Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Conversation with Novelist Viola Russell

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Viola Russell
with Viola Russell

We are delighted to welcome novelist Viola Russell to Omnimystery News today.

The author of several historical and romance novels, Viola's first mystery is A Fair Grounds Mystery (Red Rose Publishing; May 2013 ebook format).

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Viola about her new book.

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Omnimystery News: Into what mystery genre would you put A Fair Ground Mystery?

Viola Russell
Photo provided courtesy of
Viola Russell

Viola Russell: It is is an urban mystery. My detectives — Etienne Baptiste and Duane Morrow — are New Orleans police detectives. They talk and act like cops, but they are also incredibly just and compassionate. The novel, however, contains urban violence. The book opens with the discovery of Jimmy Landry's body in a cemetery. The investigation of his death leads Baptiste and Morrow to a cold case involving a possible murder at the racetrack over twenty years ago. This death leads them to a more recent killing during the chaos following Hurricane Katrina.

OMN: Do you think labeling a book as one kind of mystery over another is important to readers?

I don't know if labels hurt a novel. For example, I write historical novels and contemporary romance as well as mystery. My novels often cross genres. For example, Love at War, my WWII novel, contains a great deal of romance but a lot of action and adventure as well. The mystery is definitely urban and definitely not a cozy one. I'm sure the kinds of readers who read cozies wouldn't like the kind of book that I've written, so in this case, a label may be necessary.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience is integrated into the storyline?

VR: It revolves around a possible murder that took place at a racetrack over twenty years before, Like Iseult O'Flannery, my father also was a trainer at the racetrack. Like Iseult's father, he died at the track, a heart attack victim. Like Iseult, I, too, at one time believed my father was murdered. I couldn't believe my strong father was gone. Iseult's instincts, however, are right. Someone wanted her father dead.

A part of me is in all of my books. Whenever I write the historical novels, I research the periods in which I'm writing. When I wrote Love at War, I researched the WWII era extensively. When I wrote Pirate Woman, I studied Irish history and piracy in the 1500s. With the mystery, I researched things like forensics and ballistics. WWII was my mother's era, and I wrote that book after reading letters her brothers had written home. That was my Valentine to them and their generation. I've always been proud of my Irish heritage and loved writing about a strong Irish woman in Pirate Woman.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

VR: I plot extensively, and I sometimes write journals as my characters. When I do so, I find the voices of my characters. I often play my Beatles CDs while I write and burn a candle given to me by one of my students. I also often place my mother's Rosary near the computer.

OMN: Why did you elect to use a pen name for your books?

VR: I use a pen name because many of my books contain sex and violence. I'm a high school teacher by day, but the kids "outed" me. They are much more computer-savvy than most of us. Viola Russell was my grandmother's name.

OMN: Imagine yourself as the casting director for an screenplay adaptation of your book. Who do you see playing the key roles?

VR: Terrence Howard would play Etienne Baptiste, my main detective — a little older. Maybe Denzel Washington. Baptiste's an ex-Marine — if you're ever an ex-Marine. Matthew McConaughey would play Duane Morrow, Baptiste's partner. He's younger, but like his partner, a family man and ex-Marine. Kiersten Dunst would play Morrow's coroner wife.
Lucy Liu would play Baptiste's Vietnamese wife.

OMN: Who are your favorite literary series characters?

VR: I always loved Christie's Poirot and Miss Marple. Those two detectives are classic. I also wanted to marry Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. I envied his analytical mind. His legacy lives on in modern movies and series — a testament to his appeal.

My recent favorites are James Lee Burke's Dave Robichaeux and his pal Clete. I read those books because I love them and their families. I also love Burke's gritty writing. I also love C. S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr series. If you love Regency period stories, you'll love those books.

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Viola Russell is the pseudonym of a native New Orleanian writer Susan Weaver, who is a true romantic. She is an English teacher who lives with her dog and is happiest when she is creating at her computer.

For more information about the author and her work, visit her website at or find her on Twitter.

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Fair Grounds Mystery by Viola Russell

A Fair Grounds Mystery
Viola Russell

New Orleans detectives Etienne Baptiste and his partner Duane Morrow are called to a local cemetery, where a body has been discovered. They immediately identify the body as that of Jimmy Landry, a local PI who was an NOPD veteran and Baptiste's mentor. This murder is personal, and the detectives soon discover that Landry was investigating a death that took place years ago at the local race track.

This cold case leads them to a local journalist who long has believed her horse trainer father died at another's hand even though his death was ruled natural. She'd hired Landry to investigate her father's death, and Lt. Baptiste soon believes she may be correct.

As Baptiste and his partner uncover ugly secrets, a killer lurks in the shadows, threatening them and their familes.

A Fair Grounds Mystery may be purchased directly from the publisher, Red Rose Publishing.


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