Welcome Wednesday guests for October:
10/01 Finding Sky author, Susan O'Brien;
10/08 Award-winning Hank Phillippi Ryan (Truth Be Told);
10/15 Indie authors Polly Iyer (Backlash) and Ellis Vidler (Prime Target);
10/22 Murder by the Month author, Jess Lourey;
10/29 Marilyn Levinson, Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery author.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Interview with Agatha Nominee Sasscer Hill

Although I haven’t ridden a horse in years and don’t follow horseracing, except for the Triple Crown races that are televised, I read Sasscer Hill’s Full Mortality in one long read, glued to its pages. Hill’s series focuses on horse racing. Her experience in this milieu enables her to create authentic characters, interacting professionally and socially, and with the horses, portrayed as individuals, athletes and property. Full Mortality is a page turner, but learning about the world of horse racing was an extra bonus. E. B. Davis


For those readers who haven’t yet read Full Mortality, could you give us the line log of your Agatha nominated book?

Jockey Nikki Latrelle gets the chance of a lifetime -- to ride the favorite in a stakes race -- only to have her dream destroyed when a mysterious intruder kills her mount the night before the race. When she discovers a gunshot victim, Nikki becomes a prime suspect. Framed and facing a possible murder rap, Nikki is ruled-off Maryland’s Laurel Park racetrack.

Even deprived of income, she cannot abandon an ill-tempered racehorse doomed to slaughter. Nikki and the filly wind up at a seedy stable with a motley group of felons, drunks, and drug-addicts. With help from a fashion-conscious wholesale meat-seller, a recovering addict, and an ancient groom, Nicky follows a crooked trail of insurance scam and betting fraud. But can she clear her name—and put the real criminals behind bars?

Do you hold a jockey’s license?

I have never held a jockey’s license as my race-riding was in “amateur” steeplechase races. I have held an owner’s license in the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. I bred, raised, broke, and did the early training on most of my horses myself.

You mentioned that you won at Pamlico…?

I have won as the “owner” of horse in all those states save Pennsylvania.

How much is Nikki like you?

Nikki is a lot like me, but probably a better person. She got my best qualities -- brave enough to fight the odds, chase after her dreams, but always kind to those less fortunate. Sadly, I might be a tad less kind than Nikki. Happily, she lacks some of my more dubious qualities, and I’m not talking about those!

Full Mortality was a page turner for me. How did you conceive your plot?

After writing my first novel, HEART OF A WINNER, I acquired an agent, but the book was turned down by New York publishers. I took the rejections hard, and after wallowing in self pity, I started Full Mortality. I never thought about a female jockey series, only that jockey “Nikki Latrelle” seemed a good idea for a protagonist. Unfortunately, for me, I galloped into the book the same way as the first novel – by the seat-of-the-pants. I took a snail mail course with Writer’s Digest, where I developed characters and setting, but plot totally eluded me. I’ve never been so stuck.

Desperate, I signed up for a mystery writing course at Maryland’s Bethesda Writer’s Center with author Noreen Wald. She told us to bring a one page plot outline the first day. Yeah, right. But I did it.

Don’t ask me how, but I suddenly saw the story, got pumped, and had the basic plot down lickety split. I was always a good writer, but Noreen showed me craft. Synopses, story arcs, chapter endings with a punch, all the things I knew nothing about. She also convinced me to nail down my plot first. It is, she said, a road map to keep you from getting lost. Amen to that!

Are your characters taken from real life, an amalgam?

I’d have to say taken from real life. For example, my character Mello -- the old groom with second sight -- is modeled after a wonderful black man named Loyd Pinkney. He was a sharecropper on my father’s farm back when I was a little girl, and Maryland still planted tobacco. Lloyd was born on the farm where I live now, stayed here all his life, and kept his own chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and plow horses.

I remember once, I was on a step-ladder painting the chicken coop, when I saw Lloyd running toward me. He grabbed my rickety ladder just as it was about to go over. From the porch of his house, he’d seen disaster heading my way and had rushed to protect me. In my novel, Mello watches over Nikki, but I embellished his character by giving him “the second sight” and adding the reincarnation of the famous Maryland race mare, Gallorette.

There were several references to Christmas in your book, such as red and green colors, discussion of the name Christmas, any reason for that?

The Christmas family has played a major role in my life. Rhoda Christmas Bowling was probably America's first female sports writer. She wrote a racing column for the Washington Times Herald in the nineteen forties, and taught me how to ride when I was quite young. Rhoda's brother, Edward Christmas, trained the legendary Gallorette, the mare that won the Metropolitan and Brooklyn Handicaps, the 1948 Whitney Stakes, and beat the champion colt Stymie. Gallorette became a character in Full Mortality.

Rhoda’s nephew, Donelson Christmas has foaled a number of my horses and been an incredible friend for years. I could write a book about him! His father trained the 1965 Black-Eyed Susans winner, Sue Baru.

How satisfied were you with your publisher, and will you publish with them again?

I am very pleased with my publisher, Wildside Press. It’s a tiny press and there isn’t much cash flowing about, but the owner, John Betancourt, edits my writing and he’s wonderful. My next book, Racing From Death, comes out with Wildside before Christmas, with a January 2012 publication date.

Have agents made you offers since your nomination?

I do not have an agent at the moment, and yes, there have been inquiries.

What is the synopsis of Racing From Death?

Racing at Virginia’s beautiful Colonial Downs twists into a nightmare when a sociopath sells diet cocktails – killing jockeys who struggle to make racing weight.

Alarming events greet Nikki and exercise rider Lorna upon their arrival at Colonial, and Nikki’s unease turns to dismay when bad-boy Bobby Duvayne mesmerizes young Lorna with his raw sexuality and a dangerous supply of drugs.

A hidden meth lab, an old family secret, a body buried years ago in the woods, and Lorna’s disappearance pull Nikki into a race against death.

Since your nomination for the Agatha, have sales of Full Mortality increased?

Yes, they increased quite a bit, but author friends tell me the release of a second book in a series will have an even better effect.

Has the horse world supported your writing?

The horse world has been wonderful! Pimlico racetrack gave me my very first book signing. I sold 38 copies! The Saratoga Museum and the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs have also sponsored book signings. Horse lovers and racing fans have been the biggest buyers so far, but non-horsey readers are multiplying as they hear they can go on the ride whether they know anything about horses or not.

How have you marketed your book?

I mostly market online. I have over 1,600 friends on Facebook, am a member of a variety of lists, and spend time tweeting on Twitter. I’ve done numerous book signings, but sell more books at horse shows and racing events than at any bookstore.

What was the best advise you’ve ever received about writing and publishing?

The best advice I ever got was short, sweet, and from author Noreen Wald. She read my early chapters of Full Mortality, looked me in the eye, and said, “Keep going.”

Sasscer Hill lives on a Maryland farm and has bred racehorses for many years. A winner of amateur steeplechase events, she has galloped her horses on the farm and trained them into the winner’s circle. Her next book, “Racing From Death,” the second in the “Nikki Latrelle Racing Mystery” series, appears in December, 2011. Sasscer is the author of several short stories appearing in the “Chesapeake Crimes” Anthology, her articles have appeared in numerous magazines. Read Chapter 1 of Full Mortality at http://fullmortality.blogspot.com/ or buy Full Mortality at Amazon. Sasscer blogs at: http://www.sasscerhill.blogspot.com/.

18 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

We found out yesterday that Sasscer's book has also been nominated for a Macavity Award. Due to a clitch in Blogger.com, I am unable to edit my posts once they are published or I would have changed my title to include this award. But I wanted to congratulate Sasscer on this achievement. Read the book and you'll know both nominations were well deserved!

Ellis Vidler said...

Very nice interview. Sasscer, I love your advice from Noreen--Keep going. I'm so glad you did. Plotting is the tough part. I'll try harder. :-)
Congratulations and good luck on the Macavity nomination! Well-deserved!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Knowing Sasscer, I'm delighted FULL MORTALITY is up for a Macavity. It's a wonderful book. I hope it wins!

Donnell said...

E.B., Great interview, and Sasscer, again, congratulations on your Macavity Award. You raise so many interesting points, I don't know where to start, but I think what hit me was that you were a panster instead of a plotter.

I take it that has changed now? For a romance I was a panster, for a mystery, I just don't see how that's done LOL. Would you agree?

And finally, I'll bet there's a lot of agent interest in you. Kudos to you and to Mr. Bentancourt at Wildside Press. I love hearing these type of success stories. Well done!

Kara Cerise said...

Congratulations on being nominated for a Macavity Award! Thank you for sharing your insights on writing and publishing. Great advice to "keep going."

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for sharing with us on WWK. It sounds like your hard work and persistence is starting to pay off. We're going to be able to say, "We interviewed her way back when."

Sasscer Hill said...

Thank you E.B. I was too excited to sleep last night and am punchy this morning, but happy. So pleased to be here today!

Sasscer Hill said...

Thank you all for you comments! Yes, the "panster" author is long gone. The plotter is here to stay.

I'd like to mention the short story, "STEAMROLLER; A Nikki Latrelle Short Story" now up on Kindle and Nook for $0.99. I wrote this for the MWA Anthology, originally called "Dark Justice." MWA is calling it something else now, but at any rate Steamroller did not make the cut. I ground my teeth, may have used a bad word or two, and struggled to do a cover and get this short up on the net. It is outselling Full Mortality!

If you'd like to take a peek, here is the link http://www.amazon.com/STEAMROLLER-Nikki-Latrelle-Short-ebook/dp/B0057IS246/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=130

Polly said...

I'm one of the fortunate ones who has read Racing from Death, so I know it will be the perfect follow-up to Full Mortality. I'm so excited for Sasscer. Hard work pays off.

Pauline Alldred said...

Great interview, Elaine and congratulation to Sasscer for your nominations. I definitely want to read your novels. It's strange how horse racing hooks readers. Is it the short fast race, the relationship between jockey and horse, the behind the scenes information about the competition that continues before and after the race? Horses scare me but I lover reading about horses adn jockeys.

joanie murray said...

Great interview Lynda and congrats on the nomination!

Sasscer Hill said...

Thank you Pauline and Joanie! Pauline, I think it is the rich setting, the capacity for crime, which in my books is over ruled by the nobility and wild spirit of the horses and Nikki's tendency to fight the odds,and look out for the helpless.

Also, you don't have to know the first thing about horses to read these books.

E. B. Davis said...

I have a short in the new Chessie's anthology (to release in 2012). It gave me a buzz to know that G.M. Malliet was nominated from the last published anthology. You are one of two nominated from our local chapter, Sasscer. Now I know just how talented our local writers are. BTW-Sasscer and I finished this interview a month ago. The timing couldn't have been better. :)

Sasscer Hill said...

Serendipidty, E.B. Kind of makes the little hairs stand up on the back of your neck doesn't it?

E. B. Davis said...

I've had few of those moments, Sasscer, but when they occur I've felt like "the force" was with me. Very nice, for a change!

Beth Groundwater said...

Congratulations on your Macavity Award nomination, Sasscer. And yes, I hope you keep going. ;-)

Sasscer Hill said...

sI will, keep going, Beth! Thanks.

Kaye George said...

Sasscer, it's wonderful to see you having so much success! You've worked hard for it.