and her cozy mystery
Murder at the Courthouse
I grew up in… Kentucky on a farm. Not a horse farm. Those fancy horse farms were a couple of counties east of us. No, my father raised beef cows, corn, hay and tobacco. Now I live on a different farm about a mile from my childhood home. My roots go deep in this land.
I was inspired to write my first novel… by a writing correspondence course I took in the very early days of my writing career. I had written many short pieces and even had a few of them published in Christian magazines. But the last assignment for the course was to write an outline of a novel. I’ve never liked outlining, so I wrote the novel instead. In the process I discovered I loved the novel form and have written very few short pieces since. That is, if blogs don’t count. I’ve written hundreds of those. But I did discover how much I enjoyed writing novels. I kept at it even after my first two novels made the rounds without finding a publisher. In 1978, Warner Books published my third novel, a historical romance. An exciting time for me. Many years later, in 2005, my first inspirational novel, Scent of Lilacs, was published by Revell Books. Also a very exciting time for me. Prior to writing Scent of Lilacs, I went through a tough time in my writing life where my books gathered nothing but rejections. So I had decided to write one more book. I determined to work on the story I wanted to write without thinking about the market. I wrote about what I knew which was small towns and country churches. That was the best writing decision I ever made, and I thank the Lord for the inspiration that led me to write my Heart of Hollyhill books.
The books that have most influenced my life are… the great stories I discovered as a young reader in my public library. I read all sorts of books at that time. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier as well as classical literature like The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I read every chance I got. That was the perfect training for a young aspiring writer.
My biggest challenge when writing is… staying the course. In every book I’ve written I generally reach a point in the writing when I despair of the story ever being finished or if finished, being a story anyone would want to read. I call it being stuck in the writing doldrums. But if I continue to spread my creative sails eventually a little story wind will once more begin to blow and the story will sail on home to the end.
One of my favourite authors is… Why? My favourites change from book to book. I find it impossible to come up with one and only one. But one of the authors who did open my eyes to how words could make a character come to life was Chaim Potok. His books, The Chosen and The Promise, made me want to create characters that sprang off the pages of the book and into a reader’s mind the way the young Jewish boys in that story came to life in my mind.
If I wasn’t a writer, I would be… a secretary. In fact, through the years, I have often worked part time as a secretary along with writing. But if I could just choose something to be whether I’m qualified for it or not, I might like teaching kindergarten. I love kids.
The superhero talent I would love to have is… to fly. Doesn’t everybody want to fly? Of course, sometimes being invisible might be nice too.
After a few years as a police officer in Columbus, Michael Keane has no trouble relaxing into the far less stressful job of deputy sheriff in his small hometown. After all, nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky. Nothing, that is, until a dead body is discovered on the courthouse steps. Everyone in town is a little uneasy. Still, no one is terribly worried–after all the man was a stranger–until one of their own is murdered right on Main Street.
As Michael works to solve the case it seems that every nosy resident in town has a theory. When the sheriff insists Michael check out one of these harebrained theories, his surprising discovery sends him on a bewildering search for a mysterious killer that has him questioning everything he has ever believed about life in Hidden Springs.
My latest novel can be described by these 5 adjectives… Unexpected. Mysterious. Entertaining. Compelling. Fun.
My main character is… Michael Keane. He’s a great guy. Good looking. Loyal to his family and friends. Committed to his job of protecting his town. He has small town roots that go deep, but he’s in love with a professional woman who works in a big city. Not an easy match.
My main character resembles… the actor, Adam Gregory.
A previously unknown fact about this novel is… that I wrote the first draft of the story in the 1990s before cell phones became such an integral part of people’s lives. One major plot point in my opening scene was a pay phone booth on the corner in front of the courthouse. There are no phone booths anywhere in my town these days. None. The quarter in my victim’s pocket no longer mattered. I had to rethink several parts of the story due to cell phone availability. Thank goodness, my main character lives way out in the country where cell reception can still be iffy at times. J
My story’s spiritual theme is… I have one of the characters, my main character’s maiden aunt, think on the verses Lamentations 3:23-24. I first thought of the wonderful old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I love that line about morning by morning new blessings I see. So I found the Scripture reference that inspired the song and let Malinda Keane dwell on that when she considered some of the hard times of the past. Also I have Michael Keane, the main character, considering what the Lord wants him to do with his life. Is he walking the right paths?
While writing this novel I learned… how to include a spiritual thread in a mystery while concentrating the majority of the story energy on the mystery.
The title was chosen by… a joint effort of my publishers and me. I made some suggestions regarding a title and my publisher’s titling committee checked over the ideas and agreed Murder at the Courthouse best suited the story.
As an author, the hardest scenes for me to write are… I have the hardest time writing descriptive passages. I want to race on with the story. I want my characters to be talking. I love writing dialogue. So sometimes I have to make myself stop and look around in my stories to include more of the setting and place.
The story I’m currently working on is… the third Hidden Springs mystery. I’m attempting to make an old house an important part of the story. There’s this tower room and rumours about hidden treasure and a young girl who sees something that puts her in danger. Michael Keane has to find a way to protect the young girl and save the house. Well, I’m not sure about the house yet, but a calico cat is on the scene that will surely make an appearance on the cover if I can get my story boat through those doldrums. The second Hidden Springs novel, Murder Comes by Mail, is currently going through edits and will be available for readers July 2016. That story is a suspense filled race as Michael must stop a serial killer before he targets those Michael loves in Hidden Springs.
You may not know this about me, but I… love dogs. Well, you may know that about me if you ever visit my Facebook author page. But I got the dog hunger when I was just a kid. I would have given up Christmas presents for a decade as long as I got a dog. Luckily I didn’t have to forego my Christmas presents and a friend of the family brought me a pup I promptly named after the man because I was so grateful. Strangely enough, the man wasn’t that honoured. LOL. But Ollie turned out to be a good name for my first dog. Since then I have never been without a dog of my own. My current dog, Oscar, is a Lab Chow mix (see pic) and was rescued from the side of a busy highway where someone had evidently abandoned him. We took him in and he is a very good dog and a great writing companion although he just mostly sleeps and is no help at all with coming up with fresh ideas to get me through those doldrums.
If I could be a character in any novel, I would want to be… Kate in my own story, Angel Sister. That’s because I based the background of that book on my mother’s stories of how it was to grow up during the Great Depression. If I could walk in Kate’s shoes for a few miles, it would be like taking a trip back in time with my mother who has moved on up to heaven now.
Relz Reviewz Extras
Reviews of Small Town Girl, Words Spoken True, Angel Sister, The Outsider, The Believer and The Seeker
Visit Ann’s website and blog
Buy at Amazon: Murder at the Courthouse or Koorong