Welcome Shannon Baker, author of the Kate Fox mysteries!
Thank you to the Mysteristas for letting me pull up a chair and have lunch at the cool kids table today.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
There are so many iterations of a perfect day for me. It could be hanging out with my daughters, watching Gilmore Girls reruns. Any day diving along a reef is as close to perfect as it gets. I love a road trip with my husband. Maybe a hike on a mountain with a great friend. Mostly, my every day is pretty fantastic. I get to enjoy the desert sunshine, work on books, and sip a beverage on the deck watching the sunset.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
I do not. Unless the phrase is “f*** me” which I uttered into the microphone in front of 350 people at a banquet. I had a cocktail at dinner and they surprised me. My mother would be so proud.
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
A really long time ago I read And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. It’s a sweeping saga and I loved it so much. I’d heard it was her only book and she didn’t write it until she was in her eighties. I decided if I ever wanted to get good enough to create something that good, I’d better get started. And I did.
Recently, I’ve been inspired by Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. This great series sort of gave me permission to set stories in the rural west.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Very rarely. My feeble brain can’t deal with too much at the same time. I am amazed at all these writers creating playlists for their books. One friend said she listens to different music for every book and when she needs to edit her book, she puts that music on and it takes right back the book. That’s awesome. I’m not awesome.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate with bits of toffee. Kate is sheriff and there’s a murder on a BNSF train, which is the dark part. But, as usual, there’s fair amount of humor with her interfering family meddling in her affairs.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I lived in the Nebraska Sandhills for twenty years. It’s a unique place, and I really wanted to write about it. Dark Signal revolves around the railroad for a couple of reasons. 1) I couldn’t remember reading a book in a rural setting with the railroad. (This was before I read Barbara Nickless’s excellent book, Blood on the Tracks.) And 2) My husband worked on BNSF trains for 42 years before he retired two years ago.
When I asked him how he’d kill someone on the train, he didn’t hesitate. He offered details down to the type of wire to use to rig the murder weapon. It’s a little scary.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Ohhhh, therapy! I notice the mother/daughter theme coming up over and over. Since I was a daughter and I’m now a mother, I like exploring different aspects of that relationship.
I also tend to circle around women making a place for themselves in the world. Most of us aren’t kickass; we’re all trying to make it work. How we dig into ourselves and create our own lives is fascinating to me.
Tell us about your main character.
Kate Fox is nothing like me. She’s smart, confident, competent, is a Sandhills insider (fourth generation, smack in the middle of eight other siblings), and can work cattle, fix fence, break horses, and put up hay.
When Stripped Bare opens, she’s living her perfect life. But, as novels do, she loses it all and has to rebuild. That’s where we pick her up in Dark Signal. She’s got a new job, a new place to live, and is wondering where she’s going next.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
The Kate Fox series has been described as Longmire meets The Good Wife. Longmire, because of the setting and maybe the bit of humor injected in the books. The Good Wife because her husband has put her through hell but she ends up turning the tables on him.
Adding the third made me stop and think. But I’m going with Jan Brady. Because Kate is in the middle of so many brothers and sisters. Though, unlike Jan, Kate would be perfectly happy to be overlooked.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Since I only came to the mystery genre after I’d accidently sold a mystery, I’m playing catch up. I read more mysteries now than I ever did, but I don’t have the base of the classics. So, my dinner party would be contemporary writers.
I think it’s downright dirty to ask this question. There are so many great mystery writers I’d love to share a meal with. And that’s why going to Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime and any of the other mystery conferences is such a grand time. This question would be so much simpler if you asked me to name the mystery writers I wouldn’t want to dine with. I could only answer two, and I’m telling you who they are.
What’s next for you?
Stripped Bare comes out in trade paper on Sept. 26th and Dark Signal releases in hard cover on October 17th. In between, Forge is releasing a .99 Kate Fox short story (if 26 pages can be called short) on Sept. 19th. It’s a bridge between the two books and they’re calling it a gateway drug to Kate Fox.
I have a short story in the upcoming anthology by Hex Publishers, “Blood Business.” That will be out in November. Hex is a relatively new publisher in the Denver area and they’re making a big splash, so I’m excited about that.
Kate book 3 had been turned in, tentatively titled Bitter Rain. So keep your fingers crossed my editor likes it.
And I’ve just finished a first draft (and it’s particularly shitty) of a book that is very different than anything I’ve ever written. It’s very dark. No humor at all. Set in Tucson. We’ll see how that shapes up, but it’s definitely a challenge for me.
Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series, set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills. She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2017 Writer of the Year and Stripped Bare earned the author a starred review in Library Journal (as their Pick of the Month) and a nomination for the 2016 Reading The West Award from Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers. She also writes the Nora Abbott Mysteries (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues inspired by her time working at the Grand Canyon Trust. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimaraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books).
Connect with Shannon (including her full tour schedule) at: http://shannon-baker.com/where-ill-be/