Elise Cooper interviews

Crucible by James Rollins reunites the Sigma Force team in this thrilling story.  Released just after the holidays, this plot is anything but merry.  But readers of Rollins are used to a roller coaster ride where they get plenty of action blended with cutting edge science, historical mystery, and the latest technologies. 

It is Christmas Eve where the Sigma Force friends are gathering to have a joyous holiday.  But Monk Kokkalis and Gray Pierce find their holiday spirits quickly dampened after returning to Monk’s house in Maryland. The Christmas Tree is toppled, Kat, the computer expert of the group, is lying unconscious on the kitchen floor, and Monk’s two young girls have been kidnapped, along with Gray’s pregnant wife, Seichan. This happened shortly after a massacre in Portugal where five women scientists have been brutally massacred.  Also missing is Mara Silviera who was making advances in artificial intelligence research. She is on the run, protecting herself and her computer’s life. Gray, Monk, and company set out to find Mara after realizing that she is the key to finding their loved ones and also to saving humanity,.  

The action keeps moving at a brisk pace in this latest novel that is crafted around plausible scientific data.  Rollins has a knack for weaving together new and old as well as warning readers what can happen in the not too distant future.

 

Elise Cooper:  Artificial intelligence stories are as believable as alien stories?

James Rollins:  I made sure to read the contrary view that question if AI is a threat.  There are certain hurdles that will need to be crossed to bring about a self-aware human-like AI. Their position is that this technology will happen. Of those two dozen experts I interviewed the consensus is that it will happen in five to ten years because of the rapid advances.  Two of the researchers thought we have already gone there.  It is not an if, but a when.

 

EC: What about the non-believers who think this is pure science fiction?

JR:  I use as an example, the story of AlphaGo, the first computer program to defeat a human. It played the board game, Go. The next generation self-taught itself in three days and also beat his big brother, the original version of the program.  I think this book is written for the non-believers, and I did not write it like the movie “Terminator.” 

 

EC:  How did you get the idea for the story?

JR:  I have an idea box.  If I see an interesting article I put it in my box.  Over the years I have collected more and more articles about AI.  After reading the book, The Final Invention, the story idea popped into my head.  

 

EC:  You seem to have a good track record predicting what can happen?

JR:  I would remind people that in my book, The Bone Labyrinth, which came out a few years ago, I warned how the Chinese researchers genetically altered the human gene at the sperm level.  We just read last month: they did just that. What sounded like science fiction when this book came out has come true today.  I think we will see that with Crucible, and readers will understand I raised the red flag.  We need to make sure we produce a friendly AI.

 

EC: Are humans being taken over or helped by technology?

JR:  I show this with the prosthetic arm of Monk that is controlled by his brain implants.  This technology is out there.  Currently they are working on prosthetic skin that can determine the difference between soft/hard, and cold/hot.  The concern is that the brain controlled prosthetics can be hacked into and someone’s limbs can be controlled by another person.  It is not much different than hacking into and controlling someone’s car.

 

EC:  This is not a very happy Christmas story?

JR:  I put the line in the book by one of Monk’s young daughters, “We’re we bad…Did Santa take us instead of giving us presents?”  It is as much a Christmas story as “Die Hard.” The heroes of the book are put through a very brutal Christmas before they get a happy ending.

 

EC:  Why compare the witch trials to AI scientists?

JR:   The witch trials were the persecution of women who questioned the natural world so they had to be killed.  Women in the sciences today are also questioning the natural world and although they are not killed they face a form of persecution.  Many are listed at the bottom of research projects and this year a woman finally won the Nobel Prize in Physics, the first women to do it in 113 years. 

 

EC:  Locked-in syndrome is really scary?

JR:  Yes, when a person is basically awake, aware at times, but can’t move their body.  This is the most terrifying thing in the world.  Many who have this can hear but cannot move. They are fully aware of what is going on but cannot respond.  It is like being locked in a prison. What is hopeful are the new functional MRIs that can map the way people think and picture things.  It is a form of mind reading and a way to communicate with people in a coma.

 

EC:  How would you describe the AI, Eve?

JR:  She matured from a narrow AI to AFI then eventually to ASI.  I based her on the book Flowers for Algernon that was made into the movie “Charley.”  Over the course of time his vocabulary increases multifold. He surpasses intellectually the average person’s language. There is math on one of the pages of my book to show how Eve goes beyond scientifically the human understanding, just as Charley had done in the movie.  I gave her a double personality where she is split between dark and light.  The one cared for by Mara nurtures and protects humans, while the other one, which was stolen, mirrors the torture done to her.  

 

EC:  There are three types of AI?

JR:  We are in narrow AI currently, such as Siri or self-driving cars.  What everyone is pursuing is AGI that have computers self-aware of themselves with some human level of intelligence that can differentiate. ASI will advance far beyond our intelligence and accelerates rapidly.  I wanted Eve to start with a cold and calculating intelligence and then mature as she is trained in different types of environments. 

 

EC:  You refer to Valya as the Snow Queen.  Did you ever read that book?

JR:  It was written by Hans Christian Anderson and is a very disturbing story. It is about a brutal woman who tortures children. The early Fairy Tales told to children are pretty darn gruesome.  We forget that because Disney cleaned up a lot of these stories.  In my story, the Snow Queen is not based on the Disney character in “Frozen.”  

 

EC:  You also use the story as a warning?

JR:  Remember when the Internet came out it was supposed to create a rosy world where we are all connected and can come together.  Instead, we are more isolated and hide behind screens that allow the worst of ourselves to shine.  What sounded like a great boon to humanity is actually the direct opposite.  The same is true for AI.  I hope people are not wearing rosy glasses.

 

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of this novel?

JR:  The whole point of the book is to make sure there are boundaries and that any AI has empathy.  Just like Putin said, whoever controls it will control the world.  It is probably true that whoever is the first will have a huge economic advantage.  Government and corporations want to be the first and are not worrying about the consequences.  

 

EC:  Why no reference to Sigma on the cover?

JR:  There was a lot of debate.  I thought it should have been put on it.  Some thought by putting it on there, new readers may be stopped from picking up the book; even though I write a book that can stand on its own.  Just FYI: Amazon and Barnes & Noble have different editions, each with different endings and do refer to it as a Sigma team novel.  

 

EC:  Your next book?

JR:  It will be an anthology of all my short stories. I also include a 110-page Tucker and Kane novella.  It will be out in the summer.  The next Sigma will be out in January 2020.

 

THANK YOU!!

In Dog We Trust

Beth Kendrick

Berkley Pub.

Jan 8th 2019

 

In Dog We Trust by Beth Kendrick says it all with the title.  This fun-loving book is a must read for all dog lovers and those that want smiles on their faces.  In addition, readers get an interesting mystery where greed is the antagonist. The story is enjoyable, amusing, and entertaining. 

The plot takes place in the Delaware seaside quirky quaint town of Black Dog Bay. It has become well-known for being the “best place in America to bounce back from your breakup.” Charming seaside diners, boutiques, bakeries, and a bed and breakfast capitalized by having names of “Home to Better Off Bed-and-Breakfast, the Eat Your Heart Out bakery, the Jilted Café, the Rebound Salon, and the Whinery bar.” The owner of “Black Dog Bay Books” created a legend about an apparition of a black dog as a harbinger of hope and change. 

The main character Jocelyn Hillier helps her mother run a laundry rental business in the beach town. A chance encounter leads to Jocelyn’s meeting Mr. Allardyce, the owner of several pedigreed Labrador retrievers and living in one of the fanciest shore-side mansions. He is gruff, a penny pincher, and a social outcast, but decides to hire Jocelyn as a dog walker and dog sitter.  After Mr. Allardyce suddenly dies, he leaves all of his money to his three show dogs, appointing Jocelyn as their guardian. She has control of the money and is able to live in the mansion. An interesting premise that encircles the story, how an eccentric dog owner would appoint a trustee of the dogs who inherited the wealth. But life becomes troublesome when his estranged son, Liam, and the dog’s trainer, Lois, decide to sue her for the inheritance left to the dogs and her guardianship.

Besides having likeable characters and cuddly dogs this story delves into scandal and betrayal. The humorous banter allows for a very fun read.

 

Elise Cooper: The dogs are a background to the story?

Beth Kendrick: I like writing about the relationship between the owner and the dog along with the dog’s spirit and the environment surrounding everybody.  The story cannot happen without the dogs, who are agents for change.  People and pets have a very significant relationship.

 

EC:  Dogs are a special breed?

BK:  Dogs know who is kind and nurturing.  It is that saying, ‘if my dog doesn’t like you neither do I.’  There is something about having another being to rely on us.  There is a deeper level of nonverbal communication that is satisfying and profound.  My vet once said to me, dogs want to be useful and serve.  I think we have an obligation to give that back to our dogs.

 

EC: How did you come upon the premise?

BK:  The name of the town is Black Dog Bay. In the first book, Cure For the Common Breakup, these is a mystical and magical legend in the town, an Irish Wolfhound.  The dog is a symbol for hope and change.  But in literature it is the symbol of depression and despair.  I like playing off both: how hopelessness turns into hope, the dark into light, and the feeling of being totally isolated/lonely into finding a companion.  This is the kernel of the whole series.

 

EC: Is this town made up?

BK:  Yes. It is loosely based on some of the Delaware beaches such as Bethany Beach.  I like the atmosphere and vibe that has the old-fashioned boardwalk and huge mansions along the beach.  Too bad this prime real estate is empty most of the time and not occupied.  

 

EC:  How did you get the silhouette of the dog in the beginning of each chapter?

BK:  I wanted a simple outline.  I think we went through five to ten kinds.  Some were too distracting and some were unclear.  I could not find an Irish Wolfhound since most are so shaggy they look like sheep.  For me, this silhouette is like a lucky penny bringing good luck.

 

EC:  How did you come by the storyline of a dog’s inheritance?

BK:  I was reading with my eleven-year-old son a National Geographic story.  It was how all these dogs are bequeathed millions and millions of dollars. There is plenty of legal precedent even though the dogs actually cannot spend money.  All they want is food, water, and a human.  Pet trusts are routinely now part of estates.  I understand how we owners want them well cared for. 

 

EC:  Are you a dog person?

BK:  I write a series set in Black Dog Bay that includes a book titled In Dog We Trust, so I think we all see where my loyalties lie. I wrote a book, The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service, that helps humans find their canine soul mate, making sure the humans and dogs get their needs met.  In this book, I write about dog breeders and dog shows even though I have adopted all my dogs from the pound.  I think dog people have a spiritual and creative streak that are mostly kind and helpful.

 

EC:  Do you go to dog shows?

BK:  Yes.  A scene in this book is inspired by true events.  Jocelyn takes the dogs to a show and they are boisterous and badly behaved in the ring.  They were not naughty but just could not control themselves.  The judge remarked that they are acting like labs.  All the other breeds appeared like they wanted to win.  But the labs just wanted to say hi to each other and other people.  

 

EC:  How would you describe Jocelyn?

BK:  Sweet, attractive, smart, and sensible.  She has been restrained her whole life and is aware of the limits placed upon her by family, friends, and the community.  She has a great sense of responsibility, especially to the dogs. She is very practical and has a sense of obligation to the dogs, her mom, and her friends. Once she has been given some financial freedom she is able to let go a bit.

 

EC:  How would you describe Liam.  I think readers will fluctuate between liking and disliking him?

BK:  He is determined and obstinate. He has a clear understanding of how money changes someone’s life.  For him it is not personal, but business.  In a sadistic way, I had fun torturing him when the money mixes with the personal.  I think one of the turning points is when he helps with the puppies’ birth where he had a metaphorical and spiritual transformation.

 

EC:  How would you describe the three labs?

BK:  Carmen is the rebellious one.  Hester is sensitive and sweet.  Curtis is charming and goofy.  I wanted to show how each have their own nuances with a distinct personality.  

 

EC:  The humorous banter?

BK:  This is my natural voice.  I have tried to write very dark and serious perspectives but cannot do it.  Even when I watch TV I still gravitate toward shows with some humor.  I think life can be short and complicated, but we can deal with it through humor, even when things are really messed up.

 

EC: Why the book quote, “My dogs are better than most people.”

BK:  I wanted to say something nice about the dog owner, Mr. Allardyre who had some tough times in his life.  In some way, this is the theme of the book.  Dogs are not selfish or prejudiced, and are willing to engage, serve and connect.  Mr. A. left all the money and made Joselyn the dogs guardian because he wanted a guardian that could be trusted.  Even though when he was alive he treated her badly and paid her practically nothing, she still hung in there for the dogs.  He saw that in her and trusted that she would treat the dogs well.

 

EC:  You even have a dog romance? 

BK:  Yes between Carmen and a mutt, Friday.  I based him on my own dog because both dogs are very charismatic.  I liked to compare this romance to the Disney movie, “The Lady and The Tramp.” I think this relationship was very spontaneous and organic.

 

EC:  Do you like the group Duran Duran?

BK:  Yes.  I put their songs in the story as a shout out to my college roommate. I also needed a group that would be age appropriate.  I would go to see them in concert if they appeared.

 

EC:  Next book?

BK:  I am still in the process of deciding on the next book.  I do think there will be another “Bay Dog” novel.  Right now, I am working on something else that I am not allowed to talk about, but if I had to bet there will be a dog popping up.

 

THANK YOU!!

The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer brings to life a spy thriller that actually happened.  This non-fiction historical mystery delves into a plot to assassinate General George Washington, exposing the spies, killers, counterfeiters, and traitors and how those in the still forming government addressed the plot.

 

This is Meltzer’s first non-fiction book, written with writer and documentary producer Josh Mensch.  It tells of a hidden event that took place during the most critical period of America’s birth.  The heart of the book takes place after Washington’s arrival into New York City in early 1776.  After having to flee to a British ship docked in New York’s harbor, the Governor of New York, a Loyalist, William Tryon devises a treacherous plan to kill the US General.  He enlists the help of the city’s mayor, David Mathews, and some in the civilian population that have divided loyalties and shifting allegiances.  All are willing to sacrifice their devotion to the highest bidder.

 

Shocked by these rumors Washington decides to assemble an elite band of soldiers, the Life Guards, to protect him. In addition, he along with another Founding Father John Jay, established the secret Committee of Intestine Enemies, designed to uncover the traitors, learn their plans, and stop them. The clandestine operations showed how Jay regarded the importance of counter-intelligence, and the Life Guards can be considered the precursor to the Secret Service.

 

Although a non-fiction story it reads like a spy novel with a sense of immediacy and peril.  Readers will be astonished that this “First Conspiracy,” was but a footnote in American history until now, when the authors bring it to the forefront. 

 

Elise Cooper:  How did you find out about the story?

Brad Meltzer:  I discovered the story a decade ago.  I wondered if the secret plot to kill George Washington was real or nonsense.  After looking into it I found it was true and was blown away by it.  I even went to the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis who knew of the story.  He told me it was ‘A true mystery that very few Americans know,’ and that it might be tricky to research.  This is an amazing rabbit hole to jump down.

 

EC:  Why not write it as a fictional thriller?

BM:  I did use it in one of my thrillers, The President’s Shadow.  There is a page where I mentioned the exact plot. But, I wanted to do more with this incredible story.  After five years it was still in my brain so I knew I had to write a book about it.  Usually I would take some real detail and expand on it.  But this was all real and so very fascinating.  

 

EC:  You also break some of the myths about the early years of the Revolutionary War?

BM:  The myth says we were a ragtag army who held hands and came together to defeat the powerful English.  But in fact, we were not unified, but acted just like today.  For example, our Massachusetts regiment hated our Connecticut regiment who hated our Virginia regiment.  They were all different with dissimilar beliefs and customs, including wearing different uniforms.  I show this in an amazing scene in the book.  Someone from the Virginia regiment meets someone from the Massachusetts regiment who starts to make fun of the Virginia uniform.  A fight breaks out until George Washington rides on his horse and picks them up, emphasizing the need for a team.  If ever there was a metaphor for where we are as a culture there it was.  He helped build the United States by holding us together. The book delves into getting rid of the myth that we were all together and shows how hard fought it was to get us together.

 

EC: Do you think Washington’s leadership helped bring us together?

BM:  He knew if there was no discipline there was going to be problems.  He wanted the men not to gamble, drink, or fight amongst each other.  Just look at the Battle of Brooklyn where we got our butts kicked.  The British outfought us, had better training, and better experience.  What Washington did was adapt.  In the middle of the night he plotted that daring escape on the East River.  He refused to get into any boat until all the troops were rescued.  I think that was one of the defining moments where we came together.  

 

EC:  How would you describe Washington? 

BM:  He never gave up.  The one word that exemplifies him:  honor, honor, honor.  He had integrity, humility, and would put others before himself.  What we are missing today is a leader who finds more of what we had in common than what separates us, something Washington did best.  He is a doer who had a depth of character.

 

EC:  How would you describe John Jay? 

BM:  He created a secret organization within our government that came out of the plot to kill Washington.  He is an incredible investigator who did interrogations to collect information.  He actually built a counter-intelligence operation by using civilians to ferret out information about the traitors.  He built an entire system for the government to protect itself.  I call him the original American bad ass.

 

EC:  How would you describe the British General William Tryon?

BM:  He is an evil doer.  As a villain, he could come out of any of my thrillers. There is a scene in the book where he and Washington enter New York at the same time.  All the people were cheering Washington and not him.

 

EC:  What is the theme?

BM:  Leadership, loyalty, and the harm betrayal does.  It is summed up in the final sentence of the book, “In our lowest moments we always find our greatest strengths.” 

 

EC:  President Bush wrote a blurb-was this recent?

BM:  It was about a year ago. What is very special to me is that he wrote about our first President, while he was our oldest living President. He wrote, “A wonderful book about leadership-and it shows why George Washington and his moral lessons are just as vital today.  What a book.  You’ll love it.” This is a book about everything President Bush did, including counter-intelligence since he was also the CIA Director.  I considered him a dear friend.

 

THANK YOU!!

River Bodies (Northampton County Book 1)

Karen Katchur

Thomas & Mercer Pub. 

Nov. 1, 2018

 

 

River Bodies by Karen Katchur is part mystery and part police procedural. It is not a “who done it,” but a “why done it” as the characters must come to grips with two brutal murders that occurred two decades apart. There are no solid lines, with a blurring between the good and evil side of each character. But the author successfully weaves in relationships, family dynamics, and loyalty that only enhance the story.

 

The book examines how loyal should someone be and whether the choices people make are to protect others. Each character looks inward reflecting on what they did to survive. The heroine is Becca Kingsley, a veterinarian, who lives across the river from the Portland, Pennsylvania town she grew up in. She decides to return to spend time with her dying father, who was once Portland’s police chief. Because of his infidelity to her mom she became estranged from him. Now she wants to make amends and to get answers to the memories and long buried secrets. Everything seems to be coming to the surface after the discovery of a man brutally murdered that is tied into a previous murder. The author explores with flashbacks Becca’s teen years that include her relationship with her parents, their separation, and her friendship with Parker Reed, now the present State Homicide Investigative Detective handling the case of the murdered victim found in the river. She realizes the two murders are connected and that she is somehow involved. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships: the man she is living with has infidelities, her father who sent her away to boarding school, Parker whom she wants to renew her romantic feelings with, and a man who’s watched over her for years, that could be more predator than protector.

 

Readers will experience a wild ride with the river’s currents, both metaphorically and physically. This is a tension-filled, fast-paced novel that effectively blends together a horrific murder, a mysterious backstory, and vivid characters. 

 

Elise Cooper:  Where did you get the idea for the story?

Karen Katchur:  My father was a state trooper and even though he didn’t talk to me about his job, I still heard and absorbed things.  I remember hearing of a case where a man was pulled from the Delaware River and gutted like a deer.  It really scared me.  Then years later, when I was married, in my husband’s small town, a mother and daughter were also found gutted like a deer.  I wondered if this is the type of crime that happens in a hunting community and what is the impact on those around them.  I decided to write a story based on this.

 

EC:  Why a state trooper?

KK:  They can handle multiple counties and can travel everywhere in Pennsylvania.  This allows me a lot of flexibility.  I am able to set up each story in different small towns.

 

EC:  Becca’s pet dog Romy is very cute?

KK:  She is based on my good friend’s dog who is so cool.  She and I run with her dog.  I would describe her as a German Shepherd that is a guard dog who is not aggressive, but protective. I also have a dog, but since she is a retriever, she is very submissive.

 

EC:  Why a veterinarian?

KK:  She is actually a vet surgeon.  I wondered if there is something in a person’s personality that allows them to take a knife to another living thing, even if it is to save them.  It fits into the plotline where the murderer kills with a knife and guts the victim.  

 

EC:  How would you describe Becca?

KK:  She sees goodness in people and chooses to avoid confrontation.  Intelligent, kind, and always wants to do the right thing. She had a hard time understanding why the killer did what he did because growing up she saw the other side of him.  Her brain and heart competed.  Her head told her what he did was absolutely wrong, but in her heart, she had an emotional kinship with him and saw him as her protector.

 

EC:  Knowing what her father did how could she stay with Matt who was not faithful?

KK:  In all my books there is the theme of children who question the choices of their parents.  Becca did not understand why her father fooled around on her mother multiple times, and how her mother stayed with him.  Yet, when she is living with someone, she does just that.  She saw her mother’s mistakes, but perpetuated the pattern.  I do not think it was a conscious thing. Her Her head told her what he did was absolutely wrong, but in her heart, she had an emotional kinship with him and saw him as her protector.

 

EC:  The setting plays an important role?

KK: My inspiration always comes from the setting.  I will only choose a setting I know really well, which is why I chose this county, because that is where I grew up.  I know the mountains, lakes, woods, and river intimately.  When someone is put in nature they can experience the beauty, but there is also a sense of danger where things can go terribly wrong.  

 

EC:  Is the Delaware River a metaphor?

KK:  I did research and read about a Japanese study that claimed “intelligence” of water.  Ice and water will move away from loud noises and sounds.   Parker feels that the river talked to him.  I also compared the relationship between Becca and her father with this book quote, just like the river, “sometimes tranquil and other times tumultuous.  She and her father were more like the white-water rapids, tumbling over rocks, navigating bends, riding the currents…” I try to have the setting describe the character’s emotions.

 

EC:  You were brave to kill “Bambi”?

KK:  Yes, a deer was killed.  I am a realist and won’t shy away from killing an animal. If it enhances the story I will kill anything. I live in a big hunting community.  In fact, my children are off from school today because it is the opening of hunting season.  In Eastern Pennsylvania, it is a big deal.  My favorite books are the ones Becca read deal with nature, Old Yeller, and The Call of The Wild.  I love when a book makes you feel something.  

 

EC:  But on the other side you write how Becca gets comfort from her dog Romy?

KK:  I always grew up with pets so animals are a part of my life.  Becca gets solace from Romy.  I think when someone has a bad day pets are there to cuddle and hug.  This is why I put the book quote, “Romy pushed her warm body against Becca’s leg.  She bent down, buried her face in Romy’s face, having turned to animals for comfort ever since that day John had given her that scruffy old barn cat.” Even though my dog is 75 pounds she is still a lap dog.

 

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

KK:  The title is In Cold Woods and will be released in August. Becca will be a secondary character although I will explore the relationship between her and Parker as seen through his eyes.  They will have some problems, but are trying to work them out.  Parker will also be getting a female partner.  Each book in the series will concentrate on a different character so I guess in some ways they are like standalones with Parker in all of them.

 

THANK YOU!!

Gown With The Wind By Stephanie Blackmoore is a parody of the classic movie Gone With The Wind.  It has the famous line of  “As G-d is my witness,” characters that have similar personalities, and names to match.  Readers will have fun with the comparisons and might even be interested in viewing the timeless masterpiece movie.

 

As with the film, the book storyline has a murder, attempted murder, vandalism, and even arson.  This is all happening during the planning of the wedding of Keith Pierce and Becca Cunningham.  They have asked Keith’s ex-fiancé, Mallory Shepard to plan their wedding since she and her sister Rachel have turned a renovated Thistle Park, the home Mallory inherited from her ex-fiancé, Keith Pierce’s, grandmother in Port Quincy Pennsylvania, into a B&B and wedding/event venue.

 

After Becca’s grandmother Alma, a huge Gone With The Wind collector, is strangled, the theme of the wedding is changed to this classic film to honor her.  The bride-to- be found the perfect wedding dress that is a Scarlett O’Hara lookalike.  Unfortunately, her childhood rival, Felicity Fournier, also a huge fan of the movie, wants the dress.  After Felicity is found murdered Mallory decides to become an amateur sleuth.  Besides planning a wedding, trying to find the culprits, Mallory also takes over the arranging for the upcoming reception of The Duchess Theater’s reopening. This old-time movie theater will play classic films beginning with Gone With The Wind.  But during the premiere someone sets fire to the theatre almost destroying it.  Mallory and company have their hands filled finding those responsible for all the disastrous events.

 

During this holiday season people might want to snuggle up while reading this fun book. It is full of quirky characters and the Gone With The Wind similarities makes the story very enjoyable.

 

Elise Cooper:  How did you get the idea for the story?

Stephanie Blackmoore:  I usually write the story first, but in this one, I came up with the title before the plot.  I was playing around with various wedding related themes and kept thinking about a victim floating in a pool wearing this splendid gown.  I know cozy mysteries have titles with puns and thought of the movie classic, Gone With The Wind.

 

EC:  Are you a Gone With The Wind fan?

SB:  I respect and enjoy the movie but I do wonder about the historical accuracy and the political correctness.  Of course it is a wonderful story that I enjoyed re-watching as I picked apart things to lay on the relationship structure of Keith, Mallory, and Becca.  There were a lot of echoes that I totally plucked.

 

EC:  I never understood the criticism since it is a fiction story with strong women characters?

SB:  It is from the author’s perspective.  Margaret Mitchell had her truth, which were mirrored in the book characters.  I do agree there are strong women characters that dominated the male characters. I chose to mirror them.  For example, everyone was pushing Mallory to get married.  Yet, she responded, ‘I don’t need to get married.’  I think both in the movie and my book the women characters don’t fit into roles people prescribe to them.

 

EC:  Becca has to navigate through a lot of troubling events?

SB:  She had the attitude, ‘Tomorrow is another day,’ similar to Scarlett’s.  She forged ahead and made her own way.  Becca woke up and muddled through with new plans because the old ones went up in flames.  This is true in life as well as in the movie.  Both she and Scarlett gained the strength to make their own choices.

 

EC:  Your characters mirrored the characters from the movie?

SB:  I wrote this book quote that Alma says to Mallory, “Alma dismissed her daughter-in-law with a wave of her hand.  ‘She can be helpful at times and is more of a Melanie Wilkes... All quiet strength and Goody Two-shoes affect.  But for this project, we need more of a Scarlett-type woman.  Someone like you, dear, or me.’” Mallory has some elements of Scarlett, but I think she is more like Melanie. As you mentioned earlier, Melanie is quiet, but strong in her own way, and is able to make decisions that change the course of everyone else’s life.

 

EC:  How would you describe Mallory?

SB:  She wants order in her life and is a planner.  Beyond that, she is irreverent, snarky at times, has a sense of curiosity, and is loyal.

 

EC:  How would you describe Alma?

SB:  A spitfire who gets what she wants.  Others see her as charming and effervescent, but in reality she is sometimes not very nice.  She is able to get away with outrageous things because of her charm.  She is obsessed with the movie and even named her child Rhett, after the Clark Gable character.  He is the direct opposite in looks.  I did this to show that she projected her obsession on her child.  She named her baby Rhett not knowing how he looked or what he was going to be like as he grew up.  Now he has to bear that name and is the antithesis of Clark Gable.

 

EC:  Keith reminded me of Ashley Wilkes from the movie, a pure wus? 

SB:  He is definitely a wus.  What is important to him is keeping up appearances and competing with the Jones.  He wants to make money and has an off kilter compass.  He is a total mamma’s boy who follows all his mother’s wishers. Keith is a great foil. I think he and Ashley from the movie are total doormats.  

 

EC:  You have a lot of cats in the story.  Are you a cat person?

SB:  I am.  I had cats growing up while my husband had dogs.  My mother-in-law once told me ‘you turned him into a cat man.’  I guess I turned him to the dark side.  I do love dogs. I even named the Irish Setter in the story Wilkes because the movie character is unassuming and wishy-washy.  

 

EC:  Do you enjoy watching old-time movies?

SB: I do.  My husband is an instructor at a university and teaches a lot of film.  We talk about movies all the time and specifically, do the classics stand up to the test of time?  While watching Gone With The Wind I became sucked into the movie.  To me, this is a hallmark of a good film.  

 

EC:  The book story also centers on family dynamics?

SB: Weddings bring things to life about families.  In this book I had sibling relationships with Mallory/Rachel, as well as Becca with her twin sister Samantha.  I wanted to show how siblings could be different, but also can be really good friends with a strong camaraderie.  

 

EC:  Another family dynamic was between Alma and her husband?

SB:  I based them on James Carville and Mary Matalin.  They are compared to water and oil.  Alma’s husband does not like Gone With The Wind yet they had a happy marriage.  Even if they have separate interests they can make it work by respecting each other’s differences.

 

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

SB: It is titled Marry Christmas Murder and comes out in October 2019.  Mallory is planning her best friend Olivia’s marriage and a murder happens around a real estate development.

 

THANK YOU!!

Latest comments

24.12 | 00:28

Always look forward to your weekly blog, Marti ... safe travels this week. Merry Christmas!

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23.10 | 11:23

Awesome interview! B.J. Daniels books are just GREAT!! Always anticipating the next one! Appreciate her talent, and bringing us wonderful hours of reading!

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22.10 | 18:12

For one, I’m glad you can come up with ideas and that the characters talk to you. Keep them talking and thank you and your characters.

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22.10 | 17:30

I adore B J Daniels’ books. She grabs me from the first sentence and doesn’t let go until the last sentence. I loved this interview.

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