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WWK welcomes Welcome Wednesday author interview guests--Polly Iyer (8/5), Susan Froetschel (8/12), Mindy Quigley (8/19), Maria Hudgins (8/26) to our blog. Our guest bloggers this month are--Martha Crites (8/1), Sarah Fox (8/8), and Ronnie Allen (8/29), in addition to our fabulous Saturday bloggers, Sam Morton (8/15), and Kait Carson (8/22).
"A Matter of Honor" by Robert Dugoni and Paula Gail Benson will be published in the first Killer Nashville anthology, Killer Nashville Noir: The Living and the Dead (working title), scheduled for release in October 2015.
James M. Jackson's Seamus McCree novel, Ant Farm, was chosen for the Kindle Select program. Ant Farm released on Amazon on June 16th. Congratulations, Jim!
Warren Bull's short story, "When Stinking Aliens Take Over Your Planet," will appear as the first story in Strange Mysteries 6. His story, "Wrestling With The Noon-Day Demon" was accepted for a vacation anthology that Dark House Press will release soon. Congratulations, Warren!
Gloria Alden released her fifth novel in her gardening series, Murder in the Corn Maze. "Mincemeat is for Murder," Gloria's short story, appears in the Bethlehem Writers Anthology, Let It Snow.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
An Interview with Agatha Nominee Sasscer Hill
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/.