M.L. Rowland had her first novel, “Zero-Degree Murder,” published recently. On Tuesday, March 25, she and some other writers will be at the Schuler Books and Music, 2660 28th Street SE, for a signing party as well as a meet-and-greet session. I’m inviting all of my blog readers and Facebook friends to join me/us at Schuler’s from 7 to 9 p.m. to meet Marcia and the others. She’s my cousin on my dad’s side and she and her husband, Mark, live on Colorado. I haven’t seen her much recently and I’m looking forward to kind of a mini-reunion. You’ll like her; she’s a Lamberts through and through.
That being said, following are some questions and answers I’ve put together from Marcia about “Zero-Degree Murder” and its heroine, Gracie Kincaid. Hope to see you at Schuler’s on Tuesday.
Q: What inspired you to become a writer?
A: It wasn’t a lightning bolt that just hit me one day out of the blue; it was more of an evolutionary process throughout my entire life. I love books. They’ve always been a huge part of my life—I’ve never lived in a house that wasn’t filled with books. As a child, I was read to, mostly, if not exclusively, by my father. A very early memory is him reading to me sitting on his lap in his study. I also remember going to the library with my two older sisters, pulling out books like Flicka, Dicka and Ricka, sitting on the floor and paging through them, looking at the pictures.
As a result, I became a reader at a very young age.
My oldest sister used to write and illustrate stories in those small brown, spiral notebooks. I think she was the original inspiration for me to become a writer. While I was in grade school, I wrote a couple of stories of my own, emulating her. In college and there throughout the years, I took writing classes, most significantly, I think, an imagery poetry class that proved very influential to my current writing style. Over the years, I wrote some non-fiction pieces and several screenplays. Only within the last ten years, did I turn to writing novels.
Q: Where do you come up with the ideas for your books?
A: I spent almost a dozen years as a very active volunteer on a very active Search and Rescue (SAR) team in the mountains of southern California. So, following the classic advice to write what I know, I did! The heroine in ‘Zero-Degree Murder,’ Gracie Kinkaid, is a woman on a volunteer search and rescue team in the mountains of southern California.
Because I participated in hundreds of missions and trainings (including being airlifted out by a helicopter [no injuries involved], jumping out of a helicopter into the snow on the side of a mountain and overnighting in the snow with only a sleeping bag), I had to do very little traditional research for “Zero-Degree Murder.” Much of what’s described in the book, from the setting to SAR procedures and protocol to some of the circumstances and events, is drawn from personal knowledge and experience–my own and that of other SAR members.
For instance, Gracie Kinkaid’s tumble down a steep, snow-covered mountainside was “borrowed” from my husband, Mark’s winter mountaineering accident where he slid/tumbled/fell over 400 feet, hitting rocks and trees along the way, all the while trying to use his ice axe to stop himself (‘self-arrest’). (Luckily, he finally did. His ice axe and crampons were dented, and his helmet was cracked, but he walked away with only bruises–no broken bones!)
Q: Do you have a favorite author or genre you like to read for pleasure?
A: I read whatever strikes my fancy. I love mysteries. I’ve read every Dick Francis, some multiple times, and read every new Nevada Barr that comes out. I go through long stretches of reading only the classics or books by a certain author, regardless of genre. I first read “The Lord of the Rings” when I was around 12 or 13–I loved it then and still do. I love American history, particularly the old west. I’ve read every Louis L’Amour at least once, and just finished reading Zane Grey’s “Riders of the Purple Sage” for the first time.
Q: What has been your experience with the publishing industry, both pros and cons?
A: One of the biggest surprises is how long everything in the publication process takes. From the time I was offered a publishing contract from Penguin to the actual release of the first book took almost two years. I’m constantly amazed at how genuinely nice and supportive everyone I’ve dealt with at Penguin is.
Q: Have you always wanted to write a book? Seems like a lot of people want to, but never get around to it. How did you get it together to publish?
A: I can’t remember specifically having the goal of publishing a book when was younger, but I did write stories in grade school. Later, as an adult, I wrote (but never had produced) six or seven screenplays. I didn’t turn to writing fiction until about ten or so years ago, a difficult transition for me. Writing screenplays is like building the skeleton of a story—you only write what can be seen or heard on the screen. Writing fiction is completely different … like putting the meat on the bones.
Because “Zero-Degree Murder is my first book and because I was, for all intents and purposes, learning to write fiction when I was writing it, I rewrote the book no less than ten times before it reached its current, published state.
Writing and getting a book published, especially a novel, takes nothing if not hard work and perseverance. So my best advice to anyone interested in writing and getting a book published is to work hard and, to borrow from Winston Churchill: Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.
Q: What do you hope readers get from the book?
Lots of things! A fun and compelling read for starters, one that grabs their attention and imagination from the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the end. An introduction and demystification of the world of Search and Rescue, what it’s really like, what it entails, what it requires. An awareness of survival and the concept of being prepared and, therefore, self-reliant. An exploration of the idea of facing and conquering one’s personal fears. Especially for women, an awareness that they’re stronger than they may think, capable of summoning inner reserves they may not know exist, that in acknowledging and standing up to their fears, they can conquer them.
Q: What’s your favorite part in the book and why?
A: I love that Gracie Kinkaid is smart, physically capable, skilled and proficient. Gracie has her faults and self-doubts, as everyone does, but she’s a lot stronger than she believes on so many different levels. She proves she has courage, which is not to say she’s not afraid, but she acts in the face of and in spite of the fear.
I also love Gracie and Rob’s relationship—that they come from such different backgrounds and worlds in which both are somewhat isolated or insulated, and that they find comfort and friendship in each other, that they learn different things from each other.
Q: What’s next?
A: The second book in the Gracie Kinkaid Series, “Murder off the Beaten Path,” releases in October 2014. Book 3 in the series, as yet untitled, releases in the summer of 2015.
After that, who knows? I have ideas for Gracie Kinkaid Books 4 & 5. And it would be great fun to see Gracie brought to life in television or a motion picture. Who knows to what heights she might ascend?