Today we welcome Victoria Houston, author of the Loon Lake Mysteries
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Early morning coffee at my cottage by the lake followed by two hours of work on my book; then two sets of doubles tennis, an early lunch and a short nap. That afternoon I’ll check mail, do research for the current book and follow that with a glass of wine (or two) sitting down by the lake and watching fishermen go by. Then dinner with friends – outside on the picnic table as the sun is setting – and finish with an evening of reading in bed with all the cottage windows wide open so I can hear the loons calling.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Every Christmas Eve I make a wonderful Julia Child recipe, Crepes a la Florentine. Twenty-four crepes layered with three sauces (mushroom, spinach and béchamel) and baked until lightly browned. Then sliced like a cake! It takes me two days to make and tastes “out of this world.”
And my signature expression is: Holy Cow!
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Every few years I re-read Willa Cather’s My Antonia and O! Pioneers, which I consider my textbooks on how to write in a contemporary and specific voice. I also re-read early Hemingway and early Updike for the same reason. My favorites in the mystery field are everything written by Ross Thomas; Henning Mankell’s first six books in his Wallander series and every mystery written by the outstanding Sjowall & Wahloo.
Do you listen to music when you write?
No. I have to have quiet. Later I’ll listen while cooking or reading and my list of favorites is long but mellow and includes a wide range of music from jazz to rock to classical.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate with a bitter edge. Because life has edges to it. My characters try to survive living with the bitter as well as the sweet.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
A remark I heard during dinner with friends one New Year’s Eve. The friend had been cheated by a business associate and mentioned the revenge he would take if ever given the opportunity. That got me thinking….
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
The dangerous thirsts for money or power or revenge – and how those play out against the stunning beauty of the Northwoods’ lakes and rivers and forests. Given that fishing, with a fly rod or a spinning rod, backgrounds my stories – it is often water, placid or turbulent, that can change lives as goodhearted, wise people struggle to survive and help one another in a landscape where nature takes no sides.
Tell us about your main character.
I have three:
1) “Doc” Osborne is a recently widowed, retired dentist who is learning to fly fish from…
2) Lewellyn “Lew” Ferris, the Loon Lake Chief of Police, who before being promoted to chief had been teaching fly fishing part-time. Now that she has met Doc Osborne, she finds his skills in forensic dentistry very helpful in identifying dead bodies and otherwise helping with murder investigations as the local coroner is a drunk and unreliable.
Note: Doc and Lew soon find they have more in common than just fishing. Enough said on those two.
3) Ray Pradt is a handsome and very tall 32-year-old fishing guide who lives in a house trailer next to Doc Osborne’s property. A skilled fisherman and tracker, he also tells really bad jokes. And because of his predilection for a little weed from time to time, he knows people who live down roads with no fire numbers; i.e. off the grid.
These three people know one another well and often work together to help Chief Ferris in her investigations.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters
Doc Osborne: Cary Grant, Rhett Butler, Mathew Rhys
Lewellyn Ferris: Calamity Jane, the British actress Olivia Colman and a touch of Frances McDermond
Ray Pradt: early Keanu Reeves leavened with the charm of a young Clint Eastwood and the “innocence” of a young Brad Pitt
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Sjowall & Wahloo (2)
Daphne du Maurier
What’s next for you?
My latest installment of the Loon Lake mysteries, Dead Spider, publishes May 23rd with Simon & Schuster. I plan to stay close to home and work on my next book, which is Dead Big Dawg — a Big Dawg is a fishing lure. I’m working on it currently and I’m just back from a month in New Zealand where fly fishing is very popular. Yep, I saw a few fish during my travels.