By Derek Gunn
Mystery and thriller writer…dog lover…dreamer—these are the words that greet you on Wendy Tyson’s website. The themes carry over into her writing and appeared in our correspondence during the writing of this article. I mean what’s not to like about this woman?
DEADLY ASSETS is the second book in the Allison Campbell mystery series but don’t let that worry you about jumping straight in. Allison Campbell is Philadelphia’s premier image consultant and helps others reinvent themselves. She is a gutsy woman who had to rebuild her life and her own confidence when an old case went wrong and she lost her practice and her husband. Today, she is well-heeled and polished and moves in a world of powerful executives, wealthy, eccentric ex-wives, and twisted ethics. And boy, are they eccentric!
Tyson’s background is in law and psychology and she lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons, and two of the aforementioned dogs, Labs Molly and Driggs. Tyson kindly supplied a concise summary of the first book for me, but DEADLY ASSETS is definitely a novel you can pick up and leap straight into. The characters introduce themselves quickly and the back story is revealed when background is needed.
The first thing that will strike you about this book is Tyson’s writing. I loved it from the first page; clouds bruising clear skies and ramshackle mansions that, similar to their owners, have seen better days, are just two of the well-crafted descriptions that had me breezing through the pages.
Here is the premise. Francesca Benini is thrust into the corporate limelight when her brother suffers a stroke. Against the wishes of her family and business associates, Francesca wants to become the new head of Benini Enterprises and hires Alisson Campbell to help her prepare after being a recluse for many years.
Tammy “Swallow” Edwards is a newly discovered eighteen-year-old pop singer from Scranton, Pennsylvania, whom Alisson must transform from a painfully shy teenager to a media-friendly star.
When both clients disappear on the same day—and Allison’s business manager, Christopher Vaughn, is the last to have seen each—Allison races to find her clients and clear Vaughn’s name.
The book is well-crafted and hard to put down. I picked it up with the intention of getting a chapter under my belt to get a feel for it and found I had read five chapters before I looked up. The dialogue is excellent, pulling you into each conversation with surprising ease. The descriptions are beautiful, I found myself re-reading certain passages, often, just savouring the setting and closing my eyes to envision the scene. I have not found myself doing this for some time and it is a credit to Tyson’s writing that I started doing it on the first page with the great opening line.
The characters leap out of the pages and wring your emotions as you follow them through the intricate web of family secrets, corporate transgressions, and rivalries that have lasted generations.
Tyson took some time out to address a few questions about her new book.
Can you give us an understanding of how your writing process works? Do you have a ritual, do you plan out every detail, or do you see where the story leads?
I am not a structured writer—at least on the first draft. I usually have a vague idea for a story, and before my fingers ever touch a keyboard, I’ll have filled several notebooks with senseless scribbles about characters, ideas, and vague associations. I rarely look back at these notebooks (and usually don’t even know where they are in my chaotic household), but the process helps the ideas to gel. Then I start writing, allowing the story to unfold as the first draft progresses. I often don’t know whodunit until I’m writing the end of the book. Keeps things interesting! I sketch a basic outline after I’ve written a solid first draft. At that point, I want to make sure all the pieces come together in a logical fashion.
Who knew the world of the image consultant could be so dangerous? Have you first-hand experience and where are the bodies buried?
You caught me! Actually, after I started the Campbell series, someone asked me whether it would be a challenge to find a whole series-worth of reasons for an image consultant to get pulled into mysteries. My initial answer was yes, and as I’ve been writing, I’ve found that a well-networked image consultant has the potential for many amateur sleuth adventures.
Transformations seem to be Allison’s speciality—have you found yourself re-inventing yourself or others?
Yes, in a way. The first book in the series, KILLER IMAGE, was a very personal novel for me. It was inspired by my background in law and psychology, and while none of the characters or events is based on real people or experiences, the book was informed by what I saw and felt in my early career.
Before attending law school on the Philadelphia Main Line, I earned a graduate degree in counseling psychology. While in school, I worked in the social services field as a caseworker, a group home counselor, and, later, a therapist in a residential treatment setting. I was in my twenties at the time, and the populations I worked with—mostly adolescent girls who had ended up in the system for one reason or another—left a lasting impression on me. I saw the best and worst in people, and I gained an understanding that beneath the surface of even the toughest (and most abused) kids is the potential for kindness and achievement. The human spirit is resilient, and people can change.
I left the counseling field to go into law, but that concept of change—of reinvention—stuck with me. People are not always as they seem on the surface. I have seen that first hand in both careers.
If you were given one paragraph to convince people to buy your novel what would it say?
In DEADLY ASSETS, Allison Campbell’s latest clients seem worlds apart in every respect, but when they disappear on the same day, and Allison’s colleague Vaughn—a man with a past of his own—is the last to have seen each, it’s up to Allison to find a connection before someone gets killed. Although the Allison Campbell series features an image consultant, the books are not light reads. Lynn Farris of Examiner.com gave it a starred review, calling the first in the Campbell series, KILLER IMAGE, “An intriguing psychological thriller…reminded me of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series.” Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of THE WRONG GIRL, said of KILLER IMAGE: “This cleverly revealing psychological thriller will keep you guessing…as the smart and savvy Allison Campbell (love her!) delves into the deadly motives, twisted emotions, and secret intrigues of Philadelphia’s Main Line.” In her review of DEADLY ASSETS, Nancy McFarlane, reviewer for Fiction Addiction in South Carolina, said, “No sophomore slump for Wendy Tyson. Two totally different clients, two mysterious disappearances, two sets of suspects, and lots of possibilities all make for a tightly woven mystery with lots of twists and turns.” And Sandra Parshall, Agatha Award–winning author of the Rachel Goddard Mysteries said DEADLY ASSETS is “highly recommended!”
In between work and writing do you have any time to read? Who do you enjoy most?
Oh, I wish I had more time to read! These days, it seems my reading time consists of stolen moments right before I fall asleep, the down time between my son’s games at lacrosse tournaments, and during airplane travel. But I do read every day, even if it’s just for a little while. In terms of authors? I can’t say I have one author I enjoy the most, although I love (surprise!) mysteries and thrillers. A few of my favorites are Elizabeth George, Jonathan Kellerman, Tess Gerritsen, and Donna Leon. Right now, I’m finishing a mystery by Stephanie Jaye Evans and am about to start DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King.
I’m currently working on the third book in the Allison Campbell series, DYING BRAND. It’s due to be released in May 2015. I’m also writing a second mystery series about an all-female detective agency: The Delilah Percy Powers Mystery Series (E-Lit Books). The first novel in that series, THE SEDUCTION OF MIRIAM CROSS, was released last November, and I’m writing second book now. It’s titled THE INITIATION OF CAROLYN WU.
I loved Tyson’s book. Even though I have a summary of the first one in the series, I plan to read the first boo, then the third, unless I am lucky enough to be assigned it for an article. DEADLY ASSETS will be released on July 22. Take a trip to the bookstore and pick this one up. You won’t regret it.
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 with her husband, three kids and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, including KARAMU, ECLIPSE, A LITERARY JOURNAL and CONCHO RIVER REVIEW. Wendy has authored KILLER IMAGE (Henery Press), the first in the Allison Campbell mystery series, and THE SEDUCTION OF MIRIAM CROSS (E-Lit Books). DEADLY ASSETS, the second novel in the Campbell series, will be released July 22, 2014.
To learn more about Wendy, please visit her website.