Liz here, and today I’m so excited to introduce our guest, LynDee Walker, Agatha-nominated author of the Headlines in High Heels Mysteries featuring reporter Nichelle Clark. As a journalist at heart, I have been enjoying these books and loved putting my reporting hat back on to ask LynDee some questions. But first, here’s the blurb for Small Town Spin, the third book in the series:
When a superstar athlete’s son turns up dead in a tiny town on the Virginia coast, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke gets the inside scoop. But she quickly spies a gaping hole her inner Lois Lane cannot ignore.
Determined to unravel the mystery, Nichelle fights off paparazzi cameras and an unexpected rival. She uncovers an illegal moonshine operation, a string of copycat suicides, and a slew of closets stacked with more skeletons than slingbacks. Chasing a killer who’s a breath from getting away with murder, Nichelle realizes too late the culprit has her number—and it might be up.
Thanks so much for having me today, Liz! One of the best things about the past year has been making new author friends, and I’m so glad you’re among them!
1. You used to be a journalist. How much of your personality shines through in Nichelle?
I think there’s a little of me in Nichelle—the hardest part of the job for me was always asking grieving people to talk to me. And I play with my hair when I’m deep in thought. But I can barely walk in stilettos, and I’m not as quick with witty comebacks as Nichelle is. I think of what I should’ve said hours later.
I did a few big investigative pieces, but I think the sheriff wins this prize. Many folks called him crazy, and the way he got elected ended up being a fascinating study in party politics and the dangers of voting a straight ticket. It was the white onion of investigative journalism: the more layers I peeled back, the stinkier the story got. I heard from a deputy once that the sheriff called me “a faction rising from the east to destroy us, just like in the Bible.” The pastor at the church where I taught Sunday School at the time found that hilarious.
I never ended up in mortal danger, but he did assign an unmarked car to tail me for a couple of weeks. Either the deputy was lousy at undercover, or they were trying to scare me, but I’ve never quite figured out which.
3. I love Nichelle’s designer shoe fetish and the fact that she has to troll eBay for them because a journalist’s pay doesn’t support designer shoes. Has Nichelle discovered the best brand for running in stilettos, or is the jury still out?
I would’ve never thought it possible to run in four-inch heels, but I have a friend who showed me she can. I think Nichelle would be interested in Nike venturing into the high heels market, but she tells me that among major designers, all shoes are created pretty equal.
4. Who’s your favorite character to write about (besides Nichelle)?
This is a hard question! After much deliberation (that may or may not have included a round of eeny-meeny-miney-moe) I’ll go with Grant Parker. I like his “not what you might expect” personality and his self-confidence. And he’s a nice guy, too.
5. Tell us about Joey – the Mafia man.
Joey is so much fun to write, but he’s still a bit of a mystery to me. One of the things I enjoy about writing is getting to know the characters better. Joey’s tough, and suave, and very, very smart. He has a soft spot for Nichelle (though he wishes he didn’t), and his desire to keep her safe causes him a lot of headaches.
A fun tidbit about him: in my original outline (here’s part of the reason I don’t bother with them anymore) he was only supposed to show up in one scene in Front Page Fatality, to give her a story tip and shake her up a little. But he just kept popping up in the story, and now I’m attached to him.
6. Hilarity, scoops and danger aside, you’ve tackled some tough subjects in your books. Tell us about a story from your career that stuck with you.
Always, always the lost children. One Christmas, I covered a house fire where three little ones died—the firemen who carried them out broke down during the interview. I held myself together until my story was done, but completely lost it when I got home that night.
Just a month later, I did a feature on a college student who died of meningococcal meningitis. I was the only reporter his parents sat for an interview with, and I burned some serious midnight oil getting that story right. I called his mother on the anniversary of his death every year for a long time—she was such a lovely woman, and my heart broke for her all over every time we spoke.
The last big murder trial of my reporting career was a capital case where the victim was a 16-month-old girl. Best the police and coroners could tell, she died from a blow to the head when her mom’s boyfriend hit her with a baseball bat. Because she was crying. I followed that case for a year and a half, and still remember the names of all the major players more than a decade later. The guy ended up sentenced to life in prison after two trials. I can still hear the sobs of the little girl’s father as they dragged him out of the courtroom while the jury listened to the 9-1-1 tape. Sometimes there’s no justice to be had, even when the system works the way it’s supposed to.
7. What’s next for Nichelle?
A gruesome murder, an unknown victim, and a plea from the police for help. I’m so, so excited about the next book: Devil in the Deadline will be on sale January 6. I had a blast writing it, and I’m working on edits now. I can’t wait for y’all to read it.
8. What’s on your reading list for the summer?
For the past two years, I’ve had precious little time to read between a slightly-insane writing schedule and my hubby and three little ones. So I’ve spent this summer binge-reading everything I’ve missed (including Kneading to Die and A Biscuit, A Casket, which were fabulous!). Right now, I’m in the middle of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey mysteries—I’m loving her characters and the Victorian tone of her books. Next in my TBR is Julia Spencer Fleming’s Through the Evil Days, which is coming with me to the beach.
Thanks for visiting Wicked Cozy Authors, LynDee! Readers, hope you enjoyed and feel free to leave a comment/question for LynDee.
LynDee Walker’s award-winning journalistic work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the nation. After nearly a decade covering crime, courts, and local politics, she left full-time reporting for motherhood with a side of freelancing and fiction writing. LynDee’s debut novel, FRONT PAGE FATALITY, is an amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 bestseller, and an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. SMALL TOWN SPIN is the third in her Headlines in High Heels mystery series. The fourth arrives January 2015.