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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.

Author Spotlight: James Chandler

SRP: This is your debut novel! How does it feel?

James: I am excited at seeing Misjudged published. The entire project started several years ago with a sort of off-handed comment to my wife after I’d read a particularly poor novel: “I could write a better book than that,” I said. “Well, why don’t you?” And it was on. The process of writing, revising, finding a publisher and working with the SRP team to bring the book to readers has been eye-opening—you have no idea the amount of work that goes into publishing a book until you go through it. It has been both challenging and exhilarating, and it will be fun to see everyone’s efforts come to fruition. I hope readers will enjoy themselves for a couple of hours.

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Misjudged?

James: When I decided to write the novel, I had a very rough outline in mind. Misjudged is admittedly a character-driven, rather than plot-driven, novel. Because I’m not trying to make any points or drive home an agenda in my books, and because trials are structured, linear affairs, the plot beyond the initial outline evolved from the characters: “How would a guy like Sam handle a situation like X?” “What would Judge Daniels do if confronted by Y?” and so on. The key players are composite portraits of men and women I have known, mostly inspired by military officers I encountered during my career (trust me when I tell you the Pentagon was a rich source of material). I had some procedural and forensic twists I wanted to introduce, so I outlined and revised until I felt like I had a solid idea for a novel I could sit down and write.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

James: Misjudged introduces the reader to Sam Johnstone, a disabled veteran who went to law school after being discharged from the Army. After struggling at a law firm in Washington, D.C., a down-on-his-luck Sam accepts an offer from an old friend to relocate to rural Wyoming to practice in a last-ditch effort to save his career—and himself. Against his better judgment, Sam agrees to defend a veteran accused of killing a prominent local attorney. Misjudged follows Sam and the other key players as the case develops and is tried in front of a jury. Along the way, Sam struggles with his demons while he and the various participants find their assumptions about the actions and motives of others are not always accurate.

SRP: Why did you choose Wyoming as your setting?

James: I’ve been fortunate to have been around the world several times—and yet, here I am! I love Wyoming like only someone who has been everywhere else can. Custer, Wyoming is a fictional place, but I think it represents what Wyoming, its people, and its legal practitioners are all about. I gave serious thought to basing the novel elsewhere, but decided I was most comfortable with Wyoming people, places and law.

SRP: What’s next for Sam Johnstone?

James: The next novel in the series, One and Done, follows Sam as he defends a star athlete charged with the murder of a gay college student. While the facts alone are problematic, outside pressures and Sam’s internal struggles complicate an already difficult situation and threaten to interfere with Sam’s defense of his client. I’m already mulling some general ideas for the third book. There’s a minor character—a woman—who was introduced in One and Done. I think she might merit a closer look. I could see some interesting things happening in her life, and her interaction with Sam could get complicated.

SRP: Have you read any good books lately?

James: My reading is heavily weighted toward non-fiction, especially military history. Right now, I am reading several books dealing with the Great Sioux War and the Army of the West. As a retired Army officer formerly assigned to places like Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, and Fort Bliss, I have a fondness for the old Cavalry posts. It must have been an amazing experience to be garrisoned at one of those posts at the relevant time. My fiction reading is rare and leans toward dated detective novels, police procedurals and thrillers. I’m a huge fan of Robert B. Parker (who could say more in fewer words?), Evan Hunter a/k/a Ed McBain (talk about page-turners!), and Alistair MacLean (the breadth of subjects he dealt with in his thrillers is unmatched). I am not as a rule a big fan of legal thrillers, and purposely and with malice aforethought have read but a single legal thriller since I started writing Misjudged in 2016: Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver, the pen name for John D. Voelker.

SRP: If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island with all your physical needs taken care of—such as food and water, what two items would you want to have with you?

James: I would need a fly rod to keep me busy and some way to communicate with my wife and daughters. Although I tend toward the misanthropic, I love the women in my life and would need to communicate with them—if only to send them pictures of my catch.

Misjudged is available to purchase here.

When a disabled veteran takes a new job as an attorney in a small Wyoming town, he is thrust into a mysterious murder case.

Sam Johnstone was hoping for renewal when he took a job at a boutique law firm in rustic Wyoming. The mountains and streams of the west would be a refreshing, quiet place to start over after years of war and turmoil in his personal life.

But after a local woman is brutally murdered, Sam realizes that things aren’t so quiet in this rural American town. The accused is one Tommy Olsen, a known delinquent who had been sleeping with the victim. Sam is repulsed by the crime and wants nothing to do with the case, but meets with Tommy to make sure he has legal representation.

Yet things are not as they seem.

What begins as a cut-and-dry case becomes infinitely more complicated as new facts are uncovered, and Sam agrees to serve as Tommy’s defense attorney.

With the killer’s identity still unknown, Sam is enveloped in the small-town politics and courtroom drama of a murder investigation that keeps getting more shocking.

But if Sam can’t uncover the truth, an innocent man might be punished…while the real killer watches from the shadows.

Author Spotlight: J.D. Allen

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Sin City Investigations and Jim Bean?


J.D.: I knew I wanted to write a Private Investigator series. I crushed hard on Rockford as a youngster (and still do!). At about the same time I was plotting through it, a good friend of mine was falsely accused of a serious crime. It devastated his life in more ways than I would have ever imagined. He had to start over. New job. New friends. New city. I found his experience, as bad as it was, made an excellent backstory for a PI. He gave his blessing and Jim was born.

SRP: What can you tell us about the series?


J.D.: I want to see characters in a series change over time. It makes them seem more human. With 19 Souls, Jim Bean starts the series dealing with a life-changing incident in his past. He’s gone to Vegas to lick his wounds, changed his name, and is happy to exist with minimal clients, his cat, and a good bottle of scotch. I’d like to think that after a while, he’ll get out of his own way and move past his anger. I’ve started the third book in the series, and he’s still a combination of Dirty Harry and Jim Rockford.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing 19 Souls, the first book in the series?


J.D.: I loved writing that book! Female serial killer? What’s not to love about that. Smart villains are super interesting to create, and Sophie Evers fits that bill! I had to take Jim to some pretty dark places though, and I sort of felt sorry for him at times.

SRP: What’s next for the series?


J.D.: Skin Game is next up in the series. In it, Jim and the woman who broke his heart in college have only a few days to rescue several young girls from a human trafficking ring.

SRP: What are you working on now?


J.D.: Wrapping up the next adventure with Jim. I’ll just say that I did some research with a taxidermist.

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


J.D.: Wow. Right now, I’m reading this weird Sci-fi my hubs gave me. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. It’s an entire novel in journal entries and interviews. It’s fascinating!

SRP: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?


J.D.: Go big. Stories need to be large, not in word count, but in scope. Big characters, big setting, big themes. You can always back it down if needed, but making a thin story work is difficult.

Her bloody finger left a translucent smear on the phone screen as she glanced through the list of private investigators in Vegas. Her stained nail came to rest on Sin City Investigations.

Jim Bean would serve her well.

Private investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. He likes his cases to follow suit. But when his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.

As he falls deep into a manipulative game of cat and mouse, Jim uncovers the horrible truth about Sophie. Now he must set things right before her plan leads to the loss of innocent souls . . . even more than it already has.

19 Souls releases October 27. Pre-order today for only $0.99.

Author Spotlight: Don’t Look In Author Tom Saric

With Don’t Look In, the debut in his newest series, Tom Saric pens a twisting novel of psychological suspense, introducing a psychiatrist trying to save lives while battling his own demons.

We talked with Tom about writing his new series— from the inception of main character Gus Young to what his writing weakness is. Read the interview below!

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Don’t Look In, and what can you tell us about the plot?

TOM: Don’t Look In started with Gus Young. The idea of a grizzled looking man, with a thick beard, wearing work boots and hunting jacket while being an exceptional psychiatrist spoke to me. In the years after I finished my training in psychiatry, I realized that working as a psychiatrist wasn’t the idealized version I had fantasized about. In addition to seeing patients, my day was filled with paperwork, managerial pressures to see more people more quickly, and therapy was something psychologists did while psychiatrists seemed to be expected to prescribe medications only. So, the idea of this pure, genuine psychiatrist who wasn’t afraid to buck the trend and do his own thing in his own way appealed to me.

The seed for the plot came from realizing that in order to maintain the purity of his work, confidentiality of his patients would have to be absolute. And he would have to take this duty further than the average therapist would.

The plot really developed from there. It follows Gus as he is working in the small practice that he operates out of the back of a hardware store in a rural town. When a patient of his is murdered, he seeks to find out who did it, but in doing so it will put him in conflict with many of his deepest held values.

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

TOM: The story takes place in a fictitious town in Maine. I decided against using a real place in part to make my life easier by giving the setting flexibility for future books. But the town itself has elements of a few different places I’ve visited, worked in or lived in in Eastern Canada and the Prairies. On top of this, I love the East Coast, I love Maine. I find the entire region rich, and atmospheric. The rain, the fog, the hurricanes, the history just give it so much richness that I couldn’t see the book being set anywhere else.

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

TOM: I think the most difficult part was trying to describe psychological processes without the jargon in order to make it accessible to people. Psychoanalytic writings and theory is its own language. It took me years to become comfortable with the language and nuance of the differing theories. That’s my biggest criticism (and Gus’) of psychoanalysis: It is largely inaccessible and can come across as elitist. But, in fact, it should be anything but. It is likely the richest understanding we have of the human mind.

So, in keeping with Gus’ character, I was mindful that he would be able to avoid jargon and explain complex theories simply. So it required constant iteration to get it right.

SRP: What’s next for the series?

TOM: I’m already working on the second book in the series, titled Believe In Me. In this book a young woman is found wandering on the outskirts of Bridgetown with no memory of who she is. Gus is called in to help police recover her memories. As he works with her, she begins to show abilities that verge on the supernatural. I don’t want to reveal much more than that at this point, but it will test Gus’ abilities in a way that he hasn’t yet faced.

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

TOM: I started reading a couple of books by C.J. Box recently because after I submitted Don’t Look In, my publisher compared it to his novels. I hadn’t read his books previously, though I’d known about them. I picked up Bitterroots and loved it. He has a masterful way of creating setting and atmosphere. So what I said about Don’t Look In not being able to be set anywhere but Maine, perhaps Montana would be a close second.

SRP: What is your writing Kryptonite?

TOM: Social Media. I have a real love hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with readers, and other authors. On the other hand, I have spent 4-5 hours mindlessly thumbing through Instagram photos when I meant to be writing. I’m always telling my kids to set limits with screen time. Maybe I should take my own advice.


Don’t Look In launches October 6.

Click here to buy Don’t Look In. The e-book is $.99 for a limited time!