Interview with mystery novelist Sally Wright

Mystery novelist Sally Wright is with me today. We’re
chatting about her newest book, Behind the

During her virtual book
tour, Sally will be awarding copies of several of her
books to a randomly drawn U.S. (only) winner. To be entered for a chance to
win, use the form below. To increase
your chances of winning, feel free to visit
her other tour stops
and enter there, too!
Alan Poe Award Finalist Sally Wright has studied rare books, falconry, early
explorers, painting restoration, WWII Tech-Teams, the Venona Code, and much
more, to write her university-archivist-ex-WWII-Ranger books about Ben Reese,
who’s based on a real person.
Ground, Wright’s most recent novel, is the first in her new Jo Grant mystery
series, which has to do with the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky. Wright
is now finishing the second Jo Grant novel.
and her husband have two children, three young grandchildren, and a highly
entertaining boxer dog, and live in the country in northwestern Ohio.

Welcome, Sally. Please share a little bit
about your new release.

Behind the Bonehouse is the second Jo Grant mystery set in Thoroughbred country
around Lexington, Kentucky in 1964 and ’65. Jo is a woman architect in her
early thirties who’s also a partner with her Uncle Toss in a hands-on broodmare
care business. Her newly married husband is a chemical engineer in a someone
else’s family owned equine pharmaceutical business where a fight over
intellectual property brings down the death and danger that affects Jo and her
family. There are two other horse related family businesses that are involved
in the plot, and the psychological results of having served in WWII in
America’s OSS (the intelligence organization that secretly worked with the
French Resistance) impacts the story as well.
Excerpt from Behind the Bonehouse:
July 3rd, 1963
was five in the morning, and Alan Munro was alone, again, in the lab at Equine
Pharmaceuticals. He’d just looked at the notes in the formulation notebook Carl
Seeger, Equine’s lab director, had entered the day before, and he tossed a red
lab crayon on his desk with a look of deep disgust. He rubbed his eyes with
both hands, and leaned back in his chair—then pushed himself up and limped,
slightly, less the longer he walked, to the research corner in the back of the
converted a fifty-four-gallon drum into a mixing tank they could use to develop
the proper methods for converting a beaker-size experimental batch of his new
horse de-wormer paste into an intermediate batch, before they moved to a
commercial size tank.
latest mixture was way too thin, and the solids hadn’t properly dispersed in
the methylcellulose, and as Alan read the batch sheet he muttered words he’d almost
never used since he’d come home from World War II. At 8:35 Alan walked into the
main lab and asked Carl Seeger if he could speak to him for a minute.
was weighing white powder on a double pan balance, and he didn’t look up before
he’d slid the powder off one pan into a large glass beaker and replaced the
brass weights from the other in their wooden rack. “I’m busy right now, Alan. I
should be free in an hour or so.” He spoke calmly and quietly, his thin mouth
tucked under a wispy mustache, his pale brown eyebrows pulled down in
concentration, half-hiding his small hazel eyes.
“It’s important, Carl.
What inspired you to write this book?
My dad was an orphan, raised
in an orphanage, who, against great odds, got to college in the Depression and
became a chemist. When I was four, he started a ma-and-pa scientific business
with my mom, and I was raised with it, going to the office, putting labels on
drums, talking about the cares and the crises at every meal my whole life.
Twice they faced dishonest situations having to do with their products, and I think
what going through that is like is something most novels never touch upon. I
took an instance they faced and fictionalized it in another type of business, taking
the stresses and strains of that situation sideways too, so I could examine
human reactions to being wrongly accused. I think family business is a very useful
undertaking, for those who work there as much as those who own it, even though
it’s a cauldron in which the normal interactions that occur in families get put
in a more intense context that I believe is worth thinking about.
What story are you working on next?
I’m working on the next Jo
Grant mystery which will introduce an equine vet business as well, and the
possibilities a crooked vet might have to exploit the Thoroughbred world.
When did you first consider yourself a
I wrote music in high school
and college, and wrote biography articles for magazines before my novels were
published. It took a long time to get my mysteries published, and when I’d get
discouraged, my husband would say, “A writer is someone who writes.”
And he was right. A lot of folks care more about getting published than writing
really well, and getting rejected makes you focus on your writing and learning
to perfect what you do. Still, it was when my first book was finally published
that I felt like a real writer.
Do you write full-time, and what’s your work day
I’m fortunate to be able to write
full-time. I’ve always done it like a day job – 8:30 to 4:00ish, though sitting
that long takes a real toll. I’ve learned to set a timer and get up and get on
the treadmill for a short while, or walk around the house, or do something else
to take the stress off my body. For years, if the weather was good, I’d go ride
my horse in the afternoon, or at least go see him and brush him off, so I could
do something sweaty and dirty and a whole lot of fun that had nothing to do
with writing. But. My favorite horse died, and the next one threw me badly, and
I can’t ride anymore, so I walk around our farm field with our boxer dog and
enjoy being outside.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I actually have no idea. Still,
I do like complicated stories with lots of characters. That’s just the way
stories come out of me, and in the Jo Grant books (probably more than my Ben
Reese series, which was based on a real-life university archivist who had been
a WWII Ranger who worked behind the lines in Europe) the structure’s
complicated too. Jo Grant, in the preface and the epilogue, looks back on the
events she describes in the rest of the novel from thirty-some years later. She
“writes” the book in the third person, describing herself from the
outside like any other character, but she also includes excerpts from the
journal she wrote in the early ’60s when the story takes place in order to give
the reader a sense of the intensity of what she’d gone through every day. I
really like that approach, but some readers may prefer a more straightforward story
that’s told completely chronologically.
When you were a child, what did you
want to do when you grew up?
I definitely wanted to be
writer. I was pretty obsessed with books. I still am. I don’t think I could go
to sleep if I didn’t read a book first.
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Thank you for being here today, Sally!

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