When I last interviewed Maggie Toussaint about her Cleopatra Jones mysteries, she said her current work was a paranormal mystery. This subgenre interests me because my WIP is a supernatural mystery. When Gone and Done It was released, I read it, liked it, and interviewed Maggie about the book. But Maggie doesn’t allow herself to wallow in success, she has another book release later this month. Good to know that I’ll have Rough Waters to read in September, one of my favorite months for enjoying the beach in NC.
Welcome back to WWK, Maggie! E. B. Davis
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be able to share my paranormal mystery with your blog followers.
Would you give our readers a short synopsis of your plot?
Sure! Baxley Powell is my amateur sleuth with a few extras in her tank. Gone and Done It is the first book in my new series, and in this story, Baxley comes to terms with the extra senses and talents she inherited. She’s a pet sitter, a landscaper, a single mom, and she’s hoping to use her dreamwalker talents to become a police consultant. She’d be doing just fine too if she quit stumbling over dead people.
While growing up in a small town on the Georgia coast, Baxley Powell’s dreamwalking gift separated her from other people in her town—at least that’s her perception. Has she been alienated or has she exiled herself?
Baxley grew up knowing she was different from others and knowing that others regarded her as One of Those Oddball Nesbitts. Even so, she longed to be normal, to be just another kid in her class. But applying herself to her studies just set her more apart from the crowd. According to the current sheriff of Sinclair County, the rumor was that if you dated Baxley you could have a good time and get fishing advice from your dead grandpa.
You use a unique technique in establishing Baxley’s talent that occurs prior to the start of this book. What did Baxley do that garnered her reputation?
Gone and Done It begins with Baxley at a financial crossroads. She doesn’t have enough paying clients from her Pets and Plants business to make ends meet. She never planned to get involved with the Maisie Ryals case, but it came naturally to her solve the serial burglaries in her hometown. Baxley’s success in solving the Ryals case predisposes her to consider the possibility of becoming a police consultant in Gone and Done It. Tiny bits of her first try at crimesolving are layered throughout the book to add authenticity to Baxley’s sleuthing abilities.
I know in real life you worked in science, but I can’t remember if geology was your forte. Baxley assumes she’s hit a rock instead of a skull. She thinks it might be a ship’s ballast rock, which have turned up from Colonial times along the Georgia coast—the setting for Gone and Done It. How do geologists know that the rocks were used for ballast? Are the stones identifiable as foreign?
I’m no geologist, though I did take a course in it in a time long ago and far away. Where Gone and Done It takes place, which is remarkably similar to where I live on the Georgia coast, is all sand. We don’t have any natural rocks here. I don’t even know how far down you have to dig to hit rock, but I do know bedrock is way deeper than you’d plant a tree.
But, around here, we had an influx of rocks from sailing ships of yesteryear. They’d load up their hulls with rock for stability to cross the ocean. Once they sailed (or steamed) here, they offloaded the rock into the marsh and sailed home full of Georgia pine which floated downriver to the coast. From these ballast dumps, grew ballast islands. Locals have a history of going out to the piles and harvesting rocks to border gardens (or for other purposes).
The rocks are all of a size big enough not to move around too much on a ship but yet not so big as a sailor couldn’t carry them. Most of the ballast rocks I’ve seen are shades of gray and the edges aren’t rounded and polished like a river rock might be. I assume a geologist would identify the rock type, but not all rocks are the same kind because they came from all over the world.
Her husband disappeared while working for the Army. Without a body, the Army won’t pay his benefits. Why does Baxley suspect he’s not dead?
Even though Baxley was reluctant prior to Gone and Done It to put her special talents to use helping
Without her husband’s benefits, Baxley’s bills are piling up. Even though she pet sits, January isn’t a big vacation month for her pet sitting clients. On the surface, Sheriff Wayne Thompson seems despicable. When Baxley suggests consulting for his office to pay her bills, his sexual innuendo turns her off. But Wayne is more than he seems. Would you describe their relationship?
Baxley’s relationship with Wayne the ladies’ man goes all the way back to high school where she tutored him so that he could keep his grades up enough to continue being the football quarterback. Fast forward a dozen years or so and he’s now the sheriff and she needs a job. He’s a man accustomed to calling the shots, but he also enjoys making winning plays. Though Baxley refuses his romantic advances, he wants her around because she makes him look good.
Due to their prior relationship, they have a foundation for friendship, which builds as the series continues. If I were characterizing their relationship, I’d say they are friends without benefits.
You have deemed this series “A Dreamwalker Mystery” because Baxley Powell uses dreams to communicate with the dead. But she can also touch their possessions to gain knowledge of them. Why is the Dreamwalker aspect significant for Baxley?
The difference is the signal strength. Baxley can dial in a dreamwalk so that it’s crystal clear. She can see and hear vignettes of the victim’s life, but only the ones they want her to see. Her “extra” sense of touch is unreliable. Sometimes she can get a reading from an object someone has touched, especially if they were in the grip of a strong emotion when they touched it. When that special sense picks something up, she can enter a meditative state and see the scene that caused the strong emotion.
Why did Baxley never consider that she would be the next Dreamwalker? Why did she assume her daughter Larissa would follow in her grandfather’s specialty?
Baxley never wanted to be the Dreamwalker. When she was a child, she accidentally got trapped in a dreamwalk at an uncle’s funeral. It scared her so much that she didn’t want to have anything to do with her extra powers. Her parents taught her how to block her extra senses, and that’s how she went about her life, for the most part.
Kids grow up, but it comes as a shock when a parent “wears out,” and that’s exactly what’s happening to Baxley’s dad. He reaches a point where it takes him longer and longer to recover from each dreamwalk. By this time, Baxley realizes her daughter has also inherited the Nesbitt gift of sight, but her daughter is just a child. Baxley steps up to take the Dreamwalker position so that her daughter doesn’t have to.
In death, the unanimated, spiritless body doesn’t look like the live or spirit entity. Does this confuse Baxley?
The mischievous spirits Baxley encounters don’t resemble humans very much, though when they seek to engage her, they adopt human form temporarily. The spirits in her dreamwalk show themselves to her in human form, in human surroundings.
If there’s any sense of confusion, it comes on the part of the sheriff who seems to think Baxley can just dial up her woo-woo skills on command and solve a crime right then and there. Just like the living, spirits have a story to tell, and they won’t reveal key information about their homicides until they’ve played their story out on Baxley’s dreamscape.
Why does her father concede dreamwalking to Baxley and take over the deposed coroner’s job? Will they work together in the future?
As I wrote the series, I truly enjoyed Tab and Lacey Nesbitt, Baxley’s parents. Near the end of this story, Tab is out of work after relinquishing the dreamwalker title to Baxley. His familiarity with the dead makes him a natural selection for coroner, a position which opened up with the forced retirement of Dr. Sugar. Keeping her dad in Baxley’s personal and professional life creates a strong sense of community for her and helps ease her into her new position.
The dead sometimes frustrate Baxley. Why do they want her help yet withhold information? Don’t they trust her?
I jumped the gun and explained this above. Within the universe of this story world, the spirits of the dead are mired in bottled-up emotions. They need to vent before they can process what happened to them. Some spirits get stuck in loops of pity and despair. They can’t get over being dead.
Rough Waters, your next release due in a few weeks, looks like a great beach read from its cover. Would you tell us why?
Rough Waters is a romantic mystery set in coastal Georgia, and it features a florist and a former SEAL on the hunt for stolen treasure. In Jeanie and Rock’s story, Rock thinks Jeanie’s ex stole the old coins he and his late partner found while diving in Pamlico Sound near the Outer Banks. Rock moves to where Jeanie lives to see if he can get her to tell her where her ex is.
Jeanie’s had it with secretive men who don’t live up to their responsibilities or her expectations. With two kids, she’s not ready to re-enter the dating world, but Rock makes her rethink her strategy. She’s been the Perfect Wife and Mother and that got her left behind when her husband wanted a younger, sexier playmate. Looking for lost treasure with a hot guy sounds like just the thing the new and improved Jeanie would do. But the going isn’t smooth at all. Someone doesn’t want the coins found. This book releases Aug. 29, 2014.
When I think of paranormal, I think of vampires and things that go bump in the night. For Maggie’s Baxley Powell, things go bump in her mind. You can learn more about Maggie and her books through her website.