Gretchen Holloway, in her final year of graduate school, is in the throes of auditioning actors for her thesis film, inspired by a murdered young football star who has haunted her dreams for two years. Gretchen believes making the movie will be cathartic. But instead of freeing her, embarking upon the film production unleashes a sequence of events that lead Gretchen to conclude that she’s the reincarnation of the young man.
Regina Wilson has always wanted to be an actress. When her agent gets her an audition for a role in Gretchen’s film, which eerily mirrors one of the worst events of her life—the unsolved murder of her older brother, Robert—she’s hard-pressed to go through with it. Upon fleeing, she leaves behind a keepsake that features Robert’s photo. Gretchen sees the picture and recognizes Robert from her dreams. She tracks down Regina, and after being rebuffed and called crazy, Gretchen’s unexplainable knowledge of events in Robert’s life eventually convinces Regina that Gretchen is Robert reincarnated.
The two decide to have his case reopened, but their significant others are dead set against it, and the police, who believe that Robert’s death was gang-related, are less than cooperative. However, Gretchen is desperate to get justice for her former self, and Regina wants justice for her brother. The women piece together the final week of Robert’s life. And the deeper they delve into his past; one shocking revelation follows another, leaving them wondering who they can trust and if they’ll live long enough to find Robert’s killer and bring him to justice.
Meet Alretha Thomas
Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, Alretha soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming. This led to plays outside of the church, including Alretha’s One Woman, Two Lives, starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by four-time NAACP Image Award Best Director recipient, Denise Dowse. The production garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences.
In between plays, Alretha self-published her first novel, Daughter Denied, in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country. Representing her book and plays, Alretha has been the guest on many radio shows and television shows including San Francisco Public Affairs show Bay Sunday with Barbara Rodgers on CBS affiliate, KPIX. She was also interviewed by KTLA News Entertainment Reporter, Sam Rubin. In 2011, Alretha self-published her second novel, Dancing Her Dreams Away, and it was also well received. Her third novel, Married in the Nick of Nine, spawned a four-book series that was acquired by Soul Mate Publishing in January 2014. The series has since reverted back to her. In August 2014, Alretha was awarded the Jessie Redmon Fauset Literary Award for her indie novel, Four Ladies Only. In 2016, Alretha created the Detective Rachel Storme Mystery Series: Justice for Jessica, Losing Lauren and A Penny for Her Heart. In 2018 and 2019 Alretha debuted two additional mystery books— The Women on Retford Drive and The Truth About Gretchen, respectively.
Alretha is also an actress and can be seen in numerous commercials and television shows. She currently plays Anastasia Devereaux on Tyler Perry’s Assisted Living that airs on BET.
Mousey, overweight Stacey Sullivan would love to trade places with her glamorous socialite BFF, Jessica James—that’s until she discovers Jessica murdered in her own home. Whip-smart detective Rachel Storme is ready to exchange her gun and badge for a gardener’s hat and hoe. But she reluctantly puts her plans on hold when she’s asked to help solve Jessica’s murder. These two strangers from different generations—Stacey a millennial and Rachel a baby boomer—become unlikely friends in their pursuit of JUSTICE FOR JESSICA. But their friendship is put to the test when Stacey insists that her husband, Matt, is innocent in spite of evidence that speaks to the contrary. Rachel, baffled by Stacey’s blind loyalty to Matt, doggedly fights to take Matt down, but with Stacey’s help, he eludes her at every turn. Is Matt the killer or could Grant, Jessica’s husband, be the culprit? Perhaps it was her jealous sister, Georgette or the maid, Rosa? No matter who the killer is, Rachel, by any means necessary, is determined to find her man or woman.
Mousey, overweight Stacey Sullivan would love to trade places with her glamorous socialite BFF, Jessica James—that’s until she discovers Jessica murdered in her own home. Whip-smart detective Rachel Storme is ready to exchange her gun and badge for a gardener’s hat and hoe. But she reluctantly puts her plans on hold when she’s asked to help solve Jessica’s murder. These two strangers from different generations — Stacey a millennial and Rachel a baby boomer — become unlikely friends in their pursuit of JUSTICE FOR JESSICA. But their friendship is put to the test when Stacey insists that her husband, Matt, is innocent in spite of evidence that speaks to the contrary. Rachel, baffled by Stacey’s blind loyalty to Matt, doggedly fights to take Matt down, but with Stacey’s help, he eludes her at every turn. Is Matt the killer or could Grant, Jessica’s husband, be the culprit? Perhaps it was her jealous sister, Georgette or the maid, Rosa? No matter who the killer is, Rachel, by any means necessary, is determined to find her man or woman.
Today I’m joined by Alretha Thomas to discuss her book ‘Justice for Jessica’. Alretha, thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to chat with me today. Let’s start at the beginning, what sparked the underlying ideas for Rachel’s killer quest? The idea just came to me one day. I wanted to write a story about two best friends, one gorgeous and popular and the other homily and a loner. The later of the two wishes she could be her gorgeous friend, not realizing that things may not be what they appear and her wish to be her friend comes to an end when she discovers her murdered in her own home.
I’m hoping that you don’t have any direct experiences of discovering someone murdered in your home, but have there been other facets of your life that you have embraced in this book? Did you find that research was more important to solidify the storyline? I tapped into my own past feelings of low self-worth when I created the character, Stacey Sullivan. I also researched police procedure.
I’m glad to hear that those feelings are in the past, but I think that most people can easily relate to the sentiments of low self-esteem, particularly in today’s social media culture where comparisons between your life and the presented lives of others are so near at hand. How have the characters other than Stacey come into being? The characters are not based on people I know, rather than a combination of people I’ve encountered in life.
Was there any character in particular you connected with the strongest? I love Detective Rachel Storme and her supervisor Herb Jones, so much so that I created a series. The second book in the Detective Rachel Storme series will be out when this promotion runs. It’s called Losing Lauren.
Tempting the readers with a second instalment of Rachel Storm. Nice marketing tactic there. What did you like most about writing about Rachel and her mystery? I love writing mysteries and fooling the readers. I’m the queen of red herrings. It’s always rewarding to learn from the readers that they couldn’t figure out who the culprit is.
Yes! I love red herrings. The more the better, the more misguiding signposts the better the read. Out of curiosity’s sake, how long does it take you to craft a story to throw the readers off the culprit’s scent? Seven months.
That’s not bad. Are you lucky enough to be a full time writer? Yes, I am a full time writer.
That’s great. Being able to dedicate yourself to the writing process must translate into a solid writing technique. How do you initially approach writing a new work? I start out with the story idea. Then I create the characters and an outline. I write everyday and I edit as I go along so that the first draft is in good shape.
Are you one of the primary editors for your work? Yes, I do a great deal of my own editing. I also use Beta Readers and an editing service.
Are you also involved in the cover design, or is that outsourced to a third party? Yes, to Tyreese Burnett of Tybu Creations.
I think that they’re done a good job. As a full time writer, do you have any overall top-tips for other authors? Write what you love and promote, promote, promote.
That is some solid advice. And I do have agree, promote, promote, promote! Keep pushing that snowball and more things with happen for you as an authors. Now we’re onto the final section of interview, the quick fire round. Alretha, just hold on and parry back your responses back as quickly as possible.
Is there a book that you wish that you would have written? Gone Girl
How did you feel when you got your first book review? The first five star review was exhilarating. The first one star review was a bummer!
The hallmark of a good writer is some 1 star ratings, some people will give out ratings like that even when there’s a million 5 star ratings just to be contrary. What is your zodiac sign? Libra
What are your favourite authors, and do you believe that they have influenced your writing style? I like Terry Mcmillian, the late Frank McCourt, the late Bebe Moore Campbell, Alice Sebold, Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn or just a few of my favorite authors. I do believe they have had an influence on my style.
All good strong recommendations there. Do you write longhand, type or use dictation? I type.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
What are you currently reading? When Breath Becomes Air by the late Paul Kalanithi.
I haven’t heard of that one before, but I will take it under advisement. Can you stand on your hands unassisted? No
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be? A million five star reviews for Justice for Jessica
*Laughs*. I see the promotor coming out in you again! Can you curl your tongue? Yes
What was your favourite book as a child? Charlotte Sometimes.
Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons? Dinosaurs
What is your favourite word? Love
That’s a wonderful word. Alretha, thanks you again for setting aside some time today to chat with me. I wish your the best of luck for your promotion of ‘Justice for Jessica’ and I hope that you get a bit closer to those million five star reviews.
Want to find out more about Alretha Thomas? Connect here!