Win a print copyAfter horse trainer and rancher Annie Carson visits a feedlot in eastern Washington, she is determined to save as many horses from slaughter as possible before hightailing it back home—until she discovers the sleazy owner seemingly trampled in his corral. With the fate of the feedlot herd in her hands, Annie must navigate unfamiliar territory while trying to track down a killer and solve an increasingly tangled mystery. But unfortunately for Annie, returning to the Olympic Peninsula alive will be trickier than she ever imagined.
Interview with author Leigh Hearon
Leigh, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential! Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
Annie Carson is a 40-something Western horse trainer and sheep rancher, born and raised in a rural part of the Olympic Peninsula. She’s good friends with the local Sheriff and several deputies through their shared work in animal rescue missions. Annie’s a loner, mostly by necessity—taking care of her flock and horse herd consume most of her time. She sets a high bar for human conduct, and doesn’t tolerate perceived slackers, known liars, or people who cheat. Her mouth is one of her most dangerous weapons, although she does tote a .30-.30 Winchester with her on occasion. Annie lives alone, and except for one half-sister who was briefly dumped on her doorstep, she has no other family or truly close friends. When we meet her, Annie has no love interest. That aspect of her life soon changes.
Are you and Annie anything alike?
My husband is convinced I’m the spitting image of Annie. He’s the first to read what comes off the printer, and when I bring in a sheaf of new chapters and ask him where I left off, his invariable response is, “You were just about to….” Friends say they hear me talking when they read Annie’s dialogue.
For the record, I am not Annie. For one, she is a far better horsewoman than I am. Annie also likes single malt, and the stuff just gives me a headache. However, we probably do share some inherent traits, and I like Annie very much. If we were to meet, I’d probably be a bit intimidated. She’s accomplished so much by herself, and has solved more murders in a single year than I’ve cracked in my 25 years as a private investigator.
Do your characters change and evolve as the series progresses?
Absolutely, starting with Annie. At the start of book 1, Annie would much rather hang out with her horses than almost any other human, and isn’t shy about saying so. When Marcus Colbert, the prime suspect in the murder of his wife, appears on the scene, she is instantly smitten—and convinced of his innocence, of course. In this and the next two books, Annie frequently agonizes about the chances of the relationship’s success, given their disparate backgrounds. The decision to let Marcus into her life forces Annie to fully trust another human being, something she hasn’t done in a very long time. So far, everything seems to be working. In fact, in book 4 (out in July 2018), Annie and Marcus have their first fight, a true sign that the relationship is beginning to take root!
Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?
This is rhetorical, right? All of my characters are blends of people I’ve met and known over the years, so it’s impossible for me to fictionally slay a specific human being I’ve known in real life. That being said, there are times when the ability to kill someone off or subject to adverse circumstances on the written page is just too tantalizing to resist. No honest writer will disagree with that. In fact, I think having this literary outlet is quite healthy. Now, when someone really ticks me off, I don’t get mad. I just make a mental note to include them in my next novel, where I can deal with his or her behavior using my own dangerous weapon—my words.
How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?
Suwana County is a fairly transparent double for Jefferson County in Washington State, where I live. A few of my friends think I should have skipped the overlay and just made it true to life. I have refrained from doing this simply because I need the ability to transform the landscape to suit my literary needs. My latest book, Unbridled Murder, takes place in Eastern Washington, which I’ve visited and traveled through many times. The environment is the same, but the towns don’t exist, nor the people in them.
When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major parts?
Sandra Bullock, Kyra Sedgwick, or Julia Roberts for Annie. They’re all a few years older than she is, but then, so am I, and I can’t think of three smarter, sassier women to portray Annie Carson than the women I’ve seen so often on the silver screen (or HDTV).
As far as Marcus, I’m on the proverbial fence. He’s always been a bit amorphous to me when I picture him in my mind’s eye. Kind of a Cary Grant humor and good looks, but since Cary is no longer with us, I don’t have another actor in mind. But I’ll happily accept suggestions!
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve heard or received as an author?
Best advice has been to write what you know and love, without worrying about what the reading public might want, but also to be extremely proactive in promoting your book. Worst advice? To think about tabling the writing if you’re not going to be a famous, rich, best-selling author. That’s not the reason I write. Although a girl can dream, can’t she?
About The Author
Leigh Hearon began her own P.I. agency, Leigh Hearon Investigative Services, in 1992. Her cases have appeared on In the Dead of Night, Forensic Files, 48 Hours, Court TV, City Confidential, Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted, and CBS Evening News with Connie Chung. Hearon was an avid rider of horses throughout her childhood. She currently has a Saddlebred mare, Jolie Jeune Femme, and enjoys watching Jolie and two rescue mares cavort on a fifty-five-acre farm she shares with her husband. Visit her on the Web at leighhearon.com, on Facebook and Twitter.