PATTI PETRONE MILLER – Prolific Multi-Genre Writer

Patti is the co-executive producer for a television series in pre-production titled THUMBS UP! about a boy with Autism and his special dog with opposable thumbs. She is the author of over seventy-five books and over two hundred fifty works in progress. Patti is the very first author to be chosen as a judge for the PBS KIDS GO contest to present the awards as well. She has been an educator, an agent, and an editor. Currently, she sits at home writing in pajamas in Las Vegas, NV, with her three world domination dogs.

England’s most famous witch trial took place in Lancashire in 1612. Ten of the so-called Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster Castle after being deemed guilty of witchcraft. Their ghosts reputedly haunt the village of Newchurch, where one of the witches is said to be buried.

Gwen Winter and her two brothers, Lance and Merle, travel to England with their Father to visit their Aunt. Gwen knows what she wants to see and do while there. She is determined to solve a mystery centuries-long, to search for clues of what happened to the sisters Pendle and why they had been accused.

Gwen finds out she has been carrying a family secret that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Will she be able to deal with the new found information long enough to solve the mystery, or will she fall into the deep dark folds of the family secret?

Find out in this first installment of the Ghost Tales Mystery Series, The Pendleton Witches.

Do you write in more than one genre? Actually yes! I write in cozy mystery, thriller, horror, MG, YA, Steampunk, Gaslamp, romance, rom-com, paranormal, fantasy, and many sub-genres

What brought you to writing? I have always dabbled in writing ever since I was a kid. I read a great deal also. My writing inspiration began when I started writing skits for plays when I was young. We used to put on a play once a week for the neighborhood kids and charge them five cents to watch. From there, I went on to work part-time for a newspaper, and the rest is history.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have an in-home office. I always write with some kind of background noise. If I get a phone call or someone pops in via social media, I sometimes welcome the distraction.

Tell us about your writing process: Hmm. I don’t have a process per se; I write when the bug bites. I normally try to write something every day after I sit down and check through email, have coffee, spend time with my pups or sit outside, depending on the weather. My writing time is usually done during the morning hours and falls into the afternoon.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Motivation! I’m a HUGE procrastinator! And writer’s block.

What are you currently working on? I have several books I’m currently working on at the moment. Cozy, primarily paranormal.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Tremendously! Years ago, I joined RWA and the local chapter in the state I was living in at the time. Back then, we were one of the largest with the most published authors. I learned a great deal from them over the years I was a member. I highly suggest to any writer to join as many as you can find.

Who’s your favorite author? Diana Gabaldon. She penned the Outlander series.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Eight months was A LOT of trial and error.

How long to get it published? One year with a traditional publisher back in 1989

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? Oh dear lord! Mine are always running amok in my brain!

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I used to be a pantser, but now I’ve finally learned, after 43 years, to outline and plot!

What is the best book you have ever read? G WELLS WAR OF THE WORLDS! I was thirteen years old and used to run home from school just to read all 600 pages of it!

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Completing our television show, having many books on the best sellers list and published with two of my bucket list publishers.

                                                   

Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes! STUDY the craft. Anyone can write a book…it takes great skill to write a GREAT one. Do your homework!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Our books are for everyone. We write books for children as young as two years old through adult. Our books are clean reads so every age can enjoy them. I write spooky, so anyone who reads RL Stine, Stephen King, and Dean Koonz will enjoy my books. I also write outside that box, so there are books for everyone.

How do our readers contact you? https://www.facebook.com/pattipetronemiller

1 Comment

  1. Michael A, Black

    Wow, Patti, you certainly have written in numerous genres. Your writing process sounds fascinating and ingenious. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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SHELLEY RILEY – From the Kentucky Derby to Fantasy

Shelley Riley had a deep love for horses from an early age, and this love took her from humble beginnings at the Alameda County Fairgrounds to the storied barn area of Churchill Downs.

 

The story of Casual Lies began on a snowy January day in Lexington, Kentucky. While attending a thoroughbred sale, Shelley glanced up and made eye contact with a tiny, fuzzy eight-month-old foal that nobody else seemed to want. And the rest is the stuff of fairytales.

That nondescript colt went on to take Shelley and her husband Jim, an accomplished horseman in his own right, on an adventure of a lifetime. They went on to compete in all three Triple Crown Races—another first at the time. By finishing second in the 118th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1992, Casual Lies rewarded Shelley with the highest finish for a horse trained by a woman in the history of the Kentucky Derby. A record that still stands thirty years later.

In Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure, Shelley gives the reader a fun look behind the scenes of what that adventure was like for her and Jim.

Why did you wait two decades to write your memoir about Casual Lies? It would have been far different if I had written the memoir right after the Triple Crown. I had a lot of material, mainly since I’d been writing a Daily Diary for both the Daily Racing Form as well as one for a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper. By waiting, the book became less a purge and more of a cathartic remembrance of a remarkable horse who electrified my world for far too short a time.

In 2012, I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writer’s Club. My thought was to go from writing special feature articles for local newspapers and get an idea of how to finish a middle-grade novel that I’d started many years before. Instead, I was encouraged to write a memoir. It was the best advice I’d received since Charlie Whittingham had encouraged me to run Casual Lies in the Kentucky Derby.

Two things happened by sitting down and rereading the daily diaries I’d written. I reconnected with the things that made my horse special. I remembered all the fantastic things that we experienced because of Casual Lies. Truthfully, it’s still hard to believe it really happened.

Using the equity in our house, I’d bought a tiny colt that nobody else wanted. I shared how he grew into a headstrong, charismatic horse that took us on a journey you couldn’t have replicated if you had all the money in the world.

Fans from all over the world have read Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure. You’ll laugh, you might cry a little, and trust me when I say I had no trouble poking fun at myself.

Although Casual Lies didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, he still holds a place in history. But for me, he was my bright-eyed and mischievous Stanley.

So how did you go from writing a memoir to penning Sword and Sorcery Fantasy novels? When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. But each book always had to have something to do with horses. As I grew older, my taste in literature became increasingly eclectic. Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Wilbur Smith, Larry McMurtry, Steven King, Dean Kootz, etc. the list would be endless. But my all-time favorite, as it turns out, is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove a close second.

A perfect book doesn’t come with enough pages. A good story involves a fellowship that you can feel a part of. For me, a good story is one where you find yourself invested in the fellowship’s success, you’re a part of the team, and when the story comes to an end, you’re loath to say goodbye to your new friends.

I love writing short stories. I find that a thought or an image often triggers my inspiration. The idea for Into Madness – The Born from Stone Saga came from pictures I took of gargoyles situated atop a gothic cathedral when I was touring Europe.

It was one of these shots that brought about Mystislav, a dragon made of stone, who comes to life under a full moon. He flies across the city and lands on the donjon tower of Carolingian castle. Mystislav hears the cries of a newborn babe and . . .

It wasn’t a short story, but it was a strong beginning for a YA Fantasy. As it turned out, the beginning was the easy part. Now I had to write a story. It took over four years.

Tell us about Into Madness, your first book in the Born From Stone series. The marketing blurb goes like this; After a decade in hiding, captured, and imprisoned, Ravin Carolingian is left to question everything she thought she knew about herself.
Still, as the line between ally and enemy blurs, one thing becomes clear. If Ravin’s going to help the Carolingian people, she must first escape the evil that walks the halls of the place she once called home.

As a reader, I like strong characters, adventure, and scenes that engage the reader’s senses. So that is how I chose to write this story. It never ceases to amaze me how the characters occasionally grab the bit and runoff—going in an entirely different direction than I had first imagined.

So what is the title of the second book, and when is the release date? The second book is Hearts Divided, and the third is The Reckoning. Hearts Divided is nearing completion. I have been receiving good-natured demands for the release date. Words in bold type like; NOW! and TOMORROW? have been hitting my inbox. Those types of demands tend to light a fire. Every writer knows that you don’t want to piss off the reader.

16 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    Hello Shelley, I am pleased to see you featured on George’s blog. It’s one of my favorites for meeting new writers and refreshing friendships with others.

    I enjoyed reading Casual Lies but being an advanced reader for Into Madness was an adventure into a new world.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Hi Vi, It’s been a minute, for sure. We need to get together on the phone and compare notes. Your comments on Into Madness were invaluable and greatly appreciated.

      Reply
  2. Rhonda Lane

    Had to refresh my memory, so I watched a video of the ’92 Derby. Casual Lies almost had the Derby winner Lil E. Tee. So close.

    They both shot out in front of the rest of the pack, including the hotshot favorite Arazi.

    Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/5mBQxqtsyTc

    I can’t wait to read the book about it.

    Both Casual Lies and Into Madness are on my Kindle.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Rhonda. I must confess that whenever I watch the replay of the race, I still hold my breath. So close and yet . . .

      Still, first or second on the day, I was a winner for having the uncommon good fortune of having horses in my life and Casual Lies in particular.

      I’m thrilled that you’re going to read my books. I hope you enjoy them both.

      Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    It was fun to read this and get to know you better, Shelley. You gave your horse a great name. Who knew that it would become a book title?

    You are the third person I know who has taken inspiration from gargoyles. The other two are Gigi Pandian and Kirsten Weiss, both of whom have gargoyle characters in one of their series.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Vinnie. As a prolific writer yourself, whose excellent work I’ve become familiar with, you understand how important a title can be to our finished story. A superb runner tends to make for a great name in horse racing. A few come to mind; Secretariat, California Chrome, and Seattle Slew, to name just a few. But all horses have to be named before they run their first race. I dedicated an entire chapter in the memoir to naming thoroughbreds, and I gathered a few fun stories about how some of the better-known horses came by their names. Also, thanks for the heads-up; I will check out Gigi and Kirsten’s books.

      Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Congrats on a wonderful story, and on making Derby history!

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Marie. I wish I could say that it was a dream come true, but in reality, I never even imagined that in over two decades of racing, I would one day saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby, let alone all three legs of the Triple Crown. And then along came a horse that wouldn’t be denied. That was a miracle.

      Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Your story is so fascinating, Shelley. I’ve just downloaded CASUAL LIES. I can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Cindy. I do hope you enjoy reading Stanley’s story. Around the barn, Casual Lies was called Stanley. I’ve often said I should have named the memoir The Horse With Two Names. I tried to give the reader a look at all the things you don’t get to see on the day of race telecasts. Which means I had no problem poking fun at myself.

      Reply
  6. Linda

    I am among those readers patiently waiting for the release of Hearts Divided.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Oh, Linda, how you pile on the guilt and bless you for it, for I need both the carrot and a liberal amount of the stick.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Shelley, your personal life sounds like an adventure. It’s interesting how you gravitated to fantasy. Good luck with your writing and your horses.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you so much for your comment, Michael. Adventure is the perfect word to describe my life. I’ve often thought about how different it might have been if my father hadn’t bought me my first horse for $250. To go from riding a mixed breed mare near Moffatt Field in the 1960s to saddling a horse in the Kentucky Derby, even I find that hard to believe.

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Fascinating interview, George and Shelley! That’s some serious love for horses to use the equity in your house. Thanks for introducing us to Shelley, George! Best wishes on Casual Lies!

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, Donnell. And yes, buying horses with borrowed money is not something I would do now. Still, at the time, and with many years ahead of us, it didn’t seem like such a risk. When we first started training horses, many years before Casual Lies came along, we would buy horses on what was called a run-out. By way of explanation, with a run-out, a set price is set for the horse in question, and then they were paid for through their future earnings. If there were no earnings, the breeder received nothing. We only did that one time, and we didn’t make any money, nor did the breeder. Usually, the horses you could buy on a run-out weren’t very well-bred. But it was a start, and we learned a lot from that experience. I treated every horse that came into my barn the same, no matter the pedigree. A good horse can come from anywhere. Look at this year’s Kentucky Derby winner. He was claimed for $30,000 and went on to win the Run for the Roses.

      Reply

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ALMA KATSU – Historical – Fantasy – HORROR

Alma Katsu. Photo by Evan Michio

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of seven novels. Her latest is The Fervor, a reimagining of the Japanese internment that Booklist called “a stunning triumph” (starred) and Library Journal called “a must-read for all, not just genre fans” (starred). Red Widow, her first espionage novel, is a nominee for the Thriller Writers Award for best novel, was a NYT Editors Choice, and is in development for a TV series.

 

Something strange is taking place in the waning days of WWII. Meiko, the Japanese wife of a U.S. fighter pilot, follows a mysterious and deadly disease spreading through the Japanese internment camps. Archie Mitchell, a preacher whose wife is killed during the explosion of a fu-go, or fire balloon, is seized with confusing thoughts of revenge. Fran Gurstwold, a reporter intent on escaping from her newspaper’s “pink collar ghetto,” is determined to write up the fire balloon incidents despite the Army’s embargo. And Aiko, Meiko’s daughter, escapes from camp and makes a dangerous solo journey back to Seattle when she’s told her mother has died. It’s all tied together by a forgotten episode in Meiko’s past: a trip taken with her researcher father to a remote island reportedly linked to the Japanese underworld.

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve been writing historical combined with supernatural or horror or fantasy for six books, but in 2021 my first spy novel, Red Widow, was published. I got the opportunity to write Red Widow because I’d had a long career in intelligence and wanted to try to write a spy thriller that was a little unlike the usual fare—and had a publisher who was willing to take the chance! Overall I’d say writing in more than one genre is a big challenge: readers who like, say, mysteries aren’t necessarily going to pick up your romance novel. Then you have the challenge of trying to market to two separate audiences—it’s tougher than it sounds.

Tell us about your writing process: Generally, I write all morning, from about 7 am until noon, when I make lunch for the family, then write again in the afternoon until I sneak in a little exercise before making dinner. I take care of business during those hours, too: promotion, talking to agents and editors. Evenings are interviews or taping panels and reading ARCs for blurbs. I’m very lucky to do this full-time, but it is a lot of work.

For the historical horror novels, it starts with a quick sprint of research that helps me find the quirky characters and odd little-known facts that will give the book its magic. Then there’s a fairly detailed outline, and I start drafting. I generally draft from beginning to end these days, no jumping around to do favorite scenes first. First drafts are terse. I’ll do a couple more drafts, smoothing prose, filling in plot gaps, finding new twists, understanding the characters better, deepening and enriching. Then it goes to the agent for a first read, and that’s when the real work begins.

How long did it take you to write your first book? My first book, The Taker, took 10 years to get to a publishable state. I’d come back to writing fiction after a long break, and it took a long time to get my sea legs back. It was like I’d been lying on the couch eating potato chips for a decade, and I decided I wanted to run a marathon.

How long to get it published? Once it got to the point where I felt fairly confident it was publishable, it went fast. But those 10 years were filled with querying, and it wasn’t ready, so a lot of rejection and trying to fix the problems without having the chops to do it, which is why it took so long.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? I find protagonists much harder to write than antagonists. Villains are interesting, and my villains often end up taking over the book. Anti-heroes aren’t quite the thing these days and often come off as cliché.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? My books are ALL sub-plots. Except for Red Widow, my books are usually multiple POV, and all those sub-plots have to come together in a satisfying way by the end. It is a ton of work. I use spreadsheets to keep track of everything.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Three of my books are historical fiction based on real-life events. The first, The Hunger, is a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party. Most of the characters are based on real people, and I learned after that, people you have to be circumspect about doing that. It can be ghoulish to some readers. If you need to drastically change a real person’s life to make it fit your story, you’re better off creating a completely fictional character. My most recent book, The Fervor, is mostly fictional characters but it’s based on two real-life incidents: the explosion that caused the only deaths on the US mainland during WWII, and the internment of people of Japanese descent.

   

How do our readers contact you?

Alma’s website https://www.almakatsubooks.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/alm

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/almakatsu/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlmaKatsuBooks/

Penguin Random House page https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667268/the-fervor-by-alma-katsu/

5 Comments

  1. Mary

    I admire your tenacity and discipline. Need to take lessons. Your writing journey is inspiration. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Nickless

    What a wonderful interview! Thank you for sharing your process, Alma, and for giving us a peek into your books. I literally have Red Widow at the top of my TBR pile next to my reading chair. I picked it up after reading a review that praised its many strengths. I look forward to reading The Fervor as well–thank you for shining a light on a dark and often overlooked period of American history.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    Congratulations on your new book. It sound like a really good one, and I’ve added it to my reading list. Also happy that Red Widow was published. It sounds good too!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like your disciplined approach to writing is working our very well for you. I’m glad you’re writing about the internment of the Japanese Americans in WW II. President Roosevelt’s been given a pass on this for the most part and it was a disgraceful period in our history. I had a woman of Japanese decent in my Writing the Memoir class a few years ago and she’d been born in one of those camps. She wrote a fabulous memoir about what her family went through. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Alma Katsu

      Michael, thank you for the kind words. I bet that was a terrific memoir, and glad she wrote it as we’re losing so many from that generation. It would be a shame if their stories were lost, too.

      Reply

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LINDSEY KINSELLA -Scottish Writer and Author of Science Fiction

While a qualified and experienced naval architect and an avid car enthusiast, he always reserved space in his life for a deep fascination with paleontology. This drove his writing process as he strove to write tales of the rich and complex history of life on Earth.”

 

 

My current book is The Lazarus Taxa—a tense, science fiction thriller.

“67 million years in the past. Deep time—the true final frontier. But all is not as it seems. Which should be feared most—the dinosaurs… or the people? The Lazarus Taxa follows the first scientific expedition through time to the Late Cretaceous.”

The Lazarus Taxa is available now, having only been released at the start of the year. It can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1739750012/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_RXG3N1BFQ5FMC8F1E7Q6

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes! While I only have the one book published, my works in progress span sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I tend to write a story and then worry about what genre it might fit into later, resulting in some “genre-hopping.” I like to experiment with different styles, audiences, and tones; I don’t think any of my current works bare much resemblance to one another.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Simply finding the time! Between looking after two children, working full time as a naval architect, and restoring classic cars, it gets a little tricky to get the chance to just sit down and write. Fortunately, I’m somewhat of a night-owl, so late nights are often my writing hours.

How long did it take you to write your first book? From writing the first line to publication took me almost two years. Being my first novel, there was a steep learning curve and many, many re-writes. I think I have my process dialed in now, so I’m hopeful that future projects can be turned around somewhat quicker!

How do you come up with character names? I draw a lot of inspiration from real people. For example, one character in The Lazarus Taxa, Dian, is named after Dian Fossey—I felt both the real life and fictional Dian stood for very similar ethics.

Strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? They most certainly run the show. One of the most important aspects in character writing, I find, is that characters should make mistakes and bad decisions because that’s exactly what real people do. Sometimes they’ll act rashly, or even cowardly—sometimes they’re just plain stupid. These are core parts of what makes them believable.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Call me a sadist, but I’m probably more likely to kill off a popular character! Sometimes a death is simply a way to demonstrate danger or to cleanly clean up a character who has served their storytelling purpose. Often, however, a death is used to drive the plot as a motivation to the main characters. The reader has to feel that motivation, too, so the reader should care about that character as much as the main character does.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I do, but never an entire character. I’ll take the characteristics of certain people and blend them together. It helps to create believable characters; it’s far easier to imagine how a real person might react to the situation you have placed them in.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I definitely outline; in fact, I tend to do that long before beginning to write a book in earnest. My phone is filled with skeletal outlines of novels which I note down as they come to me. By the time I sit down to write a new project, I already have a pretty good outline.

What kind of research do you do? It depends on the story, but certainly, there was a lot of paleontological research involved in The Lazarus Taxa. It was important to me to present up to date representations of dinosaurs and not just Hollywood monsters. Hence, months of research went into these animals. Of course, being somewhat of a natural history geek, I had years of pre-existing research to build on.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I tend to prefer fictional settings. Perhaps it’s just laziness, but I find researching whether a real life village has, for example, a train station or a hospital in order to fit the story rather tedious. If it’s a place I’m not personally familiar with, it becomes an easy way for plot holes and inaccuracies to creep in. If it doesn’t add to the plot, I’ll avoid real places where possible.

Of course, much of my work in progress is set in the real town of Lyme Regis, but that’s a rare exception.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have more book ideas than I know what to do with, so I think I will continue to write for some time. My current work in progress is a quirky, family-friendly fantasy novel that I hope to release early next year.

After that, I’ll have to choose between a sequel to The Lazarus Taxa and one of my many scribbled outlines!

 Do you have any advice for new writers? I’d say I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, if you have an idea, just write it! It sounds so simple, but for years I sat on what I thought were some great ideas for a story. I convinced myself that putting them in a book was unrealistic, and it took the sheer boredom of lockdown for me to pull the trigger.

Secondly, a professional editor is priceless. Not actually priceless, they’ll definitely put a price on it, but a good editor can be the difference between a good and a bad book. There are so many norms and conventions within novel writing that, as a first time writer, you simply won’t be aware of (I certainly wasn’t).

How do our readers contact you? Facebook is my primary method of communicating with my readers. You can follow me at the link below

https://www.facebook.com/LindseyKinsellaAuthor

3 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Lindsey! Sorry I’m so late reading your interview, but glad I did. And yes, if you have an idea, write it! Good advice, but hard to do sometimes. Much success!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a lot of good ideas and a lot of drive, Lindsey. Those are certainly two things that make a good writer. Love that tag line about which to fear more, the dinosaurs or the people. Good luck to you.

    Reply

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I GUESS FAULKNER WAS RIGHT by Abigail Keam

Abigail Keam is an award-winning and Amazon best-selling author who writes the Josiah Reynolds Mystery Series about a Southern beekeeper turned amateur female sleuth. The Last Chance For Love Series tells of strangers who come from all walks of life to the magical Last Chance Motel in Key Largo and get a second chance at rebuilding their lives and The Princess Maura Fantasy Series.

Award-winning author Abigail Keam welcomes you to her new mystery series—the Mona Moon Mysteries—a rags-to-riches 1930s mystery series that includes real people and events into the storyline. The new series is about a cartographer who is broke and counting her pennies when there is a knock at her door. A lawyer representing her deceased uncle announces Mona has inherited her uncle’s fortune and a horse farm in the Bluegrass. Mona can’t believe it. She is now one of the richest women in the country and in the middle of the Great Depression!

William Faulkner’s line, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” is one of the most quoted lines in American 20th century fiction and resonates today in all literature, including historical mysteries.

Does history revolve in circles or undulate in waves? The same patterns keep emerging—the same type of grifters who try to con the gullible, the same type of heroes who risk everything, and those who watch from the sidelines.

I have always been fascinated by history and knew I wanted to write an entertaining mystery series where I could combine fiction with historical fact.

When I began writing my 1930s Mona Moon Mysteries, I decided to weave real people and events into the story line. I wanted to make those mysteries come alive with both the saints and the scoundrels of the day. After doing much research, I discovered that the 1930s had been politically explosive like the 1960s and today, with many of the same issues still confronting the world. So how does one incorporate themes of social justice, world events, and conflict into a mystery and write a story that is still entertaining and fun to read? Not with a hammer, but with a soft wave of a woman’s hand fan.

One way is to give voice to a female protagonist to whom women will relate. The second is not to become “preachy.” My job as a mystery writer is to author an engaging story with facts that enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the book—not deter. One thing that helps is that my intrepid champion speaks from the perspective of a gal who needed grit and resolve to survive the harrowing years of the Great Depression. She is my “every woman.”

Enter Mona Moon, my American cartographer, who is broke with no prospects in sight. Not good news for a single woman in one of the worst years of the Depression. A man, wearing a Homburg hat, knocks on her tenement door after midnight. She answers with a pistol in hand. The man announces he is a lawyer representing her estranged dead uncle and informs Mona that she has inherited the Moon family fortune.

With that introduction, I plucked Mona from New York City and planted her on a horse farm in Kentucky’s Bluegrass where Mona discovers that half of her farmhands can barely read or write. Her bank refuses to give her credit because she’s a woman, and the employees at the Moon copper mines are threatening to strike due to low pay. All three concerns were real issues in the 1930s, which caused protests/riots in the dark days of the Depression—lack of educational opportunities, women’s economic rights, and workers scraping by on subsistence pay.

Throughout the series, I write about the influential people of the day such as Mary Breckinridge, founder of the Frontier Nursing Service; Gertrude Bell, Far East cartographer and founder of the National Museum of Iraq; Albert “Happy” Chandler, governor of Kentucky and Baseball Commissioner who integrated baseball, Jack Keene, founder of Keeneland Race Course, and Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. Alice was witty, provocative, and politically astute, a force in her own right. She was one of the most quoted and socially followed women of her day. To write scenes between Alice and Mona sparring with each other was a pure delight. Having such accomplished women disagree on how to hold the fabric of society together and then solve a murder mystery collectively made me giddy with delight. The words just flew from the keyboard. I hardly had to fictionalize much of Alice’s dialogue. I used many of her famous quotes in the novel and stayed as true to her real character as possible.

  • “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”
  • “My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding, and the baby at every christening.”
  • “I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.”
  • “My specialty is detached malevolence.”

And by using Alice Roosevelt as a character in Murder Under a Black Moon 6, I will be able to segue to Mona meeting Eleanor Roosevelt, Alice’s first cousin, in Murder Under A Full Moon 7. I have spent many an hour imagining what those three astute women would discuss over lunch.

I believe Faulkner was right about the past. It is never dead, and writers can incorporate the past into their historical mysteries, making them richer. If a reader enjoys the mystery and learns something as well, then I am thrilled because we should all be keepers of history. And as we all know from a good mystery, secrets from the past never stay buried. See you between the pages.

Miss Abigail would love to hear from you!

3 Comments

  1. LISA TOWLES

    Abigail, Murder Under a New Moon sounds intriguing and shines a light on an important time in history. Can’t wait to read it! p.s. I love your cover

    Reply
  2. Mary Hagen

    I love history. It does repeat itself so we should know our history. Eleanore Roosevelt is one of the great ladies of the thirties, fourties. I will love reading about her. Alice Roosevelt was an interesting character, too. 0

    Reply
  3. Michael A, Black

    Abigail, your books sound very interesting. The 1930’s is a decade that so often gets overlooked. I’m glad you’re exploring it in your series. Any plans to pout Amelia Earhart or Bessie Coleman in the books? The perimeter road around O’Hare International Airport here in Chicago is named after Miss Coleman. Good luck.

    Reply

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