I met Marilyn at the first EPICON in Omaha and while we remain mostly online friends, I enjoy spending time with her talking about writing and other things when we meet in various cities for the conference.
1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
For the last few years I've been writing mysteries--two a year, actually, since I have two series, the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series (Dispel the Mist is the latest) and the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, (An Axe to Grind is the lastest.)
2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you? I love to read mysteries, and it seemed logical for me to write them too.
3. Is there any genre you'd like to try or one you wouldn't?
I've written historical family sagas and a romance with a touch of the supernatural. It's been an e-book for a long time, but the publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. series is bringing it out as a trade paperback.
I know I couldn't write erotic romance or fantasy or science fiction.
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure? I still usually read mysteries, though once in awhile I'll read something on the best seller list.
5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.
I've been writing since I was a kid--but didn't get published until 1981. I grew up in Los Angeles and got married right after I graduated to the cute sailor I met on a blind date. We had five children and though I wrote things like PTA newsletters and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform in, my fiction writing was put on a back burner for a long while. I had lots of jobs along the way, telephone operator, teacher in a pre-school for developmentally disabled kids, and I also taught in day care. For 23 years my husband and I lived in and ran our own residential care home for 6 developmentally disabled women. That's when I really started writing on a regular basis.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite and why?
I am very fond of Deputy Tempe Crabtree, a Native American. I've loved learning about her Indian heritage and figuring out ways to use in in my books. She is very real to me and I know her better than I know any of my family or friends--because I know how she thinks.
7. Are there villains in your stories and how are they created? Because I'm writing murder mysteries, every book has a villain--some worse than others. I have to create someone who would have motive enough to kill another person--and something that's fun to do.
8. What are you working on now? I just started writing a new Rocky Bluff P.D. which doesn't have a title as yet. That series has an ensemble cast; members of the Rocky Bluff P.D. and their families. Each book features different characters, though alll of them appear. This particular book is going to focus on Gordon Butler, a patrol officer who has been the comic relief in several books, in this book he's going to come into his own and be the hero.
9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive? An Axe to Grind is the latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series and I got the idea when I attended an Sisters in Crime meeting and heard a coroner tell about a murder victim who's been decapitated. (He even showed us slides.)
Dispel the Mist came about because I learned about the Hairy Man, the Big Foot like creature our local Indians believe in and knew I had to incorporate him in a story.
10. How does the book open? This is the opening scene of An Axe to Grind.
Sergeant Abel Navarro fought to keep from gagging. It wasn’t only from the smell, though that was bad enough.
“Somebody really did a job on the poor slob.” Officer Gordon Butler spoke from the open front door.
“You could say that." Abel shook his head, had to be the understatement of all time. His wife, Maria, would have a fit if she knew he was in a room with this much spilled blood without any protective gear on. As a nurse, she’d lectured him many times about how airborne droplets of blood could contain the HIV virus along with other terrible diseases. He’d have to take his chances. Until the detectives arrived, there wasn’t anything he could do except make sure no one messed with the crime scene.
“You didn’t touch anything, did you, Butler?”
“Nope. Only poked my head in the door. It was obvious from here the guy was dead.” Gordon was the newest and youngest officer on the Rocky Bluff P.D. Mostly because of his gung-ho attitude, he had a record of mishaps. He’d calmed down a bit, and finally earned the respect of most of his fellow officers.
There wasn’t any need for medical help, though the EMT’s would arrive soon. The victim’s body lay sprawled in a pool of blood that had emptied from the neck cavity. The head was missing. Abel couldn’t spot it from where he stood about two feet inside the modest living room. Globs of blood and rivulets decorated the plain white walls, the beige slip-covered lumpy couch, and light green overstuffed chair. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any surface free from congealing spots of blood.
“What brought you to the scene?” Abel asked.
“Paperboy,” Gordon said. “Poor kid’s pretty shook up. Got him sitting in my unit now. He was collecting, went to knock on the door and realized it was open. Gave it a shove and this is what he saw. Jumped on his bike and went racing down the street. Flagged me down. I took one peek inside and called it in.” Gordon’s cheeks flamed red. Obviously, what he’d seen had shaken him too.
“I got your call about twenty minutes ago, around seven-thirty and notified Milligan and Marshall. They should be heading for the crime scene about now.” Abel longed to be outside to breathe in the fresh sea air. He would never get used to the pungent coppery smell of freshly spilled blood, the sickening stench of evacuated bowels and urine. Though murder wasn’t unknown in the seaside community of Rocky Bluff, this was one of the most brutal and gory he’d ever seen.
“Anyone around when you drove up?” Abel asked.
“Nope.” Butler nearly filled the open door with his bulk. His arms were crossed over his massive chest, and dark glasses hid his eyes. Bright pink colored his cheeks.
Abel glanced again at the victim, ignoring the gore, he took in the fact that the body was that of a white male. Including the missing head, he would be around five-foot-ten, slim build, no noticeable tattoos on his arms. The body was clothed in a striped polo shirt, khaki pants and sneakers. He had on a watch, but no rings. Studying the rather plain room, except for the body and the blood, nothing seemed out of place. It was an ordinary living room in an ordinary small rental.
The sound of squeaky brakes announced the arrival of at least one of the detectives. Taking care to walk out exactly as he’d come in, Abel stepped outside.