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Allison Campbell accepted a dream assignment: a visit to the Italian Dolomites to help Hollywood socialite Elle Rose reinvent herself. A guest cottage on the grounds of Elle’s historic castle promises to be a much-needed respite from Allison’s harried life on the Philadelphia Main Line, and the picturesque region, with its sharp peaks, rolling pastures, and medieval churches, is the perfect spot from which to plan her upcoming wedding.
Only this idyllic retreat is anything but peaceful. There are the other visitors—an entourage of back-biting expats and Hollywood VIPs. There’s Elle’s famous rock star father, now a shadowy recluse hovering behind the castle’s closed doors. And then there’s Elle’s erratic behavior. Nothing is as it seems. After a guest plummets to her death from a cliff on the castle grounds, Allison’s trip of a lifetime turns nightmarish—but before she can journey home, Allison must catch a killer.
Wendy, welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell us about your protagonist?
Wendy Tyson: Allison Campbell is Philadelphia’s premier image consultant. A dissertation shy of a PhD in psychology, she spends her days helping others reinvent themselves, but her biggest transformation was her own.
Allison had a troubled childhood. Determined to overcome an abusive family life, she decided to become a psychologist. While in graduate school, she grew close to a teenage patient who ran away and was presumed dead. Allison blamed herself. Eventually Allison moved to the Philadelphia Main Line and reinvented herself as an image consultant. She’s able to use her understanding of human nature and her own experiences as an outsider to assist others (and solve crimes), but no matter how successful she becomes, the mistakes of her past haunt her.
How much of you is in Allison?
WT: I think there is part of me in every character I write. Like me, Allison has a background in psychology. She can be driven and controlling, but has a soft spot for the underdog. And her feeling of never quite fitting in echoes with me too.
I think I would like Allison very much if I met her in real life—eventually. Allison can come across as overly reserved or determined when you first meet her, but when you get to know her you realize those traits cover up a warm personality and a streak of kindness that often works to her detriment. That may be the reason she gets involved in so many investigations.
Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?
WT: Definitely. That’s the beauty of writing a series: you get to have your characters evolve and grow both over the course of a novel and through the course of the series. For example, when we first meet Allison in KILLER IMAGE, she is quite career focused, preferring the routine and predictability of her consulting business to the messiness of personal relationships. By the end of KILLER IMAGE, she has dealt with some of her demons and has realized that messiness is part of life. By FATAL FAÇADE we see her continuing to grow and taking risks that would have been unimaginable for the Allison in book one.
Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
WT: Haha! Of course. I resist the urge, but it does occur to me now and again. What’s the saying? Mean people suck. Life is short—be kind. (Or you may find yourself on the wrong side of a mystery…)
How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
WT: For the Allison Campbell series, the setting is quite realistic. Allison works on the Main Line of Philadelphia, a wealthy suburb with prestigious schools, upscale shopping, and old money estates. I went to law school on the Main Line and I work near there now. I’ve taken some liberties, but for the most part the Main Line setting is true to life.
On the other hand, FATAL FAÇADE takes place largely in the Dolomite Mountains, in the South Tyrol region of Italy. I did spend time there while doing research for the book, so I tried to capture the essence of the area. That said, Bidero, the town over which Castle San Pietro towers, is a fictional town.
When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
WT: I’m terrible with this question. In fact, I welcome suggestions by your readers! I will say that for my Greenhouse Mystery Series, I would cast Sam Heughan (Outlander) as the sexy Scottish veterinarian, Dr. Denver Finn.
What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
WT: Worst advice? Write what you know. The fact is, you should be knowledgeable enough to know what type of research is needed and then you should do whatever’s necessary to flesh out your knowledge so your books feel authentic. In my opinion, writers should explore new areas as the basis for their work. If I only wrote about the things I knew best, I’d be writing about ERISA law—and that might put my readers to sleep.
Best advice? I’ve received a lot of good advice over the years, but one simple piece has stuck with me. Someone told me writers should be able to describe a novel in a one sentence elevator pitch. That may not seem like earth shattering advice, but it’s helped me keep my work focused and it’s been instrumental when marketing. When you have to distill a four hundred page document down into one sentence, you really need to be succinct. You need to understand who the hero is and what crisis they’re trying to overcome. I do this now after I sketch out an idea but before I write the book. It saves me time and heartache later on.
About The Author
Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.
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