Mystery author Stephanie Gayle is here today talking about all things writing, as well as her new novel, Idyll Threats.
Stephanie Gayle is the author of My Summer of Southern Discomfort. She’s twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction, which has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Potomac Review, Minnetonka Review, and elsewhere. She co-created the popular Boston reading series, Craft on Draft. When not writing, she is often playing board games. Her Settlers of Catan skills are exquisite.
Welcome, Stephanie. Please tell us about your current release.
Idyll Threats is the first in the Thomas Lynch mystery series.
In the summer of 1997, Thomas Lynch arrives as the new chief of police in the sleepy town of Idyll, Connecticut. The citizens are shocked when young college grad Cecilia North is found murdered on the town’s golf course. By chance, Chief Lynch met her hours before she was killed. With that lead, the case should be a slam dunk - but there’s a problem. If Lynch tells his detectives about meeting the victim, he’ll reveal his greatest secret—he’s gay.
So Lynch works angles of the case on his own. Meanwhile, the mayor is applying pressure to solve the crime before the town’s biggest tourist event begins. Lynch must also cope with the suspicions of his men, their casual homophobia, and the difficult memories of his former NYPD partner’s recent death.
What inspired you to write this book?
I knew I wanted to write about a cop in an extreme situation where he had to keep secrets. But until all but the penultimate draft, one of the secrets was that the murder victim’s ghost talked to him. Inspiration came from decades of reading mysteries and watching a lot of police procedurals on TV. When I was in high school, a man was brutally murdered in my small town and I think that informed some of my story, though I didn’t realize what an influence this was until I reviewed the case in old newspapers.
Excerpt from Idyll Threats:
In my office, tilted back in my chair, I contemplated options. How to get them to the cabin. Call in a tip? Or cut out the middleman? Leave a pink slip on Wright’s desk, saying Cecilia had been seen at the cabin. He wouldn’t check who took the tip call until he’d swept the cabin. My gut rumbled. Manufacturing evidence. Did I want to start down that path?
“Needs must,” my gran used to say when I’d complain about chores.
I used the phrase on rookies, years later, when they’d moan about having to interview a drunk whose pants stank of his own filth. “Needs must,” I’d say, and the men would laugh and say, “Ah, lay a little more of that Irish wisdom on us.”
I missed that camaraderie, the quick laughter at jokes heard a hundred times. Idyll wasn’t friendly despite the locals’ insistence to the contrary. Newcomers were subject to suspicion. And I had secrets to guard. I didn’t trust my men here to keep them. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
I could put the pink slip on a desk before any of them arrived tomorrow.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on the second novel of the Thomas Lynch series. In this one there’s less murder, more kidnapping. I like to keep my criminal skill set varied!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I told people I was a writer after my first novel, My Summer of Southern Discomfort, was sold. But I was a writer before that. I just didn’t feel like I could claim the title without a published novel. Psst, aspiring authors, you can!
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work in the Finance department of the MIT Media Lab from 8-5, Monday to Friday. I sacrifice a lot of my after-work and weekend hours to write. Occasionally I’ll take a “vacation” day and stay home and write. I tried writing before work a few times in the early morning hours. It did not go well.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I type with two fingers. Quickly! But two fingers.
Hee hee. That’s funny!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut, writer, teacher, Wonder Woman, cartoonist, mother, spy, lawyer.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Read what you love, and never apologize for it!
Thanks, Stephanie! Happy writing!