of the "grunt" work of promotion for you, readers will want
to connect with you personally. Some writers are so shy that they find
this aspect of the business too hard to do. You can save yourself a lot of
frustration by developing a healthy friendship with the idea on the front
Diane’s twenty-first floor office window, she has the feel of island
living; although it is downtown Tampa. The skyline is much changed since
its’ early days of being the Gulf’s gateway as a frontier station and
cattle center. Yet one can still find samplings of the olden times here.
The view inspires this author with the living history and provides her
with "divine inspiration".
wonder if she will see Willa skating along Bay Shore Boulevard at sunrise?
Minaret is Willa and George’s apartment/home above the
restaurant. Actually Henry
Plant built such a home and the Tampa Bay Hotel. The hotel was a grand
winter destination attracting the likes of Teddy Roosevelt! It is now part
of the University of Tampa. The onion domes still sit atop the building
showing off the Moorish design. The nineteenth century home had a ballroom
that has been transformed as the dining area for Minaret in the series.
Vogt sets up wonderful scenes here among the antiques - where the elite
mix with aromas from the kitchen delights and perfumes of the famous and
infamous. It is as if she has brought Henry Plant back to life! When Willa
and George decide to retire for a casual evening alone upstairs, they
might call down and have dinner sent up. And perhaps afterwards - brandy
and a cigar on the veranda overlooking the Gulf. Good dining. Great
Diane Vogt’s Official Web Site: http://www.mdianevogt.com
Books by M. Diane Vogt
Writer’s Showcase Press, 2000
Sterling House Pub., 1999
© 2001 Elaine S August, All Rights Reserved