A member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting.
An Interview with Beth Groundwater by Pat Stoltey
Welcome, Beth, and thank you so much for adding Chiseled in Rock to your virtual tour. I'm looking forward to experiencing my first whitewater adventure vicariously through Mandy Tanner.
Pat: Your first two Claire Hanover mysteries, A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket were such good reads. Why did you decide to create a second series featuring a white water river ranger?
Beth: I discovered while writing To Hell in a Handbasket that my love of the outdoors and outdoor activities kept creeping into my mystery writing. That book features skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobile riding in various scenes. So, I decided to develop a new series where I could indulge in that love to my heart’s content.
I was an avid “river rat” in the 1980s, running whitewater rivers in the eastern US in an open-boat canoe, and I still enjoy rafting whitewater rivers in Colorado, so that was a natural choice. I'm still fascinated with flowing water. My husband knows that if we drive alongside a whitewater river, I'll be leaning out the car window, reading the water, assessing if it's deep enough to be run, and if so, what line I would take. I’ve enjoyed reacquainting myself with the river rat subculture and its updated boating equipment while researching the RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series.
The new series also solves the amateur sleuth problem I have with the Claire Hanover gift basket designer books of why the amateur gets involved in a murder case. If Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) river rangers like Mandy discover a dead body in or near the river while on patrol, they become part of the investigative team with the detectives in the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office, though the Sheriff's Office retains primary responsibility for solving the case. I'm a fan of the work of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr, and my hope is that my new series will marry the wilderness settings and ranger/warden lifestyles of those series with the thrill of running roiling rapids.
Pat: Will there be more Claire Hanover novels?
Beth: Yes, I'm continuing both series with Midnight Ink. They will first bring out A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket in trade paperback and ebook formats, then publish a new third Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery in those formats. I've already written the first draft of that third book, and I'm submitting chapters to my critique group and editing it now. Both Midnight Ink and I plan for more books in both series.
Pat: Are Claire Hanover and Mandy Tanner very much alike? Do you think they would be friends in the real world?
Beth: No, I don't think Claire and Mandy would be friends in the real world. Claire is a 47-year-old, married housewife with two grown children and a part-time gift basket designer business who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Mandy Tanner is s 27-year-old single woman with a boyfriend who lives in Salida, Colorado and patrols the upper Arkansas River. Claire drinks wine, Mandy drinks beer. Claire is comfortably upper middle class, while Mandy is barely scraping by. And so on.
Mandy is more likely to have something in common with one of Claire's children, who are just a few years younger than her. The only way I could think of that Claire and Mandy would meet is if someone convinced Claire to take a whitewater rafting trip (not very likely!) and she wound up in the water needing rescue. I deliberately made Claire and Mandy very different from each other so I would have variety when moving back and forth between writing books in the two series.
Pat: Is Mandy anything like the river rafting guide played by Meryl Streep in The River Wild (one of my favorite movies)?
Beth: It's been quite awhile since I saw the movie, but I'll try to remember most of Meryl Streep's character, Gail. That woman was an experienced rafting guide with a husband and son. I would think of her as a grizzled veteran, almost, compared to young Mandy Tanner, who was a whitewater rafting guide for about eight years on the Arkansas River before applying to become a river ranger. Mandy has just been working as a river ranger for a few weeks when the events in Deadly Currents occur, making her a little unsure of herself and her capabilities in the new job. Yes, her rafting skills may be comparable to Gail's, but with less life experience, she'd be less able to think on her feet in response to the deadly situation.
If Mandy were put in Gail's situation of trying to get away from two armed bank robbers making their escape down the river, Mandy would be scared s**tless, but I think she'd ultimately rally and try to escape and get word to the authorities. If she were on the Arkansas River, familiar ground to her, Mandy would find an opportunity to slink off into the woods and make her way to a road versus try to escape down the river on a raft. Also, I don't think Mandy would be confident enough in her hand-to-hand combat skills (she's only had basic defensive moves training) to directly confront the robbers.
Pat: Is it possible Claire and Mandy will join forces in a future novel?
Beth: No, I don't think that's likely, though there is the possibility of a cameo appearance by one of them in a book in the other's series. Along with the characters being different, the series have different voices or tones and are in different mystery subgenres. The Claire Hanover gift basket designer books are cozy mysteries, while the RM Outdoor Adventures books are soft-boiled mysteries.
Pat: You love to travel and have been to so many interesting places. What destinations remain in your bucket list?
Beth: Oh, lots and lots! In South America, I want to explore Machu Picchu in Peru, the Amazon River and cities of Brazil, and the Galapagos Islands. I want to visit China, Japan, and India in Asia, and the Nile River and pyramids of Egypt and Petra in Jordan. In Europe, I'd like to tour the Greek islands, the Danube and Rhine rivers, and Germany and Italy. I could go on and on! Time and money are the major constraints, not desire or imagination for where I'd like to go.
Pat: Your virtual tour schedule includes nineteen stops in twenty-one days, and that’s not counting the Left Coast Crime reports you’ll be doing for Barnes & Noble’s Mystery Book Club. In addition to contacting hosts and creating the schedule, you write the posts and then stand ready to answer blog comments at each stop. How do you manage this kind of intense online promotional tour without suffering from a total brain drain when it’s over?
Beth: Who says I don't suffer a total brain drain when it's over?! I've done a virtual book tour once before, in 2009, for the release of To Hell in a Handbasket. I know from that experience that the only way to manage it is to be super-organized and prepared. As I did for that tour, I finished writing all the blog posts except the LCC conference reports before the tour started. I’m sending them to the hosts at least a week early along with photos. I maintain a list of dates, topics, tour host names and emails, blog names and links, and notes about where I stand with each—is the post written/delivered, etc. Then, I communicate early and often with the hosts to make sure they remember to publish my blog posts, to coordinate who's going to promote the posts where, etc. Of course, glitches can still occur, but I try to just roll with them when they do.
Pat: Now that you’ve developed two series, have an agent and a new publisher, what’s next on your list of writing goals.
Beth: I've turned in the second book in the RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series, currently titled Wicked Eddies, to my editor. The next step is to review the copy-edited manuscript. I've drafted the third book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series and am in the editing phase on that, running chapters through my critique group. I'm starting to develop ideas for the third RM Outdoor Adventures mystery and will begin research and planning for that in a couple of months. And, of course, I'm busy promoting Deadly Currents. There's never a dull moment in the Groundwater household!
Pat, thanks so much for interviewing me. I encourage Chiseled in Rock readers to check out my website and my blog to learn more about me and my books, to befriend me on Facebook or Goodreads, and to invite me to speak to your book club.
More about Deadly Currents:
The Arkansas River, heart and soul of Salida, Colorado, fuels the small town’s economy and thrums in the blood of river ranger Mandy Tanner. When a whitewater rafting accident occurs, she deftly executes a rescue, but a man dies anyway. Turns out, it wasn’t the rapids that killed him—it was murder. Tom King was a rich land developer with bitter business rivals, who cheated on his wife, refused to support his kayak-obsessed son, and infuriated environmentalists. Mandy’s world is upended again when tragedy strikes closer to home. Suspicious that the most recent death is connected to Tom King’s murder, she goes on an emotionally turbulent quest for the truth—and ends up in dangerous waters.
If you’d like to visit other stops on Beth's virtual book tour, you can find the full blog book tour schedule on her website. To order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.
Beth, thanks again for joining us today.