Today’s special guest is mystery author Lynn Chandler Willis. She's chatting with us about her new novel Wink of an Eye and more.
Lynn Chandler Willis is the first woman to win the PWA Competition in over 10 years. She has worked in the corporate world, the television news business, and the newspaper industry. She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance of her children and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel. She lives in Randleman, North Carolina.
Welcome, Lynn. Please tell us about your current release.
Wink of an Eye is a mystery set in the real town of Wink, Texas. The main character is a private eye named Michael “Gypsy” Moran who has a bad habit of becoming involved in situations that lead to trouble and usually threaten to cut his life a little short. In Wink of an Eye, he's on the run from a case gone bad in Vegas and heads home to Wink. While staying with his sister, he reluctantly agrees to look into the apparent suicide of the father of one of her former student's. Of course nothing's ever simple with Gypsy so that investigation leads to a twisted, expansive plot of kidnapping, human trafficking, murder and corruption. And an old girlfriend, who may or may not be involved.
What inspired you to write this book?
I've had the character of Gypsy in my head for a long time. I had made several attempts throughout the years to bring him to life in different stories—with different names—but nothing ever clicked. The plot wasn't right or there was no chemistry between the supporting characters, something was just off with it as a whole. Then I saw the movie No Country for Old Men and I absolutely fell in love with the setting. The dirt, the relentless heat, the unforgiving landscape...I knew that's where this character I'd carried for so many years, Gypsy, belonged. I took his personality and the setting and kept working with it until I had a plot in mind. So in this case, with Wink of an Eye, I built the plot around the character rather than starting with the plot.
Excerpt from Wink of an Eye:
When twelve-year old Tatum McCallen finds his father, a deputy sheriff, hanging from a tree in their west Texas backyard, he sets out to restore his dad's honor and prove he didn't kill himself. He and his disabled grandfather hire reluctant Private Investigator Gypsy Moran, who has his own set of problems. Like a double-cross that sent him fleeing Vegas in the middle of the night.
Gypsy agrees to help the kid and his grandfather, Burke, because he feels sorry for them. Burke, a former deputy sheriff now confined to a wheelchair is all Tatum has left. When Tatum shows Gypsy a private file his dad had been keeping, Gypsy knows the kid's father was on to something when he died. Eight missing girls, a cowardly sheriff, and undocumented workers are all connected to the K-Bar Ranch.
Gypsy is quite familiar with the K-Bar Ranch. Before running off to Vegas, he spent his summers as a teenager working for ranch owner Carroll Kinley while romancing Kinley's beautiful daughter Claire. But Claire, now married to a state senator, is managing the ranch now and is more involved with the case Tatum's father was secretly investigating than Gypsy wants to admit.
Aided by adolescent Tatum and reporter Sophia Ortez, Gypsy begins pulling the pieces of the puzzle together, but it could end up costing him his life. Or worse—Tatum's life.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm in the finishing stages of NoBody's Baby, a mystery set in the North Carolina mountains. It's about what happens when a small town newspaper owner and publisher finds a friend murdered and the conflict that arises with the local sheriff when a newspaper publisher is actually part of the investigation.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day I heard my daughter tell a friend that her mother was “a writer.” I could have received every award there was to win, signed multi-book seven-figure deals and not felt as validated as I did that day.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full time but for the most part it's in the evening and on weekends. I'm the full time baby-sitter to eight of my nine grandkids. Four are in elementary and middle school and four are still in that really weird, and tiring, not quite preschool-not quite toddler stage. Exhausting work! I carry my laptop with me wherever I go and keep my WIP open at all times so I grab a sentence, or paragraph, when I can.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I devise a “playlist” of music I associate with whatever piece I'm working on before the first word is ever put to the page. Most of the time when I'm truly writing rather than grabbing a sentence or two here or there, that playlist is playing on a loop. If the music is right, it puts me there—in the zone—and I can visualize every scene I write.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It may sound corny, but, really, a writer. Oh, and then there was a time that I wanted to be the White House Press Secretary.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope they enjoy Wink of an Eye as much as I enjoyed writing it. Gypsy is such a fun character. He's so likeable. I hope readers think so, too.