My special guest today is mystery author Sharon Sterling. We’re chatting about her novel Fatal Refuge. It’s the second novel in a trilogy.
Sharon Sterling, formerly Sharon Hickey, was born in Colorado and spent some early years in Missouri. She now lives in (and loves) the state of Arizona. During her earlier adult life she was a stay-at-home mom and later went back to college to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Social Work degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. She returned to Arizona to work in a mental health clinic as a crisis counselor, and subsequently in a medical hospital, a psychiatric hospital, and in private practice.
She still works part time as a psychotherapist. She began to write her memoir in 2012 but swiftly decided it was too scandalous, and turned it into her first mystery/thriller, The Well. A second novel features the same (and some new) characters. Fatal Refuge, was released several months ago.
Welcome, Sharon. Please tell us about your current release.
Fatal Refuge is set in present day Yuma, Arizona and nearby Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Yuma’s notorious wild-West history and the upper-desert environment of the Refuge set the stage for murder and suspense. My background as a psychotherapist flavors the story with a deeper taste of the characters’ motives and desires.
What inspired you to write this book?
A friend who had read The Well said she liked the book but wanted to learn more about a secondary character, Kim, who is an Apache woman of iconic stature and beauty. My friend wanted to hear more about her Apache heritage, her family, and her personal and intimate challenges. Fatal Refuge is about all those things.
Excerpt from Fatal Refuge:
Kim left Yuma in the stillness before dawn and reached the turnoff to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge before the sun mounted the eastern peaks for its daily assault on the land. Her jeep bumped along the dirt access road headed due-east when the first shafts of daylight struck her high-boned cheeks like a challenge.
She parked the red Jeep Cherokee in the tiny dirt lot at the trail head and with confident, long-legged strides began her hike into the Refuge. The trail soon faded to nothing. Undeterred, she bush-wacked over the rocky soil, skirting boulders, brittle bush shrubs, bear grass, and desert agaves.
After an hour she slowed her pace and quieted her steps, wary she might startle the endangered pronghorn antelope she sought. Three months before, she had teamed with volunteer Marines from the base in Yuma and with local Fish and Wildlife agents to trap, transport and release three dozen of the endangered species here. She had actually touched the delicate young animals, stroked their tan and cream coats and felt the warm breath from their nostrils on her hands before watching them rise on wobbly, tranquillized legs and escape into the hills of their new home in the Kofa. It had given her a certain sense of ownership. But where were they? She smiled to herself and answered her own question. Living up to their reputation as the ghosts of the desert.
So far she had seen scant signs of life – a few turkey vultures soaring, distant against the thin blue sky, the surreptitious chip-chip of awakening cactus wrens, the scuttle of a lizard.
While she walked she felt the sun’s rays stab the burnished-copper skin of her forearms and press a skull-cap of heat on her blue-black hair. The shards of sunlight were so intense they had pierced the atmosphere, drained from it the last drops of moisture and stilled the feeble breeze of early morning. Reluctantly, she pulled a cloth hat from under her belt and put it on.
With an Indian’s acceptance of the natural world, she neither welcomed the heat nor resented it. After all, in late spring, at only ninety-seven degrees, this part of the Sonoran Desert was not yet threatening spontaneous combustion.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Another book featuring Kim Altaha and Allie Davis is in the works. It will be the third and last book of the Arizona Thriller Trilogy.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have enjoyed reading and writing since childhood. At around the age of thirteen I decided I wanted to write books with fascinating and mysterious themes.
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?
Since I work only two days a week as a psychotherapist, I have more free time than some writers. Taking care of my dog, reading and staying in touch with friends and family occupy my spare time.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My writing quirk is that I abhor violence and blood-shed in real life. I look away at gory scenes in the movies; wouldn’t watch a slasher film if you paid me, but I don’t mind writing about those things.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At one point in my life, I thought about becoming a doctor or a psychiatrist. I didn’t have the advantage of an early education, so those things weren’t possible, but I love to write and am very happy with my two vocations at this time.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The characters in my book are like real people because they can be selfish, petty, and make foolish mistakes, but always are learning and somehow becoming more mature and more loving people.
Thanks for being here today, Sharon. Happy writing!