Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Christine Carbo: Mystery in the Majesty of Glacier National Park

INGRID THOFT

One of the many fantastic things about books is their ability to transport readers to unfamiliar and exotic places.  Christine Carbo, the author of the Glacier Park Mystery Series, is a master of immersing readers in the beautiful, but often unforgiving, landscape of Montana.  I'm thrilled that Christine is joining us today to discuss her latest book, "A Sharp Solitude."  The novel features FBI agent Ali Page as she treads on the edge of a murder investigation in which her daughter's father is the main suspect.  The intersection of her professional life and personal life make for mighty high stakes and a propulsive read.

INGRID THOFT: "A Sharp Solitude" the fourth in your Glacier Mystery series, features FBI investigator Ali Page, for the first time as a point-of-view character.  What made you decide to let Ali be the star of the show this time?

CHRISTINE CARBO: I had a lot of fun writing Ali as a side-character and decided to explore her more in my fourth novel. I plucked her from book three, "The Weight of Night," à la Tana French, and made her the protagonist in "A Sharp Solitude" – a formula I’ve been following throughout the series so far. So yes, this is the first book where we are in her head. Ali is a pistol in "The Weight of Night" where she is introduced as one of the resident local agents called in to take over a case involving a missing boy from one of Glacier Park’s campgrounds during fire season. She comes across as gruff and a bit irate in this book. In "A Sharp Solitude," I dialed her back a little, perhaps because I developed her situation as a mother in addition to being a professional FBI agent, but I still explore issues surrounding her anger and develop her tenacity. She had a less than ideal childhood and carries that with her as she strives to protect her daughter from the kind of difficulties she has as a child. Her father was an addict, abusive to her mother, and spent time in jail for selling drugs.

IPT: Montana, and in particular, Glacier National Park, is essentially another character in the book.  All of your books are so atmospheric and capture the isolation and majesty of their setting.  How did you decide to set your books in Montana, and how did you find your way there from Florida?
CC:  Thank you very much. I love to hear that because I enjoy including the dramatic landscape of where I live into my novels. Of course, too much setting can be a drawback, so I’m always working on finding the right balance. When I decided that I wanted to write crime fiction, I realized that I particularly loved the ones steeped in a strong sense of place: Denise Mina’s Glascow; Elizabeth George’s mysterious English countryside; Tana French’s Dublin; Dennis Lehane’s Boston, John Connelly’s Maine… the list goes on. At first I thought, I just live in Cowtown, USA with no sexy, dynamic, bustling cities around me. As a naïve new writer, I thought, how was I supposed to write what I knew so that it was captivating? (Of course, we all know that what makes a story fascinating is so much more than simply it’s setting!).

However, at the time, it dawned on me that I lived only a half hour from a place that people from all over the nation and the world come to visit. And that place—Glacier National Park—is not only stunning, it’s haunting at times. Plus, some of the local areas around Glacier are economically depressed and tend to have their share of crime. Automatically, when I began to think of Glacier, the awe and fear-inspiring grizzly came to mind, and I began to ponder what would happen if my main character had issues with bears and the very park he needed to conduct an investigation in. Hence, my first book, "The Wild Inside," is as much about whether the protagonist will find some emotional peace as it is about who committed the crime. My second book, "Mortal Fall," featuring a secondary character from the first book, again à la Tana French, also takes place in Glacier. The park, in essence, remains a strong secondary character in "Mortal Fall" and "The Weight of Night." The crime in "A Sharp Solitude" actually takes place right outside of Glacier near its border, so it has a different jurisdiction, but the setting is still extremely dramatic, stark, and isolated.

I came to the mountains when my family moved from Gainesville, Florida to Kalispell, Montana when I was still in middle school. My father left a position as Chief of Neuropathology at the University of Florida simply because he and my mother wanted to move to the mountains. In fact, I often find myself exploring the idea of how one finds the west as a place for personal reinvention, and I think this stems from relocating at a fairly formative age. At first, I hated leaving the beaches and my friends, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Montana. As Steinbeck says in "Travels with Charlie," “I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love…” However, the mountains are so much more than just a place for adventure—for skiing, hiking, biking, snow-mobiling, and in most of my stories, I try to reflect the ways in which human crime might butt up against the wild.

IPT:  "A Sharp Solitude” couldn’t be more timely in that gun violence is a recurring theme.  What made you hone in on that particular issue?

CC:  I read several articles about tragic gun accidents that had stuck with me, and there were several that took place in my native state of Florida, which spurred on some intense political debates during the 90’s on whether parents should be held criminally liable for crimes committed with their firearm by their children. The incident I wrote about was of course fictional, but I was inspired to write about such accidents anyway in spite of what a divisive topic it has become in our nation. The tragedy at the high school in Santa Fe has shone a spotlight back onto negligent storage laws since the suspect used his father’s weapon. However, in Texas, the suspect’s father will probably be immune from prosecution under the law because Texas law defines a child as 16 or younger, and the suspect is 17.

Additionally, separate from the gun issue, I have always been interested in how disasters and trauma that happen purely by accident can affect children for their entire lives. I also dealt with this topic in "The Weight of Night," how one child’s tragedy and trauma affected her family, her town, and of course, herself. Additionally, I knew someone when I was in high school who died by an accidental gunshot while on a hunting trip in Montana, and that has always stayed with me.

But as far as the national gun debate, I tried to remain neutral about the topic for several reasons. I don’t believe very many readers enjoy it when a writer gets preachy in a novel, so I wanted to stay away from getting too political. At times, I worried I was copping out as a writer, but I believe I stayed true to my characters. My other main character, Reeve, is neutral. In a way, for him to remain impartial is a coping mechanism. He has emotional baggage and he finds that staying clear of the topic is the only way for him to proceed—a form of detachment, yet survival for him, even if others believe it is a cop out.

IPT:  What has surprised you most about being a published author?

CC:  Definitely how supportive and generous the entire community of people who write, read, sell, promote, and loan books is. When I first got published, I was so green at the business. I felt like a tiny spider casting filament around with no place for it to stick. But as I started to go to writers’ and readers’ conferences and visit bookstores and libraries, it became apparent that there is a strong, supportive web in place. I remember being so excited to get a blurb from one of your Jungle Reds, Deb Crombie, for my first book. I didn’t even know Deb then, but she was very generous to help a debut writer like me out, and I always try to do the same for new writers no matter how busy I am.

Even though publishing is an incredibly challenging, tough business, it is also very encouraging and highly rewarding no matter what level of success your books achieve because readers, other authors, booksellers, librarians, bloggers, reviewers, and many, many more in the industry are so amazingly big-hearted. Being your guest on this successful and engaging blog is simply another reflection of how the writing community is so helpful and generous!

IPT:  Is there a wannabe book lurking in the back of your brain, something you would write if you didn’t have to consider agents, editors, and fans?  A romance?  Non-fiction?  Cookbook?

CC:  I’m pretty happy writing suspense for now, but you never know. I did write two non-genre books years ago in my twenties. I consider them my training-wheel books, and I never seriously tried to publish them. Readers sometimes ask me if I’ll go back to them to update them and try to publish them, and I usually answer that so far, I haven’t had the desire. But you never know what the future holds. I figure there are more than enough sub-genres within crime-fiction to keep me exploring new ways of approaching suspense for a long time to come. So far, psychological procedurals have worked well for me, and I love to write them and tinker with their structure. In fact, I like to think of "A Sharp Solitude" as police procedural meets domestic suspense meets the wild. I can imagine trying an entirely different type of suspense novel at some point.

IPT: I think that's a perfect description of "A Sharp Solitude," and I'm sure it's going to resonate with a whole range of readers.  


Christine is joining us today to answer your questions, and she's also giving away a copy of "A Sharp Solitude."  Just comment to enter.



“A Sharp Solitude” 
A gripping new Glacier Park mystery by the acclaimed author of "The Wild Inside" – perfect for fans of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr.

In the darkening days of autumn, a journalist’s body is found near the Canadian border. The victim was last seen with a man named Reeve Landon, the secretive subject of an article she’d been writing. Now Reeve is the prime suspect.

FBI investigator Ali Paige is not assigned the case, but Reeve is an ex-boyfriend, the father of her child. If she can find out what really happened, she might be able to save her daughter from the pain of abandonment. Meanwhile, a reckless and paranoid Reeve ventures deep into in the woods, assuming his karmic punishment has finally arrived. As the clock ticks and the noose tightens around Reeve’s neck, Ali isn’t sure how far she’ll go to find the truth. And what if truth isn’t something she wants to know?

Propulsive and suspenseful, evoking the breathtaking beauty of Glacier National Park, A Sharp Solitude demonstrates that people can’t outrun their demons, even in the vast, wild terrain of Northwest Montana.

Christine Carbo is the author of the Glacier Mystery Series, an ensemble series set in and around Glacier National Park. Her books include "The Wild Inside," "Mortal Fall," "The Weight of Night," and her latest, "A Sharp Solitude."   Carbo is a recipient of the Womens' National Book Association Pinckley Prize, the Silver Falchion Award, and the High Plains Book Award. A Florida native, she and her family live in Whitefish, Montana. Find out more at ChristineCarbo.com.




75 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Christine. I enjoy stories with a strong sense of place; your story sounds quite intriguing and I’m looking forward to reading “A Sharp Solitude” and getting to know Ali Paige . . . .

    I’m curious to know why for each new book you chose to elevate secondary characters from previous books in your series rather than focusing on a specific protagonist.

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    1. I have the same question, Joan. It's an intriguing approach!

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    2. Hi Joan, thank you so much! I too enjoy stories, especially mysteries, with a strong sense of place. It's one of the first things I considered when I decided to try to write crime fiction. To answer your question, I decided on the ensemble series mainly because I felt that I had played out the character arc of my first protagonist in The Wild Inside. When I met with editors for that first book, I was asked what was next, and I just didn't see myself continuing on with that character, so I chose the ensemble series that I came to love through Tana French's Dublin Murder Mystery Series.

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  2. I have missed these books, but I'm definitely intrigued. Sound darker than my normal choices, but I would love to give one a try.

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    1. Hi Mark, if you do, I hope you'll enjoy them. I think they might be a little more introspective than say, CJ Box or Nevada Barr, but definitely along those lines, if that helps at all. They're not super dark or anything.

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    2. Mark, I'm not a fan of super dark and agree that Christine's books don't fall into that category!

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    3. Good to know. I will keep that in mind.

      And I haven't read CJ Box or Nevada Barr. Keep meaning to try Nevada Barr.

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  3. I have lost count of the number of times I've come across a series that is new to me somewhere and turn around to find it featured here on the wonderful Jungle Reds blog. So it is with your Glacier Park series, Christine. I became interested in Montana as a setting through Karin Salvalaggio's Macy Greeley series, which I love. Now, I am delighted to find your series. In fact, I just added the first Glacial mystery book, The Wild Inside to my Kindle, as it's just $1.99 on Amazon now.

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    1. Hi Kathy, yes, I've heard wonderful things about Karin Salvalaggio's series! I have them on my TBR pile and need to move them up closer to the top. It's amazing how huge that pile gets! Thank you for purchasing it. I believe it was a Nook Spotlight and I think that means Amazon price-matches, so glad to hear it was on sale. I'll need to put that out there on social media. :)

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    2. I agree with Kathy--Karin's books are terrific, with a wonderful sense of place.

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  4. Great description: "police procedural meets domestic suspense meets the wild" - Add Montana and Glacier Park!

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    1. I love that, too, Hallie, and it really captures the book!

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    2. Thank you, Hallie and Ingrid! With Ingrid's fun question about whether I have other books in me that I'd like to play around with, I mentioned that I simply wanted to play around within the suspense genre at some point. So far, procedural has been the most effective way for me to write mysteries, but I'm curious about other forms and if I could write them. I guess this book was playing around just a tiny bit with something other than straight procedural. :)

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  5. I'm happy to be introduced to you and your series, Christine. I'm off to find them now. I enjoy interesting characters played out in a splendid setting, so your books sound right up my alley. Congrats on your new publication!

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    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! I'm so happy to be a guest here today and to be meet you all (virtually). The setting really is splendid in my the place I live and I LOVE including it in my stories.

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  6. Setting is important to me so this sounds grand! Montana? Glacier Park? I'm in since it is probably the only way I'll get to visit.

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    1. Oh Judi, I hope you can visit sometime. It's really worth it to see Glacier Park! But, yes, in the meantime, I would love for you check out my books! :) Thank you!

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  7. Congratulations on your latest! Fascinating natural setting and personal involvement of the investigating officer. All the ingredients for a first-rate read.

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    1. Thank you so much, Margaret! Great to hear!

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  8. I am a huge fan of Christine and her Glacier Park series. Calling it a "police procedural meets domestic suspense meets the wild" is a perfect description of the new book. And her method of focusing on different characters for each book allows the series to always feel fresh, while the recurring setting comforts with familiarity.

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    1. Thank you very much, Kris! And great way of describing the ensemble approach! I should have used your line above when explaining why I chose to write the series that way. It really does help me keep the series fresh. I take my hat off though to authors who can keep a series exciting and engaging with one character through many, many books. I hope to try that one day too!

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    2. I think the ensemble approach is great and can make the whole series feel meatier. It adds depth, but doesn't overwhelm the reader with too much new information. As a writer, it's fun to think about which characters of my own might warrant their own books...

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  9. Oh, welcome! I am such a fan of Glacier National Park— it may be my favorite place ever. I agree it’s haunting, and so otherworldly… I said to someone that it’s the only place in the world that looks like it black-and-white. Do you ever write outside?

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    1. What a cool description, Hank! I haven't been to Glacier since I was a child, but I really have no excuse given my relative proximity these days.

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    2. Thank you, Hank. I'm so happy to be a guest today! And I'd never thought of it as "otherworldly," but you are so right by calling it that! I need to add that to my descriptions of it! I don't write outside very often, mainly because if it's nice enough, it's usually sunny and hard to see my screen! Ha ha. And if it's not sunny, the temperature drops twenty degrees! But, I do take plenty of excursions to Glacier every now and then and refresh my memory of it all. I also walk my dog out in the Montana woods and clear my head. My house seems to be located in a wildlife corridor that leads from the mountains down to Whitefish Lake, so just two days ago I saw a mama black bear and her cub out the kitchen window. I often have herds of elk traipsing through and sometimes a moose... :) Always plenty of whitetail and mule deer. You are welcome anytime! So Ingrid, I think it's a eight-hour drive from Seattle or a quick flight on Alaska Air. :)

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    3. When is the best time of year to visit, Christine?

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    4. Yes, that's the problem with outside--it often sounds more lovely and inspirational than it is! Especially with the glare thing. But I'd adore to see all that wildlife. (I get excited over chipmunks, so imagine...)

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    5. Ingrid, the best time is in July, after June-gloom and before fire season in August. However, most people are on to that, so it's very crowded in July. June can be nice too, but it can be cool and rainy. It all depends on the weather, and lately, summer and higher temps do seem to be coming earlier and earlier every year.

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    6. Hank, the older I get, the more I delight in watching squirrels, chipmunks, birds... I remember wondering why my parents loved to take about little creatures so much. Now I know why! :)

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  10. Welcome Christine! The books sound amazing. One goes off the TBR list, four go on...

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Aw, thank you, Mary. I'm honored to make it to the TBR list!

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  11. These books sound terrific, and I love the idea of an ensemble cast to carry the series, rather than one detective. Plus, it's summer here in Texas, so the thought of going somewhere cool and remote--even in my imagination--is a big bonus. Happily, somebody just gave me an Amazon gift card! Off I go! Thanks, Christine, and thanks to Jungle Red for yet another great reading recommendation.

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    1. Thank you, Gigi! I'm glad you like the idea, and I hope you love the books!

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  12. What enthralling books and fantastic setting. Glacier interests me greatly as The Rockies are majestic.

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    1. Thank you so much! It really is a wonderful setting - hard to do it justice, but I try to capture its splendor and its - to use Hank's adjective - "otherworldly" qualities.

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  13. I'm delighted to see this series featured here. It has been on my list for a while and though I've never visited Montana, I love the mountains. Christine, I also love the fact that you feature different characters in each book - as you said, similar to Tana French. I've found that approach good in her case and I suspect it will be in yours as well. As Kristopher said, keeps things fresh and also lets the reader see things from another point of view. One that perhaps they hadn't considered. So, yes, I'll be reading the series. Can't wait. Have heard a couple of really good things about this new book. Congrats and good luck!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kay! Phew, very happy you've heard some good things! :) I'm so excited to be featured here! It's such a privilege, and I'm so glad you enjoy the ensemble approach. Sometimes I worry that people want or expect to stay with one character and might get disappointed when I switch to another. I remember getting attached to Tana French's first character and wanting to continue on, but once I switched to one of her secondary character, it made so much sense and didn't bother me at all.

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  14. Your books sound intriguing and the locale for this series perfect. Love to read A Sharp Solitude.

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy it!

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  15. Definitely need to check these out. Except when I'm indoors, I'm an outdoor girl, so your books sound like my cup of tea. (And I prefer to meet bears on the page than in person.)

    I love that your Florida parents had a hankering for the mountains, and made the big move.

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    1. I know what you mean about preferring meeting bears on the page! I enjoy seeing them from a distance, but it's pretty frightening to come across one up close and personal. It's only happened to me a few times, and I've been in the Montana woods quite a bit in my life. And yes, that was a big move for my parents. They are in their eighties and still in Montana.

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    2. If I saw a bear, I might just die from fright and save him or her the effort!

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  16. I love the way my sister bloggers introduce me to new writers I haven't read before. (If you're wondering, we don't usually talk to one another about who we're having as guests on the blog.)

    Christine, I'm sorry I hadn't known about the Glacier series, but I'm extremely excited to find A SHARP SOLITUDE and its three predecessors waiting for me, just in time for the summer reading season. One of my favorite genres is "Books Where the Weather Can Kill You," and I include in weather all dangerous animals and treacherous terrain. I'm looking forward to a fictional visit to Montana.

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    1. Hi Julia! I love that title for one of your favorite genres! So perfect. I'm very happy to be here and to introduce my series. What you and your sisters do on this blog is amazing! I hope you enjoy the books and your fictional visit to my happy place - although less than happy in the crime aspect!

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    2. I love your name for that genre, Julia! And "Books Where the Weather Can Kill You," should always be read in a comfortable setting, preferably with a snack at hand!

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    3. Definitely a comfy place and a snack... maybe a glass of wine or a cup of tea too.

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  17. Congratulations, Christine! Montana has been one of my favorite places ever since I first stood under a glacier in GNP when I was fourteen. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited and I am delighted to find your series. Thank you, Ingrid, for introducing us!

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    1. Thank you, Jenn! I feel the same way about Glacier! Montana in general can be a love-hate relationship for me at times, especially during the long, cold, gloomy winters, but Glacier makes it all better! I hope you enjoy the books!

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    2. Did you read The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah? It's enough to make you be happy for traffic jams. At least there are people. And light. And heat.

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    3. I have not read it yet, but definitely plan to this summer!

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    4. I was so fascinating by the homesteading in "The Great Alone," in addition to being engaged by the plot. The sheer amount of work and will it takes for people to live off the grid is mind boggling. Not the lifestyle for me, however, she says before using the microwave and adjusting the temperature with the thermostat!

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    5. Yes, to truly live off the grid is an enormous task. Not for me either. I always tell my husband and son that I could not survive a zombie apocalypse without electricity and many other comforts!

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  18. Hi Christine! So happy to have you here today! I loved The Wild Inside and considered myself very lucky to get to read an advance copy. I also love what you've done with the progressing cast of characters in the series, and I can't wait to read the new book.

    You do such a terrific job of portraying atmosphere and a sense of place, and as Gigi said earlier, we'll be hitting the 100F mark by the weekend here in Texas and Montana sounds very appealing:-)

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    1. Thank you so much, Deb! I'm so happy to be a guest! As I mentioned above, I was SO delighted and thrilled to get a blurb from an accomplished, amazing writer like you for my debut! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. As for weather, I have heard it's pretty hot almost everywhere in the nation right now, except in Montana. We're not going to break the high 60's today. Stay cool, and of course, you're welcome to visit me in Montana at any time!

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  19. Florida to Montana is quite a change! I grew up in Houston. When we Girl Scouts stopped off at Glacier one summer I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! Congratulations on your latest book.

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    1. Yes, and it was a VERY cold winter the year we moved. We actually moved after Christmas, of all times, so my first introduction to Montana was in January. It was quite the shock, but by summertime, I had fallen for it. Are you still in Houston?

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    2. I moved back in 2006 after 40 years away. I plan to move again to somewhere where summer isn’t so hellish!

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    3. Oh, I feel for you regarding summer! I'm visiting the Poisoned Pen in another week, and I'm always so surprised at how hot it gets in early June!

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    4. Trust me! Desert heat is more manageable than Gulf Coast heat. We lived in El Paso a few years.

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    5. So true! At least there's a break in the shade.

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    6. I've never found the "dry heat" reassurance to matter much above 110 degrees! Have fun at the Poisoned Pen, Christine!

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  20. I'm about to buy the first book on Amazon! I love Montana...live in the PNW so it's often a place I visit. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

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    1. Thank you, Jana! I hope you enjoy it! And good luck winning!

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    2. You'll feel like you're there, Jana!

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  21. Hi Christine, Congratulations on the new book. I'm off to Amazon to get the first one in the series. Glacier National Park has long been on my list of places I'm longing to visit. So now I can, in a sense. Thanks! But the bears! Here in CT the entire state goes crazy if even one bear is spotted--and for sure those are NOT grizzlies!

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    1. Oh funny. We're so used to them around here, but we are very careful about them, especially the grizzlies. Often when I walk my dog in the woods, I make sure to carry capsaicin (bear spray) with me to be on the safe side. Thank you for ordering The Wild Inside. I hope you enjoy it!

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  22. The same happens in MA. There's a sense of them invading the human world, but in the west, it seems we're invading their world.

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    1. It really does feel that way. Development all feels like such an encroachment upon their territory.

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  23. Thanks to Kathy Reel's "tip" I just ordered The Wild Inside for my Kindle. Was not familiar with your series so excited to get started.....especially looking forward to the setting!

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    1. Thank you, Helen! I hope you enjoy it!

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  24. I've just read about " A Sharp Solitude" yesterday on BOLO Books and immediately thought it was a book for me.
    So I'm happy to learn more today about you and your books. I'll begin with the first one.

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    1. "I'll begin with the first one" is what series' writers love to hear!

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    2. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy it. Ingrid's correct, "I'll begin with the first one" is exactly what we love to hear, and although I like to think they get better as I go along, I still have very special place in my heart for that first book!

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  25. Sorry I missed this yesterday! I’ve loved all four of your books, Christine. They really transport you to GNP. And I love the ensemble cast. I can picture them as a kind of NBC Mystery Movie lineup, like in the seventies, on TV. And I was lucky enough to read an ARC of A SHARP SOLITUDE and blurb it. Congrats, Christine!

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  26. I love Glacier, so will be sure to read your books. Thank you.

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