Interview by Louise Titchener, May 2003
How did you get started writing?
I suppose my story is a bit unusual in that I remember the exact day I decided to "try" and write a book. That day was July 22, 1996. However, my reason for trying is definitely commonplace. I'd been reading a well-written, funny mystery, but toward the end of the story, the author let her protagonist do something that
obviously put her life in danger, which irritated me, and I thought, I can do better than this. Of course, I quickly found out that it isn't as easy as it looks, especially in an amateur sleuth mystery where you're trying to build suspense while at the same time you want your protagonist to come across as a reasonably intelligent person.
What made you want to write a mystery?
Except for the occasional romantic suspense or horror novel, and nonfiction for research purposes, mysteries are the only thing I read. I grew up reading (and loving) Sherlock Holmes. Then I moved to the George Bagby series. Does anyone remember him? Then I'd just browse the library, looking for good mysteries. For some reason, I skipped over Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I've always loved mysteries because, for me, they are so incredibly compelling. What can be more important than righting a wrong so grievous as murder, or more thrilling than getting caught up in a suspense-filled life and death struggle?
How do you create your protagonists?
For my first novel, AT RISK, I had a germ of an idea that opened the story (a horse theft) and a basic feeling of where the story would take me. These two things guided me in developing my protagonist, Steve Cline. I knew that Steve would be the barn manager of a hunter/jumper barn in Maryland, and with that thought in mind, I decided to make him quite young. Working as a barn manager isn't the most challenging job in the world, so I thought that he'd be less interesting to the reader if he were older. In a fictitious world, anyway, one would hope that he would have moved on to something more challenging by the time he's in his late twenties. So, I made him twenty-one, which was challenging from a writer's standpoint. He had to be smart enough and determined enough to solve the mystery and still be immature enough to be believable. And to make the story more interesting, he had to have problems, so I complicated his family life. He comes from a wealthy family but has a tumultuous relationship with his father who ends up kicking Steve out of his house. So, Steve's dealing with that and struggling to make the rent.
What are you working on now?
I'm finishing up the sequel to AT RISK, which takes Steve to the racetrack where the fastest horse doesn't always come in first. Steve's still coming to terms with his relationship with his father, as well, as he meets and becomes involved with a lot of interesting people. The sequel is DEAD MAN'S TOUCH.
What is your Baltimore connection?
I was born and raised in Baltimore, and I've placed my series in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, specifically Howard County. I needed a locale where the horse industry is thriving, and Maryland fits the bill.
Visit the Story Photos page to view photographs of downtown Baltimore.