Mystery Writers Key West Fest: Murder and Mayhem in Paradise!

Interview with Author Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

Carolina Garcia-Aguilera is the multi-award winning author of 10 books and a prolific contributor to numerous anthologies. Her novels have been translated into twelve languages, and her seventh, ONE HOT SUMMER, was made into a movie for Lifetime Television. She is author of the widely acclaimed Lupe Solano mystery series, which chronicle the adventures of the “sexy, scrappy” Miami-based, Cuban-American private investigator Solano. Garcia-Aguilera, whose characters run the gamut from geisha’s to nuns, was herself born in Cuba and explored the world of Miami vice as a private investigator for more than 25 years


Q&A with Author Carolina Garcia-Aguilera

Q: Carolina, you are a Private Investigator who has created a famous mystery-fiction heroine who is also a P.I. In your case, which came first, the storyteller or the investigator?

CGA: This is a difficult question to answer because, in my case, the two are so intertwined. I’ve always been interested in mysteries—I read the stories featuring Sherlock Holmes at a very young age, so I came by my fascination with detectives honestly. The kinds of novels I chose to read almost always were in the detective genre because those were the ones that greatly appealed to my inquisitive personality. I helped put myself through college by writing papers for other students in courses that I was not taking, so I learned how to conduct research and write on topics that I knew nothing about. Instead of reading bedtime stories to my three daughters, I used to make them up. Every night, I would tell a new chapter; sometimes the stories went on for weeks. It made bedtime fun, and forced me to use my imagination. I became a private investigator so I could write novels featuring Lupe Solano, a Cuban-American who lived and worked in Miami in a realistic way. I felt I needed to experience what Lupe would have as she went about investigating cases. Plus, of course, having actually worked as a private investigator gave me “street cred”.

Q: Would you say a lot or a little of Lupe Solano’s personality and life experience mirror’s your own?

CGA: There are several differences as well as similarities between Lupe Solano and myself. I’ll start with the similarities: we are both relentless in our pursuits for justice (Lupe in the novels; me when working a case as a private investigator); we both come from families primarily consisting of women (Lupe is one of three sisters; I have three daughters); we both share a fierce interest in Cuba (I was born there; Lupe was born in Miami of Cuban parents); we are both family oriented; we both are firm believers in manicures and pedicures; we both love Miami; we both love to drink red wine; we both never skip a meal.

As far as the differences are concerned: Lupe is a single woman with no children who enters into relationships with men (sometimes simultaneously); I am a mother with three daughters; Lupe is 29 years old and will never age; sadly, that is not the case with me; Lupe became a private investigator right after graduating from college; I got married and had children before doing so; Lupe became a private investigator because she was interested in the field; I became a private investigator in order to write books;  and then, of course, there is the matter of the differences in our bodies—an unfortunate number of pounds between us (and not in my favor).

Q: You will soon release your eighth Lupe Solano mystery. Can you discuss some of the pluses and challenges inherent in writing a series?

CGA: I always knew I wanted to write a series. I’ve long been drawn to series, looking forward to seeing how writers develop their characters’ personalities throughout them. Some of the pluses are that readers become emotionally connected to the main character, and look forward to seeing how she acts and reacts to situations. A drawback is that the writer has to present the main character’s backstory in a way that is fresh and interesting, a feat that can be challenging to do by book six. I wanted my readers to be able to start the series at book five, and have the same information as if it was the first book without repeating the salient facts. It’s kind of a tricky balancing act.

Q: Do you already know the path you will follow when you begin to write a book or story? Do you outline and plan meticulously or do you take a more spontaneous approach?

CGA: I definitely take a more spontaneous approach when writing a book. About the only thing I know is what the subject matter is. It’s an undisciplined way of writing, but it works for me. I don’t outline, nor do I sketch out the story in advance. I know writers who have fifty page outlines; others that start their books at the end and work backward; others that have a board on which they tack on photographs of the characters. I admire—maybe even envy—that kind of organization, but it would not work for me. In my books I normally have what I refer to as an “A” case that I consider to be the most important one; then I have a “B” case, which is of lesser importance.  If I’m really ambitious, I manage to intertwine the two at the end. 

Q: You have three daughters. Do you discuss plot lines with them? Do they contribute ideas to your stories?

CGA: No, I don’t discuss plot lines with my daughters. I sort of tell them what the book is about, and that’s it. I also don’t give the manuscript to anyone to read until I’ve finished—don’t quite know why, though.  I don’t discuss plot lines with anyone. I do, however, read out loud what I’ve written to my best and most favorite audience: my four huge, goofy dogs who find me perfect. I read out loud to them what I’ve written to make sure that I’ve chosen the correct words, and to help with punctuation. If my dogs- Frost, Wanda, Charlotte and Brian- approve what I’ve written, they jump up and slobber all over me. When that happens, I feel as if I’ve won a Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Q: Do you have a book completion tradition? Champagne? Nap?

CGA: I don’t have a book completion tradition because I don’t really ever feel I’ve finished a book. Sure, it goes off to the agent or the editor, but I always feel there is more I could have done. Also, I know there will be edits and comments and the galleys so I will have to keep working on it. I don’t feel a book is truly finished until I’m holding a hard copy in my hands. Then, I open and drink almost an entire bottle of very, very good red wine. 


Carolina Garcia-Aguilera will join authors David Beckwith, John Cunningham, and Heather Graham in a panel discussion moderated by Shirrel Rhoades, titled “Choosing a Point-of-View for Your Story,” during the upcoming Mystery Writers Key West Fest, set for August 14-16 at the Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel. Produced by Key West Writers Bloc and sponsored by the Key West Citizen, the Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, for a full Fest schedule, online registration, and links to accommodations visit
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