Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Conversation with Mystery Author Catherine Dilts

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Catherine Dilts

We are delighted to welcome author Catherine Dilts to Omnimystery News today.

Catherine's second mystery to feature rock shop owner Morgan Iverson is Stone Cold Case (Five Star; September 2015 hardcover) and we recently had the opportunity to talk with her about the series.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about the Rock Shop mysteries.

Catherine Dilts
Photo provided courtesy of
Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts: I intended to develop a story line spanning three books. Where that story went surprised me, as my characters developed lives of their own. For example, the rock shop's two mascot donkeys stole center stage. Readers demanded to know more about Houdini and Adelaide, the aging escape artist donkeys. My main character Morgan Iverson lost her husband to cancer prior to book one. By book two, she and her adult children experience emotional healing. Morgan follows the advice of friends and family to start living again. Have a little fun. I did not think she and her romantic interest were suited for each other, but they insisted they were a great match. Even secondary characters are changing with the series, except for gossipy church lady Beatrice, who refuses to give up nosing into other people's business, and prying into forensics. Some people never change.

OMN: Into which genre would you place the books?

CD: I write the type of books I like to read. I hope to be known for writing clean fiction, which may contain a curse word or two and adult issues, but no graphic sex or gory violence. The advantage of having my books defined as amateur sleuth murder mystery is that readers know they're picking up the kind of story they will enjoy. The disadvantage is that people might hesitate to read outside their chosen crime fiction sub-genre, and miss a fun story.

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

CD: Several of my short stories are based on my years of monotonous work in a factory. Try working a twelve hour night shift operating a plastic mold injection press, and not think of killing someone. Others have themes culled from my day job as an environmental tech. My novels definitely draw on my experiences hiking the Colorado mountains, running foot races, riding ATVs, and knowing authentic cowboys and cowgirls a lot like Delano Addison and Lorina Dimple. Some of my characters represent that better person I wish I could be. Others say and do the things I'd like to, if I thought I could get away with it.

OMN: Where do you more often find yourself writing?

CD: My idea of heaven is sitting on the deck in the summer, working on my laptop. The rest of the year, I tend to gravitate to our dining room table because it is one of the brighter spots in our home. Another great place is in an outfitter's tent on a camping trip. Coffee shops don't do it for me. I am too ADD, and there are too many distractions.

OMN: How true are you to the settings of your books?

CD: Although I don't write Westerns, I consider myself a writer of the West. The Rock Shop Mystery series is set in the Colorado mountains. The imaginary town of Golden Springs is a combination of small mountain towns, including Manitou Springs, Leadville, and Lake City. My novel characters tend toward an independent attitude. The terrain, the weather, and the history of the region all impact story lines. My novels would not work in a different location.

OMN: How did you come up with "stone cold" to use in your titles? And how involved were you with the cover designs of your books?

CD: Before I became published, I had heard horror stories about the lack of control traditionally published authors have over their titles and book covers. Inappropriate titles and bad covers were blamed for poor sales. I recall a science fiction novel with an African American protagonist. On the cover was a blond white woman. Because my publisher requests input from authors in the design of covers, I dutifully sent in my ideas. They totally ignored me. Thank goodness. Stone Cold Dead has a rather stunning cover. For book two, I realized the art staff knew what they were doing, and so I requested more of the same. I love the cover for Stone Cold Case, with the black Abert's squirrel holding an ammonite fossil. As for the titles in my series, they originated in a brainstorming session with writer friends. I wanted something that embodied both the idea of a rock shop and the type of mystery that story would involve. My publisher liked my titles, and made no changes.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

CD: When I was a kid, I poured over the magazine Field & Stream. I was fascinated by the photos of grizzly bears, pack mules, and river trout. I grew up in small towns, so reading through the entire children's library was not that great a feat. I remember most enjoying the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, and anything about cowboys. This must have had some influence on my writing, or perhaps I was drawn to what represented the world around me. When I got serious about writing, the advice to write what you know steered me directly to Western themes and settings.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

CD: Top five favorite Colorado gemstones:
1) Aquamarine;
2) Topaz;
3) Rhodochrosite;
4) Turquoise; and
5) Opal.

OMN: What's next for you?

CD: On the fiction front, my factory-based short story "Industrial Gray" appears in the December issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, which will be available in October.

On the personal front, my husband and I are continuing the preparation of our mountain property for the zombie apocalypse, the Second Coming, or retirement, whichever comes first.

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To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes — both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Catherine caught mountain fever after a childhood vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. Determined to give up her flat — lander ways, she moved from Oklahoma to Colorado. Her husband, a Colorado native, proposed to her as they hiked Barr Trail on Pikes Peak. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. In her spare time, she attempts to lure wild donkeys to her property in the mountains.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at CatherineDilts.com and her author page on Goodreads.

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Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts

Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts

A Rock Shop Mystery

Publisher: Five Star

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

Rock shop owner Morgan Iverson's discovery of human remains reopens a cold case and unhealed wounds in a Colorado mountain town, while her find of a rare gemstone sparks a dangerous treasure hunt.

The remains are those of Carlee Kruger, a prom queen who vanished fifteen years ago. Carlee's mother asks Morgan to investigate. A Sasquatch look-alike may hold the key to both Carlee's death and the gemstone, but he eludes the police, despite repeated sightings by an elderly cowboy and the rock shop's donkeys. As she uncovers the past, Morgan becomes the target of someone determined to keep the truth buried.

Stone Cold Case by Catherine Dilts

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