1)While still a mystery, Bluegrass Peril is a very different style than your first two books. What inspired you to write about the
Kentucky tracks/horse industry?
All my books (so far) are set in
Kentucky, and with Bluegrass Peril I wanted to continue the trend. Horses are such an integral part of Kentucky society that it seemed the logical choice! Plus, my aunt is a thoroughbred breeder, so I knew I’d have someone to call on with all those annoying research questions. As it turned out, everyone I spoke with during my research were more than eager to help, so I had lots of material to choose from in writing the book. My husband and I went to several horse races and visited horse farms. I interviewed a state police trooper (and got to see a fingerprint kit!) and a member of the Jockey Club (the agency that registers thoroughbreds, sort of like AKC for dogs) and a person who frequently places … uh, shall we say under the table bets with a real bookie.
But the research trip that had the biggest impact on me, and the inspiration for the story, came When I visited Old Friends (www.oldfriendsequine.org) in
Georgetown, Kentucky, I fell in love with the horses there. It’s the only retirement farm in the country that houses champion stallions, because they’re really hard to take care of. Every horse there has a history. Some of them earned multi-millions during their career, and yet when they got too old to race or breed, their fates were absolutely inhumane. The founder gave me a tour of the place, and he said something that intrigued me. We were looking at a horse named Ogygian, and the director said he still gets requests to breed him. (His stud fee before retirement was something like $30,000!) But the director said he would never do that, because it was a condition of the contract when he acquired Ogygian. I started thinking, “Hmmm. What if someone wanted to breed a champion really badly?” The story grew from that idea.
2)I appreciated the way you handled Becky Dennison’s past. Did you encounter any challenges in addressing divorce in the Christian book market? I was a little cautious to include such a “hot” topic, as you can imagine. If we lived in a perfect world, nobody would ever have to suffer through a divorce. But we don’t, and so many Christians are impacted by divorce—including me—that I just felt a desire to hit the issue head-on. In fact, a lot of Becky’s experiences with her ex-husband came directly from my life. Many people struggle with mistakes in their past, and especially mistakes that impact their children. But God has our futures in His capable hands. We can trust Him to lead us into the future He has planned for us, regardless of our past. That’s the message I hope people take away from
3)What surprised you as your wrote Bluegrass Peril? When I “pitched” the idea for Bluegrass Peril to my editor, it was initially supposed to be a sequel to my first mystery, Murder by Mushroom. My editor said, “We love the book, but we don’t want a sequel. Change the characters’ names.” So I did. Then a funny thing happened. When I gave those characters new names, their personalities started changing! I can’t explain why—it just happened. Becky, the heroine in Bluegrass Peril, was originally Kathy in Murder by Mushroom. Kathy was a fearful, timid sort of person, when I changed her name to Becky and gave her a starring role in her own story, she became bolder and stronger and more capable. In Murder by Mushroom, the police detective was an arrogant guy named Detective Conner, but in Bluegrass Peril Detective Foster is much nicer and has a mustache. Readers of both books will recognize Jackie, the heroine from Murder by Mushroom, as Amber, Becky’s friend from church. I initially included Margaret, the pastor’s wife in Murder by Mushroom, but when I tried to change her name and give her a lesser role in Bluegrass Peril, she resisted. She’s a strong-willed character who refuses to do as she’s told, so I had to take her out of the second book completely. But I have a feeling some day Margaret will return as the heroine of her own book. J
4)Is the type of cloning that you discussed in the story really happening? If so, is this going to change the future of
Oh, yes, horse cloning has been going on for a while now. The first horse in the
US was cloned at Texas A&M back in 2005. They’ve been doing it in Europe for even longer. Not thoroughbreds, mind you, but work and pleasure horses. That had people in the thoroughbred industry up in arms, and caused the Jockey Club to update their registration requirements to specifically state that clones are not eligible to be registered. I was actually really tickled when an article appeared on msnbc.com just last month entitled, “Cloning may be horse racing’s next horizon.” The subtitle read, “Industry won’t embrace it.” I mean, that is exactly the premise of my book!
5)Becky’s boys cracked me up. Their antics could have been secretly videotaped from my house. Did you gain any special inspiration for these guys from someone in your own life or is there just a conniving part of your writer’s brain that loves to cook up a good mess for a single mom and her babysitting friend? 🙂 My sister has a 5-yr-old stepson who is absolutely hysterical. There’s only one of him, which is a good thing because there’s no way his two sets of parents could keep up with twins. The comment about the teacher being fat in pants came from him, and as was the rambunctious behavior, and the “men” Jamie carries around in his backpack in the book. He’s a picky eater, too, but so was my son, so some of the eating scenes came from my son’s childhood. The babysitting scene came from my experiences with my son, too. Chocolate absolutely sent him bouncing off the walls, and I always had to warn babysitters not to give it to him before bedtime. 6)What is currently on your “to read” list? Marilyn Griffith’s book Sassy Sistahood and Awaken my Heart by DiAnn Mills. And I have a couple of not-yet-published manuscripts to read from some promising new writers!
7)Of all the characters in this book (including the horses…yes, I know they are stallions) which one is most like you and how? You know, I put a little bit of myself into every character I write. Well, maybe not the horses, except for the appetites. J But I’ve got some of Scott’s ambition to succeed and move up in his career, and some of Nick’s desire to be accepted (I’m a people-pleaser at heart), and some of Becky’s father’s protectiveness toward my kids. I can vividly remember desperately wanting to be loved, like Isabelle. I’ve even experienced a tiny bit of Kacy’s arrogance. (blush) But I’m most like Becky. I’ve struggled under the weight of my past mistakes, as she does, and worried about the effect they will have on my children. Is there anything more agonizing to a mother than realizing that your children must pay the price for your mistakes? And like Becky, I’ve realized that the only thing we can do – the BEST thing we can do – is pray for our kids. We can’t fix everything for them, but God can.