If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th. In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lowcountry Crime Authors--An Interview by E. B. Davis


Coming from the rolling land of south-central Pennsylvania, where hilltops reveal vistas of farmland and trees, the Lowcounty is alien to me. Perhaps because of that, I’m drawn to novels set there. I’ve never had the opportunity to explore the area, flying over it on the way to Florida. As a Yankee, its past seems hard and cruel. Like a ghost, Lowcountry history glimmers on the edge of peripheral vision and begs the question—was that real?

By contrast, I imagine the environment to feel hot, boggy, and wet, delicious to a cold Northerner. But, as tempting as that sultry environment may be, I remind myself; those are also elements of decay. 

One summer I gorged on Mary Alice Monroe and Dorothea Benton Frank novels. I couldn’t stop. I wanted more. I read Karen White, Susan Boyer, and Kendel Lynn novels. But I still wanted more.

The rich prose contained in Lowcountry Crime fixed my addiction—for a while. Four contemporary novellas comprise the volume. Authors Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson set their stories in different Lowcountry locations; Savannah, Charleston, St. Simons Island/Fernandina Beach, and Tybee Island. The stories are set in present day, but each one reveals an aspect of Lowcountry history, and the stories’ main characters are mired in their own personal histories, complicating the crimes and their solutions.

Please welcome Jonathan Bryant to WWK, Polly Iyer back to WWK, and WWK bloggers, Tina Whittle and Jim Jackson as guests.                                                                                                     E. B. Davis

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Boone chuckled, and there was a tenderness in his expression that I didn’t recall
ever seeing before. “You got a soft spot for people in trouble, you know that?”

I shrugged. “You told me once that trouble was like a freight train. It
might be slow in coming, but it will always arrive.”

He nodded. He was a disciple of trouble.

Tina Whittle, Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming, Kindle Loc. 647





 Were you afraid in this age of political correctness that readers wouldn’t like your smoking, living-easy, Camaro-driving main character, Tai Randolph?

Tai has, as they say, a strong voice (and a strong vocabulary to match). Her personality suits the tone that Jim (our editor and publisher and fellow author) articulated for this anthology: north of cozy, south of noir. Her nature is not a people-pleasing one, but if I ever found myself in a bar fight or falsely accused of a crime, I’d want her by my side.

In this novella, we’re meeting a twenty-five-year-old Tai, about five years younger than the Tai of The Dangerous Edge of Things, the first novel in the series. She’s got hardships ahead of her that she can’t see coming, trials that season and mature her. She doesn’t have much use for the polite or the politic. But she is compassionate and loyal, smart and fierce. Under that somewhat abrasive exterior is a good, strong heart. I trust that readers who appreciate such will find their way to her.

Even though Tai’s mother pretends most of their relatives don’t exist, Tai doesn’t. Why?

One of the themes I explore in the series is identity construction, how we use the stories we tell about ourselves to create who we are. Tai’s mother grew up hardscrabble. She wanted a safe life, a comfortable life, and she made the choices that she thought would create such a life. But it didn’t work. She’s stuck in Savannah, a widow now, and she’s trying to force the facts of her life into a different story, hence her somewhat ruthless pruning of the more troublesome details of the family history.

Tai resists such editing. She appreciates people who are rough around the edges, the ramshackle and rebellious. She knows that stories are truer than facts, that the things we hide are the things that reveal our true natures. It’s one of the qualities that make her an excellent sleuth—she’s a true connoisseur of skeletons in the closet.

Friend Rico doesn’t like Tai’s roommate Hope. Why does he call her Hope-less?

Tai is not at all surprised that Rico and Hope get along like—in her words—“struck matches and gasoline.” Hope is Tai’s co-worker and roommate, and even though she doesn’t appear on the page in “Trouble,” readers of the series will recognize her from two of the novels, where she creates major complications in Tai’s lie.  And truth be told, Rico is a much better judge of character than Tai (and he’s a professional poet, so he can’t resist wordplay).

Tai sometimes has a hard time seeing beyond the flash and dazzle of narcissists like Hope, who can be a lot of fun after midnight when the liquor is flowing, but who never show up in the crunch. And while Rico is always good for a party, he’s got a steady, practical soul. He’s Tai’s North Star, and she’s his Southern Cross. Their friendship crosses many demographic boundaries—gender and ethnicity included—but they share a mutual history and a deep respect for each other. Hope will eventually betray her, but Rico will always be her BFF.

Explain for our readers what a “bib mule” is?

It’s a great phrase, isn’t it? I’d never heard of such a thing until a writer friend and I were having lunch and talking about criminal misbehavior, as mystery writers are wont to do, and she told me about a problem in the marathon running community—slower runners were paying faster ones to run in their place in qualifying marathons, which earned them trophies and acclaim and sometimes even entry spots in prestigious races like the Boston Marathon.

The way the scheme works is simple. The faster runner carries the slower runner’s timing chip and wears the associated race number—the “bib” part of “bib mule”—and the slower runner gets the credit for a very fast time. It’s brilliant and not exactly illegal, but it’s certainly cause for being disqualified and shunned in the racing world (which is apparently rife with bib swappers, course cutters, forgers, and other race day bandits). It’s also full of runners whose second favorite sport is catching cheaters through mathematical analysis, course monitoring, and unwavering vigilance. So bib mules beware.

It just goes to show that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and where there’s a way, there’s a cheater. And where there’s a cheater, there’s someone determined to catch him. Or her. One of the most famous cheaters in marathon running history is Rosie Ruiz, who cut the course at the Boston Marathon and whose name has now become a verb (to cheat one’s way to an undeserved win is called Rosie Ruizing).

Why is putting a few red-skinned peanuts into cola considered Lowcountry old school? Do you eat the peanuts or does it affect the soda?

Pairing salted peanuts and cold Coca-Cola—not Pepsi or any other soft drink, and always in a bottle, never a can—is more than a genius pairing of sweet and savory; it’s a piece of true Southern culture. Food historians speculate how it got started. Some credit farmers too busy to stop for proper nourishment with the idea of dumping a handful of protein into a sugar- and caffeine-laden liquid. John T. Edge, Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the Center for Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, says the idea is pure country store culture, describing the combination as a “prototype fast-food for the 20th century South.”

Regardless, it is as Southern as all get out; the practice is practically unheard of beyond the Mason-Dixon line. To experience it, all you have to do is drink enough of the soda to leave a little room at the top and then tip in a handful of salted roasted peanuts (red-skinned or otherwise). Sip a little, chew a little. Repeat until the bottle is empty.

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Once he’d experienced the exhilaration and heart-pounding thrill of the
steal, he was hooked, an addiction no different from heroin or cocaine. It was part of
why thieves did what they did. Each job was a test, a challenge. This time he’d
have to be extra careful because he was definitely marked.

Polly Iyer, The Last Heist, Kindle Loc. 1282

Paul and Marcus trust each other. Do you think there is such a thing as honor among thieves?

Paul and Marcus, whose area of expertise is fine art, are gentlemen thieves. I can’t see either of them ratting out the other to protect himself, so in their case, there is honor. As a teenager, Paul took the blame for another person’s crime and didn’t tell. As for other criminals, many make plea bargains by implicating someone else to lessen their sentences. So, the short answer to my long answer is honor among thieves is rare.

I didn’t know about gemstones being laser identified. How is it done? Are the stones actually marked?

A laser inscription is a permanent mark on the perimeter of the stone used for identification. It doesn’t affect the color, clarity or structure of the stone. If such an identification exists on a stone Paul steals, he would have it recut.

What is it about jewel thieves, which makes them seem glamorous?

Maybe jewel thieves seem more glamorous than safe-cracking crooks because it’s a classier crime, portrayed by the likes of Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief and other movies like The Pink Panther. The thieves are all debonair and rich. Paul Swan, the character from my novel, Indiscretion, is rich, handsome, and smart. Of course. Who writes heroes who aren’t all those things?

Paul was sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit as a juvenile. Why did he turn to a life of crime?

After serving his time, everyone in town knew what he had supposedly done, and he never denied that he did it. You’d have to read Indiscretion to find out what actually happened. No one would give him an honest job. He was always good with cars, so he went to work in a garage, which turned out to be a chop shop. When the police closed down that business, he took a job in a jewelry store. The owner taught him all about diamonds, but he was also the mastermind behind a series of jewelry thefts. Paul learned a lot about gemstones, learned a lot about stealing them. Later, both “apprenticeships” served to develop his cover. He traveled the world under the guise of buying expensive automobiles for clients, which he actually did, while casing rich marks and stealing their diamonds.

Is this really Paul’s last heist?

The Last Heist takes place before Indiscretion. At that point of the latter, he is out of the diamond-stealing business but still buying automobiles. His expertise as a thief comes in handy in the story, however. I have another Paul Swan book in the works where he’s forced back into stealing a diamond, but it’s far from finished.

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“Larceny? Of what? From who?”

“Mrs. Porte Edelstein, your former mother-in-law reported the painting missing.”

“Painting? She has lots of nice paintings.”

“Well, this is one of the nicest. The Blue Nude. Or the Femme Nue Trois. Mrs. Edelstein mentioned that you liked it the best of all her collection.”

Jonathan M. Bryant, Blue Nude, Kindle Loc. 2309

Does Bradley have bad taste in women, or does he allow them to choose him?

Brad is a damaged man, and so he is very vulnerable.  In some ways he suffers from post-traumatic stress issues. He desperately wants close relationships, but his judgment is suspect.  One reason he lives on a boat is it protects him by limiting contact with people.  If an aggressive woman comes along, however, . . .

Why does Bradley care enough about Judy to want to help her?

He cares about her to a certain extent; she is his ex-wife and they had a daughter together.  Brad’s leading motivation, however, is protecting himself from the police.  Once he learns of the insurance policy, he knows he is a prime suspect in the theft of the Picasso.  He could be in very deep trouble.  Worse, if Judy is found dead, he will be a clear suspect for murder as well.  Brad does not always make good choices, and some of his actions while seeking Judy reflect that.

Mrs. Edelstein insinuates that Bradley might have stolen the painting. Is this to get him involved to exonerate her daughter, or does she have dementia?

Mrs. Edelstein suffers from dementia-like behavior, but really it most resembles Huntington's disease.  That said, she is still together enough to construct a plot that will save her daughter Judy from financial disaster.  If the police conclude someone stole the painting, she thinks, far better it be Brad who is arrested for the theft, not her daughter. 

Your knowledge of boats seems extensive. Do you have a boat? Have you sailed from Fernandina Beach to St. Simons?

I’ve sailed all my life.  My father had a San Juan 24, and then an O’Day 28.  Those were the boats I learned to sail on.  My current boat is the largest I’ve ever owned, a Catalina 309.  My wife and I sail the Islands of the Georgia coast, and we have kayaked there extensively as well.  And yes, I have sailed the Intracoastal Waterway from Fernandina to St. Simons, and I’ve done it on the outside as well.  I’ve also sat for hours with my wife in a very small nineteen-foot sailboat I put on a mud bank just a few hundred yards from the Golden Isles Marina.  If a marriage can survive that, it can survive anything.  

What’s a dinghy painter?

Ah, the dilemmas of the writer!  There is always the struggle to write simply and clearly, which often relies upon specialized vocabulary.  This is particularly true in writing history; how much can you assume the reader knows?  In this story, I assume the reader knows little about sailing, so I tried to limit nautical terms, using just enough to give a sense of the sailing world. 

The painter is a line, or rope, on the front of a small boat used to tow it or tie the boat to a dock.  A dinghy is a small boat carried or towed by a larger vessel.  It is always a neighborly gesture to catch someone’s dinghy painter and help them tie to a dock.

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“Are you one of those cop wannabees? A modern-day Batman?”

I’d heard this refrain before from police officers feeling threatened when their
departments had called in my services to “help” them with one of their cases….I
pushed the chair back so hard it toppled to the floor with a bang. “So if you think
I’m Loony Tunes and lying through my teeth, that’s on you. I’m clear about
what I’ve done. Have a good fucking day, Detective Sergeant Issa.”

James M. Jackson, Low Tide At Tybee, Loc. 4175

You were a traditionally published author but decided to go indie. Why?

After several years’ experience with a small publisher, I did a cost-benefit analysis reflecting the services I received from them and costs of taking on those responsibilities myself. Because small publishers can afford to do little marketing other than running periodic sales, I realized the major tasks the publisher performed were copyediting, cover design, and producing the ebooks and physical books for distribution. I already paid for story editing before turning the manuscript into the publisher.

I’m sufficiently techy that I can produce quality electronic and paperback books. My analysis suggested the extra revenue I’d capture from controlling the entire revenue stream (rather than half) exceeded the out-of-pocket costs for cover design and professional copyediting. In addition, I can rapidly correct, in electronic versions, any typos that readers find. Plus, taking control of the Seamus McCree series allows me to market the entire series more effectively.

Your novella jumps from events in your novels. Will you include events from this novella in your novels or will this be a story in between novels?

Four Seamus McCree novels have been published and two (Empty Promises and False Promises) are working their way toward publication. Low Tide at Tybee occurs several years after the events in False Promises. Using an “L” title allows me wiggle room for the “G” through “K” of the series should I choose to write something in between.

Seamus’s mother is a wonderful character and possesses a quirky skill. She’s changed so much from your first book. Tell our readers about her.

When we first meet “Mom” in Bad Policy, she has reacted to a family trauma by not speaking a word for decades. She resides in a private institution and we learn that, despite her silence, she holds a weekly darts exhibition that the other patients love.

A shock occurring in Bad Policy starts her on a road to recovery, which is mostly complete by the time of Low Tide at Tybee. Her darts abilities play a role in Bad Policy, Doubtful Relations, False Promises, and now in Low Tide at Tybee.

I was tipped off that the rental management company’s sales agent wasn’t on the up and up by her flood insurance remarks about Hurricane Matthew. Is that how Seamus knew she was involved in the scam?

FEMA insurance rates for our place in Savannah have more than doubled in the last three years. Even so, Seamus is not savvy about the history or costs of FEMA insurance, so that issue flew under his radar. His suspicion arises because the shady character possessed more information about the condo Seamus planned to buy than the guy could get on his own.

You’ve ended the story with Seamus solving the crime but there is an element of irony, which he acknowledges. Can the same be said for you?

Seamus McCree sometimes thinks he’s in charge of the world and everything that happens revolves around him. Often his son, Paddy, is the one who pulls him back to Earth. But as the series progresses, he’s become more aware of his tendencies and sometimes can see for himself the irony of his self-aggrandizement. I admit to thinking a lot of myself in my younger years; not so much anymore.

Is this the start of editing and publishing other authors’ work under Wolf’s Echo Press imprint?

I enjoyed story-editing the other three novellas and think my suggestions improved those stories. I’ve given thought to the value proposition Jan (my life partner, who is an excellent copyeditor and proofreader and does that work as a side business) and I could offer authors whose stories fit into the Wolf’s Echo Press niche: crime stories north of cozy and south of noir.

I think we can make a good story better, and produce it with few errors. (It’s nearly impossible to produce 80,000 words without an error or two or three.) We’ve received compliments on the print and ebook layouts we’ve created. That’s the value we can offer.

As a nano-publisher, authors need to recognize that we have no marketing or sales leverage; that responsibility remains with them. All we can do is try to work with authors on their sales and marketing strategies.

If authors think that’s a fair proposition for them, we’re willing to talk.

Elaine, all of us want to thank you for your thoughtful interview.

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I highly recommend Lowcountry Crime. If you’d like to buy it, here’s the link on Amazon. Lowcountry Crime is also available for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

13 comments:

Tina said...

Thank you for interviewing us, E. B.! I had a great time pondering your questions and learning more about my co-authors' writing processes.

Jim Jackson said...

What a treat to see what you found interesting in each of the stories, Elaine, and how each of the authors addressed your questions.

Thanks again,
~ Jim

Polly Iyer said...

Thanks so much for the interview, Elaine. You always do such a great job and come up with interesting questions that make authors explain the motives of their characters. I thoroughly enjoyed being in this anthology with three terrific writers and great editing.

Art Taylor said...

Nice interview--interviewS!! Sounds like a terrific collection.

Margaret Turkevich said...

great interview Elaine!

Warren Bull said...

Great interview and the book sounds like a winner.

Gloria Alden said...

I have the book, and all four stories were great. It would be hard to pick a favorite out of the four. Each were appealing in their own way and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Good interview with the authors.

Grace Topping said...

Terrific interview and terrific-sounding stories. Congratulations to all of you for writing and publishing your novellas.

Shari Randall said...

Congratulations to you all. What a cool anthology. In today's world, I think novellas and short stories make so much sense for readers. I wish you all great success.

Julie Tollefson said...

Great interview! I have the anthology and I'm looking forward to some terrific reading!

Jon said...

Elaine, thanks so much for doing this interview. I'm the new guy in the crowd. It was so exciting to write fiction instead of history and then to have someone ask good questions about the thought process. Off to the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend, where I'll make sure to mention this anthology.

Tina said...

Thank you everyone who picked up a copy of our anthology -- I hope you all enjoy it! I am honored to be read by such a fine bunch of writers.

Linda Thorne said...

I enjoyed this interview. I normally read novels, but last year I read a collection of short stories for the first time in ages and wondered why I had not been doing that all a long. It was a type of fun break from the beginning-to-end novel. I haven't read many anthologies, but this sounds like a good one. Love the pictures. Low-hanging moss always brings up pictures that include smells, feelings, atmosphere.