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

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Kaye George's second novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Deadly Sweet Tooth, was released on June 2. Look for the interview here on June 10.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Carolyn Mulford Interview

“Always safer to be paranoid.”
Carolyn Mulford
Show Me the Deadly Deer

 Writing isn’t a new profession for Carolyn Mulford. She earned a Master’s degree in journalism and served as editor for national magazines before going freelance as a writer and an editor. When I read Carolyn’s biography, I laughed. She must have favored fiction early on because one of her jobs required her to write in a “bureaucratic” form, which she hated—so she quit!

2013 has been a busy year for her. Carolyn’s first “Show Me” novel, Show Me the Murder, came out in February. Her second in the series, Show Me the Deadly Deer, will be released in December, making her eligible for an Agatha in two categories. As the titles suggest, Carolyn grew up and lives in Missouri. Please welcome Carolyn to WWK.                                                                E. B. Davis   

Carolyn, before we talk about your series, tell me about your first novel, The Feedsack Dress, which was selected by the The Missouri State Teachers Association in 2008 for the state’s Reading Circle Program for grades five to eight.

Set in rural Missouri in 1949, The Feedsack Dress tells how a farm girl copes with being the only
ninth grader wearing a dress made from  patterned cotton sacks that had contained chicken feed. Gail becomes the major target of the queen of mean. Gail fights back for herself and others and, unintentionally, becomes the leader of new friends rebelling against the queen’s court.

I wrote the book after working in Ethiopia, Austria, and Washington, D.C. When I went to Missouri to visit family, I was struck by how much had changed. I wanted to portray life during the economic and social transition that followed World War II. My main character uses her brain, courage, and caring to make a parallel personal transition, from a one-room rural school to the junior high in town. The feedsack dress serves as a symbol for any difference that attracts the attention of bullies. She’s a girl of her time dealing with a timeless problem.

Would you provide a “Show Me” series synopsis for our readers?

In the first book, Show Me the Murder, wounded former CIA operative Phoenix Smith returns to her rural hometown to recover and relax with her lifelong friend, civic leader Annalynn Carr Keyser. When Phoenix arrives, she learns that Annalynn’s husband, the sheriff, was found dead with a young woman in a sleazy hotel. Everyone except the widow thinks it was a homicide/suicide. Phoenix agrees to help discover the truth to comfort her friend. Then Phoenix recognizes signs of a set-up. Annalynn uses her political pull to get appointed temporary sheriff in order to gain access to evidence. Phoenix adapts the skills honed in Eastern Europe to crime investigation and never leaves home without her Glock. The big break comes when she rescues the only witness, a Belgian Malinois called Achilles. A third friend, a divorced never-been singer named Connie, tries Phoenix’s patience—and introduces much of the humor—by insisting on being part of the investigation. The three women, each facing a major life crisis, pool their diverse skills and set aside their conflicts to survive. 

Show Me the Murder sets the pattern for the series. The action-addicted ex-spy, the grieving accidental sheriff, and the frustrated singer work together in imperfect harmony to solve murders and rebuild their disrupted lives.

In the second book, Show Me the Deadly Deer, Annalynn answers a call about a missing farmer because she has no deputies to assign. She takes Phoenix and Achilles with her, and they find the man dead with his rifle by his hand and an antler in his back. Did a deer really kill the hunter? Annalynn tries to turn the homicide over to the regional major case squad, but the state trooper in charge is using every available officer to find another trooper’s killer. Annalynn leads the official investigation while Phoenix hunts for the deadly deer as a cover for identifying motives and checking out suspects.

I plan a five-book series, with the books taking place over six months. By then, all three of the major characters will be ready to move on with their lives. I’m now writing the fourth book.

I know that in some states coroners aren’t required to be physicians, but I didn’t know that sheriffs without law enforcement experience were allowed to be appointed or elected. Is this a fictional device or real?

We elect sheriffs in Missouri. Sheriffs control a big slice of a rural county’s budget so the office used to be a political plum. According to law enforcement professionals I interviewed, the crime fostered by the meth epidemic in the 1990s forced police and sheriff departments to become more professional. Today most rural sheriffs are local law enforcement officers with a knack for politics. If a sheriff leaves office before the term expires, the county appoints an acting sheriff for up to a thirteen-week term and calls an election. Usually the county commission appoints either a retired officer or one of the department’s highest ranking deputies, but the county has some wiggle room in temporary appointments. The pool to draw from is small.

Desperate to keep Phoenix’s chief suspect from being appointed sheriff, Annalynn secured the appointment for herself. She gave each commissioner some intangible he or she wanted. The commissioners knew that she had passed the department’s written test and had done a great job as school board president (surely one of the most difficult elective offices in the country). They also stilled criticism by requiring her to pass a special test.

In short, the appointment of an unqualified person like Annalynn is possible but not probable.

The law enforcement underestimates and undervalues two of your three main characters, which they use to their advantage. Is this typical behavior?

Perhaps I’m cynical (like Phoenix), but it seems quite typical to me. The average law professional, male or female, doesn’t respect amateur sleuths, particularly middle-aged women. The deputies feel sorry for or resent Annalynn and expect her to shuffle papers and revise the menu at the county jail. City, county, and state law enforcement underestimate her intelligence, determination, and self-control and undervalue her knowledge of the community. Initially no one pays any attention to Phoenix, a visitor. Only Annalynn knows of Phoenix’s double life. Phoenix conceals her skills from everyone or, when she can’t, claims they come from corporate self-defense training. As the series progresses, Annalynn and Phoenix lose the advantage that comes from being underestimated. The women continue to close cases, they win the respect of citizens and most officers. Their growing reputation makes Annalynn’s job easier, but it frustrates Phoenix. Without the advantage of anonymity, she must take great care in breaking the law to find information.

When it comes to the political arena, your characters show their acumen. Why is politics different than law enforcement?

Ideally, politics and law enforcement are polar opposites. In reality, personal and electoral politics pervade every facet of life. In the classroom, on the job, in congregations, and even in mystery writers’ organizations, we play politics. If we elect skilled, ethical politicians, law enforcement protects and serves all. If either is corrupt or incompetent, we all lose. Annalynn is a natural leader and skilled politician. Phoenix has spent her career dealing with corruption and trusts few people other than Annalynn.

Phoenix’s shooting expertise gains her respect. Do you shoot?

I enjoy target shooting, but I do it only as research. Like many farm kids, I grew up with a rifle suspended over one door and a shotgun over another. My mother wouldn’t let us touch either one. My father, a good shot, hunted only to kill food or predators. My grandfather, a noted marksman, served as a beta tester for a shotgun company.

Achilles, a Belgian Malinois K-9 school flunkout, is your third main character. At the Writers’ Police Academy, I met the breed. Her eyes told me to sit and stay. I obeyed. Have you had a similar experience, and are you a dog person?

I haven’t had that experience, but I treat every animal with friendliness and respect. I chose to make Achilles a Malinois after watching the dogs work at a citizen academy and a writers’ conference. Very impressive. Achilles has a working dog’s intelligence and skills but the sweetness and loyalty of the farm dogs I loved.

Your use of internal dialogue reveals the duplicity and complexity of Phoenix’s life. How do you reveal without over justifying her actions? 

I work hard to be in her head, not mine. I count on my critique group to point out when I take her too far. The contradictions are central to her character. She’s paid a big price for successfully maintaining a double life, and coming home to the old friends and values reminds her of innocence lost. Part of her personal arc is learning to trust again.

Unlike her friends Annalynn and Connie, Phoenix grew up with financial constraints, but now, the situation has reversed. Doesn’t Phoenix want to gloat just a bit?

Not really, or at least not with Annalynn. Their fathers, a postal worker and a judge, emphasized that money doesn’t reflect the value of the person. Phoenix’s experiences with traitors and bankers confirmed that.

Do you think women must team together to overcome the odds of prejudice?

Yes. That’s why we need Sisters in Crime, Emily’s List, and a women’s caucus on the Hill. I fear
young women don’t realize that the gains American women—and some others—have won so slowly could slip away from us.

What’s next for Phoenix, Achilles and Annalynn?

In book three, Show Me the Gold (release in late 2014), a fatal shootout with a vengeful family of bank robbers puts the friends at risk. Meanwhile Phoenix fends off interference in her uncertain love life and schemes to set Annalynn on a new career path.

Your preference: Beach or Mountains?

I love mountains. They delight my eyes. They lift my spirits. They give me peace. Beaches
beckon at dawn and soothe at sunset, but I don’t care for them the rest of the day.

Carolyn’s series, published by Five Star/Gale, Cengage, is a page-turner. To read more about Carolyn and her books, visit her website. I’m crossing my fingers for her nomination at the next Malice Domestic Conference. You will, too, when you read her books.


Susan Oleksiw said...

This sounds like a terrific series. I love the description of the rural setting, and some of the problems your characters encounter. In New England the sheriff doesn't have nearly as much authority as in other areas, but that's largely the difference between a commonwealth and a state.

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome to WWK, Carolyn. Your books have been on my TBR list of books to order, and after this interview, I plan to go to Amazon today and order it. I think it will be a series I enjoy very much.

Warren Bull said...

Your knowledge of rural Missouri policing and politics is very accurate. I look forward to reading your work.

E. B. Davis said...

I really enjoyed reading these books, and I think Susan and Gloria will, too. BTW--they are not cozies. Missouri (sorry, Carolyn) wouldn't be my first choice for a setting (no ocean, no beach!), but frankly, the setting was not all that important to the plot nor the characterization. Great books, Carolyn.

MaryAnn Corrigan said...

I enjoyed the books and the interview. Thanks, Carolyn and Elaine. Having grown up in New York City without rifles and shotguns in the house (no handguns either!), I came away from Carolyn's series with a better understanding of life in America's heartland.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Carolyn, both your life and your writing sound fascinating. Thanks for visiting WWK. Best wishes as you continue your several series.

Anonymous said...

That's a great start for what sounds like a wonderful series.

Thanks for letting us in on some of the inner workings of the books.

Carolyn Mulford said...

Thanks for the responses. I enjoyed answering E. B.'s insightful questions.

Having lived outside Missouri most of my adult life, I found researching the books has given me a good excuse for reacquainting myself with the state. Every setting is unique, most emotional experiences are universal.

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for the interview, Carolyn. Sorry you had so many security hoops to jump through to post. Google/Blogger sometimes is cantankerous. We hope everyone enjoys your books. Good luck with the release next month.