As a mystery author of books set in Mexico, I have been lucky enough to build a great network of friends with books. Mystery readers love following along with the Detective Emilia Cruz series and the steamy relationship between Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz and hotel manager Kurt Rucker.

Other readers are drawn by Mexico’s mystique.  I’m in good company when it comes to writing about Mexico. We hang out at the Mexico Writers Facebook group which includes novelists, non-fiction writers, and bloggers.

Friends With Books is a series of conversations with members of the Mexico Writers group. Each conversation has a few surprises about Mexican #culture and #protips about the writing process. Enjoy!

Today’s conversation is with Leigh Thelmadatter, non-fiction writer and blogger at Creative Hands of Mexico. Her blog specializes in long-form posts about amazing artisans across central Mexico.

On Writing

Why do you write?  I want to document ideas, people, etc. which do not get the attention they should.

Is there any book you really don’t enjoy?  I’m not the biggest fan of fiction, which I know is a very strange thing to write. I prefer to stick to the real world … facts, figures …

Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?  Its my first book and it will be on Mexican cartonería… which is not your 2nd grade arts and crafts paper maché. It is used to make a number of items, traditionally in relation to various Mexican celebrations. The best known of these is the piñata. It interests me because it has been undergoing a major change since the mid 20th century, incorporating a lot of modern influences, which attracts young artists and artisans. There is a pretty good selection of books on Mexican handcrafts in general, but relatively few that go into more regional/local traditions in any depth.

Thelmadatter_toroloco_maclovio_3020504665What’s your next project?  After the cartonería book, I want to do one on the La Catrina phenomenon in Mexico.

How did you develop your writing?  Believe it or not, Wikipedia. It began as a hobby, writing articles about what I see in Mexico, in part to force me to read more Spanish but mostly to see beyond the superficial.  Otherwise all the towns look the same… church, main place and municipal hall…

Where do you get your inspiration?  Mexican culture. Before I arrived, all I knew was the Arizona-Sonora border area and images from the beaches. Central Mexico, which is the cultural and economic powerhouse of the country, is vastly different.

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?  As far as Wikipedia and my blog, Creative Hands of Mexico, I don’t have to sell my work. I’m working on my first book on Mexican cartonería (a hard paper maché). The idea of convincing someone to publish it scares me. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

What else do you do to make money, other than write?  It is rare today for writers to be full time. I am a professor. My writing, including Wikipedia work with students, complements what I do in the classroom.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?  Lap top at home desk or at work.

Life beyond writing

What other jobs have you had in your life?  Too many. Soldier, hotel receptionist, burger flipper, stay-at-home mom.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?  I would stay in Mexico. I hope to live on or near the beach someday.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support? My husband, Alejandro Linares Garcia … his support has been unwavering and unconditional.

Tell us a bit about your family.   I was born in New York City but grew up in suburban New Jersey. My mother was a single mom in the 1970s, which was extremely hard for her, not only because of social stigma but familial issues. She died in 1983 at age 44. I changed my last name in 2001 to Thelmadatter (daughter of Thelma in Norwegian) in her honor.

If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask? My mother.

How do you feel about self-publishing?  Personally, if it gets people reading my work, I’m all for it. In the digital age, especially in the next 10 years or so, the divide between self published and traditional publishing will blur, at the very least. Right now, as a professor, I still kind of need that publisher stamp of approval.

Last book you purchased?  A small, locally published book in Spanish on cartoneria.  There were bits and pieces of good information and research leads, but too short and too vague to be of help in really showing the craft’s cultural value.

Thelmadatter_Kennedy_CookbookWho do you admire?  Anthropologist and handcrafts researcher Marta Turok. I did her Wikipedia article. Second is food researcher Diana Kennedy.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?  Dedication

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?  That it took me 45 years to get dedicated to something. But I’ve always been a late bloomer.

Thank you, Leigh, for chatting and sharing the “toroloco” picture from Creative Hands of Mexico.

Need a little more Mexico? Get the first Detective Emilia Cruz mystery  CLIFF DIVER for just $0.99 for Kindle. Emilia is the first and only female police detective in Acapulco. She can make it in a man’s world. Unless one of them kills her first.

See what happens in CLIFF DIVER when Emilia is put in charge of the investigation into a dirty cop’s murder. When she dives in, will she hit the rocks? Or the water?


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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


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