Today we sit down for a chat with mystery and suspense author Lynn Chandler Willis. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
In the 7th grade. Treasure Island was required reading that year, and I was totally mesmerized by an author’s ability to transport a reader to an entirely different world.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
About ten years from when I got serious about it to the year my first book was published.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditionally, but open to all means.
Where do you write?
My kitchen table or at the local coffee shop when I need to get out of the house.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I need chaos or at least a soundtrack. I can’t concentrate in silence. I’ve found my calling writing about the Appalachian region and the people who call it home. Part of their culture is Bluegrass and good ol’ mountain music with a lot of banjo and fiddle. Even when I’m not writing, that’s the music I’m usually listening to.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
With the Ava Logan series, a good portion of the character and small town newspaper business is very true-to-life. I owned and published a small-town paper for 13 years. Granted, I didn’t have near as many murder investigations as Ava has, but I can vouch that the small-town politics are just as a ruthless in real life!
Describe your process for naming your character?
The name has to fit the character’s personality and the time frame, although old-fashioned names are becoming popular again. I’m big on the meaning behind names and try to match the name to the character trait I’m hoping for.
Real settings or fictional towns?
Both. In the Ava Logan series, I use real settings and regions, even some of the towns. I make up street names, store names, etc…
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Mary McCarter is an Appalachian Granny Healer. In her early 70s, if you saw her today you’d think of a 1960’s hippie. She’s quiet by nature, spiritual, and deeply in tune with her surroundings. She and her son, Keeper, are introduced in Tell Me No Secrets and their story continues into book three, Tell Me You Love Me.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Probably that I work best with a lot of activity around me. Silence disrupts my concentration!
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Anything by Megan Abbott – her use of each and every word is mind-blowing. There isn’t a wasted word in her books and even the “a” and “the” serves a purpose. Her words are pure lyrical.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I had stood my ground on my first published novel and went with the opening I originally wrote. The editor and publisher made me change it and years later I still wish I had fought for it more.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who block the grocery store aisle with their carts. Road rage in the grocery store LOL! And the fact McDonald’s ice cream machines never seems to work. Other that those two, I’m pretty easy going.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
My dog Finn, pen and paper, orange-speckled Life Savers.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
A gluer in a foam manufacturing plant. I lasted one shift LOL!
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
Ocean or mountains?
Oh mountains all the way!
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country to my bones.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on a stand-alone in the Crime genre set – where else – in the NC mountains.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’ve been told I write fantastic characters who are so real they could be your neighbors. They aren’t glamorous or rich or have fancy cars – like most people. My books aren’t fantasy trips to exotic locations. They’re more immersive than escapist. They’re down to earth.
Tell Me No Secrets
An Ava Logan Mystery, Book 2
In the heart of Appalachia, newspaper publisher Ava Logan should feel joy and pride as she watches her thirteen-year-old daughter being baptized in the cold water of Jackson Creek—but she can’t rejoice when thoughts of an employee who failed to show for work keep pulling her attention away.
Ava’s convinced something horrible has happened to Scott. Then his backpack is found floating in the same river her daughter is being baptized in.
While clue after clue leads her deeper into the hollers of Appalachia—ripe with tradition and folktales, store front religion, and the darkest of secrets, Ava discovers truths about those close to her and about her own beliefs.
With her own life in jeopardy, how deep will she go to find the truth? What secrets will she expose? What secrets will she keep?