Interview With Mystery Author Robert O’Hanneson/Review/Giveaway

Sep 24, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Books & Tales, Marilyn Meredith, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn interviews local author Robert O’Hanneson and reviews his book Possum Belly Queen. At the end of this post is a chance to win a copy of this book.

Robert O'Hanneson

Marilyn: Tell me something about your background, where you’re from, what you’ve been doing with your life.

Robert: I was born in San Francisco, then moved to Santa Clara where I attended high school and college. I spent four years in the U.S. Air Force, three of them forty feet below in a missile launch center in Okinawa where I was one of two men responsible for launching megatons of nuclear weapons. After the service, I worked for a company who manufactured amusement park rides for Disney and other major amusement parks throughout the world. I ended up in their sales department and traveled throughout the world selling rides. I left the company and became VP of a company in Oregon that manufactured carnival rides. From there I moved to Vermont and became president of a company that also manufactures amusement rides. From there, I went in business with a friend and did limited partnerships, then purchased rides and placed them in parks with no costs to them and took a percentage of the ticket price. Prior to retiring, I returned to California and sold real estate for several years.

Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Robert: Back when I traveled thousands of miles a year selling rides to parks worldwide, I found it relaxing to write. I knew I could write a screenplay but not a novel. When I retired the opposite happened and Possum Belly Queen was published. Still waiting on the screenplay.

Marilyn: When did you get the inspiration for The Possum Belly Queen? (I love the title.)

Robert: I was in Bonnie Hearn Hill’s Tuesday Writers Group and came up with a novel titled Bloody Soil, historical fiction that took place during the Armenian Genocide. She, her husband, my wife and I went on a research trip to San Francisco. We were having a cocktail and she told me to tell Larry what I had done for a living. After a little conversation, she said, “Why don’t you write a book set in carnivals.” The title came from the time I called on carnivals where young girls and guys who didn’t have much money, threw their sleeping bags in the compartments under the deck of ride trailers, which were called the possum belly, and the girls, possum belly queens.

Marilyn: How long did it take you to write it?

Robert: Off and on a little over a year.

Marilyn: What was your road to publication?

Robert: A long one. I started writing on airplanes when I was in the amusement business. I started a book titled “Silicon Valley” in about 2000, then got serious and actually signed with an agent who turned out to be a nightmare. The only thing she did that was good was suggest I go to the Fresno Conference in 2001. I met Bonnie and her husband there. She was writing a book titled Intern that happened to resemble the Chandra Levy case. When she found out that we were close friends of her parents, Bonnie wanted to talk with us. She invited us to become part of the Tuesdays group. We became friends after that. Carol and I became board members for the Yosemite Writers Conference. I have a stack of submissions for several projects and one published book now.

Marilyn: What are your plans for promotion?

Robert: I have a large book signing next month in Danville. I’ve been waiting for approval from B&N, then plan on doing several signings at a few of their stores. I am also trying to promote it throughout the amusement industry, carnivals and major parks. I’ve done a couple of interviews and seeking more. I am also working with the people at Oak Tree Press.

Marilyn: What’s next for you?

Robert: I have about two thirds of the second book, Helix, completed in my Andy Zartanian Series. Chain-Dogs, is the third.

Marilyn: What would you most like to tell the readers?

Robert: Writing can be both enjoyable and frustrating at times, but it’s extremely satisfying when someone reads your work and tells you they love it. Be prepared for rejection and remind yourself that you are a little closer to becoming published. There may be times when the words aren’t flowing. Step away, read a book by your favorite author, then sit in front of your computer and start again. I know several people who enjoy writing but never attempt to write a book. They aren’t interested in becoming published. If it’s a hobby, then enjoy the time you spend writing. If it’s a profession, then you really have to enjoy the time you spend in front of your computer.

Marilyn: Thanks, Bob, that was great.

You can learn more about Robert on his website.

Possum Belly Queen by Robert O’Hanneson

This is not a cozy by any means, despite the title. I bought the book for a several reasons: I recently met Bob and his lovely wife at the PSWA conference, it was published by Oak Tree which also publishes my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, and last but certainly not least, I wanted to find out what the title meant.

It didn’t take me long to find out that the story is about missing girls and carnivals. Andy Zartanian sells rides to amusement parks and carnivals and, though he knows a lot about the venue, he doesn’t much like carnie life. With some reluctance, he takes on the job of trying to locate a missing granddaughter who may or may not be somehow involved with a carnival.

The plot is unusual, the settings are even more unusual, and as you read you’ll recognize the fact that the author has personal knowledge of carnivals and the rides that make them so popular. He brings to life the sights, sounds and smells of the midway and what goes on behind the scenes of the amusement parks. The non-stop action kept me turning pages as Andy searches for the missing girl in this fresh and remarkable

To enter to win a copy of Possum Belly Queen, simply email KRL at with the subject line “Possum”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen October 1, 2011.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to or

Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author and an ongoing contributor to our Local Literary section. Be sure to visit her website;


  1. Thank you, Marilyn, and thank you, Kings River Life, for spreading the word about Bob’s page-turning thriller. I’ll never forget that night in San Francisco when he told my husband, “They call those girls possum belly queens.”
    In unison, Larry and I said, “That’s a book title.”

    Bob is a true writer who puts in his computer time every day and who didn’t give up when he didn’t have the instant gratification of immediate success.

    As you may know, his protagonist is Armenian, as is Bob. That adds to the richness and texture of the book, as does the unflinching yet compassionate look at life on the midway.
    Thanks again, Marilyn.

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book. We had a girl that grew up in our neighborhood who ran away from home to join a carnival. It would be a hard life I would think.

  3. Great idea for a book. At night, when the rides have their colored lights on, a carnival looks like a good setting for a mystery. Good luck with your book, Bob! (I’m an OTP author too).

  4. A winner has been chosen! Thanks to all who entered–please come back again.
    Lorie Ham, KRL publisher



  1. KRL Reviewers Favorite Books of 2011 | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] different, with believable characters and fascinating settings. The one that stood out for me was Possum Belly Queen by…

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