Tag Archives for " author interview "

Author Spotlight: LaVonne Griffin-Valade

LaVonne Griffin-Valade brings back our favorite witty, cynical, and a bit profane Oregon State Police Sergeant Maggie Blackthorne in Murderers Creek. When Maggie arrives on a murder scene and finds out the victim is her ex-husband, she’s plunged into an investigation that positions her as a potential suspect. We asked LaVonne about the creation of this latest installment, who inspired Maggie’s creation, and the importance of music in both Maggie and LaVonne’s lives.

SRP: We are excited for the return of Maggie Blackthorne in Murderers Creek. Can you tell us a bit about the plot and how you came up with it?

LaVonne: Even before I had finished writing Dead Point, the first Maggie Blackthorne novel, it was clear to me that Maggie’s story deserved to be a series. I had spent much of my early childhood at my grandparents’ small farm along the John Day River. The picture window my grandmother had insisted be installed in their house held a stunning view of the Aldrich Mountains from which Murderers Creek flowed to the river. And since Maggie’s Oregon State Police district covers that entire area, I knew there wasn’t a better setting or title I could come up with for the second Blackthorne novel than Murderers Creek.

SRP: Is Maggie modeled after anyone in your life?

LaVonne: I always find this to be a difficult question to answer, particularly since I didn’t grow up in a family of law enforcement folks, nor did I go into policing as a profession. But if Maggie is modeled after anyone, it would be my mother—at least that’s where the acid wit and comic timing comes from. And as I’ve mentioned before, Maggie’s a justice warrior and a bit of an iconoclast, and I’ll admit, good or problematic, those qualities stem from her creator.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

LaVonne: In all honesty, writing on someone else’s timeline was the most difficult part of writing Murderers Creek.

SRP: Author is one of many career paths you’ve taken. How has your previous work as schoolteacher, working with homeless youth, and as a government performance auditor influenced your writing?

LaVonne: 1) Being a schoolteacher, much like being a mother of four, taught me patience. Trust me, a writer needs patience. 2) I grew up in a working class household, and often times were tough. For several years, I shared a bedroom with my sister and two of my younger brothers, while my baby brother slept in a crib in the living room. But there was always food on the table, a roof over my head, and love. Working with homeless youth was the most difficult career path I ever traveled down because those young people had lived with very little security regarding their own physical and emotional lives, and they were expected to effectively become responsible adults. Among other things, that experience taught me to work at creating fully-formed, three-dimensional characters in my stories—characters that are capable of messing up and figuring things out as they go through life, as well as have authenticity and/or being dogged by inner demons from time to time. 3) Being an auditor grounded me in the art of objective observation, analysis, and reporting, but it also helped me become more cognizant about writing clear, clean prose that is readable and says something worth reading and learning about.

SRP: Can we expect to see more Maggie Blackthorne in 2022?

LaVonne: Yes! I’m working on the third novel right now. It’s title is Desolation Ridge, and it’s scheduled for publication in the Summer of 2022.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

LaVonne: My annual counts of the books I’ve read that year have declined in the last several years. But a writer has to read in order to write! I currently have two mysteries going—Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo and Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto. I recently read novels by two of my favorite writers—So Much Blue by Percival Everett and The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. And I have a new novel on order written by another of my favorite writers, Claire Vaye Watkins—I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.

SRP: We know Maggie loves a good playlist. Do you have a favorite writing playlist?

LaVonne: No surprise, but Maggie and I have very similar tastes in music. But I do like to change up what I listen to while writing, so I often put on classical music. I’m particularly fond of Yo-Yo Ma, Kathryn Stott, Joshua Bell, and the 2Cellos, a Croatian duo. I also have several R&B musicians I really like: Roberta Flack, Sade, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone…you get the idea.


Murderers Creek launches November 23.

Author Spotlight: Chris Glatte

This week, we talked with Chris Glatte about his upcoming release, Dark Valley, the fifth installment in his Tark’s Ticks: WWII Novels. Lieutenant Clay Tarkington and his squad (“Tark’s Ticks”) have been on the ground fighting through the Pacific Theater in World War II. In Dark Valley, historical fiction readers and military thriller fans will find themselves deep in the valleys of New Guinea, fighting to protect a vital airstrip.

SRP: Your Tark’s Ticks: WWII Novels Series puts readers in the boots of a fictional squad of soldiers battling through the Pacific during World War II. What made you want to write about this period and the Pacific theater specifically?

Chris: The first book (Tark’s Ticks) starts on the Bataan Peninsula during the battle which led to an Allied defeat and the Bataan Death March. The Allies fought valiantly with dwindling supplies and constant attacks from veteran Japanese soldiers, for four months. I wanted to start this series there because it’s not a battle that gets much attention and it fascinates me. I write books set in the Pacific theater for the same reason.

SRP: Tark’s Ticks have been through a lot throughout the series. In Dark Valley, Lieutenant Tarkington and his men are tasked with defending Wau Airfield. Can you tell us a bit more about the plot?

Chris: Right after the Allies overran the Japanese at Buna/Gona in New Guinea, the next obvious target lay to north in the Lae/Salamaua region. Because New Guinea is mountainous and choked with jungles and swamps, traveling overland was nearly impossible. Airfields set between towering mountains became extremely important. The Wau region had such an airfield, and the Allies owned it. They needed to hold it in order to bring in troops and supplies and keep the pressure on Lae, only fifty air miles away. The Japanese saw the value of the airfield and sent a large force to take it from the Allies. An epic battle ensued.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing Dark Valley?


Chris: The Battle of Wau was primarily fought by Australians. Americans contributed the aircraft and the pilots, but few if any American infantrymen fought on the ground. I wanted to write about the battle, so I had to figure out a reason for Tark’s Ticks to be there. I think I achieved that and was still able to tell the story of the Australian’s incredible fighting spirit and bravery.

SRP: We know how incredibly important it is to adhere to events as they happened when writing historical fiction. How do you stay true to facts, while also creating a compelling story and believable characters?


Chris: It’s like walking a tightrope. I read everything I can find about the battle and highlight the really pivotal moments. I put my characters into those moments and try to imagine what it would be like for them.
Most of these campaigns in New Guinea occurred over months with lots of downtime between any real fighting. I condense the events to make it more exciting and readable.

SRP: What’s next for Tark’s Ticks?


Chris: Book six has already been written and I’m in the final editing phase right now. It begins a few weeks after the end of the events in book 5 and involves the Lae/Salamaua region of New Guinea, but doesn’t end there. New missions will put all of Tark’s Ticks skills to the test.

SRP: What books have stuck with you/had the most influence on you throughout your life?


Chris: My all-time favorite book is: A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin. He’s a great writer, and I re-read the book every couple of years and literally can’t get anything else done until I’ve finished.

SRP: What’s one tool you couldn’t write without?


Chris: That’s a tough one. I doubt I could get much writing done without my trusty Macbook Air. I had an electric typewriter in high school and tried writing stories on it, but it’s a brutal process, although at the time I didn’t know any better. Also, Google Earth is pretty indispensable. Travelling to New Guinea or the South Pacific, isn’t really feasible for me, so Google Earth helps immensely.

Some missions are FUBAR from the very beginning.

Tarkington and his men are tasked with a long-range reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines. But when their C-47 is shot down, Tark’s team must make the perilous trek through the jungle to a besieged Wau airfield. The airfield is vital to both the Allies and the Japanese, and soon Tarkington and his men are embroiled in its defense. To make matters worse, an American airman has been captured by the nearby Japanese forces.

Can Tark’s Ticks defend the airfield and rescue the downed aviator? Or will a hostile jungle and determined enemy prove to be too much?

Dark Valley by Chris Glatte launches November 2.

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

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.

Author Spotlight: Susan Hunter

We are so excited to have Leah Nash back on our bookshelves this month! In Dangerous Waters, Leah finds herself dealing with a murder that’s much more complicated than it looks.

SRP: How did you come up with this mystery?


Susan: I’ve had the idea for the story for a long time, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it come together, so I always put it on the backburner. Then one day while I was chasing dust bunnies, it hit me. I stopped what I was doing—it doesn’t take much for me to stop cleaning house—and sketched it out.

SRP: Leah is loyal, smart, and a touch impatient. We’re curious, do you see yourself in Leah?


Susan: Leah isn’t a fictional version of me. However, I’m told that, like Leah, I can be a bit bossy—though I don’t see it myself. We also share the same sense of humor and a tendency toward procrastination when the writing isn’t going well.

SRP: For those of us invested in Leah’s love life, when are Leah and Coop going to get together!?


Susan: That’s the most frequent question I get from readers. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to nudge her along, one way or the other, but she doesn’t take direction very well. However, she does make an important decision about her future in Dangerous Waters.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?


Susan: It’s a fairly complicated plot and keeping track of everyone was a challenge. The wall I face when I’m writing became filled with sticky notes reminding me of who was doing what, when, why, and with whom. When I finished writing, I used them to make a checklist of key plot points and clues to compare to the manuscript to make sure I didn’t leave any threads hanging.

SRP: What’s next for Leah?


Susan: In Dangerous Deception, the book I’m working on now, Leah tries to save a woman who doesn’t want to be saved. As she starts tugging at a few loose threads, she finds that the murder victim is at the center of a tangled web of deception, delusion, and obsession. When the identity of the killer becomes clear, Leah once again is faced with the knowledge that finding the truth isn’t always the same as finding the answer.

SRP: You worked at a small daily paper, then at a university in publications. What made you decide to leave steady employment behind and try your hand at writing mysteries full time?


Susan: I thought about writing a mystery for years, but I always put it off to that distant “someday.” Then I lost both my parents and my oldest friend in a very short time. There’s nothing like three sudden, devastating losses to make you realize that someday might never come. I started work on my first book, Dangerous Habits, partly to manage the grief I felt, and partly to beat the clock on someday.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?


Susan: Right now, I’m halfway through The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, which is a really fun read. My book club chose The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, last month, and that was a good one, too.

SRP: What’s your favorite word?


Susan: Warmth. There’s almost no way to say it out loud without having your voice produce a low, soft, soothing tone that matches what the word connotes—kindness, compassion, empathy. Warmth is what makes life livable.

Dangerous Waters launches October 19. Pre-order your copy today.

Author Spotlight: Laura Snider

Unsympathetic Victims is the first in the Ashley Montgomery Legal Thriller Series by Laura Snider. Fans of relatable female protagonists and plot twists that keep you guessing will love Snider’s gripping debut novel. SRP sat down with the lawyer/author to find out more about how she uses her professional experience to shape her books and what simlarities she’s found between the two.

SRP: Ashley Montgomery, the protagonist in your debut thriller Unsympathetic Victims, is a public defender, and, when you’re not writing, you’re a prosecutor. How did it feel to write from the opposition’s perspective?

Laura: I spent seven years as a public defender working in rural communities in Iowa. Yes, I’m a prosecutor now, but I wasn’t when I originally started writing the manuscript. I loved my work as a public defender, but it can be a grind. The case load is overwhelming. The only way to properly represent that number of clients is for public defenders to end up working extremely long hours for little compensation.

Prosecutors are better funded positions. They generally don’t have to work the late hours. Yes, law enforcement sometimes needs guidance in the form of a late-night call, but that work can be done from home. I made the switch because I got married and had children. I no longer had all the time in the world to work, and I felt like I had to decide between my family and criminal defense. I also started my writing career around the same time, and that requires a good chunk of time. Working part-time as a prosecutor has allowed me to be present for my family, work in criminal law, and write.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Laura: I think the most difficult part of writing any book is the revision process. I don’t outline before writing, so that makes for a lot of cutting and letting go. There are characters I’ve created and lost through revisions. I’ve had to trash entire scenes. Sometimes it is necessary to scrap 50,000 words and start over. It’s not fun to let go of a single word, but 50,000 can be pretty gut wrenching. But the truth is that revisions are the only way that a manuscript gets any better. I have come to terms with the fact that the first draft of anything I write is junk compared to the final product.

SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Ashley Montgomery? Do you see any of yourself in her?

Laura: I love Ashley’s snarkiness. She’s different from most people and she owns it. I would say I have many of the same thought patterns as Ashley, but I’ve never been strong enough to brazenly say what I think like she does.

Ashley’s character is modeled off the many excellent attorneys that I worked with in the public defender system. I worked with some pretty fantastic attorneys. They fight for their clients in a way that is unapologetic and bold, and I’ve always admired that about them.

SRP: What’s next for Ashley Montgomery?

Laura: Like any other public defender, Ashley’s office is a revolving door of new clients. In each new book, she’ll receive new cases, and with them clients and circumstances that continue to challenge her understanding of true justice.

SRP: Where do you see parallels between working in law and writing fiction novels?

Laura: Deadlines and preparation are both necessary parts of practicing law and fiction writing.

In law, deadlines are constantly present, forcing each case to move along at a fairly expedient pace. There are speedy trial deadlines, indictment deadlines, and motion deadlines. In writing, deadlines are necessary to keep the publication process moving along. There are people who cannot even start working on their job until I finish the writing portion. Blowing deadlines in both writing and the legal profession can cause serious issues for other people.

Preparation is key in both writing and law as well. They each require a different kind of preparation, but in both professions it is time consuming and it shows if you don’t do your due diligence. 

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Laura: I’m always reading three books – a physical book, e-book, and listening to an audiobook.

At this moment, my physical book is Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, my audiobook is A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers, and my ebook is A Killer’s Wife by Victor Methos.

Some of my favorite books that I’ve read this year have been, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.

SRP: Are you a pantser or a plotter, meaning do you dive head first into writing and see where the story takes you or do you like to create an outline and work from it?

Laura: I’m a pantser. I write and see where the story takes me. I do this mostly because my books are character driven and I have a hard time deciding what a character will do until after I’ve created him or her. So, I sit down and start writing and as the characters form, so does the story line. It makes for some pretty extensive editing, which can be painful at times, but also much more adventurous. My characters are constantly doing things that surprise me, and I love that about them.


Unsympathetic Victims launches July 27. You can pre-order your copy for just $0.99!

When a defense attorney becomes the defendant, one small town is forced to reconsider their ideas of good and evil.

When successful public defender Ashley Montgomery helps acquit yet another client, people in small-town Brine, Iowa are enraged. Following the verdict, a protest breaks out — and the hated defense attorney quickly finds her life in danger.

But little does Ashley know, things are about to get worse — much worse. One of her clients turns up dead, and Ashley is arrested for his murder. As local investigators Katie Mickey and George Thomanson dive into the case, they start to suspect that Ashely is being framed — but by whom? 

With Ashley’s freedom at stake, Katie and George are desperate to find out the truth. And soon, they uncover a sinister plot born of corruption, greed, and misplaced loyalty that will leave the whole town reeling — and questioning their faith in the people they trusted most. 

Author Spotlight: LaVonne Griffin-Valade

SRP: What can you tell us about Dead Point?

LaVonne: Dead Point is a novel about a smart, tough female sergeant in the Oregon State Police who is more of a justice warrior than a law and order buff. By some measure, the story is based on my own experience growing up in the rural American West where poverty and the baggage that often comes with it are woven into the fabric of local culture. The one constant is the beauty of place, at least for those who love Grant County, Oregon’s vast landscape, which includes high desert country, ranges of blue mountains, profoundly strange fossil formations, forests of Ponderosa pine, fir, and spruce, rangeland juniper and sagebrush, and the sprawling John Day River valley.

SRP: How did you come up with the main character, Maggie Blackthorne?

LaVonne: As I’ve noted before, I didn’t come up with Maggie Blackthorne, she came knocking at the door of my imagination, fully formed, a bit mad at the world, and looking for truth and justice. Well, and with a good heart and some of her own personal baggage.

SRP: Do you see yourself in Maggie?

LaVonne: Absolutely. She is me in many ways, although I would never have the courage or tenacity to chase down a killer.

SRP: What drew you to set Dead Point in Oregon?

LaVonne: I wanted to set the novel in Oregon, in part because that’s what I know best. But largely I knew I wanted the setting to be the eastern Oregon high desert. It’s a relatively unique fictional setting. Plus, most stories set in Oregon take place in or near the lush, green Willamette Valley of western Oregon or in towns and cities on the rugged coast, so I wanted to show a side of Oregon not often written about.

SRP: What’s next for Maggie Blackthorne?

LaVonne: The second Maggie Blackthorne novel is titled Murderers Creek, and I believe it is set for release this Fall. In addition to Maggie Blackthorne, Murderers Creek brings back these reader favorites: Trooper Hollis Jones, his wife Lillian Two Moons, Maggie’s love interest, Duncan McKay, and her surrogate mother and landlord, Dorie Phillips. Crotchety gas station owner, Cecil Burney, shows up again too. No spoilers, but Chapter One of Murderers Creek ends with the brutal slaying of another character from Dead Point and takes off from there.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

LaVonne: I’m currently reading Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain—the poverty and hardship in that book are heartbreaking, and the characters, particularly Shuggie and his mother, are living, breathing beings. It’s a wonderful novel in so many ways.

I like all kinds of novels, and one of my favorite recent reads was Richard Prowers’s The Overstory. Four great mysteries I loved and recommend often are Percival Everett’s Assumption, Lawrence Osborne’s Only to Sleep (a Philip Marlowe update), Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth, Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing.

SRP: Do you believe in writer’s block? How do you push through it?

LaVonne: I definitely believe in writer’s block. I like to think of it as a necessary pause, a means of my mind and body suggesting, or often demanding, I take a break. I push through it by taking that break—reading, hanging out with family, going for a walk, or going outside and taking in a bit of sun (yes, the sun does come out in Portland, OR). And when I come back from a break, more often than not, my imagination fires on all cylinders.


Dead Point by LaVonne Griffin-Valade launches June 15.

Click here to get your copy.

Author Spotlight: LynDee Walker

LynDee Walker is an Amazon Charts best-selling author of eleven books in two riveting thriller series. Her protagonists are strong, smart, and confident women who run headfirst at a problem. We talked with LynDee about her writing inspiration, how COVID-19 changed her writing process, and what she simply cannot write without.


SRP: You have published 11 books and 2 novellas throughout your two series, The Nichelle Clarke Crime Thrillers and The Faith McClellan Series. Do you have a favorite? (We know this is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child, but we promise we won’t judge.)

LynDee: Haha! Truth. They’re all special in their own way, for sure. In the Nichelle series I’d probably pick Small Town Spin as my favorite by a hair, because I have a lot of fond memories of exploring Gwynn’s Island doing research for the setting, and I think that was the book that made me realize I could really make a career of writing fiction.

For Faith, I think again it’s SUCH a close race, but Leave No Stone probably wins in a photo finish, because I really stretched so many of my abilities with that book, writing things in a way I’d never tried before, and I was so pleased with how it all finally came together.

SRP: Readers are loving your latest release, No Sin Unpunished. Can you tell us a bit about the plot?

LynDee Walker: The hunt for a serial murderer whose preferred weapon is fire turns deeply personal for Faith when former members of her father’s staff begin to die horrifying deaths. In digging up old secrets that could be motive for the attacks, Faith learns some things about her family, while questioning her role in trying to save people she doesn’t necessarily think deserve saving.

SRP: You wrote No Sin Unpunished during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did you notice any differences in your writing style or process as a result?

LynDee: Yes—all of them. I started this book in January of 2020, I got COVID in March and took a seven week sickness break from writing it, and by the time I was back on my feet, my quiet writing days were gone because my three children were learning from home. It took a few reinventions of routine and a family effort to get this one across the finish line, but it makes me feel deeply connected to—and especially proud of—this book.

SRP: You write strong female characters who can handle themselves in some pretty dangerous situations. Do you see yourself in Nichelle and Faith? Were they modeled after women in your life?

LynDee: There’s a little of me in them both, but probably moreso in Nichelle. One of the things I love about her is that she begins the series just as naive as I was as a young journalist, but through the dangerous situations she gets into, she learns and grows. She’s more savvy and jaded and definitely tougher by the later books. It makes those books harder to write, because someone who’s had her experiences wouldn’t walk into danger trusting people so easily, which means I need craftier ways to get her in trouble, but I love a challenge and I’m so proud of the way she’s grown.

Faith is fun to write because she reminds me of my mom and my granny: they were both pretty badass in their own ways. If you’ve ever watched Designing Women (and if you haven’t, it’s on Hulu), I swear they modeled Julia Sugarbaker after my mother. From the 80s business suits to the quick wit and sharp tongue when it was needed, my mom was a pretty extraordinary woman. She was brilliant and kind, never afraid to call out injustice where she saw it, and quick to help folks in need. A lot like Faith. My granny was 5’2 with waist length black hair that never went gray, raised mostly out in the country during the depression, and to my knowledge never met a human she was afraid of. Family legend holds a great story my mom and aunts all swore was gospel truth, about my tiny little grandmother standing alone on her front steps in California in the early 60s successfully ordering an angry contingent of the Hell’s Angels off her lawn.

SRP: You started your writing career as a journalist. Do you ever miss the hustle of “getting the story” and making a print deadline?

LynDee: Only when there are big things happening in the news, and less even than in recent years. I have a specific memory from a few years ago: at the time, our congressman was the House Majority Leader, and it was primary day. I’m a political junkie, so I was at home watching the returns come in, and it became apparent that he was going to lose his race. I turned immediately to my husband and said “Cantor’s going to lose. Wow, what I wouldn’t give to be in a newsroom tonight.” The adrenaline rush of those kinds of nights, when something you thought was a lay-up goes crazy, or a big story breaks, make the long hours and sad stories worth it.

SRP: What’s up next for Nichelle and Faith?

LynDee: I am finishing up the final touches on Faith #4, Nowhere to Hide, this week, and next month I’ll start writing number 5. And it just so happens that I have a contract in my inbox for Nichelle #9, a project I am super excited to begin, brought about largely by letters and messages from loyal readers—I can’t wait to share details with everyone about that soon!

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

LynDee: Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One knocked my socks off, as is normal for her books. And I have a brand new Kindle waiting on my desk and an advance copy of a favorite author’s latest teed up for Spring Break: I have loved everything Laura McHugh has ever written and cannot wait to read What’s Done in Darkness.

SRP: What’s the one thing you couldn’t write without?

LynDee: Coffee. Hands down.


No Sin Unpunished by LynDee Walker is out now in all formats. Buy your copy here.

Author Spotlight: Jason Kasper

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: Many heroes of military thrillers have no family—a fact inconveniently pointed out to me by a reader of my first book, shortly after I’d committed to writing about a military thriller hero with no family. At the time I was fresh out of the Army, and didn’t think much of it.

But since then I’ve become a father myself, and my adorable daughter has succeeded in making me very, very soft and weak. I just couldn’t write about a lone mercenary killer anymore; at the same time, I was far too ruined for a normal job to pursue any other line of work.

So for this book, I decided to flip the normal convention on its head. This time, my hero would have a family—and he was going to find them in grave danger.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

Jason: David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world.

But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.

Soft targets to his enemies.

Half a world away, on a mission to assassinate a foreign operative, Rivers uncovers his worst fear.

An imminent attack on US soil will occur in four days.

The target is in his hometown.

And his wife and daughter are mentioned by name.

SRP: What were the easiest and most difficult parts of writing The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: The easiest part was the premise—a man finds his family in danger, and has four days to uncover and stop an imminent terrorist attack. Simple, right?

The catch was figuring out how to turn that promising foundation into a full storyline, and packing all the events and characters into one cohesive and fast-paced book. THAT was the hard part, and I quickly wondered if I’d bit off more than I could chew.

Several months, many hours of weeping at a keyboard, and untold bottles of bourbon later, the result is this book.

SRP: The hero of this book is former Army Ranger David Rivers. What would he say if he met you in person?

Jason: First and foremost, he’d probably shame me for being a cat owner—rightfully so. Then he’d slap me for all the trouble I’ve put him through in this book—once again, fully justified.

After that, we’d probably sit down and enjoy our shared favorite pastime: drinking bourbon.

And I’d try not to make him angry.

SRP: What’s next for David?

Jason: The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book will be released later this year.

SRP: You’re known for engaging with your readers, from answering emails to chatting on your Facebook reader group. What’s it like interacting with them on a daily basis?

Jason: There’s an Eastern saying that “the teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” I think this applies equally well as “the author and the readers together create the books.”

If no one read my work, I’d still write every day—but my stories wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Feedback from readers helps me improve with each book, and their support keeps me going no matter how difficult a manuscript gets. As any author can tell you, the writing process is filled with dizzying highs and crushing lows. It helps a lot to know the readers have my back, and no matter how many books I write in this lifetime, I owe them a lot more than they owe me.

Also, I vividly remember starting out and having no readers at all. The world is a cold and lonely place for a struggling writer, so it’s hard for me not to be deliriously grateful today.

SRP: What good books have you read lately?

Jason: Confession time—I’ve never been big into zombie movies.

When a friend of mine recommended World War Z, I reluctantly agreed to check out the first few chapters.

Three days later I’d not only finished the book, but was ready to wrap a baseball bat in barbed wire and go battle the undead hordes. If you haven’t read that book, check it out!

SRP: You’re stranded on a desert island with all of your basic needs taken care of (food, shelter, clothes). What three items would you bring?

Jason: All the bourbon I could take with me, obviously. Then a baseball bat. And finally, some barbed wire to wrap around the bat, just in case the zombies come.

The Enemies of My Country launches January 15. Pre-order here.

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Damaging Secrets, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Carolyn: Rachel’s been sitting on my shoulder for a few years now. I knew who she was, what she’d been through, and where that would ultimately lead her. I just didn’t know what she’d do when she got there. For that, I worked with an excellent editor who helped me with the plot. I submitted several ideas and we molded them together into something I think turned out well.

SRP: You’re a bestselling cozy mystery author, what made you want to dive into writing grittier thrillers?

Carolyn: Writing is like everything else in life. If you don’t take risks, you’ll never discover what you can do. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I love my cozy characters, but writing someone with a lot of strength and even more emotional baggage was a stretch for me, and I wanted to explore Rachel’s psyche.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Carolyn: Self doubt and insecurity ad nauseum. I carry those emotions around with me with every book I write, but this new genre was a big step, and I’ve had to stuff a sock in my inner critic’s mouth and glue it shut. Once I got through the first few chapters, I felt that familiar groove set in, and it came a lot easier, but those first few chapters were brutal. My husband will tell you I didn’t think it got easier at the time, and he would be right. Hindsight is truly 20/20.

SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Rachel Ryder? Do you see any of yourself in her?

Carolyn: Rachel doesn’t have a filter. I love that about her. We share that trait to a certain degree. The only difference is she knows how to use it to her advantage. I’m usually trying to get my foot out of my mouth after spouting off something I never should have said in the first place. I envy her ability to stand up for what she believes, to fight for it, and not shed a tear because her principles are so rock solid. Everyone has baggage, but Rachel, as hard as she tries, struggles to move on from hers. She’s tied up in guilt and grief, and she uses those as crutches to stay emotionally disconnected. Thankfully, we don’t share that, but I will say, she’s working hard to detach herself from those negative characteristics.

SRP: What’s next for Rachel Ryder?

Carolyn: I can’t go into too many details because I don’t want to spoil the first book, but let’s just say her past comes back to haunt her, and like it or not, she’s got to deal with it!

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Carolyn: I have just re-read all of the Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker, and the last Sue Grafton book. Parker is my favorite author, and Grafton is a close second. I’m waiting for the next Robert Crais book to publish and when it does, I’ll be glued to that until I finish.

SRP: What’s your number one piece of writing advice for someone just starting out?

Carolyn: Most people think too much and struggle with every word. Don’t. Just write. The goal is to get the words on the page, even if they’re garbage. And honestly, that’s the easy part. Once you finish that first draft, that’s when the hard work starts. Get them on the page and let it flow. It will get easier as time goes by.

Damaging Secrets is out now. Buy your copy here.

Damaging Secrets, the first book of her newest crime thriller series, is an engaging story of corruption and cover-up that you won’t soon forget.

New to town and a little rough around the edges, Detective Rachel Ryder finds herself on the receiving end of a suspicious person’s call in Hamby, Georgia. When the call turns out to be a dead body, the medical examiner is quick to rule the death a suicide. But was it something more sinister?

Everyone in the small department believes the case is closed—except for Rachel. The sudden passing of a local politician during the mayor’s run for Congress strikes her as a little too coincidental, and Rachel is eager to follow her instincts. Her partner, Rob, a 30-year veteran, isn’t the type to disobey his boss or ruffle any feathers, but he can’t convince strong-willed Rachel to let it go.

Obsessed with finding out the truth, Rachel begins to examine the evidence and drags her reluctant partner along for the ride. But the clues are confusing. Nothing is adding up.

Puzzled and running out of time, Rachel and Rob rush to work every angle and bring the elusive killer to justice before someone else ends up dead.

Author Spotlight: Shannon Baker

SRP: How did you come up with Kate Fox, the main character in your new release, Stripped Bare?

Shannon: I lived in the Nebraska Sandhills for 20 years. To be honest, I didn’t love it when I arrived there as a young bride. But I was determined to make it my home, and the landscapes and people grew on me until I was hooked. I always wanted to write about the Sandhills because it’s unique and so quirky. But I ended up leaving because my husband had an affair. (Long story but ends happy.)

It took me a while to get my sense of humor back and when I did, Kate Fox popped into my head. She got here all at once and demanded I tell her stories. Kate’s nothing like me, except she shares my sense of humor and she’s got a cheating spouse (where do I get my ideas?). She’s a total insider, related to everyone in Grand County by one degree of separation—or less. She’s capable, competent, and never wants to live anywhere else.

SRP: What can you tell us about The Kate Fox series?

Shannon: The series is set in the Nebraska Sandhills where cattle outnumber people by more than 60:1. The population is .9 people per square mile which leaves a whole lot of places to hide bodies. Grand County has one law enforcement officer, the sheriff, so it’s like the wild west. With so few people around, it’s hard to keep secrets, but it can happen. Kate is smack dab in the middle of nine brothers and sisters, all caring and all meddling, creating havoc in Kate’s life.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing Stripped Bare, the first book in the series?

Shannon: When I wrote Stripped Bare we were living in McCook, Nebraska. I’d just fired myself from a start-up in Boulder, CO because it wasn’t starting up. My husband worked for BNSF Railroad and was due to retire in two years so we figured we could move to a small town in Nebraska and live on his salary. Feeling kind of failure-ish and kind of lonely (he was on the road several days a week) I settled into the hovel we bought and started to entertain myself with Kate’s disaster of a life. Winter in McCook was long and gray and very cold. I had one rule: I had to get out of the house for at least two hours every day to keep from sinking into depression. I took long walks and every day I’d go to the library and write there. I did that for months and the librarians never spoke more than two words to me, even after I donated books from my first series. But I finished Stripped Bare while we lived there, so I have fond memories.

SRP: What’s next for Kate?

Shannon: I’m super excited for Kate to have a second life and for new readers to discover the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s been a blast diving back into Grand County and all the characters I’ve missed. First, Stripped Bare will take flight December 8, then Dark Signal is coming in hot just a week later on December 15. After that, Bitter Rain is rearing its head in the spring. Right now, I’m finishing up book four, and if you could give me a title, I’d be happy to name a character after you. This story features Kate’s loveable younger brother, Jeremy, horses, and elements south of the border.

SRP: What are you working on now?

Shannon: Just before I bumped down the dusty trail road back to the Sandhills, I was working on a suspense set in Tucson. When I moved here a few years ago and discovered Joe Bonanno, the boss of one of the Five Families of New York, retired here in the 70’s, I knew I had to write about the Mafia in Tucson. It’s twisty, so much so that it twisted out of my head and I need to figure out how my main character, Josephine, did what she did and when she knew she was going to do it.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Shannon: It’s good to be a writer and have amazing writer friends. Last summer, I got to read Jess Lourey’s latest book, Bloodline, well before it was released. It’s a Kindle First Reads right now and I highly recommend you all get it. They call it Rosemary’s Baby meets Get Out. And it’s creepy in all the best ways!

And right now, I’m loving Alice Hoffman’s Rules of Magic. What a writer! If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, I’d recommend Karen Odden’s A Trace of Deceit.

SRP: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Shannon: I don’t even have to think about this. Hands down the best money I ever spent was hiring my editor Jessica. She’s like a personalized MFA.

Stripped Bare launches December 8.

Pre-order here.