Every Thursday I ask ten questions to authors of mystery, thriller and suspense about their books, their inspirations and how to get away with the perfect murder. In the hot seat this week is... Matty Dalrymple.
Matty is the author of the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels, THE SENSE OF DEATH and THE SENSE OF RECKONING, and the Lizzy Ballard Thriller, ROCK PAPER SCISSORS. Matty also blogs, podcasts, and speaks about independent publishing as The Indy Author™.
Q1. Hello Matty! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your books?
I live with my husband, Wade Walton, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Philadelphia. We share our home with our three dogs: two Labrador retrievers named Juno and Sophie, and a terrier named Griffin, who we adopted last year from All 4 Paws Rescue. I'm an enthusiastic supporter of animal welfare, and I donate one dollar to the Animal Welfare Institute for any reader review (good or bad) posted on Amazon or Goodreads.
I'm an author who believes strongly in "write what you know" (other than the fact that I often write about people killing each other, or trying to do so), so my books are all set in locations I know well: the Philadelphia area, where I live; Mount Desert Island, Maine, where we go to escape the Pennsylvania heat in August; and, for my most recent book, Sedona, Arizona, where we go to escape the Pennsylvania cold in February!
Q2. What three things should readers expect from A MATTY DALRYMPLE NOVEL?
First, characters you love - there's nothing I enjoy more than going to a book club and hearing readers talk about the characters in my books as if they were real people who they care about!
Second, vivid settings - the environment should be as much a character as the people who inhabit it, and I work hard to make the setting compelling in order to draw the reader further into the story.
Third, tight plotting - I was thrilled when I read author and screenwriter Robert Blake Whitehill's review of THE SENSE OF DEATH: "Dalrymple subtly injects crucial plot details into her narrative that lock into place in the denouement like the tumblers of a Diebold safe." My goal is to leave no thread hanging!
Q3. Can you tell us about the main character in your series?
The two main characters of my novels are Ann Kinnear, the protagonist of THE SENSE OF DEATH and THE SENSE OF RECKONING, and Lizzy Ballard, the protagonist of ROCK PAPER SCISSORS. Each has an extraordinary ability, and the books explore how a person with an extraordinary ability deals with that ability in the context of the ordinary world.
Ann Kinnear's special skill is the ability to sense spirits. Ann has a consulting business based on that skill, but it is an ability about which she is conflicted. She responds by withdrawing into a tight circle of supporters - her brother, Mike, his partner, Scott, and her mentor, Garrick Masser.
Describing Lizzy Ballard's special skill would be a bit of a spoiler for ROCK PAPER SCISSORS, but it is one that requires her to withdraw from society for her own safety and the safety of others. However, unlike Ann, she has a more outgoing personality - she's someone who wants to make interpersonal connections, not avoid them - and so she sometimes ventures out of her isolated existence, which can lead to traumatic consequences.
Q4. If your books were turned into movies, who would play your main character?
I get a kick out of hearing who readers would cast in various parts. Some of the choices seem very appropriate to me, and some seem hilariously off the mark, but the choices are all meaningful to the readers, and no doubt help them enjoy the stories even more. I don't want to pre-empt allowing readers to form their own ideas of what the characters look like by casting the characters for them!
Q5. How do you come up with the ideas for your stories – what is your inspiration?
Often my books start with me imagining a key scene as if I'm watching a movie. For THE SENSE OF DEATH, the scene was one involving the main character, Ann Kinnear. Ann uses her spirit sensing ability as the basis for a consulting business, and the first scene I imagined was one where Ann arrives at a house for a consulting engagement. She finds the house so steeped in evil that she can't even enter it; the reader knows that a murder took place there. When I originally pictured the scene, the house was in San Francisco, but I eventually moved it closer to my home in Chester County, Pennsylvania: to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, that scene was right in the middle of the book, and I had to figure out all the actions that lead up to that scene, and all the actions that resulted from it - a very inefficient way to write a book!
For ROCK PAPER SCISSORS, one of the scenes I visualized when I was starting the book was one where the main character, Lizzy Ballard, is hiding out from the bad guys. Originally that scene took place in one of the anonymous suburbs that surround Phoenix. However, I decided that, although an anonymous suburb might be a good place to stay off the bad guys' radar, it doesn't make for a compelling experience for the reader. As with THE SENSE OF DEATH, I ended up switching the location to somewhere closer to home: in this case, Smoketown, Pennsylvania, in the Amish country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
For THE SENSE OF RECKONING, the inspiration was more an historical event than a particular scene. My husband is always encouraging me, tongue-in-cheek (I think), to put some explosions or other forms of more overt mayhem in my books, and I found a chance to act on this advice by using as the novel's backstory a wildfire that occurred on Mount Desert Island, Maine, in 1947, which burned over 17,000 acres, and a number of the grand mansions along Bar Harbor's "Millionaire's Row."
Q6. What do you enjoy most about writing suspense and thriller novels?
The ability to delve into those "what if?" questions that pop into my head, and to ponder, in a socially acceptable manner, how to kill a person and get away with it.
Q7. What are you working on right now?
I'm working on the second Lizzy Ballard thriller, which continues the story started in ROCK PAPER SCISSORS. I'm also working on some Ann Kinnear short stories, which are available to subscribers to my email newsletter. I'm planning to collect twelve of these short stories - one for each month of the year - into a book titled A YEAR OF KINNEAR
Q8. Who are your favourite mystery, thriller & suspense authors?
In addition to classics like Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Patricia Highsmith, P. D. James, and Elizabeth George, I love Jen Blood's Erin Solomon Pentalogy, Suzanne Chazin's Georgia Skeehan thrillers, and Mick Herron's Slough House series. My absolute favorite is the Cormoran Strike series by J. K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith.
I believe it's important for an author to read outside their genre, and a favorite I recently re-read was MUSCLE by Samuel Fussell, which describes the author's experience going from a shy, bookish academic to a muscle-bound competitor in weight lifting and bodybuilding competitions in Southern California. (It wasn't totally unrelated to my suspense and thriller writing - I was doing some research on the effects of steroids for Lizzy Ballard Book 2, and remembered Fussell's description of his own steroid use from my first reading of MUSCLE.)
Q9. You're being sent to a desert island. You can only take one book with you. What is it?
THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING (a sneaky choice, since it is really four books in one). The first book, THE SWORD IN THE STONE, is my all-time favorite, and includes some of the funniest and most poignant scenes I've ever read. I have to say that the later books, such as THE QUEEN OF AIR AND DARKNESS, include some of the most disturbing scenes I've ever read, so THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING covers the emotional gamut.
Q10. How do you get away with the perfect murder?
Keep it simple! Keep your story as close to the truth as possible, and stick with it. It also helps to have rich and influential parents. Also, try to eliminate any spirit-sensing professionals who might be able to communicate with your victim. This is the approach that Biden Firth uses in THE SENSE OF DEATH - does it work for him? Only one way to find out!