C.S. O’Cinneide: Starr Sign + Interview

The Return of Candace Starr

The next book in The Candace Starr Series couldn’t have come at a better time. Starr is out there as a character, and we could all use a little bit of out right now.

Starr becomes determined to find her mother. The same mother who abandoned her as a young girl. No one has heard from her since. Is she dead? Is she alive? Given that she was a member of a mob family…the question is valid on many fronts.

Imagine Candace’s surprise when a teenage unknown sibling arrives on the scene wanting to get to know her. WTF?

When I reviewed C.S. O’Cinneide‘s debut book Starr Sting Scale in spring of last year, it turned into a whew moment. What a time to launch a book series. Regardless, it was a hit and now book two, Starr Sign is here.

Carole (the C. in C.S.) had time for an interview and it’s as lively and entertaining as her books.


First, a bit of background info. C.S. O’Cinneide (oh-ki-nay-da) was a Goodreads Choice Awards semi-finalist for her dark thriller, Petra’s Ghost and the author of a hard-boiled crime series featuring the reformed hitwoman, Candace Starr. Her latest book in that series, Starr Sign, teams Candace with an attractive computer nerd and a 13-year-old sister she never knew she had to take on Candace’s mob relatives in Detroit.

What was the inspiration for the character, Candace Starr?

I often say that Candace is a full-blown avatar for any woman who ever wanted to slam a bad guy up against a slushie machine at the 7-11. And I would include myself in that assessment. As women, we’re often taught to be risk-adverse, and with good reason when you look at what is going on in the world.

But Candace wasn’t brought up that way. She doesn’t feel the need to play nicely with others. Through her, I’m allowed to be a six-foot-three professional killer with attitude to spare and questionable ethics. That’s positively empowering for a “don’t rock the boat” person like me.

Although I think I’ve always harboured a secret desire to make waves, to capsize that boat or even run it through with a torpedo if the situation called for it. So, I suppose, the true inspiration for Candace may be my secret supressed badass self.

What part(s) of Candace if any, is/are you, or you’d like to be you?

Oh dear, I seem to have answered this in the last question. But I would like to add that I wouldn’t mind having Candace’s long legs in addition to her fearlessness. She’s described in my first book in the series, The Starr Sting Scale, as having legs all the way up to her armpits at an age when most women are starting to gather their “ass up from around their ankles.”

In terms of similarities, Candace and I do share the same hair, not the colour but the consistency. Candace says her hair “deploys like an air bag” at the first hint of rain and this is something we have in common. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to get my hair to behave. Perhaps I gave Candace this wild mane to match her wild nature, but I think I just wanted someone else to suffer “big hair” woes whenever the humidex goes up.

Candace is a character that resonates with a lot of people. Did you set out to write a character with mass appeal?

I did set out to write a book that might be more commercial than literary. But in early drafts, I actually got the feedback that Candace was not very likeable. To which of course I responded, “That’s the point!” After all, I had been trying to create a female character unlike those I’d seen typically in hard-boiled crime fiction, not a femme fatale or an ingenue, but a fully developed anti-hero. But even with a morally ambiguous character you have to build empathy in the reader, so I tweaked her a little to be more palatable. But only a little.

I’ve had feedback from many readers that they love Candace all the more because she is flawed. And that makes me absolutely delighted. As a reader, the last thing I need are stories about well-adjusted women with lives they have all figured out. I think this is where Candace’s mass appeal comes into play. She’s so outrageously bad sometimes, she makes the rest of us look good. Plus, she’s really funny. And that’s a commercial combination for our times if I ever saw one.

Has inspiration already struck you for another book in this series?

I had in mind that in the next book Candace and Malone would team up to run a Private Investigation firm called “Pandora PI.” Malone would have quit the police force due to disillusionment with the system and Candace would be anxious to “go legit” using some seed money she’d received as an inheritance.

But I’m afraid to say that I’ve been finding the writing of that book very difficult. I wrote Starr Sign during the worst of the pandemic and it was hard given all that was going on. But now, my writer’s block is less about distraction and more about the complete and utter lack of material. I don’t think people realize how much writers draw from everyday experiences like hanging out at the coffee shop or going to a birthday party for their ideas. Nobody wants to read a book where a mystery is solved over Zoom and the bad guy is delivered to you by UPS via Amazon. Or maybe they might, but that’s not Candace’s sort of book.

Will you tell us something quirky/personal about you?

Despite writing hard-boiled crime fiction with a character who drops f-bombs and caustic witty asides in equal measure, I am a diehard fan of the cozy TV mystery. My favourites are from the BBC. I have personally seen every episode of Midsomer Murders at least once and am anxiously awaiting the next Agatha Raisin installment. Do not tell Candace. She’d probably throw me against the slushie machine for just knowing who Agatha Raisin is.

Many thanks to Carole for spending some time with Murder in Common.

~ June Lorraine Roberts

Murder in Common is a Feedspot Top 100 Crime Novel Website

9 responses to “C.S. O’Cinneide: Starr Sign + Interview”

  1. Ha! You made me laugh out loud! I’m a crime writer, not exactly hard-boiled but procedural. Certainly not cozy material. However, my guilty pleasure is Midsomer Murders and I love Agatha Raisin. Anxiously awaiting the next season!

Leave a Reply