Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fifteen Fun Facts: Mark Stevens

This week, Midnight Ink presents Fifteen Fun Facts about Mark Stevens, author of the Allison Coil mysteries. His latest, Lake of Fire, was released earlier this month.

1.  I think any meal that involves jalapenos is a good one.
2. I write my first drafts by hand. In old-school notebooks. With a pen.
3. I’m the son of two librarians. (There are very few of us, based on my sampling of the generation population. We are a lucky bunch. Anyone who grows up learning to love to read is lucky.)
4. I covered the devastating 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. I got there in time to ride out a magnitude 7.5 aftershock. I will never forget the sensation.
5. I used to play bass in a band that opened for Styx at the corn festival in western Colorado.
6. I know one really good card trick. I’ve known it since I was about eight years old. I don’t know any others. It’s really easy to learn and it works.
7. I am a big fan of Patricia Highsmith and have read both biographies plus all of Highsmith’s fiction. I’m glad she’s getting her due. Read Suspension of Mercy if you get a chance.
8. I’m a big fan of John Updike and read the terrific biography last year by Adam Begley. True, Patricia Highsmith and John Updike don’t have much in common. Except that they both make you want to keep reading.  Read the “Rabbit” books if you get a chance.
9. I was married in a double wedding.
10. I’ve visited every state. It’s a fluke. It wasn’t a “thing.”
11. I still root for The Colorado Rockies. It doesn’t get much sadder or pathetic than that. I mean, I watch games in September when it hasn’t mattered for a long, long time.
12. I like Project Runway and Top Chef. I’m a sucker. Face Off is really good, too.
13. Give me any reality TV show about survival and I’m there. A friend just turned me on to Alone. The old show Survivorman inspired one of my characters, Devo. Devo plays a big role in my new book, Lake of Fire.
14. Cracker is my all-time favorite band. I will travel a long, long way to see that band. But in late August, they played in Nederland, Colorado. (Here’s a pic I took at that show.) I think David Lowery, the guy on the right, knows the secret to the universe. He's just not telling us.

15. I once was the babysitter for two brothers in the town where I grew up (Lincoln, Mass.) One of the brothers was a 7-year-old. His name was John Flansburgh. John went on to form a terrific band, They Might be Giants. I was a fan of the band’s first album long before I figured out, “hey, I know that guy.” John and his pal John Linnell opened up rock and roll in a whole new lyrical and tuneful way, to my way of thinking. Check out “Birdhouse in My Soul” or, an early one, “Don’t Let’s Start.” They are still making great, great music and they post free songs here every week.

Lake of Fire is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Q&A with Sallie Bissell!

This week, we sat down with Sallie Bissell, author of the Mary Crow Novels. Her latest, A Judgment of Whispers, is out now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing? 
Sallie Bissell: My parents gave me a typewriter the Christmas I was eight. I’ve been writing at something, ever since. I was an advertising copywriter for a while (this was in Nashville—I wrote radio commercials for the Grand Ole Opry). Then I was a ghost writer for Bonnie Bryant’s Saddle Club series.  I started seriously writing under my own name about twenty years ago.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
SB: I read all of William O. Steele’s work when I was a girl—that got me into the outdoor adventure mode, which I guess I’ve never really left. I learned a lot about the scope of a novel from Gail Godwin.  Pacing from Elmore Leonard. Language from John Steinbeck.  Suspense from Richard Wright—I think his Native Son is a masterpiece. Margaret Atwood, Barbara Vine and Sara Paretsky have also expanded my view of what fiction can accomplish.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? 
Sallie at work on her typewriter

SB: Something in art, probably. My mother was a painter and I have a modest bit of talent in that area.  I entered college as an art major. My faculty advisor looked greatly relieved when I transferred to the English Department! In my fantasy life, I’d like to be a jet pilot or Serena Williams.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it? 
SB: I’ve kept my hand in advertising, on a freelance basis. I love birds and I’m helping a local bird seed company expand its customer base. I write their newsletter and mind the shop a couple of afternoons a week. It’s fun and totally different from writing fiction.  Birders are interesting people, always with good stories to tell, usually about squirrels or bears.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working? 
SB: I love to play tennis, and do so as often as I can. I’m also on a Trivia team that plays at a local restaurant once a week. Writers are good at trivia—we have minds that are stuffed with esoteric information, like what’s the longest river in Chile. I once catapulted the team to victory by knowing who wrote Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. (Dee Brown.) I have no idea what the longest river in Chile is.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why? 
SB: Probably Sherlock Holmes. I think Conan Doyle took  themes that other writers (Poe, Dickins, Wilkie Collins) had touched on and made a terrific character. It was a perfect storm for success, in a way—you had spiritualism, industrial revolution, scientific discovery—plus the serial formal. The work has endured because the writing is good—the puzzles (plots) are ingenious and the characterizations are interesting, too.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
SB: My favorite murder case was one my aunt was questioned in (though not as a suspect).  It happened in Nashville in the early '70s and was only recently solved, and not to everyone’s satisfaction.  I used it as the basis for the murder in my next book, A Judgment of Whispers.  Older Nashvillians will know exactly what I’m talking about!

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
SB: The idea of Mary Crow came about after I moved to Asheville, NC. I went from an urban lifestyle to a rural one, in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. Also I’d never seen a Cherokee Indian before, and I became fascinated with their culture. In writing the first book, In The Forest of Harm, I re-entered the fictional world I’d loved so much as a girl—woods and forests and trails that led who knows where.

MI: Tell us about Mary Crow.
SB: Mary Crow is a woman of color; a woman with a foot in both the white urban Atlanta culture of her father and the rural Cherokee culture of her mother.  She was orphaned early and bears the scars of losing the people she’s loved. She is smart, a little to the introvert end of the spectrum and is beautiful when she smiles.  She has been in love with Jonathan Walkingstick since the day she first saw him, but can’t quite figure out how to live with him. She loves a good joke, drives a black Miata and owns a Glock 9 that she’s not shy about using. If you were in trouble, she’d help you out, then go kick the butt of whoever got you in trouble in the first place. She’s someone I’d love to have as a friend.


MI: How does this book/series compare to your past works?
SB: A Judgment of Whispers is the most reality based novel I’ve ever written. I use the above mentioned murder case, mixed with the autistic son of a dear friend of mine. Mostly, it’s a novel about how hard people can be on people whose only crime is being different.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
SB: I’m the proud owner of Peyton Manning Bissell, a rescue pup who has grown into my 70 pound personal body guard.  Also Princess Tingaling, a rescue cat. If Peyton were human he’d drive a pickup, drink Pabst beer and wear an orange Tennessee baseball cap. If Ting were human she’d sit on a throne and eat caviar with a little spoon. We have some fun times at our house.

Sallie and Peyton Manning Bissell

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
SB: I can’t think of an animal I don’t like, but I have a particular fondness for elephants and horses. Elephants because they are amazingly smart but overly hunted; horses because I’ve ridden them all my life. Animals, I think, behave far more decently than most humans.  I make a point not to hurt them in my books.

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
SB: Pizza. Hot for dinner, cold for breakfast. It’s all good!

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
SB: There’s a pie we eat in Tennessee called Chess Pie. I got my grandmother’s recipe for it before she died, but I think she forgot a few key ingredients. Mine has never come out as good as hers did. I don’t make it often, since it has about ten million calories a slice.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
SB: Writing stories that people get excited about! The long haul of writing—the sitting down and working for hours and weeks and months is a lot like shouting down a well. It’s lonely, isolating and has driven braver folks than me over the edge. To have colleagues who care about your work and are looking forward to the next rabbit you pull out of your hat makes things a lot more fun!

A Judgment of Whispers is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Visit Sallie online here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Q&A with Laura DiSilverio!

This week, we sat down with Laura DiSilverio. Her first suspenseful stand-alone, The Reckoning Stones, is out now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Laura DiSilverio: I've been writing all my life, starting with short stories about horses and Viking princesses in a collection I called Let Your Imagination Run Free. It had a construction paper cover on which I drew a picture of a horse and a girl with long, flowing black hair (research wasn't my long suit). As I recall, I spent more time on the drawing than the writing. I started writing for a living when I retired from the Air Force. My first mystery hit bookstore shelves in May 2010, and The Reckoning Stones is my fourteenth published novel.

Laura's Desk
MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
LD: Last year, my New Year's resolution was to read a bunch of classic books I'd never gotten around to (whether or not they were assigned in school). Along the way I rediscovered Steinbeck and he's having an influence on my writing. I aspire to prose as crisp and descriptive as his, and characters as haunting.

I couldn't possibly name all the other writers, living or dead, who have influenced my work in one way or another, whether by brainstorming with me, offering me advice, or blazing a trail so women mystery writers writing about female sleuths could get published and recognized. If I try, I'll leave someone out, so I'm not going to write them down.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
LD: Don't laugh, but I think I might be an event organizer or a personal trainer. I enjoy working out and have worked with trainers off and on. I enjoy helping folks learn how to get more out of their gym routines. I am also very organized and a multi-tasker, and I get a kick out of putting together events for hundreds of people. 

Despite twenty years in the military, I don't think I could go back to being an "employee" again, unless financial necessity dictated. I like being able to set my own schedule and wear sloppy duds while working. I like the fact that my job doesn't usually feel like work. Please buy The Reckoning Stones so I don't have to work on my delivery of "Do you want fries with that?"

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
LD: Unless parenting counts as a job (which I think it does), I don't have another job. I write full-time and am grateful to be able to do so. My hat's off to writers who juggle day jobs and bushels of kids and still write books.
Pikes Peak at Sunset
Laura's Wirehaired Pointing Griffin, Marco
MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?
LD: I read, of course, but I also work out, hike, walk my Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, volunteer at my church, go to wine tastings or out to dinner with my hubby, and travel.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
LD: That's  tough question. Hmm. Can I mash up a couple of sleuths? I like Elvis Cole, Vicky Bliss, and Myron Bolitar for their humor, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot for their intellectual processes, Kinsey Millhone and Barbara Havers for their grit, Adam Dalgleish for his sophistication and melancholy, Annie Laurance and Max Darling for their solid and long-term marriage, and lots of others for relationships or personal struggles that carry through many books.

MI: What was your inspiration for this book?
LD: This is the first book I've ever written that had its genesis in a news story. I read a brief article years ago about police trying to find a girl who had run away from home as a teenager. She'd been abused by her pastor and forced to apologize publicly when she got up the nerve to tell her parents. The police were trying to find her long after the fact because a raft of other girls had come forward more recently with similar tales about abuse.

I started thinking about how awful such a situation would be, and wondering where the girl was, and Mercy/Iris and The Reckoning Stones grew out of that.

Laura's First Stand-alone
Suspense Novel
MI: Tell us about Iris Dashwood.
LD: Iris is a complicated character. The victim of sexual abuse by a person of trust (her pastor), she ran away at fifteen and encountered a lot of the ugly situations you'd imagine a runaway teen might face. She washed up in Portland, Oregon and is lucky enough to be taken in and mentored by Jane, an art gallery owner who recognizes her potential and helps her get training in jewelry design. When the story opens, she's successful, driven, and still prey to demons that make her seek out men who prey on young girls and punish them. She's never had a successful romantic relationship and prefers one-night stands with very young men (early twenties) who don't want marriage or long-term. 

Laura's Debut Novel
When she learns that her abuser has come out of his two decades long coma, her muse deserts her and she must return to her insular community to confront him and learn what really happened the night she left. As she reconnects with her parents, best friend and former boyfriend, she begins to understand herself better, heal some relationships and unearth some secrets.

MI: How does this book compare to your past works?
LD: My previous thirteen books are traditional mysteries or humorous private eye novels. They're all much funnier and more lighthearted than The Reckoning Stones. I greatly enjoyed the challenge of writing The Reckoning Stones, although I finished each day in a somewhat grimmer mood than when I write humorous mysteries.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
LD: Our dog is a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. He's eleven years old and still active and spry. He's bred to be a hunting dog, but we don't hunt, so he contents himself with stalking squirrels and bunnies. It's hysterical to watch him stalk bunnies in slow motion. I swear you would never believe that a dog could move so slowly, like a movie-maker working with claymation.

Marco the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Marco on Deck

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
LD: No one food would do it. I like variety. Salmon, chocolate, natural peanut butter, pasta, peaches, tea . . . there are too many to confine myself to one.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
LD: Nope.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
LD: I love being part of a community that celebrates good writing and creativity. From the editorial staff to art (the book has an amazing cover!), production and sales and marketing, everyone has been so professional and helpful. I also like how supportive all the MI writers are of each other. It's a blessing to be an Inker.

The Reckoning Stones is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Visit Laura online here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fifteen Fun Facts: Catriona McPherson

This week, Midnight Ink presents Fifteen Fun Facts about Catriona McPherson, author of various psychological thrillers. Her latest, The Child Garden, was just released yesterday.

1. I've never been inside a gym.
2. The only food I refuse to eat is eyeballs. (Because they're not food.)
3. I love gardening, but once I killed mint.
4. Doris Day is my style icon.

5. (But) I got married in shorts.
6. Cats are better than dogs.
7. I found my stove in a dumpster.

8. My perfect Friday night sounds like a mobster: Couch Pizzatelli.
9. I've visited twenty-five US states so far.
10. There are seventy-nine dresses in my wardrobe. And one pair of jeans.
11. I've been called 'Sir' while wearing one of the dresses.
12. My decorating style is maximalist. #19patterinsin1livingroom
13. I collect Stavangerflint.

14. Pleasure is not a source of guilt for me. So—loud and proud—Project Runway!
15. I have never owned an i-Anything.

The Child Garden is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Four Fantastic Mysteries Are Out Today!

Don't miss Midnight Ink's latest releases!

"A terrific stand-alone that is complex, haunting, and magical."
Library Journal (starred review) on The Child Garden

Library Journal (starred review) and Pick of the Month on The Reckoning Stones

"Thrilling, irresistible."
Kirkus Reviews on Lake of Fire

"The intricate plot, compelling, well-drawn characters . . . and Southern setting will appeal to readers of Ron Rash and John Hart."
Library Journal on A Judgment of Whispers

Now available from Midnight InkBarnes & NobleAmazonIndiebound, and your local bookseller!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Q&A with C.S. Challinor!

This week, we sat down with C.S. Challinor, author of the Rex Graves Mysteries. Her latest, Murder Comes Calling, is out now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
C.S. Challinor: 
I was a freelance writer in the mid-nineties, writing for Florida lifestyle and real estate publications and selling short fiction to US and UK magazines. I started writing full-time and full-length works in 2006, when I came out of new home/community sales.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
CSC: I've probably absorbed a lot from such mystery writers as Christie and Simenon, since that's what I read a lot of growing up in Great Britain and France outside of the classics we studied in school. I like Agatha's smooth, unpretentious style and Simenon's atmosphere and humanity in his Maigret novels.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

CSC: Real estate, which I still do a bit of...

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
CSC: Resale: Listing and buying for friends and family.

MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?CSC: Reading, of course! Movies, playing guitar, live music, traveling, gardening, home improvement.
MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
Well, it's not Lord Peter Wimsey or Holmes, or even Miss Marple, great creations as they are. I'd have to say, probably, Poirot. There's just no forgetting the fastidious little Belgian sleuth!

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
The most riveting fictional police procedural I've read so far is Mr. Hillary Waugh's "Last Seen Wearing," published in 1952. It's about a college freshman who goes missing from her dorm. Check it out!

MI: What was your inspiration for the Rex Graves series?
I really have no idea! I had decided to write a mystery, and Rex Graves, QC, just came to me, complete with name, appearance, and personality. I thought a Scottish barrister might be fun. I lived in Edinburgh for seven of 
my most formative years, and still go back. It's a beautiful, historic city and I enjoy employing settings from there, for instance, Ramsay Garden, which features quite prominently in my forthcoming novel. 

MI: Tell us about Rex Graves.
He's a big teddy bear, with a logical brain and a good heart. People tend to trust him and thus confide in him, which gives him an advantage over the police. His mission in life is to seek justice in court and in his private cases.

MI: How does this series compare to your past works?
I wrote romantic suspense before. I like writing these mysteries better. 

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
Othello (see photo). He's an enormous, plush, all-black cat, about four and a half years old. I got him from a shelter two and a half years ago, and it was mutual love at first sight. My son says I'm about 15 years away from being a batty cat lady. 

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
Not for Thai. I have a good one (it's not mine) for lemon cream pie, using the spectacular lemons from my tree. I don't profess to be a great cook, but I can usually rise to the occasion as long as I don't have to prepare a meal for more than six people. 

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
Being published :)

Murder Comes Calling is available online and in bookstores now!
Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore