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Queen of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage - Book Tour

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Queen of Bones

Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita.
Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer.

Purchase Links
Amazon UK
Soho Press

Author Q&A
Queen of Bones offers a detailed portrait of Havana with scenes in the cemetery, the “chic” El Vedado neighborhood, and the posh Melia Cohiba hotel, among other places… Did you have to research all that? Or did you remember enough about your native city?

I remembered a lot, though when I was writing the book, I hadn’t set foot in Havana in more than two decades. Still, I lived there thirty years and the city hasn’t changed much. I looked online —thank Google and Google Earth!— and asked my mother, who still lives in our old home, for details I wasn’t so sure about. (“Is the Yara Movie Theater still open?” “Yes.”) I went back last summer and was relieved to find out that I hadn’t made any embarrassing mistakes.

Your first novel in the Havana Mystery Series, Death Comes in through the Kitchen, was a culinary mystery. Is Queen of Bones in the same category?
Though Queen of Bones has many references to food, it isn’t a culinary mystery as such. I mean, there are no recipes like in the first book. But I mention small private restaurants called “paladares” and their menus. La Dulcinea Bakery is an actual place—by the way, their flans are amazing. La Casa del Arroz is also based on a famous private venture. Here is a description:
“Armando Bacallao is known around here as Armando del Arroz because he has a small paladar called La Casa del Arroz. “House of Rice” is a fitting name—all the dishes he makes are rice based. Rice with chicken, rice pudding, fried rice, cream of rice and a dish he invented called arroz con todo. I’d like to try it and find out what “everything” means. Carlota says that it is like fried rice on steroids. Mmm.”

There are several quotes from a book called El Monte (The Wilderness). Why did you choose them?
El Monte’s author, Cuban ethnologist Lydia Cabrera, documented the dynamic relationship between African and Catholic religious traditions and the way they merged to create the syncretic belief system known as Santeria. She also explained how orishas (African deities) are associated with Catholic saints or advocations of the virgin.
Now, Santeria plays a key role in the story—in fact, the “queen of bones” is Oya, an orisha identified with the Virgin of Candlemas and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Rosita, one of the main characters, is a Santeria practitioner, and so is Padrino, the detective who solves the case. Using quotes from El Monte was also a way to pay homage to Lydia Cabrera.

Promotion is essential to sell books. Yet not everyone is comfortable with it. Some authors shy away from publicity; others love it. What’s your position?

I truly enjoy all things marketing. Last year, for the first time, I attended Bouchercon, an annual world mystery convention. It was so rewarding to meet other authors, attend inspiring workshops and, of course, talk about my books. The Miami Book Fair is one of my favorites too. After spending eight or nine months working on a novel, I love to let prospective readers know about it. So I jump at the chance of participating in book tours, blog tours and everything in-between. I like book talks as well—in fact, I have one scheduled next week at the Western Heritage Museum as part of the Distinguished Authors Series.

Do you always read at book signings and book talks?
Not always. I see them as opportunities to engage with the audience and entertain them. I have noticed that even the most well-chosen extract can be difficult to follow or plain boring when taken out of context. And then my accent doesn’t help—I am talking about book signings in English, of course. My favorite opening line is “I do not have an accent when I write.” So I tell people about the book, what inspired it, and how much they can learn from someone who knows first-hand what she’s writing about. “Do you want to know about life in Cuba?” I ask. “Well, let my book be your guide!” I’m happy to report that it usually works.

Photo Credit: Delio Regueral

Author Bio –
Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has published ten novels and three collections of short stories.
Her first culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018) is set in Havana and features Padrino, a santero-detective. It is loaded with authentic Cuban recipes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldosa (a yummy stew). Her second mystery, Queen of Bones, was also published by Soho Crime in November 2019 and includes elements of Santería and, again, food—clearly, the author loves to eat! Both novels are rich in details about life in the island, the kind only an insider can provide.
They are the first two books of Soho Crime’s Havana Mystery series. Upcoming are Death of a Telenovela Star (June 2020) and Death under the Perseids.
She also wrote A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010).
In her native Spanish she has authored six novels, among them Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain) and El difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, which won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009).
Once in a while she delves into theater. Her plays La Hija de La Llorona and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (published in Teatro Latino, 2019) has been staged by Aguijón Theater in Chicago.

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