Sibella Giorello - Mystery, Geology and Adventure
Sibella Giorello writes the award-winning and bestselling mystery series starring forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon. The first book in the series, "The Stones Cry Out," won a Christy Award for excellence. Since then, more Raleigh Harmon mysteries have followed, including a bestselling YA series in which the 15-year-old student geologist uses mineralogy to solve crimes in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A former newspaper reporter, Sibella's journalism was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about The Waves Break Gray, the first book in her Raleigh Harmon PI Mysteries series.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Waves Break Gray is about.
Forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon's just been fired by the FBI. Now she's trying to rebuild some broken relationships, including a hot romance with a former Bureau colleague. But on a hike in the Cascade Mountains, her fate is sealed by the discovery of a dead body that might've been the victim of a serial killer.
What inspired you to write this book?
Private investigators have some interesting latitude in solving crimes. I thought it would be interesting to see how a forensic geologist would do it. Add mountains, romance, family drama, and dead bodies--I'm inspired!
Tell us more about Raleigh Harmon. What makes her so special?
She's a brilliant forensic geologist who became an FBI agent to solve her father’s murder. But she's also the sole caretaker of her schizophrenic mother whose paranoia means Raleigh can never reveal anything about her crime work. Raleigh's caught between a rock (literally) and a hard place.
You rode a motorcycle across the United States. How has this experience influenced your writing?
Well, it didn't kill me, which allowed me to keep writing...
But in all seriousness, the trip helped me realize how much storytelling means--at the end of every day, no matter where I was, I craved newspapers. That led me into reporting, which segued to novel-writing when my kids were born. And then Raleigh appeared. So maybe the motorcycle launched it all...
Raleigh's mom suffers from mental illness. Why did you create her this way?
Mental illness is far more prevalent than anyone wants to acknowledge. Most families are touched by it in some manner. In fiction, it's also an interesting dynamic, as one character tries to maintain a connection with someone they love, while that person is almost entirely unconnected from reality.
Can this book be read as a standalone? How do the other books in this series tie in with one another?
Yes. It's a standalone--Book 1 in the Raleigh Harmon P.I. series.
But it's also a continuation of the entire mystery series, both her years in the FBI and the young-adult books about her teenage years, when Raleigh realizes geology can solve crimes.
Was there a single defining moment or event where you suddenly thought, 'Now I'm an Author,' as in—this is now my career?"
Nothing revelatory. Nothing glorious. More like, "Get your butt in the chair--this is your job!"
Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?
No character is a direct portrait. But there are amalgamations of people I love, written with the hope that readers will love them, too. I find that to be among the deepest joys of reading--meeting wonderful characters who seem like old friends.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
I avoid "messages" in fiction. Just tell the story, and let readers take from it what they will. Otherwise, you're edging into propaganda.
You write about some heavy themes—things that many of your readers have probably never experienced—yet it's very easy to identify with your characters. How do you make them so relatable?
Wow, that's a very nice thing to say. Thank you.
I think most readers have compassion and empathy, so even if they haven't experienced one particular kind of trauma, they can relate to having been traumatized--by something, somewhere. That's our fate in life. Nobody gets out scot-free. Not even the Scots.
What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
I love mysteries. Absolutely adore them. But I venture into other genres. Everything from as Chick Lit to History. There are just too many great books out there to limit oneself to one genre.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?
Not sure if it's interesting. But it's habitual:
Gigantic cup of tea first thing in the morning. Then some self-nagging. Then the goal of one chapter a day.
Sometimes it gets done quickly.
But most days, it's like a long drive to the dentist.
What are you working on right now?
I'm working on the next Raleigh Harmon mystery, coming out in 2020. And starting several new series that have impatiently waited in the wings for many years.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I'm on Facebook (Sibella Giorello Author). And my website, www.sibellawrites.com. Come visit!