I want to welcome Marilyn Meredith. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.
I’m the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, as well as other books. Tempe is a Native American resident deputy in an around the fictional town of Bear Creek in the Southern Sierra. My husband and I live in a similar area. We have a large family and are fortunate to have many of our offspring nearby. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and though I’ve written in many genres, nowadays I’ve been concentrating on mysteries. I’ve taught writing in many venues, including the Writer’s Digest School and the Maui Writers Retreat. I belong to Mystery Writers of America, three chapters of Sisters in Crime and I’m the board of the Public Safety Writers Association.
Tell us about your latest release.
Spirit Shapes is the latest in the Tempe Crabtree series and the official blurb is: Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) is no doubt the most sinister and scariest villain I’ve ever read about and watched in the movies made about the books. Just the fact that he pops into my mind whenever I think about a villain makes him the answer to the question. The fact that the fictional character was based on a real person makes him even scarier. In the books and movies, despite what he was capable of doing, he had a fascinating persona.
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Tempe Crabtree is a favorite because she is based on three strong women: a Native American woman that I know, a resident deputy I interviewed for a newspaper article, and a police officer that I went on a ride-along with. All three women had attributes that I melded into Tempe. Because I’ve written so many books about her, she seems like a real person. I know everything about her, how she thinks and how she will react in any given situation.
3.) What genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
As I mentioned earlier, I stick to mysteries now. I’ve always loved to read mysteries, beginning with Nancy Drew. Though I’ve written in other genres, creating a mystery is the most satisfying to me.
4.) What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished the latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery which I’ve titled Not as It Seems. My critique group still has to hear the final chapters before I do a final edit and send it off to the publisher.
5.) What got you to start writing?
My first writing efforts started before I could actually write—I drew pictures of my own stories. When I could write I started with my own version of fairy tales—starring fairies, went on to stories similar to the Little House on the Prairie books, and plays for the neighborhood kids to act in. As an adult, because I married young and had a big family, for a while I stuck to writing the PTA newsletter and plays for my Camp Fire Girls to perform. Eventually my children grew up and I began to concentrate on fiction.
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas are everywhere: in newspapers, TV news, conversations (and yes, I do like to eavesdrop and it’s certainly easy to do now with folks talking loudly on the cell phones), and sometimes when I dream ideas for books I’m working on.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
That I’m nothing like my main character, though she has some of the attributes I had when I was much younger. I’ve never been in law enforcement or had ambitions in that direction. However, many of my relatives have been or still are policemen or deputies.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
Over the years, I’ve done many things that I’m proud of and suspect took a certain amount of talent: I’ve taught children with special needs, disadvantaged kids, owned and operated a licensed care home for women with developmental disabilities, taught classes for adults about different phases of having a care home, I’m a good cook and like to make up recipes, and I’ve tackled many jobs that I’d never thought I could do and succeeded.
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
Never give up. If I’d let the many rejections I received when I started sending out that first manuscript discourage me I would never be where I am today with over 35 published books. I would add to that advice to learn as much about the craft as possible, and be ready to learn from criticism.
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
I’m never sure how to answer this question—there are so many. Of course I’d love to talk to many of my favorite writers, and I’ve had the chance to do that over the years, but going into the past, it would be fun to talk to Agatha Christie and learn the answers to some of the questions you asked me.
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
I don’t know any of the popular songs of the day. And the songs that I do know are old—perhaps “Sentimental Journey” from the ‘40s.
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
A cat, because after a full and busy lifetime I’d be ready to laze around and be pampered.
“Delia is nuts. She makes me so angry I could kill her.” The shrill outburst came from a slender woman not much out of her teens stomping into the dining room of the Bear Creek Inn.
The diners turned to stare at her, including Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband, Pastor Hutch Hutchinson. He leaned closer to Tempe and asked, “Who is that?”
“She’s probably one of the movie people who are filming on the reservation,” Tempe said.
“She doesn’t look like a star.”
Hutch was right. The woman in question had a puff of short, curly red hair. Freckles polka-dotted a plain but animated face. She wore cutoff jeans and an oversize pale blue shirt that hung off one bony shoulder.
Claudia, the owner of the inn, came rushing after her. “Excuse me, dear, what can I do to help you?” Claudia appeared to know the girl, or at least who she was.
She whirled around to face Claudia, but didn’t lower her voice. “Delia doesn’t like the food she ordered. She wants something else and she wants it right now.”
“Come with me to the kitchen. We’ll see what we can do for her.” While casting apologetic looks to the many other patrons as she passed, Claudia took the girl’s arm and led her away.
Hutch returned his attention to his dinner. “I wonder what that’s about.”
“I’m guessing she is Delia West’s personal assistant. It sounds like she has a difficult job.” Ever since the movie company invaded Bear Creek, Tempe had been hearing rumors about the problems they caused. Thankfully, nothing she had to take care of in her capacity as resident deputy of the mountain area surrounding the small town of Bear Creek—at least not yet.
Hutch finished the last of his steak and pushed the plate aside. He focused his gaze on Tempe. “I’m still surprised the Tribal Council gave them permission to film on the reservation.”
“Me too. But from what I’ve heard, the production company promised the movie would promote a positive image of the tribe and bring tourists to the casino. That weighed heavily on the decision. Not everyone is enthusiastic about the project.”
“Did they have an opportunity to read the script?” .
Tempe admired her husband before answering. The wire-framed glasses perched on his nose helped his pastoral image, but contrasted with the twinkle in his eyes and his tousled auburn hair. “I don’t know, but I would think so or they wouldn’t have agreed.” Tempe glanced around the room. “Some of the other people connected with the filmmaking are having dinner here. I suspect the assistant’s remarks will get back to Ms. West.”
“I figured that’s who these strangers are. They kind of stick out.”
Besides being strangers, the extra people didn’t dress like the citizens of Bear Creek. Some of them wore what they might have thought mountain people might wear: brand new shorts and slacks, crisp shirts, and boots, looking like they stepped out of a Land’s End, J. Crew or L.L. Bean catalog.
“I hope that young woman doesn’t get into trouble.” Hutch pushed his empty plate aside. “This is one time I’d like to have Nick Two John fill us in.”
Nick Two John was Claudia’s partner in life, the main chef at the inn, and a good friend of Tempe and Hutch. Over the years, Nick educated Tempe about her Indian heritage and culture. Hutch didn’t always approve, but despite some disagreements their friendship grew.
Almost as though he’d heard Hutch, Nick stepped out of the kitchen following Claudia. She continued on to the front desk, but Nick pulled a chair up to their table. “Claudia told me you were out here.” His long black braids hung down over his white shirt, tucked neatly into worn Levis.
Hutch obviously couldn’t contain his curiosity. “We couldn’t help but wonder about that young woman. Where did she go, by the way?”
“Her name is Kate Eileen Shannon and she is the personal assistant to Delia West, the movie star.”
“She doesn’t sound too happy about her job,” Tempe said.
“Ms. West is difficult. I cooked a special meal at her request, but it didn’t suit her. She blamed Kate Eileen and ordered her to fetch something else. I fixed up a plate of tonight’s special and sent her out through the kitchen.”
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