When the body of Maggie McFarland, an 86-year old widow, is found among the rubble of the once-famous, landmark Artemis Hotel, leveled by fire nearly seventy years ago, residents of Roscoe are shocked. However, it is not the location where Maggie is found, but rather the manner of her demise that has everyone puzzled. For it isn’t a heart attack that has felled her; nor has she suffered a stroke, or taken a fatal fall from a porch. Her life has not ended so uneventfully. Maggie has been killed by a bullet to the heart, fired from a pistol at close range. Who would possibly want to kill this kind, gentle woman, known throughout the area as one of the best trout fly tiers within a hundred miles of the famed Beaverkill River? That is the mystery that confronts Matt Davis in Broken Promises, one of the most baffling cases of his career.
Stephanie: Hello, Joe! Thank you for chatting with me today and welcome. I’m am so delighted to hear that you have won the B.R.A.G. Medallion for a second time. Your story, Broken Promises sounds thrilling and I do love a good mystery. How did you decide on your victim to be an 86-year old widow and how she would be killed?
Joe: Oh, my, that’s a doozy. Well, I hate to admit it but the original idea for the story came to me after repeatedly observing an old abandoned house over many years in the area where I generally fish. Then, in 2012, while attending the Two-Headed Trout dinner in Roscoe, I happened to find out that one of the town’s oldest and most respected fly tyers had been born there. The woman was in her 80s, and I decided to use her as the inspiration for Maggie. As far as how she was killed, well, that probably came to me in my sleep—as most of my “brilliant” ideas usually do.
Stephanie: How neat that the abandoned house you observed turned out to be where fly tyers were born. What a perfect setting and idea for a story.
Does your story take place in a small town and who are some of the people close to Maggie? And can you tell me a little about them?
Joe: The bulk of the story takes place in the little upstate New York town of Roscoe, which is a real place with about 500 permanent residents. It is known affectionately as Trout Town USA. The “real” Roscoe does not have a chief of police, nor does it have its own police force. Those were created by yours truly. However, I do have one repeating character, Frank Kuttner, who is a real local celebrity of sorts. He owns Kuttner’s Fly Shop in the nearby town of Livingston Manor. It is to him that Matt often goes for some common sense insight and advice.
The only person really close to Maggie is her granddaughter, with whom she lives. She’s known casually by all the local townspeople and the fly fishermen who purchase flies from her.
Stephanie: How fascinating and I have always wanted to visit upstate New York and you make it sound even more interesting than I originally thought.
Tell me about Matt Davis. Does he live in the same town? And how many cases has he worked on?
Joe: Matt Davis began his career in law enforcement as a homicide detective in New York City. When he was nearly killed on his last case in As the Twig is Bent, he decided to take early retirement and was offered the job of chief of police of Roscoe, where he used to go to fish the Beaverkill River. As part of his compensation package, he was given the use of a lovely cottage in town. He is married to Valerie, his second wife, who is a school nurse in the nearby town of Walton. Matt is a soft-spoken kind of man, sensitive to his wife’s needs, and inclined to live and let live. He is not particularly savvy when it comes to technology, and relies upon his intuition and “people smarts” to solve most of his cases. When you ask how many cases he has worked on, I am assuming you mean those that have been the subject of the four books to date, so I guess the answer would be four.
Stephanie: You say in your book description that this case is most baffling to Matt. Is it because of how Maggie died? Or because he knows the widow and can’t understand why anyone would want to harm her?
Joe: Probably a bit of both. After all, it’s not every day that an old woman is found shot through the heart—especially since she was well liked and had no apparent enemies. Generally, with most murder cases, there are some clues, some identifiable probable suspects. But in this case, there is nothing at all to go on.
Stephanie: How do you come up with and create your characters? Do they often surprise you or do things you don’t expect them to do?
Joe: Usually, the first thing I come up with is a germ of an idea for the story. Often I will be inspired by a news article, or perhaps a book that I have read. Then, it kind of sits there in my mind, until once day it just bubbles to the surface as a complete plot. Since we’re talking about a series, many of the characters are already in existence, except for those directly connected to the new crime. I get a lot of “writing” done in my sleep, and will often wake up at three or four in the morning and hurry into the kitchen to write down everything I can before I forget it.
Once I have the characters in my mind, the first thing I do is come up with a title. Then, I design the cover (I design all my own book covers). Finally, I design the paperback book in terms of selecting a font and laying out the page. And then, it’s off to the races. Even though I have a general idea for how the story should unfold, my characters often dictate “precisely” where it ends up. They most definitely do surprise me on occasion.
Stephanie: You definitely have the creative mind. Writers never stop thinking, our minds do not shut down.
Are there any challenges to writing mystery? How did you learn to or did it just come to you?
The biggest challenge for me is the plot, and maintaining a level of tension so the reader will want to continue to turn the pages. It definitely did not come naturally to me, but is something that I have worked very hard at, learning my craft with each successive book. I read every article I can about writing mysteries, and try to learn from them.
Stephanie: How long did it take you to work on Broken Promise?
Joe: Broken Promises took the better part of a year to write.
Stephanie: Will there be another Mat Davis mystery?
Joe: Most definitely yes, although I am giving Matt a bit of a rest right now while I work on a stand-alone thriller called Getting Even!. I expect to publish that in 2015. I already have the plot for the next Matt Davis mystery and a working title that I will announce after I publish Getting Even! I anticipate publishing the next Matt Davis mystery in 2016.
Stephanie: Ooo….tell me a little about, Getting Even. If you don’t mind.
Joe: Horace Whittaker is a recently widowed FBI Special Agent, facing mandatory retirement. Only months away from leaving the Bureau, he is assigned to a case involving a serial killer who is roaming the Interstate highway system. The relationship becomes personal after a while, and a cat and mouse contest ensues. I am consulting with both an active and a retired FBI agent on technical aspects of this book.
Stephanie: I noticed in your bio you are an avid fisherman. Can you please tell me about that?
Joe: I am an avid fly fisherman! I have been fly fishing for over 40 years, and have been tying my own flies for most of that time. In addition to fly fishing for trout (my true passion), I have, at times, also fished in saltwater for bluefish and striped bass, and in freshwater for largemouth bass. Since moving to North Carolina nearly 15 years ago, my opportunities for saltwater and lake fishing have been minimal. At one time, for nearly 10 years, I was a professional fly-fishing guide on the Beaverkill River in and around Roscoe. Because I have been going there for nearly 40 years, it was only natural that I chose Roscoe as the setting for my series. One of the biggest honors of my life occurred in spring of 2012, when the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce, in recognition of my series, invited me to be its “celebrity first caster” on the opening day of trout season.
Stephanie: Where in your home do you like to write and who are your influences?
Joe: I do all my writing in an office area, which is situated in the finished basement of my home. I share the space with my two cats, Cassie and Callie, whose litter boxes are located within “smelling distance” of my computer. Alongside and at right angles to my computer hutch is a roll-top desk, which is where I tie my trout flies. There is an exterior door with a multi-paned window that provides lot of natural light during the daylight hours. Between my writing and working on promotion and my publishing consulting business, I probably spend at least 12 hours a day at my computer.
I can’t really say that I’ve been “influenced” by any other writers in particular, with the one possible exception of the late William G. Tapply, whose Brady Coyne character was a lawyer, as well as an avid fly fisherman. I also learned a great deal from his book, The Elements of Mystery Fiction: Writing the Modern Whodunit. My wife, Becky, probably has had the most input into my work, and it is she who is my muse. Without her encouragement, help with plots, and constructive criticism, it is doubtful that I would ever have published one book, let alone the seven I have written to date.
Stephanie: What is the number one best thing about writing mystery?
Joe: I think the number one thing for me is actually two things: credible, natural-sounding dialogue; and realistic, universal characters whom readers can identify with.
Stephanie: Agreed on every score.
Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?
Joe: I wish that more readers would take the time to write and post reviews on Amazon.com and other websites—especially if they really enjoy the books. Naturally, I would hope that they would keep in mind the old adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Also, I can’t speak for other authors, but I love to hear from my readers. I have “email me” buttons throughout my website, and I always respond to correspondence. I write a blog, and nothing pleases me more than when my subject matter engenders comments from readers. My blog address is http://www.joetheauthor.wordpress.com, and my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers can find me on Twitter @authorjoep.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Joe: All four Matt Davis Mysteries, As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, and, of course, Broken Promises are available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com. A few are also available for Nook from Barnes & Noble. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook from Audible.com, and Twice Bitten and Broken Promises are currently in production and should be available this summer.
Thank you, Joe!
Joe Perrone Jr is an author whose diverse background includes time spent as a sportswriter for a prominent New Jersey newspaper, the Passaic-Clifton Herald News, and also as a freelance advertising copywriter. In addition, he has had numerous short stories published in the Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. From 1989-1999, Joe was a professional fly fishing guide on the historic Beaverkill River, located in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York State. The nearby town of Roscoe, dubbed Trout Town USA, serves as the setting for three of Joe’s four Matt Davis mysteries: Opening Day (a 2012 Indie BRAG medallion recipient), Twice Bitten, and now Broken Promises (the first in the series was As the Twig is Bent, published in early 2009). In addition to the Matt Davis mysteries, Joe also authored a fifth novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, a hilarious yet poignant look at coming of age in the tumultuous Sixties. His non-fiction works are: A “Real” Man’s Guide to Divorce (First, you bend over and…) and Gone Fishin’ with Kids (How to Take Your Kid Fishing and Still be Friends), which was co-authored with friend Manny Luftglass.
When not writing, blogging, or working with clients as part of his publishing consulting business, Escarpment Press, Joe enjoys fly fishing, fly tying, cooking (and eating), and listening to music (anything but rap or hip hop). Presently, Joe lives with his wife of 32 years, Becky, and the couple’s two cats, Cassie and Callie, in the mountains of western North Carolina.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Joe Perrone Jr., who is the author ofBroken Promises, one of our medallion at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Broken Promises merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.