Deadly Currents is the first book in my new Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring Mandy Tanner, a whitewater river ranger. It was released on March 8th. When Mandy rescues a man who fell out of a raft on the upper Arkansas River in Colorado and he dies on the river bank, she feels driven to find out what—or who—killed him. You can find out lots more, including excerpts, reviews, and discussion questions, at: http://bethgroundwater.com/Deadly_Currents.html .
2. How did the main character, Mandy Tanner, come to you?
When I decided to develop a new mystery series, I wanted to tap my own love of the outdoors and outdoor activities. I also wanted to develop a protagonist who was very different from Claire Hanover, my gift basket designer, so I could experience some variety in my writing. Lastly, I wanted to solve the amateur sleuth problem I have with my gift basket designer series of having to figure out why this private citizen feels compelled to investigate a crime versus letting the police do their work. So, I was looking for a professional or semi-professional in law enforcement.
Being a former “river rat” myself, whitewater rafting was a natural choice for milieu, and by making Mandy around the same age I was when I indulged in a lot of whitewater canoeing, I could draw on that experience. When I discovered there was such a thing as river rangers who patrol whitewater rivers, I knew I had Mandy’s occupation. If a river ranger finds a dead body in the river, she becomes part of the local Sheriff Office’s investigative team.
3. What research did you do about whitewater rafting?
I already had experience with running whitewater rivers in a variety of craft—canoe, kayak, raft, duckie—so that skill area was already covered. I began my expert interviews with my former Girl Scout troop co-leader, who is a whitewater rafting guide on the upper Arkansas River during weekends. She introduced me to other interviewees: the owner of a rafting outfitter business, other guides, river rangers, and ultimately to my go-to expert, Stew Pappenfort, the Senior Ranger of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.
Stew invited me to monitor one day of the three-day swiftwater rescue training class he teaches new seasonal river rangers, and I took plenty of photos, devoured the class materials, and interviewed the trainees. I also have scouted, by land or river, every rapid I describe in the books, have tramped through campgrounds and trails along the river banks, and have photographed the interiors of buildings in Salida,Colorado that I use in the books. And, I did lots of reading on the geology, flora and fauna, and history of the Arkansas River valley and on whitewater rafting techniques, equipment, etc.
4. What’s in store for your gift basket series?
A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket will be re-released in trade paperback and ebook by Midnight Ink, starting with A Real Basket Case in November of this year. Then they will release the third book in the series, that I’m now finishing up editing. I’ve tentatively titled it Basketful of Trouble, and it involves Claire in her brother’s startup of a trail riding business and his wife’s hippotherapy nonprofit inColorado Springs. So, my research lately has revolved around horses.
5. Where do your ideas come from?
I like to say that they sneak up on me in the middle of the night and say “Boo!” This is why I keep paper and pen by my bed when I sleep. Seriously, though, I think sufficient sleep is very important to those working in the creative arts, because that’s when the subconscious brain goes to work solving plot issues and coming up with new ideas.
I have a basement writing office in my home, where I can get away from the rest of the family and sit in quiet. I need the quiet so I can hear my characters talking in my head to each other and can transcribe their conversations. I’m a fairly good typist and am used to working on a computer, being a former software engineer, so that’s where I do my writing and editing. When I’m cranking out a rough draft manuscript, I put myself on a schedule to produce 20-25 pages a week. That schedule is usually two 3-hour writing sessions per day, morning and afternoon, for five days a week.
7. Are you a plotter or panster?
Being a former software engineer, I’m a plotter, of course. Before I begin a rough draft, I construct a scene-by-scene outline and character profiles and research whatever new elements are going into the novel.
8. What marketing has worked best for you?
It’s really hard to measure precisely what propels a person to buy a book. People who work in sales say a person must hear about a product 5-7 times before they’ll make that buy decision. So, I try to provide those 5-7 times by getting Deadly Currents mentioned in as many places as possible—print and online reviews, social networks, blogs, newspaper articles, radio interviews, email loops, fan conferences, book club visits, library events, etc.
I let my publishers focus on getting reviews and marketing to libraries, which they do well. My four basics are my website that I update monthly, blogging on my blog and Inkspot (the Midnight Ink author blog: http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/), my email newsletter, and two social networks: Facebook and Goodreads. I focus on only these two because I think to get the benefit out of a social network, you have to be active on it, and two is all I have time for.
9. What inspired your writing career?
I’ve been an avid reader and writer since I was a child, fostered by my mother’s weekly trips with us kids to the library. After writing stories as a schoolchild and taking an independent study in creative writing my senior year in high school, I focused on the technical writing I needed to do for my career until about a year before I retired. That’s when I began writing short stories again. Many, many published authors, particularly in the mystery field, helped me on the path to publication, and I try to return that favor now to aspiring authors following in my footsteps.
10. How did you meet your husband? We love a romance.
We first met at a summer computer conference, and that was pure business. That fall, however, we turned up in the same graduate night school class and the relationship turned into a social one. We started grabbing a quick meal together before class, and one thing led to another. Earning our Masters Degrees at night while working full-time during the day was very tough, and we helped each other get through low spots and encouraged each other to finish.
11. Tell us about your pets. We love animals.
As an adult, I started out with two cats, Merry and Pippin, who I named after Tolkien’s hobbits. When my husband and I married, the cats were part of the deal. After they died, we decided to get the typical Colorado pet, a large dog that could defend herself from the coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, and deer stags that roamed our neighborhood. She was a black Labrador mix rescued from the pound, and we let the kids name her Blackie. Blackie passed away last summer at the ripe old age of 14 and a half, and we have yet to adopt another pet.
12. What do you love about your hometown? We love to travel.
My husband and I love to travel, too! Our last big trip was a temple photo safari to Cambodia and Myanmar(Burma). What we love about living inColoradois the easy access to the outdoor activities we enjoy—downhill skiing, whitewater rafting, hiking, and biking. Being a tourist destination,Colorado Springs also has many attractions to offer, including the Garden of the Gods,Pikes Peak, the USAF Academy, the Olympic Training Center, the kitschy, touristy towns of Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City, and more. There’s never a dull moment here!
Thanks so much for having me as a guest on Dames of Dialogue. If your readers would like to learn more about me, please check out my website at: http://bethgroundwater.com/