Interview: Radine Nehring, A Portrait to Die For

Carrie discovers two versions of a supposedly original portrait in a loan exhibition at Crystal Bridges of American Art, where she does volunteer work. When the reporter who interviewed Carrie at the museum is abducted, Carrie must choose between honoring her promise to stop crime-solving–or work to find the woman who was her son’s college friend.


Q: Tell us about your protagonist Carrie. Who is she, what motivates her?

A: Carrie’s parents were both school teachers, and she–an only child–was born when they were in their 30’s and their marriage was well established. This established life extended to household work and meal preparation. While Carrie was encouraged in all intellectual pursuits, she did not learn housekeeping skills, and, when she married at age 30 she had never cooked a meal. Her husband, Amos McCrite, was a highly regarded criminal lawyer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He had been seeking a suitable wife when he met Carrie in the Tulsa City-County Library after she, a research librarian, was assigned to help him find needed information. He observed her on several returns to the library and eventually proposed, explaining his need for an educated, presentable companion to share his life and accompany him to business-related social events. Carrie wanted a home of her own and children, so, though he promised friendship but no love affair, she accepted, moving into Amos’s luxurious home and enjoying the services of his long-time cook and other household staff. Throughout the mystery series featuring Carrie, the fact she can’t cook becomes a source of ongoing humor, and some of her excessively simple recipes are featured in the back of each book.

The McCrite’s son Rob was born a couple of years after their marriage and following that, Amos’s interest in sharing any physical relationship with Carrie disappeared, though friendly companionship blossomed.

After Amos’s death, Carrie’s friends and family urged her to sell her home and move to an apartment or retirement community in Tulsa. She balked, and, showing the beginnings of a streak of independence, said she was going to move to Arkansas and build a home on land in the Ozarks she and Amos had purchased for future retirement.

That’s when her adventures begin.

Q: How much of you is in Carrie? How would you feel about her if you met her in real life?

A: People have asked me if Carrie is at all like me. At first I said a firm “No,” but now I would waver. There are a lot of my own life observations that are mirrored in her. Of course she is more daring, smarter, and opinionated than I am (!) but, since I have spent many, many hours inside her thoughts and speech over the years I understand her, and suspect that there is more of me in Carrie than even I am aware of now. Her “busy-body” interest in seeing if she can help people in trouble is familiar to me, though, in my case, it’s never led me into danger from anyone on the wrong side of the law.

Meet her in real life? Ooh, I’d love to. I think her surface self-assurance would awe me–though once we got past formalities, I believe we could be good friends.
Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

A: Well, of course they do, they’re human after all. What? Oh, well naturally I mean, though they only exist in fiction, I try to make them as real as possible. Henry is coming to terms with trauma experienced during his long career as a homicide detective in Kansas City. He’s also learning (after a disastrous first marriage) what love really means. Carrie is learning to not be so self-focused. She’s more open, and her religious faith is increasing.

Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

A: No, and it shocked me the first time I heard a mystery writer say they had done so. Now I realize that some authors do think of a specific antagonist when they commit murder (in a story) but I never have. For one thing, I’ve never met anyone I’d like to kill. (S’truth.)

 

Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

A: Settings in my novels are real down to the last doorknob and wildflower, and that means I need to pick story locations I consider worthy of this attention. Yes, it makes extensive research necessary, but I feel honor-bound to do my chosen locations justice. Anyone visiting one of these places could follow my story on site with book in hand.
Settings are always one of Arkansas’s special locations. For example, I have set two novels and several short stories in various state and national parks here.

I spend quite a bit of time choosing a setting, and it’s only after ascertaining that the setting says “story” to me that I begin to write. The plot and crime in each of my novels arise from what is plausible in the chosen setting.

Angela_Lansbury

Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
A. Ho, ho. . . what a delicious dream. But, you know, I can’t think of how I’d cast my people, especially Carrie and Henry. I am not a movie-goer today, and my favorite TV characters have moved beyond a plausible age range for my people. Angela Lansbury as I knew her in the “Murder She Wrote” series would have made a perfect Carrie, though Carrie is shorter and rounder than Ms. Lansbury.

Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
A: Best: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself–write what only you can write.” Worst: “Never write dialect.”

 


About The Author

For more than twenty years, Radine Trees Nehring’s magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the people, places, events, and natural world near her Arkansas home.

 

 

In 2002, Radine’s first mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, was published and, in 2003 became a Macavity Award Nominee. Since that time she has continued to earn writing awards as she enthralls her original fans and attracts new ones with her signature blend of down-home Arkansas sightseeing and cozy amateur sleuthing by active retirees Henry King and Carrie McCrite King.

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