We followed her from aspiring author working hard at her craft, to entrant in the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic writing contest, to winning the award and landing a contract with Minotaur! (I can assure you that winning the Malice Domestic award is the very pinnacle of writerly achievement.) Yes, I did get the Malice Domestic Award myself. Shut up! I'm being totally objective!
Now, Linda's debut is almost here!
Half-Cherokee Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion thought she was leaving her troubles behind when she fled the stress of being the highest-ranking woman in the Kansas City Police Department, a jealous cop ex-husband, and a disgraced alcoholic ex-cop father. Moving to a small town to be chief of a college’s campus police force, she builds a life outside of her work. She might even begin a new relationship with the amiable Brewster police chief.
All of this is threatened when the student editor of the school newspaper is found murdered on campus. Skeet must track down the killer, following trails that lead to some of the most powerful people in the university. In the midst of her investigation, Skeet assumes responsibility for a vulnerable teenager when her ex-husband and seriously ailing father wind up back on her hands. Time is running out and college administrators demand she conceal all college involvement in the murder, but Skeet will not stop until she’s unraveled every last secret.
Today, Linda's going to tell us about a very personal inspiration for one of the characters in Every Last Secret.
In Every Last Secret, my mystery novel that will be released on April 24, the protagonist, Skeet Bannion, has a dog, a collie named Lady. Lady plays a quietly important role in the book. By taking Lady into her new home, Skeet is making a statement that her life will be different from what it’s been, more settled, more stable, and as tragedy hits her neighbors, Lady, along with Skeet’s cat, provides a lifeline to a grieving and troubled teenager. The truth, however, is that Lady is in this book and the next two in the series because she was in my life first.
When I was ten years old, we moved to a small town in Oklahoma close to where my father’s family lived on a small farm that went back generations. I didn’t realize it at that time, but my wildly dysfunctional parents were in even more trouble than usual, so those years with my five younger siblings in that tiny town would pile more adult responsibilities on my skinny shoulders than I was already carrying—and my parents had turned to me at age ten to make the decision of where we would settle for the next several years, near my mother’s parents in Oklahoma City or near my father’s family in rural Oklahoma.
Shortly after we moved in, my mother’s parents in Oklahoma City brought me a collie. I was collie-crazy. I’d been reading and re-reading Albert Payson Terhune’s books about Lassie for years. And what a gorgeous collie they brought me! Princess was a former show champion, who’d been bred too early and too often until she could no longer bear living pups. Her owners were going to put her to sleep until my grandparents asked for her. Princess and I took one look at each other and fell deeply in love. She slept at the foot of my bed in the uninsulated attic room where I slept. My own choice, it was the only way I could have a room of my own since no one wanted to share it with me. When it got too cold, Princess would climb in bed with me, and I’d sleep as warmly as anyone could want.
After leaving us in Oklahoma, my Navy father went overseas, and my mother fell apart and often was not in our home or even our town for days at a time. When she was at home, she was often sleeping or hung-over. Fortunately, we lived right across the street from the school (K-12), and I could get younger brothers and sister off to school and go myself, dashing across the street to check on the baby at every class change and recess and lunchtime.
As my baby brother grew more mobile, this balancing act became harder and harder to manage. He began to take off in the afternoons and wander the town in his diaper. The school would get calls for me to leave class and come get him—because Princess would accompany him and guard him. She refused to let him into the street if a car were coming, and no one could touch him with her around, not even the local police officers. So I would leave school, pick the baby up blocks from our house, and carry him home with Princess walking at my side.
Princess loved to eat the apricots that fell from the tree in our backyard and had a constant battle with the wasps who wanted them all for themselves. Several times she alerted me to rattlesnakes in hedges of the yard when one of the kids was heading in that direction. Old as she was, she could at times be as playful as a young pup, and whenever she felt there was danger near, her years fell off her immediately.
Those were scary years and scarier to look back on now, aware of dangers I wasn’t aware of then. We all made it through them safely, in large part because of Princess, my aging collie. I always felt that Princess was an angel in disguise sent down from heaven to help me take care of and protect my little brothers and sisters. Finally, my mother actually moved across the state, and after a couple of weeks alone, my father’s family came and took us to live with them on the farm. We were now safe, and I think it was no coincidence that Princess slipped away in her sleep soon after that.
Princess, the dog I could never forget, morphed into Lady for the Skeet Bannion series. Do you have a childhood pet you will always remember? What was your favorite childhood dog?
You can find out more about Linda and read an excerpt of Every Last Secret at her website. You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.