Friday, February 24, 2023

Interview With True Crime Author Mitzi Szereto



1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into this book? This is now the seventh book in my true crime franchise, The Best New True Crime Stories. Each volume has focused on a specific crime theme, so I suppose it was inevitable that I’d eventually get around to tackling the rich and famous. We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture; therefore, when these individuals so many have placed upon a pedestal are finally caught out for their bad deeds—well, it’s definitely a lot more interesting than if your next-door-neighbor gets arrested for shoplifting. Unless, of course, your next-door-neighbor happens to be a celebrity!  

2. What is it about and who is it for? The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals contains nonfiction accounts of individuals who are in the public eye—individuals who have achieved some sort of celebrity status, such as actors, musicians, television personalities, sports heroes, even business tycoons and aristocrats. As for who the book is targeted toward, obviously true crime fans will find the book of interest. However, those with an interest in popular culture, criminology, and forensic psychology will find it of interest as well.  

3. What takeaways might the reader be left with after reading it? I think the most obvious takeaway is that perhaps we should be more aware of the potential abuse of power by those we’ve put up on those pedestals and not be so blinded by “celebrity” or “hero” status. There are several cases in the book in which the public (be it fans and even the police) refused to believe allegations that were being made against famous people, or simply preferred to ignore these allegations. Conversely, there’s also a case in the book about a celebrity whose career was destroyed because the public and the media were too quick to believe the damaging accusations that were made against him, which turned out to be completely false and done with an intent to cause serious harm.  

4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? For the series, I always keep the same main title, ie The Best New True Crime Stories; but since each book covers a different theme, I make sure to come up with a subtitle that let’s readers know immediately what they’re going to get. With subtitles, it’s a very skilled balancing act to get it just right. If it’s overly long or too jumbled-up sounding, no one’s going to remember it. I tend to come up with the titles for my books pretty quickly, even before I’ve written a proposal. For this particular series, I do have some input in cover design, and I try to convey to the design department what I’m envisioning inside my head to offer a sort of jumping-off point. I have an art and design background, which helps. After that, it’s in the lap of the gods.    

5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? I’ve been asked this question many times over the years and my general advice or wisdom has always been to keep at it and not give up, but to also be realistic about your talent and ability. The desire to be a writer doesn’t necessarily equate with being a good writer. Of course, even if you’re not a good writer you might still get published. I’m sure we’ve all come across books that should never have seen the light of day! All of this aside, one of the most frustrating things about the publishing industry is this tendency to jump on the “trend” bandwagon. As a writer, you will never catch up. Today’s trend is tomorrow’s rubbish, so to speak, so unless you can churn out something publishable in five minutes and find a publisher who will publish it in ten (and no, I’m not talking about self-publishing), it’s likely you’ll miss the “trend” boat again and again. You just have to be true to yourself and write what interests you and do so to the best of your ability, and then do a lot of finger-crossing.  

6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? It’s difficult to predict the future in this business. We’ve seen a lot of publishers get swallowed up by other publishers, such as in these mega-mergers, consolidations, and so forth, essentially resulting in one big publisher with a slew of imprints that fall under the aegis of the main publishing entity. No doubt you’ve heard of “The Big Five”—which are the five main publishing giants. Obviously, this has narrowed the playing field for a lot of authors, especially those without agency representation (or representation by one of the more “star” agents). However, even with all these mergers, I’m noticing something positive happening too. More independent publishers are appearing on the scene, and some of these entities have been formed by highly experienced editors from these very same publishing giants—and some of their books are even landing on the major bestseller lists. I’d like to hope these successes will make the Big Five sit up and think, “Hey, maybe we should’ve published that book instead of rejecting it!”  

7. What challenges did you overcome to write this book? The major challenge in doing these true crime anthologies is the fact that it’s extremely difficult to find cases that haven’t already been covered, especially the more high-profile ones. And since The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals deals with individuals who are already well known or at least reasonably well known, it was important for me to make sure contributing writers were tackling their chosen subjects in a way that was specific to them, such as finding a fresh angle to the story or personalizing it in such a way as to make it unique, even if the reader might already be familiar with the case. Plus, I always make sure to include true crime cases from different countries, not just, for instance, the United States. It’s often been commented that one of the things that makes my series so unique is its international focus. But I’ve always been global in my approach whenever I’m doing anthologies.  

8. How would you describe your writing style? I’m not one to pigeon-hole my writing style, especially since I’ve written in so many genres both in fiction and nonfiction. I approach each project I’m working on in a different way. For true crime, I suppose you could say my approach is more journalistic, but with some personal perspective, especially when it comes to highlighting say, a particular injustice or unfairness in a case. For fiction, I tend to use a more streamlined literary approach in my writing.  

9. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? There are very few true crime anthologies with multiple contributors out there that offer original new material (and not a lot of single-author ones either). With The Best New True Crime Stories: Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals and the other books in my series, it’s my policy to only include material that has been written expressly for me. I’m not cobbling together a bunch of reprints that have been edited and perfected to death by someone else, then sticking them in a book. If people are going to spend their hard-earned money on a book, especially in this tough economy, I’d like to give them something new, not something they can read for free online or may have already read in a magazine. And even if you’re familiar with some of the famous and infamous criminals in my book, you’re still going to get a fresh take on things and quite possibly learn something you didn’t know about the circumstances and the individuals involved.  

About The Author: Mitzi Szereto is an American-British author, anthology editor, and short story writer whose work spans multiple genres. Her widely acclaimed series The Best New True Crime Stories features the volumes Crimes of Famous & Infamous Criminals; Unsolved Crimes & Mysteries; Partners in Crime; Crimes of Passion, Obsession & Revenge; Well-Mannered Crooks, Rogues & Criminals; Small Towns; and Serial Killers. Aside from her many popular books, she has the added distinction of being the editor of the first anthology of erotic fiction to include a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Mitzi has appeared internationally on radio and television and at literature festivals, and taught creative writing around the world. She produced and presented the London-based web TV channel Mitzi TV, which has featured segments ranging from chatting about classic cars with Formula 1 race car driver/BBC TV presenter Tiff Needell and couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo, joining in a lively pub singalong, and covering a teddy bear festival with her ursine sidekick, Teddy Tedaloo. She also portrays herself in the pseudo-documentary British film, Lint: The Movie. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @mitziszereto. For more info, please see:


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