Melissa F. Miller Talks Writing and Sasha McCandless Series

Melissa F Miller

 

Interview with Melissa F Miller

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you?

I don’t really have a typical writing day—although I wish I did! In addition to being a writer, I homeschool my three kids, so my writing days often vary depending on what learning we’re doing on a given day. That said, I try to write early in the morning most days. My word count varies and I often “binge write” toward the end of a first draft, sometimes writing 12,000 or more words in a (long) day. Every time I start a new book, I tell myself this is the one where I’ll write a consistent, reasonable amount each day. So far, it hasn’t happened. Maybe the next book will be the magic one!

 

Your story premises are very intriguing. What’s your creative approach for a story?

Thanks! My approach varies from series to series, but in my Sasha McCandless series, I develop the premise of each book around a legal principle that will be central to the case Sasha takes on and a corresponding personal issue or event that happens in Sasha’s personal life. So, in Intentional Acts, Sasha has a client who may be liable for  releasing customers’ private data because of the deliberate actions of a rogue employee. The case intersects with her personal life and she grapples with her husband’s decision to conceal something troubling from her (his intentional act).  I find it really satisfying to merge the strands of the two plots and explore the various facets of a theme from different angles.

 

 

Do you write character arcs?

Hmm, sort of. My thrillers are plot driven, but my plots are character driven, if that makes sense. So I always know how my characters are going to be challenged and grow over the course of the events in the book, but I don’t write detailed arcs. Likewise, I have planned character arcs for my main characters over the span of a series. Mainly, I do this intuitively. But I’m currently reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, which is inspiring me to be explicit in my thinking about my character arcs.

 

Name the best virtues of Sasha McCandless in her job as a civil attorney.

Sasha’s greatest strength as a lawyer is her perseverance. She’s stubborn and determined, which serves her well as a litigator. She also has a natural ability to tease out connections between seemingly disparate pieces of evidence and to see the patterns in facts. And, of course, she can get by on very little sleep (and large amounts of coffee), which comes in handy when she has a court deadline looming!

 

 

Leo Connelly seems like a jack of all trades. Did you learn anything new about him while writing this book?

Leo’s such a fun character to write. As you note, he is something of a jack of all trades. Because he works for a fictional federal government ‘shadow’ agency, his jurisdiction and mission is wide-ranging, allowing him to coordinate with agents from so many different parts of the national security apparatus. In Intentional Acts, he’s put to an ethical/moral test. Without spoiling the plot, I can say his choice didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that he took some smaller actions he knew might cause an issue in his marriage, but he did them anyway because he believed he was in the right.  (Apologies for being so cryptic—I don’t want to give anything away!)

 

What kind of case is Sasha undertaking?

In this book, her client is a nonprofit organization that has two problems. One, the federal government wants it to turn over confidential user information; and, two, a former employee has leaked private user data online. Sasha needs to help them resist the information request and avoid liability for the leak.  Sasha’s case intersects with her husband’s work when a man whose identity was leaked is murdered and the evidence suggests Leo killed him as part of a national security operation.

 

 

This book has great dilemmas. What was most challenging in writing it?

The trickiest bit was writing the Project Storm Chaser scenes from Leo’s viewpoint. Because I do write multiple point of views, I needed to be fair to the reader in sharing the information Leo would have. But I had to do it in such a way that I wouldn’t tip my hand and undermine the suspense as Sasha learned the truth about what was happening. There was delicate balance between revealing and concealing that I hope I succeeded in navigating!

 

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing up Crossfire Creek, the fifth book in my Aroostine Higgins thriller series.  In Crossfire Creek, Aroostine (a former lawyer turned tracker) searches for a mother and daughter who disappeared from their home without a trace and who have a very compelling reason to stay missing.

I have four ongoing series (three thriller series and one light mystery), and I try to write at least one book per year in each series. My Aroostine Higgins thrillers and my Bodhi King forensic thrillers are both spin-offs of the Sasha McCandless series. Aroostine and Bodhi were characters in Sasha’s books before they got their own series; so even though the three series are distinct and separate, they exist in the same world.  I really enjoy writing within the little universe I’ve created!

 

 

 

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After seven years together, she knows him better than anyone. Doesn’t she?

In the newest entry in this fast-paced USA Today bestselling series, wife-and-husband team Sasha and Leo find themselves on opposite sides of an explosive situation.

Sasha’s up to her elbows in a data privacy matter. Her client could be on the hook for breaching the privacy of hundreds of customers. All because a rogue employee intentionally leaked personal information for reasons known only to him.

Meanwhile, Leo’s busy with a high-stakes case of his own. He’s been ordered to neutralize a national security threat to the country, but he has his doubts about the strength of the evidence against the target.

As Leo vets the information he’s been given, Sasha learns that federal law enforcement has an interest in her civil matter. Because they both take their duties of confidentiality seriously, neither realizes that their cases are intertwined. Until one of the affected customers in Sasha’s case is murdered … and the evidence points to Leo as the killer.

Sasha’s not about to turn in her own husband, so she tails him instead. She only hopes what she finds will clear his name, not destroy their marriage.

 

Amazon |Goodreads

 

 

About Melissa F. Miller

USA Today bestselling author Melissa F. Miller is a former attorney who traded the practice of law for the art of telling stories.

She is the author of more than two dozen bestselling legal thrillers, suspense thrillers, romantic comedic mysteries, and forensic thrillers. All her work shares two common threads: pulse-pounding, tightly plotted action and smart, unlikely heroines and heroes.

Her books feature such diverse protagonists as a pint-sized attorney and mother of twins who’s trained in Krav Maga; a Native American government investigator who relies on her heritage to guide her when the chips are down; a Buddhist forensic pathologist who refuses to harm any living creature; and a trio of twenty-something sisters just starting out in their careers who find murder and mayhem wherever they go.

She’s edited medical, scientific, and technical journals, as well as educational books; clerked for a federal judge; worked for major international law firms; and run a two-person law firm with her lawyer husband.

Now, powered by coffee, she writes crime fiction and homeschools her children. When she’s not writing, and sometimes when she is, Melissa travels around the country in an RV with her husband, three kids, and their cat.

To find out when Melissa releases a new book, visit www.melissafmiller.com and sign up for her email newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s In Charge Here?  Getting Jurisdiction Correct in Your Writing

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Who’s In Charge Here?  Getting Jurisdiction Correct in Your Writing

By Micki Browning

 

I recently picked up a novel that featured an FBI agent as a first responder to a burglary investigation at a city residence. The author immediately lost her credibility with me and I put the novel aside. Why? The Feds are about four levels too high for the job. Can federal agents investigate a burglary? Absolutely. Are they the first responder in a city? No.

At some point, a story you’re writing will likely involve a law enforcement character. It may be on a traffic stop, in response to a crime, an encounter in a coffee shop, in another character’s school, or over the neighboring fence. Our nation has more than 750,000 law enforcement officers, so for art to mimic life, there are a couple of things you need to know.

 

 

What is Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is easiest to imagine as geographical boundaries, but is best thought of in terms of power. Jurisdiction defines the statutory authority of a government agency—in this case, law enforcement—to act and investigate based on the location of the incident, the type of crime, or the dollar amount at stake.

 

 

Who are you going to call?

Most people don’t worry about jurisdiction. If they need help, they dial 911 and then wait for help. As the master manipulator of your novel, however, you are the dispatcher and it’s up to you to decide who goes. Need a quick response? Local police almost always arrive first.

 

 

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The Locals

The backbone of law enforcement is the patrol force. New York City employs approximately 38,00 officers. A rural agency may only employ a single peace officer. Throw in a county agency and your first responder could be an officer, marshal, or deputy.

So how do you know the difference? If you are writing about an actual agency, it’s easy. Find a computer. Nearly all agencies have a wealth of information regarding size, jurisdiction, rank structure and community outreach on their websites. Photos will reveal the types of vehicles they drive, how they dress and the color of their uniform (which varies considerably).

Every county has a sheriff’s office. The sheriff is an elected official and is statutorily required to provide public safety for the county. Deputy sheriffs perform the patrol grunt work. They also carry out civil law responsibilities, such as serving subpoenas.

By comparison, cities often operate their own municipal police departments. An appointed Chief of Police runs the agency, and the first responders are referred to as officers. But police agencies are expensive to administer, and many cities contract for public safety services from the county sheriff. Likewise, most towns and villages contract from the county, although some operate their own office, and may be called marshals.

On very rare occasions, cities and counties combine agencies, for example the Miami-Dade Police Department and the agencies in San Francisco and Denver. Usually this occurs when the city and county share the same geographical boundaries.

 

 

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State Agencies

State agencies differ across the nation—and it gets murky fast. Many states have multiple public safety agencies that focus on either investigation or enforcement. Other states run one agency with different divisions.

California combines these functions under the umbrella of one massive agency. Remember the television show CHPs? Well, they do a lot more than ride motorcycles. In addition to patrolling the state’s highways, they also staff a Protective Services Division tasked with capitol, dignitary, judicial and governor protection. The agency oversees the State and Regional Threat Assessment Centers, Counterterrorism and Threat Awareness Section, and the Emergency Operations Center.

 

 

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Federal Agencies

Think state agencies are confusing? Wait until the Feds get involved. The Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and of course, the Federal Bureau of Investigations are familiar names. But don’t forget the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, United States Park Police, or everyone’s favorite, the Transportation Security Administration.

Involving federal agencies in a story typically requires more than casual research. Introducing a character as an officer from the FBI will mark you as a rube. While it is true that they are sworn peace officers, the FBI hierarchy is paved with agents, not officers. And just when you think you may have it all figured out, here’s a curveball. Law enforcement officers in the TSA are Federal Air Marshals. The U.S. Marshals Service, the oldest federal law enforcement agency, is the enforcement arm of the Federal Court System. Their enforcement officers are called U.S. marshals (as opposed to a town marshal). Confused yet?

 

 

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Who is the best?

That’s an easy one. It depends on what you need. Every agency thinks it’s the best. Law enforcement is remarkably similar to a family—complete with sibling rivalry, petty jealousies, and intense loyalty. Some departments welcome assistance; others not so much. The truth? The world is shrinking. People are far more mobile, crimes cross borders, and the Internet links continents. Law enforcement cannot be conducted in a vacuum. Departments rely on each other.

Federal task forces give smaller agencies the opportunity to tackle major issues in their communities. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency launched a task force to address Internet child exploitation. They also assist with cyber crimes, human trafficking and smuggling investigations. The Marshals Service routinely spearheads fugitive task forces. The Drug Enforcement Agency partners with local law enforcement on narcotic task forces.

 

 

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Truth is stranger than fiction

Jurisdiction can be tricky. Regardless of genre, the takeaway for authors is that with a little bit of background information, the truth can be manipulated to fit your story needs. The author at the beginning of the article could have legitimately had an FBI agent respond to a burglary investigation with a few easy tweaks. If the responding local officer noticed something in the home indicative of a federal issue—such as a tie to a bank robbery suspect, a terrorist threat, or if the investigation grew to include a kidnapping that crossed state lines—then the FBI would become involved. There’s even a way to legitimize a responding FBI agent. Set the crime on a Native American Indian Reservation. Some tribal nations have their own agency, but for those that don’t, the FBI holds jurisdiction.

In the end, the criminal justice system is a tangled network of agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and operational goals. But the people who make up those agencies are remarkably similar. Every officer swears to uphold the public trust, and they share a common goal. They tend to be strong-willed, opinionated and honorable. By virtue of law, they have enormous authority, and what they do with it can make great fiction.

This article has been updated. The original version appeared in The Florida Writer April 2015.

 

 

 

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An FBI National Academy graduate, Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades and retired as a division commander. She is the author of the award-winning Mer Cavallo Mystery series set in the Florida Keys. Her debut novel, Adrift, was an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. It won both the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award prior to its publication. Her latest thriller, Beached, was released in January 2018. It won the Royal Palm Literary Award for both Best Mystery and the Book Book of the Year.

Micki also writes short stories and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines and textbooks. She lives in South Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.”

 

www.mickibrowning.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elements of a Bestselling Thriller: Top Tips for Authors

 

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The Elements of a Bestselling Thriller: Top Tips for Authors

by Adam Durnham

 

When it comes to conjuring ideas for a thriller or mystery, authors should create perspectives that are relevant to current readers with a special attention to market trends. What are the possible elements of a bestselling thriller? Read to know more.

After reading a gripping mystery or thriller, do you find yourself thinking about how interesting it was? If you’re an author, there are elements to bestselling thrillers that can help your readers stay on the edges of their seats.

In order to do this, authors may want to strike a balance between the foundational elements of their work and current trends in thrillers and mysteries. Here are some top tips for authors who are planning to create pieces in these special genres.

 

Pick the type of thriller or mystery genre that you want to create

Thriller or mystery novels are broad categories on their own. It is important to know who your target readers are. Knowing your target audiences will help you determine the literary subgenre that you will use. Some thriller subgenres include:

 

  • Psychological thrillers: These thrillers include themes relating to psychological or mental health conditions. The protagonist or the perpetrators in such stories might have mental health issues.
  • Mystery thrillers: These thrillers feature mysteries that revolve around a crime, accident, or another incident. The protagonists in these works find and analyze clues throughout the stories.
  • Science fiction thrillers: These popular thrillers incorporate science fiction topics. Authors may be particularly creative with this subgenre, which may include futuristic themes such as aliens, monsters, human cloning, and entirely new worlds.

 

Developing clear ideas about your subgenres gives you a laser-sharp focus on the elements that you want to place in your story. The focus helps readers feel that your characters, settings, plot twists, and other crucial parts of your work are thematic and fit together cohesively.

 

Choose relevant themes

Theme is quite different from your subgenre. It unifies your story and gives something for your readers to think about as they progress through your story. This is helpful if you want to create a thriller or mystery novel, since you want to provide puzzle pieces that the readers can think about as they approach the end.

 

Consider using thriller or mystery story themes that people find relatable. They can involve problems such as mental health, addiction rehab, crime, or social injustices. These themes can bring value to your readers, especially if your readers advocate for such topics. Your book has a better chance at reaching the best-seller lists if many of your readers have firsthand experience with or knowledge of your themes.

 

Successful writers pay attention to what is happening in the larger culture. When topics about mental health, addictions, crime, or social problems appear in the news, books and movies associated with these relevant themes also appear.

 

Plot your story before beginning to write

Before starting your first chapter, consider creating an outline of your thriller or mystery to develop your plot. Outlines are important for many types of work, but they are especially crucial for thrillers and mysteries because those genres include large amounts of action. Creating a well-plotted story can help you avoid unnecessary fluff and irrelevant elements in your writing.

 

Your plot should include a buildup of conflict, and your characters’ goals and motivations should be consistent with your themes. Thrillers or mysteries can start at the middle of the action to create a thrilling atmosphere that you can heighten for effect.

 

Experiment with multiple points of view

One sign of a great author is his or her flexibility in presenting the points of view of various characters. Some bestselling thrillers and novels shift between the viewpoints of the protagonists and the villains in the stories instead of presenting the story entirely in the third person perspective.

 

Shifting between multiple points of view depends on your theme and other elements of your story. But multiple viewpoints can greatly benefit mystery and psychological thrillers. They can showcase the depth of the story and portray the intrinsic motivations, thoughts, and actions of the characters.

 

Create interesting plot twists

To develop an interesting plot twist, you need to get inside the minds of readers. One element of bestselling thrillers or mystery novels is that many plot twists can appear quite predictable at the beginnings of stories yet profound and surprising at the ends of the same pieces.

You can create these puzzle pieces to appear one way at the beginning and middle of your stories while creating a sense of jeopardy and conflict. Such story construction encourages readers to exercise their common sense and typical thought processes as they proceed through the plot.

When they encounter your story’s plot twist, readers may be surprised and pleased when your writing reveals your actual story. This shift is what makes the story gripping and exciting for readers. Well-written plot twists are one of your greatest tools as an author of mysteries or thrillers.

 

Ready, set, write!

If you keep in mind these elements of writing a bestselling novel, you can stay on top of your game. Great authors create solid foundations for their stories, incorporate creativity, and understand trends that matter to readers.

 

 

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Managing the Ensemble Cast of Characters by Saralyn Richard

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Managing the Ensemble Cast of Characters

 

by Saralyn Richard

When I decided to write a mystery novel situated around a weekend birthday celebration at a country mansion (Murder in the One Percent ©2018 Black Opal Books), I wasn’t fully aware of how challenging it would be to populate the party with a slew of guests and keep the novel moving for readers. To start with, I wanted to have seven couples on the guest list, plus a single, for a total of fifteen characters. Some would be the hosts, one would be the murder victim, one or more would be the killer(s), and others would be the suspects. Fifteen seemed like a fine number until I started to write the first few chapters.

 

 

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For one thing, the party guests, like most in real life, were quite similar. Most of them had been to college together, and most of them had careers in the same field of endeavor. They were all members of the wealthy one percent, so they all wore expensive clothes and jewelry, enjoyed multiple residences, and indulged in luxurious hobbies. It was fun to pull back the curtain on their lives, but I soon realized a few things:

 

  • The characters were too much alike.
  • Readers would have a hard time remembering who was who.
  • Readers would have a hard time identifying with any of the characters.
  • There wasn’t enough contrast among the characters to make for interesting dialogue, narration, and description.

 

Once I understood the challenges of managing the ensemble cast of characters, I cut one couple from the book, taking the number at the party to thirteen. What a perfect number for a party that started on a Friday the 13th, a party where someone would be killed.

Next, I created a character bible for each partygoer. It wasn’t enough to document the physical traits of each one. I wanted to give everyone a particular way of talking, speaking, moving. So if a character flipped her hair behind her shoulder or rubbed the material of her pants between her thumb and forefinger when nervous, the reader would know exactly which character that was.

While all of the characters were among the ultra-rich, I gave them different experiences with money, and different attitudes toward it, as well. Some inherited it, some earned it, some had it and lost it, and some married into it. Some were haughty, while others were down-to-earth.

Each of the characters has had identifiable past experiences with the victim, some unpleasant enough to serve as a potential motive for killing him. As everyone comes together to a weekend retreat at a remote country mansion, the reader is presented with a “locked room mystery.” The killer has to be one of the party guests.

Once the murder occurs, the detective and other characters provide plenty of contrast, but by then, the readers have already formed impressions of the ensemble of one-percenters. All they have to do then is buckle up and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Galveston Author Saralyn Richard

 

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a writer, who teaches on the side. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children worldwide. Murder in the One Percent, semi-finalist in the Chanticleer CLUE awards for best suspense/thriller, pulls back the curtain on the privileged and powerful rich. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book shows what happens when someone comes to a party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket. Look for the sequel, A Palette for Love and Murder, at the end of this year. Saralyn has published stories, articles, and poems in a variety of collections and magazines, and she edited the anthology, Burn Survivors’ Journey. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and a literature class. Her website is www.saralynrichard.com

 

 

 

 

Free Book Drawing: The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb

 

 

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Hi there. Are you ready for some book prizes? A random person will selected to win a free copy of The Secrets We Bury by bestselling author Debra Webb. The first book in the new Undertaker’s Daughter series. Just leave a comment below and that’s it! Debra Webb is a great storyteller, prolific author, and one of my personal favorites. So I’m thrilled to offer one of her new books in this giveaway courtesy of Debra.

 

Here’s the book blurb. 

Doctor Rowan Dupont knows death. She grew up surrounded by it in her family’s Victorian funeral home, and it’s haunted her since the day her twin sister drowned years ago. Between her mother’s subsequent suicide and the recent murder of her father, coming home to run the funeral home feels fitting—even if it leaves her vulnerable to an obsessive serial killer.

Rowan refuses to let fear keep her from honoring her family. But the more time she spends back in Winchester, Tennessee, the more she finds herself questioning what really happened that fateful summer. Had her sister’s death truly been an accident? And what pushed their mother to take her own life? The dark lake surrounding Rowan’s hometown holds as many secrets as the bodies that float in its chilling depths. But Rowan is running out of time if she’s going to uncover the truth before somebody sinks her for good.

 

 

 

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A random person will be selected to win a copy of The Secrets We Bury by Debra Webb, a paperback or ebook of your choice. Just leave comment below to enter the drawing. Say hello, or what kind of books you like to read.

 

 

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DEBRA WEBB is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 140 novels, including reader favorites the Shades of Death, the Faces of Evil and the Colby Agency series. She is the recipient of the prestigious Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense as well as numerous Reviewers Choice Awards. In 2012 Debra was honored as the first recipient of the esteemed L. A. Banks Warrior Woman Award for her courage, strength, and grace in the face of adversity. Recently Debra was awarded the distinguished Centennial Award for having achieved publication of her 100th novel.

With more than four million books in print in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood when her mother bought her an old typewriter in a tag sale. Born in Alabama, Debra grew up on a farm. She spent every available hour exploring the world around her and creating her stories. She wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the Commanding General of the US Army in Berlin behind the Iron Curtain and a five-year stint in NASA’s Shuttle Program that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has expanded her work into some of the darkest places the human psyche dares to go. Visit Debra at www.debrawebb.com

 

Website | Amazon | Twitter

 

 

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Interview with Clara Benson Author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries

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Please welcome historical mystery author Clara Benson!

Clara Benson is the author of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries and Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures – traditional English mysteries in authentic style set in the 1920s and 30s. One day she would like to drink cocktails and solve mysteries in a sequinned dress and evening gloves. In the meantime she lives in the north of England with her family and doesn’t do any of those things.

 

Interview 

 

  1.    What was your path to becoming a writer?

–          I started out as a translator (Italian to English, since you asked), but I always thought I would write a book at some point, and eventually I decided that if I was going to do it I’d better get on with it! It took four years to write my first, in between moving, having kids, house renovations, etc, and I’m surprised I ever got it finished, to be honest. But once it was done and published and people were buying it, that spurred me on to write more. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

 

 

  1.    What do you enjoy most about historical mysteries?

I love the innocence of them! We’ve all read all the mysteries these days, so it’s difficult to truly surprise the reader, and nowadays the solution is far more likely to hang on a microscopic piece of forensic evidence than on anything else. But I love the fact that in historical mysteries the detective can sweep in, point at someone and say, “The clock said 6.05 instead of 6.08, and your train ticket was dated Wednesday not Tuesday, which proves you are the murderer! Inspector, arrest this man!” And the murderer always snarls and says, “Damn you, you’re as cunning as the devil!” And they arrest him and take him away and it’s all wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

 

 

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  1.    Why do you write English mysteries set in the 1920’s and 30’s?

–          Because that’s what I like to read. I’m a huge fan of Golden Age mystery writers – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and so on, and I wanted to try and write something similar to the stories they wrote that I love so much.

 

 

  1.    Who is Angela Marchmont and why choose her as a protagonist?

–          Angela Marchmont is something of an enigma to start with, and we don’t know much about her except that she’s a wealthy, fashionable and independent woman in her late thirties who’s a bit secretive about her past. As the series continues, we find out more about her, and by the final two books there are a few revelations as all her secrets come out! I didn’t exactly choose her – she kind of developed herself along the way. She was meant to be older and more eccentric, but she had her own ideas, and emerged as a younger and much more charming character than I expected!

 

 

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  1.    What makes her a good detective?

–          She’s curious by nature, and has a questioning mind. She’s smart, obviously, but also very cool, logical and level-headed. She’s quite good at cutting through the red herrings and getting to the solution.

 

  1.    Tell us about the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series.

–          Freddy was an occasional sidekick of Angela’s, and he was such a strong character I thought he deserved his own series. He’s younger than Angela – only in his early twenties – and he works (I use the word loosely) as a reporter for an early tabloid newspaper, the Clarion. He’s hedonistic, chaotic, very full of himself, and prone to getting into awkward situations. In his attempts to solve a mystery he can often be found dangling off a rooftop, getting into a fight, or kissing someone else’s girlfriend – not always through any fault of his own.

 

 

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  1.    What was your experience transitioning from Angela Marchmont mysteries to writing Freddy Pilkington-Soames?

–          It’s quite different writing Freddy, as he’s a lot more active than Angela – partly because of his job – so I have to think of a lot of places for him to go, rather than just weekend country house parties. In addition, he’s a bit of an unruly sort, so I have to think up difficult situations for him to get out of. He’s a bit of a smart alec too, so I spend a lot of time rewriting his dialogue to make it wittier!

 

  1.    How do you conduct research for your books?

–          This is one of the best parts of writing! Although I’m not one for packing a lot of historical detail into my books, I do like to get things right, so I’ve read quite a few history books about the period, and I also make fairly heavy use of the Times Digital Archive (through my library) and the British Newspaper Archive (paid subscription). I’m a big stickler for using the correct language of the period, and for that I use the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (also via the library), which shows when words were first used. Then of course there’s Google and Wikipedia…

 

 

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  1.    What’s the historical background of A Case of Duplicity in Dorset?

–          None, I’m afraid! It all came out of my own head, although I did get some inspiration for Belsingham from some grand stately homes near where I live, most notably Nostell Priory and Harewood House.

 

 

  1.  Who are your favorite mystery authors?

–          As I said, I’m a big fan of Golden Age authors, but I’ve read all kinds of mystery writers, from Ruth Rendell and PD James to Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read many new mysteries these days, as I find it interferes with the writing, so I find myself going back to the old favourites time and time again.

 

 

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  1.  If you had to write in another genre which would it be?

–          I do occasionally branch out into romantic suspense, and I have a few ideas for future books in that genre which I will write when they pass a law to add more hours to the day…

 

  1.  What’s next for you?

–          I had a bit of a go-slow year last year, as I felt I needed to recharge after several years of frantic writing activity, but I’m well and truly back in the saddle now – possibly too much, as I’m busy trying to write two books at once! One is a historical novel set during World War 2, which is much more serious and sombre in tone than my usual style, and the other is Book 5 in the Freddy series, entitled A Case of Suicide in St. James’s, in which Freddy investigates the apparent suicide of a young man at a society ball. This one is turning out to be fun, and I hope to get it finished very soon!

 

Thanks Clara! 

www.clarabenson.com | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audiobook Blog Tour: The Stiff in the Study by Shea Macleod

 

 

Viola Roberts Banner

 

 

 

Stiff in the study image Viola Roberts book 2

 

 

 

About Audiobook #2

 

Author: Shéa MacLeod

Narrator: Yvette Keller

Length: 4 hours 20 minutes

Publisher: Shéa MacLeod⎮2017

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Series: The Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries, Book 2

Release date: May 17, 2017

 

Synopsis: Viola Roberts is at it again! The sleepy seaside town of Astoria, Oregon is the last place you’d expect to find a dead body. That is until the director of the local museum turns up dead in the study and Viola’s friend, Portia, is accused of the crime. Viola ignores her looming deadline and bout of writer’s block and sets out with her best friend, Cheryl, to solve the murder. From starting riots at local dive bars to breaking into crime scenes, Viola will stop at nothing to prove Portia innocent even if it means putting herself in the cross-hairs of the killer.

 

Buy Links for Audiobook #2

Buy on Audible

 

 

Mystery Letterpress

 

 

I’ve come to love the hilarious adventures of Viola Roberts and her sidekick Cheryl. Listening to this audiobook reminded me of the Golden Girls, or Laverne and Shirley from the old days of television. They feed off one another, complement each other. Narrator Yvette Keller plays the part perfectly. Her voice characterizations are on the money and color each personality just enough draw you into the story.

 

 

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Shea Macleod image

 

 

About the Author: Shéa MacLeod

 

Shéa MacLeod writes urban fantasy post-apocalyptic sci-fi paranormal romances with a twist of steampunk.  Mostly because she can’t make up her mind which genre she likes best so she decided to write them all.

After six years living in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone’s throw from the local cemetery, Shéa headed back to her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She plans to live out her days eating mushroom pizza, drinking too many caramel lattes, exploring exotic locales, and avoiding spiders.

Shéa is the author of the Viola Roberts Cozy Mysteries and the bestselling Lady Rample Mysteries.

 

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www.rewindphotography.com Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer
www.rewindphotography.com Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer

 

 

About the Narrator: Yvette Keller

 

Yvette Keller’s first job as a narrator was reading aloud to keep her little brother out of trouble. Her favorite party trick is reading words upside down. Little kids need to see the pictures. Yvette lives in her beloved home town of Santa Barbara, using a lifetime of vocal stamina in her home studio. She produces technical VO industrials for Mesa Steps Consulting clients in addition to audiobooks. A lifetime of reading and speaking has proven one thing: Yvette loves stories. She is thrilled to be making books accessible and engaging through her narration work.

 

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Inside The Murder Mile with Lesley McEvoy

 

 

The Murder Mile image

 

 

 

Evil never dies…

 

Interview

 

 

What was it like writing your first book?

Writing is something I’ve done all my life. Over the years, I’ve written quite a few manuscripts – my first serious attempt was submitted in 1980! I still have it in a box in my office. So in a way, I don’t view this as my first book – it’s just the first one that I’ve managed to get published! What I can say is what it was like making the conscious decision to write seriously and with purpose, rather than simply as a hobby that I loved. Previously I’d had to fit my writing around life. Bringing up a family, building a career and then a business – the kind of things we all do, but which makes writing consistently and productively very difficult. In 2017 I attended the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and met and chatted to several successful authors, agents and publishers. It left me with the feeling, that if I was going to give getting published my best shot, then I had to make the commitment to write full-time – or as near to that as possible. My manuscript for ‘The Murder Mile’ had been something I’d picked up and put down sporadically for a few years. Halting the process when ‘life’ got in the way. I came away from Harrogate determined to treat writing as my ‘Day Job’, and set myself the target of having it ready for the next Harrogate Festival in July of 2018. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means. I still needed to make a living and needed an income. But I worked out the minimum I could manage on, and then committed to working from home as much as possible to maximise my writing time. I run a private therapy practice locally, as well as my corporate work, and the practice became the mainstay of my income during the following year. Fate ‘tested’ my decision when I was offered major contracts, which would have taken me away for months at a time. Something I knew would derail my writing plans. So I gritted my teeth and turned them all down.

It was fabulous being able to think of each day as a ‘writing day’. I tried to be disciplined and get into my office around 10am and work until I really couldn’t write anymore, but I rarely finished before 6pm or 7pm. I finally knew what it must feel like to be a ‘proper’ writer and I absolutely loved it.

 

 

 

Impossible concept with hand pressing a button

 

 

 

What were the most challenging aspects?

Getting into the discipline of making sure that I wrote productively every day. By Productively, I mean, writing words that actually moved the plot along. Developed characters, scenes and plotlines. I realised that giving myself the luxury of a full day of writing was great – but it was too easy to disappear down the rabbit hole of research and not actually do the writing. I know some would-be authors who get so hooked on research that they never actually complete their book.

‘The Murder Mile’, required quite a bit of research in places, but if I was ‘in the zone’ and the words were really flowing – instead of stopping when I hit something I needed to look up, I would just put a note to myself in red which said “Insert [Whatever it was] here later”. Then carry on with the storyline that was flowing.

Another challenge is when I’d hit what others refer to as ‘Writer’s block’. I don’t know how that feels to other authors, but for me those were days when I would stare at the page and literally not know how to start or move things forward at all. My imaginary friends just weren’t talking to me some days. On those occasions I would go back a couple of chapters and re-read what I’d written and do a running edit. Changing words, looking for mistakes and oiling the ‘clunky’ bits. Invariably once I got to where I’d finished the day before, I’d found my voices again and it began to flow. If that didn’t happen, then at least I was comforted by the fact that I’d spent the day productively editing the manuscript and cleaning things up, which saved time at the end.

 

 

 

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What’s your creative approach to writing?

For me a plot always begins with a ‘What if?’ I hear a story on the news or read something in the paper and think ‘that’s interesting….I wonder what if…?’ It can bubble away for weeks, months or in the case of ‘The Murder Mile’ several years. Percolating and fermenting until it drips out to form the words on the page. I also always start with the end in mind. Once I know how it will end and I have the ‘How done it’, I start to develop the rest. I’ve heard other authors use the terms ‘Plotter or Panster’. Which means do you plot it all out before you begin and have the complete story arc? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and just hold on for the ride? I suppose if my experience with this book is anything to go by, I do a bit of both. Sometimes I have a plan, but then the characters say or do something I hadn’t foreseen and that leads us down a completely new path – and it’s often much better than the one I had planned out. I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and start to run things. I just watch it unfold, as if it’s a movie, and write down what I’m seeing. That’s a great feeling and I know at that point that it’s really working and the characters I’ve created have taken on a life of their own. Magical!

 

 

What helped you the most in learning how to write a novel?

A lot of authors I’d met were members of writing groups or had done creative writing courses or had a background in journalism. And at first I thought maybe that was the secret? Maybe you had to have that kind of formal training in order to write a book that publishers would want. Happily I’ve since discovered that isn’t the case – which is just as well as none of those things apply to me.

My answer is rather simple. For me at least, reading is and has always been the key to learning how to write. How can you write books if you never read them? How do you even know what you would want to write in the first place, if you don’t know the type of books you enjoy reading?

I read on 2 levels. The first is for the enjoyment of it. Then I think about what worked in the book? How did the writer create suspense / drama? How did they make sure you wanted to turn the page? Take it apart and examine the mechanics of it or of a particular aspect of it that grabbed you, and see how it was done. I do that all the time. Not just with books, but with films / TV programs or even lyrics in a song. I analyse them and look at the nuts and bolts of how they were put together and what made it work – or not work.

Writing is a craft and like any other craftsman practice makes perfect. So as well as reading, I learned how to write a novel, by doing it. Over and over. Not for profit, but just because I loved the process. In reading the kind of novels I aspired to write and studying the work of the best authors in my chosen genre. Like studying the work of the great masters.

 

 

 

Reading book woman image in sun

 

 

 

What does Jo McCready do as a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic Psychologists generally are involved with the assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour. They work with prisoners and offenders, as well as Police and other professionals involved in the judicial and penal systems.

Most people are familiar with the role in programmes like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Cracker’, which concentrate on the  part they play in criminal profiling. In The Murder Mile, Jo McCready is one of the small number of ‘Celebrity’ Profilers. She has come to public attention by appearing on TV documentaries about serial offenders and subsequently writing books about her cases. She has also been involved in the past in helping to bring killers and serial rapists to justice through her profiling skills. She works as an independent consultant to the police who call her in to advise on offender behaviour and draw up profiles of offenders to assist them in their investigations.

Jo has a wealth of experience in the Criminal Justice System and working with killers, many of whom she helped to track down or gave evidence as an expert witness at their trials, which help secure their convictions. Her database of facts and criminal cases, built up over many years and her knowledge of criminal psychology, helps her to look at a scene and draw conclusions about the possible offender, which the police can use to narrow down the type of people they are concentrating on in their investigation.

 

 

 

Forensic

 

 

 

Who was Martha Scott and why was she seeing Jo Mcready?

Martha Scott is a young woman who has been admitted to a psychiatric unit, suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She’s haunted by nightmares of a time when, as a heroin addict she believes she murdered prostitutes by stabbing them. When Jo McCready is called in to help her unlock the memories of what actually happened, she unlocks an ‘alter ego’ who claims to be Jack the Ripper and thanks Jo for setting him free to kill again. Shortly after, Martha is found murdered in the same way as Jack the Ripper’s first victim in 1888 and a sequence of serial killings begin, replicating the murders of the Victorian Era ‘Jack’.

 

 

How do you unlock a repressed memory?

It’s believed that the unconscious mind (which is the repository for all our experiences and memories) can block, or prevent a person accessing a memory, because it’s associated with a traumatic event. A kind of protection mechanism to prevent further damage to a person’s mental health. Such memories can be accessed during hypnotherapy, and if they are a result of trauma, the therapist needs to be one specially trained in the treatment of trauma and probably Post Traumatic Stress. In short, the process has to be done with a therapist. It’s not something you can do on your own. In the book, Jo McCready has become an authority on memory resolution after trauma, and has written books about it. So she is called in to see if she can help Martha, who seems to be suffering from the condition.

 

 

 

 

Memories in the Brain -3D

 

 

 

How did the plot for The Murder Mile develop?

When I tell people about my book, one of the first things I’m asked is where the idea came from? I suppose the short answer is that it sprang from the job I do. I’m a behavioural analyst – a profiler by trade. But it was during my work in the psychotherapy practice that the idea for the book first presented itself. I was a newly qualified hypnotherapist and I was treating a lady for anxiety. She wanted hypnotherapy to help her to relax. My client was in a deep state of hypnosis, when suddenly, her eyes flew open and she turned her head slowly to look at me. The bright blue eyes I had noticed during our therapy session, had turned into black dots that stared coldly into mine. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But then she spoke to me. Gone was the soft gentle voice of the lady I had met earlier. Out of the petite body of this frail woman, came the deep guttural voice of an old man!

If anyone else had described this encounter, I wouldn’t have believed them. But the transformation in front of my eyes was as real as it was shocking.

The ‘man’ I was engaging with now, told me that his spirit was inhabiting her body. He said he liked it there and warned me to “back off” and leave them alone. I found myself entering into a bizarre conversation with this alter ‘personality’, during which he threatened to kill me if I interfered or ‘exorcised’ him. Needless to say, I left him exactly where he was!

On bringing my client back from her hypnosis session, it became apparent that she was blissfully unaware of the presence of her dark companion, and I certainly didn’t enlighten her!

As I said earlier my ideas spring from a central question, which is – “What if?” I found myself replaying that hypnosis session and asking…”what if an alter ego appeared during therapy like that and threatened to commit murder now that he was ’free’”?

What if a series of murders began – replicating exactly what the alter personality had promised to do? There had only been two people in the room that night. Only two people who could know what was said…what if one of those people became his first victim? The therapist would be the only one left…she would have to work out how that could happen.

It would be the ultimate “locked room” mystery, but it would be a locked mind instead and the therapist would have to find the key to explain it.

It was an intriguing premise, but I wanted to write crime fiction – not ghost stories, so I knew I had to come up with a way of making it a ‘flesh-and-blood’ killer committing the crimes. How could that be possible in this scenario? It bubbled away for a few years and as I became more experienced and gained more knowledge in the field of psychology and hypnotherapy, I started to formulate a ‘How done it’. Once I had that, it was obvious that the protagonist would have to be the Psychologist and so Jo McCready was born. Then the rest fell into place.

 

 

 

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What’s DCI Callum Ferguson’s role in the story?

Callum Ferguson is a Detective Chief Inspector in the West Yorkshire Police. He is the senior investigating officer into Martha’s murder. He and Jo McCready met the previous year when Jo was called in as a Forensic Psychologist to assist in a case he was involved with. Callum and Jo had a romantic history in the past, which simmers below the surface during their time together on the Jack the Ripper copycat case featured in The Murder Mile.

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Police Intelligent Unit profiler Liz Taylor and Jo McCready?

Liz Taylor-Caine is West Yorkshire Police’s own Forensic Psychologist. She is younger and less experienced than Jo McCready and seriously resents Jo’s involvement in the current case. Jo tries not to tread on Liz’s toes, but Liz is bitter and it soon becomes clear that she will do anything to undermine Jo. Although Jo tries to maintain a professional relationship with the other woman, it is safe to say that the two are definitely not friends and allies.

 

 

 

About Lesley McEvoy

 

Lesley McEvoy was born and bred in Yorkshire in the North of England and has had a passion for writing all her life. The writing took a backseat as Lesley developed her career as a Behavioral Analyst / Profiler and Psychotherapist – setting up her own Consultancy business and therapy practice. She has written and presented extensively around the world for over 25 years specializing in behavioral profiling and training, with a wide variety of organisations. The corporate world provided unexpected sources of writing material when, as Lesley said – she found more psychopaths in business than in prison! Lesley’s work in some of the UK’s toughest prisons was where she met people whose lives had been characterized by drugs and violence – a rich source of material for the themes she now writes about.

 

 

Lesley McEvoy

 

 

 

William Bernhardt Discusses His New Legal Thriller – The Last Chance Lawyer

 

 

The Last chance lawyer image

 

 

Getting his client off death row could save his career… or make him the next victim.

 

 

Interview 

 

What was your creative process for creating Daniel Pike?

I thought it would fun write some more legal thrillers. After nineteen Ben Kincaid novels, I was ready for a break, but with a few years off to write poetry and nonfiction about writing, it seems fun again. I wanted Dan to be a modern man, very in tune with the zeitgeist, smart, fun to spend time with–but not perfect. Perfect people are boring. I can’t relate. Dan has a special skill for rooting out the truth–useful for a criminal lawyer. He’s a bit quirky–wears sneakers to court, carries a backpack rather than a briefcase, lives on a boat. But he has a passion for justice, for preventing the government from railroading innocents, and as the book develops, you’ll see why.  

 

 

What makes him the last chance lawyer?

After a disastrous event early in the book, he joins a new team of lawyers that take their cases from the mysterious Mr. K, who sends them cases no one else can handle (at least not as well). K pays Dan’s salary, not the clients, so money is not the main focus. Dan becomes a lawyer for those who, due to finances or other circumstances, have few options.

 

 

Last chance lawyer image

 

 

 

How is he different than  lawyer Ben Kincaid in your other series?

Dan is everything Ben was not, at least when he started. Dan is confident, showy, outgoing, and successful. Ben was a dogged bur usually effective lawyer. Dan is a showboat. What he learns in this novel is how to be more than a showboat.

 

“Daniel Pike would rather fight for justice than follow the rules.” What is justice from his point of view?

When Dan talks about justice, he means correcting the imbalance in the modern judicial system. Dan knows from experience that the criminal justice system is stacked in favor of the prosecution. We may say people are presumed innocent, but in truth, most people assume the accused are guilty until it is proven otherwise. The threat of incarceration is so great people plea bargain to crimes they didn’t commit. Dan tries to bring the system back into balance.  

 

 

 

Man in prison

 

 

What is the relationship between the objective rule of law and an attorney’s subjective use of it?

I’m not sure what you mean by “the subjective use of it.” The law is the law. Legislators write it, and judges apply it. The defense lawyer’s job is to hold the jury to the law, which says they cannot convict unless guilt has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a high standard. And meant to be.

 

 

What can you tell us about the kind of case he’s undertaking?

At first, Dan is representing a nine-year old immigrant who will be deported, because temporary protected status has been revoked for those from her country (after decades), unless she is adopted. Then the prospective adoptive mother is accused or murder.  

 

 

What were some challenges while writing this book, or beginning a new series?

Unlike when I started with Ben, I planned this to be a series from the start. You will see some of the threads sewn into the first book. This is a self-contained novel, but there are elements planted that will expand and combine to form a much larger story over the course of many books.

 

 

What’s next?

In July, the second Daniel Pike book (which I’ve already finished). Court of Killers.

 

 

William Bernhardt image

 

William Bernhardt is the author of forty-seven books, including the bestselling Ben Kincaid series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and the Red Sneaker books on fiction writing. His most recent novel is The Last Chance Lawyer, the first in a new series of legal thrillers featuring rebel lawyer Daniel Pike.

In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writers Center to mentor aspiring writers. The Center hosts an annual writers conference, small-group seminars, a monthly newsletter, a phone app, and a bi-weekly podcast. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have subsequently published with major houses. He is also the owner of Balkan Press, which publishes poetry and fiction as well as the literary journal Conclave. He has published many new authors as well as prominent authors like Pulitzer-Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and Grammy-Award-winner Janis Ian.

 

WilliamBernhardt.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside The Devil’s Half Mile with Historical Fiction Author Paddy Hirsch

The Devils Half MIle image

 

 

1799 New York – A Hell of a Town

 

Interview

 

What led you to become a historical fiction writer?

I became an historical novelist rather by accident. I wrote a non-fiction book called Man vs Markets in 2001 with HarperCollins. It’s a book that uses analogy and humor to explain the financial markets. I wanted to do a follow-up on how an actual financial market gets formed and why, and I wanted to focus on the US markets and the creation of the New York Stock Exchange, both of which were created in a comparatively short time after the Revolutionary War. It was very interesting in principle: the market was created with very few rules, and the result was a dysfunctional mess that was not particularly good at raising capital  – which is what the matte is supposed to do. After the markets, and the economy nearly collapsed in America’s first financial crisis, The Great Panic of 1792, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had a debate about whether they should make some rules for traders, or just let laissez faire persist. Are you still with me? Yeah, so it wasn’t really that interesting at all. in fact it was pretty bloody boring, and I realized I was doing a lot of research but no writing. So I started to write a little sidebar to the history narrative, a fictional soupçon that involved a murder and lawyer and a bunch of Irish gangsters. That was much more interesting, and I ended up ditching the history and sticking to the novel. And here we are!

 

 

 

Wall Street road sign, Lower Manhattan, New York City

 

 

 

What interested you to write about 1799 New York?

1799 was a very interesting year for New York. The city had been the capital of the United States, but was no longer. The State passed a law for the gradual abolition of slavery that year, and it was the year before the turn of the century, which is always an interesting time.

 

 

 

5th Avenue (Ave) Sign, New York NYC

 

 

 

Describe the historical context of this time period.

Both the city and the country were on the cusp of a lot of things, politically, socially and economically. The industrial revolution had begun, but hadn’t really reached America by this point: the canals hadn’t been dug, and technology transfer from Europe was still in its infancy, which was why slave labor was so important to the economy at the time. Momentum was gathering for abolition, and almost all of the Northern States had fallen in line at this point, so the scene was set for dispute with the south. Abolition in New York drew black people  – free African Americans and runaway slaves – to the city in large numbers. That set up a good deal of tension with the Irish, as both groups were generally not educated and were shut out of society and economic advancement, which meant they competed for the same jobs. The Irish had not yet started to come in the numbers they would when the Famine hit Ireland, 50 years later, but interest was picking up, and they were probably the largest immigrant group in the city at the time. The City fathers were beginning to realize that a lot of people were going to come to New York over the next few decades, and they’d better get ready. So they began drawing up a plan of Manhattan, anticipating that they’d need to pave over the entire island. This when the city boundaries had not even reached what is now Canal Street. It was a good thing they had that foresight: in 1800 there were about 60,000 people in the city, but just sixty years later, the count was up to a million.  

Meanwhile, America was in a kind of on-again off-again war with the English, which made trade difficult, and crimped the economy somewhat. But the country’s financial markets were developing in New York and Philadelphia, and America was realizing its promise as a country extraordinarily wealthy in commodities of all kinds. Essentially, in 1799, America was about to enter a serious boom, which makes it a very exciting time to write about.

 

 

 

1799 New York image

 

 

 

What’s the story behind the name Devil’s Half Mile aka Wall Street?

I found the nickname the Devil’s Half mile in a letter that I found in the Library of Congress. I’d like to say everyone thought of Wall Street as a place that the Devil reigns supreme, but It is the only reference that I have ever found. Which is probably not surprising, as Wall Street is only about a third of a mile long, and that’s with the landfill!

 

 

What contribution did Alexander Hamilton make at that time?

Alexander Hamilton had all but retired from public life by 1799, and within five years he’d be dead, shot to death in a duel with his old enemy Aaron Burr. his influence on New York and on Wall Street can’t be overestimated. He was a forceful proponent of abolition, and he was the savior of Wall Street during the Great Panic. He engineered a bank bailout that restored faith in the financial system and prevented a run on the banks that could have brought the nascent US economy to its knees. In 1799, he was an ordinary lawyer and investor, but he was still hugely influential in New York political and  financial circles. And socially, too, even if he did live a long way up Manhattan island on his estate.

 

 

 

Macro shot of ten dollars banknote

 

 

 

Who is Justy Flanagan and what’s his role in the story?

Justy is a new American, born in New York to Irish parents. His father and uncle emigrated from Ireland after the Revolutionary War, and while his father decided to take the high road and try to carve out a career as a trader, his uncle opted for the waterfront, where he lords it over the Irish gangs, who call him The Bull. Justy’s mother  died when he was young, and his father was found hanged in his hallway in the wake of the Great Panic. Everyone assumed suicide, and the Bull took Justy in and sent him to the new Catholic University at Maynooth in Ireland. While there, Justy studies law, and dabbles in criminology. He realizes his father could not have killed himself and must have been murdered. So he returns to New York to find out whodunit and why.

 

 

Tell us some interesting facts you learned about in your research.

I was struck by the lawlessness of the United States and New York at the time. It’s not really surprising when you think about it: America broke away from Britain because it objected to all those rules, after all. It makes sense, then, that the founders wanted to design a society that was quite libertarian. And that meant very few rules. Pretty much anything went back in those days. Drugs, booze, prostitution, littering, driving on the wrong side of the road, selling dodgy investments; it was all quite legal. The only real crimes were those against person and property. I was also struck by the opposition to having a police force. I knew that the NYPD wasn’t really formed until 1845, even though the city experienced a tremendous rise in criminality starting in the 1820s, but I didn’t know why. The expense, which was considerable, was only half the reason. It turns out that there was also considerable opposition to having anything remotely resembling a standing army in the city. During the Revolutionary War, the British Army was garrisoned inside the city. At the hint of any unrest, the army was broken out of barracks and told to crack heads. New Yorkers were very resentful of this, and wanted to be sure the like of it never happened again. The concept of a police force looked a lot like an army to many, which was why it took so long to form one.

 

 

 

What’s next for you?

I’m publishing a  sequel to The Devil’s Half Mile, called Hudson’s Kill. It comes out on 17 September. And meanwhile I’m working on a couple of things: I’m building a series that my UK publisher is calling Lawless New York, which I rather like. I have ideas for as many as eight ideas in total. And I’m also working on a contemporary novel, set simultaneously in Los Angeles and Belfast, Northern Ireland. And I still have my day job, editing an NPR economics podcast, called The Indicator from Planet Money.

 

 

 

Paddy Hirsch image

 

 

 

Paddy Hirsch is an author and Murrow award-winning journalist. His first novel is The Devil’s Half Mile, an historical thriller with a financial twist, set in New York in 1799.

He is the author of Man vs Markets; Economics Explained, Plain and Simple. Publisher’s Weekly called the book ” “A straightforward, accessible, and often hilarious overview of our financial and economic systems, products, and concepts.”

He works as a supervising editor at NPR’s planet Money. He is also the creator and host of Marketplace Whiteboard, an award-winning video explainer of financial and economic terms.

 

Paddy Hirsch | Amazon | Goodreads