Please welcome my guest author, Carolyn Mulford.
Carolyn decided to become a writer while growing up on a Missouri farm. She earned an M.A. in journalism and went off to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. There she became fascinated by other cultures and addicted to travel. She edited a United Nations magazine in Vienna, Austria, and a national service-learning magazine in Washington, D.C. She then worked as a freelance writer and editor and dabbled in fiction.
A few years ago she moved back to Missouri to focus on fiction. Her first novel, The Feedsack Dress, became Missouri's Great Read at the 2009 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. In 2013 Five Star released the first two books in her mystery series, Show Me the Murder in February and Show Me the Deadly Deer in December. The books (in hardcover and Kindle) feature three women who grew up together in a small town, led wildly different lives for thirty-five years, and come together again as each faces a major crisis.
I select the main characters for my books as carefully as I choose companions for a long trip. They must share some of my interests but differ enough to surprise, challenge, and entertain me day after day for months.
The protagonist for my Show Me series began to form ten years ago while I was working in Washington, D.C. I was horrified when the Bush administration revealed the name of a CIA covert operative, exposing her and acquaintances abroad to danger, ruining her career, and surely ending some friendships. I empathized because I’d feared that I wouldn’t be the only one to discover a friend in Vienna led a daring double life. Leading such a life required tremendous energy, brainpower, self-confidence bordering on arrogance, and—fascinating to me—idealism mixed with deception.
But I hadn’t worked abroad for years and had avoided the CIA when I did. I planned to move back to Missouri. My spy would do the same. After thriving in a dual career in one of the world’s great cities, she would be compelled by a failed mission to give up her day and night jobs and return to her rural hometown. I call her Phoenix Smith.
In Show Me the Murder, Phoenix arrives weak from a near-fatal wound. She expects to relax with her childhood neighbor and closest friend, Annalynn Carr Keyser. The only child in a wealthy, educated family, Annalynn stayed home and became a civic leader. She has just buried her husband. He was found with a bullet in his head in a cheap motel with the body of a young woman. Everyone else except Annalynn believes it was a murder-suicide. She asks Phoenix to help prove it was a double murder.
Skeptical but sympathetic, Phoenix agrees. Soon she recognizes signs of a set-up and fears the killers will come after Annalynn, who refuses to run. Using different skill sets and reconciling conflicting attitudes, the two women risk their lives to identify the killer. To Phoenix’s disgust, the third member of their high school trio insists on helping. Connie Diamante expected to star on Broadway, but she never made it beyond summer stock. After her marriage disintegrated, she moved back and leads a precarious existence as a wedding singer and voice teacher. Connie adores Annalynn but barely tolerates Phoenix. Much of the book’s humor comes from the sparring and the coerced cooperation between Connie and Phoenix.
I had these three ongoing characters well in mind when I began writing. To my surprise, a character brought in as a plot twist refused to get off the page. So the series includes Achilles, a K-9 dropout who adopts Phoenix.
In Show Me the Deadly Deer, Phoenix goes with Annalynn, now acting sheriff, to look for a missing farmer. They find him dead on a pond bank with an antler sticking out of his back. Did someone frame a deer? Phoenix thinks so.
She searches for the deadly deer as an excuse for questioning suspects. At first she views the investigation as a game to relieve her boredom, but she cannot maintain an emotional distance as she sees how the death affects and endangers others. She breaks the law not only to find evidence but also to prevent additional tragedies.
In each book in the series, the women unravel complex crimes, deal with social issues (e.g., elder abuse in book three), and struggle to overcome large and small personal problems.
My major goal for each book: to tell a good story about people worth caring about.
You can read the first chapters of Show Me the Murder, Show Me the Deadly Deer, and The Feedsack Dress on my website: http://carolynmulford.com. Questions for book discussion groups and ordering information are also there.