Albany, New York, January 2020 (parallel universe)
A blizzard sweeps up the coast and shuts down the city. When it is over, funeral director Kevin Novak is found dead in the basement of his funeral home. The arrow sticking out of his chest came from his own hunting bow. A loving husband and father and an active member of a local megachurch, Novak had no known enemies. His family and friends say he had been depressed because his best friend died suddenly of a heart attack and Novak blamed himself. But what does his guilt have to do with his death? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Three people — the minister of the megachurch, the psychiatrist who provides counseling to church members, and a medium visiting from the South – say they reached out to Kevin Novak. One of them might know why Novak was murdered. But Detective Hannah McCabe and her partner, Mike Baxter, must sort through lies and evasions as they try to find the killer. The relationship between the partners is threatened as McCabe deals with a political controversy involving her family, unanswered questions about their last high-profile case, and her own guilt because a young woman died after McCabe failed to act.
Genre: Mystery (near-future police procedural)
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 10:1250048303 | 13:978-1250048301
Series: Detective Hannah McCabe #2
I got to visit a bit with Frankie Bailey & here’s what I learned:
Which of your characters was the hardest to write and why?
In the first book in the series, The Red Queen Dies, the most difficult character to write was Hannah McCabe, my protagonist. I was still getting to know her, and it was only after I’d written the first draft that I began to understand how she sees the world. With this second book, my ensemble cast was in place and I picked up with their lives three months later. So the hardest character to write was “the villain”. That’s because – as many writers will tell you – it’s important that the villain be three-dimensional. He or she should not be a cartoon bad guy/gal. Ideally, the villain struggles with the stress of concealing his guilt and the need to “appear normal”. At the same time – to play fair with the readers – there should be clues that the villain is a viable suspect. This requires stepping into the villain’s shoes and imagining what he or she would feel and do and have that occur even if the story is not being told from the villain’s point of view.
What has been the biggest challenge to your writing career?
I’ve been writing – a published writer — since 1991. If you had asked me this question two or three years ago, I would have said finding the time to write always has been my biggest challenge. As a faculty member, I do academic research and writing. The historical and mass media/popular culture research that I do is a slow, labor-intensive process. When I became a published mystery writer, I already had tenure at my university, but I needed and wanted to continue my academic research/writing. Finding enough time for both seemed to be the challenge – especially when I was fortunate enough to receive a contract from St. Martin’s (a major New York publisher) for the first book in my new series. So I grappled with the time issue. But, as I did, I realized that I now have two careers. And if I’m putting in the time I should claim both. Being a criminal justice professor and a mystery writer overlap and intersect. As long as I see them as running parallel to and enhancing each other, it works.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I have to “warm up” when I’m starting a new book. I’m neither a pantser, nor a plotter. I don’t plunge in and keep writing until the end. I also don’t do extensive plot outlines. I’m a hybrid. I like to know where I’m going and to have an overview of the book.
When I’m starting a book, I have to write and re-write the first paragraph and then the first page, and then the first five pages. I continue this write and revise, write and revise process until I find my rhythm and the opening scene that sets the mood. This means that I spend a long time revising the first fifty pages or so. I also need to have a title. The task of finding a title is easier with this new series than with my Lizzie Stuart series.
With the Hannah McCabe series, the books have a children’s literature/ballad theme. The inspiration for the first book was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The inspiration for What the Fly Saw is an English nursery rhyme, “The Ballad of Cock Robin”. But I still have to do my warming up process. Once I’ve gotten started, I continue to revise as I’m writing, but I move along much faster.
Read an excerpt:
Frankie Y. Bailey is a mystery writer and a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). Her academic research focuses on crime history, popular culture/mass media, and material culture. She has done research and written about topics ranging from local history and women who kill to African American characters in crime and detective fiction. She is currently at work on a book about dress, appearance, and criminal justice. She is the author of two mystery series, featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart, and Albany police detective Hannah McCabe. Frankie is a past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. A dog lover, she now shares her home with a Maine Coon cat/mix named Harry.
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