Lyssa, tell us a bit about Planted. The story tells what happened when my spring-break gardening project turned up a loaded revolver buried in the abandoned rose garden in Kyle’s and my backyard. Bad enough the gun discharged, critically injuring our elderly neighbor, but it also threw us into a search for the body we knew must be somewhere. At the start we had no idea who’d been murdered, who’d pulled the trigger and hidden the gun, or even when all that had happened. Searching for the answers put a strain on our marriage and caused both of us to take risks we regretted. Without Kyle’s expertise with technology and mine with money, that murder would never have been solved.
What made you choose teaching economics for a career? Boring, right? My dad was an economics professor at a small Franciscan college. He emphasized values in his teaching—ethics, stewardship, personal responsibility, social responsibility. I admired that about him. I had a head for finance and economics, too, but not in the same way. I saw girls and women around me who had little sense of money—how to make it, spend it, invest it, and manage it—so I focused my career on Financial Literacy for women and youth.
Knowing what you know now, if you had it to do over again, would you stick with being a college professor or do something different? I love teaching college seniors, because it’s easy to get their attention. They’re about to leave college with huge debt, big dreams, and no tools to manage their money. My courses contribute to their success at life. However, before taking the Visiting Professor position at Tompkins College, I did a post-doctoral fellowship in London, and starred in two public television video series for women, The Savvy Spender and The Wise Women Investor. I was devastated when our funding ran out. I’ve since been asked by women in my husband’s region of England, the south west, to develop affordable workshops and consulting for them. Once my grant is finished at Tompkins College, Kyle and I will live full time in Cornwall, and I’ll focus on that work. Who knows where it will lead?
What is your biggest fear? Picking up a drink. Both my parents died of alcoholism. I’ve been sober two years now, but if I were to pick up a drink, I’d be lost to the disease of alcoholism. No more marriage. No more career. That’s not how I want to live.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why? When I was growing up, I read every Nancy Drew book. As a pre-teen, I thought Nancy had it all—cool car, cool boyfriend, interesting friends, lots of mysteries to solve, no one to nag her, no money worries. Even though I’ve grown up, I still think of Nancy Drew when I need a quick escape from pressure. Maybe that’s why I get involved in so many mysteries. Hmm, have to think about that!
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Two pieces of wisdom—one from my dad, one from my mom. Dad taught me how to live within my means and manage my money. I hated all that advice at the time, but it paid off for me in the long run. I finished college and my doctorate without credit card debt or a big loan to pay off. As for Mom, she told me to marry for love. I did. Kyle’s the best!
Excellent advice, Lyssa. Smart of you to follow both suggestions. We'd now like to speak with C.T. Which writer or character[s], from either books or movies, [or both] have had a major impact on your writing? There are so many authors who’ve influenced me. As a teen I loved those brooding Gothic mysteries and I devoured traditional mysteries. Daphne de Maurier drew me in deep with her attention to the landscape of her settings. As a result, most of my protagonists have a passion for the place they live, and they do their best thinking while they’re immersed in the landscape, whether it’s gazing at the rose garden, hiking on the cliffs, or canoeing on a tranquil lake.
With regard to research, where did you start for this novel? Did that lead you down different paths, thereby changing the original concept? Planted is the first book in the series, The Penningtons Investigate, featuring husband-wife amateur sleuths. The first draft of Planted drew on my experience in higher education and focused mostly on Lyssa Pennington’s motivation for solving the mystery. My editor challenged me to go deeper to show the reader why Kyle Pennington, Lyssa’s husband, was equally invested in solving the mystery, not just supporting his wife’s desire to investigate. As I dug into Kyle’s past as a schoolboy, the theme of bullying came out of my involvement in Teacher Education over the past fifteen years. However, because Kyle grew up in Cornwall and went to an elite school in Somerset, I needed first-hand knowledge of those areas of England, an understanding of British schooling, past and present, and some knowledge of the British think tanks and universities that might have employed young geniuses like Kyle and his classmates. The fabrication of Kyle’s childhood school, Mullett Academy, also draws on my consulting experience with private schools to visualize placement and function of buildings, incorporation of sports, and other subtle details. I wrote many pages over several days to develop the scenario that’s only briefly described in Planted as the catalyst for Kyle’s commitment to finding the missing boys.
Tell us a bit about your publisher. How did you hear about them; what influenced you to submit to them; how is the submission process; what is the turn-around time from date of query to date of release? After publishing a romance series as Katie O’Boyle through Soul Mate Publishing, I found that my readership, including many women of a certain age, is invested in the Nook platform as well as Kindle and has a strong preference for printed books with readable fonts that are easy on older eyes. That led me to self-publish my mystery series, for the flexibility I needed with platform. Even though I have a strong technical background, it was scary to take the plunge into self-publishing. It was up to me to find a great editor (Lourdes Venard of Comma Sense Editing) and a cover artist (Dave Fymbo of Limelight Book Covers). I’ve also invested in a series logo and an imprint logo, and I have someone helping me generate marketing ideas. My confidence is growing with each step, and I’m happy with the decision.
What are you reading right now? I read every academic mystery I can get my hands on, alternating them with cozy mysteries and traditional mysteries. I just finished Debra Goldstein’s Maze in Blue, set on a college campus in the early 1970s. I’m now reading Susannah Hardy’s Olive and Let Die, one of the cozies in her Greek To Me series.
What's next for you? July 29, 2016, is the Launch Party for Planted at my hometown library, Seneca Falls, NY. The party is at the start of my high school reunion. We’re pitching it as an opportunity to support the library, which plays a vital role in our small town, and to meet the new library director who has just taken over after a long tenure by a much-loved local boy. In late October, Planted will expand to additional ebook formats—Nook, iBook, and Kobo. Book two, Stuck, is in the works with a release date of Februrary 2017. There are six titles planned in The Penningtons Investigate. If you’re wondering about the titles, each is a single word, past-tense verb telling the disposition of the murder weapon.
C.T. brought an excerpt from Planted:
Lyssa yanked a pillowcase off the clothesline, tore into it with her teeth, and ripped it into wide strips. “The ambulance is on its way, Mrs. Winkel. I’m going to stop the bleeding the best I can.” When she lifted Mrs. Winkel’s right hand away from her left arm, blood pulsed from the wound.
God, help us. With shaking fingers, she wrapped strip of cloth tight around the wound. Hands slippery with blood, she wiped them on her shirt, then twisted another strip of pillowcase to make a tourniquet and tightened it with a clothespin.
What am I forgetting? “Bree,” she yelled, “I’ve got a tourniquet on the wound, and I can’t let go of it. What else do I need to do?”
“Right beside you.” Bree squatted next to her. “She’ll need her insurance card and doctor’s name, and they want me out front to meet the ambulance.”
“In my purse,” Mrs. Winkel gasped. “Hallway table.”
“I’ll get it.”
“I want to go with her to the hospital,” Lyssa said.
“Then take my car and follow them, but don’t let the police see you, or they’ll make you stay here to answer questions.”
“Evade the police?” Keep it together. “Mrs. Winkel, once the ambulance arrives—”
“Stay with me.” Her neighbor’s voice quavered.
“I will. I promise.”
Mrs. Winkel’s bloodied right hand grabbed at Lyssa’s T-shirt. “Call Mary. My sister.” She groaned, her grip loosened, and her arm dropped heavily.
Mrs. Winkel’s eyelids fluttered and her head rolled to the side.
To purchase Planted, go to:
Amazon Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/h2f2xeh
Amazon Paperback: http://tinyurl.com/glwwzsg
To learn more about C. T. Collier and the stories she creates, go to:
Website: The Penningtons Investigate
Facebook: Kate Collier