Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Interview with novelist Kathryn Schleich

My special guest today is writer Kathryn Schleich. She’s chatting with me about her new crime thriller, Salvation Station.

Kathryn Schleich has been a writer for thirty years. Her most recent publications include the short story “Reckless Acts,” featured in After Effects: A Zimbell House Anthology, and her story “Grand Slam,” published in The Acentos Review in May 2017. She is the author of two editions of the book Hollywood and Catholic Women: Virgins, Whores, Mothers, and Other Images, which evolved from her master’s thesis. Her guest posts have been featured on the Women On Writing blog, The Muffin, and she writes for the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s volunteer newsletter. When she’s not writing, Schleich is likely volunteering in the education and arts communities in the Twin Cities, where she lives. Friends, family, good food, wine, and traveling are important aspects of her life. Salvation Station is her first novel.

Welcome, Kathryn. Please tell us about your current release.
Salvation Station is a crime thriller published by She Writes Press.

When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.


“Salvation Station is your next must-read mystery. Kathryn Schleich perfectly blends together a taut tale of murder in the church. A devilishly good tale.” —CARA LOCKWOOD, USA Today best-selling author of I Do (But I Don’t)

“Salvation Station is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning thriller that might possibly leave you unable to sleep. This book is what we need in the world right now—a killer we can hate and a model cop we can get behind, showing us that women are as fierce as men and then some.” —MARGO DILL, Managing Editor, WOW! Women On Writing

What inspired you to write this book?
Two specific instances inspired Salvation Station. First, I worked with law enforcement trying to solve a suspicious death in my family (unfortunately we didn’t, too much time had lapsed). But I was fascinated with how the police actually work. And second, I was married to a Catholic deacon over 20 years. During that time, I witnessed first-hand a very dark side to religion. I’m not just speaking about hypocrisy among the ‘faithful’, but the often disturbing elements of lying, fraud, and taking advantage of others. Add to that the sex abuse scandal within Church. Other faiths have sexual outrages, but generally other religions are not the immense hierarchy the Catholic Church is and don’t merit the same amount of attention. What all these examples have in common I think is the inconceivable breach of trust, a major theme in the book.

Excerpt from Salvation Station:
His voice was as smooth as good Kentucky sipping whiskey, the southern lilt forceful yet refined. Among the crowd, a few responded, “Amen!” as the Reverend Ray Williams, his body six foot three inches of sinewy muscle, strode across the cramped stage on a mission to save and assessed his sparse flock. The set was tightly confined; on TV, the lighting, color, and camera angles would give the illusion of spaciousness.

“Remember what the Bible tells us in John, chapter eight, verse twelve. Jesus proclaims, ‘I am the light of the world! Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life!’ Believe in Him and I tell you, brothers and sisters, all who accept Jesus Christ will have everlasting life!”

Rev. Ray had done this work long enough to know everything looked better on television, except the numbers. For five years, he’d courted an audience from a low-power cable TV station in St. Louis, confident his message would attract followers looking for salvation. A couple thousand worshippers invited The Road to Calvary into their homes, but it wasn’t enough. He had spent more of his own money than he cared to admit; however, expenses kept rising, and there was relentless competition for viewers, members, and revenue.

Even now, Ray was conflicted in his decision to close what had seemed a promising venture. He’d never lost his enthusiasm or the feeling he was indeed proclaiming the word of God and news of salvation. Ray knew everyone was a sinner, including himself. He hoped The Road to Calvary would spur people to rise above their sins, accept the Good News, and find the true meaning of Christ in their lives. The reverend smiled warmly at his audience and motioned for them to stand. “Let us share our belief in Jesus Christ by praying together our prayer of deliverance.”

The congregation rose to their feet and repeated the words they had come to know by heart: “Lord Jesus, I believe in You. I believe You died for my sins and rose again to save me from a world mired in sin . . .”

At the prayer’s end, a cheerful male voice yelled off stage left, “That’s a wrap!”

The prayerful opened their eyes. Ray bid his flock goodbye. “Thank you for joining us, and see you next week for another taping.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
Currently, I have two short stories I’m seeking to publish. Later in 2020 or early 2021 I will rerelease Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace, a novel which I published in 2008 under a pen name. It’s primarily a domestic thriller based on true events. The reviews have been so positive that I decided to relaunch the book for a larger audience. Lastly, I’m half-way through writing a mystery set in a rural college town.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I really considered myself a writer when I wrote my master’s thesis in the early 1990s on the image of Catholic women in Hollywood films. That evolved into my first book, Hollywood and Catholic Women: Virgins, Whores, Mothers, and Other Images. It’s essentially a college textbook which has been used around the country.

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 have a chronic illness, so often it depends on how I’m feeling. My goal is to write every day, but it’s not just my own pieces I work on. I’m very involved in volunteering with a local foundation (the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota) and I do quite a bit of writing articles on their programs and amazing volunteers for their newsletter and/or website. I also have my blog and other volunteer activities. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have to be by myself, with no noise or other distractions. When I see people happily writing away on their laptop in a coffee shop, I can’t for the life of me figure out how they do it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A nurse, like my mom, Louise. There was only one problem – I couldn’t stand the sight of blood!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog, Lisa!


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