When this anthology interview ran, we had no ePub to promote--now we have one. Here is the link: The Fish That Got Away. Please consider adding this anthology to your library.
The Fish That Got Away is the sixth anthology of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter. Sisters in Crime promotes women crime writers. The Guppy chapter originally was formed for those great but unpublished writers, helping to get them published. For inclusion in the anthologies, like in the marketplace, unpublished authors must compete against each other and published authors for their stories to be included. Their stories must meet the standards. The judging was blind, but had to be stand outs from the other entries. The competition is stiff. Susan Bickford, one the authors, not only has been published multiple times, but she has also been nominated for an Edgar and Left Coast Crime Awards.
I decided to ask each author one question about his/her story. WWK’s Linda Rodriquez served as the professional editor. Please welcome the authors of The Fish That Got Away too WWK. E. B. Davis
The Fish That Got Away Editor Linda Rodriguez
Does the organization for which you work set the parameters of your relationship with the authors?
Yes, the Guppies did set parameters for the relationship between editor and writers. I worked directly with each writer on their story for the book. We had direct back and forth virtual conversations around their work and ways to make it stronger. Guppies, however, set firm boundaries in place for writers who had problems with the anthology as a whole and its publication process. They had a coordinator to whom writers were directed to turn with these issues. The only things the writers and I dealt with directly were aspects of their actual writing--style, characterization, plot, pacing, and various kinds of line and copy edits. I really appreciated this, since the bulk of my responsibility was to strengthen each writer's work to make it part of a stronger whole. Any complaints about anything else, I simply directed to the coordinator, who handled them brilliantly. That is the ideal situation for an editor of an anthology.
“To Every Season” by Mary Adler
Do two wrongs make a right?
Are there two wrongs in the story To Every Season? I would argue that there was only one wrong––the continuing series of murders and acts of cruelty committed by an evil actor who flaunted their crimes and made it clear they would not stop killing. The other actor committed an act in defense of others, one that in their view (and mine) was justified. They did not act in revenge, but to prevent further harm. We can quibble about the lack of imminent danger that a self-defense claim might require in court, but the facts in the story show that the perpetrator was guilty and would continue their sadistic crimes if someone did not stop them.
“Black On Black In Black” by MB Dabney
What profile would Kendall have concocted for the killer?
Kendall originally had two options in mind when the crime spree began. The first was an obvious one.
The killer is a man with issues involving around a woman who has injured him. Or at least he feels injured in his mind. In this case, the woman is his mother.
Growing up he watched his mother violate her wedding vows repeatedly with other married men, leaving both her son and her husband powerless to do anything about it. While the son loved his mother and wouldn't harm her, he is killing the demons in her over and over again by killing other women who cheat.
But Kendall has finally suggested a second option -- that the killer is a woman. Her plan would be to further suggest that the sexual clues in the crimes are false leads. The killer's victims all have some other connections to each in non-sexual ways and that the killer has a list that she is working through. Kendall would say that she and the FBI have yet to discover the connection and who is on the list.
“The Pearl Necklace” by E. B. Davis
Why did you set your story in 1961?
I’m drawn to the early 1960s. This is the second story I’ve written during that time. In 1961, I was six-years-old and have few memories of the era. The Korean War was ending. Vietnam hadn’t started, at least officially. The country was powerful. Those attributes were reflected in the cars, which were also powerful and glamourous. The car with the swivel front seat was real. NASA was set to start an epic era of dominance in the space race. I like the music: Elvis, Patsy Cline, Ricky Nelson, The Shirelles, Mary Wells, Chubby Checker…. I know there were horrendous social problems, a bit of which I revealed in my story, but perhaps due to the Kennedys, it seems a mythical time.
“No Nothing” by C. M. Surrisi
When did the story take place and are there still resistance fighters?
The story took place in 1974. It was a time when the Polish People’s Republic was characterized by a constant struggle for democracy. And yes, there are still resistance fighters all over Europe and the world, because there are not only the remnants of fascist dictatorships but new ones are on the rise. In fact, it is not so very imaginary that a fascist regime may attempt to take hold right in our very own backyard and bakeries all over America will become conveyors of breads of hope for liberation.
“Greetings From The Board” by Mary Dutta
Do you live in an HOA community? Have your worked on the board?
I used to live in a subdivision with an HOA, although I never served on the board. There were some contentious email chains about revisions to the covenants, and the debate over allowing residents to keep chickens got downright nasty. (The chickens lost, by the way). Despite all this, I'm happy to report that no one ever resorted to murder.
“Quarry” by Susan Alice Bickford
Is character shaped by experience or does character define experience?
Katie starts “Quarry” as a victim of her life. About to turn eighteen, she feels trapped and molded by her abusive father, a vet with severe PTSD, her mother, who seems to have no agency of her own, narrow-minded rural neighbors and fellow classmates. This makes her prickly, judgmental and unempathetic. By the middle of the story, she realizes that she must change or risk losing everything, perhaps even her life. Only by taking control can she become the master/mistress of her own fate.
“Catch and Release” by Mark Thielman
What was the worst miscarriage of justice you’ve seen in your legal career? (Which was how long? Was this a fantasy you’ve envisioned for a while?
I’ve been an attorney for nearly 35 years. Most of that time was spent as a prosecutor. Over the years, I’ve seen a number of my cases end in acquittal. The ones that linger are the child abuse cases. There is never an easy way to explain to a child why the jury did not convict after she summoned up the courage to testify.
Following an acquittal, I’ve usually retried the case in my head. The outcome was different there. I’ve trusted that karma will get distributed somewhere down the line. I never really fantasized about settling the score, except by trying a better case. [There is a bit of a spoiler alert here.]
As for the greatest injustice, I supervised a prosecutor who convicted a defendant. He was subsequently exonerated. The U.S. Supreme Court in Berger v. United States reminds us that while [the prosecutor] may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.
“Dead Armadillos Don’t Dance” by Kari Wainwright
Your character uses a three-in-one car tool. I was given one of those car tools thirty years ago by my mother. I have never had to use it. You found three uses for it in your story. Outside of fiction, have you ever used it?
The short answer is NO. I've never used the car tool in real life. I do carry one in my car console, but sometimes I wonder if I'd be able to keep my wits about me if my car was stupid enough to drive into a canal. Fortunately, I still don't know the answer to that question. Regarding the story, “Dead Armadillos Don't Dance,” I realized I needed the tool to help my heroine get out of the car. I had her put it in her pocket, not knowing at the time if she would need it in the future or not. But, of course, if the author does something of that nature, she needs to use it again. Thank goodness, my heroine cooperated and used it twice more, which felt like serendipity.
“The Case of the Abused Artichoke” by Cynthia Sabelhaus
As a mother, I would have given Alli “instruction” about wandering away during a crime/fire. Why didn’t Maggie give Alli grief?
When 14-year-old Alli disappears during the store’s power outage, Maggie is too consumed with worry to question why her daughter wandered away. Later, after Alli is found safe and has a reasonable explanation for her actions, Maggie puts her angst aside when she realizes the experience may be a turning point in Alli’s acceptance of the new town where they have recently moved.
“Wild About Saffron” by Marcia Adair
Why wouldn’t Saffron have burned the evidence?
In the ’60s when the crime took place, DNA forensic testing didn’t exist. At the time, Saffron could never have imagined that police would find DNA on the pillow that she and her lover used to smother her husband. But why did she keep the pillow even after DNA forensic testing became available in the mid-’80s? Had she forgotten she had it? Was it a trophy? Or did it contain a secret message from beyond the grave meant only for one man? As the reader will discover, her reason will reveal the heart of her character.
“Good Neighbors” by Victoria Kazarian
Were you ever paranoid that someone would snatch your kids when they were little? (I was!)
I was always terrified that my children would be snatched. For one thing, my kids are extroverts with no fear of other human beings. The stranger-danger thing was a foreign concept to them, no matter how many times they heard it in school. My youngest is on the autism spectrum and has had a series of obsessions with tech devices and appliances. When he was six, he was obsessed with cell phones and knew all the models and their features. I took him to the park one day, and five minutes later he was gone. I found him sitting on a bench with a stranger, swinging his legs as he explained how to change ring tones.
“Stress Kills” by Cheryl Marceau
After writing this story, are you scared to get a massage?
The idea for the story actually came to me mid-massage one day. My massage therapist uses eucalyptus oil on the face cradle to help keep nasal passages open. I smelled the eucalyptus and began to wonder how a massage therapist could kill someone without being discovered, and spent the rest of that appointment working out the plot of the story. Once it became safe to get massages again, I was back on the table. However, I must confess I will never again be able to schedule an appointment with a handsome male massage therapist.
“Granddad’s Blood Bait” by Gene Garrison
Do you still catch and eat catfish after writing this story?
It's been many years since I've sat on a riverbank at twilight and enjoyed fresh-caught catfish, dipped in mush and fried in a cast-iron skillet over an open fire.
Still, each time I see a whiskered catfish on ice in the seafood section, my heart warms with memories of my real Grandfather, who was NOT a serial killer, but did teach me all I know about fishing!
Granddad didn't put all his eggs in one creel, either. He also made his own potent stink bait (with limburger cheese and other unmentionable semi-edibles) to catch a variety of local fish. I well remember the time a 'weaponized' batch of his stink bait exploded on the service porch at the back of the house. But that's another story.
“The Legend of Bahama Bobby” by Melinda Loomis
Why is Key West a great place to get lost but not to hide?
I think it’s a great place to get lost because no matter how quirky you are, you’ll fit right in. You can get lost in a crowd. But it’s ultimately not a great place to hide because if you’re discovered there’s nowhere further to run. It’s the southern-most tip of not just Florida, but of the entire country. I think of it as a criminal trying to escape by running down an alleyway thinking it will lead to freedom, only to realize that he’s run into a dead-end. It seemed like a good idea, but now he’s trapped.
What is the Releasing Lives festival all about?
The Releasing Lives festival is a Buddhist festival for people to earn merit by releasing something that might otherwise be killed, ex., fish, snakes, other animals/sentient beings. Buddhists see an individual's life as a ledger—merit on one side, demerit on the other. As you can imagine, it's much easier to build up demerits than merit points. Also, people can perform this good deed for themselves or for someone else. This ledger is important because what you are reborn as (ex., male human, female human, other sentient being such as a worm or wild animal) depends on what your ledger looks like when you died.
“Killer’s Cruise” by Joseph S. Walker
Why didn’t Dent just hide? Or was it revenge for the dog?
I think it's a combination of just not liking his old partner much and being afraid that the death of a prominent passenger would bring too much attention. And of course, Dent is, by training and inclination, a killer. His reaction to a perceived threat is bound to be extreme.
“Book Drop” by Sarah A. Bresniker
As a librarian, what was the most unusual item dropped into the drop box?
Actually, our library had a fancy new book drop that only let in library books with special tags in them, so we got very few surprises. Occasionally, kids would manage to stuff in leaves or bits of trash, but nothing too interesting. However, there are whole Reddit threads dedicated to the things librarians have found in their book drop, from kittens to drugs to all of the gross things you immediately imagine! Yet another way that technology has taken the mystery out of everyday life!
“The Last Laugh” by Lori Roberts Herbst
Why does the bearded lady only sleep with clowns?
For one thing, when you work in a traveling circus, your options are a bit limited. Of all the circus workers, clowns provide the most fun and joy. They live to entertain. Plus, those big feet...Need I say more?
“The Canine Caper” by Michele Bazan Reed
Do you have an Airedale? Were they really used for missions in WWI?
For more than 40 years, my husband and I lived with Airedales, and he grew up with one. We loved them for the same reasons the people in the 1920s did: their intelligence, loyalty and fun-loving nature. Our last Airedale was the late, great Louis, and the character of Raffles was modeled after him. They were used as messengers in World War I for their bravery and tenacity. The battlefield noises didn’t frighten them and they would complete their mission even if wounded. An Airedale seemed the perfect choice to outwit “The Hound.”
“True Colors” by C. M. West
Why did your main character want to find Butterfly?
those of us who have an amateur sleuth main character in our mysteries, the
question of why the person becomes involved, why they care, and why they don't
just call the police is a perennial issue. The main character, Tru James, is an
artist and he finds himself in an unique position when he sees a street art
portrait of a missing teen. It is apparent the street art community knows
something about the lost child, but no one is willing to talk to police for
fear of the substantial fines and penalties graffiti art accrues. It is an
anonymous culture. However, Tru is different, uniquely connected to the
art community, and he cares about making a difference—so he takes on the
search. Who doesn't feel the pull of sadness and powerlessness when a photo of
a missing child is on your milk carton? If you had the chance to help find a
missing kid, wouldn't you help?