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

Here are the upcoming WWK interviews for the month of June!

June 6 Maggie Toussaint, Confound It

June 13 Nicole J. Burton, Swimming Up the Sun

June 20 Julie Mulhern, Shadow Dancing

June 27 Abby L. Vandiver, Debut author, Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies

Our June Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 6/2--Joanne Guidoccio, 6/9 Julie Mulhern, 6/16--Margaret S. Hamilton, 6/23--Kait Carson, and 6/30--Edith Maxwell.

Please welcome two new members to WWK--Annette Dashofy, who will blog on alternative Sundays with Jim Jackson, and Nancy Eady, who will blog on every fourth Monday. Thanks for blogging with us Annette and Nancy!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Annette Dashofy's Uneasy Prey was released in March. It is the sixth Zoe Chambers Mystery. The seventh, Cry Wolf, will be released on September 18th. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Annette on September 19th.

Carla Damron's quirky short story, "Subplot", was published in the Spring edition of The Offbeat Literary Journal. You can find it here: http://offbeat.msu.edu/volume-18-spring-2018/

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), was published on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here. He's working on Seamus McCree #6 (False Bottom)

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

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.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in July 31, 2018.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Interview With Linda Rodriguez

"My universe was severely out of whack.”
Main character, Skeet Bannion
                                                             Linda Rodriguez
                                                             Every Broken Trust

Linda Rodriguez won the Malice Domestic contest in 2011 for her manuscript of Every Last Secret, published by St. Martins in 2012. No wonder why—if you read that novel, you’ll know that Skeet Bannion, her main character, does what life requires and the hurdles in her life are set high. In Every Broken Trust, Linda continues Skeet’s troubles as the chief of campus police for a large university located near Kansas City. In this book, Linda ups the ante. Don’t miss the powerful writing and an ending that will catch readers by surprise and catapult them from their seats. This is the strongest second novel I’ve ever read. I’m honored that Linda writes for WWK.                E. B. Davis

To refresh our readers’ memories, could you give us a short overview of the series and the plot of Every Broken Trust?

In the opening book of the series, Every Last Secret, Skeet Bannion found that the small Missouri town of Brewster could be as full of treacherous secrets as the streets of Kansas City she’d left behind to become chief of campus police at Chouteau University. At the beginning of Every Broken Trust, she’s now raising Brian Jameson, the teenage boy she rescued in the first book, and sharing care with her ex-husband of her alcoholic father in his post-stroke rehabilitation. Mel Melvin, a figure from Skeet’s and her best friend Karen Wise’s shared past, moves to Brewster with his new wealthy wife and his troubled teenage daughter, bringing with him a wealthy businessman/political backer and his dangerous employee. His welcome party rapidly turns into disaster when Karen stumbles on a body in Chouteau University’s storage caves and is attacked herself. Skeet works to keep Karen safe, even as Karen becomes obsessed with the dead man’s drunken claim that her husband’s accidental death years earlier was murder.

Brian’s emotional entanglement with the rebellious daughter and Karen’s fixation on the politician as her husband’s murderer frustrate Skeet’s efforts to keep them both safe and out of trouble while she tracks down the killer. Even Skeet’s friends and neighbors in Brewster keep secrets from her, and Skeet wonders if any of them are what they seem. Not knowing who she can trust any longer, Skeet struggles against the clock to solve a series of linked murders stretching into the past before she loses Brian forever and her best friend winds up in jail—or dead.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m a sort of in-betweener. I write a scene-by-scene outline before I start a book, only to abandon it as the book comes alive and takes me down trickier, more interesting pathways. I rewrite the outline as I go along, and it comes in very handy in the revision stages. I used to feel guilty about this until I read Elizabeth George’s Write Away (which I heartily recommend). She says she outlines fifty pages and writes them, and then outlines the next fifty pages and writes them—all the way through the end of the book. I realized that’s essentially what I do, as well, and I figured, if a writer as respected as George does it, I won’t feel so bad about it.

So—you know “whodunit” before you start writing. Does the killer ever change as you revise? Or do you stick to your original outline as far as the outcome is concerned?

The killer has changed in both books from the person first intended, as has the motive, and in each case that change was definitely for the better. I panic in the middle of the book and flail around and whine about “How could I be so stupid? This won’t work!” etc., etc. Then I buckle down and go deeper within the characters and come up with a much better murderer and motive. It entails quite a bit of revision of the first half of the book, but it makes it all much stronger. The odd thing, though, is that the climactic scene tends to remain the same—different locale, murderer, motive, but the same basic scene that I initially envisioned.

Your plots are complex, and, as Skeet investigates, her ideas about the motive change. Some writers use software designed for plotting. How do you keep track of all the details, especially when you revise the outline?

I was trying to use writing software for this next book I’m writing, but I lost a laptop after beginning and ran into some problems as I restored everything to the new computer, so I’ve moved back to Word. I was finding the software very helpful and will probably try it again with the next book from the beginning. Otherwise, I tend to use tons of Word files and Excel files and photo files (for locations). I have documents for individual characters, major characters’ freewriting journal-type entries, lists of all the characters and their key physical attributes, lists of scenes I’d like to see in the book somewhere (which I may or may not use), lists of questions to answer about the book and the characters, and much more. It gets unwieldy, and one of the things I liked about the writing software was that it includes most of that and kept it accessible from the writing screen.

In Every Broken Trust, Skeet must investigate a previous death. How do you handle the dreaded backstory that is every writer’s nightmare but that is necessary for Skeet to explore?

That was a very hard element for this book, but absolutely necessary. I tried to let a lot of that information come out in dialogue as Skeet questions people, but some of the emotional impact had to come as Skeet’s memories of her own grief at the death of Karen’s husband. Another way to make it less of a nightmare was to give out just little pieces of that past information at a time and let some other non-involved people, such as Skeet’s old Homicide team and the retired bailiff, give some of it. And of course, there are secrets within secrets that are part of that past event that must only come out bit by bit as Skeet works to discover them.

Your secondary characters are vivid. Do you complete character sketches of each character before you write? Or as you write, do those characters come alive?

I do character sketches of all my characters, but I find that some of the most interesting aspects of them still catch me by surprise as I’m writing them. Whenever I’m stuck and can’t figure out how to get where I want to go or where to go from the point I’m at, I start freewriting from the point of view of first one character and then another. Inevitably, something catches fire, and I can take off again.

Many WWK readers are dealing with elderly parents or are sandwiched between parents and children. Skeet has a love/hate relationship with her father, and as dysfunctional as their relationship is, the scenes that involve him almost seem like comic relief to the investigation. Is that how we are to deal with elderly parents—with love and humor—even when they become caricatures of themselves?

Skeet worshipped her father as a kid, and she shouldn’t have, as she’s come to realize. Still, there’s a great deal of love left for this crusty, old, misbehaving guy. Sometimes, Skeet has to put the fear of something into him to get him to do the things they both know he must do if he’s to regain any of his health and strength. I think love and humor have to play a part in our dealings with elderly parents, just as they do in our relationships with our children and our partners.

Skeet finds herself at a loss when Karen, who Skeet considers a surrogate mother, acts out of character. She finds herself reaching out to her grandmother. Are there people in your life you can count on and others you once thought belonged in the category, but who fooled you?

Part of Skeet’s journey in this series of books is to learn to forgive her parents and make peace with them, and part of doing that meant that Karen and her dead husband Jake, who had become her ideals as chosen parents, had to be shown to be less than perfect. I think part of real maturity is coming to learn that no one is perfect, not all the time, that everyone will fail us in some way or another and we will fail them. We have to learn to accept that and forgive and move on. That’s not to suggest that real serious betrayal—infidelity and abuse—is to be tolerated, but Karen and Jake needed to show clay feet to give Skeet a chance to understand her birth parents’ failings in the past and present. Gran has always been a constant, a point of stability, in Skeet’s life, and so she reaches out to her when she’s in trouble.

As for me, I have many people I can count on, and because I’m not a bright young thing anymore, there have been some who let me down badly and even betrayed me. I consider them folks who gave me a gift of understanding that I’d need as an author.

You build compelling motives for many characters. Some characters have more than one motive for killing the victim. The reader can't determine which motive is the strongest. What changes occur for Skeet to determine which of the many motives that she focuses on?

Skeet focuses on different motives as she learns about their possibilities. At the beginning are a few surface, apparent motives, but as she digs deeper into the problem, she uncovers lies and various kinds of wrongdoing and betrayal in the past. These lead her to stronger and more convoluted motives. One of the things I explore in this book is how love can become twisted and lead to terrible, unthinkable actions that a person might never otherwise take.

The themes of your books focus on secrets and truth, which are interrelated. Skeet’s solving the mystery depends on finding the truth. Secrets disguise truth from those who aren’t privy to the secret. Skeet uncovers hurtful secrets. Characters lie to themselves for self-protection. Is knowing the truth more important or is keeping the secret a kindness more important?

All crime novels are about secrets, no matter what other themes they deal with. I suspect that’s one of their draws. Humans love to uncover secrets. We love to learn the real reasons why other humans do the things they do. I think the situation determines whether or not bringing the truth out is more important or keeping the secret that might destroy someone. On the whole, I tend to fall on the side of the truth. But if, for example, you have an elderly relative who will be devastated to learn that something they always thought was true is false, I think you have to ask if there’s any benefit to counter that devastation, and if not, leave that secret alone for that person.

You depict the pain of truth revealed well. It’s raw and your readers can feel it. How do you project pain and other emotional impacts in your writing?

I think you do it as actors do—by drawing on your own experience. I’m
fortunate that I’ve had lots of different kinds of pain dealt to me in my life, so I have a lot of experiences to draw on. I’m usually in tears when I write those scenes, but you can’t just pour out descriptions of emotion on the page. I believe it was Chekhov who said that, when you depict great pain, you must make your writing precise and cold.

This book in the series doesn’t give closure. You leave many questions open. Do you think that’s fair to the reader, or do authors encapsulate the plot and backstory too neatly?

All of my books in this series are complete stories as far as the mystery goes. Those are resolved at the end. But Skeet’s life and the lives of her friends and family aren’t neatly tied up at the end of the book because life doesn’t work that way. Each mystery changes things profoundly in Skeet’s life, but her father is still who he is, and so is her ex-husband Sam—and usually Skeet’s life has been changed so much by the events of the book that, even after the mystery story is resolved, she can’t really see where her life will go after all of this. At the end of each book, I try to give the reader a peek at what kind of new direction Skeet’s life is taking.

Although you will be continuing to write the Skeet Bannion novels, are you developing a new series?

I have an idea for another mystery series that’s with my agent right now. But if that gets off the ground, it would be in addition to the Skeet Bannion series—it wouldn’t replace Skeet. I have a lot more trouble in line for Skeet, designed to force her to stretch herself beyond her limits each time and further develop herself into the remarkable woman her grandmother has always known she would become.

Every Broken Trust is a “must-read”. But if you want to read it, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning of the series with Every Last Secret. You can buy Linda’s books at your favorite independent bookstore or at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Barb Goffman said...

Nice interview. Keep up the good work, Linda!

E. B. Davis said...

If you haven't read the book, Barb, I urge you to do so. It left quite an impression.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I loved Every Last Secret and am looking forward to reading this one as well.

Best continued success.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

After reading Every Last Secret, I couldn't wait to read the next one. I'm going to check out our local BAM bookstore - the only one in our area and see if they have it. Otherwise, I'll be ordering it from Amazon. I agree with E.B. - if you haven't read the first, you should.

You are an excellent storyteller, Linda

Polly Iyer said...

I just ordered your first book at our library. They sound right up my alley. I love complicated, character-driven novels. And I agree with your process only I go totally without an outline. I find it's more exciting for me that way, because I never know what's going to happen.

Leslie Budewitz said...

What a thoughtful interview -- thanks, Elaine and Linda!

Shari Randall said...

I read an excerpt of your novel and cannot wait to read the whole thing. Skeet is so real and her relationship with Brian is spot on. Keep up the good work and good luck with your new projects.

Kara Cerise said...

I read Every Broken Trust and loved it! I thought it was excellent.