Readers were introduced to Carolyn Ridder Aspenson’s scrappy, smart protagonist, Detective Rachel Ryder, in Damaging Secrets. With Ryder, Aspenson has given readers a protagonist they connect with and realistic police procedurals that keep you turning the page and shocked by the twists. Ryder returns to the page with the third installment, Overkill, on October 26.
SRP: In Overkill Rachel Ryder goes back to school—high school that is—as an undercover school counselor. How does she find herself in this position?
Carolyn: First off, let’s just say Rachel has some serious reservations about this gig. She’s been asked to participate in a DEA provisional task force, which she’s happy to do. Where the reservations come into play is in counseling the kids. Kids aren’t high on Rachel’s favorites list. They’re emotional and she believes she isn’t, so she’s unsure how to handle them. It’s one thing to handle a criminal, but, for Rachel, it’s entirely different dealing with teenagers.
SRP: Teenagers come with a whole bag of emotions and complications. Do you find the process of writing teenagers and adults differs?
Carolyn: I think for me writing adults is more complicated because they tend to hide their emotions. For the teens, it was easier in the sense that they wear everything out on their sleeve, so I wrote them the way I’ve seen my own kids and their friends react to situations. The adults were entirely different. The key with adult emotions is in figuring out how to show a character’s emotions to the reader without showing those emotions to the character. Adult characters, like real people, often don’t see themselves the way others do. For example, Rachel believes she is unemotional, and that she doesn’t connect with others easily, but she does. Once she puts her guard down, she lets people in, and they see her true self. She just doesn’t always see her true self.
SRP: Was it fun putting Rachel in an uncomfortable position (surrounded by teenagers) or did you find it difficult to put her discomfort on paper?
Carolyn: I loved putting Rachel in an uncomfortable environment! She had to dig into the part of her she barely knows, pick out what she could to handle drama-driven, scared teens, AND deal with authority figures she didn’t like or respect. It was like going to a carnival, filled with things you know will drive you crazy, but you can’t resist. It’s fun to challenge a character and see what happens. I never understood how authors would say things like “my characters have minds of their own” etc, but they really do. Rachel ended up handling the kids in a way I didn’t foresee, and I think it worked out perfectly.
SRP: Rachel is working with the DEA again, specifically Agent Kyle Olsen. What research did you do to ensure authenticity of this inter-organization investigation?
Carolyn: The best part about writing the Rachel series is keeping the procedural parts as true to life as possible. I meet a lot of people in coffee shops, and I might have an ear tuned into the conversations of others. I met a man who is DEA. He now trains instead of actively working investigations, so he was able to provide me with a wealth of information, and I am eternally grateful! It was a tough lesson to learn, however. He provided me information that doesn’t make it to the media, and I grew to understand the drug problem is so much bigger than any of us realize. It’s scary, but I hope my story will allow people to understand how big it is.
SRP: What’s next for Rachel Ryder?
Carolyn: Rachel’s sticking close to home in Countdown, book four in the series, but the story is still intense. Personally, I think she and Bishop deserve a vacation, but a double homicide stops that from happening. In the process of examining the scene at that double homicide, they learn there is a Type One diabetic child missing, so the clock is truly ticking. There are some disagreements and additional problems with the team and the investigation, and Rachel has some personal things going on, but that’s real life, and I do my best to keep Rachel’s experiences real.
SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
Carolyn: I’ve read Susan Hunter’s Leah Nash books most recently. I read one, then suddenly, I’d finished the next, and the next…now I’m impatiently waiting for her to write faster. I’m heavy into a deadline, so for the next month or so, I’ll be head down into my own book.
SRP: You recently moved out to the mountains. Has the fresh air and occasional animal visitor affected your writing process?
Carolyn: I love the mountains, primarily because of the wildlife! Now that it’s cooling off, I can write outside, so I’m easily distracted by the deer and wild turkeys. The deer are fun to watch. They keep their distance, but they’re only a few feet away. The turkeys are a different story. They like to come right to me and gobble at me for bird seed. It’s a little intimidating, but we’ve come to an agreement. I keep some seed nearby, and when they come, I throw it as far away from me as I can and watch them scurry toward it. Trust me, those things are BIG! I’m just grateful the bears only come around—to the front door—at night.
Overkill, the third book in Carolyn Ridder Aspenson’s Rachel Ryder Thrillers, launches October 26.