Interview: Lynn Chandler Willis

Please welcome Lynn Chandler Willis, author of the Gypsy Moran Mystery series and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Coolish temperatures, crisp blue sky, the smell of a wood-burning fireplace, and the plot coming together so well you can’t type it fast enough. Then taking an hour hike in the woods with the dogs to stretch your legs and mind.

winkofaneyeDo you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
My signature accessory would probably be my laptop! It goes just about everywhere with me—one of the perks of writing by an outline is you don’t stare at a blank screen as often because you know where the story is going.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
The greats—Steinbeck and Hemingway, and more recently Elmore Leonard. I’m also a big fan of Michael Robotham.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Almost always. Before I even begin writing a particular story, I have a personal soundtrack in mind. I’ll create a playlist of tunes I feel captures the mood and atmosphere of what I’m hoping to convey, then the playlist is played on a loop while I’m writing.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate because it’s not all sweetness and light. It has some darker angles, some stronger features than the happy-go-lucky of some of my previous work.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I love the whole idea of private investigators and their lone-wolf attitude. They often find the structure of an organized police force too restrictive. If they play by the rules, more often than not, it’s their own set of rules.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Being true to oneself and coming to terms with past decisions, good or bad.

Tell us about your main character.
Michael “Gypsy” Moran is a private investigator who after spending twenty years in Vegas, returns to his tiny hometown of Wink, Texas. Although a native Texan, he is anti-cowboy boots, anti-Stetson, and terrified of horses and cows. But he does like his football. He’s got a smart mouth on him that often lands him in trouble. He can hold his own in any fight but he does walk away bruised and battered. He’s not squeaky clean. And although he’d never admit it (especially to himself) there’s a very soft heart underneath the tough guy persona.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Gerard Butler (cockiness and physical looks), James Bond (tech savvy and ladies man), Tim Riggins (Friday Night Lights bad boy).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Michael Robotham, Margaret Maron, Steve Hamilton, John Hart, James Lee Burke, and Alafair Burke. Love, love, love them all and not only do I read them for enjoyment, I study how they do it.

What’s next for you?
Wink and a Nod – the second book in the Gypsy Moran Mystery series


Lynn Chandler Willis was the first woman in a decade to win the St. Martin’s Press/PWA Best 1st P.I. Novel competition with her novel, Wink of an Eye. The novel went on to make the finalist cut for the prestigious Shamus Award. She is the author of two other books—The Rising (Grace Award winner, Pelican Book Group 2013) and the best-selling true crime, Unholy Covenant (Addicus Books, 2000). She was born and raised, and continues to live, in the heart of North Carolina.

Connect with Lynn at:


13 thoughts on “Interview: Lynn Chandler Willis”

  1. Welcome Lynn! I love your protag’s name. It conjures such a romantic image. And he’s right about horses. A homicidal ton of muscle with the brain the size of a peanut, or at least that’s my experience. Looking forward to reading your books. And congratulations on the St. Martin’s!


  2. Ah, the smell of a wood fire. There is nothing like it in the winter. Gypsy Moran sounds like quite a guy. Although a friend of mine would probably argue with him (and Keenan) about horses. 🙂 Congrats on the Shamus!


  3. I’m the opposite — my perfect day is unseasonably warm temps. I’m so living in the wrong region. I think I have a crush on your main character.


  4. I’m always amazed when I hear authors say they listen to music when they write. I know a lot of horror writers so sometimes it’s really loud head-banging stuff, but I need it so very quiet. More power to you! (Can I come to your dinner party … or at least eavesdrop from behind a curtain or something?)


  5. North Carolina — I bet you’re running your fireplace today! My brother (in NC) said you’re having a snow day. Can’t wait to check out your books! 🙂


  6. Wonderful interview, Lynn! I make soundtracks for my books too, although it tends to be after I’ve dug in a little bit and figured out the tone and MC’s voice. Your main character sounds fascinating, and I love that his nickname Gypsy!


  7. Hi Lynn,
    I am a reader, so my comments may be a bit different from those from others who are writers.(My name is Barbara, and the picture is my “intern” Katie Caprero. She believes that everyone should laugh at least once per day, so she posts comics to Facebook. Feel free to “friend” her if you need a laugh.)

    With all the millions of books our there, what lead you to write mysteries? Do you write any other books?


  8. Thanks everyone for the comments and warm welcome! Gypsy is such a fun character to write. He IS very crush-worthy and sometimes I, as the female author who may be crushing, have to step back and let him do his thing—even if it makes him a loveable jerk 😉


  9. Hi 3 no 7! Love the intern. I may have to get one of those. I write mysteries because I’m fascinated with ALL mysteries. To me, everything is a mystery and I’m curious why things happen the way they do and why people make the decisions they do. So, my other writing encompasses that and may not always be a standard “who-dunit.”


    1. Lynn, I, obviously, like mysteries as well. I like “why” and “what” an well as the “who” in mysteries. When I read the daily newspaper — one of the other things that I love — I often look way in the back at the little three paragraph local “crime” stories and wonder how that “event” would develop if one of you writers got ahold of the story.

      I highly recommend an intern. She eats very little and almost never buys new clothes. Be careful, though. Katie is friends with Dianne Vallere’s intern, and he has lots of clothes.


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