I'm happy to welcome Wendy Tyson to the blog today. Wendy writes the Allison Campbell Mystery series. Deadly Assets is the second in the series.
Kathy: I live in WNY and enjoy reading books set in my locale. The Finger Lakes are a short drive away from me, and a place I go often. What made you decide to have a sinister Finger Lakes estate and an eccentric Italian heiress from the area in Deadly Assets?
WT: Kathy, you are blessed to live in such a beautiful area! I love the Finger Lakes region of New York. My husband and I are from Pennsylvania, and we have been visiting Ithaca and the surrounding areas for years. A few years ago, he and I were staying at a local B&B. We woke up early and went for a walk. The air was crisp and moist and there was a fine mist over Cayuga Lake. In the distance, a beautiful old home loomed on a hill, above the water, and sat nestled in the trees. The house looked quite Gothic. It struck me then that the area would make an excellent setting for a murder mystery. In the early stages of writing Deadly Assets, I knew Francesca Benini had to live in a similar house by the lake. It just fit her.
Kathy: In Deadly Assets the current disappearances Allison Campbell is investigating have something to do with the suicide of a woman thirty years earlier. How does an event from the past help and/or impede a current investigation?
WT: I think an event from the past makes a current investigation more difficult. Memories fade or become colored by the passage of time, written records can disappear, witnesses move away or die. In Deadly Assets, it was unclear to Allison and her friends whether Gina’s death was even related, and the challenges of looking into a thirty-year-old suicide definitely impeded their investigation.
Kathy: You are a lawyer and former therapist. How have these occupations impacted your writing?
WT: I started in the psych field at twenty-three. My first job was as a counselor at a group home for teens, and I later went on to become a foster care caseworker. During graduate school (for counseling), I worked with teenage girls at a residential treatment facility. I met a lot of at-risk youth, kids who’d had the cards stacked against them since early in life, but I was amazed by their humanity and the sheer strength of the human spirit. Looking back, I think because I was so young, that job in particular left an indelible impression on me. After graduate school, I went on to law school on the Philadelphia Main Line and eventually became a transactional attorney.
Both careers have impacted my writing. On the psych side, my interest and experience in the field have given me a foundation for understanding human relationships, motivations and behaviors. Certainly helpful when writing crime fiction. And my background in law has provided me with a glimpse into the inner workings of the corporate world. Of course there’s overlap. Whether in a residential treatment facility or a big company, human motivations and behaviors are often the same—only the scale and the degree of acceptability differ.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
WT: I love all kinds of crime fiction, including cozies, traditional mysteries and thrillers. Cozies were my first love, though, beginning with Nancy Drew and, later, Agatha Christie. I especially enjoy the puzzle elements of a cozy.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
WT: The first novel I wrote was contemporary women’s fiction, and I’m working on a new women’s novel set in Martha’s Vineyard. But I primarily write mysteries and thrillers.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
WT: The Allison Campbell series features Philadelphia Main Line image consultant Allison Campbell. A dissertation shy of a PhD in psychology, Allison helps people reinvent themselves…when she’s not using her ability to look beneath the façade to solve murders. Killer Image is the first book in the Campbell series. In Killer Image, when the ritualistic murder of a controversial divorce attorney is pinned on her young client, Allison hits the pavement in her three-inch Manolos to unravel the mystery of who killed Arnie Feldman and why.
I’ve also written The Seduction of Miriam Cross, the first in the Delilah Percy Powers series, under the name W. A. Tyson (E-Lit Books). In The Seduction of Miriam Cross, Miriam Cross, author, feminist and philanthropist, disappears from her Philadelphia home and a year later, a lonely recluse named Emily Cray is brutally murdered in her bed in a small Pennsylvania town. Miriam and Emily are one and the same. As private investigator Delilah Percy Powers and her staff of female detectives—a militant homemaker, an ex-headmistress/nun and a former stripper—delve into Miriam’s life, they become submerged in an underworld of unfathomable cruelty and greed with implications that go far beyond the gruesome death of one woman or the boundaries of one country.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
WT: My favorite character? Probably Vaughn from the Campbell series. In many ways, he embodies the spirit I saw in those kids whom I worked with while a therapist. Vaughn was abused by his father as a child, made some really bad choices, and he and his twin later paid for those choices in spades. Despite a rough beginning, Vaughn’s worked hard to build a successful life for himself and his brother. He’s conflicted, but he’s also strong, loyal, courageous and smart.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
WT: The juxtaposition of my two careers law and psychology really gave me the idea for the series. As I mentioned earlier, I went from counseling at-risk teens to law school on the Philadelphia Main Line, a beautiful and wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. It struck me then that things are often not what they seem. I was intrigued by this notion of image and that’s how Allison—an image consultant—was born. Although Allison spends her time helping people reinvent themselves, she is her own biggest reinvention. Once an outsider, she was able to fashion a new life for herself after a tragedy with a patient during graduate school. She’s able to see beneath the surface to bring out the best in people. It just so happens that her talents (and psychology background) also help her to solve crimes!
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
WT: Being a published author has long been a dream of mine. I was an avid reader as a kid, and I thought writing books would be the best job in the whole world. Obviously I’ve taken some career detours, but my writing life started with short stories. I remember the day I got the acceptance letter from the literary journal Karamu. Karamu wanted my short story titled “Linden Street.” I was ecstatic. The sale paid in contributor’s copies, which I still have prominently displayed on my bookshelf. Eventually I moved on to writing novels. When Henery Press sent the offer for Killer Image, I was on an airplane heading east after a client meeting in Houston and my agent couldn’t reach me. When the plane landed in Philly, I had half a dozen voicemail messages and at least as many emails. I think my agent (whom I adore) was as excited as I was.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
WT: That’s a tough one! Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Asimov, Stephen King and Toni Morrison.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
WT: I just finished An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James. Loved it! I’m looking forward to starting another book by this author.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
WT: My husband and I are hardcore organic gardeners. We have about a third of an acre ten miles outside of Philadelphia, and we grow almost all our own vegetables on that small plot.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
WT: Garlic, Gruyere, kale and cannellini beans.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
WT: Absolutely! The third Allison Campbell book, Dying Brand, is due out on May 5, 2015 (sneak peek below). The fourth Campbell novel, Vicious Looks, will be out in 2016. I also have a cozy series coming out in 2016.
When image consultant Allison Campbell attends an award ceremony to honor a designer friend, she’s thrust into a murder investigation. Only this time, it’s personal.
A former boyfriend is dead, slain on the streets of Philadelphia. His widow claims he was meeting with Allison, yet Allison hadn’t spoken to him in years. Nothing about his death—or life—makes sense. When compromising photos from their past arrive at Allison’s office, they raise more questions than they answer.
Driven to find justice, Allison deconstructs the image her ex had created for himself, looking for clues about the man he’d become. As her hunt for the truth unveils secrets, Allison’s past and present collide—with deadly results.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
WT: Meeting readers. I love to write, and I am incredibly grateful to be paid for doing something I love, but meeting and interacting with readers has been the real benefit of this journey.
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