by Sandra Murphy
& Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have an interview with mystery author Radine Trees Nehring and a review of her book Journey To Die For. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of this book.
Journey to Die For by Radine Trees Nehring
Reviewed by Sandra Murphy
Who would think that a day trip on a restored 1920s train could lead to murder and mayhem?
Carrie and Henry are observant of fellow passengers and that puts them right into the middle of a murder investigation. Henry’s a retired police major so he’s more used to the twists and turns an investigation can take. Carrie relies more on her people skills.
Informative without intruding on the storyline, the trips Carrie and Henry take carry you along from the train ride to the museums, through the antique shops and junk stores. There’s a bit about Civil War history too. And if you’re not wondering just where Carol’s restaurant is after reading about their meals (save room for pie), something’s wrong.
The characters are well-drawn and personable with just enough flaws to be interesting. Although I had a suspicion about the murderer’s identity, I had no clue about how the whole story fit together. Lucky for me, Carrie and Henry figured it all out.
This book will take you on a nice train ride through Arkansas, down by the river (don’t look at those wet rags, it’s a body), to Kansas City, through a museum and to a safe house bed and breakfast.
All in all, this sixth episode of their lives is a good trip. Send postcards!
Interview with Radine Trees Nehring
Lorie: How long have I been writing?
Radine: Well, I’m not one of those authors who wrote their first story at age six! Though I enjoyed writing assignments in school, and even edited a college newspaper, I didn’t write seriously (meaning I hoped for publication) until the mid 1980’s. That’s shortly after my husband and I bought Spring Hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks and spent most weekends here, clearing a place in the forest and building a two-room cabin. There was so much I loved about our weekends away from the city that I was impelled to share this love with others. From the beginning, editors were happy to buy my Ozarks essays and articles, I guess because writing about the Ozarks was something unique at the time.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries?
Radine: I sold a lot of non-fiction before I decided to write a novel and decided to try a mystery, since that’s what I enjoyed reading most. A Valley To Die For was published by St Kitts Mystery Press in 2002. Research was easy, because my two major characters and most of their neighbors were mature adults (as were our neighbors), and Carrie McCrite, the female protagonist, lived exactly where the Nehrings do. The problems in the novel came from actual experiences: first, the danger that a hunter would mistake a human for a deer, and, second, the planned siting of a limestone quarry in an untouched Ozarks valley sheltering a clear stream, and surrounded with many barely-explored caves. Did a hunter kill JoAnne by mistake? And, if not, who killed her–and why?
Lorie: How do I choose settings and characters?
Radine: All my novels except the first are set at popular tourist destinations in the Ozarks. My main characters stay the same; now-married couple Carrie McCrite and Henry King (he’s a retired police officer) and their friends, either retiree move-ins or native Ozarkers.
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or to convey a message?
Radine: I do hope my novels entertain readers as much as researching and writing them entertains me. But there are several underlying human problems that demand solving in our world today, and some of these are exposed for possible solutions in the novels. For example: Carrie’s need to prove her strengths after her first husband is killed and she’s suddenly left on her own resources; and Henry’s struggles with his family past and PTSD arising from experiences as a police officer.
Lorie: What is your writing schedule?
Radine: Daily demands mean I write whenever I can, though I prefer early morning. I do write every day.
Lorie: Do you outline?
Radine: No, I am a “seat of the pants” writer. I find my story as I write. So far I’ve had little difficulty keeping track of events as I work through a novel.
Lorie: How difficult was it to get published?
Radine: Though my articles and essays about the Ozarks did find a ready market, my books took more time. I had my share of rejections when I began marketing Dear Earth (her non-fiction book), which I eventually sold without agent help. I found an agent for my mystery series quite easily, but, after two years she hadn’t sold it, and we agreed to part company. I eventually sold the mystery series to a small, but active press, and they ultimately bought five of my novels.
Lorie: Do you have a favorite rejection story?
Radine: As other authors have experienced, some of my rejection letters began with high praise for the novel in question, then (turn page) the letter got to that “But.” I know of at least one writer who used parts of his rejection letters as jacket blurbs and I could have done the same thing!
Lorie: What interesting book-signing stories can you tell?
Radine: My favorite book signings occur in the venues where each story is set. At Hot Springs National Park, for example, the signing was a huge event in the park visitor center, with refreshments provided by Friends of Hot Springs National Park.
Another favorite location is in one of the many grocery stores in an area employee-owned chain. All sales are spur-of-the-moment because there is no advertising, and I meet and talk with so many interesting folks. Sales are generally very good in these locations.
Lorie: Future goals?
Radine: To continue recording Carrie and Henry’s life story.
Lorie: Who are your writing heroes?
Radine: I have a lot of writing heroes, and Agatha Christie has to be one of them. I also enjoy the work of Dorothy L. Sayers and Mary Stewart.
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Radine: Well, I visit potential locations before I decide to use them, and spend a lot of time getting the feel of the place and learning about its history. If neither place nor history say “story” to me, I move on. After a location is chosen, most research concerns the location itself, since I always depict each as they truly are as far as possible.
Lorie: What do you enjoy reading?
Radine: For pleasure I read mostly what are called cozy or traditional mysteries, though there are others I branch out into occasionally as long as they aren’t extremely violent and don’t involve serial killers, torture, mistreatment of women or something of that sort. You probably get the picture. Most of the books I take time to read (and there isn’t really much time now) are written by writers I know from the mystery convention circuit or meet on the Internet.
Lorie: Advice for beginning writers?
Radine: Believe in yourself and know that a love of writing is of primary importance. There are few wealthy authors among the thousands published each year. Be sure you have a good foundation in your chosen language. Learn the writing business by joining internet writers’ groups as well as on-the-ground groups in your field of interest. Attend talks, classes, conventions. Join (or create) a local writers’ critique group. When your book is “finished” hire a competent editor. It is almost impossible to edit your own work. Publication is becoming easier as each day passes, but aim as high as you can, and NEVER GIVE UP.
Lorie: How do you feel about e-books?
Radine: E-publishing is growing rapidly, but is still finding its feet, especially price-wise and quality-wise. I do have a NOOK, and ease of book purchase is what I consider the biggest advantage there, but I still choose to read print on paper a majority of the time. All my books are available for many e-book venues including NOOK and Kindle.
Lorie: Anything you would like to add?
Radine: Just that if I didn’t enjoy the power and imaginative flavor of words on paper (or on computer screen) I wouldn’t be a writer. I enjoyed make-believe as a child. Many years later, I still do!
Lorie: Do you have a website and are you on Facebook and Twitter?
I’m not a tweeter, but I am fairly active on Facebook and in several groups based there.
Lorie: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Radine: Gosh, that’s the big question today. For one thing, the fact my novels are set in really terrific tourist destinations has turned out to be a big plus, since my books are sold at each, and people in other places enjoy reading about Ozarks specialties. I am not jealous of the success of others, and help other writers (and readers) as much as I can. I consider that a very satisfying occupation in addition to writing and selling my own books. Anyone wanting a guide to the Ozarks can find that in my novels, in addition to an interesting setting, and a cracking good crime story. Businesses and parks where my novels are set realize this, and help promote on my behalf–and theirs!
Check out a short story by Radine right here in KRL.
To enter to win a copy of Journey To Die For, simply email KRL at email@example.com with the subject line “Journey”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 21, 2012. U.S. residents only.