Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A Coversation with Mystery Author Lauren Carr

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Lauren Carr

We are delighted to welcome author Lauren Carr back to Omnimystery News today.

Last week Lauren provided us with an overview of her new first in series mystery Ice (Acorn Book Services; February 2018 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we asked if we could follow-up with an interview to talk more about.

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Omnimystery News: Your upcoming new mystery Ice is a departure from your current three popular mystery series. Since it doesn’t involve any of your series characters, why did you choose to write it as the first installment of a new mystery series instead of as a stand-alone? Do you expect to keep Chris Matheson relatively unchanged from book to book, or do you expect to develop him over time?

Lauren Carr
Photo provided courtesy of
Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr: When I first started writing murder mysteries, I didn’t set out to write a series with recurring characters. It simply happened.

My books are character driven. By that, I mean that I begin with the characters—especially the protagonist. After they become fully developed, they come to life and basically direct the plotline of my books. As a result, I become attached to them and curious myself about how they will develop over time.

A true crime documentary inspired the premise for Ice. In this documentary, a group of former students gathered together to investigate the murder of a nun they had as a teacher. Now in their fifties and sixties, each student brought their own unique talents to the investigation.

As a mystery writer, I thought, “What if …” As I started my research, I discovered that there are quite a few police departments that bring in retired law enforcement officers to tackle cold cases.

But then, I needed a protagonist to be the center of this team who call themselves the Geezer Squad. Living close to Washington, I have met more than one law enforcement or federal employee who’ve retired in their mid-forties because they started working right out of high school. As a result of his “youth,” Chris is the outsider on the team.

Chris’s retirement is prompted by the sudden death of his wife, who was killed during a terrorist attack in France. Shortly after her death, Chris’s father passes away. Chris decides to retire from his career as an investigator with the FBI and moves back home to the family farm.

Notice that Chris is surrounded by women since he’s raising three little girls and lives with his mother, who is also dealing with the loss of her husband. But there is one male in his family for him to lean on. That’s Sterling, another retiree. He’s a law enforcement k-9, who recently lost his handler in an ambush.

Since these upheavals in Chris’s life are still quite fresh in Ice, there’s lots of room for his character to grow. One interesting area is his love life when he reconnects with his first love, Helen, a lieutenant in charge of the homicide division of the state police.

OMN: Into which mystery genre would you place your series?

LC: They used to be categorized as cozies. They are clean. No nudity, graphic violence, or explicit sex scenes. But then, they do have the grit of a police procedural. One reviewer called them “gritty cozies.”

My mysteries are definitely a cross-genre: thriller, cold case, mystery suspense, and police procedural, all rolled into one exciting novel.

OMN: What was your greatest challenge in writing Ice?

LC: Developing a whole new set of characters without falling back on those in my other mystery series.

I wanted Chris Matheson to be notably different from Mac Faraday, the protagonist in my Mac Faraday Mysteries.

I make it a point to read reviews for other mystery authors, particularly those who write series, and have been aware of a regular complaint in which a writer creates a new series, but it ends up being the same as their previous series—they just change the names.

Well, now that I tried stepping out to write a new series, I see how easy that can be. Chris is different from Mac because his situation is different. He lives with his mother, who helps him with his three young daughters, while he tends to the family farm. As a result of his circumstance, Chris is forced to be gentler, yet strong. He has a lot more patience than Mac Faraday has. He has to—otherwise how can he survive surrounded by all these women.

OMN: What inspired you to have your male protagonist surrounded by women?

LC: My own life. At one point, I was surrounded by men. I lived with my husband, son, and father-in-law (who has since passed away) under one roof. It was very frustrating because none of them seemed to understand me. We would actually get into arguments because they would go to the barber and pay ten dollars. I would go to the hairdresser and pay over a hundred, and they decided there was something wrong with me. Once, in the midst of this very frustrating period, someone pointed out to me, “Even your dogs are male.” That’s right. We had three big dogs and they were all male, too!

I actually went looking for a fluffy female purse dog because I was desperate for someone to understand me.

Chris Matheson is not so desperate. He handles the whole situation with humor. At one point, his six-year-old daughter sends him a text photo of Sterling, his German shepherd, who she has fitted with a tiara for a tea party. Chris jumps in his truck and rushes home to save him. From that point on, Chris takes Sterling everywhere with him.

While the women in his life may not understand him, Chris understands them. It is his depth of understanding women that aids him in breaking the case in Ice.

OMN: This new series is set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, specifically the Harpers Ferry area, which is part of the Washington metropolitan area. Did you take any liberties with your setting, or did you try to be true to its geography and/or local environment?

LC: For the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries, I do remain true to the environment and atmosphere of the area. The Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Library where the Geezer Squad meets is an actual library that is next to the Harpers Ferry Middle School. The diner where the squad hangs out, Billie’s, is an actual diner as well.

However, since ICE is a work of fiction, which involves murder and mayhem, I have taken a number of liberties. Charles Town, which is right next to Harpers Ferry, is home to Hollywood Casinos, which used to be the Charles Town Race Track. In the nineties, the race track expanded and became the Hollywood Casinos. While the history is true, the casino and people involved in managing the casino are completely fictional. Since the casino figures prominently in the plotline and has a number of negative elements, I changed the name to Stardust. I’ve never been inside Hollywood Casino and refrained from doing any research there because I didn’t want there to be any comparison to the real casino.

OMN: How important is the setting to the characters or the plot?

LC: When it comes to a series, setting is very important. I now have four series. The Mac Faraday Mysteries is set in Deep Creek Lake, a resort town. The Lovers in Crime is set in the small town of Chester, West Virginia. That’s my small town mystery series. The Thorny Rose Mysteries take place in the Washington, DC area.

The Chris Matheson Mystery series is a blend. The Harpers Ferry area has a small town rural feel, but a lot of big city folks live in Harpers Ferry and commute to the city. There’s also a lot of residents who have had the benefit of the small town, country upbringing. It’s a perfect mingling of cultures which makes for an intriguing mixture of plots to choose from.

OMN: What's next for you?

LC: I am working on two books that I expect to be released early this summer and another this fall. 

Look for the third Thorny Rose Mystery early this summer. Working title is The Stepford Wife Murder.

Frustrated with their busy schedules, Murphy suggests that he and Jessica find togetherness by taking a couple’s gourmet cooking course at the Stepford Kitchen Studio taught by Chef Natalie Stepford and her husband.

As if spending her evenings cooking isn’t bad enough, Jessica is further annoyed by the beautiful, talented, intelligent, successful business woman. There’s nothing worse than having the embodiment of feminine perfection teaching your husband the proper way to whip a whisk when you can’t even find time to shave your legs.

It seems Jessica is not the only one annoyed by the Stepford wife. When Natalie ends up dead, Murphy and Jessica come together to do what they do best. As they peel back the layers of the Stepford marriage, Jessica and Murphy discover that the perfect life is not all that it seems. 

But wait! There’s more! Look for a Mac Faraday Mystery this fall! The next installment in the Mac Faraday Mysteries will be coming out just in time for Christmas—A Murder for Christmas (working title).

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Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at MysteryLady.net and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ice by Lauren Carr

Ice by Lauren Carr

A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery

Publisher: Acorn Book Services

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappeared, the court of public opinion found young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted.

With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

Ice by Lauren Carr

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Lance, for inviting me back to talk about ICE. I am really excited to introduce Chris Matheson to your followers and am sure they will love him as much as I do.


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