by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Crescendo by mystery author Deborah J. Ledford, an interview with Deborah, and a giveaway of Crescendo-details on the giveaway at the end of the post.
Crescendo by Deborah J. Ledford
Review by Cynthia Chow
Even with five marksmanship commendations and the upcoming award of a Medal of Honor, Inola Walela knows that her status as both a Native American and a female on the Bryson City police force demand that she always operate on the highest level of performance and skill. The recent hire of the Police Chief’s niece puts her position at even greater risk, and even the reassurances of her fiancé Sheriff Steven Hawk cannot calm her fears. Inola is right to have her concerns though, as the day of the ceremony she and her rookie partner conduct a traffic stop that goes horrifically wrong. A woman escaping from the car pleas for help for her kidnapped son, but before Inola can question her further the woman is struck by a passing car while Inola’s partner Cody grapples with the driver and is ultimately shot. Placed on administrative leave pending an investigation to determine whether her gun was responsible for her partner’s fatal shooting, Inola finds herself comforting and being comforted by the Kyle Debold, the similarly devastated driver of the car that killed the woman.
What the reader knows but remains hidden from Inola is that Kyle is actually Preston Durand, the dead woman’s abusive ex-husband on the hunt for their son after she attempted to escape and hide him away from Preston. The novel ratchets up into a suspense thriller as the reader witnesses the vulnerable Inola become closer to Kyle even as he plans to manipulate and use her into locating the whereabouts of his child. Inola risks both her job and her relationship with Hawk as she uses his connections to help her solve the mystery of the dead woman and whether or not her claims about her child are true, but it is Hawk’s mother who unexpectedly provides the most support and good counsel to the couple.
The final book in a trilogy featuring Steven Hawk and Inola Walela, Crescendo provides a unique perspective from a woman who faces both racial and sex discrimination. Inola’s own mother is less than accepting of Inola’s relationship with the African American Steven Hawk. The abandonment by Inola’s white father has left Elisi Walela wary of any who are not Cherokee. She is estranged from her own daughter and unfamiliar with her life. As Inola struggles to prove herself to her mother, the police force, and herself, she will have to make critical decisions regarding her future as a law enforcement officer and wife. This thrilling novel showcases a heroine who struggles with insecurity even as her skills make her a talented police officer. The pace of the novel lives up to the title as it ratchets towards an explosive and satisfying end. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read with a very strong lead character who is supported by very realistic and compassionate companions.
Interview with Deborah J. Ledford
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Deborah: I started writing screenplays back in the ’90s and began my first novel based on one of these scripts in early 2000.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Deborah: Book one of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela mystery series, Staccato, was released by Second Wind Publishing in 2009. Staccato is about two world-class pianists and their diabolic mentor hiding out in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Deborah: All of my novels so far are in the psychological suspense thriller category, but many of my short stories are literary—which is my first love—but I’ve always enjoyed thriller movies and TV shows and love to create suspenseful mysteries.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Deborah: I spent my summers growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina where my series is set. I realized early on that this location was rarely featured in books and I wanted to share my love of the area with readers. Inola Walela is the only female Cherokee on the Bryson City police force. I knew Steven Hawk’s love interest would be Cherokee from the first moment she came to my mind. The Eastern Band Cherokee reservation is ten miles from Bryson City, so her heritage made perfect sense given the location. I’m also part Eastern Band Cherokee so it was extra important for me to be respectful of Inola’s character. But let me be clear…Inola is not me, nor is she based on anyone I’ve ever met.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take way from your work?
Deborah: I am first and foremost an entertainer, but I always enjoy hearing from readers that they “got” my writing. For instance, that they caught the symbolism and foreshadowing I work so hard to craft in all of my books and short stories brings me great joy.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Deborah: Lately I’ve had to fit in writing whenever I can. Promotion is so important when a new book is released and every opportunity to be featured is like gold. BTW, thanks so much for featuring Crescendo on your fantastic Kings River Life site!
KRL: You are very welcome! 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?
Deborah: I don’t outline, but I do keep a chapter breakdown, which isn’t as daunting or formal. Essentially this is a one paragraph synopsis of the crucial elements that happened in each chapter. Before I put a lot of time into actually writing, I always need to know the first 5 chapters, 2-3 climactic scenes, snippets of dialogue, the ending and usually the title. I write multiple points of view and keep a tight timeframe of the action (no more than 4 or 5 days for the entire novel) so this helps me decide what needs to occur within the chapters. If I don’t know what will happen in chapters 9-13 I can check the Chapter Breakdown to see which character I should be featuring next. This helps me focus the details and act as a reminder to always add suspense in each and every chapter.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Deborah: My background is in the theatre and I still feel most creative beginning in the late afternoon. My ideal is to write through the nighttime hours.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Deborah: No. I found it nearly impossible. My first novel will most likely never find its way out of a drawer. And Staccato nearly faced the same fate. I received so many rejections for that manuscript that I had given up on it and started yet another mystery. Then I heard about an online contest sponsored by CourtTV (now TruTV). The novel created quite a lot of buzz and made it to the semi-final round. Fortunately Mike Simpson, Second Wind Publishing’s publisher was looking for talent there and contacted me.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Deborah: When I was shopping Staccato to agents and editors at publishing houses (back when you actually could do this) I heard over and over that the novel was “too literary for a thriller.” Most amusing: “It’s not like anything out there.” Which I thought was the point. To write something unlike anything else is the biggest compliment imaginable.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Deborah: I’ve been working on a Young Adult traditional mystery, also what may possibly be book one of a new thriller series. I also plan to flesh out a noir short story that was published a few years ago—very excited about that project.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Deborah: The authors I’ve come to know. The ones who have been kind to me from the time I first became published to this very day: Rebecca Cantrell, Kelli Stanley, Cara Black, Jeffrey Siger, Simon Wood, Sophie Littlefield, Naomi Hirahara, and Julia Blackwell. There are many more as I’ve found mystery writers to be the friendliest bunch of folks I’ve ever met.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Deborah: Massive amounts of research. Especially for Snare, which takes place in NC but also on the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation in New Mexico. For that book I relied on the communications director on the Pueblo, Floyd “Mountain Walking Cane” Gomez. I could not have written that book without his assistance in getting the Pueblo elements correct. And hours upon hours of time went to selecting the ideal classical music pieces for Staccato. I also spend a lot of time on my characters’ names. Even the secondary characters have names selected specifically for them.
KRL: What do you read?
Deborah: I primarily read literary novels until my mysteries were published. Now I’m hooked on mysteries and read entire series written by authors I’d never been exposed to before. I’ve read every book by Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner and Gregg Hurwitz, which are more in the vein of what I write. I also love Kate Atkinson, Cara Black and Louise Penny. I’m also addicted to Rebecca Cantrell and Kelli Stanley’s novels.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Deborah: I like dark and mysterious. Dramas in particular. I’m not much for comedies. Unfortunately I always seem to be doing research so I’m drawn to what I tend to write. Unfortunate in a way as I constantly yell at the screen when they don’t get police procedure elements correct. Seven, Primal Fear and Presumed Innocent continue to be my favorite films. For TV, I’m hooked on The Americans, Dexter, The Following and The Killing.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Deborah: Nothing original, but I will reinforce the “Never give up” mantra. Best advice is butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard. It’s all about word count at the end of the day. Words scribbled out on paper mean very little until it comes time to transcribe to an actual Word file. Oh yeah, and learn how to type! I hear nightmares about writers who hunt and peck, eyes on the keyboard at all times—which must take forever to compose an entire manuscript. I love the freedom of being able to look out the window or only on the monitor as I type.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Deborah: I’m with a small independent publisher and my books can be found at very few actual bookstores. E-Books give me the opportunity to reach far more readers, and also on an international level, that the print version will most likely never be available for.
KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?
Deborah: I have attempted time and time again to enjoy e-books, but I’m on the computer so much, every single day, that I prefer the look, feel, even scent of words in print on paper. A tangible novel is my candy at the end of the day.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Deborah: I highly suggest anyone interested in crime fiction (writers or readers) to join Sisters in Crime. This international organization is by far the best supporter of published s and beginning writers. And there are also a lot of “Misters” in Crime. I’m the current President of the Desert Sleuths (Metro-Phoenix, AZ) Chapter which has more than 125 members. Yeah, I’m a more than a little proud.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Deborah: I rarely (if ever) have the television turned off.
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Deborah: That is difficult to answer. I try not to over promote, but there’s a fine line when you are trying to get the word out because the best way to find new readers is by recommendations from others. I do my best to be considerate of others, try not to overstep any boundaries, and yet mention my written work when it is appropriate.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: Where can we find your books?
Deborah: Print versions of my books can be ordered from Amazon, Second Wind Publishing and your local independent bookstore. Electronic versions of my novels are available for the Kindle, Nook and on Smashwords for a variety of electronic readers.
To enter to win a copy of Crescendo, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “Crescendo”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 4, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
Check out more mystery interviews/reviews by subscribing to the All Mystery e-Newsletter: