VINNIE HANSEN – Author of the Carol Sabala mystery series

The day after high school graduation, Vinnie Hansen fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast. There the subversive clutches of college dragged her into the insanity of writing, where the dark influences of Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller coaxed Vinnie to a life of crime. A two-time Claymore Award finalist, she’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series (misterio press), the novel Lostart Street, and many short stories. Retired after 27 years as a high school English teacher, she remains sane(ish), notwithstanding the evidence of her tickling the ivories with local ukulele bands.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, my short stories range from literary to noir. They’ve appeared in diverse publications from Lake Region Review to Santa Cruz Noir. My most recent print publication, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” is in Gabba Gabba Hey: An Anthology of Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Ramones

In full-length work, my Carol Sabala series falls most accurately in the Private Investigator tradition. Carol Sabala starts as an amateur sleuth, but her career arc in the seven-book and one-novella series takes her into official private investigation.

I’m currently working on two novels, One Gun and Crime Writer, in the literary suspense sub-genre of crime fiction.

Finally, I dabble in non-fiction with a lovely creative non-fiction piece published in Catamaran Literary Reader’s Winter 2021 issue and an article in the last issue of Mystery Readers Journal.

Who’s your favorite author? An impossible question to answer, George! Since I write all over the place, I read all over the place. Right now, I’m in love with literary suspense, and my favorite authors in that sub-genre are Jane Harper, Allen Eskens, and Lou Berney.

When I was working in PI fiction, my inspiration was Sue Grafton.

Some of my favorite books of all time lie where the literary and mystery genres intersect. Think William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace or David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars.

But an author who is a favorite for other reasons is Dorothy Bryant. She comes from an English teaching background, as do I, and that background wends its way into works like Miss Giardino. Dorothy Bryant was feisty, the first woman to wear pants when teaching at Contra Costa College.

Her first book, Ella Price’s Journal, was traditionally published. Still, when her agent deemed her second book “very bad,” Bryant struck out on her own before self-publishing was common or easy. She established Ata Press and published this “very bad” book, The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You. The book was later picked up by Random House and stayed in print for 30 years. Who doesn’t love that story?

But the main thing I love about Bryant is how she explored everything from the diary format to stage plays to science fiction. She followed her love of writing wherever it led her. She did not feel confined by genre. More than any other writer, she’s my role model.

What kind of research do you do? I do whatever research a book or story demands. The fifth Carol Sabala novel, Death with Dessert, involves immigrants coming over the border in Arizona, so I went to Arizona and drove down to Sasabe. I wanted to see the terrain, feel the quality of the air, smell the desert. You can’t Google those sensory details.

Since I’m a crime fiction writer, I’ve toured our local police station, the county jail (twice), San Quentin prison (twice), the FBI Crime Lab in San Francisco, and a prison in Wisconsin. I tried to visit a detention facility in Mexico but was rather forcibly removed. I’ve done two police ride-alongs and attended the Writers Police Academy, where I made a tourniquet for a writhing dummy squirting blood and participated in Shoot; Don’t Shoot video scenarios used for police training.

My personal experience has led to some unintended research. My husband and I were both handcuffed and put in the back of a sheriff’s vehicle to bake for an hour as the LEO’s sorted out a report of shots fired on our street. The photo shows what our street looked like that day. That’s our brown house!

We also came home while our house was being burglarized; my husband gave chase to the burglar, who pulled a gun and threatened to kill him. Luckily, he didn’t. Because of my husband’s pursuit, the cops were able to arrest the young man, and we ended up with front row seats to the criminal justice system—from arraignment through trial. The burglary and the question of what became of the gun served as the impetus for my next novel, One Gun, coming from Misterio press either late this year or early next year.

I’ve attended numerous panels and workshops on everything from search-and-rescue to autopsies. In a survival camp, I constructed an emergency shelter and tried to make a fire. I’ve been to a gun range, of course.

On a more cerebral level, I’ve read Adam Plantinga’s books 400 Things Cops Know and Police Craft and have reference books at my fingertips like Deadly Doses, when I need a little poison, or Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland when I need a better sense of how the whole bureaucracy operates.

Not all my research is so dark. I visited the Grateful Dead archives here in Santa Cruz to write my story “Dead Revival,” which was published August 15th at Yellow Mama. For an earlier story (“Room and Board” in Fishy Business, the Fifth Guppy Anthology) featuring the same duo of numbskulls, I toured our local Surf Museum.

And, of course, probably like every writer, I go down rabbit holes on the internet. I’ve spent whole afternoons looking at and reading about blue scorpions. For the story in Gabba Gabba Hey, I killed an hour watching videos of killdeers.

Vinnie Hansen, two-time Claymore Finalist
The Carol Sabala Mystery Series
LOSTART STREET, a novel
Newsletter
BookBub

21 Comments

  1. Susan Alice Bickford

    It’s great to hear your summary of all these events and efforts in one spot. You’ve lived a very interesting life and written some excellent fiction.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      Thank you for visiting, Susan. And welcome back to NorCal. See you later.

      Reply
  2. carole price

    Enjoyed your interview, Vinnie, particularly your research. I’m 20 years in as a police volunteer.

    Reply
    • Vinnie Hansen

      Carole, I’ve often thought volunteering for the PD or the Sheriff’s Office would be an excellent way to gain a better understanding of law enforcement.

      Reply
  3. Cindy Sample

    Wonderful interview, Vinnie. You really spend the time researching your books and it shows in your fine mysteries.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      Thanks for visiting, Cindy! I’m so looking forward to when I’ll start seeing my writing buddies again. Are you going to LCC in Albuquerque?

      Reply
  4. Heidi Noroozy

    Great interview, Vinnie! Ordinary Grace and Snow Falling on Cedars are also two of my favorite books.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      Good taste, Heidi. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Michelle Chouinard

    I’m also a big fan of Sue Grafton, and she was also a big inspiration on me! I recently finished a PI novel that my agent and I are getting ready to shop…I think of my protagonist as “If Kinsey Millhone had had a daughter…” So glad you decided to come hang out in California!

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      Thanks, Michelle. Glad to get out of the cold. I’ll watch for your book. What is the title?

      Reply
  6. Kassandra Lamb

    Great interview, Vinnie!! I loved The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. One of my all time favorites. But I didn’t know all that about the author. Fascinating!

    I too cannot wait to read One Gun.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You was Alice Walker’s favorite book. (Just another bit of trivia I did not throw in the interview).

      Reply
  7. Liz Boeger

    What a great interview! So much fun in reading about your writing journey and research paths. Looking forward to reading One Gun.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      Thanks for dropping by, Liz. I look forward to reading you debut mystery, too. When will Chainlinked be released?

      Reply
    • Vinnie

      Thanks for dropping by, Liz. I look forward to reading you debut mystery, too. When will Chainlinked be released? r

      Reply
  8. Glenda Carroll

    Like you, I was inspired by Sue Grafton and her writing. It was so down to earth just like her protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. Great interview. I’ve been in a shoot, don’t shoot scenario. Once I hit the family dog.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      I’m beginning to think, “Weren’t we all?” I met Sue Grafton at LCC Monterey and had the perfect opportunity, when we were by ourselves, to tell her what a fan I was. Instead, I muttered a couple of inane comments about the SinC table. One of the regrets of my life!

      Reply
  9. K.B. Owen

    Fab interview, Vinnie! Wow, that’s some formidable research…especially the involuntary kind. *wink*

    Congrats on the Gabba Gabba anthology, and good luck on your projects!

    Reply
  10. Michael A. Black

    I found your interview very inspiring, Vinnie. It’s great that you’re putting your English degree to such good work. Best of luck to you. I’ll keep an eye out for your stuff.

    Reply
    • Vinnie

      Thanks for reading, Michael. I recommend Black Beans & Venom to readers sampling my work.

      Reply
  11. Vinnie

    Thank you, George, for hosting me, and for all the support you’ve been giving your fellow authors!

    Reply

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DAVID CROW – Emerging From a Life in Conflict / Mental Illness / Abuse

In The Pale-Faced Lie, David Crow presents a riveting account of growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation with a mentally ill mother and violent father, an ex-con from San Quentin who groomed David to be his partner in crime.

DAVID CROW spent his early years on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Through grit, resilience, and a thirst for learning, he managed to escape his abusive childhood, graduate from college, and build a successful lobbying firm in Washington, DC.

Today, David is a sought-after speaker, giving talks to various businesses and trade organizations around the world. Throughout the years, he has mentored over 200 college interns, performed pro bono service for the charitable organization Save the Children, and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. An advocate for women, he is donating a percentage of his royalties from The Pale-Faced Lie to the Barrett House, a homeless shelter for women in Albuquerque. David and his wife, Patty, live in the suburbs of DC.

Do you write in more than one genre? I have only written non-fiction so characters are real people, and the book captures what they actually did. I hope to write fiction in the future.

What brought you to writing? I always wanted to write but knew the process is completely different from ordinary business writing, which I had always done before. I studied creative writing but must confess that my publisher was my greatest teacher. Sandra Jonas took a very rough manuscript and helped me create a readable book that has been quite successful. The creative writing process, in my opinion, requires a great deal of study and practice. There has been nothing easy or quick about it. On the contrary, it may be the hardest thing I have ever attempted.

Tell us about your writing process: I write every day, but it can be painful. I struggle to get into a rhythm and to move the process forward. It took nearly ten years to write the book. The last two working with Sandra were very challenging because I still had a significant learning curve.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I belong to several writers groups, including the Western Writers of America. I have attended the Writer’s Digest Annual meeting in NYC and several others. Every one of them has helped me better understand what it takes to be a successful writer.

Who’s your favorite author? I have several favorite authors and new ones all the time. I am finishing Kristin Hannah’s, The Four Winds, a novel about the Dust Bowl—it is excellent. I loved Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Erik Larson, Jeff Guinn, Chris Enss, and countless others. I am an avid reader.

How do our readers find you and your work?

Website: davidcrowauthor.com
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/authordavidcrow
Twitter: @author_crow
InstaGram: @davidcrowauthor

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