Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Conversation with Mystery Author Matty Dalrymple

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Matty Dalrymple
with Matty Dalrymple

We are delighted to welcome back mystery author Matty Dalrymple to Omnimystery News.

Matty visited with us last month with an excerpt from her debut novel of suspense — the first in a new series — The Sense of Death (William Kingsfield; November 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats).

Today we wanted to follow up with her and talk a little more about her book.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to Ann Kinnear, your new series character.

Matty Dalrymple
Photo provided courtesy of
Matty Dalrymple

Matty Dalrymple: The Sense of Death is the first in what will be a series of suspense thrillers featuring Ann Kinnear. Ann is a "spirit senser" — she can sense the spirits of the dead in the form of light or smells, and she can perceive the general demeanor of the spirit — whether it's friendly or unfriendly, for example. She and her brother Mike, who serves as her business manager, have established a kind of consulting business based on her skills.

What I find interesting about Ann is that she has conflicting feelings about this skill. On the one hand, she is able to experience things that most people will never experience and has access to a world that is inaccessible to most people. For some people, like her brother, this makes her special, and from a practical point of view it is a means for her to earn a living. On the other hand, the skill sets her up for accusations of being an impostor or of being crazy, and this upsets her and, in fact, brings an end to an important relationship in her life. Even if people believe she has the sensing ability, they are sometimes disappointed that she can't interact with the dead more extensively — that she can't communicate with them, for example. If Ann had a choice, she would likely choose not to have this skill that sets her apart.

OMN: How do you see Ann Kinnear evolving as a character moving forward?

MD: As the series progresses, Ann Kinnear's skills will also progress. Even within the timeframe of The Sense of Death, Ann's ability to interact with spirits expands. One force that will play into her evolving skill will be her relationship with fellow spirit senser Garrick Masser, who appears in The Sense of Death but will play a much larger role in The Sense of Reckoning.

I'm also looking forward to delving into Ann's character and background throughout the series. What leads to her drinking? What will be the long-term effects of the fact that her parents were killed in a car accident when she was in college?

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?

MD: I view Ann Kinnear as a younger, sleeker version of myself. One key difference between Ann and me is that I have never had the experience of sensing spirits, although there are people in my family who have. However, I find the concept fascinating, and I enjoy speculating about what effect such an unusual skill would have on a person.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

MD: I generally start with a very clear, movie-like visual of one or two key scenes and then build the plot around it. As a result, a lot of revision is needed as I try out different approaches for making the plot fit together seamlessly. I spend a lot of time working through ideas in my head so that when I actually sit down to capture them, I spend a relatively short time doing that. It's lucky that that approach works for me because I have a full-time "day" job — I do a lot of my "mental writing" while driving to and from work!

I have a very clear idea of the backstory of my main characters and I'm looking forward to being able to explore those backstories as the series continues. I also enjoy having a core group of characters who will continue through the series because it gives me a chance to explore how each one interacts with the others which I think makes for much richer character development.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

MD: I was able to write most of The Sense of Death from my own experience and through internet research. The internet is a god-send — if I need a reminder of what a certain street looks like, I can just go to Google Street View! The Sense of Reckoning will be a much more research-intensive book because a lot of the plot involves the 1947 fires on Mt. Desert Island, Maine. I've spent time at the Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor Historical Societies and the William Otis Sawtelle Research Center at Acadia National Park.

OMN: You mention spending time in Maine to research your next book. How true are you to the settings of your books?

MD: The Sense of Death is quite faithful to its environment — a lot of it takes place in Philadelphia; Wilmington, Delaware; and Chester County, Pennsylvania, which is where I live. The Sense of Reckoning takes place mostly on Mt. Desert Island, Maine — my husband and I have spent a lot of time there since we went there for our honeymoon. For that book I did take some liberties with the geography of the island to meet the needs of the plot.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? Have any of these found their way into your books?

MD: I was taking flying lessons until December 2013 when The Sense of Death came out. Then I was trying to promote that book and write The Sense of Reckoning and hold down a full time job — I just didn't have time for the flying any more. It wasn't just the time spent on the lessons themselves — I found that if I had a lesson my brain was consumed with aviation topics for days afterward and I couldn't make mental room for writing! Having to put my flying lessons on hold has been one of the few downsides of the writing and book promotion experience. However, I still get to be part of the general aviation world because my husband is a pilot. In fact, the plane that Walt Federman flies in The Sense of Death is his plane — a 1979 Piper Arrow.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

MD: The toughest criticism I've gotten is that what is interesting to me is not necessarily interesting to most readers — I ended up taking out of The Sense of Death some of the details about the mechanics of covering up a murder because I realized they were not advancing the plot. At the same time, there are some things I enjoy as a reader that I may leave in a book even if it is not the fashionable approach — for example, I've heard criticism about the amount of detail P. D. James provides about scene settings, even if that detail doesn't directly support the plot. However, I love those kinds of details because they allow me to fully occupy the world she has created, and I allow myself to keep some of those types of details in my writing.

OMN: How did The Sense of Death come to be titled?

MD: I came up with the title based on Ann Kinnear's spirit sensing ability, without realizing that it is a phrase used in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure:

The sense of death is most in apprehension;
And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.

I only discovered that when I did a search for "the sense of death" to make sure it hadn't already been used as a book title. For reasons I won't go into here, to avoid issuing a spoiler, it was a quote that worked well for my first book.

When I started writing the second book, I did a search for Shakespeare quotes starting with "the sense of" and re-discovered this quote from Henry V:

O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them.

Again, as luck would have it, an appropriate sentiment for my second book!

I think that the only remaining Shakespearean "sense of" quote is "the sense of feeling" in Venus and Adonis, and that doesn't really suggest a suspense thriller to me — it sounds like a self-help book. So I will need to come up with some other theme for titling the future books in the series.

OMN: What kinds of feedback have you received from readers?

MD: I love any feedback that suggests that the characters have become as real for the readers as they are for me, and I'm happy to say that based on the reader reviews, I have succeeded in that! I've also gotten a lot of feedback on one particular plot point — I'll let readers try to guess what that is and if they get in touch with me I'll let them know if they guessed right!

OMN: Have any specific authors or titles inspired how and what you write today?

MD: My mother was a huge fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series, and she and I read all of those, in addition to all the Sherlock Holmes stories. In college I took a class that spent a lot of time on Dick Francis's books, and I became a fan of those as well. I've also read a lot of Patricia Highsmith and P. D. James, and each of those books is like a seminar on suspense writing. I wish I had started my writing career sooner, but I think that all that time I was still the student learning at the masters' feet — or from the masters' pages!

OMN: What's next for you?

MD: Completing the first draft of The Sense of Reckoning by the end of the year is my next target, and I'm hoping to have it published in the first half of 2015.

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Matty Dalrymple lives with her husband, Wade Walton, and their dogs in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where much of the action of The Sense of Death takes place. Matty is currently working on the second book of the Ann Kinnear series, tentatively titled The Sense of Reckoning.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at AnnKinnear.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Sense of Death by Matty Dalrymple

The Sense of Death
Matty Dalrymple
A Novel of Suspense

Ann Kinnear has created a peaceful existence at her cabin in the Adirondack woods. But the calm is shattered after Philadelphia socialite Elizabeth Firth is reported missing. With few clues and fewer options, detective Joe Booth calls upon Ann's spirit sensing abilities to help solve the mystery.

With Joe and her brother Mike, Ann attempts to uncover what Elizabeth's husband may be hiding beneath his cloak of wealth and privilege. As Ann is drawn deeper into a web of lies and betrayal, she realizes she may be racing against time to keep herself from disappearing too.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this engaging and interesting interview with Matty Dalrymple! I thoroughly enjoyed The Sense of Death, and eagerly await the continued adventures of Ann Kinnear in the next installment.

    ReplyDelete

 

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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