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


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

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 Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. 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.

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


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An Interview with Author Tina Whittle by E. B. Davis

I knew how hard it was to pull your roots out of the dirt that had made you,
leave that ground behind no matter how poisoned it had become. All our regrets
and mistakes and hauntings, they were always ours, always. We hauled our
own private graveyards with us everywhere we went.
Tina Whittle, Necessary Ends, Kindle Loc. 1054

Tai Randolph is no stranger to solving mysteries. With a taste for danger and a talent for amateur sleuthing, she has helped put an assortment of murderers behind bars, much to the displeasure of her lover, Trey Seaver. A former SWAT officer with the Atlanta police department, Trey believes in letting the authorities handle complex matters of crime and punishment.

But then the Talbot case flares back to life.

It was the crime that rocked Atlanta—actress Jessica Talbot shot dead in her Buckhead mansion and her husband, movie producer Nick Talbot, accused of the murder. It seemed an open and shut case…until a dirty cop’s secret forced prosecutors to set Talbot free. Now, four years later, someone wants him dead, and the evidence points to the man most convinced of Talbot’s guilt—Trey.

Talbot offers an irresistible deal—he’ll keep Trey’s name off the suspect list if Trey agrees to a one-on-one interview. It’s a chance for Trey to determine once and for all if Talbot really is a killer, but it could also expose secrets in Trey’s own past, confidential information he has sworn to protect. Caught between his drive for justice and his need for security, Trey does the unexpected—he asks Tai to help him investigate.

It’s a situation fraught with drama and potential disaster, the kind of case Tai relishes. With Trey by her side—and in a killer’s crosshairs—she vows to use every trick in her slightly sketchy playbook to stop a vigilante murderer from claiming a fresh victim.

Tina Whittle’s sixth book in her Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series, Necessary Ends, moves fast. The plot circles around relationships and doubles back. Like many mysteries, if the truth can be determined, then the culprits will be discovered. It all seems so black and white, but the truth is elusive. There is no clarity when “facts” are every shade of gray as well as their perceptions.

One of the most important parts of any novel to me is the backstory. I found myself at a disadvantage because I hadn’t read the previous five books in the series. Although Necessary Ends’ plot holds together well without reading the first books, if you are like me and are interested in the development of the main characters, start at the first book because from what I gathered, Tai and Trey have a lot of backstory/changes they’ve gone through—and I wanted to know their stories.  

Tina must do a lot of research for her books. I learned so much—like why wearing clip-on ties puts men at an advantage in dicey situations, and why dash and body cams provide officers’ alibis, (but even cams can be fudged). I also loved the touch of fun and the unexpected donkey—nope, not telling.

Welcome to the other side of WWK, Tina.                                                                                     E. B. Davis
Thank you! It’s very comfy and welcoming over here!

Trey is under Tai’s brother’s care. Is Tai’s brother a psychologist?

Yes, an organizational psychologist, which means he works with companies and individuals in the workplace. His specialty is helping former police officers adapt to careers outside of law enforcement settings, especially in corporate structures. This is how he met Trey.

Are Tai and Trey both suffering from PTSD—but due to very different circumstances?

Yes. One thing I’ve learned about PTSD—it doesn’t necessarily need violence as a trigger: any traumatic event can bring it on. My own grandmother suffered from it after losing her home in a tornado—severe weather agitated her greatly in what I now recognize was a form of PTSD.

In Trey’s case, he first had to deal with it in the aftermath of the car accident that killed his mother and gave him a traumatic brain injury (TBI)—he’s comfortable using therapeutic measures to address his psychological challenges, once he’s aware of them anyway. Tai isn’t. Being of the “buck up and deal with it” school of thought, she’s spent her life rejecting what she considers her brother’s overly analytical approach to mental health. But now that she’s with Trey, his matter-of-fact acceptance of the things one must do to keep one’s brain functioning is giving her a different perspective.

Tai tries a technique her brother has suggested Trey use, reenactment therapy, in which Trey has found success. When Tai tries it, she ends up in a panic attack, followed by anger. I can understand “rewiring a response,” but I’m unsure of how anyone can “rewire an experience.” It was what it was, wasn’t it? Is this part of conquering fear?

I learned a lot about this type of treatment for PTSD. It’s just one part of Prolonged Exposure therapy (PE) which teaches you to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations before taking on activities that are psychologically challenging. Tai should have started with talking in a guided session before moving right into a reenactment, but being somewhat impatient and headstrong, she went right to the hard part.

Rewiring the experience refers to the body’s response as the brain remembers. So much of the trauma is based on the connections between memory and experience. If you can gain control over how you respond to the memory, you “rewire” it so that it doesn’t trigger PTSD symptoms under similar conditions. It works very well for Trey because he’s done a lot of the emotional processing already—reenactment therapy in a SWAT scenario puts him right in the driver’s seat. Tai…not so much. But she’s learning what does work for her, including the necessity of defusing her internally violent response to her own anger.

One definition of decompensation is “the failure to generate effective psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbance or disintegration.” It can signal a mental health crisis is on the way, which is why people can be hypervigilant about it in themselves and their loved ones (Trey suffered from decompensation in the fifth book, Reckoning and Ruin, and now both he and Tai are ever-watchful in case he starts to slip again).

And yes, it can hit anyone. I tend toward anxiety myself, and after the birth of my daughter, when I was overwhelmed and under-rested, my usual methods of keeping myself calm didn’t work. Luckily, I had a good therapist to help me get back on track, but I remain watchful, even twenty years later.

Due to Trey’s brain damage he gropes for words—like playing charades with Tai. Does she ever tire of the process? Does she possess great patience?

Tai has very little patience, but she has an extraordinary ability to accept people as they are, in all their foibles and complications. To her, Trey’s vocabulary hiccups are simply a part of him (the same way my dear husband deals with the fact that every inanimate object in our house is a “thingamajig” to me). It’s another part of their give and take, which I enjoy writing very much.

Tai wants to smoke, but she often settles for Jack Daniels. How do readers like a character who hasn’t been whitewashed by PC?

Very well, actually, but then my readers are all incredibly intelligent and accepting of characters who may be a little rough around the edges. One reviewer dinged her for such behavior, calling her “unlikeable,” which is code for “not behaving like women ought to.” My readers, however, appreciate her in all her sneak-smoking, liquor-loving, muddy boot-wearing, and fancy bra-sporting complexity.

You’ve made Tai a very responsible gun shop owner. Do you think most are?

This is a hard question. The ones I know are very responsible, impeccable in their adherence to federal firearms law and their own code of ethics. That said, I am not sure the industry as a whole is as responsible as the people I know, and I think we as a country need to address this situation, and pronto.

I thought Tai’s merchandise was mainly Civil War oriented, but she does sell modern guns, too, doesn’t she?

She does. The shop is first and foremost a gun shop, which requires a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to run. She does specialize in Civil War weaponry, however, both antique and replica, and has a special license to sell explosives (she supplies black powder for several reenactment groups in the Atlanta area).  

I was surprised that Tai had never met Trey’s old partner on the force and as SWAT snipers. Why hasn’t Tai met Keesha Price before?

When Trey suffered the car accident, he went into residential rehab for quite some time. And then when he came back to the force, he was different—more guarded, less friendly, suspicious and anxious and unpredictable. He has what is called “flat affect”: his expression often looks bland and emotionless regardless of what he’s feeling. His new cognitive challenges took up every ounce of his focus and energy, and he became very self-conscious, so much so that he cut ties with almost everyone he knew except for his best friend, Garrity (but even that relationship took a hit and remains somewhat challenging for both men).

Keesha worked with Trey as a SWAT sniper; it’s tough, demanding work that requires utter trust in one’s partner. For Trey to put up a wall between them, after all they’d been through together, felt like a betrayal to her. And it was. Trey is just beginning to reckon with the fallout from his actions, and he’s trying in his own clumsy way to reconnect with her. I’ve known about Keesha since the third book in the series, but she is headstrong and wary and reluctant to be vulnerable with this man who hurt her once—I don’t blame her for staying away until now. But that explains why Tai has never met her.

Communication between Trey and Price is precise. Is this personality or the need for gut survival tactics?

It’s a function of their former partnership, certainly. Two-person sniper teams are one of the few law enforcement partnerships where one has a permanent partner. That’s because snipercraft is meticulous, mathematical work where milliseconds and millimeters stand between life and death and there is no room for error. It attracts people with compatible personality traits, and partners learn to size each other up quickly and effectively. They learn to communicate with a personal shorthand, at least in the field. That’s the dynamic I see at play with Keesha and Trey (or Price and Seaver, as they refer to each other). What looks like emotionless precision is in fact a testament to the professional intimacy and trust they once shared…and might share again in some fashion.

One of the characters has been involuntarily committed twice and his fiancée was given custodial care. How is this legally done? How is someone deemed unfit? Are there legal standards?

The standards vary from state to state, but all states require that someone (usually a relative or a health care provider) file a legal petition seeking to be appointed as a conservator for the person who has demonstrated an inability to take care of themselves. Courts then appoint a third party to investigate the claims, which sometimes leads to a full hearing. If the claims are found valid, then the petition may be temporarily granted. A conservatee can contest the decision, but in any case, the courts make the final determination.

I based the specifics of my character Nick Talbot’s case on the real-life situation of Britney Spears, whose father and family lawyer became her physical and financial conservators in 2008. That conservatorship seems to be working out well for all parties, unlike my fictional one (spoiler alert!).

Definition time! What are:

BDU pants?

BDU stands for Battle Dress Uniform, which refers to a specific kind of armed forces camouflage that has since been phased out officially. The term found new life in the civilian world and refers to any type of tactical clothing, usually made of ripstop fabric and fitted with many gear pockets.

ATACs wear?

ATACS is the acronym for Advanced Tactical Concealment System. It’s a high-tech camouflage used by SWAT or Special Ops teams to blend into their surroundings, especially useful for mixed terrain concealment.


In the Atlanta Police Department, the Internal Affairs division is called the Office of Professional Standards. They are the cops who investigate the department itself should there be suspicion of official wrongdoing.

LeMat revolver?

A Civil war-era firearm designed by Jean Alexandre LeMat of New Orleans, the LeMat is a cap and ball black powder revolver with a secondary under-barrel that could function as a short-barreled shotgun. Notoriously inaccurate but deadly at close range, the LeMat saw service with the Confederate Army and was a favorite of CSA generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Jeb Stuart.

Zone of Proximal Learning?

This is a teaching term that refers to that sweet spot between what a learner can do on her own versus what a learner needs help accomplishing (often called the zone of proximal development). In practice, it means keeping the assignments hard enough to challenge the learner but not so difficult that she gets discouraged. Tai accuses Trey of violating this rule frequently during their sessions in self-defense training, but she’s wrong – he’s simply trying to teach her how to fight effectively even when she’s outmatched.

Cooling Board Door?

An extra-large door that doubles both as a door and as a slab for the laying out of the dead. It’s not a function of contemporary design, but it came in very useful during the days of in-home wakes.

LINX? (Is it nationwide?)
LINX (properly spelled LInX, but that looked very weird when typeset, so I adapted it) stands for Law Enforcement Information Exchange. It is a nationwide, multi-jurisdictional data base that correlates information from across the country. For a number-nerd like Trey, it’s a way of teasing patterns out of seemingly random information.

After Trey’s accident, he changed his personal “front” to the world by driving a Ferrari and wearing designer clothing. Why did he do this, and why is his identity tied to these things?

One of the challenges of Trey’s particular injury is the loss of identity, the feeling that the person he was doesn’t exist any longer. Traumatic brain injury often creates personality changes, significant ones, and Trey woke up from a coma only to find himself living another person’s life, one that didn’t fit at all with the old one. So he created a new identity whole cloth and stepped right into it.

It’s an extreme adaptation, but it worked. Tai describes his Italian couture life as a container, one that can hold together the disparate parts of his life until he himself can reconnect them. He’s learned that there are a few of these things, however, like a well-tailored suit and his black Ferrari F430, that really do reflect his identity.

Gabriella, Trey’s former girlfriend, helps with the case. What is her profession?

She is a massage therapist who runs a spa and boutique in Buckhead. She also reads tarot cards for a select clientele and is a skilled herbalist.

Kava lactone is a common ingredient in herbal anxiety formulations. But it can have a psychoactive effect if mixed with prescriptions of benzodiazepine (and its derivatives). Are there no regulations of herbal ingredients, which in combination could cause an overdose?

Herbal remedies are regulated by the FDA, but they are considered dietary supplements, not drugs. Manufacturers don't have to seek FDA approval before selling them, but these products do have to pass quality standards, be properly labeled, and if the company makes a claim about the product’s general effects on health and body functions, they must provide supporting evidence to back up that claim. The company must also state that the FDA has not evaluated that claim. So as you can see, there’s a lot of gray area here (as the contraindication of kava and certain prescriptions has demonstrated). Caveat emptor is Rule Number One when supplementing one’s diet with herbal remedies.

I’ve always thought of the Buckhead area of Atlanta as a sort of posh country club sort of neighborhood. Has it undergone transitions?

Starting in the eighties and lasting though the first years of the twenty-first century, Buckhead was a raucous, rowdy, tacky, gaudy spectacle of drinking and decadence, the last of the great American bar crawls. In its heyday, college students, yuppies, out-of-towners, and professional partiers prowled the sidewalks and packed the streets with bumper to bumper noise and traffic. Nightclubs proliferated, and so did the noise and violence. The area’s more conservative Old Guard decided they’d had enough. They zoned the area into better behavior and bulldozed the bars. Glass and steel skyscrapers and high-end restaurants and couture boutiques replaced the likes of Lulu’s Bait Shack and Tongue and Groove. Buckhead is posh, absolutely. But its past is wild and checkered.

Where is Kennesaw in relation to Atlanta?

About an hour northwest of the city center.

Is Doll’s Head Trail in Chastain Park? Or is the trail in a police training park area? Why do people use trash to create roadside attractions there?

Doll’s Head Trail is a part of Constitution Lakes Park in Dekalb County. An urban nature preserve open to the public, it is the reclaimed site of a 19th-century brickworks factory.  Doll’s Head is its most well-known trail, a two-mile loop through forests and over boardwalks that features trash repurposed as community art (including, inexplicably, lots of baby doll parts). The idea of turning garbage into art is the brainchild of resident Joel Slaton, who said that he wanted the trail to have an air of “mischief and mystery.” Having walked it myself, I can attest that he succeeded. I haven’t seen it closed for a police training (as I have parts of the airport), but I imagine it would make an excellent location for a search and rescue scenario.

Rico, Tai’s old friend, breaks cellphone passwords easily. Are they easy to break? Most are like PINs—are they easily broken too?

There is a very simple hack—so simple that I can do it—that will allow a user to bypass the passcode of an iPhone. It takes advantage of a glitch in Siri’s programming that as a real person, I hope Apple has fixed (or will fix) real soon. As an author, though, I like having phones so easy to break into.

In Necessary Ends, Trey and Tai make progress in recovery, which necessitates changes in their lives. Have you mapped out their character arcs for the series?

For the most part, yes, although I occasionally get surprised. I can only stack the deck so far in advance before their free will as characters starts to mess up my best-laid plans. This may sound odd to non-writers—I’ll confess; it did to me before I started writing these two—but I’ve found that I am in no way the boss of either Tai or Trey. They’re not the boss of me either, though, so…we are in a constant negotiation.

What’s next for Tai and Trey?

My husband provided me the clue to the inciting incident in Book Seven when he picked up a stranger on the highway one morning—an elderly man who was neat and clean, but who existed in a parallel reality all his own. Our local police department revealed that he was a Known Wanderer, a person with a home but a penchant for roaming hither and yon with anyone willing to give him a ride, especially when he decided to go off his medication. I wondered what would happen if some other Known Wanderer witnessed a heinous crime—how would the authorities protect such a person? How would criminals find him? And what could he have seen that would make him run away instead of roam?

As for Tai and Trey’s personal relationship, I can’t spill too much without spoiling the final reveals in Necessary Ends, but I can assure readers of one thing—whatever they do, they’ll do it together. How they define “together,” however, is leading to some interesting plot developments.


Jim Jackson said...

I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of Necessary Promises, and can’t recommend it enough. Although as E.B. suggests, if you are one who enjoys reading a series from the start, this is a great one to do it with because all of the novels are terrific, and she has even written short stories and novellas to fill in the gap.

And speaking of novellas, her "Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming" was just announced as a finalist in the prestigious Derringer Award for 2017 best "Novelette" (8,001 - 20,000 words).

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congrats on your latest in the series and your Derringer nomination!

E. B. Davis said...

Yay, Tina! Congratulations on the Derringer nomination. Thanks for the interview and for a great read.

Warren Bull said...

Great interview. Congratulations on your Derringer nomination.

carla said...

Great discussion about PTSD. You do a service to everyone who suffers from it by making it accessible through your writing!

Shari Randall said...

I'll echo what Carla said about PTSD and traumatic brain injury. May your books fly off the shelves and big congratulations on the Derringer nom!

Gloria Alden said...

Congratulations, Tina. I look forward to reading your first novel in the series and continuing on. I also have a character in my book with PTSD. My critique partners really like him.

KM Rockwood said...

Fiction is a good way to get information out about social issues, and it sounds like you do that in a very entertaining way.

Best of luck (although I'm very aware that it's hard work and perseverance more than luck) with the sales of the book.

Tina said...

Thanks, KM. And I'll take the luck. Sometimes that's exactly the boost that hard work and perseverance need!

Tina said...

Thank you all! I've got my fingers crossed for the Derringer (and lots of gratitude for Jim, who invited me to be included in LOWCOUNTRY CRIME, and for his and his wife Jan's work editing the piece. It's a definite team effort!

I am so grateful when I hear from readers that I get the TBI and PSTD situations right in the story -- living with those are challenging for not only the sufferer, but for the entire family and friend network. I try to write Trey as a dimensional character and not just a walking diagnosis, but every aspect of his recovery (even some that seem outlandish, like his ability to tell when people are lying) is based on research. I may fudge travel times in downtown Atlanta, but I don't fudge science. :)

Rebecca said...

Tina, you are right, E.B. Davis is a terrific interviewer. All the questions I wanted to ask, and then some.

Grace Topping said...

Terrific interview, Tina and Elaine. Your characters sound very well defined and evolving.