I'm pleased to welcome Ann Parker to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Ann writes the Silver Rush Mystery series. THE SECRET IN THE WALL is the eighth book in the series and was released last week.
Kathy: The Silver Rush Mystery series is set in the late 1800s. Why did you choose this era for your series?
AP: The late 1800s was a time of rapid change in the West. When my series opens in 1879, the silver rush is ramping up in Leadville, Colorado. People from far and wide are pouring into this remote area of the Rocky Mountains, hoping to get rich quick. The social upheavals accompanying such boom-and-bust cycles intrigue me. Also, in the latter part of the 19th century, women such as my protagonist, Inez Stannert, found greater opportunities in the West compared to the eastern U.S., including more liberal divorce laws and the freedom to reinvent themselves.
Kathy: Historical mysteries require a special type of research. What's your favorite method?
AP:I love pouring over historical maps and doing "on the ground" research. When on location, I search out landmarks from the past that still exist, such as San Francisco's Palace Hotel and Lotta's Fountain https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/tf267nb3cv/. I also note "timeless" sensory details, such as the weather, the seasonal slant of the sun, and so on, and search out local experts and historical societies.
Kathy: Inez Stannert was a saloon owner and card sharp in the rough silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado. Do you play cards?
AP: Not so much now. One fond childhood memory is playing poker with my best friend and her mother for toothpicks. Card games such as Go Fish and Hearts were staples when my children were young. With poker, we played for M&Ms so we could eat our winnings.
Kathy: THE SECRET IN THE WALL finds Inez moving to San Francisco and finds a skeleton with a bag of Civil War-era gold coins. Are you a Civil War buff?
AP: I find the War intriguing, particularly given the timeframe of my series. Nearly all of my characters either fought or lived through it, and many are still dealing with the repercussions in the 1880s. I owe much to a local Civil War reenactor who reached out to me after my first book, SILVER LIES, was published and let me know I'd made an error with one of the firearms (oops!). We had a wonderful chat about the Civil War, and he later invited me to a reenactment. What I learned there provided inspiration for my second book, IRON TIES.
Kathy: What first drew you to historical mysteries?
AP: Escaping to the past through stories is something I've done since I was a child. I suppose I found those long-ago times exotic and exciting compared to my humdrum mid-20th century childhood. My first brush with historical mysteries was probably the Bobbsey Twins books, which were written before I was born. Later on, I devoured Sherlock Holmes and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Additionally, as a young'un I loved TV westerns such as Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, and The Wild Wild West (which included elements of mystery and espionage).
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
AP: The past is still my preferred fiction-writing playground. However, I have written some contemporary short stories, just to stretch myself. "Purged" appears in Low Down Dirty Vote, Volume 2. "Winning by a Whisker: A Pawlitical Tale" (my experiment in writing humorous whimsey with a bite) appears in Volume 3, which will be published May 2022.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
AP: The Silver Rush series, set in the 1880s, features Colorado saloon-owner Inez Stannert—a woman with a mysterious past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. In recent books, Inez has moved west to San Francisco, California, and re-invented herself as a music-store manager and a 19th-century "angel investor" for women-owned small businesses.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
AP: I never tire of writing my protagonist Inez—a strong woman who knows her own mind (if not necessarily her heart). I also have a special fondness for Inez's young ward, Antonia Gizzi, who first appeared in WHAT GOLD BUYS. It's been fun to explore the world from Antonia's point-of-view, especially in the newest book,
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
AP: I wanted to bring the past to life for readers, and examine what life was like for women in the "Victorian West" of the United States.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
AP: As a voracious reader and a science writer in my day job, I wanted to try my hand at writing fiction. After I'd researched, written, edited, and polished SILVER LIES—which took three years—it felt natural to take the next step and query publishers.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
AP: Willa Cather, for certain, as well as author/illustrator Mary Hallocke Foote, whose work portrayed life in the late-19th-century mining communities of the American West. Let's add Edgar Allan Poe and (because I am a such a fan-girl of his books!) Martin Cruz Smith.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
AP: AND ONLY TO DECEIVE by Tasha Alexander for a mystery book group discussion. Great fun!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
AP: I love to walk and take close-up photos of plants and urban landscapes. There's also my cat, Mia (#DivaMissMia on Facebook), who keeps me on my toes and doesn't let me stay up past my bedtime.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
AP: Coffee, first and foremost, as being well-caffeinated is a daily necessity! I'm the "snacky" sort, so stockpile chips (potato, tortilla); roasted almonds; and chocolate (in many forms).
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
AP: I am mulling several ideas for the Silver Rush series, and have an exciting possibility in mind for a different (but still historical) series.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
AP: I love hearing from readers! Like many authors, I spin my tales, release them into the world, and then wonder: Do they "speak to" or resonate with anyone? So, feedback from readers is always appreciated!
The Secret in the Wall: A Novel (Silver Rush Mysteries) by Ann Parker
About The Secret In The Wall
Historical Mystery 8th in Series
Poisoned Pen Press (February 15, 2022)
Paperback : 400 pages
Sometimes you can't keep your gown out of the gutter...
Inez Stannert has reinvented herself—again. Fleeing the comfort and wealth of her East Coast upbringing, she became a saloon owner and card sharp in the rough silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, always favoring the unconventional path—a difficult road for a woman in the late 1800s.
Then the teenaged daughter of a local prostitute is orphaned by her mother's murder, and Inez steps up to raise the troubled girl as her own. Inez works hard to keep a respectable, loving home for Antonia, carefully crafting their new life in San Francisco. But risk is a seductive friend, difficult to resist. When a skeleton tumbles from the wall of her latest business investment, the police only seem interested in the bag of Civil War-era gold coins that fell out with it. With her trusty derringer tucked in the folds of her gown, Inez uses her street smarts and sheer will to unearth a secret that someone has already killed to keep buried. The more she digs, the muddier and more dangerous things become.
She enlists the help of Walter de Brujin, a local private investigator with whom she shares some history. Though she wants to trust him, she fears that his knowledge of her past, along with her growing attraction to him, may well blow her veneer of respectability to bits—that is, if her dogged pursuit of the truth doesn't kill her first . . .
About Ann Parker
Ann Parker is a science writer by day and fiction writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush Mysteries series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, a Sourcebooks imprint, is set primarily in 1880s Leadville, Colorado, and more recently in San Francisco, California, the “Paris of the West.” The series was named a Booksellers Favorite by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, and Ann is listed in the Colorado Authors' Hall of Fame. The Secret in the Wall is the eighth and newest entry in the series.