Welcome back, Radine. Please tell us about your newest release.
A Fair to Die For centers around what is probably the largest craft fair in the United States, the War Eagle Fair, founded in Arkansas in 1954, and now drawing up to two hundred thousand attendees over its four-day run every October.
Shirley Booth, one of my readers’ favorite characters outside of Carrie and Henry, has been accepted as a fair exhibitor–no small honor–and will sell her baby quilts and cuddlies at this fall’s fair, assisted by good friends Carrie McCrite and Eleanor Stack. As fair time approaches, a cousin Carrie didn’t know existed appears on her doorstep. Though uncertain about the truth of the cousin’s relationship claims, Carrie and her new husband, Henry King, prepare lunch for the visitor. She tells them a story about her father’s disappearance, saying he was an undercover agent for a the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control back in the 1960s. She has learned a much younger agent who worked with her father, now retired, is a wood worker selling his toys at the War Eagle Fair. She hopes to connect with this man and learn the truth about her father’s disappearance.
Things get pretty sticky before long, several people are not what they claim to be, and Carrie herself ends up in grave danger. The question, as always, is: Will she get out of this? I think readers realize, at least subliminally, that she will, since the series continues. Besides — I know from experience I’d be in deep trouble if anything REALLY awful happened to her. I see resolving the problems she faces as exhibiting strengths all people possess, but are especially important when demonstrated by women. That was one of my purposes in beginning this series — showing how a fairly dependent woman can learn to call on and use strengths she hasn’t realized she possesses.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve mentioned wanting to show how Carrie awakens to her core of strength. But, as with all my other books, a love for Arkansas and fascination with the many wonderful tourist destinations and events in the Ozarks also inspires me. The story is set largely at the fair, but also in the still-working 1832 War Eagle Mill — across the river from the fair — and in Hobbs State Park, Arkansas’s newest and largest state park, located just east of the mill area. As always, research was enjoyable and, may I say, fruitful.
Can you tell us anything about your next writing project?
I’m still researching possible destinations for number eight in this series. A location has to say “story” to me before I decide to set a novel there.
What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book?
Thus far I have never suffered from writer’s block, but I definitely have difficulty with “time block.” (ie: not enough time to do research and write.) These days an author has tremendous social networking demands on his or her time (for publicity and connection purposes), in addition to arranging the usual in-person appearances. Writers are, in reality, managing a small business.
Research for my novels consists, first, of reading about various interesting events and locations in the Ozarks area of Arkansas. When the history and ambience of a location seems appealing, I visit the area, which sometimes requires trips taking two or more days. The first time I visit, I spend time absorbing the feel of the place, seeing what it says to me. If a location is chosen for my story, readers can trust that I have been there, including inside the scarier places. Later I begin to put my chosen plot events into the site, talking to people who work there, and always making sure I honor the location by getting both the history and on-the-ground details depicted correctly. I also continue research after I am writing the story, filling in details I didn’t know I’d need during initial research.
Do you have a writing area where all the work happens?
My favorite location for doing the actual writing is my own work-dedicated office in our home. Since I am now preparing to begin my ninth book, I have a lot of accumulated material in files in my office, as well as shelves full of print books giving information needed by any mystery author. I do use the Internet for some research, but rely more heavily on in-person interviews and material found at the selected site. Most of the real writing is done in my office. If I am going to be away from the office for more than a day I take my small laptop along, and create a tiny office in the back seat of our car where I can continue work while my husband drives. (I use the back seat because glare on a computer screen in the front seat of a car can blank out screen details.)
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Writing burst out of me after my husband and I bought land in the Ozarks, built a cabin, and spent weekends here while still working in the city. My first essay, “Where Hummingbirds
Matter” sold almost immediately to the Home Forum editor of The Christian Science Monitor and was published in March, 1986. After that, writing poured out. I didn’t begin writing my mystery series, however, until fifteen years later.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you
do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write full-time now, but that doesn’t mean I’m always working on fiction. These days, help for writers I am mentoring, responses to questions, preparing for talks, writing publicity, writing my blog, and taking part in various Internet conversations take part of every writing day.
If you have spare time, who are the authors you enjoy reading?
As for reading the work of other authors, I enjoy the work of most traditional or cozy mystery writers. Past favorites include what are called the “dead British ladies,” beginning with Agatha Christie. I also enjoy a multitude of today’s authors, and wish I had more time to read their books. Margaret Maron, Carolyn Hart, and Marilyn Meredith are special favorites. I always find time to read their new releases.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never dreamed I’d be a published writer. My first “wanna be” career hope was architect since I loved outlining houses with sticks on my bedroom rug, and, later, began doing detailed drawings of house plans. Then I was told “Girls aren’t architects and you aren’t good enough in math anyway.” I followed architect with opera singer. (As a teen I listened to the Met broadcasts every Saturday afternoon with rapt attention. Only one problem. I didn’t have the voice.) Last I dreamed of being an archeologist. That possibility also faded. I ended up working in the field of interior design. Until 1986 I never supposed I’d write for publication. I’m still a bit surprised when I realize, “I really am a published writer!”
Anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
No matter what anyone says, and though the career of a full-time novelist can be frustrating and demanding, the huge enjoyment I find in creating stories, essays, and other writing mitigates most of the problems. I suspect this is true for many authors. Since very few writers become wealthy from their writing only, the fact we love what we do is compensation. If that weren’t true, most of us would probably be plumbers or musicians, work in large companies or small businesses, or . . . drive a school bus. Which, come to think of it, is what at least one author I know does.
Thank you so much for coming back for another visit with us, Radine. It’s been a pleasure learning a bit more about you and your writing.