SPECIAL GIVE-AWAY: Check it out! Tina is giving away a her ‘Assault & Reverie and Other Stories’ to any reader of The Murphy Gazette. Enter through the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of this post. Contest will run for a week, and end April 1, 2020. Tina will let the winner know by email, and I will make the announcement via a blog post. —Good Luck! (RLH)
(From Google Books Bio): Tina Whittle is a mystery writer working in Georgia. Her short fiction has appeared in The Savannah Literary Journal, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Gulf Stream, which selected her story “Lost Causes and Other Reasons to Live” as the 2004 winner of their Mystery Fiction contest. She is a columnist and feature writer for The 11th Hour, a local alternative newspaper, and also works as a professional tarot reader.
Q & A with Author Tina Whittle
The Murphy Gazette: When did you first fall in love with writing mystery novels and stories?
Tina Whittle: As a Southerner, I grew up loving stories, all kinds, true and true-ish. I liked mysteries for their puzzle quotient. Encyclopedia Brown was my favorite, but I also loved Trixie Beldon, and eventually Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. They always say write what you read. I decided they were right.
The Murphy Gazette: What makes a good mystery?
Tina Whittle: There are so many sub-genres – from noir with its hard-edged bleakness to cozy with its gentle humor – that I would say that depends on the reader. I like character-driven traditional mysteries where the emphasis on less on the crime and more on how it affects the people in the story, including the main characters. I think the best mysteries are also play-fair mysteries, where the reader gets every clue the detective does, and therefore has every chance of solving the crime too. I love Sherlock, but he hardly played fair – he’d solve the crime because he knew something the reader couldn’t possibly, like the most common tobacco in the West Indies or the nocturnal habits of ring-necked snakes.
The Murphy Gazette: Tai and Trey – our favorite couple ever in literature right now – what or who were their inspirations?
Tina Whittle: Tai is a tribute to every smart, strong, take-no-sass Southern woman I know. She knows how to tell a story and bait her own hook. She’s comfortable in jeans and work boots, isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and likes to push boundaries. She needed a partner who could be her equal.
Enter Trey. He’s second-generation Irish, a cop all the way to his middle, a man who likes rules and regulations and law and order. I didn’t understand him, however, until I figured out that he was recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury. (often called a TBI). I read an article in Scientific American about how certain types of brain damage could actually make a person better at lie detecting, but learned that this ability came with many challenges and detriments. It wasn’t the superpower it seemed to be at first glance. But it made Trey even more interesting as a character, and the perfect foil for Tai, who has no qualms about stretching the truth a bit.
The Murphy Gazette: What is your favorite Tai and Trey story?
Tina Whittle: That’s so hard! My favorite book is Blood, Ash and Bone, the first one set in Savannah. I really began to understand Tai once I got her back in the Georgia Lowcountry, her home turf, with its ghosts and live oaks and marshes. That book more than any other opened up my characters in ways that I hadn’t predicted. It was where I learned that Trey had been a SWAT sniper, which he hadn’t revealed until that point, and I learned that Tai’s family tree included some very dangerous people.
The Murphy Gazette: Which Tai and Trey story was the easiest to write, and which was the hardest to write?
Tina Whittle:They’re all hard. I kept thinking this would get easier, but no. I am an old dog resistant to new tricks, apparently, and so every book I write is like learning how to write a book all over again.
The Murphy Gazette: What project are you working on now?
Tina Whittle:I have several! I have recently reacquired the publishing rights to the Tai & Trey series (my publisher and I parted ways very amicably) so I’m editing those novels for re-release. I’m working on the seventh in the series, tentatively titled Crooked Ways, for release next year. And I’m also dabbling in a romantic paranormal trilogy co-written with a romance writer friend of mine. Plus another spec project at my agent’s request, a slightly more hard-boiled PI series set in Savannah.
The Murphy Gazette: Tell us about your website and what you offer on there.
Tina Whittle: My spanking new website! You can find news about recent releases there, as well as giveaways and deals I’m offering. I have information about all six of the Tai Randolph / Trey Seaver books, including reviews and excerpts, and all of the published stories (available right now just on Amazon Kindle, but I’m expanding into Nook and other outlets very soon). My blog is there too – The Fiction Files – where I write about all the research I do. I am a research junkie. It’s my rabbit hole. And the blog gives me a way to share all the fascinating things I’ve learned while researching Ferraris or Civil War battlefields or SWAT room clearing techniques.
The Murphy Gazette: You have made your short stories free until the first of April as a way to give people something to do during this social distancing we are going through. Why? Has this experience inspired a new story?
Tina Whittle: We are all looking for ways that we can contribute right now as the US faces this great crisis. I am so grateful for those going above and beyond right now – those in the medical and health fields especially, but also the educators and delivery persons and sanitation crews and food service workers and cashiers and truckers and law enforcement, everyone who is truly keeping our country going. This is a tiny thing I can do, but I can do it.
You’ve asked a very interesting question about writing during this time of pandemic. Many of my fellow writers are grappling with this creatively, as in, if we write contemporary stories (as I do) will social distancing play a part in it? Tai would hate all this enforced solitude—Trey would thrive on it. And how is solving crimes different now? Is the crime rate going up or down? How is society itself changing? One of my secondary characters has a pulmonary condition that makes this time especially frightening and dangerous for him. How do I put him in the story? All very interesting questions.
The Murphy Gazette: Tell us about your latest release? When will it be available?
Tina Whittle: I’ll be rereleasing all the longer standalone stories as a boxed set in the fall, including Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming, which I just got the rights back to. And I am hoping to have Crooked Ways out in the spring (fingers crossed!).
The Murphy Gazette: Is there a book out there that you want to read but you have read yet? What is it? And what is the one book you think everyone should read and why?
Tina Whittle: So many unread books on my shelf. The Japanese have a word for it – tsundoku. Having more books that one can possibly read. And I just ordered a dozen more (gotta support my local independent bookstores!). They run the gamut from new mystery series to science and nature to historical nonfiction to short story collections. But one book I’ve read too many times to count, one that I think everybody ought to read and commit to memory, is Animal Farm. I read it when I was ten, before I knew it was an allegory. I think it was more powerful that way.
The Murphy Gazette: Any last words?
Tina Whittle: Be well, y’all. Let’s look out for each other, be grateful for each other, and do the best we can to be good neighbors to each other.
REGISTER HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF TINA WHITTLE’s “Assault & Reverie And Other Stories” Exclusively for readers of The Murphy Gazette. Contest ends on April 1. Winner chosen at random, and will receive a message from Tina! Click the name of the collection or click here.
Find Tina Whittle’s work at tinawhittle.com.