By Cathy Clamp
Many people long for adventure in the outdoors. Camping, hiking, even fishing are how many people plan their vacations. But what to do when a seemingly innocuous sport like fly fishing turns deadly?
Beth Groundwater, author of the Claire Hanover Gift Baskets series (including the Agatha Award finalist A REAL BASKET CASE) first introduced Colorado river ranger Mandy Tanner in the 2011 debut DEADLY CURRENTS. In WICKED EDDIES, Mandy’s life grows even more difficult. She knew the Arkansas River could be a man-eater, but the rapids weren’t responsible for driving a hatchet into the neck of would-be competitor Howie Abbott―a secretive man who may have been cheating. While casting about for suspects, Mandy seeks clues from Abbott’s family members, including her best friend, bartender Cynthia Abbott. But when Cynthia becomes the prime suspect, Mandy realizes she’s wading into deeper, more hazardous waters than ever.
ITW contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down with the author to get the low-down on this exciting action mystery release.
This is #2 in the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventure series. Do you have a finite number of books planned or will you just run with the series as long as readers love them?
I just turned in book three of the series, CATARACT CANYON, to the Midnight Ink acquisition editor, so yes, the current plan is to keep on writing them as long as readers love them!
Having your protagonist be a river ranger is an interesting twist on soft-boiled mysteries. What did you draw on as personal experience or research to create the character of Mandy Tanner?
I’ve been a “river rat” for many years myself. I took PE classes in canoeing and kayaking in college and continued paddling whitewater rivers back east while I worked in the Northern Virginia area. I paddled with legendary canoeist H. Roger Corbett there and still have copies of his Virginia Whitewater and The Delaware River (written with Kay Fulcomer) guidebooks. My husband and I spent happy weekends paddling East Coast whitewater rivers on trips with the Canoe Cruisers in a 2-man canoe stuffed full of floatation bags. Nowadays, I go whitewater rafting on Colorado rivers such as the Blue River and the upper Arkansas River, which my protagonist, Mandy Tanner, patrols.
Oh, and for readers who want to know more about my own whitewater experiences, read my “River Story” on the “Meet Our Donors” page of the American Rivers website.
To research what river rangers and whitewater rafting guides do, I started with my friend and fellow Girl Scout troop leader, Cynthia Hunt, who shared stories from her years of river guiding on the Arkansas River. She introduced me to her boss, Darren Olson, owner of Whitewater Encounters, who I interviewed about running a guiding business. From them, I gathered names of river rangers who worked for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and worked my way up to Stew Pappenfort, Senior Park Ranger of the AHRA. Stew graciously allowed me to observe one day of the swiftwater rescue course he teaches each spring to seasonal river rangers, and I interviewed some of the trainees. Stew now reviews my manuscripts in the series to make sure that I’m portraying river rangers and swiftwater rescue techniques correctly.
Do you feel like the setting of the book will draw more male readers to a series that is lighter in tone than hard-core thrillers?
I hope the series will interest both male and female readers, much like the sport of whitewater rafting does. I have heard from both men and women who have enjoyed reading DEADLY CURRENTS, even from non-swimmers and those who have never tried rafting! I hope WICKED EDDIES appeals to both, too. It features a competitive fly-fishing tournament that includes an on-river component, so I hope both men and women who are interested in fly-fishing, as well as those just interested in reading good mysteries, will be drawn to the book.
As you said, the RM Outdoor Adventure series is classified as a soft-boiled mystery series, so my goal with the books is to present an interesting puzzle for readers to solve that is set in an exciting, adventuresome milieu without having to resort to what I call “icky stuff” (rape, torture, abuse, gore, etc.) to thrill my readers.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned while researching the book, whether or not it made it onto the pages?
I had a fascinating interview with Peter Sheetz, a member of the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team at the time, where we brainstormed possible ways in which a fly fisherman could cheat in a tournament. Some of those ways made it into WICKED EDDIES and some didn’t.
What are your plans for the series as far as plot, and the heroine’s life?
In the upcoming, CATARACT CANYON, Mandy and her boyfriend Rob take a group of clients on a whitewater rafting trip through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah. The story is a variation on a locked-room mystery, where the “room” is a remote canyon with very limited, difficult access. They are paddling the river in off-season and the killer has disabled their radio, so they are stuck alone in the wilderness with an unknown killer in their midst.
Mandy and Rob’s relationship will continue to grow and evolve through the series. Also, as she will do in CATARACT CANYON, to be released in May, 2013, Mandy will occasionally venture out of her hometown of Salida, Colorado and venture into adventurous sports other than whitewater rafting in the series. For example, some fly-fishing is featured in WICKED EDDIES, and some climbing is featured in CATARACT CANYON.
Will you be having any appearances with the release so readers can get autographed copies? For example, will you be at ThrillerFest or any other conventions?
Readers can go to the Appearances page on my website to see where I will be signing books. I have quite a few appearances scheduled in my home state of Colorado and likely will be adding more. So far, my travel plans include the Malice Domestic conference and the Festival of Mystery this spring and the Bouchercon conference in the fall. I may add more, so I encourage readers to check my appearances page periodically for updates.
Where can readers find you online?
I love chatting with readers in person at my signings, on social networks or via email. Readers can email me at my website or befriend me on Facebook or Goodreads. I will do Skype or speakerphone visits to book clubs who want to discuss my books, if they don’t meet near me. I’ve also participated in on-line chats about my books. Please don’t be shy about contacting me on my website, blog, Facebook and Goodreads.
Is there anything else you want readers to know about the book that they might not find in the reviews?
Mandy Tanner lives in Salida, a real Colorado town, and patrols the upper Arkansas River in central Colorado, the most popular whitewater river for commercial rafting in the United States. Every rapid I describe on the river is real and most of the businesses and other locations I describe in Salida are real. I’ve received emails from Salida residents and local rafting guides who have told me that “I got it right” in DEADLY CURRENTS when I described their town and occupation. I hope WICKED EDDIES continues to respectfully portray this lovely place, the interesting folks who reside there, and the thrill of riding the rapids, which my protagonist, Mandy Tanner, patrols.
Sounds like a great new series. I know our readers will look forward to picking up the release, as well as the debut. Good luck with it!
Thanks. I hope readers will really enjoy the book.
Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A REAL BASKET CASE, a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first, DEADLY CURRENTS, was released March, 2011 and the second, WICKED EDDIES, will be published May, 2012. The third books in both series will appear in 2013. Beth enjoys Colorado’s many outdoor activities, including skiing and whitewater rafting, and loves talking to book clubs.