Interview: Beth Groundwater

Please welcome Beth Groundwater, author of the Claire Hanover Gift Basket Designer series and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
One spent outdoors with people whose company I enjoy, engaging in a fun active sport such as skiing, snowshoeing, whitewafataldescentter rafting, hiking or biking. Follow that up with a soak in the hot tub and a glass of good wine, a scrumptious dinner and a blockbuster movie.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Since I have wide, large, flat feet, I wear men’s shoes when I’m not dressed up. My athletic shoes, hiking shoes, and snow boots are all from the men’s department. I don’t wear much makeup, except lipstick and concealer for under-eye circles, and rarely wear perfume. My most common accessories are sunglasses (my contact lenses make my eyes more sensitive to sunlight) and earrings (I have pierced ears). My favorite colors are purple and green. I’m very eclectic in my language and my eating, so I don’t have a signature phrase or meal.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
My third grade teacher instilled a love of reading in me that is still going strong. I try to read at least a book a week. Mother Teresa inspired me to be of service to humanity whenever I can and to focus on the needs of others instead of my own. It’s very hard to pick the name of just one writer who influenced my creativity because so many helped me on my path to publication, but if pressed, I would name fellow mystery author Robert Spiller. He and I have been in the same critique group from the very beginning of my writing career, and his advice has always made my writing better.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to hear my characters talking.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate infused with chili. That’s because Fatal Descent is a pure locked-room style murder mystery (more on that later) not watered down with milky side plots, and it’s chock full of kick ass adventure. By “locked-room style,” I mean that my whitewater rafting guide Mandy Tanner and her co-leader and love-interest, Rob Juarez, are stuck in Cataract Canyon with a dead body and a killer among their rafting group and no way out other than to continue down the Colorado River. So, they have to solve whodunnit themselves. The “adventure” includes whitewater rafting and climbing scenes.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I wanted to write this kind of plot, where all the suspects and the sleuth are stuck together in a remote setting, so the sleuth has to solve the mystery on her own and is under constant threat of death herself from the unknown killer. So, I asked my river ranger consultant, Stew Pappenfort, Head Ranger of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, what was the most remote whitewater river canyon in the Western United States. He told me Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah was my best bet. So, my husband and I ran it ourselves with an outfitting company, much like Mandy and Rob’s RM Outdoor Adventures company, to check it out ourselves.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Loss is a recurring theme. How the death of someone close to you affects your character, your goals in life, and how you react to death again. My brother died of a sudden massive heart attack when he was in his early thirties, and that loss in my own life probably drives me to repeatedly explore the theme in my fiction. And, writing murder mysteries gives me plenty of opportunities to do so! Unlike in many cozies, where the victim is someone who everyone hates and no one misses, most of my victims are deeply mourned by those who were close to them, as murder victims are in real-life.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Mandy suffered a devastating loss the summer before her senior year in high school—both of her parents were killed in a car accident. This forces her to become more independent and self-sufficient, even though she moves in with her uncle, whose whitewater rafting outfitting business she was working for that summer. It also gives her a fragility when she experiences subsequent losses. And, her fierce independence hinders her in forming a strong love relationship with Rob Juarez. Through the series, Mandy has to work on these issues. Mandy also loves being in the outdoors and on the river. Communing with nature relieves her stress and grounds her, and running whitewater rapids focuses her concentration and thrills her. So, working as a whitewater rafting guide and as a river ranger are a natural choice of occupations for her. Mandy doesn’t make much money at either profession, but money is not important to her.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Susan Butcher (Alaska dog musher who won the Iditarod race multiple times), Anna Pigeon (Nevada Barr’s ranger protagonist), and Meryl Streep (who played a rafting guide in the movie The River Wild, but who is also known for the risks she takes in her acting and how hard she works on her roles).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Sharyn McCrumb, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sara Paretsky, and Dorothy L Sayers.

What’s next for you?
The third books in both of my mystery series will be released this year, so I will be busy promoting them. Fatal Descent, the third in the RM Outdoor Adventures series, comes out this month, and A Basket of Trouble, the third in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, comes out in November.


Bestselling mystery author Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series (A Real Basket Case, a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner (Deadly Currents, an Amazon #3 overall bestseller, and Wicked Eddies, finalist for the Rocky Award). The third books in both series will appear in 2013. Beth enjoys Colorado’s many outdoor activities, including skiing and whitewater rafting, and loves talking to book clubs.


12 thoughts on “Interview: Beth Groundwater”

  1. Hi Beth, Nice to see you here. Saw you last at LCC in the Springs. I love the research part here–rafting on the most remote whitewater for your novel sounds like a grand adventure. And chocolate chili. Perfect.


  2. Thanks for the comments, Mary and Theresa! The questions asked were very interesting, and they prompted interesting answers from me. And yes, rafting the Colorado River from Moab to Lake Powell (100 miles) was indeed an adventure I won’t ever forget. A wonderful experience! (Thank goodness no murder was involved on that trip!)


  3. Chocolate with chili? I have to admit that’s a new one on me, but I’d try it. I’m not so sure I’d try an actual river rafting trip. That’s why I love your books, Beth. I’m able to float down a river or hike alongside of one without getting wet. 🙂 Or tired.

    Is it difficult writing two series, especially such different ones?


  4. Hi Donna,
    The two series have very different protagonists and very different feels to them. Gift basket designer Claire Hanover is in her late 40s, is married and has grown children, and it is a craft cozy series. River ranger/rafting guide Mandy Tanner is in her late 20s, is single and has a dog and boyfriend, and it is a soft-boiled series. So, I don’t usually have the problem of mixing the two characters’ voices. When I begin writing the next book in one of the series, I reread the last book in the series to get back into that character’s world and remember where I left her in her life. That usually suffices to put me back into Claire’s or Mandy’s head. After writing 3 books in each series, I know them both very well by now!


  5. A (quasi-) locked-room mystery framework + adventure on the water? Sounds amazing. Congrats on your latest release! Looking forward to reading it.

    ps: I’m so sorry to hear about your brother!


  6. Thanks for your comments, Aaron and Cynthia, and thanks so much for the shares, Aaron. And I appreciate your sympathy sentiments, Cynthia, though my brother’s death occurred many, many years ago (when I was in my 30s too!). A loss of any family member at such a young age can be wrenching.


  7. Thanks for your comments, Julie and Liz! Which rivers have you been on, Julie, besides the Colorado? And which section of the Colorado did you do? Some fun runs on the Colorado that aren’t as hairy as Cataract Canyon are Westwater Canyon and Glenwood Canyon. Liz, your feet must not be as looong as mine! I wear size 9 women’s, size 8 men’s, so no boy’s shoes for me.


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