Doug Carlyle grew up in Urbana, Illinois where he graduated from the University of Illinois with, of all things for a novelist, a degree in electrical engineering. After a circuitous journey that took him through 26 glorious years in the semiconductor industry, he began writing great fiction. He also married, raised a family, and relocated to the Central Texas Hill Country. Against this backdrop of mountains, valleys, live water, and wildlife, he is writing fiction intended to touch all of his readers in a very special way. Never being able to choose just one pastime, he continues to practice his 30-plus year long medical ministry as a paramedic, while filling in the gaps in his calendar writing, signing, or selling his books. Doug is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Houston Writers Guild. His debut novel, published in 2010, is a family drama titled, “In Search of the Fuller Brush Man.” It is a 2012 BRAG Medallion honoree. He published his second novel, a romantic fantasy titled, “Vinegarone,” in late 2012. His third novel was released September, 2013. It is a psychological thriller titled, “Boundaries.” “Death by Times New Roman” is his latest release. It is his initial foray into the mystery series genre, complete with a tough protagonist named Cat Kavanagh.
Hello, Doug! I am delighted to be speaking to you today. Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Death by Times New Roman.” That is wonderful. Please tell me a little about your book.
Best-selling author Bradley R. Woodbury writes a series of novels in which a woman who is down on her luck befriends a writer who pens a story of how wonderful this woman’s life could be if all was right in her world. As soon as he traps her with his charm, he stabs her in the chest one time, killing her. The knife is always the same. While the characters in these novels are fictional, the setting of each of Woodbury’s novels is a real-life small community Woodbury chooses by lottery.
Thirty days after Woodbury’s publisher releases his novel, a woman is killed in the chosen town in much the same way as the woman in Woodbury’s novel. Woodbury has written eighteen such novels. There have been eighteen murders to date. On the day he releases his novel, he announces the setting of his next book to great cheer and fanfare.
In less than a week, he will release his nineteenth novel, and announce the setting for his finale. That will be the last opportunity the FBI will have to catch this serial killer. FBI Agent Cat Kavanagh, our heroine and sleuth, must convince Brad Woodbury to write her into his final novel so she can be the bait used to catch the killer.
What a fascinating premise! How did you come up with the idea?
This is a question that has a morbid answer. Having met many literary agents early on when I was trying to go with conventional publishing, I became frustrated with the process, their less than helpful and unwanted guidance, and the acidic comments many of them made about my novels. My original idea was for an up and coming author to murder literary agents and book reviewers who didn’t like his work. He would befriend them, kill them off, then move to the next city and begin a new novel. Fortunately, I transformed this idea into one with a slightly more positive spin.
I can imagine the tension that is built in this story. Are there any challenges in writing a mystery story?
A mystery writer has to carefully choose the traits for his/her central character. Women play huge roles in all of my novels. It was a given that my protagonist would have to be a woman. Now I have to make her appeal to both male and female readers. That’s a complex mix of brains, brilliance, beauty, and brawn. Too much of one, too little of another, and your book is doomed.
Is she a hardboiled crime fighter? Does she experience fear? Does she show fear? Is she human or a super hero? My writing and female characters have been influenced by two authors in particular—Sandra Brown and Kit Frazier. As with their main characters, Cat Kavanagh’s past is full of baggage. She’s witty. She’s physical when it comes to romance. She’s fearful of some things, fearless when it comes to others. Of course she’s beautiful, but in Cat’s case, that beauty has been scarred by injuries while serving in the Army. Her past has left scars inside as well as out.
Since this novel is the first of a series, I have to develop back story that will carry forward intelligently in future installments. Death by Times New Roman sprinkles in vital snippets from Cat’s past. The story that is presented in Book 1 becomes back story for Book 2. I have found it extremely challenging to use back story wisely, and not drown in it. There is also a lot of opportunity for continuity errors in any series. People, places, dates, and references must be the same from novel to novel. With each novel in my series, the common characters have to age the same amount, and what was “ten years ago” now needs to be “twelve years ago” or something of that nature.
What is an example of how Bradley R. Woodbury interacts with Cat Kavanagh?
Once Cat breaks the ice with the eccentric Woodbury, they find they are able to open up to one another as if they were closest of friends. In this scene, Cat encounters Woodbury while she is out for her evening run. He invites her back to his house. Here is an excerpt.
The two made their way to a large, covered porch with a wooden floor. Woodbury pulled back a chair from a glass table for Cat. He then took his seat next to her. After snipping the end off of the light-colored cigar, he handed it to her. Cat smelled the cigar from end to end, rolling it beneath her nose as it passed. Her eyes closed as she relished the aroma. When she opened them, she noticed Woodbury staring at her.
“Very nice. I don’t see a band. What brand are these?”
“Anonymous. Let’s just say they are some of Fidel’s best.”
“You won’t hear me say that out loud.”
“Naughty boy. Those are illegal.”
“Oh, Christ!” Woodbury shouted in mock astonishment.
He struck a match and held it in front of Cat. She slowly puffed on the cigar as she rolled it over the flame. Before long, she was blowing rings of smoke into the air. He, then, repeated the task for himself.
“Why use a match? This is the twenty-first century.”
He took a deep breath before answering. “A lighter, my dear, uses gas or some other fuel. That taints the taste. A wooden match is a distant cousin to the tobacco leaf.”
“Spoken like an aficionado.”
“That I am.”
“Yours is different.”
“More oil in the wrapper and a darker tobacco. I’ve been smoking these for years. I save the lighter ones for persons who have more genteel qualities.”
“Yes, like you.”
“You think I’m genteel?”
“In more ways than you know.”
He spoke as eloquently as he put words on paper. Cat was mesmerized by Woodbury. Then, he brought her back to reality.
“Once more, what was troubling you tonight?”
Cat paused, hoping she could find the right words with which to share with a man who had mastered them.
“It has to do with your novel A Wort of a Life.”
“I’m embarrassed to say, this is the first novel of yours that I’ve read.”
“I can see how that’s cause for someone to go running up and down the streets at night.”
“No, I loved it.”
Cat clutched her chest as she spoke. “It affected me.”
“A good book is supposed to do just that.”
“Well, this is a great book.”
Woodbury sat quietly for a moment, sipped his scotch, looked away, and sipped his scotch again. He puffed on his cigar. “Thank you.”
He wouldn’t make eye contact with Cat. “I’ve never said that to anyone before.”
“What? Thank you?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“Certainly you must get all sorts of accolades from readers.”
He looked at Cat and nodded. “Oh, be sure of that. But I doubt their sincerity.”
“Why am I different?”
Woodbury sipped his scotch then scratched his head. “Nobody has ever sat across from me at this table and said that my work was good.”
“You mean your wife never…”
It was too late. Cat wanted to cut out her own tongue.
Woodbury took another sip and another puff. “No. She didn’t. She didn’t care for my work in the least.”
Cat couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “I’m so sorry.”
Woodbury shrugged his shoulders as he stared off into the yard.
Cat reached over and put her hand on Woodbury’s. “You’re a brilliant author and a good man, Brad Woodbury.”
“You can base that upon one book?”
“No. I’m a pretty good judge of character.”
Woodbury’s facial expression became pained. “I’m afraid your opinion of me is premature.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because of what I must do to you if you truly wish to take part in trapping a murderer as you say you do.”
“Do to me?”
“Your character in my novel and, by way of that, you.”
What are Cat Kavanagh’s strengths?
First of all, there is her physical strength. She’s extremely athletic. She is very independent. There is a raw beauty about her. She’s been toughened by events in her life: a difficult childhood, the loss of her roots, a teenage pregnancy. To move past these, she graduated college, joined the military, experienced combat situations, faced great danger, achieved the rank of Captain, and became a highly decorated soldier.
Perhaps her greatest strength is her resilience. In spite of all that life has thrown at her, she moves forward. She mentions her struggles with PTSD, but she never lets it get the better of her.
Why did you chose San Antonio, Texas as the setting for your story?
For one thing, San Antonio is a military city. Cat Kavanagh is a retired Army Captain with combat experience. I felt that there would be a huge audience for such a character.
I’ve lived in the Austin-San Antonio region since 1977. I enjoy doing book signings and meet the author events. I want to be able to hand a person a novel with content to which we both can personally relate. It makes for great discussion.
The second part of this novel is set in Cat’s home town, Gabriel, Illinois, which is loosely based on Colfax, Illinois. That’s a small town northwest of where I grew up.
As I understand it there is some historical significance in your story. Could you please tell your audience about that?
There are references to many local venues in the eclectic part of San Antonio known as “09”, short for the zip code 78209. This is a wealthy, old-money part of San Antonio that comprises the small suburbs of Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, Olmos Park, and Bel Meade. I lived in this part of San Antonio for many years. The story starts off here.
Cat graduated from my alma mater, the University of Illinois. I give my old college a showing in three of my four novels. There is mention of settings in the state of Illinois in three of my four novels. I lived in Illinois for 22 years.
On a more personal level, Brad Woodbury releases his novels every year on February 16th, which happens to be my father’s birthday.
Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?
I typically sit at the kitchen table and work on a laptop. I work mostly late in the evening so I can drink wine or scotch and not feel guilty. I rise for work at 4:15 almost every morning so getting up earlier is not practical. I write and edit, write and edit, write and edit. By the time I send my final copy off to my editor, I’ve read the novel many dozens of times.
I take one year to write, edit, and publish one novel. I will not publish rubbish. I release it before my trip to the Midwest in October each year.
My editor is my sister. She has a liberal arts degree, is an avid reader and a past librarian. This process has brought us much closer since we have lived far apart all of our adult lives.
I choose beta readers from my community of readers. I want input from “real men and women” who read a lot of fiction, not self-anointed experts. Having said that, these beta readers must have the highest of standards.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
indieBRAG discovered me. I had never heard of them until Geri contacted me. I was a member of the “Freshman Class” of honorees.
Who designed your book cover?
My youngest daughter has created my last three book covers.
Do you stick with just genre?
I write what I want to write. My first novel is a family drama, the second a romantic fantasy, the third a psychological thriller, and now I am into a crime series. I am not into zombies, vampires, or Armageddon, so don’t wait for me to write such a novel. There are plenty of authors out there to do those genres justice.
What are you working on next?
I am writing Book 2 of the Cat Kavanagh Mystery Series. It is titled, Death by the Byte. Book 3 in the series will be Death by the Stitch.
I hope to write a sequel to Boundaries once I retire. There is a lot of unfinished business I must address, and my readers are begging for a happier ending for my leading lady than I gave her in the first instalment.
Where can readers buy your book?
The easiest way is through Amazon. They sell both the Kindle version as well as print version. Presently, I do not sell my e-book through Barnes and Noble. That could change. Visit my website . All of the links are there.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Doug Carlyle, who is the author of, Death by Times New Roman, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, 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, Death by Times New Roman, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.