Finding the Character that Wants Her Story Told with Judy K. Walker

Author Judy K. Walker tells us how she found her main character Sydney Brennan, and coined the term ‘Thrillergy’, in this interview.

I love that Judy talks about using her experience working for a lawyer on death penalty cases as part of the foundation for her PI’s background.

Stories come from many different places and Judy lets us in on parts of her process for writing her books. Since we recorded the interview, she has published the first book in the ‘Thrillergy’ she mentions – it is called Prodigal is separate from the Sydney Brennan Mysteries.

This podcast episode is sponsored by the free mystery novella, Charlie Horse.

1890. Frontier British Columbia. When one of her students is accused of a crime, will new schoolteacher Julia Thom be able to prove his innocence?

For a limited time you can click here, or on the cover image at right to get your free copy.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Judy, and all her books on her website JudyKWalker.com. You can also find her on Twitter @JudyKWalker.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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Down the Rabbit Hole of Research with Tracy Tonkinson

Today I have a guest post by mystery author Tracy Tonkinson. Tracy was a guest on It’s a Mystery Podcast in 2016 (you can hear our chat about Chicago history and the inspiration for her novels here) and I’m thrilled to have her back to talk about the research she does for her mystery novels. In today’s article, she explores the fascinating origins of cesarean section births. How does that subject intersect with mystery novels set in 1880s Chicago, you ask? Read on to find out. Take it away Tracy!

madmanI wrote my first Diamond & Doran mystery, Madman, because I found a half-forgotten detail of history so compelling it begged for its own story.

Researching Madman was so intoxicating I almost forgot that I was supposed to be writing a book. And therein lies the problem for the historical novelist. If you love history as I do, then rummaging around in old books, online directories and ancient filing cabinets is as close to heaven as it gets. But it can also lead to the hell of the eternal rabbit hole.

I cannot tell you how many times I have started researching for the name of a real person to use in a Diamond & Doran mystery only to uncover so many other fascinating facts that I find myself diverted into outlining books 1 through 10 of a series yet to be written, which all sounds fantastic until I realise I am now weeks behind on the book I should be writing.

Madman came to me because of a real bombing incident that happened in Haymarket Square, Chicago in May 1886. The true perpetrator was never caught, though 9 men were hanged for involvement in the riot that followed. That anonymous perpetrator was my inspiration for Diamond & Doran’s hunt through the mean streets of Chicago to track down the culprit. Along the way, they became a real team and a series was born.

PoisonBook 2 in the series, Poison came about because I researched a serial killer only caught in Chicago in 1893, even though it was clear he had been stalking victims for years. The details were so horrific I wondered how he could have escaped detection for so long, so I devised a plot in my book that enabled my villain to come and go at will, enticing his victims to go with him willingly, if unwittingly, to their deaths.

Book 3, Vendetta has just hit Amazon and the research for this book took me to a different place. This time I wanted to explore something that would have a dramatic effect on Doran and his whole family, including his partner Diamond.

We all love a good medical drama. In the 19th century, medicine was at an exciting intersection between what may seem to us barbaric and even comedic treatments for a variety of ailments, and real progress in medical procedures. In Vendetta I got the chance to explore some of this progress.

The delivery of babies had for centuries been practised for women by women. By the 1880s there were qualified obstetricians with special skills and understanding of the dangers and complications that come with childbirth. But within the medical profession these specialists in childbirth were often considered to be little more than ‘baby catchers’ and held in low regard by many of the doctors in general practise. ‘Baby catching’ was, after all, women’s work and what self respecting male doctor would involve himself in something so menial?

vendetta-tracy-tAt a time when a child and its mother’s mortality rate was staggering by today’s standards the answer, I discovered through my research, was that a surprising number of young doctors were drawn to the complex business of helping women bring to full term, and then deliver, healthy children. One of these men was Dr. William Jaggard. Jaggard was a real obstetrician practising in Chicago during the 1880’s. He was an expert in the practise of Caesarian operations, a procedure so dangerous that the likelihood was, even if the child was saved, the mother would die from shock caused by blood loss, or through infection introduced during the procedure.

While the success rate for Caesarian section today is virtually 100%, for which I for one am thankful as the mother of a child delivered by C section, even the skills of someone as dedicated as Dr. William Jaggard were sometimes not enough to save mother or child. But researching Jaggard’s difficulties, both in surgical terms and in terms of getting the respect his skills deserved as an expert in childbirth, was a fascinating rabbit hole to fall into and proved that the work he did is still by and large the method used in modern C section today, albeit in more sanitary conditions and with far better understanding of the risks involved in anesthetics and blood loss for mother and child.

My next Diamond & Doran mystery will no doubt lead me into researching areas that I never imagined would be useful to my story idea, but sometimes you fall upon something while you research that is so juicy you just have to find a way to include it in your story. And that’s the real excitement of research.

Until next time, here I go, back down the rabbit hole!

To download Tracy’s book, Madman, for free you can sign up at: http://www.diamondanddoranmysteries.com/
Poison is available at: http://authl.it/6hj
Vendetta is available at: http://authl.it/6hs
Like the Diamond & Doran Facebook page at: Facebook.com/DandDMysteries/

TracyTTracy Tonkinson was born and raised in England and now lives in Ontario, Canada. She is a fiction writer and avid reader of historical mystery fiction, thrillers and adventure novels. Her aim as a writer is to make her readers laugh a little, cry a little and feel breathless with excitement as they race to the end of each adventure she involves them in.

Book Club Visit

img_0835I had a great time earlier this week visiting the King Albert Street book club in Coquitlam, BC.

The ladies in the club had read Horse With No Name and then asked me to join the group and answer questions. We talked about character motivations, history of the North Okanagan, transgendered cowboys, and lots more.

They even fed me cheese, which makes them my best friends for life. 😉

Q&A with Thriller Author Michael Parker

Today I’m thrilled to have British thriller author Michael Parker answer some questions about his books and his writing.

Michael ParkerMichael is the author of ten books. His first novel, NORTH SLOPE was published in 1980, and is now available as a POD paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

You can find out more about Michael and his books at www.MichaelParkerBooks.com


1. What drew you to writing the types of books that you write? Books that interweave historical events, mystery and elements of the thriller genre.

Having been brought up with children’s classics through to ‘grown up’ fiction, I became fascinated with authors such as Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley, Denis Wheatley and many others. I discovered new authors in the library such as Nigel Tranter who wrote ‘The Master of Gray’, a novel about Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots. One of the writers who had the biggest impact on me was Mickey Spillane with his Mike Hammer novels. Ed McBain was another. So there was a fairly eclectic mix of authors from which I learned the art of story-telling in different genres.

2. A couple of your books involve events from WWII. Is this period of particular interest to you? Do you think you’ll write another book set in this time?

Devils TrinityWhen I learned that the British invented centimetric radar to defeat the Nazi wolf packs in the Atlantic in World War Two, it fascinated me enough to want to write something. I invented a fictitious island off the north coast of Scotland for the story. Apart from the military research, I studied much about whaling and life on a remote island and how the island community lived. I don’t think I’ll write another war story though.

3. Where do your ideas for books come from?

Usually from some relevant fact. i.e., The discovery of oil in Alaska (North Slope). Centimetric radar (Shadow of the Wolf). Constructing a railway line from Mombassa to Uganda in the nineteenth century (Hell’s Gate). An American project to divert the Gulf Stream in the nineteenth century, later abandoned (The Devil’s Trinity). The sale of Nazi gold by the Bolivian government (I had a friend who was involved in the early stages (A Dangerous Game). There are other reasons, of course, but mainly inspired by real life events.

4. One of your reviewers described your books as ‘impossible to put down’. How do you create tension and compelling forward momentum in a book?

I believe it is important to keep the reader ‘hooked’. An opening paragraph is the first hook, but each scene should, I believe, finish with a hook too; this encourages the reader to want to read on. When I put my characters in seemingly impossible situations, I have to come up with a way for them to extricate themselves without inventing something that would seem unlikely. The elements of those situations must be planted elsewhere in the plot without the reader realizing why they are there.

5. Your book that was released earlier this year, A Dangerous Game, is set in present-day America and Mexico. Do you have a preference for writing in the present or the past?

Eagles ConvenantI’ve no particular preference; it depends on where my inspiration has come from. Writing in the present means keeping up with modern trends like technology etc., whereas writing in the past means I can avoid such things as cell phones, computer hacking, forensic science etc. But whichever way I go, it doesn’t make it easier.

6. Please share a bit about the book you are currently writing.

I have brought Marcus Blake back (A Covert War) to investigate the death of a British cabinet minister. Officially the minister died from cancer, but a suicide note was found by his body with a disgusting revelation about his private life. The police and the coroner are all satisfied it was suicide, but one man believes it was murder. Marcus has a part time secretary working for him. Her name is Vereen and she is a single mother on benefits who likes smoking marijuana. Marcus learns of a private clinic where illegal genetic engineering is carried out. The cabinet minister was connected to this in some way, but his secrets have gone to the grave. Vereen comes under the influence of a nightclub owner who is involved with a satanic set and is also linked to the dead minister.

I am about halfway through the first draft and have a couple of dead bodies in there so far. This novel isn’t inspired by anything other than to change direction a little and develop a mystery thriller.

Historical Chicago and Characters Who Insist on Being Seen with Tracy Tonkinson

Podcast episode 31Tracy Tonkinson is a fellow Canadian author who has a deep love for history. In this interview she explains what drew her to write about late 19th century Chicago. We also discuss her character Drew McMillan, who made himself known to Tracy, and had such an effect on her, that she’s now writing a second mystery series featuring this Pinkerton agent.

In the introduction I mention that podcast guest Cassidy Salem will have the next book in her Adina Donati series available next week. You can learn more about Dying for Data here.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Tracy, and all her books on her website DiamondAndDoranMysteries.com. You can also find her on Facebook.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.

Transcription of Interview with Tracy Tonkinson

Alexandra: Hi, Mystery readers. I’m Alexandra Amor, this is It’s a Mystery podcast and I’m here today with Tracy Tonkinson. Hi, Tracy.

Tracy: Hi, Alexandra, how are you?

Alexandra: Very well, how are you?

Tracy: Good, thank you.

Alexandra: Good, excellent, so let me introduce you to our listeners.

TracyTTracy Tonkinson is the author of “Madman” and of “Poison,” the first two books in her “Diamond And Doran Mystery Series,” which follow rookie cop Arthur Diamond and the veteran sergeant Billy Doran as they clean up 19th century Chicago.

Also out soon is “Argent,” which is the first book in the “Drew McMillan Case Files” series and this one follows the early career of Pinkerton agent, Drew McMillan.

Let’s begin talking about Diamond and Doran.

Let’s start by talking about Sergeant Billy Doran. Tell us a bit about him. He’s an Irish Catholic living in Chicago.

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Lesbian Mysteries, Dangerous Settings, and Pond Frogs with Cari Hunter

Podcast episode 30Big congratulations go out to my guest on this episode Cari Hunter, who, a few days after we recorded this won the Best Mystery / Thriller award at the 2016 Golden Crown Literary Society awards (also known as a Goldie).

Cari is a full-time paramedic and part-time writer. As she mentions during the interview, her work informs her writing in a number of areas, including giving her a keen ear for dialogue, and an enjoyment for writing it.

In the introduction I mention that podcast guest Janel Gradowski has a new book out in her Culinary Competition Mystery Series called Banana Muffins and Mayhem. You can learn more at Janel’s site here.

And I also mention the mystery I’m reading at the moment; the third book in Paul Doiron’s series set in the Maine Wilderness. The book is called Bad Little Falls and I adore the sense of place and the deep character development that Paul brings to his books.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Cari, and all her books on her website CariHunter.wordpress.com.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.

Transcription of Interview with Cari Hunter

Alexandra: Hello, mystery readers. I am Alexandra Amor and this is “It’s a Mystery” podcast. I am here today with Cari Hunter. Hi, Cari.

Cari: Hello.

Alexandra: How are you today?

Cari: I am absolutely fine, and the sun is shining for once which makes a change for this part of the world.

Alexandra: That’s great. Yeah, we’ve got gray skies and rain here in the middle of July.

Cari: It’s been like that, so it’s a rare occasion when the sun actually peaks through.

Alexandra: Nice. Well, let me introduce you to our listeners.

CariHunterCari Hunter lives in the northwest of England with her wife, two cats and a pond full of frogs. (I’m going to have to ask you about the frogs later.) She works full-time as a paramedic and dreams up stories in her spare time. Cari is the author of six novels and currently in the middle of writing a new crime series based in the Peak District.

The first in the series, “No Good Reason”, won best lesbian thriller at the 2015 Rainbow Award, and its sequel, “Cold to the Touch”, was published in December. A third book, “A Quiet Death”, is due for publication next year in January 2017.

Let’s start by talking about the Peak District. That’s something I’m fascinated by. I love a strong sense of setting in a mystery novel, and I really try to incorporate that in my books.

You live in the Peak District is that correct?

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Stubborn Characters, Future Spy Thrillers, and Abundant Creativity with Kasia Radzka

Podcast episode 29Today I’m interviewing Australian author Kasia Radzka. Kasia has a series of crime thrillers featuring her ‘stubborn’ investigative journalist sleuth Lexi Ryder. Kasia and I discuss the origin of characters, writing habits, and whether or not outlining a plot works for her.

I’ve added a new segment to the podcast where I mention new books being released by former guests. I’ll add this intro to the audio recording each week, though it won’t be included in the YouTube video.

This week two guests of the show have new books out. Malcolm Richards, who I spoke to in Episode 11, has released his next book in the Emily Swanson series; the book is called Cold Hearts. You can learn more at Malcolm’s website.

As well, Renee Pawlish, who I spoke to in Episode 22, has a new book in her Dewey Webb PI Series called Murder in Fashion. You can learn more at Amazon.com.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Kasia, and all her books on her website KasiaRadzka.com.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.

Transcript of Interview with Kasia Radzka

Alexandra: Hi mystery readers, I am Alexandra Amor. This is It’s a Mystery Podcast and I’m here today with Kasia Radzka. Hi Kasia.

Kasia: Hi Alexandra, how are you?

Alexandra: Very well, how are you?

Kasia: Good, thank you. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

Alexandra: Oh you’re so welcome, it’s my pleasure, I’m looking forward to talking to you very much. Let’s give everyone a little bit of information about you.

KasiaRadzkaKasia Radzka is an author, athlete wannabe and blogger living with her husband and son on the Gold Coast, Australia. In her lack of spare time, she likes to run marathons, eat fine food and drink good wine, discover new places and write action-packed novels. She’s currently working on book number four in her Lexi Ryder Crime Thriller series. So that’s what we’re here to talk about today.

Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about Lexi.

Kasia: Okay, Lexi is an investigative journalist who likes to get herself into trouble. So trouble seems to follow her around everywhere and I suppose she likes to get into the way of people who do bad things.

Alexandra: Was she a character that you, let’s say, that you created from some sort of inspiration or did…where did she come from?

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Writing Thrillers on Trains, Visual Story Ideas, and Kidnapping Plots with Rachel Amphlett

Podcast episode 28Thriller author Rachel Amphlett grew up reading thrillers. She mentions both Dick Francis (perhaps my all-time favorite mystery author) and Enid Blyton in our chat; those were two authors who introduced me to the world of mysteries as a young person as well.

I asked Rachel about writing in a genre that is predominantly occupied by men, but like JF Penn, she doesn’t let that phase or stop her. Her Dan Taylor series concerns a former British soldier struggling with PTSD, as well as an injury received during a run-in with an IED.

You can find out more about Rachel and all her books on her website RachelAmphlett.com. And as with so many of my guests, Rachel has a book – and two book extracts – available for free. You can find that on her website.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.

Transcript of Interview with Rachel Amphlett

Alexandra: Hi, mystery readers, I’m Alexandra Amor. This is “It’s a Mystery” podcast and I’m here today with Rachel Amphlett. Hi, Rachel.

Rachel: Hi.

Alexandra: How are you?

Rachel: Good, thanks, and thanks for having me on the show.

Alexandra: Oh, you’re so welcome. It’s great to have you here. Let me introduce you to our listeners.

RachelAmphlettBefore moving to Australia in 2005, Rachel Amphlett lived in the UK and helped run a pub, played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a subeditor and editorial assistant. Her thrillers appeal to a worldwide audience and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler.

Thank you so much for being here with me today, Rachel. The thing that I found so intriguing about your books, or one of the things, is that you’re a woman writing in a man’s world. We mentioned J.F. Penn just before we started recording and the conspiracy theory-thriller genre really is dominated by men.

Can you talk a little bit about that? What drew you to this genre?

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New Romantic Mystery from Alexandra Amor

I have been remiss in mentioning this. I got too busy writing the next book in this series and very nearly forgot to let you know about the first book. 😉

Love and Death at the Inn:
A Juliet Island Romantic Mystery

60% Mystery. 40% Romance. 100% escape.

Born and raised on Juliet Island, Maggie Archer’s whole life is dedicated to the rustic inn her parents built. When a guest is found dead, the inn’s already precarious financial situation teeters on the brink. Maggie begins to wonder if the growing number of accidents at the inn are really just that, or if something more sinister is at play.

Elliott Simon’s life has recently gone off the rails. His stop on Juliet Island is meant to be temporary but when he finds a body floating in the ocean his plans are put on hold by the RCMP. Complicating matters is his growing attraction to the owner of the Cormorant Inn, the beautiful and headstrong Maggie Archer.

When a fire strikes at the inn, and it looks as though it could have been deliberately set, Maggie and Elliott are in a race to find the perpetrator before more tragedy strikes.

Love and Death at the Inn is the first in a series of cozy romantic mysteries set on the wild west coast of British Columbia.

If you like character-based stories where friendship and love form the foundation, beautiful locations, and a little bit of romantic entanglement, then you’ll love Alexandra Amor’s heartwarming Juliet Island Romantic Mysteries.

*Note: there are occasional instances of swearing in this book, including the odd F-bomb.

Purchase now in ebook or paperback at the following retailers:

Kobo
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes and Noble

Spirit Sensing Sleuths, Rockefellers, and Aviation with Matty Dalrymple

Podcast episode 26In this interview with author Matty Dalrymple, she describes a scene that caught my imagination and reminded me why writers write. I loved hearing more about Matty’s amateur sleuth, Ann Kinnear, who, Matty explains, isn’t really even a sleuth in the first two books of this mystery series. Ann is someone with psychic gifts who, by accidents of timing and location, lands in situations that require her to use her gifts to help solve two crimes.

And isn’t that the way most of us would or could get embroiled in a murder investigation? I love that Matty has created a character who is growing into her role as a sleuth, rather than arriving on the scene fully formed. It seems so true-to-life.

When you hear her describe the scene on the battlefield you’ll know what I mean about why writers write. So beautiful! And it all came from her imagination. 😉

You can find out more about Matty and her Ann Kinnear series on her website MattyDalrymple.com. She’s also on Twitter and Facebook. And, for those of you who are interested in writing, Matty shares information and resources about her journey as an independent author at TheIndyAuthor.com.

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.

Transcript of Interview with Matty Dalrymple

Alexandra: Hi, mystery readers, I’m Alexandra Amor. This is It’s A Mystery Podcast and I’m here today with Matty Dalrymple. Hi, Matty.

Matty: All right. How are you doing?

Alexandra: Very well. How are you?

Matty: Good, thanks.

Alexandra: Good. So, let me introduce you to our listeners.

MattyDalrympleMatty Dalrymple is the author of the Ann Kinnear suspense novels, “The Sense of Death” and “The Sense of Reckoning.” Matty lives with her husband and her two Labrador retrievers in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which is the setting for much of the action in “The Sense of Death.”

In the summers, they enjoy vacationing on Mount Desert Island, Maine, where “The Sense of Reckoning” takes place. Matty is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Brandy Wine Valley Writers Group. So, welcome, Matty. It’s great to have you here today.

Matty: Thank you. This is very exciting.

Alexandra: Oh, well.

Let’s talk about your main character, Ann Kinnear, and she’s a little bit special. So tell us about her.

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