Kathy: A Life for a Life is written from the points of view of two characters. How did you make that decision?
LM: Actually, that decision seems to have been made for me. I had intended this book to be an autobiographical novel, so I wrote early drafts from Della Kincaid’s point of view. But, sad to say, it fell a little flat. I set the manuscript aside for a while, and after several months, another lead character, Abit Bradshaw, spoke to me. I’d heard of this happening to other writers, but since I’d spent most of my career writing nonfiction books and articles, I hadn’t had the privilege of creating characters who could nudge and cajole their way into my life. He told me in no uncertain terms that he needed a bigger role in the book. I had already grown very fond of him, so I obliged. I wrote the rest of the book in a matter of months.
Kathy: One of the narrators is Abit, who happens to be a young man. Are there differences between writing from a male perspective versus a female one. Is one more challenging than the other?
LM: Although Abit is a young man, he and I share many yearnings—about the world and how it could be so much better with a little more love and civility. It is because of his youth and innocence that I connected so easily with him. If he had been a grown man, I don’t believe I would have related as well. Interestingly, his sections flowed easier than Della’s, even though she is me! (By the way, Abit is a 100-percent fictional character, while many of the other characters are based on real people.)
Kathy: Setting plays such an important part in a book, especially in a mystery. Appalachia has its own unique personality and mysterious aura. How has this setting influenced A Life for a Life?
LM: Since this is an autobiographical novel, the setting plays a central role in the book. As a young adult, I moved away from the big city (Atlanta, Georgia) and carved out a new life in the mountains of North Carolina. Decades later, I realized that everything I value today, I learned there. So often, the stories I share begin with, “When I lived in the mountains of North Carolina …” All the things I enjoy—writing, hiking, wildflowers, birds, gardening, preserving food, fiber arts, early instruments, bluegrass music, solar energy, ecology—took root while I lived on a small farm, making mistakes by the wheelbarrow load, but learning so much. A Life for a Life pays homage to the region and the people of Appalachia who taught me so much.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
LM: My personal taste in mysteries includes a wide array of styles. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed writers ranging from P.D. James to Michael Connelly, even though his stories include a fair amount of violence. I don’t enjoy the current trend of more gratuitous violence and mounting body bags. On the other hand, I don’t like sugar-coated mysteries, either. I prefer the British style of mystery writing in which one or two crimes take place, mostly “off stage,” with the “whodunit” the main part of the book. When I considered the kind of book I wanted to write, I knew it would be a strong story in which the characters’ brains and hearts played as central a role as the crime.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
LM: A Life for a Life is my first novel. I’ve written mystery short stories, and I’ve written more than 1,200 articles for major magazines and 14 nonfiction books about art, craft, travel, and nature.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
LM: A Life for a Life is the first in a series. I’m currently working on the sequel, which more prominently features Abit Bradshaw (though he now prefers to be called V.J.) He has gone back to school in Boone, N.C., which isn’t that far from home, but it presents him with a gateway to a larger world. As he adjusts and learns, he encounters some formidable new trials.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
LM: Abit, aka V.J., is my favorite. He is so tender-hearted, a quality that I admire. I believe in both nature and nurture, that is, we are born with some traits, and we are affected by the world around us. Abit was born with a big heart, and his circumstances test this quality in him. He is the kind of person I strive to be (but he’s better at it!).
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
LM: Because I love the genre, I wanted to write a mystery series. I like books that keep me turning pages. And as I mentioned earlier, this first book is an autobiographical novel—paying homage to a time in my life that was so formative. I wanted to thank many of the lovely people I met in that life-changing time of my life. The sequel will also include a setting that had a big impact on my life. As Abit moves out into the world, I’ve noticed that he is getting bolder, venturing out on his own more, without me.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
LM: I’ve been involved in publishing for decades, including several conventionally published books. I prefer the freedom of self-publishing. I have total control over content, and I can publish within three to six months of completion—rather than waiting two years or more with a conventional publisher.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
LM: Graham Greene—the first author to awaken the writer within me.
Jonathan Kellerman—his psychological approach to mystery fascinates me.
Sara Paretsky—her intelligent and fun approach to women protagonists inspired me.
P.D. James—her elegant and thoughtful characters are my touchstone.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
LM: I just finished an amazing book—Paradime by Alan Glynn. It’s a masterpiece; the ending took my breath away. I usually do most of my reading at bedtime, but I had to relegate that book to daytime reading—or else it would have kept me up all night! I don’t often find books to rave about, so I enjoy touting this one, and I plan to read Glynn’s other books. I also loved A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Such beautiful storytelling—he is a master of setup and pay-off!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
LM: I mentioned some of them above—quite a range, from early and classical music to gardening and putting food by. I’m a real foodie and enjoy cooking—when I’m not too busy with work. I was a full-time weaver during my mountain days, and I still love to make things with my hands. I’m exploring gourd art, which although I’m learning it here in California, I realized that it, too, has its roots in Appalachia, where I was first introduced to growing gourds and using them for birdhouses and water dippers. And I still love to hike and walk in nature.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
LM: Yogurt (plain)
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
LM: I’m currently working on the sequel, though at this point I’m mostly noodling about it. I will soon start my practice of 100 x100 to get those thoughts into my computer. 100 x 100 is that marvelous method of writing 100 words for 100 days. Somehow this exercise allows the left brain to settle down (and stop worrying about that other to-do list!) so that my right brain can do its creative thing. It’s too easy to keep putting off writing, so the psychology of writing just 100 words a day works wonders. We can all find the time for that! The beauty of this mind trick is that once the writing starts, usually more like 300 or 400 words show up. That’s enough time/words to let some magic in, too—ideas I didn’t even know I had. But on days that I’m really pushed, I can stop at 100 words and feel good that I’ve kept my promise.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
LM: Creative expression and the opportunity to discover ideas I didn’t know I had. Writing is the portal to our thoughts. It’s so powerful—both fiction or nonfiction—because as we write longhand or tap away at our computers, our brains seem to open up to new possibilities and deliver fresh and engaging ideas.
A LIFE FOR A LIFE
by Lynda McDaniel
While Della is out hiking with her dog, Jake, she discovers the body of a young woman. Deemed a suicide, Della isn't so sure. Investigating is in her blood and Della can't help but start looking into things...and finding some truths desperate to stay hidden.
A LIFE FOR A LIFE is a character driven novel set in a small town in North Carolina in the mid 1980s. What makes the story even more interesting is that we learn about it from two characters, Della, a former Washington DC journalist who bought a local country store, and Abit a teenage boy who lives next door who most view as "challenged". The two offer their points of view in alternating chapters.While differing points of view can be distracting, McDaniel handles this technique with panache. The points of view flow together creating a seamless story adding layers without confusion.
The action is slowly paced, but not slow moving. By doing this McDaniel creates a more atmospheric novel drawing on its Appalachian roots that is also more realistic. Solving a murder, especially that of an unknown woman in the 1980s, does not happen in a matter of days.
A LIFE FOR A LIFE is an engrossing novel that is ultimately about acceptance. It's a journey. As Della and Abit investigate the murder they discover truths about themselves and their community as well as how they are viewed and ultimately accepted. I highly recommend this mystery which resonates within its time and place.
A Life for a Life
A Mystery Novel
by Lynda McDaniel
on Tour October 15 - December 15, 2016
Book Details:Genre: Mystery
Published by: Lynda McDaniel Books
Publication Date: 09/2016
Number of Pages: 337
Series: This is the 1st Book in a new series.
Purchase Links: Amazon or Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
My other books include "Words at Work," which I wrote straight from my heart, a much-needed response to all the questions and concerns people have about writing today. (It won top honors from the National Best Books Awards.) That same year, I wrote "Contemporary Hawai’i Woodworkers: the Wood, the Art, the Aloha," a coffee-table art book featuring 35 artists; it won several awards, too, and sold out quickly. Since then, I’ve written two Amazon Bestselling Books: "How Not to Sound Stupid When You Write" and "Write Your Book Now!" (with Virginia McCullough). In 2015, I wrote "Aloha Expressionism by Contemporary Hawai'i Artists" featuring 50 more artists living on those beautiful islands.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but I've lived all over this country—from the Midwest to the Deep South to Appalachia to the Mid-Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest. Whew! I finally settled in Sebastopol, California, a place that reflects the values I learned while living in the mountains of North Carolina, all those years ago.
What's next? I'm busy with the sequel to "A Life for a Life" so I get to enjoy Abit's, er, I mean V.J.'s company again.