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My life has been interesting every minute, which is why I constantly steal bits of it to weave in with my fiction -- like a flood here or an encounter with a rattlesnake there. I grew up in a newspaper family in North Carolina with an editor-grandfather so controversial he was shot at, and so lucky that the bullet missed. I grew up hearing the latest news discussed at the dinner table before it ever got as far as the front page. I married a newspaperman and went on to be a reporter myself, covering everything over the years from school boards to murder trials. I also did a syndicated newspaper feature on the hands of celebrities for a while.
Which gave me a chance to meet and take the hand prints of such fascinating folks as Salvador Dali, Helen Hayes and Carl Sandburg. Yes, I do believe people's talents and likely prospects show in their hands. You can even tell quite a bit watching celebrities wave their hands on television.
Next I became a mystery writer. Which means I still have the chance to keep exploring all sorts of intriguing subjects.
I write about an absent-minded sleuth. (O.K. It's true, I myself am absent-minded, but work hard to compensate.) Her name is Peaches Dann and so far she's won me an Agatha Award and an Anthony nomination. Those were for a short story: "The Dog Who Remembered Too Much" (Malice Domestic IV). In my seventh novel in the series, I've used the notes from some interviews I did with bootlegger and transporters back in my newspaper days. We mystery writers never waste anything. In Where There's a Will, in order to solve murders, my poor mountain sleuth has to go on a cruise, so I had to do the same. You can see how dedicated I am to my art. But number five in the series, Is There A Dead Man In The House? simply fell in my lap.
You see, I watched the restoration of a real 1790's house in Tennessee, took one look at some of the artifacts that came to light, and was hooked. I knew this was a setting for a mystery! The house had almost been offered to the fire department to burn down for practice. Luckily someone discovered that beneath more recent ramshackle additions was a solid old house, perhaps the oldest one in Middle Tennessee. I felt as if it had been saved just for my sleuth! I especially enjoyed reading the archaic language of the old newspapers that were pasted to the attic walls as insulation with headlines like: "Crazed By Liquor, Man Battles Police". The subhead pointed out the reputed bootlegger fared badly with his own product. A story about dueling deaths in seven Southern states was half-hidden by an ad for Thedford's Black Draught laxative. All grist for the mill. Is There A Dead Man In The House? is fiction, but many of the clues are real. In the same way, the skeleton found under the house is based on a real skeleton, buried elsewhere in 1849 and proudly shown to me by Nick Fielder, Tennessee state archaeologist. It's great how folks, from members of a local historical society to the county archivist, will help a mystery writer.
Forget About Murder, the seventh book in the Peaches Dann Forgetful Sleuth Series, will be out February 15th from Berkley Prime Crime. In this one Peaches goes to work for a rural weekly newspaper in order to snoop without getting involved in murder. You can imagine how successful that is! This book is set in the mountains of North Carolina, but a stalking scene in the Opryland Hotel in Nashville is a highlight of the book.
I have been a library trustee and I love even the smell of books. I enjoy talking to library and other groups, a favorite subject being: Why it's a great thing to base a mystery series on your own worst fault, particularly if you come from the South. I'm a member of "The Carolina Crime Writers", "Mystery Writers of America", and "Sisters in Crime". I'm a graduate of Vassar. And have dipped into all sorts of interesting courses here and there, at the University of North Carolina for example. Formal education is helpful, but every minute of life is education, especially if you live in interesting times. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.