Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blog Tour: Rattlesnake Hill by @Leslie_Wheeler Author #interview and Enter the #giveaway

Mystery/Suspense
Date Published:  2/16/18
Publisher:  Encircle Publications

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It’s November in the Berkshires, a dreary time of dwindling light when the tourists have fled along with the last gasp of fall foliage. So when a stranger shows up in the sleepy hilltown of New Nottingham and starts asking questions, the locals don’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon.

            Bostonian Kathryn Stinson is on a deeply personal quest to solve a family mystery: the identity of a nameless beauty in an old photograph an ancestor brought with him to California over a century ago. But, as Kathryn quickly discovers, the hills possess a host of dark secrets – both ancient and new – that can only be revealed at the price of danger and even death.

Her suspicious neighbors on Rattlesnake Hill become openly hostile when Kathryn starts seeking answers to a more recent mystery: the murder of Diana Farley, who once occupied the house Kathryn is now renting. Was it Diana’s husband, who killed her to keep her from divorcing him, or her lover, Earl Barker, a backwoods charmer and leading member of a wild clan known for their violent tempers?

When Kathryn plunges into a passionate affair with Earl, she puts herself on a collision course with past and present. She must find out if Earl killed Diana, or risk becoming a victim herself.



Interview

Is There a Message in Your Novel That You Want Readers to Grasp? The message I’d like readers to take away from Rattlesnake Hill is the power of stories in our lives. My main character, Kathryn Stinson, doesn’t simply want to find out the identity of a nameless beauty in an old photograph an ancestor carried with him to California over a century ago. She also wants to get this woman’s story. As her great-aunt, who sends Kathryn on this quest in the first place, has often told her: “There’s a story there. A story that’s waiting to be told.” When Kathryn goes to the town where her ancestor once lived, she learns parts of her family’s “Dark Lady’s” story, as well as parts of a much more recent story: that of the woman who once occupied the house she’s renting. The first stories Kathryn hears about each woman involve falling in love. These stories eventually cause her to fall in love with the man who tells them. But there are different versions of what finally happened to each woman. And which version you believe makes all the difference. If stories can cause people to fall in love, they also, as Kathryn learns, have the power to make people commit acts of violence.
Is There Anything You Find Particularly Challenging in Your Writing? One challenge for me is translating the ideas for a story in my head into words on the page. Sometimes a scene will play out so vividly in my mind that I think it’s on the page when it’s not. Other times my thoughts play hide and seek with me. I’ll get this wonderful idea, but then like a dream that fades from memory, it disappears, and I have to try and find it again. Another challenge occurs after I’ve successfully gotten words onto the page, but they aren’t the right words for the story I’m trying to tell. Then I’m faced with the difficult task of “killing my darlings”—deleting pieces of writing that I love and that I’ve spent a lot of time and energy crafting.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite? If I include non-fiction as well as fiction, I’ve written a total of five non-fiction books: two adult biographies, two young adult biographies, and one book for the school market on a specific topic. (This does not include books I’ve co-authored, or contributed to in some way.) As for fiction, I’ve written three books in my Living History Mystery series, and one in my new series of Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries. My favorite book is Rattlesnake Hill, the first book in my new series, and the one that’s very close to my heart, I call it my “dark valentine,” to the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, where I’ve lived for many years. I also think it contains some of my best writing.
If you had to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick? Since I don’t go to movies as much as I used to, I had to turn to friends who do, and who have also read Rattlesnake Hill, so are familiar with my main character, Kathryn Stinson. Two readers suggested Jennifer Lawrence for Kathryn. I like that suggestion because Lawrence has the right mixture of vulnerability and strength, though in some of her films she appears a bit more glamorous than how I see Kathryn. As her boyfriend Alan describes Kathryn, she’s “pretty without trying to be: no makeup, hair pulled back from her face. Also, at 27, Lawrence a little young for Kathryn, who is in her early thirties. I also like another reader’s suggestion of Sarah Polley, a Canadian actress with whom I wasn’t familiar. But when I looked her up, I was struck by how much she resembled the Kathryn of my imagination. What’s more, she’s described on IMBd as being known for “her sensitive portraits of wounded and conflicted young women,” which is Kathryn to a tee. At 39, however, Polley’s a tad old for Kathryn. The same person who recommended Sarah Polley also recommended casting Bailey Chase as Earl Barker, the love interest in the book. I wasn’t familiar with Chase by name, but when I saw that he played Branch Connally in the TV series Longmire, I thought, yes, he’d be perfect. He’s the right age—in his early forties like Earl—and has the right combination of qualities—handsome, sexy, self-assured to the point of being cocky, but also with a serious side. So, if he plays Earl, maybe I should cast Cassidy Freeman, who plays Cady Longmire, his romantic partner, as Kathryn. Readers, what do you think?
When did you begin writing? I’ve been making up stories ever since I can remember. My parents told me I sang some of these stories, but I also put them down on paper. I continued to write stories in high school and college, though none were published. My professional career as a writer began with non-fiction when I was in my twenties, but my first novel wasn’t published until many years later.
How long did it take you to complete your first book? If we’re talking about fiction, it took me over two years to complete my first mystery novel, Murder at Plimoth Plantation, after several false starts, and a lot of re-writing. Regarding non-fiction, I dashed off a campaign biography of former President Jimmy Carter in about six weeks, because I was writing against a tight deadline.
Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer? I wasn’t a big reader when I was in grade school, but I did read a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries, and that may have inspired me to become a mystery writer. Later when I was in high school, college, and graduate school in English, I read more widely. Some of my favorite books and authors from that time are Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Summer by Edith Wharton and Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion by Jane Austen. Two recent favorites are All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? This may sound strange, but for me, it’s the first draft, because then, everything is fresh and new and I’m discovering the story as I write (I’m pantser or seat-of-the-pants writer), and that’s an exciting process.
Describe your latest book in 4 words. Rattlesnake Hill is . . . suspenseful, riveting, romantic, and satisfying.
Can you share a little bit about your current work, or what is in the future for your writing? I’m currently working on the sequel to Rattlesnake Hill, tentatively titled Shuntoll Road. It picks up the story where Rattlesnake leaves off, with my main character and her romantic partner trying to rebuild their relationship that was almost destroyed in the first book. It’s June, a beautiful month in the Berkshires, and Kathryn and Earl Barker look forward to spending some relaxed, quality time together. But the sale of the house on Rattlesnake Hill that Kathryn has been renting to an unsavory real estate developer from New York not only puts the kibosh on those plans but creates conflict between the couple. For excavator Earl, the proposed development means much-needed work, while for Kathryn it means the destruction of land she’s come to love and wants to protect.
            I also have a couple of unfinished projects: another contemporary mystery and a historical one that I may return to at some point, plus I have ideas for more short stories, which provide a “busman’s holiday” from the long haul of novel writing.



About the Author

An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written three Miranda Lewis “living history” mysteries: Murder at Plimoth Plantation, Murder at Gettysburg, and Murder at Spouters Point. Her mystery short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies including Day of the Dark, Stories of Eclipse, and the Best New England Crime Stories series, published by Level Best Books, where she was a co-editor/publisher for six years. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, she is Speakers Bureau Coordinator for the New England Chapter of SinC. Leslie divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Berkshires, where she does much of her writing in a house overlooking a pond.


Contact Links

Twitter:@Leslie_Wheeler


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3 comments:

Emily H said...

Thank you for posting

Leslie Wheeler said...

You're welcome, Emily.

Leslie Wheeler said...

Thanks for doing an interview of me on your blog, Cami. You asked good questions!

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