I’m thrilled to introduce you to talented American author Joan Livingston, whose third whodunit Checking the Traps is out today.
Here, Joan explains how she used a painful real life experience of her own to inform her book:
I’m the kind of author who takes what I know and has my way with it. I write fiction, currently mysteries to be exact, and not memoir. So, something or someone I observed or experienced could be a source of inspiration. And that’s why Isabel Long, the protagonist of my mystery series, has a broken collarbone in the third book, Checking the Traps. In fact, she wears a sling for the entire book.
I could write about her injury with authenticity because it happened to me.
But let’s go back to Isabel. She’s a longtime journalist turned amateur P.I. solving cold case mysteries in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She has a ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her, who is actually based on my mystery-loving Mom.
Isabel is a bit banged up from her second case after being in a car crash. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer one-handed at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case. A bad boy drug dealer who terrorised her a bit in her last one, hires her to find out what happened to his half-brother. Did he jump off a bridge known for suicides or was he pushed?
When it came to Isabel’s temporary handicap, I could easily relate. Years ago, I was a pedestrian in a crosswalk when a car hit me from behind. The impact threw me into the air and onto the hood of the car. The driver claimed he didn’t see me.
A few things were in my favour: the driver wasn’t going fast and I didn’t see the car coming, so I was relaxed. As for injuries, I had a broken collarbone and a gash on the back of my head.
And I got to use this experience in a positive way in Checking the Traps.
I recalled how hard it was to do even the simple things one-handed and how I needed pain pills while I recovered. I actually wrote a novel during my six-week recovery, typing one handed. I also worked at my editing job at a newspaper — after a week home. It surprised me how well I adjusted to having only one useful hand.
I had to be extra careful about things I did without thinking before my accident. The same goes for Isabel, who has to skip those fast dance numbers with her boss and love interest, Jack, when a band is playing at the Rooster, exploring areas where footing is unsteady, wild romps in bed, etc.
Here I give you an idea. This is how Checking the Traps starts:
It’s Friday night at the Rooster Bar and Grille, and I’m behind the bar taking care of business with my one good arm. The other is in a sling. A broken collarbone and a few badly bruised ribs are souvenirs from my second case, that and the satisfaction I nailed the bastard who ran my car off the road. I’m right-handed, and luckily, my injuries are on my left side, so it’s a piece of cake, really, snapping the caps off Buds with the opener mounted on the back of the counter. I only need one arm to reach for beers in the cooler and drop empties into the carton below. I’m not able to deliver food or clean tables, but then again, I have a very understanding boss. You remember Jack Smith, don’t you?
Besides, my getup is a conversation starter here at the town of Conwell’s only drinking establishment. The Rooster’s True Blue Regulars, of course, are all aware of what happened two weeks ago, but being nosy New Englanders, they prod me for details. They can’t get enough of the story. I gladly accommodate them. They’re friendly guys and good tippers.
“Isabel, how fast were you goin’ when Pete hit the back of your mother’s car?” one guy asks when I hand him his beer.
“Last I looked it was eighty.”
“Damn. On that road? You and Barbie were lucky you didn’t get yourselves killed.”
Uh, that might have been Pete Woodrell’s intention when he tailed us in his pickup. His wife, Barbie, was terrified and screaming beside me in the front seat. I didn’t blame her. I felt like screaming, too, but I had to pay attention to the road.
CHECKING THE TRAPS SYNOPSIS
Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.
Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.
The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.
As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.
About Joan Livingston
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.
An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure. Recently, she was named editor of the Greenfield Recorder.
After living for eleven years in New Mexico, she has returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series.
Chasing the Case: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase
Redneck’s Revenge: http://mybook/rednecksrevenge
Checking the Traps: http://mybook/checkingthetraps