Friday, May 10, 2019

Alexa Padgett - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Alexa Padgett. She is a USA Today Bestseller of contemporary romance, mystery and urban fantasy. Alexa uses the pen name J. J. Cagney for her A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery Series.

Author: Alexa Padgett

Author Genre: Mystery, Romance, Fantasy

Website: Alexa Padgett
Author's Blog: J. J. Cagney
J. J. Cagney Facebook
Twitter: @AlexaPadgett
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Facebook: Check Out Facebook
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Amazon Author Profile

Author Description:
J. J. Cagney is the mystery/thriller pen name of USA Today bestselling author Alexa Padgett. Her debut mystery, A Pilgrimage of Death, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ 100 Best Books of 2018 and Goodreads Best Mysteries of the 2010s.

Cagney holds a bachelor’s in international marketing and spent part of her twenties as the marketing director for an elite sports management firm. And, yes, she did her requisite stint with a dotcom back in the early 2000s, first as a marketing coordinator and then as a content manager. She’s penned work for a variety of websites and magazines, and she worked as a literary agent for Irene Webb Literary.

She lives in northern New Mexico with her husband, children, about a million fish, and their Great Pyrenees, Ash. Kirkus Reviews called Cagney’s latest mystery, An Artifact of Death, “An exhilarating entry in a thoroughly enjoyable series.”

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: A Heritage of Death written under the pen name J. J. Cagney. What do you have on the drawing board next? Rumor has it that you have another book available on pre-order called An Artifact of Death. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Thanks! These books are a blast to write. An Artifact of Death, the third full-length novel in the series, releases May 21, 2019. This one is more of a thriller than a murder-mystery.

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

Thank you! I’m not on Twitter as much as I probably should be. I have to admit, I prefer the pictures of Instagram and the intimacy of my readers’ groups on Facebook. I post a lot more in those forums for those readers.

That said, I think social media is essential today--at least for an author establishing his or her platform. People want to get to know the person behind the stories, and I totally get that. I want to be accessible and I’m always happy to interact with my readers. I’m well aware that without people buying and reading my novels, I couldn’t continue to publish. To all of you out there who have connected with me, thank you.

Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

Funny you should ask that. I have a presentation for a creative group on May 9, and I’ve been asked to give two author talks later this year in and around the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area, though the dates are still to be determined. I’d love to do a book signing or two, and I have my publicist working on those opportunities. When talks and signings become available, I will list them on and on my Facebook Author Page.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Emma Rider is a fabulous photographer and cover artist. She’s shot all my custom Cici covers. I saw the photo of the woman in the red coat (that’s on A Pilgrimage to Death), and I fell in love with it. I contacted Emma about using it, and she’s been very gracious to take more photographs so that I could use the same model and the same coat for each of the series’ book covers.

Emma has done a marvelous job of surpassing my expectations, so I really don’t need to do more at this point than say, “I like this image for this book.” She runs with it and creates a beautiful product.

Daqri Combs created my cover for Facing the Past. I love the moodiness of that image. Plus, it appeals to me because it’s such a perfect allusion to the title and story.

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called Dead And Gone. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other mystery authors? How did you put something like that together? Read more about Dead and Gone: A Collection of 13 Serial Killer Mysteries and Thrillers -

I’m very proud to be part of that boxed set, yes. This set was the brainchild of Tina Glasneck and Fiona Quinn. Fiona contacted me to see if I had a novel that fit the theme: serial killers. She explained the project, how some of the proceeds would go to save animals, and the bundle’s time frame. Our main objective is to grow our individual audiences through our collective readership. I’m not sure that’s worked out as much as I hoped it would, but I’ve learned a lot through the process, and I’ve enjoyed meeting new authors and making new friends.

What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I belong to ALLi. I’m about to re-join RWA because I want to participate more in the Kiss of Death mystery arm.

No, I don’t request help with any of those aspects of my career. Not that I’m not open to learning to improve my craft or to market to my potential readers better--I am, and I think I have to grow to stay relevant. I read the weekly ALLi emails to stay up-to-date and I want to take some of the courses offered through Kiss of Death. I participate in my local RWA chapter, LERA, when I can (which isn’t anywhere near as often as I’d like). We have a fantastic, talented group there, and I’ve learned a lot through those monthly meetings.

What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group? Are answers different your novels using you pen name J. J. Cagney?

I’m in the process of shifting my focus, hence the pen name J. J. Cagney. I will continue to write contemporary romances under the name Alexa Padgett, but I’m deeply enamored with mysteries and thrillers at the moment and want to pursue these genres to the best of my ability.

I’ve found, though, that my readership is different. My mysteries draw a larger male audience while my romances skew heavily female. Separating the two groups by pen name helps me give each audience what they most prefer to read. And I tend to tailor my Facebook readers’ group and my newsletters to the readers’ preferred interests as well.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do you sort of play it by ear?

I have a schedule but have to play it by ear. I usually take my kids to school, and then walk my Great Pyrenees, Ash. After that, I catch up on my social media, and then finally start writing about 10:00 a.m. I try to write 2,500 words (when I’m actively writing), and/or revise 30-50 pages per day if I’m in editing mode. Once I pick up the kids from school, my writing time is over. I do “mom stuff” with the kids--whether that’s helping with homework or driving them to an activity or making dinner. In the evenings, we tend to read together, which I love because it helps me relax as well. The weekends are not my time right now. Weekends mean LOTS of driving and socializing for the kids.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

I use both professional reviews and my reading audience. I guess I’ve mentioned on social media I’d like new reviewers, but I don’t spend a lot of time seeking bloggers. Maybe I should. I love bloggers. They are awesome to pursue their passion for books the way they do.

I’ve discovered Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly to be receptive to my work, for which I am so very grateful. I have a personal assistant who helps to get my ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) out to potential reviewers. I am thankful for Charity’s help because I found keeping up with the ARC reviews to be time-consuming.

You have written several novels in the Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery Series using the pen name J. J. Cagney. How has that worked out using two different names for your writings? Has it added extra to your marketing time using two identities? Do you have a different audience for each name?

It's been challenging to market both identities. I’m still learning what works best, and I think I will be for a while.

I have to admit, I was resistant at first to splitting my brand umbrella into two distinct pen names--I barely have time to meet my social media obligations for one pen name. But, as I mentioned before, I have distinct audiences for each genre, and there isn’t a lot of crossover for my books.

I’m thrilled to expand my readership. That has required more time to meet the readers’ expectation within their preferred genre. But I’m happy to do so because the readers are spending their time reading my work. That’s about trust. The reader-writer covenant, if you will. I take that seriously and plan to meet (preferably exceed) their expectations.

Author's Book List
An Artifact of Death - A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery Book 3
A botched execution. A reverend on the run. Can she solve the mystery before she’s caught in the crosshairs?

Reverend Cici Gurule went to the sacred Chaco Canyon in search of a sign. She’s been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a megachurch, but taking the position would mean abandoning her Southwestern home and the man she’s grown to love as much more than a friend. She’s so caught up in her thoughts that she doesn’t realize when she stumbles upon a group of heavily armed operatives on the verge of an execution.

Soon, Cici’s dodging bullets and scaling mesas with the mysterious man she saved from certain death. With a little help from her twin sister’s ghost and restless ancestral spirits, they venture deeper into the maze-like rocky terrain. But her new companion’s deadly aim makes her wonder if she can afford to trust his side of the story.

To make it out of the canyon alive, Cici must unearth the true story behind the man and a sacred Navajo artifact before the next bloodshed on sacred ground is hers.

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A Heritage of Death - A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery Book 2
An unconventional woman. A brutal murder. To solve the case, one woman will look for help from beyond the grave…

Cici Gurule wants to pretend her dream is nothing more than a meaningless nightmare. But the bruised and bloodied woman looked alarmingly like her. When a baby turns up on her porch--a baby who was reported missing days before--evidence points to a connection with the woman in Cici's dream, and she can no longer ignore the nighttime vision. Cici and Detective Sam Chastain struggle to follow the garbled evidence, but the killer scores his victim first. Worse, a message pinned to the victim's blouse states, "You're next."

Now, it’s a race against the clock to keep the baby safe and find the murderer before his trail goes cold. Cici's only chance to solve this mystery, before she becomes the next victim, means choosing between her faith and believing a message left by her ghostly twin.

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A Pilgrimage to Death - A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery Book 1
When Cici discovers a body in the forest, she's shocked to realize the victim's wounds are identical to the ones that killed her sister a year ago. Now she's embroiled in the takedown of a massive criminal operation, and the stakes couldn't be higher…

Someone murdered her sister. And shot her dog. The killer won't stop until she's dead, too.

Cici finds a dead body while hiking in the Santa Fe National Forest. The situation deteriorates when she discovers the victim bears similar stab wounds to those that ended her twin sister's life a year ago.

Then, her identical twin sister infiltrates her dreams.

All of a sudden, Cici and her dogs must dodge arrows, bullets, and even a demon truck—all while she grapples with the knowledge that her sister was on the trail of a deep-rooted criminal operation. Worse, her twin's death was much more sinister than a random act of violence.

Now, as she follows the clues her sister drops in her dreams, the criminals want Cici out of the way. Permanently.

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Identical Death - A Reverend Cici Gurule Mystery Book 0
***This is a short story prequel companion to the first novel A Pilgrimage to Death.***

Few people ever experienced a connection like Reverend Cici Gurule had with her sister. The women weren't just twins; they were identical.

Yes, were.

Cici knew the exact moment her sister had died because Cici had passed out in her apartment. She'd swear until the day she died her sister said her name in a soft, broken voice as her own mind had switched off.

Now, Cici must learn to live without her sister . . . and deal with a cold trail and unsolved murder.

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Facing the Past
A childhood tragedy. An unsolved murder. In the quest to rewrite her family’s past, Danielle Patterson could lose her future.

After her mother’s sudden death, a Dallas housewife struggles to hold her young family together…especially after Danielle Patterson uncovers a dark secret that shatters her reality. Determined to bring her brother’s killer to justice, Danielle picks up exactly where her late mother left off. All too soon, her reckless pursuit proves Danielle—and her mother—knew the killer.

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Deep in the Heart - An Austin After Dark Book Book 1
Two strong, battle-scarred people grapple with how to make a relationship work in the forceful first Austin After Dark contemporary. - BookLife

She's mending guitars and her life.

Jenna Olsen isn't sure she'll ever escape her past. Becoming a skilled guitar craftsperson helped with the anxiety, but she dreams of the day when she can trust again. When an up-and-coming country star asks for a custom guitar in an impossible time-frame, Jenna falls for the challenge.

He's focused on music to help forget the war.

Camden Grace's music and fans help him cope with the physical wounds he sustained in Iraq. But he's haunted by his fractured family history. When an angry outburst leaves an expensive guitar shattered, he doesn't expect to find a strong-willed woman whose struggle echoes his own.

Will creating a new instrument turn their romance into a smash hit? As the instrument and their feelings start to come together, a dangerous would-be flame attempts to sabotage their relationship. The jealous rival could kill more than their careers if Jenna and Camden can't rise above the rage to heal their hearts forever.

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A Moonlit Serenade - Seattle Sound Series Book 8
The sound he can’t forget…


I’ve suffered my share of heartache, and I’m not eager to risk a silly crush on an arrogant, unavailable rock star. Jake’s band is one of the hottest acts in the world, but for a woman who’s already lost it all (that’s me), celebrity drama holds no appeal. The man himself, though, is harder to turn away…


I fell in love with her voice first. But trying to recruit the mysterious girl-next-door music teacher, Ryn Hudson, to work on my solo album is proving harder than I imagined. She’s prickly, defensive, wounded, and stubborn. And I’m in serious danger of falling in love with the rest of her, too…

As the holiday season takes over chilly Seattle, we see that something between us glows warmer than twinkle lights. But even if we can stop our doubts, close our eyes, and believe in magic, the pressures of my fame and Ryn’s past can’t just be wished away…

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When We Fell Down - Seattle Sound Series Book 7
Love played false...


It’s just before Christmas, and I’m pregnant, heartbroken, and miserable. My husband Simon hasn’t been home in months. There are photos of him snuggled up with his publicist. And that’s the best part of my December. Just before the holiday break, I’m served with divorce papers at work.


As my life with Ella disintegrates, my music career finally commands the admiration and cash I always desired. But my son believes the rumors circulating, and Ella refuses to even see me, thanks to those divorce papers I never intended to send. Ella’s annual trip to visit her parents in England couldn’t have come at a worse time…

I have until Christmas to discover the truth about who wants to end my marriage and win my wife back. But there’s more to Ella’s life than me. For our love to last, I’ll have to learn her heart all over again.

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Striker's Waltz - Seattle Sound Series Book 6
Risking it all…


Thanks to my violent ex, I haven’t felt safe enough to date in six years. When I volunteer at a soccer camp with Matteo Cruz, star and international sex symbol, I can’t deny my attraction. Teo is driven, patient, kind—and his butt is on seventy-foot billboards. Maybe I can risk trusting again, if only for one night…


Battling a career-ending injury, I have one chance left to chase the elusive World Cup I’ve sought since I was twelve. I can’t afford to be distracted by a fling. Especially not with pretty, talented Preslee, with her watchful eyes and sudden laugh. She’s been hurt before, badly I’d bet. But the more I see her, the harder it is to stay away…

Our growing need can’t be ignored, but as our relationship goes public, her ex storms back into her life and, now, the backlash could cost me more than just my career…

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From the First - Seattle Sound Series Book 5
When sudden impacts change life’s trajectory...


The accident knocked my life apart. My body will recover, but when I look at the orphaned girl from the other vehicle, I get lost in memories of my own awful time in the foster system. I refuse to let little Paige go through that nightmare.


I have frontman good looks, I'm the lead singer of a chart-climbing band, and I have cash to burn. My life is a twenty-two year old's dream. But fame and fortune don’t quiet the demons of my past. And now, shy, sultry Evie gives me something better to desire…

When the girl in Evie's custody faces crisis, we have one reckless shot to take Paige's future into our hands: get married, and fast. Evie and I can keep Paige safe while we sate the lust that taunts us. All minus any messy feelings.

But racing from the truth may lead to a larger crash…

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Many Sounds of Silence - Seattle Sound Series Book 4
A Dangerous Hope...


I can't remember the night that produced a brutal set of photos the media and former college “friends” won’t let me forget. No matter what I do, I can’t escape the shame and harassment… or the threat of more degradation to come.


I grew up in the spotlight, thanks to my famous father. I know what it's like to be surrounded by phonies who will betray you for their personal gain. From the moment I see Abbi, I can’t stop thinking about her. I’m not the relationship type, but she needs a boyfriend to help fend off the gossip, and I can play one for the press to help protect her from the vicious comments…

There’s nothing made up about the desire sizzling between us, and I really want to explore it. But a bond built on fear and faking it can’t possibly lead to happy endings…

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Hold You Close - Seattle Sound Series Book 3
Running from the truth...


The crunch of steel stole the baby I'd always wanted. It also left my career derailed and my body scarred, thanks to a stalker no one believes in. And Murphy Etsam, the man I thought would love me forever, shot to international rock stardom on the pure fury of the song he wrote when I ran away in an effort to save his life. I just want to talk to him one last time so I can finally let go of the pain in my past…


One glimpse of Mila in the crowd, and I know the year of drowning myself in booze, fame, and other women hasn’t erased one molecule of my passion for lovely, maddening woman who left me without a word. When Mila’s stalker attacks, I'm forced to face the trauma and misunderstanding that wrenched us apart—and to battle the chemistry that still surges between us.

There’s no going back to what we had before. I know that.

But I also know I can never let her go again.

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Between Breaths - Seattle Sound Series Book 2
Out of heartbreak comes hope...


I just escaped a job and relationship that nearly crushed me. Crawling out of the wreckage of my previous life, I'm finished with caution. I want sexy, vibrant Hayden, and I'm going to take him. For as long as I can…


It doesn’t matter that I'm the backbone of Australia’s hottest international rock group—here, watching my estranged mother die, I'm more alone than ever. Meeting long-legged, perceptive Briar Moore, I know she can help fill the hole in my heart...

These few, intense days change us forever. A connection this fierce should burn out as fast as it ignited, but we can't stop thinking about what could have been…

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Sweet Solace - Seattle Sound Series Book 1
Betrayal Broke Them Once...

We can't afford to indulge in this attraction, but our connection burns too brightly to ignore.


My husband was the second man who betrayed my trust when he left me alone to raise my daughter. Asher was the first. I found solace from both in my novels, writing about the hero I'd lost. But in those bestselling books, Asher-I mean my hero-didn't shatter my heart the way he had in real life.


There were so many things I couldn't say to Dahlia when she was seventeen. But I've never forgotten the only girl I ever loved. My voice and song-writing talent made me star. Fame extracted its price. Now I have another chance-the chance to restore her faith in love. The chance to find it for myself.

I'm not letting Dahlia go now that I have her in my arms again.

Perfect for fans of the Kendall Ryan, Carly Phillips, and A. L. Jackson, Sweet Solace and its sequels take readers on an emotional, sexy journey of hot men and their feisty women who are transformed by courage, self-sacrifice, and love.

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Moonshine Eyes - A Seattle Sound Novella Book 1
Sometimes, one glimpse is all it takes to fall in love…


I came to Barcelona to find a genuine connection with my rock star father who took off a decade prior. But when I catch the eye of a stunning girl across Avenida Diagonal, my plans to hang out with my dad go straight out the window of her tour bus…


After a family secret sent my engagement crashing to the ground, I fled Milan. The moment I spot Seth, I feel more alive than I ever did with my fiancé. Seth makes me happy, but the life I left behind is with my family, and I can make it safe.

Should I retreat, or risk my heart again by taking that terrifying leap into love?

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The Curse of Kuskurza - The Echo Series Book 3
An ancient prophecy. A battle of the gods. And a woman torn between duty and her heart…

Daughter of a god, hunted by his enemies, Echo Ruiz embarks on a perilous journey through the Southwest’s spiritual underbelly to discover an unknown evil determined to take over the world. With only her newfound and capricious powers—and a misfit band of spirits, demons and her lying BFF—Echo must choose between rescuing Zeke from a vengeful deity or finding the key to close the gates of the underworld. But her choice may unlock an even greater threat…her father.

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The Magician's Ruins - The Echo Series Book 2
She's the hope of the world … or its destruction.

The portals to the underworld are unguarded, and demons roam free in the Southwest. To return the world to balance Echo Maria Ruiz must survive enough trials to meet with the Magician in his ruined city and learn the secrets he holds. Secrets like the location of her best friend.

Alone and unprepared, Echo must trust Honani, her spirit guardian, and Zeke, the handsome, mysterious warrior who carries her on the back of his motorcycle, battling demons and monsters at her side. In her darkest moments in the Magician’s ruins, Echo discovers betrayal lurks, and her warrior may not be her hero after all.

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The Spirit Seducer - The Echo Series Book 1
The dream comes every night: A warrior clad in leather and wielding a spear, fighting off demons with the heads of jackrabbits and pumas. Defending her. Echo Ruiz knows it’s ridiculous. There’s no one in Santa Fe less likely to need defending. Thanks to the migraines, she’s confined to her mother’s house. Her Native American Studies classes are online, and she hasn’t made a new friend in a decade.

Until her twenty-first birthday party, when trickster Coyote himself shows up. An hour later, Echo is on the run from the power-hungry god. Her headaches are gone. Her mother is a hostage, and she’s been thrust into a mirror-world of deadly loveliness to fight or die.

Her dream warrior? He’s as real as the sweat on her skin. His name is Zeke, and he remembers a lot more about Echo than she does about him. So does her best friend, Layla, who has secrets Echo’s never guessed.

But if Echo wants to defeat Coyote—if she wants to survive—she’ll have to discover the way herself. Because that’s one ending the legends have never told…

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Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
Indie Author’s Corner and HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

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