Your mom read to you when you were forced to stay indoors, sick with croup. Did she inspire you to a favorite author or book with all this reading? Mine was Louisa May Alcott. Crushed me when I recently read she hated writing the books I loved and only did so for the money.
My mom read to me from a great variety of books. In particular I remember A Child’s Garden of Verses, My Friend Flicka, Call of the Wild, Treasure Island and a few of the Nancy Drew mysteries. I loved all of them, but I was particularly drawn to the mysteries. She’d read a few chapters at a time. I could hardly wait to find out what would happen next. While I don’t know if the author,Carolyn Keene, wrote for the love of writing and entertaining young people or just for the money, she definitely impressed me because I still love mysteries today, both reading and writing them.
You also paint portraits. Is the writing an outgrowth of that creativity or do you find that each answers a different creative urge?
I would definitely say that for me, writing is an outgrowth of painting. I painted long before I wrote anything. And, while they are similar in process; both writing and painting start with a sketch or synopsis, and take many layers and rewrites to complete, they satisfy different needs in me. When I paint, I get instant gratification. Writing, however, is a long and arduous process and though the finished product, a book, makes me just as proud as a painting does, the pride is for hanging in there through all the ups and downs of the sometimes years-long project. Also, writing is very cerebral, each sentence is studied, written, and re-written. Painting, on the other hand, has to be spontaneous. Brushstrokes that look studied look…well, hideous.
What was your initial reaction to learning that HIDING GLADYS would be published and who was the first person you shared the news with?
When I first heard from my editor that a publisher wanted Hiding Gladys, I was surprised. It took a while for the joy to set in and for me to fully comprehend that at long last I had realized a dream. I believe my husband was the first person I told.
Please tell us about your debut, HIDING GLADYS.
Book one is a story about a woman geologist who is driven to make a success of her life all on her own. She is a rugged individualist who doesn’t mind risk as long as the reward is great enough. To that end, after finding a rare granite deposit on the coastal plain, she sets out to execute a simple option to lease the property on which the deposit lies from the elderly landowner,Gladys Walton, but complications arise starting with a rattlesnake in her car.
After her dog is shot and she falls down a well onto a body all in a the first few days prior to testing, she wonders if things could get any worse. They do. Gladys goes missing and her two greedy children make it clear they intent to take over their mother’s affairs. A little deductive reasoning leads Cleo to Gladys and the decision to keep her hidden until the deposit proves out and legalities can be wrapped up. Unfortunately, a series of mysterious accidents, a nervous banker and an imposing sheriff bent on finding a killer all work against her as time and her money are running out.
Bud Cooper, her ex-husband and all-around good guy, whom she still loves but is unable to live with, tries to help her but she is distracted by an old lover and former geologist,Nash Finley. But, it turns out he plans to kill her and Gladys and jump her claim. In the end she spoils his plans and wins the day.
Hiding Gladys is a mystery, which boiled down to its basics is about a woman geologist trying to test a piece of property hoping to confirm the existence of a vast deposit of granite so she can exercise her option on the land and open a quarry. And since I used to be a geologist who did the same thing almost every day on job, I’d say both my education and my on the job training as a field geologist were paramount to writing the story. However, my experience with small boats as well as all the time I’ve spent in the woods and fields of North Carolina serve, I hope, to make the book more believable. Lastly, it helps, if you’re writing from the perspective of an ex-wife, and mother to have experience along those lines as well. Note: I’ve been an ex-wife and like Cleo, I’m still friends with my first husband. However, I’m also a happily married wife of 33 years.
I like to write mysteries because they are my favorite books to read.
Is the area, Southeastern North Carolina, as much a “character” as Cleo?
I hope I’ve succeeded in making Southeastern North Carolina a major character in the story. It was certainly my intention to do so. There are many beautiful places on the planet earth, but none, in my estimation, as lovely as here.
I read you plan to write more books with Cleo. Why did you decide to write a series vs standalones?
I decided to write a series for the same reason that I write mysteries, I love to read them. You know how much fun it is to find a new author and get involved in a fast-paced series? How you can hardly wait for the newest book to come out? Well, that’s how I want my readers to feel about me. Also, a series gives you a chance to have a flawed character evolve over time, maybe overcome a issue resulting from a hard childhood or trauma of some kind. It’s quite a challenge to weave family relationships and how they change over time into a series.
Do you plan for them all to be set in the same area or will Cleo travel?
All the Cleo Cooper mysteries will be North Carolina mysteries. Right now, I’m about to wrap up the second one and the third is finally starting to take shape in my head. They are both based in Southeastern North Carolina. If there’s to be another, it will still be based in my home state, but who knows, it could take place in our wonderful, ancient Appalachian mountains.
What rejuvenates you when you find yourself stuck on a point, detail, or just plain blah while writing?
When my writing gets dull or I just get downright stuck, a quick trip outside to walk in the woods with my dogs usually does the trick. I can tell you for sure, watching the television never does much to inspire me. I usually find my inspiration in the great outdoors.
Do you have a writing routine or something specific or special you need to get those creative juices flowing?
My routine is the following: I write in the mornings until about lunchtime. Then I break, fix my husband and I a snack—yes, that’s right, I still cook for my husband –then I paint until late afternoon at which time I take care of a few of those pesky household duties like shopping for groceries. After dinner, if I feel inspired—and I often do as all the while I’ve been painting and working around the house, I’ve also been running some problem with the book through my head—I’ll go back to my studio and write until bedtime.
Is there another genre you’d like to try your hand at?
Right now, I’m happy and challenged trying to write mysteries. I think I’ll stick with that for a while.
What do you find the most rewarding about writing?
To me, the most rewarding thing about writing is hearing what strangers have to say about your work. I mean, it’s one thing to have your friends sing your praises, but when you read the opinions of people totally unknown to you and they’re positive, well, it’s very gratifying.
Do you have a WIP you can share some details about?
I’m just finishing the revisions for the second book in the Cleo Cooper series, Trusting Viktor, and I like it very much. It does all the things I wanted it to: it carries forward from where the first book left off with the lives of Cleo and her family, the geologic underpinnings of the story are particularly timely and interesting, there’s plenty of action and a plethora of real, hard facts to give the book a touch of reality.
Have you read a book lately that you would highly recommend?
Gosh, I read so much it’s hard to say, but when considering fiction, I’d probably say one of John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers stories, Shockwave. I like both of Sandford’s series characters…both Davenport and Flowers, but Flowers, being an outdoorsman, is more appealing to me. In non-fiction, it would be Cleopatra, A Life, by Stacy Schiff. I’m fascinated by the lives of the ancients, especially the extent of their knowledge.
The Cleopatra book sounds like my kinda read. Love history.
What do you like to do to relax or your preferred downtime activity?
Like Cleo, I have a center console flat-bottom fishing boat. My husband and I love to pack a picnic lunch and spend a day fishing and crabbing and just exploring the estuaries and sandbars around Southport with our three Westies. Sometimes we take a photo safari: he drives the boat and tries to creep up on birds while I photograph them to use a reference for my paintings.
I have a Westie..his name is Riley. He’s a old & crochety but still a sweetheart.
Is there anything special you’d like to share with all the Manic Readers out there?
I’d like to tell them how special I think they are not just because they’re Manic Readers, but because they read. The fact that they like mysteries is just icing on the cake and proves they love a mental challenge. Ever met someone at a party who proudly proclaims they’d rather watch TV than read a book? Then, notice how after a few minutes, you drift off to engage someone else? I don’t know for a fact, but I think people who read are just happier don’t you? Probably live longer, too so keep it up! Oh, and read Hiding Gladys while you’re at it.
I’m not much for TV but if I watch anything it’s usually mysteries, British ones in particular.
Thanks for taking the time to visit,Lee. I’ve enjoyed it.
Thanks for interviewing me, I’ve enjoyed it, too.
What’s a live rattlesnake doing sunning itself in the back seat of field geologist Cleo Cooper’s Jeep? Nothing good, you can be sure — but the dilemma of how it might have gotten there isn’t as crucial to her as making certain it doesn’t stay. Yet, alarming as such an uninvited passenger might be, more disturbing to the plucky, single-minded Cleo is the need to nail down her deal for mining rights to a rare, vastly valuable North Carolina granite deposit.
The problem is that the property owner, Gladys Walton, has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, while neglecting to sign the final documents.
First, a murder interferes with locating her: is the woman’s body found dumped in a well that of the missing Gladys? Amid the wooded, rocky countryside, suspicious misdeeds multiply and Gladys’s conniving relations all behave extremely badly.
The increasingly provoked Cleo sees her dog shot, the progress at her job site dangerously disrupted and, finally, is made witness to another death. Whom can she trust? And what kind of distractions should she allow herself when so much is at stake? Both her charming but exasperating ex-husband and an even more seductive former lover are both on hand competing to rescue her; it’s clear to Cleo, though, that she must go it alone and risk the consequences.
Here’s my review of HIDING GLADYS.
Cleo Cooper is set to realize every geologist’s dream. She’s discovered a huge and rare granite deposit under her friend Gladys Walton’s land; however, someone doesn’t want Cleo and Gladys to reap the rewards.
HIDING GLADYS is a wonderful debut with a distinctly Southern heroine, of a certain age, aided and abetted by an excellent supporting cast. Cleo’s age was a big plus for me. Sometimes you get a bit tired of bright young things and want someone with attitude based on living experience, ensuring she can back up that sass. Cleo Cooper is your quintessential well rounded Southern girl. She can tromp through the woods, handle a gun, hang with the fellas, drive the hell out of a boat, hold her own in a fight when necessary, and clean up to reveal a beautiful, sexy, intelligent woman who isn’t averse to using her feminine wiles. In addition to these stellar attributes Cleo also brings to the table a large slice of “bound and damn determined” combined with a heaping helping of hardheaded, just to keep things interesting and others on their toes, dontcha know. It was the hardheaded that made me want to pinch her occasionally, but sadly I understood it too.
Cleo is ably assisted and abetted by Bud, her ex husband. I flat out adored Bud. He doesn’t mind admitting when he’s wrong & he still loves Cleo. He’s also shaping up to be a great friend making Cleo one lucky woman.
There are her children, daughter Henri, and son,William.
Stick, Mule and Joe are the crew Cleo works with while endeavoring to prove her suspicions of what’s beneath Gladys’s land. They’re great guys.
Nash Finley, handsome and sexy fellow geologist that Cleo dated briefly. Should his reappearance be likened to the proverbial bad penny?
Robert Earle and Shirley are Gladys’s pitiful excuses for children. Sorry doesn’t even begin to describe these two. Not a redeeming quality between them, poor Gladys.
Finally there’s Gladys herself. What a trooper. They don’t come much feistier than Gladys, even when she discovers the painful truth of the Shakespearean quote, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”
HIDING GLADYS manages to make geology interesting. Well, maybe not the nuts and bolts of geology, but the results of it. Who knew? From natural gas stores to whopping granite mountains, there’s definitely enough money to kill people for. Rattlesnakes to dangerous boat rides and plenty in between,Cleo has her hands full trying to survive, keep Gladys safe, and figure out who is behind these attempts on their lives. I know I’ll never look at yucca bushes the same again.
HIDING GLADYS is a solid debut featuring an interesting, charming cast and possessing a strong sense of place and culture. I can’t wait to see what Cleo and crew gets up to next.
Lee is offering a print copy of HIDING GLADYS to one lucky commenter. Do you prefer your mystery heroines young as in Nancy Drew, middle aged like Cleo, or much older like Ms.Marples? Giveaway ends @12am est 4-3-13 with winners announced shortly thereafter. Good Luck! (Sorry y’all, due to shipping it’s a U.S. only giveaway).
Lee Mims is and always has been a North Carolina farm girl. She played outdoors from dawn to dusk, built forts, drank water from garden hoses and ran with sticks. And for 25 years, she raised and trained Quarter Horses.
She was often sick as a child, and it was while staying home with her mother that Mims learned the beauty of words. Together they read endlessly: short stories, fairy tales and adventure novels.
Because of her love of the great outdoors, she later earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and worked as a field geologist. And as a popular wildlife artist, Mims owns her self-named studio where she does both portrait and fine art oil paintings. She has two pieces on tour with Paint America and recently sold a painting to Ms. Andy Griffith for his museum.
Books never escaped her, and her geology background inspired Hiding Gladys, the first of the debut author’s Midnight Ink-published Cleo Cooper Mystery Series. Busy writing the next installment, Trusting Viktor, Mims is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.
She lives on a family farm in Clayton, NC with her husband.
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Hiding Gladys on Amazon