Goddess Fish Promotions has organized a Virtual Book Tour for BEHIND THE BONEHOUSE by Sally Wright, a mystery available now. I hope you enjoy my interview the author.
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by Sally Wright
It wasn’t until thirty years after the attacks, and the lies, and the intricately orchestrated death, that Jo Grant Munro could bring herself to describe it all in Behind The Bonehouse. Her work as an architect, and the broodmare farm she ran with her uncle, and her husband Alan’s entire future - all hung by a thread in 1964 in the complex Thoroughbred culture of bluegrass Kentucky, where rumor and gossip and the nightly news can destroy a person overnight, just like anywhere else. It was hatred in a self-obsessed soul, fermenting in an equine lab, boiling over and burning what it touched, that drove Jo and Alan to the edge of desperation while they fought through what they faced.
When I was lying in the hospital three months or so ago, after the boys and their children had gone home, Alan came back and kissed my forehead, and said, “It’s time you wrote it down.” He handed me a spiral notebook. Which I set on the bedside table without saying a word.
I didn’t have to ask what he meant. Even after I’d finished writing Breeding Ground, when I wanted to tell a whole lot more of what we’ve watched here in horse country, this memory wasn’t one I could touch. And what you won’t look at festers, especially since I’d been putting off lancing it for a good many years with conscious intent.
Once I got home, and got stronger again, I got busy with every other part of my life. Till one night I dreamt about the river, and woke up sick and sweating, and it came to me, the way it always has, when I’ve made a decision in my subconscious mind, that the time had come to get it done.
It started thirty-two years ago, months before the wounding in the river, when the Woodford County Sheriff Alan and I saw as a friend stood right here on the family farm saying words that tore our lives asunder without looking us in the eye.
It’d grown out of something we’ve all had happen—lies getting told about you by someone with implacable intent. Malicious intent, in this case, because it was no misunderstanding. It was someone setting out to twist the truth toward his own perverse purpose. It was his word and deeds against ours, which has always been part of living in this world, and will be till the last of us gets over being human.
I’d just turned thirty-four when it happened, and I didn’t have the experience then to put it in perspective. I need to try now, while I still can, because the disease that’s started eating into me makes delay a kind of denial.
I hope to appeal to readers who like classical mysteries and slightly unusual crime novels, who care about character psychology something like P.D. James'.
The structure of Behind The Bonehouse may be unexpected. Jo Grant, a woman architect and partner in a broodmare care farm in Lexington, Kentucky, looks back, in the preface and the epilogue, on want happened in the mid-1960s from thirty years on. She tells the story in the third person, describing herself like any other character, but includes excerpts from the journal she wrote in the '60s to show the intensity of the day-to-day.
The crux of the plot has to do with being unfairly accused - which we all are, in some way, in the course of our lives. Her situation is more extreme than most, but how we react is always a choice, and I think studying the internal and external conflicts is well worth the time.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
I wanted to use it as the title of one of my Ben Reese mysteries (which are based on a real life college-archivist-WWII Ranger I interviewed for years). My publisher preferred a different title, so Behind The Bonehouse rumbled around in the back of my head till I'd finished this new Jo Grant. I looked at the view of reality that underpins the story, and the dangers in the denouement, and it seemed like the perfect title to tie the two together.
Tell us a little bit about the cover art. Who designed it? Why did you use that image?
I got the rights back to my Ben Reese books from the original publishers so I could convert
then to e-books, and set about looking through the photographs I'd taken when researching the novels. I picked images of the settings to use as the covers of the e-books, and worked with graphic designers at a local copy shop, explaining what I had in mind, then choosing from their suggestions.
While I've written Breeding Ground and Bonehouse I've been going through treatments for a nasty type of cancer, and I knew I couldn't count on enough time to work again with a New York publisher, and deliberately chose to self-publish.
Once I'd finished Bonehouse, I had an idea of what the cover should look like, but didn't have a photo of my own that gave the right image and perspective. The copy center I'd worked with had gone out of business, but they put me in touch with Rene Shrodek, another young designer, who took my photos and my description of what I wanted, and came up with the images we used, then put it all together.
Who is your favorite character from the book and why?
That's hard to say. I like a lot of them for various reasons, including the maintenance man who once suffered a breakdown and is obsessed with cleaning the business he cleans as well as he possibly can.
Still, I'd have to say Jo Grant. She was a teenager during World War II (with a brother fighting in Europe), who became an architect (which is something I might've done) and has lived her life with horses. Even though we're different generations (she's in her early thirties in the mid-'60s) who've had different experiences and lived different places - I know her inside out, and watching her go through trauma is a little like watching myself. That's not to say she's the most admirable, or the most likeable, but I connect with how she loves the ones she loves, and the depth of her impatience, while she struggles to become the kind of person she thinks she ought to be.
Give an interesting fun fact, or a few, about your book or series.
The blow suffered by the founder of the equine pharmaceutical company in Behind The Bonehouse, which plays a large part in the plot, essentially happened to my parents. My father was an orphan raised in an orphanage who became a chemist against high odds and started a ma-and-pa scientific company. He had work stolen twice, and I took one of those instances and fictionalized it in another business.
Also, Jo Grant's horse, Sam, is very much my favorite horse, Max. Writing about Sam lets me relive my life with Max, who died at 32, after being a friend for years. I talk about what happened to Max's eye in the Ben Reese book Watches Of The Night, which he learned to live with, with patience and goodwill, and trust me more as well.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I've been doing research for the third Jo Grant novel for five or six months. A whole new family business will be introduced - an equine vet practice in which the founder's passed away, leaving a newly hired vet in charge. He makes changes that the widow and son begin to think are bad business, and others he hides well that may not be ethical. Jo will have refurbished the ruined log cabin on her farm, and the widow will rent that, becoming a close friend of Jo's.
I'm hoping my health troubles won't interfere with the writing.
Do you have any tips for readers, or advice for other writers trying to get published?
If you really are a writer, you'll care more about the writing - about perfecting the book itself - than you do about getting published. Getting rejected teaches that well. If what you want is fame and money, the chances are slim to none. I think writing's a calling - that'd we'd keep on writing even if we weren't getting published because it's that compelling to us.
Breeding Ground, Wright’s most recent novel, is the first in her new Jo Grant mystery series, which has to do with the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky. Wright is now finishing the second Jo Grant novel.
Sally and her husband have two children, three young grandchildren, and a highly entertaining boxer dog, and live in the country in northwestern Ohio.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Bonehouse-Grant-mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B01DTFFLZQ/
Sally Wright will be awarding copies of several of Sally Wright's books to a randomly drawn U.S. (only) winner via rafflecopter during the tour.