We’re rounding up the month of August with another great writer. Marilyn Meredith is the author of the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. Not only has Marilyn written numerous books, she is also an editor, freelance writer, instructor, and writer’s conference presenter. Judgment Fire is the latest book in her Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series and Marilyn is floating around the blogosphere on her first ever virtual book tour to chat about it. She was nice enough to pay The Book Connection a visit and tell us all about it.
Welcome to The Book Connection Marilyn. It’s wonderful to have you with us!
Before we talk about the book, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a fourth generation Californian, mother of five, grandmother of nineteen (just got a new granddaughter this year when my second oldest daughter became legal guardian to a sixteen year-old), and great-grandmother to eleven.
How long have you been writing?
I began telling stories through drawings when I was four and have written ever since. I didn't begin writing novels until I was in my forties. Before that it was mostly plays for my Camp Fire group to perform, PTA newsletters and short stories.
Do you have a mentor or a source of inspiration?
Willma Gore, a woman who was in the first critique group I joined, taught me so much about writing and was and is a wonderful friend.
What is your writing process like? Do you write every day?
I do write every day though not necessarily the novel I'm working on. At the moment I'm polishing up a new Tempe novel--one that probably won't be published for about two years. Once that's done, I'll begin another.
Is there a time of day when you’re more productive than others?
I do best first thing in the morning. In the afternoon, I'll do some promoting chores or editing.
Judgment Fire is the next book in your Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. Can you tell us a little bit about this series? Is this new one the sixth?
Actually, Judgment Fire is the seventh in the series. Deadly Trail is the prequel, though it was published a bit later than Deadly Omen which came first. Unequally Yoked, Intervention, Wingbeat, and Calling the Dead are the others and in that order.
Tempe Crabtree is a Native American resident deputy in the mountain community of Bear Creek in the Southern Sierra. In each book she learns more and more about her Indian heritage and often has some supernatural or mystical experience while solving a crime. Her husband, a Christian preacher, loves her but fears for her soul.
How challenging can it be to write a series?
I love writing the Tempe series. I doubt if I'll ever run out of story ideas.
Do you ever get tired of the characters?
Tempe and her husband Hutch are as real to me as any of my friends or relatives and I certainly know more about my characters since they live inside my head.
How do you keep loyal readers interested but not lose new readers if they’ve picked up book #3 in the series?
Every book I write as a stand-alone so that someone can read a later book and not feel left out. Hopefully, though, that reader will want to find the rest of the series to read.
Deputy Tempe Crabtree is part Yanduchi Indian and Native Americans play a prominent role in this series. What kind of research did you have to do to accurately portray Native American customs and beliefs?
Yanduchi is not the name of a real tribe--however the tribe is based on the Yokut Indians who live on the Tule River Reservation near my home. I've borrowed a lot from the reservation and the Indians history and legends. Though I have done a lot of research, I am writing fiction. I've tried to respect my neighbors and their beliefs--that's the main reason I want everyone to know I'm writing fiction.
Tempe is married to the minister of a local church. Is she fully accepted by the members of her husband’s congregation?
Tempe definitely is not a normal minister's wife. Because she's also the resident deputy everyone knows her and relies on her.
Does she have to deal with any prejudice because of her mixed heritage?
Her being of Indian heritage doesn't seem to matter much in Bear Creek. The detectives she often works for seem to think because she's an Indian if a crime involves a Native American she'll have special insights. The fact that she is female causes more problems for her with her male superiors.
If you had to describe Tempe in only three words, what would they be?
Strong but vulnerable.
In addition to being a deputy sheriff, Tempe is also a wife and mother. Does she have to deal with the same challenges other working mothers do? How does she handle them?
Tempe's son is nearly grown in Judgment Fire, a senior in high school. In previous books, he's had a bigger role. Blair is infatuated with fire-fighting and serves as a volunteer on the local volunteer fire department. Blair was only two when his father, a highway patrolman, was killed in the line of duty. Being a young widow, Tempe returned home to Bear Creek where she had relatives to help with Blair, and went to the academy and became a deputy in Tulare county.
In Chapter One, we meet a shaman named Doretha. What can you tell us about her? Has she always lived in Bear Creek?
Doretha is a Native American shaman who lives on the Bear Creek Reservation. In Unequally Yoked, she puts on a grieving ceremonial for a murder victim and Tempe participates.
The descriptions in the excerpt of Judgment Fire left me feeling like I had just driven in the Blazer along with Tempe, as if I were there in Dorothea’s car, and like I was right in the middle of Tempe’s conversation with Dorothea about the strange accident. How do you bring your fiction to life? How do you know which details to include and which things it is just better to let the reader figure out for himself?
Wow, what a compliment! Thank you! Whenever you're writing fiction you want everything to keep moving the story along. Leave out anything that's unnecessary. Dialogue always needs to do two things, either move the plot or reveal character--and best if it's doing both.
Where can readers order a copy of Judgment Fire and the rest of the books in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series?
Judgment Fire is available from Mundania Press (http://www.mundaniapress.com) as a trade paperback and ebook, or can be ordered through your local bookstore or Amazon.com soon after the first of August.
The other books can be ordered from my website or Amazon.com. All of the books can be ordered in electronic format from Fictionwise.com.
I really could keep going, but I don’t want to be greedy with your time. What’s up next for you?
Of course I'm working on the next Tempe. I'm always about two books ahead.
Do you have any exciting news to share?
Yes, Calling the Dead, the book prior to this one, just received Best Mystery for 2006 from the Readers Choice Awards at Author Island. And another of my books, Wishing Makes It So, was chosen as best horror.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you very much for letting me talk about Judgment Fire and Tempe. I hope some of your readers will take a look at my series.
Thanks for spending so much time with us today. I think I might just have to break open my piggy bank to buy all the books in this series. May you be blessed with continued success.
Again, my most heartfelt thanks for your wonderful questions.