“The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney short story in the crime fiction anthology, Thirteen, was a finalist for a 2014 Derringer Award.
Jack Batten, The Toronto Star’s crime fiction reviewer, calls Pat “a hugely attractive sleuth figure.”
Diane: What gave you the idea to write this series?
Rosemary: When I was looking for a leading character for a mystery series, my first consideration was to center the books around a woman journalist. I quickly rejected that idea: been there, done all that myself as a journalist. I gave it some more thought.
For the past several years, I’d been writing about personal finance and the financial services industry. I interviewed financial advisers and investment managers. I attended their conferences. I knew the issues they faced and their concerns. Suddenly, the Pat Tierney character appeared full-blown in my mind. She has the traits of people I admire most in the industry: she cares about her clients; she’s a champion of small investors; she has sleepless nights when investment markets are down.
Diane: What kind of research did you conduct to make your books more authentic?
Rosemary: Many of the crimes in the Pat Tierney books involve money—fraud, theft, embezzlement, etc. And greed for money can be a powerful motive for murder. I write about some of these scams as a journalist, but I often need to call on financial experts to see if I’ve got the details right.
I frequently need more background about police procedures, and I’m fortunate to live in a city that has a co-operative police department. I’ll place a request with Toronto Police Service’s communications department, and one of its staffers will arrange a face-to-face interview with an officer from the appropriate department.
And I may need to talk to experts in other fields. When I was writing Black Water, I met with a midwife to find out whether home births took place in rural Ontario 40 years ago, and how infant immunization records were kept at that time. It’s so important to get the details right. If a reader spots a mistake you’ve made, he or she may not want to continue reading your book.
Diane: How did your occupation as a journalist give you help in writing this series?
Rosemary: As a newspaper reporter, I was trained to write clean, factual copy, and I aim to write clean, crisp fiction. I hope that I succeed. And years of interviewing people for newspaper articles certainly helped with writing dialogue. It fine-tuned my ear to the nuances of how different people speak.
Diane: What makes writing fiction different than journalism?
Rosemary: Description is where newspaper articles and fiction differ dramatically. Description is kept to a minimum in newspaper articles; photos show readers what a person or a place looks like. A fiction writer, on the other hand, must describe her characters and her settings. But I try to keep my descriptions brief—with a few brushstrokes rather than detailed portraits. I give every character in my novels and short stories a short physical description. Pat Tierney, for example, is in her mid-forties, and has short blonde hair and green eyes. But what characters say and do reveals much more about them.
Settings, so important in crime fiction, also need to be described in novels. Black Water is set in cottage country north of Toronto. When Pat first arrives in the small town of Braeloch at the beginning of the novel, she notes that it was “postcard pretty that morning with a fresh dusting of snow sparkling in the sunlight.” The entire township is breathtakingly beautiful with its lakes and rugged, rocky landscapes, which has drawn affluent cottagers to the area. They’ve built million-dollar vacation homes, while many local residents have difficulty making ends meet.
Diane: How are these two books connected?
Rosemary: Black Water is a continuation of Safe Harbor’s story. There’s unfinished business at the end of Safe Harbor: Pat’s daughter Tracy makes a surprising announcement, and Tracy isn’t happy with her mother’s reaction to it. When Black Water opens, about six weeks later, Tracy has moved out of the Tierney family home. She returns one evening to ask Pat to help find her sweetheart, Jamie Collins. Feeling she has let Tracy down, Pat heads off to Ontario cottage country where Jamie grew up, and where an elderly man was recently murdered. Jamie is the prime suspect in his death.
When I started Black Water, I knew many of the main characters well—Pat, her daughters, her adopted son Tommy, her friend Celia de Franco. They were old friends of mine, and it was fun to create new characters in a new locale for them to meet. It was great fun to move the story out of Toronto and into a rural community based an area that I know and love. As I say on my Acknowledgements page, “Black Water is set in an imaginary part of Ontario cottage country that bears a strong resemblance to the real Haliburton Highlands. None of the Haliburton Highlands residents appear in this book.”
Diane: What challenges did you face in writing a series?
Rosemary: A big challenge of writing a series with the same central character is staying faithful to that character’s personality. Pat’s fierce sense of loyalty to her family, her friends and her clients drives all her decisions. At the end of Black Water, for example, Pat has to decide whether to stay in cottage country or return to Toronto. I had to let Pat’s character make that decision, which wasn’t necessarily the one that I might have chosen to write about.
Another challenge of a series is ensuring that each book stands on its own. Some readers will not have read the earlier books, and those who have will not want detailed introduction to the main characters. You can satisfy both groups by dropping in on the central character’s day-to-day life in the opening pages—and weaving in details later.
“I was chilled to the bone when I got home that evening,” is how I introduce Pat in Chapter One of Black Water. She tells us how she feels on a winter Friday evening after a long week of work. At this point, we don’t need to know what line of work she’s in, only that she’s cold and tired and discouraged. We’ve all felt that way. And because I write the Pat Tierney books in the first person, from Pat’s point of view, I’m able to set up an immediate intimacy between the reader and my character. Pat is sharing another episode in her life with the reader.
Diane: Are you working on another book in the series?
Rosemary: Yes, I’m currently writing my third Pat Tierney mystery, which I hope will be released next spring. It opens about three months after the end of Black Water. It is early summer in Ontario cottage country, and Pat is looking forward to a relaxing two months at the lake. Then all hell breaks loose: another family problem, a murder in the community and a fraudster who lures would-be vacationers into forwarding money to “rent” holiday homes that aren’t for rent. The third novel’s working title is Red Kayak, in keeping with my other “watery” titles, Safe Harbor and Black Water. But the title may well change by the time I’ve completed the manuscript.
Diane: Please tell us more about your short stories.
Rosemary: My short story, “Plastic Paddies” recently appeared in Destination: Mystery!, Darkhouse Books’ collection of 16 crime stories set in popular vacation spots. And I’ve just completed another Pat Tierney story for the Mesdames of Mayhem’s second crime fiction anthology, Thirteen O’Clock, which will be released this fall. “The Sweetheart Scamster,” a Pat Tierney story in their earlier collection, Thirteen, was a finalist for a 2014 Derringer Award.
Diane: Here's more information about Rosemary's books:
Financial advisor Pat Tierney’s world is shattered when a visitor to her office tells her that Pat’s late husband is the father of her seven-year-old son. Pat is even more shocked when the woman bolts from the office, leaving young Tommy behind. When Tommy’s mother is found murdered the next day, police say that the boy may be the killer’s next target. In a race to protect Tommy, Pat uncovers a deadly scheme involving illegal immigrants and money laundering.
Safe Harbor Amazon link: http://amzn.to/wAQpJN
From Diane's 5* Review:
The stories of all the characters are expertly intertwined by a talented author, who makes the reader care what happens to Pat Tierney and her small family. I held my breath when danger loomed and sighed with relief when...you'll need to find out for yourself. If you enjoy mystery, suspense, and a bit of romance this is a book that gives you everything in one place.
When Pat Tierney’s daughter, Tracy, asks her to help find her sweetheart, Jamie, their mother-daughter relationship is stretched to the limits. Pat heads out to cottage country where Jamie grew up and where an elderly man recently perished in a suspicious fire. And she learns that Jamie is the prime suspect in the man’s death.
Black Water Amazon link: http://amzn.to/16KEGUk
From Diane's 5* Review:
The second book in the Pat Tierney Mystery series is a real nail biter. When Pat's daughter Tracy first introduced her new "partner," Pat freaked out. Now she faces a new problem. Her daughter's lover, Jaimie Collins, is missing and the police think she murdered a man. Tracy begs her to find Jamie, but Pat must unravel the murder to accomplish the task. Can she restore her relationship with Tracy?...I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys mysteries and adventure.
Rosemary: Thank you, Diane, for inviting me here today.
Please keep in touch by vising my website at http://www.rosemarymccracken.com/, my blog at http://rosemarymccracken.wordpress.com/, my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rosemarymccracken?ref=tn_tnmn, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RCMcCracken.