Saturday! 2/22/20! Join us to welcome our next guest Sharon Short (pen name; Jess Montgomery), a Dayton author whose background includes being a newspaper columnist for the Dayton Daily News, writer-in-residence at Thurber House, former director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, three-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council grant, and published author of several mysteries, including The Kinship series (Minotaur Books) which she’ll be discussing at our upcoming meeting. Where, you ask? Upper Arlington Library (2800 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington), Meeting Room B, at 12:30 p.m.. And just to give you a taste of what we’ll be talking about, BCW asked Sharon some questions about writing, her most recent series, and her love of pie . . . be there to learn more, and join us for lunch afterwards.
BCW: So you’ve got two books out now in The
Kinship series (congrats, btw): The Widows (2019) and The
Hollows (2020). Both take place in Appalachian Ohio during the 1920’s
and center on Lily Ross, the female sheriff of a small town who got the
position after the former sheriff (also her husband) was killed.
Note: this is also based on an actual event from that time period. What
made you think of this as the story you wanted to write?
Sharon: I happened upon the story of Ohio’s true first female sheriff when I was researching hiking areas for a visit to our daughter, who attended Ohio University. I was struck by the notion of a female sheriff in the mid-1920s in a rural area, and that inspired my version, loosely based on the true first female sheriff. Additionally, my family of origin is from Appalachia — one county in Eastern Kentucky — on both sides. I’m the first Ohioan! So, though I consider myself a child of Appalachia in how I was reared and my childhood experiences, I was not geographically born in Appalachia, so I somehow thought I couldn’t write an Appalachian setting. Finding this story gave me a sense of not just permission to do so, but “coming home.”
BCW: You’re a fan of Daniel Woodrell (confession; same here). His books take place in Ozark culture and involve dirty, gritty, dark scenarios, comparable to William Gay, Donald Ray Pollock, or Cormac McCarthy. Also very “male.” By contrast, Annie Proulx also writes in this style. Would you compare yourself to any of these authors, or is it something different?
Sharon: Oh my. These are such terrific authors. I
would not compare myself, though I’m honored if others do. I’ve also been
compared to Sharyn McCrumb and Louise Penny for evoking setting. I’ll
definitely take those comparisons too!
BCW: Do you plan on more novels in this time
period? What else would you like to explore?
Sharon: I am contracted through books three and four
in the Kinship series–hurrah! I’d love to write more beyond that as well, if
I’m so blessed. My imagination tends toward mid-century U.S., but I can also
envision exploring other eras and areas.
BCW: Finally, your blog features a pie of the
month. Fess up: which is your favorite?
Sharon: To bake: French Coconut, Buttermilk, or Sugar Shaker. So easy, and always a pleasure. I enjoy eating any of those, but also like French apple and chocolate cream — those are more difficult but so tasty! (You didn’t think I’d stick to one variation, did you?)
BCW member Alicia Anthony is releasing her first book, Inherent Truth. Board member Kandy Williams posed a few questions in advance of the release.
Tell us a little bit about your book and when it releases.
Inherent Truth is the
first book in the Blood Secrets Saga, which is best described as a romantic
thriller with light supernatural elements. The story follows Liv Sullivan, a
reluctant psychic, who returns to her hometown after the death of her
grandmother. Beckoned by visions from beyond the grave that leave her with more
questions than answers, she revisits her grandmother’s old farm, where she
meets undercover agent Ridge McCaffrey. But a gruesome discovery lands them
both tangled in a web of family secrets that threatens not only their budding relationship,
but their lives.
It releases January 14, 2020 both in ebook and paperback and can be purchased online from all of your favorite retailers.
Take us on the journey.
Can you share the tale of how this book (trilogy) came about?
It seems like ages ago now. I’ve been seeing all those ten-year reviews online, I should do one about this, really. But the inspiration for this series first sparked when the decline of my own grandmother to the grips of dementia collided with the death of my birth mother, a woman I’d learned about but never took the opportunity to meet. That perfect storm left me wondering what memories would never see the light of day. The idea of secrets taken to the grave and memories left unspoken sparked this series.
I just remember sitting in
my family room in front of the wood-burning stove writing my way into this
novel. At the beginning, it was called The Girl in the Yellow Dress. And a lot
has changed since then. But writing Inherent Truth was a cathartic way to
process both of those losses. Of course, the storyline took a left turn into
thriller-land somewhere along the way. But the overarching idea of secrets
kept, buried with lost loved ones, and the possibility that those truths might
someday be unearthed still is the impetus behind the series.
You’re taking the plunge
and going the Indie Author route. Why?
Honestly, I was one of
those authors who thought they’d never go indie. I was adamant that I needed
the support of a publishing house in order to make this work. So for years
that’s the path I traveled. I sent query after query, accumulated a mass of
rejection letters, but yet I kept entering these contests and doing really
well. Eventually I started to realize that the readers for my work were out
there. They were reading my work and placing me well in these competitions.
That started to get the wheels turning a bit. I did research. Took a class.
Talked to author friends who had launched successful independent publishing
careers and eventually I decided that waiting was no longer in my best
interest. Waiting only stoked that fire of inadequacy that all authors keep
burning somewhere down deep inside. I was tired of that. Waiting felt like
giving up. And that’s not where I wanted to be. The decision felt right. I
think I needed to go through some of the trials of that other path to help me
realize the benefits of indie publishing, but I knew immediately. It was the
right time to take control.
What challenges do you
face, as an indie author, that traditionally published authors might not?
Ooh. This one’s tricky.
I would say marketing, but unless you’re with a big publishing house you’ll be
pretty much on your own with that anyway, so I’ll stick with a related topic
and say analytics. There are a lot of moving parts to launching an independent
publishing career. One of the elements that is hard for me to wrap my creative
brain around is the analytical aspect. Knowing what marketing efforts are
working and what isn’t and how best to find that information without tearing my
hair out or losing a week’s worth of writing time gives me fits. But it’s so
important to understand in order to maximize your return on investment. In
spite of what others may say, publishing isn’t free, and you have to know how
to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.
Do you have any advice
for Indie Authors on strategies to find and connect with readers?
I think having a core group of supporters around you, whether it’s a group of writers, your family, friends, even colleagues is a great start. There are a gazillion companies out there to help you reach readers, but it’s not just about finding readers, you also need to create relationships. For me, I started with my newsletter, trying to build it up to a decent size before launching Inherent Truth was important to me. Bookfunnel was a great tool to help build my newsletter list. I’m also a member of several Facebook groups consisting of writers and readers. I try to make meaningful connections with people within those groups and I enjoy listening and learning from them. I launched my own Facebook Reader Group, which has been a fun experience. I like getting to know the members and I try to ask fun questions and I hold giveaways and things to encourage readers to join the conversation. That’s really what it’s all about, forming those relationships. You can check it out at http://www.facebook.com/groups/AliciaAnthonyReaderGroup if you want to learn more.
What’s the fantasy? Lead
us down your ideal career path for your writing. What does it look like right
now and years from now? (Be as realistic or as imaginative as you want.)
Sometimes I think it is a fantasy. But watching this first step come to
fruition, releasing Inherent Truth, gives me hope that the dream is possible.
Right now, I have a very emotionally demanding day job. Through the school year
I get up at 3:30 A.M. most mornings in order to eke out some fresh words or
dive into a marketing project. It can be truly exhausting. The long term dream
is to retire early in order to write full-time. I’d love to see that happen in
the next five years, but we’ll play it by ear as far as that’s concerned.
have a backlog of projects from the years I spent lying in wait for the perfect
publisher, which is why I have plans for four releases in 2020. After that,
however, I’m looking at putting out two books per year. I think that’s a
schedule I could settle into pretty comfortably as far as inspiration and time
is concerned. It’s important to me that I don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
And I don’t see that changing for me. I’d love to build an engaged and responsive
reader base and be able to travel for book signings and events. I think
overall, my dream is to have the freedom and means to travel with my family and
write the stories that intrigue and inspire me. Isn’t that all any author
really wants? Oh, maybe a unicorn, too. A unicorn would be cool. 😉
Connie Berry’s follow-up novel to the riveting A Dream of Death is coming out this
month! A Legacy of Murder hits the
shelves Oct. 8. Connie took a break from writing about Kate Hamilton to discuss
the latest launch with BCW’s Jim Sabin.
JS: Congratulations on the publication of your second novel, A Legacy of Murder. How does it feel to have your first two books published in the same year?
CB: It feels really fast—and probably will never happen again. When Crooked Lane acquired the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, I had the first book, A Dream of Death, ready to go and the second, A Legacy of Murder, well under way. I know plenty of authors who write multiple series, and I give them credit. Writing two books a year is one thing. Publicizing and promoting them is another—and way harder.
JS: You’ve taken Kate Hamilton from the Hebrides in Scotland to the east coast of England. What prompted you to choose settings so far from home?
CB: Writers are often encouraged to write what they know, and I do know Britain quite well, having gone to college in Oxford and now traveling there a couple of times a year. My paternal grandparents were Scottish, so I grew up with the Scots’ accent and food. Today the cuisine in Scotland is marvelous, but back then, Scottish food meant oats porridge for breakfast, peas porridge for lunch, and lots of well-done roasts and overcooked veg for dinner. But there’s another reason I chose the UK for my setting. When I was in graduate school, my thesis advisor encouraged me to choose a topic I really loved because I’d be spending a lot of time there. I’m a card-carrying, died-in-the-wool Anglophile. Setting books in the UK means I ‘m able to spend lots of mental time there. And then there’s in-country research, which is the best.
JS: Kate Hamilton, your main character, is rather inquisitive, as you might expect from an antiques dealer. How does that help her solve mysteries in the present day?
CB: Like me, Kate can’t abide a mystery. My kids used to call me “Sherlock Holmes” because when something didn’t make sense, I would track it down until I learned the truth. Several years ago I solved a real mystery—finding a long-lost Scottish relative (then deceased) and learning what happened to her after she vanished. Kate’s desire to solve mysteries and her ability to discern patterns and connections, helpful in the antiques trade, give her an advantage as an amateur sleuth. But amateur sleuths need more than curiosity. They need a believable motivation for sleuthing. In A Dream of Death, Kate’s motivation was to save her husband’s best childhood friend from wrongful prosecution. In A Legacy of Murder, her motivation is even more compelling.
JS: You devote a lot of time to the craft of writing, including doing outlines for your books. How does that help you when it comes time to actually sit down and write?
CB: I’m proof of the old adage: If you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there. I know many wonderful authors who call themselves “pantsers” (writing by the seat of their pants), but I write better when I know where I’m going. However, planning doesn’t rule out the unexpected. Sometimes my characters say and do things I’d never planned, and I have to adjust my outline. Usually for the better.
JS: Your first book, A Dream of Death, seems to have opened up some opportunities for you to join panels and other activities. What has changed for you since it came out?
CB: First I had to learn to be a writer. Now I’m learning how to be an author. Today, being an author is a business that includes promotion, advertising, developing an audience, travel, speaking, expenses, attending conferences. Right now I’m blogging with two online groups: Miss Demeanors and Writers Who Kill. This year I will attend four conferences—in Dallas, Boston, San Diego, and Bethesda, MD—so I’ll be flying coast-to-coast twice. At the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in early November, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Amateur.” In December, I’ll be speaking at libraries in Mayfield Village, Ohio, and Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Besides writing, what I love most is talking about the world of crime fiction.
JS: So, tell us a bit about A Legacy of Murder.
CB: What could be lovelier than Christmas in England? American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton arrives in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, dreaming of log fires, steaming wassail, and Tom Mallory, the detective inspector she met during a recent murder investigation in Scotland. Kate also looks forward to spending time with her daughter, Christine, an intern at Finchley Hall, famous for the unearthing in 1818 of a treasure trove known as The Finchley Hoard. When the body of a young woman, an intern planning an exhibition of the hoard, is found floating in Blackwater Lake, Kate is naturally concerned for her daughter’s safely. But when another murder and an attack on a second intern occur, Christine becomes the prime suspect. Determined to prove her daughter’s innocence, Kate launches her own investigation. What she finds are clues pointing backward four hundred years to a missing blood-red ruby ring and an infamous legacy of murder.
JS: And how can we get a copy?
CB: A Legacy of Murder, second in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, is available in hardcover and e-book at all outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Indiebound, Kobo, Target, Walmart. And discerning bookshops, of course!
Thanks for the great questions,
Jim. If anyone lives in central Ohio, I hope they can attend the launch party
for A Legacy of Murder — Saturday,
October 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Fortin Ironworks, 944 W. 5th Ave.,
Columbus, Ohio 43212. Parking in the small Fortin lot for handicapped only.
Parking for others in the lot across the street, in The View on the corner of
W. 5th and Holly, or on the street. Besides champagne and a real
English tea, there will be book signing and a drawing for prizes. Books
available through The Book Loft.
Buckeye Crime Member Eileen Curley Hammond just released the
fourth book in her Merry March Mystery series, Murder So Deadly. Board member Kandy Williams chatted with her
KW: You’ve released four books in just over a year. How did you do it?
ECH: It’s not quite as fast as it seems. I worked on the first one for over a year, and then started on the second one. As it turned out, I was editing the first one when the second one was nearly done. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, the advantage was that I could still change something in the first book when it made the second one better. I released Murder So Sinful in August of 2018 and Murder So Festive in October last year. In hindsight, that was too close, and I hindered my ability to launch my debut book. Unfortunately, the second book takes place at Christmas, so to capture those sales I needed to publish by October.
KW: You’re an independent author. Why did you decide to pursue that path versus traditional publishing?
ECH: Everyone’s path is different. I’m slightly north of 60 and a cancer survivor. I decided I would rather spend my time writing, than going through the long process associated with traditional publishing. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being independent suits me.
KW: Have you had any surprises along the way?
ECH: I learn something new every day. Joining Buckeye Crime Writers was one of the smarter things I’ve done. This group continues to be an important touchstone in many ways, especially for a new writer. First, the speakers at the monthly meetings are great. I’m using what I learned from Franklin County Chief Toxicologist Dan Baker in my latest book. Second, the connections you make at the meetings with other members are invaluable. I always walk away with new ideas.
One big surprise (which shouldn’t have been) is how much
work an independent author does that isn’t related to writing. I had to find
someone to do my covers, contract with an editor, and design the inside of the
book. The good news was that Amazon has a relatively good add on to Word, which
makes the inside design work more manageable. It’s not perfect and has some
hiccups, but I think the result is quite professional.
Marketing is always a challenge, but traditionally published
authors have some of the same issues.
KW: Are you a planner, or a pantser?
ECH: I’m a pantser. I look at planners’ outlines and plans with envy. I never have any idea what’s going to happen. I follow Stephen King’s advice. I write at least 1,000 words a day Monday through Friday. Sometimes it’s agony, other times it’s quick. Before I adopted this habit, I had trouble balancing my life. When I was writing, I felt guilty for not doing other things. If I did the wash, I felt guilty for not writing. Now I know if I complete my 1,000 words I’m done with writing for the day.
KW: Tell us a little about your book.
ECH: The main character is Meredith March. She owns a property and casualty insurance operation in the small town of Hopeful. Merry is divorced and has custody of her 17-year-old daughter. Her ex ran a financial scam that duped many of the people living in town. He was convicted and served four years in jail. Merry now has a serious boyfriend and is working on getting an annulment.
In my latest book, Merry and her friend Patty go on a
stakeout. Here’s an excerpt from Murder
“I shouldn’t have had that
extra glass of water at dinner,” Patty said. “How much longer are we going to
“Wimp. There’s a bathroom
past the front desk. I’m sure if you ask nicely, they’ll let you use it.”
Patty eased open the door
while I covered the car light with my purse.
I hissed, “Hurry back.”
She scurried to the door,
pushed it open, and passed the two men we were supposed to be following. Patty
disappeared into the motel. The two men walked to a large black Lincoln and
slid in. The car purred as it passed me moving toward the exit. I stared
daggers at the motel door. “C’mon Patty. Where the heck are you?”
She darted out the door,
running full tilt toward the car. I pulled up next to her. “Get in.” Patty
jumped into the car, and I floored it. “Didn’t you see them come out?”
“Of course. They held the
door for me.”
“I’m happy they still have
KW: You sound busy. Is there anything else going on?
ECH: I’ve become an active member of Twitter’s Writing Community. One of the fun things to do is VSS365 (Very Short Story). The moderator sends out a daily word prompt, and the challenge is to write a 280-character poem or story that includes that word. A curated book of the best writings was just released called VSS365 Anthology, and I’m proud to say that one of my stories was chosen. All proceeds from the sale of the book benefit a children’s literacy charity called The Book Bus.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins just released the sixth book in his Andy Hayes detective series, Fatal Judgment. He kindly agreed to a quick interview with BCW’s Jim Sabin to talk about it and his next project.
Your sixth Andy Hayes
book, and eighth overall, Fatal Judgment,
came out in April. Does that feeling of holding your own new book in your hands
ever get old?
If it does, it’s probably time to hang it up. It’s a moment
of accomplishment that I treasure and would hope never to take for granted.
Andy has taken on
everything from fracking to human trafficking to Islamophobia to politics.
What’s the general theme in Fatal
The plot of Fatal
Judgment revolves around Andy’s search for a local judge—who happens to be
his ex-lover—who sought out his help and then promptly disappeared. The ensuing
mystery focuses on themes of environmental destruction and the growing prevalence
of artificial intelligence and the server farms needed to power it.
Readers of your books
can legitimately say they know Columbus better after reading them – I know this
reader does. What inspired you to make Columbus the setting, and essentially a
character, in this series?
I always wanted to base a mystery series in a real locale,
but it took me a while to figure out where because my wife and I moved around a
lot early in our marriage. Once we arrived in Columbus in 1998 and burned our
moving boxes, and I learned to appreciate the city and all it had to offer, I
knew this was the place. The opportunity to give Andy an Ohio State football
background cinched the deal. And as I like to say, you can kill a lot more than
time in Columbus.
Andy is a character
who never quite stops paying for his past. Do you envision a day when his good
deeds ultimately outweigh his past mistakes in the public eye? I think
there will always be people who can’t forgive Andy for his (fictional) football-related
misdeeds, just as there are people today who still can’t forgive the Buckeyes
for their real-life loss to Michigan State in 1998, thus ruining their national
championship dreams that year. But as Andy ages and matures, and has more
adventures under his belt, I think people recognize there’s more to him than
just his wayward youth.
The Andy series isn’t
your only project at the moment. Can you tell us a little more about Columbus Noir? I’ve long been a fan
of the Akashic Books series of noir titles—books of mystery stories set in
cities across the U.S. and around the world. I was also puzzled that Ohio
wasn’t represented in that collection. I successfully pitched Columbus Noir in 2017 to Akashic, and
three years later, in March 2020, the resulting book will be out. It includes
14 dark but wonderfully written stories set across the city, with neighborhoods
including Olde Towne East, the South End, Clintonville, German Village and the
Now for the details: Where/when is your next event? My next local event is June 8, when I’ll lead a nature walk at Scioto Audubon Metro Park just south of downtown. We’ll start at the Grange Audubon Center at 505 W. Whittier St. at 11 a.m. with a few stops along the way while I read from some of the environmentally themed portions of the book. We’ll follow that with a book signing back at the center. It’s the same day as the Columbus Arts Festival, so a good opportunity to come downtown and appreciate the city.
Another one of our members, board member Connie Berry, has her first book, ‘A Dream of Death,’ publishing in April! Find out more in her interview with fellow board member Kandy Williams.
KW: Ms. Connie Berry has done the near-impossible–she’s gotten a book published! Not only that, she has a contract for the sequel and has signed an agent. This is a feat that many writers aspire to, so it makes sense to begin by asking, her: Could you please share the story of your journey? How long did it take you to write your book and find an agent?
CB: I know writers who claim to have dashed off their first novel in three months. My journey took a bit longer—ten years, as a matter of fact, from the moment I first typed Chapter One until the day I signed my publishing contract with Crooked Lane Books.
My initial problem was time. Lecturing on theology by day, writing was relegated to evenings, weekends, and summers. That in itself wasn’t insurmountable. Lots of successful writers have day jobs. My biggest problem (although I didn’t recognize it at the time) was impatience — or maybe stubbornness. I just wanted to write, and worrying about peripheral stuff like story structure and pacing slowed me down. Or so I thought.
didn’t know what I didn’t know.
thing I did know: my book wasn’t ready for submission. Once I realized that
writing a good book required learning the craft, I began to educate myself.
Little by little I learned. Around Christmas of 2017, after many rounds of
revision, I decided I’d done everything I knew how to do. The following
February I attended Sleuthfest, a writers’ conference in Florida, and met my
editor, Faith Black Ross, from Crooked Lane Books. She read my manuscript and
offered me a two-book contract. With contract in hand, I contacted my agent,
Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, and she took me on.
One in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series comes out in April. Book Two will be
published the following October.
KW: Now that you’ve gone through the process of writing a book–from idea to finished product–what advice would you give to writers who are still working to make the dream come true?
CB: Learn from my mistakes. Take time to learn the craft of novel writing. Writing to please yourself is a wonderful thing, but if you want to actually sell that book, you must learn what today’s publishers, agents, and readers want. Breaking the rules is okay. Not knowing the rules isn’t. Fortunately this information is readily available. Attend writers’ conferences, take online classes through Sisters in Crime and other writers’ groups. Find out what story structure is all about. Join a critique group. Find a couple of beta readers (not your spouse or your mother) who will tell you the truth. And read, read, read. Notice how authors you admire use setting, character development, point-of-view, dialogue, and description. If you need somewhere to start, I recommend Don’t Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden, and Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot by Jane K. Cleland.
KW: What can readers expect from the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series?
I hope readers will find an engaging protagonist and a mystery that keeps them
guessing until the end. Since Kate is an antiques dealer, antiques will play a
role in each book along with a sense of history. Readers who enjoy stories set
in the UK will spend time in the Scottish Hebrides and a village in rural
KW: Can you share an excerpt from A DREAM OF DEATH?
BC: I never wanted to return to Glenroth.
Three years had passed since Bill’s death, and the veneer of coping I’d laid over my grief was as thin as eggshell porcelain and every bit as breakable. It didn’t take much — the smell of the sea, hearing a snatch of a Scots accent, finding one of Bill’s distinctive doodles on a scrap of paper — and there I was, back in the land of memories and regrets.
That was the problem. On the Isle of Glenroth, memories and regrets lay as thick on the ground as yellow gorse in autumn. Still, a promise was a promise. Even one I’d never intended to keep.
“Going somewhere fun?” my mother had asked.
“Scotland. Glenroth, actually.”
There’d been a moment of tactful silence. “Sure that’s a good idea, Kate?”
Of course I wasn’t sure. Especially at the moment. Thick curtains of fog swirled across the deck of the car ferry, swallowing the landing ahead. I was the only passenger, and I’d been instructed to set my emergency brake and remain in the driver’s seat for the duration of the twenty-minute voyage. The boat lurched, and I gripped the wheel of the hatchback I’d hired at the train station in Fort William, grateful for the metal railing dividing the deck of the small craft from the icy depths of Cuillin Sound.
With a long blast of the ship’s horn, the fog parted and the Isle of Glenroth rose before me like Brigadoon materializing in the Highland mist. Trees lined the banks, their bare limbs dark and lined with snow. An old movie in black and white. The bell sounded, and I started my engine.
“Take care, lass,” the burly ferryman called through my partially open window. “Roads ’re slick.”
My second warning. The man at the car-hire desk had made a point of telling me about the “wee airly storm” that had blown through the Inner Hebrides the previous night, surprising the islanders with a layer of wet snow.
“Could I talk ye into waitin’ till mornin’?” he’d asked in a wheedling tone. When I explained that I’d learned to drive in snowy Wisconsin, he’d shrugged. “Whit’s fur ye will no go past ye.” What will be, will be.
I closed the window, tasting the salty tang of the sea on my lips. Ahead to the north, I could just make out the rocky peaks of Skye. Behind me, although I couldn’t see them, were the islands of Rúm and Eigg. The car bumped over the ramp onto solid ground.
Twenty-two hours after leaving Cleveland’s airport, I’d arrived—by plane, train, automobile, and ferryboat — on the small Hebridean island where my husband was born. And where he died.
KW: You’ve been hard at work on book 2 in the series. How different was the experience of writing that book compared to writing the first?
CB: Writing Book Two, A Legacy of Murder, took far less time because I didn’t make the mistakes I made with Book One. I plotted out the whole book in advance, so I knew where I was going and how each scene fit into the whole. Nevertheless, my characters sometimes said or did things that surprised me. That made writing an adventure.
KW: Fun question. You’re locked in a castle for an escape room-style adventure. What authors (living or deceased) would you want on your team?
CB: Obviously I’d enlist the help of John Dickson Carr, king of the locked room mystery. If he couldn’t get me out, no one could. And I’d invite Agatha Christie with her well-known eye for details and hidden clues. I’d include James W. Hall, author of the Thorn, P.I. books, would keep us all laughing. And Michael Crichton — just because he’s nice to look at.
Buckeye Crime Writers member Dan Stout’s first novel, ‘Titanshade,’ is slated for release on March 12. He answered a few questions from BCW in advance of the release.
You recently Tweeted
out a photo of you holding a stack of copies of your first book, Titanshade. When they arrived, can you
even begin to describe what that moment felt like?
It was a pretty great feeling! There’s something much more
concrete about the final product, even after seeing ARCs and proofs. But if I’m
being honest, the real thrill is when I know that someone else has a copy and
is getting ready to start reading. Because love it or hate it, they’ll be
engaging with it. And once it’s in their head, it’ll stay there as an
influence, no matter how subtle.
For me, that bit of cultural engagement is the real magic in
any art, from literature to film to sculpture and more.
You not only wrote a
detective story, you set it in a different world, where sorcerers, eight-tracks
and disco are all the rage. What prompted you to create that kind of setting?
When I was a kid reading Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, I used
to wonder what someplace like Middle Earth would look like when the inhabitants
began to develop technology. Eventually, they’d have their own industrial
revolution, and then increased urbanization. And that in turn would require a
centralized infrastructure and emergency services like fire and police
departments. And of course, police departments mean police investigations. Add
in the fact that fantastic creatures and magic are still around, and it’s a
pretty fun sandbox to play in.
Tell us about your
main character, Carter. How difficult was he to conceive, and then to let grow?
Carter’s voice came to me along with the core of the story.
The trickier part was understanding the many ways in which he fails to
understand the world around him. He’s a very observant person, but he has major
blind spots. These are pointed out by those who support his case, and exploited
by those who don’t.
Once I understood both his strengths and weaknesses, I was
able to see the choices he’d make in a given situation. And from there,
everything kind of fell into place.
How did you come up
with the concept behind Titanshade?
I was a member of a writers’ website called Liberty Hall.
There, once a week, a hidden prompt would be posted. If you viewed the post, a
90 minute timer would start to count down, and you’d have that long to write a
story and post it to the site. All the stories were anonymized, and everyone
who took part in that week’s challenge would give feedback. What was brilliant
about the system was the time limit: you didn’t have time to second guess
yourself, and the time frame meant that everyone understood that most of the
submissions would be preliminary sketches at best. TITANSHADE came out of one
of those challenges; I got the set-up and murder scene, along with a basic arc
of the plot.
How long did it take
you to write it?
It was almost exactly two years from writing the first
sentence to my agent going out on submission with it. Of course, there were
more edits after that, and in some ways I continue to add layers to the world and
its inhabitants, so I don’t know that I’ll ever really be done writing that
What advice do you
have for other writers who are still working to get their first books
Be as honest as you possibly can. Talk about the world as
you know it, and tell stories about characters who behave in the most authentic
way possible. (Even if that’s being authentically dishonest.)
When you’re honest about the truths you believe, and your
characters have their own worldview, your stories will resonate with readers.
From there, it’s just a numbers game before you have the audience you need to
keep on going.
When does the book
come out, and where can people buy it?
It comes out March 12th, 2019. It will be available in most book stores and libraries, and if they don’t have it, they can order you a copy! If you prefer to get your books online, it will be available at all major online vendors. The audio version releases at the same time, and will be available at all those spots, as well as on Audible. Links to all those sellers can be found on my website (DanStout.com).
Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about my book
and my publishing journey!