Monday, November 14, 2016

Behind the Bonehouse by Sally Wright - Interview and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sally Wright will be awarding copies of several of Sally Wright's books to a randomly drawn U.S. (only) winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What books/authors have influenced your writing?

I think any book that you love, if you're a writer, influences you in some way even if it's not conscious. I loved the Peter Wimsey mysteries when I first read them, and I'm sure I wanted to write a mystery protagonist that I liked as much as Wimsey. He wasn't brash and a braggart. He had troubles from his years in WWI that he'd had to overcome, and he cared for all sorts of people, no matter the class or the educational level. He was what an English gentleman is supposed to be. The plots were clearly clever, but very much of their time, and I wanted to write more realistically.

I loved Ken Follett's war thrillers - The Key To Rebecca (the first line - "The last camel died at noon", if I remember correctly, has always been a favorite) and The Eye Of The Needle. He was a master of suspense, as was Du Maurier in Rebecca, and much else that she wrote. Both created a real sense of place, and Follett worked with the realities of history in a truly informative and creative way. I admire Jean le Carre's Smiley's People and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. His new autobiography is beautifully done.

I love C.S. Lewis' fiction and non-fiction, the clarity of his use of language, his sensory images in the Narnia Chronicles, and the brilliance of his logic. Austen and Tolstoy's grasp of human nature (Lewis' too, now that I think about it) and the complexity of their characterizations. Shakespeare? Who has ever used language better than he, or understood more about people? P.D. James showed me how mystery novels could be excellent literature that took what once had been largely puzzles and created real life characters in beautifully written prose. Dick Francis made me start riding horses when I was thirty-five, and want to write about horses too, and the people who love them.

Tell us something you hate doing and why?

I absolutely hate folding clothes. It's so blasted repetitive, and I'm no earthly good at it. I hang my good clothes neatly enough, but I throw my everyday home rags onto shelves and in drawers with no concern at all. My underwear looks like it was beaten with an egg beater whenever you peek in the drawer.

I do my husband's laundry, along with the socks we both wear with our running shoes (which are part of my uniform at home) and drop the pile in front of his drawers. He very kindly pulls my socks out and tosses them over toward my side, while he folds his T-shirts and underwear neatly and arranges them in his drawers.

I also hate making the bed. I lie down every day for a little while after lunch and read something fun, and it makes no sense to make the bed in the morning and then undo it again. Everything else in the house is neat. My kitchen is unbelievably well organized, but folding . . . no.

Share a funny incident in your life.

I was staying in a country house hotel outside Dunkeld, Scotland working on Pursuit And Persuasion, a Ben Reese archivist/ex-WWII Ranger mystery that became an Edgar Finalist. The house sat on a steep wooded hill above the Tay River Valley, which is flat and wide and beautiful, and I wanted to wander down through the woods to the water, taking pictures on my way. I rely on my photos a lot for my books to help with my sense of setting.

I walked down on a path through the woods and came out onto the bottomland, but couldn't see a way to the river without going through the fenced pasture where one bull and 80 or 90 cows were enjoying the afternoon.

They were at the far left end of the field, and I climbed over the fence, heading toward the right end, then straight toward the river, where I thought I could see an opening in the undergrowth that would lead through to the water.

First one cow started running toward me, I think just out of curiosity. Then three or four more came after them, then twenty or thirty, with the bull joining in and picking up speed. The whole herd was galloping in my direction when I struggled over the far fence with very few feet left between us. Horses I know something about. Cows nothing at all. I doubt that they started by intending me harm, but once they got going, being trampled began to look likely.

I dusted myself off, and headed to the water. And when I was ready to start back, I found an opening half a mile down river where I could scramble up through those woods to the road that would lead me back.

When I stepped into the dining room a few minutes later, where the Scots and the English were all taking tea, the ill-disguised humor on nearly every face made it painfully obvious that the waiters, and waitresses, and nearly every guest, had observed my ignominious escape.

When you are in writer mode, music or no music?

No music. I can't concentrate. I can write when people are talking in doctors' waiting rooms, or in some other public place, but not with music.

Who was your favorite hero or heroine?

If I'm considering fiction, I've certainly always loved Elizabeth in Pride And Prejudice. But even in novels it'll be hard to pick just one. Merlin in the Mary Stewart books. Lymond in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. Dick Francis' various heroes, who are all very much the same - quiet, unassuming, extremely competent, ultimately fearless.

In real life, in the twentieth century, I have real respect for Winston Churchill's opposition to the Nazis, Dwight Eisenhower as Allied Commander, Alexander Solzhenitsyn for his courage as a prisoner in the Soviet Gulag, and the excellence of his writing.

It wasn’t until thirty years after the attacks, and the lies, and the intricately orchestrated death, that Jo Grant Munro could bring herself to describe it all in Behind The Bonehouse. Her work as an architect, and the broodmare farm she ran with her uncle, and her husband Alan’s entire future - all hung by a thread in 1964 in the complex Thoroughbred culture of bluegrass Kentucky, where rumor and gossip and the nightly news can destroy a person overnight, just like anywhere else. It was hatred in a self-obsessed soul, fermenting in an equine lab, boiling over and burning what it touched, that drove Jo and Alan to the edge of desperation while they fought through what they faced.

Read an excerpt:

Wednesday, July 3rd, 1963

It was five in the morning, and Alan Munro was alone, again, in the lab at Equine Pharmaceuticals. He’d just looked at the notes in the formulation notebook Carl Seeger, Equine’s lab director, had entered the day before, and he tossed a red lab crayon on his desk with a look of deep disgust. He rubbed his eyes with both hands, and leaned back in his chair—then pushed himself up and limped, slightly, less the longer he walked, to the research corner in the back of the plant.

He’d converted a fifty-four gallon drum into a mixing tank they could use to develop the proper methods for converting a beaker-size experimental batch of his new horse de-wormer paste into an intermediate batch, before they moved to a commercial size tank.

This latest mixture was way too thin, and the solids hadn’t properly dispersed in the methylcellulose, and as Alan read the batch sheet he muttered words he’d almost never used since he’d come home from World War II. At 8:35 Alan walked into the main lab and asked Carl Seeger if he could speak to him for a minute.

Carl was weighing white powder on a double pan balance, and he didn’t look up before he’d slid the powder off one pan into a large glass beaker and replaced the brass weights from the other in their wooden rack. “I’m busy right now, Alan. I should be free in an hour or so.” He spoke calmly and quietly, his thin mouth tucked under a wispy mustache, his pale brown eyebrows pulled down in concentration, half-hiding his small hazel eyes.

“It’s important, Carl.

About the Author:
Edgar Alan Poe Award Finalist Sally Wright has studied rare books, falconry, early explorers, painting restoration, WWII Tech-Teams, the Venona Code, and much more, to write her university-archivist-ex-WWII-Ranger books about Ben Reese, who’s based on a real person.

Breeding Ground, Wright’s most recent novel, is the first in her new Jo Grant mystery series, which has to do with the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky. Wright is now finishing the second Jo Grant novel.

Sally and her husband have two children, three young grandchildren, and a highly entertaining boxer dog, and live in the country in northwestern Ohio.

Twitter: @Sally_Wright5

Buy the book at Amazon.

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So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?