Sunday, November 19, 2017



 Silicon Valley Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald tackles her toughest case yet when a dear friend is falsely accused of murder. Aside from a depressed mastiff with PDSD, the only witness is an undocumented teen. Should he make a statement and risk deportation or stay mum and let the bad guys run amok? Or can Maggie organize a third solution without putting her friend, her family, and her community at risk?


Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that extends beyond her clients' closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. A newcomer to the Silicon Valley town of Orchard View, she's determined to keep it a great place to live, work, and raise her two teenaged boys. Happily married to a former academic turned engineering manager with a tough workload and unpredictable hours, Maggie juggles her home life with her work and community volunteer efforts. Once she's found her place in the tightly knit community, she'd do everything in her power to protect her family and friends and repair the damage when violence rips a hole in the social fabric.


Maggie, how did you first meet Mary?

Mary and I met at a conference for Professional Organizers in San Francisco. She wanted to write a cozy mystery about a character, but she didn't want to include recipes in the books. She was investigating alternative careers and thought that professional organizers might have access to some of their clients' darkest secrets—the ones we all squirrel away in our sock drawers or our attics and hope our friends and family never discover, let alone investigators in the middle of a murder case. I kept hearing the other organizers talk about this crazy author who was looking for stories about our most bizarre clients. Late in the afternoon we'd both had enough of the crowds and wanted a pick-me-up. I found myself standing in line with her at the Starbucks next door to the hotel. (Mary had forgotten to take off her conference badge, which I found out is normal for her.) We sat outside in the courtyard. I loaned her a pen when she couldn't find one in her huge tote bag. I told her stories. She scribbled notes. And we laughed. We talked until we realized we'd both missed the closing events and it was time to drive home. We discovered we live so close to each other we should have carpooled, and now we go to all our conferences together.

Why do you think that your life has ended up being in a book?
Books and movies about Silicon Valley were all the rage when our first mystery, Address to Die For, came out. But all those novels and films? They were about the big shots—Wozniak, Jobs, and Zuckerberg, or the kids who are all messed up because their parents think money is more important than family.

In the real Silicon Valley rather than the one that Hollywood portrays, there are more ordinary people than there are billionaires. The rest of us--teachers, firefighters, police officers, journalists, civil servants, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, gardeners, janitors, and bus drivers had a story that needed to be told. Silicon Valley is our hometown. We, like everyone else, live in neighborhoods. Our security depends on interconnectedness, rather than on a locked gate or bodyguard. That need for a community is universal, which makes it easy for readers to identify with us. We have our weird quirks. Silicon Valley living isn't like living in other parts of the country. Those idiosyncrasies make us intriguing. But this dramatic uptick in the murder rate in Orchard View? That has thrown us for a loop. Readers like stories about people in crisis, especially when everything turns out okay in the end. We've got the perfect recipe for escapist literature.  

If you could rewrite anything in your book, what would it be?
I tried to get Mary to leave out the scene in which Belle and I need to get cleaned up after rescuing Munchkin, the adorable mastiff who was involved in all the horror at the original crime scene. Thank goodness all that happened off-screen!

At that point, we had no idea what had happened, but we knew that Munchkin must have been involved in something dreadful, possibly criminal, and we wanted to preserve any evidence that might have transferred from Munchkin to us. Hot, tired, scared, and odiferous, we stripped down in the shower room at the vet's office, and I borrowed some scrubs to wear home. I felt incredibly vulnerable and exposed. Belle was shaking. We didn't want readers to see any of that. But Mary insisted. She let us keep our modesty, but she said mystery fans would need to understand how terrified we were so that they'd know what was at stake and appreciate what we risked to uncover the truth. I hope she was right. That's the worst part of life as a fictional character. We spend most of our time thinking we're independent actors and then something happens to remind us, usually in the worst possible way, that story is everything, even if it means we and our ordinary lives have to suffer.

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Max and the kids and I, and maybe some of our friends like Tess, Stephen, Jason, and Elaine, would take the dogs to one of the off-leash beaches and spend the day running in the waves and digging in the sand. We'd eat too many cookies, drink too much coffee, and laugh until we were wheezing and had forgotten what it was that was so funny. But it wouldn't matter because we'd be laughing out of an excess of joy in being together and knowing we all were loved.

Tell us about your best friend.
OMG! My best friend is Tess Olmos. About the only things we agree on are chilled white wine, hot coffee, cookies, and the importance of love, loyalty, and community. The public Tess is way more together than I am. The first time I met her she terrified me and I referred to her as "The Dominatrix." At a PTA meeting (a PTA MEETING!) she showed up in this freshly pressed designer suit, shoes that cost more than a vet exam, perfect makeup, and a gorgeous blowout. Her work wardrobe is stark—all black, red, and white with sharp pleats and no ruffles. It's like armor, and it makes her instantly recognizable, anywhere she goes. She's a Realtor and works with the big Silicon Valley movers and shakers with gazillion-dollar homes. So she needs to be tough when she's at work. But she's also got a hometown touch. Her offices give all her clients the feeling that they're settled in from the moment they decide to work with her. They all receive the same level of care, whether they're buying a studio apartment or some massive horse property with a helicopter pad.

But that's when she's working. At home, she's a mess. Stained sweats, crumbs in her hair, worn Ugg boots, and wet towels on the bathroom floor. At home, it's her husband who keeps things from falling apart and who makes sure they don't have popcorn for dinner two nights in a row.

Me, I'm somewhere in the middle. I showed up at that PTA meeting in jeans and sneakers. I may have a stray smear of mud from a misplaced dog paw, but I'm clean and tidy, mostly. Or I try to be.

What are you most afraid of?
Any threat to my family terrifies me. I don't think there's anything I wouldn't do to protect my two boys, even things way outside my comfort zone. 

What’s the best trait Mary has given you?
So far in the books, I've never been late for anything. That's a tall order in Silicon Valley, where the traffic snarls if a driver sneezes. I like to be on time and often arrive early because of that, but— Being perpetually on time in Silicon Valley? With two kids, a husband, and a dog that wants to go everywhere with me? Impossible. That's a complete fiction. I admire punctuality, but I expect my friends and colleagues to be humans, not superheroes.

What’s the worst?
Mary has this weird tendency to write all the conversations I have with my golden retriever Belle verbatim. Those are conversations I have in my head, not out loud in public on a city street. Yikes! I mean, yeah, Belle is my side-kick, and I kinda pretend to bounce ideas off of her, but if I talked to her in real life the way I do in the books, I'd probably be considered a threat to myself and others. Certainly, none of my clients would trust me to help them resolve the muddles in their garages and attics.

If your story were a movie, who would play you?
I used to think Laura Linney would best be able to handle the more active parts of my life. She's so adept at tackling some of the worst situations imaginable. But I've since learned from other characters about the long lead time for films, even for television. Now I think by the time we all get to the screen, Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence will be old enough to portray me. It will be a forty-something actress, I'm sure— a role for actresses who often don't have enough interesting parts from which to choose. But older women have so many more layers and a perspective that serves us well in detecting patterns of behavior and the anomalies that lead us to unmask bad guys where others have failed.

What makes you stand out from any other characters in your genre?

Many of the amateur detectives in cozy mysteries are such great cooks and bakers that they share their recipes with readers. I'm so busy that my family's meals are all too often prepared meals from our local grocery or something I've pulled from my freezer, or something my fabulous husband Max has whipped up in my absence. His specialty is fresh bread and hot soup. I'm older than a good number of cozy detectives and never wear stilettos. Those younger women look sharp in their fashion-forward clothing, but my rapid-paced life keeping up with clutter, kids, and pets works better with jeans and sneakers. My friends and I try to act as mentors for some of the younger detectives out there. They worry so much about things we've learned to let go. I'll take family, friends, confidence, intelligence and a loyal community over hot shoes and a trendy drink any day.

If you could be “adopted” by another writer, who would you choose?
My family and I have long been planning a vacation in Three Pines. While that tiny village in Quebec would vanish in the vastness of Silicon Valley, it is similar in many ways to Orchard View, where my neighbors all seem to excel in their areas of expertise despite quirky flaws that sometimes make me wonder how they lurch their way from breakfast to lunch. But that's their charm. Three Pines and its residents seem as beloved of and loyal to their author, Louise Penny, as my cohorts and I are to Mary Feliz. No matter what goes wrong, in the end, they remember that love always wins. And Madame Gamache seems so incredibly organized in her career as an archivist. I'd love to compare notes with her. I sometimes feel like an archivist of modern everyday people, helping them save and store what's important and discard what is not.

Will you encourage Mary to write a sequel?
Yes and no. Life around here is certainly quieter and more predictable when she doesn't write about us. And our sense of safety can seem precarious when she is writing. But there's no end to our adventures, particularly for my golden retriever Belle and the other dogs and cats. They're inveterate hams and scene stealers.

Mary's currently working on the fifth volume of our adventures, which thankfully gives the people of Orchard View a rest from our recent spate of unprecidented murders. My kids and I are on a working vacation on the shores of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in an area where California's agricultural industry, touristry, environmentalism, and fishing achieve a tenuous balance. We're not enjoying as much time as I'd hope to spend hiking and enjoying the surroundings though. If I'm not careful, Mary's going to make sure my boys end up in jail. So much for a peaceful vacation. I have to say though, that she's not let us down yet, whenever I'm ready to give up, she's encouraged me to power through the conflicts until we arrive safely in a place where we can relax over good food and conversations with friends.


Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She's worked for Fortune 500 firms and nonprofits, competed in whaleboat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character's stead, but Maggie's skills leave her in the dust.

Connect with Mary:

  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble