Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the two hundred and eighty-fourth, is of mystery and historical novelist, short story author and interviewee DR Meredith. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
D.R. Meredith is a split personality. By day she is an ordinary suburban wife who performs such mundane chores as fixing breakfast, feeding dogs, carrying out the trash, paying the cleaning ladies, shopping for groceries, reading the newspaper and cursing the politicians.
By night her dark side emerges and she commits murder. In her twenty-plus years as a mystery writer, she has written 16 crime novels, 2 historical sagas, numerous short stories (most featuring murder) 1 novelization of a television crime show, and more book reviews than she can count.
She is a member of Western Writers of America where she was book review editor for Roundup Magazine for twenty years. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and American Crime Writers’ League.
She can’t count the number of other writers’ conferences at which she has been a speaker, and has lost track of the libraries she has visited as a speaker. Only occasionally does she speak for pay, only for expenses, and never charges a library. “I was a librarian for a number of years, and I know how tight their budgets are. Libraries have always been important to me, and I consider my visits as pay back for all they have done for me.”
And now from the author herself:
The topic of what inspired you to write came up in one of my LinkedIn discussion groups, and I spent some little time reflecting on an answer. I could always say writing was a lifelong ambition, or I write because I’m obsessed with telling stories, and both those answers are true, but there is more. Just as a serial killer (sorry, but I think in terms of crime) has a stressor that compels him to murder, a writer also has a stressor that compels her to focus on a certain story. For some it might be a newspaper story, memory of a certain experience, or meeting a person who reminds you someone you once knew, or even an event of some kind, such as a street carnival. But there is always something that transforms us into salivating creatures full of creative juices.
For me that stressor has always been sense of place. Drop me into any environment, be it city or country, a shady backyard or an old, vacant house, and I immediately start to weave a story around what I see. My Sheriff Charles Matthews series is concerned with describing and exploring rural Texas. My first book, The Sheriff and the Panhandle Murders, concerns the people and how they relate to one another in a small town in the Texas Panhandle. Sheriff Charles Matthews describes the citizens and landscape of Crawford County so well because he is an outsider. Customs that local residents no longer notice because they have always lived in such a manner, are new to the sheriff and he takes note of them.
I am also an outsider to the Panhandle, and like the sheriff, I noticed how different the landscape and customs were to what I was used to. Certain of the scenes or observations are ones I encountered. Did you know, for example, that some Panhandle farmers and ranchers use peacocks in place of watchdogs? The attempt by Miss Poole and her followers to close down the bingo game at the Frontier Days festival is based on an incident my husband experienced when he was the county attorney of a rural county.
So it is in subsequent titles in the Sheriff series: place is always important and to a greater or less degree influences the plot. Whether it is the Branding Iron Ranch, Capulin National Monument, the yearly pheasant hunt in Crawford County, or the secret hidden in the darkness of the courthouse basement, sense of place always plays a role.
The Murder By series featuring criminal defense attorney John Lloyd Branson was inspired by a place, the tiny town of Canadian in the Texas Panhandle, as well as by a historical figure whose real-life eccentricities make John Lloyd appear normal. Again I use real places: Canadian; Amarillo Boulevard, best known for its hookers and hot sheet motels; the threat of a nuclear waste repository in Deaf Smith County; and the Panhandle-Plains Museum.
The Megan Clark series is set primarily on Sixth Street in Amarillo, Texas, with a side trip to Palo Duro Canyon. One of the last existing parts of historic Route 66 that looks almost as it did in the nineteen-thirties, Sixth Street is one of my very favorite places in Amarillo. Of course, its old buildings are now trendy cafes and antique stores, but close your eyes and you can almost hear sounds of old cars and the ghostly voices from the past.
When I wrote Murder in Volume there were still used bookstores on Sixth Street, wonderful places with haphazard stacks of books and the smell of old paper. They only exist in the Megan Clark series now.
The most potent stressor of all, the place that always touches my heart, is a little cemetery within sight of Highway 152 just west of the Canadian River Bridge. It is an old family cemetery with only a few graves. The grave markers are crumbling and almost unreadable, the wrought iron spiked fence is streaked with rust, and there are no trees to shade the dead. There hardly ever are trees in this part of Texas, just cottonwoods along the riverbank and mesquite elsewhere. From the first moment I saw that little abandoned cemetery I knew I had to tell the story of those buried there and the family that first laid their dead to rest in that desolate spot on the edge of the Canadian River breaks.
I have told part of the story of the dead resting in that cemetery in A Time Too Late and The Reckoning. There is more to be told, but it’s not time yet. My characters are still whispering in my ear. Unlike my crime novels, the characters in my historical sagas are frighteningly real to me. If I listen closely I can almost hear Mattie’s voice with its faint southern drawl, or the distinct Texas drawl of Jessie McDade. I can hear the leaves of the cottonwood trees rustling in the wind, the sound of cattle, the creak of leather saddles as riders shift, and the clicking sound of poker chips in the saloons of old Tascosa.
Mattie Hunter, Jesse McDade, Jubilee, Tom, the Colonel, and even Samuel and his friend, Clint Murray, could exist in another place, but they would be different people, because place influences character. Remove modern day Americans from their homogenized malls into the sparsely populated rural areas, and place will demand different responses.
So now the reader knows. When you enter my world, the world in which my characters exist, you enter a world different from your own. I hope you learn to love it as much as I.
For more information on me and my books, visit http://highwatermysteries.wordpress.com.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.