Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Bloody Mary Club by Debbie Dyke (Author Interview / Book Review)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Debbie Dyke, author of The Bloody Mary Club!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews Debbie! 

How long have you been a writer?

I fell into writing by accident; my first paying job was with the Navy Newspaper, The Panorama, in Naples, Italy. It was a summer job when I was a rising 9th grader. The Navy assigned jobs on the first day of the summer break - first come first serve. My job was to work at the AFSOUTH NATO beach - in the kitchen of the snack bar. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I thought that I would give it a try. There was a tiny window that looked out onto the beautiful Mediterranean beach and I wished I was anywhere but in the greasy beach snack shack. Before long, the cook asked me to go into the food locker and get him some frozen hamburgers. The minute I stepped foot into the meat locker - that was it. Done!

I took my apron off for good. I caught the beach bus back to the Navy base where I had to report to the Navy Chief in charge of the summer program. He wasn't happy with me but then said he had saved the best job for last. Navy Public Affairs! He told me to give it a try, but, it might be a little demanding for a little lady like me. It was a perfect match. I loved it and continued to work there for the next three years. I was assigned a Leica Camera and went out on assignments just like any other Navy Photo Journalists. I shot my own photos and wrote articles for the Navy Newspaper. I went out on the Navy Carriers with the PAO chief when the fleet came to port, covered a major cholera outbreak, sporting events, Admiral visits, rock concert in Rome, all sorts of interesting events. Oh, and I was paid $1.60 an hour. 

I've been writing ever since in one form or another. I became a script writer and now a novelist. I finished The Bloody Mary Club in 2007, it was my 18th rewrite - only this time I wrote it back to my original vision. My literary agents had me rewrite The Bloody Mary Club chasing every chick lit trend until I'd had enough of them. I shelved it when I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer (I'm good to go now). I spent time on my personal life. My children and my wonderful husband needed me and I had lost interest in writing. It took five years. Here I am today... The Bloody Mary Club is published and I did it 'my way.' I'm happy with the cover and its snazzy title. I'm also thrilled with the great response that I've received. I never regretted my choice to put it on the back burner and focus on my family. Now I'm moving full force with my writing life and loving it. 

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

Yes, I have several day jobs! I'm the owner of Avanti Placements a Recruitment Outsourcing company. I've been in business for 25 years. I love being in the people business because you never know what will happen next. I provide employment consulting services to Defense/Intelligence, Technology, Bio-Tech and International firms. I have a very interesting list of clients that I work with that also gives me inspiration for writing. One day I'm running searches for Nuclear Chemical Weapon experts, then finding Somali Pirate catchers to hiring data wranglers for NIH. I also actively manage a portfolio of investment properties that we own as well as manage the family investments. I buy and sell stocks on a regular basis and hunt down good municipal bonds. I do all this and keep my family happy, healthy and well fed.

I live in an historic house here in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. It was built in the 1850's and my home office is on the second floor. My desk faces a window with a view onto the street lined with historic row houses. I have a collection of white seashells and bits of odd shaped coral from all of my beach vacations which I have propped up against the window ledge to remind me of the day when I will retire to a beach, most likely somewhere with aqua waters, where I will be able to happily write away without distractions or time limits. 

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

I started writing scripts for fun, then it turned into work when they started getting attention. Over the years I wrote five screen plays, several treatments, and articles for magazines. Two of my screen plays were optioned by HBO and an A list actress. I also collaborated with award winning director Uli Edel (Baader Meinhoif Complex, Tyson, Purgatory, Little Vampires) on an action movie called Closing In. 

Please give a brief description/storyline about The Bloody Mary Club.

An all women investment club meets in historic Old Town, Alexandria, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. The friends, caught up in a ruthless bank takeover, uncover accounting fraud and trading irregularities. When the tight circle faces off against greedy executives sitting on millions of dollars worth of stock options their financial security blanket is ripped away. The ladies become the target of a predatory national bank. As the intrigue and violence escalates so does the vodka in their namesake drink, Bloody Marys.

What was the inspiration for this story?

My inspiration to write The Bloody Mary Club came to me in many ways. I've always been interested in the stock market and the idea of an all-woman investment club was my hook. I added the Bloody Mary Drink after hearing about its historical tie to Alexandria. It was a convergence of ideas and I knew I had to write this story. My first medium was in script format but it felt limited with just dialogue and scene settings. It was an abbreviated version of the story in my head. When I wrote the novel the characters came to life and I knew it was meant to be a novel.

I am very passionate about the stock market and investments. I'm fascinated by the recent Ponzi schemes and financial scams that have been reported in the front page news. I've watched the bank meltdowns with great interest. As a former stockbroker, I've met a few embezzlers and worked with several bad brokers who've run away with client's money.

I'm not interested in writing about how the 1% lives and consumes their wealth. I write novels of financial intrigue and how it relates to us on a personal level. After reading The Bloody Mary Club, I hope that the reader will realize that even the top fat cats get ripped off and that there are no get rich quick shortcuts. In the era of self-directed IRA's everyone is responsible for their financial future and you must make wise investment decisions. We need to be savvy investors. There is no easy money or guarantees to double your return. I also like to touch on the complicated feelings about money and self worth. What happens to friendship when the well-heeled rub elbows with the not so fortunate? What happens when the high net worth individual loses their money and is now scraping by? It is always juicy to write about the 'haves' and the 'have-nots.' I always say people lie about two things: sex and money. I prefer to explore what money (not sex) or lack of it does to people and what lengths they will go through to get it. Fifty Shades of Grey does a darn good job of covering the sex side of things! I'll stick to what I know - the money side of things!

How did it feel to have your first book published?

Fantastic! The Bloody Mary Club went through 18 rewrites, then, finally, seeing the finished product was a very proud moment for me. It was a long journey and one that I am happy to say I've accomplished. No regrets and no doubts. Pure joy. The first time I held my book, it felt like I was holding a beautiful object in my hand. I was overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions. Not just the fact that it was a finished product, but that I had done it. I stopped writing for 5 years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I lost my interest in writing and never thought I would have the energy or desire to write again. But somehow, after a long period of time, I found my mojo again. I'm the type of person who likes to finish things and the fact that I hadn't published this novel that I spent so much time on, bugged me. So when I say it was pure joy, I mean it on many levels - joyful that I'm a survivor, joyful that I finished the novel and joyful that I found my writers voice. It was all about perseverance and persistence. 

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I am most comfortable writing fiction and specifically financial thrillers. This field is ripe with stories that need to be told: financial intrigue, bank takeovers, nasty embezzlers, investment shams, bad stockbrokers, international money launderers, identity theft, corporate espionage, stock swindles, just to name a few. Wrap these themes around engaging characters, put them in interesting settings and let the writing begin!

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I love reading fiction and non-fiction alike. Here are some of my favorite fiction books: Playing for Pizza by John Grisham is a charming, well written and fun book. I love The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch because he is a great storyteller and creates an interesting world in 1624. George Pelecanos, Hell to Pay, he's our local Washington DC writer that just nails the DC underside of life. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, great writer with an unforgettable story. Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is a classic yet funny read. 

For non-fiction, my all time favorite is Michael Lewis, he's tops on my list for his expert financial writing. The Big Short and Liar's Poker are classics that are a must read. 

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

I always write at my old teak desk surrounded by files, sharpie pens and several large screens. I live in a historic house built in the 1850's and have my home office here. I have several large black leather comfortable chairs, oriental rugs, and wall to wall bookshelves filled with an eclectic mix of books. My office is very cozy and conducive to writing with abandon. When I go into the edit mode, I sit in my comfy leather chair with my feet propped up and red pen in hand. 

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

I get lots of story ideas reading the Wall Street Journal and Forbes magazine. It's a field ripe with stories to be told. I'll start with a snippet of information, then figure out interesting characters, then come up with a plot and timeline. For example, the idea of an IPO gone bad with sympathetic characters caught up in the offering could be a great story because of the human element to financial transactions. I also think if you have your radar out, ideas are everywhere. 

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

Yes, you have to be disciplined. If you wait for inspiration to strike, it could be hit or miss. If it's just a hobby then that's fine, but if you consider yourself a writer, then just like any job, you have to put in regular time. I write Monday through Friday and keep to a strict page count. I don't leave the chair until I've written at least 15 to 10 pages a day. I always edit on the weekends. 

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

I love coming up with ideas. I enjoy when my story takes a turn or twist that I didn't plan and I just go with it. Many times these unplanned detours turn out to be interesting plot points that make the story juicier. I'm never stuck for a character, setting or scene. I'm also a very fast typist and can get things out of my head and onto the keyboard without much of a struggle. As a military brat, I draw on all of my life experiences to bring out unique characters and situations. Having worked in military intelligence, the stock market, and as an employment consultant, I have plenty of unusual situations to draw upon. 

What I struggle with the most is when I'm editing and it becomes obvious that I have to cut out scenes that I love but do nothing to move the story forward. These are the hardest to part with but I know it's what is needed for the sake of the story.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I love to cook and entertain. I live in a very social town - Washington DC and there's always someone coming into town for a visit or a reason to get together. My husband and I love to travel, we want to visit Vietnam and go on an African Safari. I'm perfecting my pizza making skills, trying new pasta recipes and growing an herb garden. I also keep an eye on the stock market during the day, my TV is always turned onto the financial channel with the ticker running by. As a former stock broker, I only read the ticker and love interpreting trades as they go by. I am always on the lookout for investment properties. For fun, I watch the International Mystery and Drama channel and love the TV shows from Italy, Sweden and all over the world. My favorites are: Don Matteo, Vivaldi Beck and Commissario Montalban filmed in Sicily. I have wonderful neighbors and we get together every Saturday afternoon for 'wine time' at 4pm. As we say, "a Saturday without wine is barbaric!" 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

The best advice I received was from a top agent at CAA. He told me that if you wanted to be respected in Hollywood and control your work, you need to be a novelist. Novelists are held in very high regard. Screenwriters are at the bottom of the barrel of the Hollywood pecking order and many aren't even invited to their own opening night. I took his advice to heart. The Bloody Mary Club novel is based on my script optioned by a Hollywood Production company for an Emmy-winning actress. To celebrate my first paycheck from writing I bought a mink coat! I wanted a tangible asset to remind me of how hard I worked writing that script. I can't help but smile when I'm wearing it. 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

I like it when readers tell me that they learned something from reading The Bloody Mary Club and that they also enjoyed the story. I've gotten a great response from readers that don't follow the stock market or have an interest in all things concerning money. Readers have asked me to give them financial advice, to look over a proposed investment or even to verify their trading strategies. In this day and age with retirements not secure, it's gratifying to have this kind of positive response. Through my writing, I want to make the stock market fun and understandable. I'm not looking to write the all encompassing book about Wall Street, I want to write about a slice of Wall Street and stay within that framework. My next novel, Gina's Tonic, focuses on day trading and money laundering. There's going to be offshore money maneuvers, a day-trader who's forced to trade for profit or else die and nasty drug dealers trying to launder truckloads of money. For sure, the gin and tonics will flow on this novel! 

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

I communicate with my readers through Facebook, my blog and my Author webpage. I like to receive feedback and encourage them to reach out to me. I am always excited to receive contacts from readers that I've known from my past. Out of the blue I will receive an email from someone living in Italy or Albania who has read about my novel. I'm grateful to reconnect with people from my past and I'm happy to reach out to new fans. 

You can keep up with me by visiting my website, or read my blog: I also post updates on my author Facebook page:

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

The Bloody Mary Club most definitely has elements of my real life experiences. Since I am a former stock broker, I have a lot of experience with the stock market and dealing with investment advisers of all stripes. The scenes of Gina working her client book are spot on and the details of bank mergers are real life situations. The scene of the shareholder meeting near the end of the book, although fiction, shows how you can buy one share of stock and become a shareholder entitled to attend that meeting. This is a good tool that has been used to hold the company board of directors and leadership accountable. I had to cut a long scene near the beginning of the novel that goes back in time to when the women were living in Munich in college and meet up in the Hofbrauhaus for a night of beer drinking. They end up dancing in a fountain then emptying a box of Tide detergent into it turning the square into a bubbly mess. The police are called and they barely escape arrest as they flee the winding streets of Munich. This scene 'might' be based on a true experience but this author will never tell. It will show up in another novel I am certain of this. 

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

There are so many writers that have inspired me, from Jacqueline Suzanne, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, John Grisham, David Baldacci to Shakespeare. I find inspiration in many types of writing and appreciate how difficult it is to write. 

What is your definition of success as a writer?

My definition of success as a writer is to have a published work as well as a body of work. Success for me is finding my voice, publishing my work, reaching an audience, establishing a chick lit financial genre, improving upon my style and technique. And of course, selling lots of copies of The Bloody Mary Club, paperback and eBook. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

In between blogging, interviews, posting and book marketing for The Bloody Mary Club, I'm not sure when I'm going to have time to finish my second one! This book promoting is hard work! Seriously, I'm working on my second novel, Gina's Tonic, which is the next in the financial series. I'm halfway through the first draft. The gin is flowing and I'm having fun with it. Here's what it's about:

Numbered accounts, banking secrecy, tax havens, bribery, kickbacks, laundered drug money, sham transactions and skimming - banking gone bad. This thriller takes on the world of international finance, money launderers and organized crime. Gina Van Story challenges her nemesis, a trust officer with sticky fingers working at Beck Bank. This thief helps herself to client accounts, skips town only to find that she's taken a Columbian drug money account. She's discovered and soon becomes the cartel's day trader who must produce profits or be executed. Gina and her Bloody Mary Club gal pals masterminds a clever  take down, recovers the stolen funds, hands over the rotten drug cartel to U.S. government officials and saves Johnny's bank once again. Loaded with twists and turns, this thriller delves into money laundering and organized crime.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my writing background with you and your interest in The Bloody Mary Club!

Thank you Debbie for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us!

About The Author

Debbie Dyke is a novelist and businesswoman from Alexandria, Virginia, and has a background in military intelligence, the stock market, executive recruiting and writing. An Army brat, she's lived in Turkey, France, Germany, Italy, Albania and Holland. She graduated from the American High School in Naples, Italy then attending University of Maryland, Munich Campus. She graduated from Georgetown University and holds a Bachelors of Science and Masters degree in National Security. Debbie has two grown children, Lisa and Jordan and has been married to Michael for over thirty wonderful years. Debbie has written 5 screenplays, one Wall Street calendar and two novels.


Book Review

The Bloody Mary Club by Debbie Dyke
Publisher: DCD Publishing
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Format: Paperback - 394 pages / Kindle - 858 KB / Nook - 3 MB
ISBN: 0985407409
Genre: Crime Thriller / Fiscal Thriller / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Bloody Mary Club

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and for hosting a virtual book event on my book review blog site.

Book Description:

A Fiscal Thriller Set in Historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Stock market meltdown. United States housing bubble. Global financial crisis. Chief executives cooking the books. Who can you trust for financial advice? Gina Van Story, a savvy 40ish investment advisor to the rescue. She can spot a trend on the market and jump on it like a cat. She dreams of grabbing the bull by the horns and is on the hunt for one final big score. Gina and her three best friends form the Bloody Mary Investment Club and come face-to-face with corruption in a David and Goliath struggle when their stock portfolio turns deadly…literally. Over made-to-order Bloody Mary cocktails at historic Gadsby’s Tavern, Gina takes her friends under her wing and teaches them the ins and outs of the stock market. Trouble begins when, following Gina’s bullish advice, they become majority owners in the local bank and then stubbornly turn down a lucrative buyout offer. Not only will money and greed challenge their friendship, they will have to get smart fast and figure out how to turn the tables on the charmingly seductive, yet evil, banker who wants control of their stock by any means necessary – including murder!

Book Excerpt:

With an ensemble cast, you have to set each one apart. Each of my characters wants something different. Love. Power. Courage. Revenge. They also want to avoid things. Fear. Pain. Bankruptcy. Humiliation. Each lady is given something to overcome. Something that keeps them awake at night. They must individually face their fears. This makes them rich, complex characters. In addition, I created character arcs and just like in our own lives, we change and grow, the same happens to the ladies in the investment club.

Excerpt 1: Here’s a passage that captures their reaction when Sarah, Vivi and Joanie finally pay attention to their investment account when they have to vote on the purchase of private shares in a bank but then realize that by doing so, they are millionaires.

“Today’s price is….”Gina’s eyes fell to her lap. Odd that more of the club members had ever asked her this before. Although she’d been reluctant to share this information, she would have if asked…”one thousand dollars a share.”

Sarah tapped in the numbers. Her face lit up, she let out a series of peeps then tossed the calculator to Joanie.

‘Holy shit!” Joanie’s jaw dropped. He held onto the bottom of her chair and rocked forward. “Almost a half a million dollars.”

Cha-cha. Ching. Big Bucks.

“We’re loaded.” Vivi jumped up so fast her boobs almost spilled out of her top. “I’m a rich bitch.”

“Eat my shorts! I should have paid more attention to our account,” Joanie said cracking her knuckles. “I just assumed we had about one hundred thousand together, well, we, I man, with just hat one stock? Flipping amazing.”

“Gina, you stinker.” Sarah squirmed in her seat with both eyes in a tic pattern. “ Attenzione tutti, first time in my career that I’ve been out to lunch on an account and now I’m psyched to the max.”

Vivi beat her chest with her hands. “Hush my puppies. I’m switching to Haagen-Dazs tonight. I’ll get front row tickets to see Jimmy Buffet. I’ll get my lips pumped up and lipo on my ass. Dangit, my list is long”

Gina squeezed Joanie’s shoulder. “Are you in?”

“Do snakes have both sex organs? Does a naval orange have a navel? Does our flag have stars and stripes?” Joanie shot both arms in the air. “Freaking yes!”

Everyone agreed. Unanimous.

With the air around them crackling with electricity, the ladies joined hands and shared a moment of financial rah-rah gal power.


Excerpt 2: Vivi, Sarah and Joanie find themselves with no financial security and desperately rely on Gina Van Story to save them from a dead end retirement. All she demands is that the investment earrings stay put in the club until retirement age. This of course is a constant source of tension because Gina has all the toys and is fast approaching the 1% club. The friends want to spend their club profits as soon as they are realized and Gina won’t allow it. It’s the classic battle of the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have not’s’. Mix in tension with boyfriends, ex-husbands, career difficulties, disappointments in life and it makes for a complex, rich story.

Here’s a passage from The Bloody Mary Club that reveals the nature of each character:

“You’ve all grown up thinking you can’t handle this stuff and if you’re a good girl, some big strong man will come along and take care of it for you. Wake up. It’s not going to happen. Without this club, you’ll be greeters at Wal-Mart when you’re seventy,” Gina plucked a shrimp from her drink and jiggled it at Vivi. “Your legal secretary job isn’t secure.”

Vivi picked imaginary lint off her slinky top.

“What happens when your on-man-shop lawyer is thrown in jail for tax evasion? You’re pushing fifty, who’s going to hire a legal secretary who types on an electric typewriter and uses shorthand?”

Vivi pouted.

Gina moved onto Sarah busy snacking on peanuts: “And you can’t stretch your paycheck. You’re floating your bills. If mommy and daddy didn’t help out, you’d have no phone service, electricity or water. What are you going to do when they aren’t around? You think you’ll inherit their money? Statistics aren’t on your side. Mom and the General will need that money for their nursing home care. Your ex will get the last laugh as he skis down the slopes in Zermatt after having a wine and raclette meal paid for from his impenetrable trust fund.”

Sarah picked at her cuticles with one eye stuck in a half blink. “You forgot Joanie, she’s a mess”

My Book Review:

What do you get when you mix four quirky best friends, stock investments and bloody marys with corruption, murder and mayhem? One heck of an entertaining fiscal thriller that will keep you guessing what will happen next to the gals of The Bloody Mary Club!

The Bloody Mary Club is a fast-paced entertaining fiscal thriller set in scenic historical  Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Masterfully written in the third person narrative by an author who has a vast experience in the stock market industry, the reader follows along with savvy stock investment adviser Gina Van Story and her three quirky best friends as they form the Bloody Mary Investment Club and learn to navigate the tricky world of stock market investments.

Rich in detail and vivid descriptions, the reader is transported to the nation's capitol city of Washington D.C., where the author provides a wonderful virtual tour guide of the city's local and historical landmarks. The characters are realistic and engaging, this quirky bunch of ladies provide a lot of fun entertainment as their investment club turns into an exciting adventure filled with twists and turns that will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat. These fun loving ladies led by the savvy Gina Van Story navigate the stock market world only to find themselves in the middle of high-action drama with corruption, greed, deception, murder and mayhem at every turn. The entertaining dialogue and interactions, insightful financial wisdom provided at the beginning of each chapter, and portrayal of the high-stakes stock market world, make this story one heck of a compelling and entertaining read!

Author Debbie Dyke mixes her vast knowledge and prior experience as a stock broker into a story that is both very informative and entertaining. Who knew that the high stakes stock market world could be so exciting? Hmmm ... it makes me ponder if the learning about the stock market and investing might lead to something lucrative.

The Bloody Mary Club is author Debbie Dyke's first novel and the first in a series of financial thrillers. This story has enough intrigue, action and insight into the stock market world that will keep you thoroughly entertained.


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