by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this review on how to enter to win a copy of Devil in the Deadline, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL & a indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy. We also have a fun interview with LynDee after the review.
Devil in the Deadline: A Headlines in High Heels Mystery By LynDee Walker
Review by Cynthia Chow
Showing up at a crime scene in full Flashdance costume would not have been reporter Nichelle Clarke’s first preference, but when Richmond police spokesman Aaron White calls her to the site of a brutal possible serial killing, she’s not about to hesitate. The only witnesses on hand are young vagrants who would sooner cut off their hands than speak to the police. Nichelle’s ability to question them is the chance to find out not only who slaughtered the young woman but also provide the mutilated victim with an identity.
Pressure for the Richmond Telegraph to post news stories online is endless and Nichelle is further driven to beat out her nemesis at the Channel Four News. Unexpected and unwelcome are detail-filled postings by the Girl Friday blogger who’s not only first with the story but who reveals details known only to police and insiders. Nichelle’s ex-boyfriend Kyle Reed is an ATF agent intent on resuming their relationship which makes her situation professionally and personally uncomfortable. After a rival drops not-so-veiled hints Nichelle is sleeping with a source, Nichelle is forced to admit she is unable to reawaken the flame for the perfect Supercop but instead feels a sizzle only around a mafia-involved man-of-mystery.
Where the next deadline is five minutes before someone else grabs the story, Nichelle is motivated to ask her own questions within the homeless community. Nichelle is something of a do-gooder, so when the path to the victim’s identity leads to a religious cult, she is more than willing to investigate. This may have links to her own family’s history—a shocking and unwelcome consequence.
Novels featuring journalists are my favorites, as they showcase a profession filled with complex ethical, professional, and moral dilemmas. Reporters seem to make competent and relentless investigators, and Nichelle is a standout. She has cynicism but also hope. A healthy sense of humor helps. Readers who enjoy the outstanding novels of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edna Buchanan will find themselves similarly entertained by this stellar series by another award-winning journalist.
Interview with LynDee Walker
KRL: How long have you been writing?
LynDee: I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was in elementary school. I’ve always loved to read, and my love of telling stories grew from that, I think. For years, I told true stories as a journalist. Then I left the news business to be a mom. After a while, I missed writing and I missed the newsroom, but I didn’t miss the long hours away from my family. That’s when I started writing fiction—it was in the summer of 2009.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
LynDee: My first novel launched in January of 2013. It’s called Front Page Fatality, and it’s the first in the Headlines in High Heels mystery series. It introduces readers to Nichelle and the gang, and I’m still insanely flattered to say it was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel.
KRL: That’s awesome! Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
LynDee: Pretty much! I have one other manuscript that is more Women’s Fiction, but I love the characters and would like to turn it into a mystery someday when I have time.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell me a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
LynDee: My love of Richmond definitely inspired the setting, though I don’t remember it ever being a conscious choice. Nichelle was just here. The first time she popped into my head, she was in Shockoe Bottom, and the city was as much a part of the story as her shoes. I never considered changing that.
My main character, Nichelle Clarke, is a smart, sassy crime reporter with a nose for exclusives (that often leads her to trouble) and a serious weakness for fabulous designer heels she feeds through eBay.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
LynDee: I definitely write to entertain, because I love to read for entertainment. I love a book that can make me laugh and cry and connect with the characters. So that’s the kind of book I always set out to write. Readers tell me my books deal with different social themes and teach them things about those themes (in Devil in the Deadline, it’s homelessness and religion as a business), and I love hearing that, but my primary objective is always to tell a good story.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
LynDee: Both. I have three small children, so while I try to write on a schedule during the week, it often becomes every word for itself because of our crazy life. I am blessed with an amazing husband who is understanding of things like deadlines and supportive of my work.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
LynDee: I do not outline. I make story maps in Scapple (love this program) so I can keep track of the many threads of the story and how they intersect. But the details—often the twists and the fun parts—come to me as I work. I love discovering the story as I write.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
LynDee: First thing in the morning, right after my first cup of coffee. I’m awake and the story has been running around my head all night, so I can get a lot done in a short time. Plus, I begin the day feeling accomplished.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
LynDee: I think everyone does, no matter how long it takes. Sending your work out into the world for the first time is scary. All total, I ended up sending 31 queries and getting 16 requests for material. The last of those turned into a revise and resubmit after some back and forth, and then it turned into a contract.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
LynDee: I had a lot of near-misses. On requested material, I had two no responses, and all the others were rejections with some variation of “I was really on the fence” or “there’s so much to admire here” but a “no” with an invitation to submit future projects. By number 16, which came from an editor I really wanted to work with, I was tired of playing psychic trying to figure out why. So I emailed her back and asked. Yes, that’s breaking a rule. But I was careful and nice about it, and told her I understood that it wasn’t her job to help me. She sent me back notes. They made sense to me, and gave me so many ideas. I thanked her and told her I was excited to go back into the manuscript and see what I could do with it. She asked me to send her the revised version. That turned into my first contract.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
LynDee: Most of my signings are nothing but lovely—I adore meeting readers. It’s the most fun thing about being an author. I can only think of one strange thing: I once had a bookstore manager stand guard for my whole event, then insist on walking me to my car. There was a gentleman who arrived early and told the store staff he didn’t read, but he saw my picture on the website and had to come meet me. He stayed the whole time, telling stories about actresses he’d sent flowers and trinkets to, and how rude they were to not respond to his letters and gifts. I talked to plenty of interesting folks in ten years covering cops, and I chatted politely with him when he spoke to me, but the manager got alarmed enough that he asked the man to leave. Then he wouldn’t let me leave the store alone. That was definitely not your ordinary signing.
KRL: Future writing goals?
LynDee: I have only one: write a better book next time. Wonderful advice given to me by one of my idols.
KRL: Writing heroes?
LynDee: Oh gosh, I’m afraid to make a list, because I will surely forget someone. I love to read and there are so many writers I admire, for many different reasons. I’ll list those writers I read for years who I’m lucky to count among my friends today, and why I love them and their work.
Hank Phillippi Ryan is not only a tremendously talented author, but a tough, fair reporter and a big-hearted, giving person. Julia Spencer-Fleming is a brilliant writer and a hilarious, warm, and wonderful friend.
Laura Levine is the funniest writer I know, both on and off the page, and she’s just the sweetest woman you’ll ever meet. Harley Jane Kozak is so talented, and in different genres, which seems so difficult to me—and she’s lovely and makes everyone right at ease. Plus, she sends the funniest Christmas cards. Hers is the most creative, funniest one we get every year.
These women are my heroes because they have amazing talent, yet make time to help the new kids on the block. I want to be like them when I grow up.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
LynDee: The kind that I worry lands me on federal watch lists. Surely, there’s someone somewhere who watches my search history with a raised eyebrow. I research all different aspects of my books, from the murder methods (I’m SO lucky to have a good friend who’s a forensic biologist. I owe the accuracy of the science to her.) to the history of the locations I use, to how cheap you can find Manolos on eBay. Interesting fact I learned while researching Devil in the Deadline: Belle Isle was a POW camp for the Confederacy in the Civil War, and is rumored to be haunted. I filed that away in case I ever decide to write a paranormal.
KRL: What do you read?
LynDee: A little of everything. Mystery, of course, but also romance, women’s fiction, suspense, literary fiction—it depends on my mood.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
LynDee: I don’t have time to watch much TV these days, but my darling and I did really enjoy Gracepoint in the Fall. All-time favorite shows include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Friends, Bones, House, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. My favorite movie is still Gone With the Wind. My favorite recently-watched movie is Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. We took the kids over the holidays and I thought it was a great end to the trilogy.
KRL: Buffy and Gilmore Girls yay! Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
LynDee: Do not give up. I don’t believe publishing is necessarily tied to happiness in writing, because not everyone has a thick enough skin for the business side of things. But if it’s what you want, keep trying. Keep writing. Keep getting feedback. Keep growing.
However, do all those things knowing that writing is what makes you a writer. Not being published. If I’m allowed to get philosophical for a half a second: I’ve learned a bit about the dangers of tying your happiness with your craft to things that are largely out of your control. Do keep writing and growing. Don’t let the unpredictability of the industry get you down.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
LynDee: As a lifelong reader who loves my kindle, I think it’s not important how the books reach the readers as long as they do, and the authors get paid for them.
KRL: So you read e-books yourself?
LynDee: Yes! My house would be overtaken by books if I didn’t. Plus, what reader doesn’t love the convenience of being able to pack a library in your purse/overnight bag?
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
LynDee: Just a thanks for asking me to chat!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
LynDee: Hmmm. I don’t really think I’m that fascinating, so this is a hard one. The thing most of my readers seem to find surprising is that I can’t walk (well, anyway) in stilettos. They always look at my feet first and ask where the shoes are. I adore the shoes, but they trip me up, so I love that Nichelle can wear them.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
LynDee: I’m lucky to have some brilliant and agile marketing folks at Henery Press, and they worry about the market. I write more books and interact with readers, which are both things I love to do. I am a girl blessed.
To enter to win a copy of Devil in the Deadline, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Deadline,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 24, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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