Today's special guest is novelist Kathryn Rogers. She's chatting with me about her debut paranormal mystery, Memphis Hoodoo Murders.
Kathryn Rogers is a Memphis native with an affinity for local BBQ and blues rock-n-roll. As a licensed therapist, she holds her Master’s in Counseling and Psychology, and as a licensed educator, she holds her Bachelor’s in Education. Her experience providing counseling services to the community prepared her to expound upon the psychological issues her characters wrestle with in her stories. She currently lives in Jackson, Mississippi with her husband, playful preschooler, and rambunctious Labrador Retrievers. Her debut novel Memphis Hoodoo Murders was published in August 2015 by Sartoris Literary Group.
Welcome, Kathryn. Please tell us about your debut release.
Memphis Hoodoo Murders is like an Alfred Hitchcock story – Memphis style.
Addie Jackson has witnessed people trying to kill her family her entire life, and now her grandparents’ attackers are hunting her. The Memphis police are never able to catch these crooks since the cops have been bewitched to stay away. Her grandparents, Pop and Grandma, habitually lie to Addie, but she is attentive enough to overhear the secrets they keep from her. In her predictive dreams, Addie regularly sees future events, which disturb her, but to her dismay, she has never been able to stop them from coming true. She often dreams of a dark character, who she is later shocked to discover is the Man, a devil from hoodoo legend.
Addie is disturbed to discover she is being stalked by a witch doctor named Hoodoo Helen. To make matters worse, the more secrets Addie uncovers, the more danger she finds. Addie presses Grandma for answers about the power behind the ring and pocket watch she often toys with, but Grandma remains tight-lipped. Knowing their deaths are imminent, Grandma makes a deal with the hoodoo devil to take care of Addie, and Addie is later horrified to discover that her beloved family has been murdered. John, a family friend, steps in to help Addie, and she soon realizes he knows more about her family’s tainted past than she ever has. Addie begins receiving cryptic letters from her deceased grandmother, which reveal a shocking family history revolving around slavery, time travel, and magic.
If Addie can survive jail, her cousin’s abduction, threats from a menacing gang, corrupt law enforcement, and hoodooed attacks, maybe she can finally dream of a future where she will be safe and free.
What inspired you to write this book?
The idea for Memphis Hoodoo Murders hit me like a lightning bolt at 5AM in the summer of 2008. I was in a fishing boat with my husband on the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Brandon, Mississippi; he’s the fisherman – not me, so I always have a book or two with me since I like to read while the boat rocks. It’s a running joke that when we go fishing, I doze in the boat until at least 8AM since I am certainly not the morning person in our relationship. However, this day was different, because I sat straight up in the boat and announced to him that I was going to write a book. He raised an eyebrow and said, “That’s great. You should do that sometime,” as he tried to figure out why his wife was alert at this ungodly hour. However, he didn’t understand that I intended to start immediately. I grabbed a flashlight, a legal pad, and a pen and began writing in the dark, because the story was calling to me, and it was too loud to ignore. I had always wanted to write a book, but I had not received an idea I felt was worth reading until then. This was seven years ago, and I have been writing about that story and those characters ever since.
Excerpt from Memphis Hoodoo Murders:
If I told you that people had been trying to kill my family and me my entire life, you would probably just think I was being paranoid, but it's not paranoia if it's real.
Sometimes healthy people run for exercise, and oftentimes energetic individuals run for fun. In my neck of the woods, you run just to stay alive. Today I only hoped that the gang members didn't murder me so I could make it home in one piece. My legs were pumping so hard I thought they might fall off.
Grandma and Pop would tell you I'm petite and pretty when really I'm short and perfectly ordinary. I don't look anything like them except that we are all small in stature, though I'm so little I look like a shrimp by comparison. I have straight, brown hair with no bangs, smooth skin, and sharp, green eyes. I've never dressed fancy as I've never had much to begin with. Besides, in my neck of the woods, when you get something shiny, folks try to take it or talk about you for having it, so the more you blend in, the better off you're bound to be.
“Hey, short stuff! You with the ponytail! I told you to get over here!”
It was my favorite neighborhood thug heckling me.
Just don't trip. Whatever you do, don't trip, Addie.
The limb from the fallen tree did not hear my inner monologue, because my foot caught on the log and slung me onto the sidewalk.
“I told you there was no point in running from us," he said coldly. "We always get what we want.”
I winced in pain and grabbed my right knee, which was running red. I felt like a bleeding fish in the middle of a shark tank.
Show no fear. Don't cry.
I forced myself to stand and face my antagonists. Their clothes and tattoos were clearly reflective of the Memphis gang, the Skullbangerz—not that I would be privy to any admission from them about this.
“Ouch! Looks like you got a boo-boo," said a slim, jumpy guy, eyeing me from the stems up. "Want me to kiss on you to make it all better?”
“No, thanks—you're really not my type,” I said, thankful I had enough spirit to sound snarky.
“Oohh, she's a feisty one. I like that in a lady,” he toyed dangerously with me.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I have another story I’m working on right now, but it's top secret at the moment.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, and my childhood dream was to write books. However, I later went into education and counseling, because I wanted to help people, so I now have a career as a therapist and a passion for writing. I enjoy the creative outlet which writing affords me, and it gives me a natural high I don't get anywhere else.
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 provide counseling services full-time and write in the evening and on the weekends whenever I have a spare moment. My work day consists of helping people get back on the paths they were meant to be on, encouraging folks when they are downtrodden, and providing supportive therapy to clients of all ages. My experience as a therapist has played a pivotal role in developing my ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. This is particularly beneficial in writing as it helps tremendously in understanding why people would respond in a particular way, what they might be feeling, what motivates them, what their flaws and strengths are, etc.
I’m a Memphis, Tennessee native currently living in the Jackson, Mississippi area with my husband, preschooler, and two dogs. I love to drink coffee, listen to music, go to the movies, spend time reading, and enjoying family and friends.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I will write wherever I am if an idea hits me. If I’m in the grocery story, I scribble what the characters are saying down on the back of my shopping list. If I’m in traffic, I will pull over and write on the back of my fast food receipt. If I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, I type it into the notepad on my smart phone. I tell my husband, “Hold on a minute” a lot whenever something hits me that I want to write down before I lose it. I can always edit it later, but I can’t edit what I don’t write down.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I kept my nose in a book a lot. I wanted to create mysteries like the Nancy Drew stories I loved so much. I am excited that I am finally getting to do just that. My Mom used to joke that she needed to get me a sign advertising that I could dish out advice for 5 cents like Lucy on Peanuts since I was always trying to help somebody. I suppose it’s no surprise that I am now a counselor and a writer.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
It seems that most of the time I talk to readers about my writing, they tell me how they have always wanted to be a writer but aren’t sure how to pull it off, and they want advice about how to make it. I always tell them that the writers who become authors are the ones who didn’t quit. It took me seven years and three re-write’s with countless edits before Memphis Hoodoo Murders was ever under contract for publication. I could have given up countless times, but the story haunted me and wouldn’t leave me alone.
Stories of writers like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer who were Mom’s like myself and who made it in the writing world gave me hope when I felt like giving up. So, if you want to get published, don’t give up. And if you feel discouraged, read about people we would never have heard of if they had accepted defeat. All of this helped me keep going when it would have been much easier to quit.
I love connecting with readers on social media. I am quite active on both Twitter and Facebook and am very responsive to messages with both sites. As soon as I have other novel news I can make public, I promise to share it with everyone. I plan to keep writing for a long time.
Thanks for being here today, Kathryn!