Friday, November 3, 2017

Interview with mystery author Connie Johnson Hambley

Today’s special guest is mystery author Connie Johnson Hambley. She’s chatting with me about her suspense novel, The Wake.

You can also come ‘meet’ and chat with Connie live on Sunday night, Nov 5th, 7-9PM EST, at The Writer’s Chatroom.

Connie Johnson Hambley grew up on a dairy farm in New York and had plenty of space to ride one of her six horses. All would have been idyllic if an arsonist hadn’t torched her family’s barn. Bucolic bubble burst, she began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, real and imagined. After receiving her law degree, she moved to Boston and wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nature and other wonky outlets as she honed her skills of reaching readers at a deep emotional level.

Connie embraces the changes in the publishing world by being both traditionally and independently published. Her high-concept thrillers feature remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes and walk the reader on the razor’s edge between good and evil. Connie delights in creating worlds where the good guys win–eventually. Her short story, Giving Voice, won acceptance in New England’s Best Crime Stories: Windward, published by Level Best Books, and will be joined by Black Ice in the 2017 Level Best release of Snowbound. The third book in The Jessica Trilogy, The Wake, joins The Charity and The Troubles (a Best Fiction winner at the 2016 EQUUS Film Festival in New York City). She keeps horses in her life by volunteering as a horse handler at a therapeutic riding center. Connie is a board member and Featured Speaker of Sisters in Crime.

Welcome, Connie. Please tell us a little bit about your new release, The Wake.
World-class equestrian, Jessica Wyeth, is thrust into the middle of a game of geopolitical warfare. Reeling from revelations of her connection to the violent struggles to expunge Britain from Northern Ireland, she’s blocked by unseen forces from returning to the United States.

The facts of Jessica’s birth become her deepest secret. Her late mother was considered by Northern Ireland to be a terrorist and her father is a key negotiator between violent Irish Republican Army (IRA) factions in Belfast and the British Government.

Jessica vows to keep her father’s identity hidden at all costs.

Only one man knows Jessica’s truth. Michael Connaught, heir to an international crime family who profits from political uprisings, struggles with his own legacy. He is torn between protecting the woman he loves or using her secrets as a catalyst for inciting global unrest.

When a terrorist bomb rips through the crowd at the Atlanta-based Summer Olympic Games, Jessica is forced to fight for her life in ways she never dreamed.

What inspired you to write this book?
First, I wanted to complete the trilogy. I knew where I wanted the story and characters to go, and I couldn’t wait to get Jessica Wyeth’s story in the hands of my readers.

Second, but almost more important, I wanted to highlight a different equestrian discipline. My first two books bring the reader to thoroughbred racing and steeplechase, but the third book demanded a different edge.

I volunteer at a therapeutic riding stable located near me in Massachusetts. Hippotherapy is horse-based physical or emotional therapy conducted by licensed therapists. I work with clientele with a variety of challenges. . . some of the challenges they were born with, and some are the result of a catastrophic injury or event. For physical therapy, riding a horse has a rhythm and engages muscles similar to our natural walking stride. Deep core muscles required for balance are used in ways not triggered by traditional therapies. For emotional therapies, horses are herd and pray animals, meaning they have a keen sense of the emotional state of those around them–horses and humans alike. I’ve been an equestrian my whole life, and was amazed at the power of healing horses provide to people who are not able bodied or who carry emotional scars like PTSD. I knew I had to bring this discipline to mainstream thriller readers in a gripping story.

My story follows the historical timeline of the Irish Republican Army and the Good Friday Accord–the negotiations between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom for autonomous rule. When the second book, THE TROUBLES concluded, Jessica was returning to the States after a harrowing time in the Irelands. When THE WAKE begins, the timing placed her arrival three weeks prior to the Atlanta-based Summer Olympic Games. Most readers might recall the bombing that took place in Centennial Park during the games. I knew I had to weave a story around this history that would encompass therapeutic riding. And hey, I’m a thriller author, so my mind goes there.

Excerpt from The Wake:
Tuesday, July 2, 1996
Louisville, Kentucky

JESSICA WYETH’S FEET hadn’t touched the tarmac before she knew returning to the States was a mistake. The twin engine Gulfstream V made her an easy target as she paused before descending the jet’s airstairs. Arriving at the private corporate terminal didn’t stop reporters from finding her. Questions pelted her from the group gathered at the edge of the chain link fence. Dark stains under their arms appeared each time they raised their cameras, proving the hot and humid Kentucky summer could be as oppressive as they were. They strained to grab their piece of her — the fugitive who had stopped running because she had no place to hide.
Someone must have leaked that Northern Ireland had kicked her out and questioned if the U.S. would take her in.
She was news.
Strike that.
She was their meal ticket.
“Why did you flee the United States?”
“Are you worried about other charges being pressed against you?”
“If you’re innocent, why hide?”
The cool air of the Irelands faded to memory as if it had been years since she roamed its hills rather than hours. She closed her eyes and imagined erasing the tabloid hacks with a wave of her hand while finger-snapping herself back to a normal life. Instead, thick air, laden with the stench of jet fuel, hot tar, and sweat, pushed against her as she stood in the passageway. Each click of a shutter was an electric jolt pushing her dream farther away.
Two police cars flanking a large black SUV, with blue lights flashing beneath their grill, pulled up and blocked the jet’s path. The gold seal of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service proclaimed their purpose. A man with shorn hair opened the SUV’s passenger-side door and leaned his heft against its frame. His head angled toward the jet as he spoke into a radio mic pressed to his mouth. Aviator sunglasses shielded his eyes. Self-importance oozed out of him.
Uncertain and afraid, Jessica backed into the cocoon of the jet.
A man in his late twenties, dressed in a crisp uniform with “MMC, Ltd.” embroidered on the chest pocket, held her suitcase. Cabin Steward Devins avoided her eyes as he spoke. “I’m sorry, Miss Jessica. There’s an issue with your re-entry. I’m afraid that beefy lad doesn’t want your dainty toes on his soil,” he said, soft brogue keeping his inflection light. “May I suggest you wait here ‘til you’ve got clearance.”
 “Wait. You’re telling me that as soon as my feet hit the tarmac, they’ll handcuff me?” Her back thumped against the hatch frame in disbelief.
“Not so much handcuff you as provide an escort, but an armed one at that. I’ve not seen the inside of the terminal, but it’s a fair guess you’ll be more comfortable with us. We’ve been told the authorities’ presence is all quite routine.”
“Routine enough to send three police cars?” She dared another peek out to the tarmac. The staccato ticks of camera shutters trilled. “No. Something’s up.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve been gestating a new suspense novel, tentatively entitled, Finding Cally. A hardscrabble dad searches for his daughter in the labyrinth of human trafficking. Don’t hold your breath, this one’s gonna take me a while to write.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always written regardless of the job I had. I was the team member who put the ideas into order and on paper. I still hesitate calling myself an author or a writer. I’m earning my stripes and the titles will come.

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 write. Every day. This is my job (aside from caring for family and aging parents). This is it, as ugly and nutzo as that sounds. I’m currently in “Launch Mode,” so my fiction writing is suffering. A New England Winter is just around the corner, so I see some productive months ahead.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write really good chase scenes that sometimes come to me when I’m sitting in traffic. Bumper to bumper on my way to Logan airport, I began to wonder what would happen if a horse galloped across the road? Had a horse ever gotten loose from Suffolk Downs and run amuck through the neighborhoods? It’s hard to get images like that out of my head.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A cowgirl. Seriously.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you ever want to bribe me, I love champagne and crystallized ginger. Mostly one at a time, but they are my two favorite things. Just saying.


Buy links:

Thanks for joining me today, Connie! I look forward to our guest chat this Sunday night at The Writer’s Chatroom – readers, please join us! It’s free and there’s no registration or password needed.

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