Today I welcome N.A. Granger to the Storage Room to talk about the latest book in her Rhe Brewster series. Noelle and I met quite a few years ago in a writers’ group and became friends. She was one of my first beta-readers for Overlook and I read the first drafts of her mystery series. I am really looking forward to reading Death By Pumpkin.
What genre books do you write?
I have written three murder mysteries in the Rhe Brewster Murder Mystery series and am working on my fourth. However, there was a project in the back of my mind for several years: a historical novel about the oldest living Pilgrim who came to New England on the Mayflower. Mary Allerton Cushman lived to be 82 and saw a lot of Plymouth history from its very beginnings, so I’ve begun that book. I hope to have it done by the time of Plymouth’s quadricentennial in 2020. Good thing I am used to research, because even though I was a tour guide at Plimoth Plantation when I was in my teens, there is so much more to learn!
What types of books do you generally read?
I’m sort of an omnivore when it comes to books, although as a mystery writer I like mysteries (of course) and thrillers to satisfy my yen for adrenalin. However, I am a reviewer for Rosie Amber’s book review site, so I’ve also been reading historical novels, YA, dystopian tales, sci-fi, and only occasionally romance.
I’m not hard to please.
Which authors influenced you the most?
This is a hard question to answer. Certainly Craig Johnson, Sue Grafton, Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritson, but now also Jean Plaidy, William Savage, and Bernard Cornwell. Also, my dear, you, since you were in the first critique group I joined and contributed much to improving my writing skills.
How has your writing evolved from your first publication to now?
I’ve been told my writing has become better; I’d like to think so! I think the dialogue has improved and the exposition is more crisp. It’s certainly easier to critique my first drafts, where I can now see the problems. Passive tense has always been a problem, since I seem to love it and use it spontaneously, and useless dialogue tags. I intend to spend some time improving the first and second books – it’s on my teetering TBR pile.
Of all the characters you’ve created, so you have a favorite?
Hard to say. I do love my protagonist (Rhe) and writing in her voice is like slipping on a second skin. But for sheer emotional pull, I believe I like Bitsy, who was the wicked witch in the first book and slipped into the role of sociopath in the third. It’s unfortunate I had to … oops, the book is just out so everyone needs to find this out for themselves.
Do your books have a theme that runs through them?
Aside from the mysteries, it’s the on again, off again, love story of Rhe and her brother-in-law, Sam. Nothing inappropriate while she was married, but in the third book the romance develops. Also the value of friendship and the importance of family.
What is your writing process?
I am a died-in-the-wool pantser. After so many years of writing scientific papers and reviews, where the research is creative but the writing follows an established formula, I was so ready to just sit down and write. So that’s what I do. I always have the first scene in my head before I begin (along with the cover, interestingly), and I’ve decided on certain elements of the story. How they are put together and where they will lead, I have no idea when I start. I like to see where the little gray cells will lead me.
Tell us about your new book.
The third Rhe Brewster mystery is entitled Death by Pumpkin. Here’s the blurb:
At the annual Pumpkin Festival in the coastal town of Pequod, Maine, Rhe Brewster, an ER nurse and Police Department consultant, responds to screams at the site of the Pumpkin Drop. Racing to the scene, where a one-ton pumpkin was dropped from a crane to crush an old car, Rhe and her brother-in-law, Sam, Pequod’s Chief of Police, discover the car contains the smashed remains of a man’s body. After the police confirm the death as a homicide, Rhe embarks on a statewide search to identify the victim and find the killer. During the course of the emotional investigation, she survives an attempt on her life at 10,000 feet, endures the trauma of witnessing the murder of an old flame, and escapes an arson attack on her family’s home. There is clearly a sociopath on the loose who is gunning for Rhe and leaving bodies behind. With Sam unable to offer his usual support due to an election recall and a needy new girlfriend, Rhe realizes that the only way to stop the insanity is to risk it all and play the killer’s game.
Tell us a bit about your main character.
At the start of the series, Rhe Brewster is married to a Pequod College assistant professor of Psychology and has a six-year-old son, Jack. She works as an Emergency Room nurse at a local hospital and becomes a consultant to the local police department, headed by her brother-in- law, Sam Brewster. She has a nose for investigation and a type A personality, a combination that gets her into trouble on a regular basis.
What is next for you?
In the near future, marketing Death by Pumpkin. Such fun (!), but so necessary. Then my fourth Rhe Brewster book, Death in a Mudflat, which I have begun, while I contemplate the fourth, Death at the Asylum. And of course the historical novel, The Oldest Pilgrim.
Where can we find you on the internet?
My blog – Saylingaway.wordpress.com
I tweet at @RheBrewster
N.A. GRANGER is a Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. After forty years of research and teaching undergraduates and medical students, she decided to turn her knowledge of human anatomy to the craft of mystery writing. In addition to the Rhe Brewster mystery series (Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Death in a Dacron Sail, Death by Pumpkin), she has written for Death South and Sea Level magazines and the Bella Online Literary Review. She lives with her husband, a cat who blogs, and a hyperactive dog in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and spends a portion of every summer in Maine.