Between the lines with Alretha Thomas (Q&A)

Today, I’m joined in virtual vivacity by Alretha Thomas.

Alretha is the author, most recently, of Losing Lauren (Diverse Arts Collective)—the second novel in her series featuring Detective Rachel Storme following Justice for Jessica. A graduate of USC, Alretha earned a degree in journalism but ultimately decided that her true desire was to write books and plays. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill those writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein she penned twelve theatre pieces. Alretha published her debut novel, Daughter Denied, in 2008, and has since written nine other titles; Four Ladies Only (2014) was awarded the Jessie Redman Fauset Fiction Award. She makes her home in Los Angeles, California.

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Author Alretha Thomas.

Praise for the works of Alretha Thomas:

“It is a brilliant and entertaining book and it serves as a delightful start to a new mystery series. The storyline was not only good but also remarkably engaging as the author cleverly used the plot twists that kept me guessing the entire time.”—Heena Rathore P., The Reading Bud, on Justice for Jessica

“The mystery itself is both complex and intriguing, and the author’s subtle use of misdirection and red herrings should give even the most discerning reader pause. Take note: Alretha Thomas is a name to remember.”—Hartford Books Examiner, on Missing Melissa

From the publisher:

Alexandra Winifred has played a supporting role in her cousin’s life since they were children. When Lauren Water’s parents are killed in a plane crash, Alexandra becomes her protector, and together they navigate their way through childhood and college. They’re both overachievers, but it’s Lauren who steals the spotlight when she’s discovered by a notable agent and goes on to become an award-winning actress, leaving Alexandra in her shadow as her fledgling publicist. Now Hollywood royalty, Lauren starts to cut those people out of her life who were responsible for her success. Alexandra fears she will be next on the chopping block. But her trepidation about her failing relationship with her cousin becomes her least concern when she’s identified as a prime suspect in Lauren’s subsequent disappearance. Detective Rachel Storme, who has a full plate taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s and supervising a meth-addicted aunt, is eager to get her hands on a challenging case, but nothing could prepare her for the dark secrets and lies that she uncovers while she does everything in her power to find out what happened to Lauren.

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Now, Alretha Thomas reveals a few pages from the book of her life …

John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

Alretha Thomas: Growing up, reading for me was an escape from my dysfunctional childhood. I loved traveling to faraway places that were safe and welcoming. My books were my comfort food—my drugs if you will, and like most junkies, I indulged my addiction sub rosa.

JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

AT: A few of my favorite books were Sounder by William Armstrong, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?

AT: I’m currently reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Paul, a neurosurgeon, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of thirty-six. I was drawn to the book because of the tragic irony—one moment Paul is a brilliant surgeon and then he becomes a patient. I was initially totally taken by his beautiful prose and his observations and insights about life and death. On a side note, he did not live to finish the book. His surviving widow completed the book.

JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?

AT: If someone is looking for a riveting and inspiring read, I’ll invariably suggest She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb.

JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?

AT: My book, Four Ladies Only, is a must read. It is the recipient of the 2014 Jessie Redmon Fauset Fiction Book Award. It’s about four women who meet in middle school and who forge an unbreakable bond that unfortunately is severed when a horrible event takes place that results in the women not speaking to each other for two decades. The death of one of the women forces them to come together and to grapple with the past. This book is for anyone who has had a friend and for those who especially have had friendships go awry.

JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?

AT: Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James.

JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

AT: I met the late Bebe Moore Campbell at a reception and I was awestruck. I’ve read almost all of her novels and am in love with her voice and writing style.

JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?

AT: Yes. When John Valeri read and reviewed my first mystery novel, Missing Melissa.  He posted the review in the Hartford Books Examiner!

JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?

AT: To have one or more of my novels optioned and turned into a movie.

JV: Fill in the blank: John B. Valeri / Hartford Books Examiner is …

AT: … for up-and-coming writers, what Mother Teresa was for the poor, homeless and sick—a force of compassion.

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***

With thanks to Alretha Thomas for her generosity of time and thought.

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