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.