Valerie Davisson - Intelligent Mysteries with a Strong Female Lead
A self-admitted book addict, Valerie was the kid with the flashlight under her pillow, reading long after lights out. A life of travel led to degrees in Cultural Anthropology and a pervasive interest in people. She lives on the Oregon coast with her husband, John, and their water-loving dog, Finn. When not working on her latest book she is probably in the kitchen, cooking up a storm for family and friends. As our Author of the Day, Valerie tells us all about her Logan McKenna Mystery, Shattered.
Please give us a short introduction to what Shattered is about.
SHATTERED launches the Logan McKenna Mystery/Thriller series, featuring a fresh, new female protagonist and rich, character-driven stories with a strong sense of place.
We meet Logan McKenna, a strong, independent woman, two years after a car accident took her husband’s life and shattered much of her own, including her illusions about her marriage and herself.
We walk with her as she stretches her muscles and rebuilds her life, including the beginnings of a romantic relationship in her beautiful, coastal hometown of Jasper, CA. The process—sometimes joyful sometimes painful—awakens parts of her she had allowed to grow dormant, such as her love of playing her violin, Bella.
With the last of her funds, she buys a fixer upper a few blocks up Killer Hill from the beach and reconnects with former friends, including Thomas, a Native American artist who has a booth at the local arts festival. While she is figuring out what to do about her disastrous attempt at a new career, she agrees to help them out that summer, along with playing with her old bandmates, Ned and Sally, at the festival.
When a young glassblower is found brutally murdered on site, Thomas becomes the police’s prime suspect. When he refuses to defend himself, Logan refuses to let him pay for a crime she is sure he didn’t commit and starts digging for answers to questions no one else is asking.
What inspired you to write about a young glassblower who is brutally killed at the local art festival?
The beauty and dangers inherent in the work of glassblowing lent themselves to the story line, of course, but I was also intrigued by what draws different personalities to this challenging craft, particularly women.
Tell us more about Logan. What makes her tick?
Logan is passionate, curious, and grounded in the real world. People tell me Logan is someone they wish they knew. And I agree! She’s definitely someone you’d want in your corner if you were accused of murder.
I like her because she’s intelligent and strong, but not perfect. There are many layers to Logan and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. When faced with betrayal, physical pain, or a seemingly unsolvable problem, she faces it head-on. She may not have all the answers yet, but she never gives up. And, she’s not too proud to ask for help.
I love that she grows and changes over the series, along with the other characters. I like putting her in situations where she has to face her shortcomings and previously unexplored parts of herself, developing the capacity to deal with them, which is very freeing.
You have traveled and lived all over the world. How has this influenced your world view and, ultimately, your writing?
I am so grateful to my father for taking that first job overseas and giving us the gift of living in different countries. It is not an exaggeration to say it changed my life completely. I’m sure it was no accident that I majored in Cultural Anthropology because of those years.
As far as how it has affected my writing, although I have not consciously done so since my own life has always been entwined with several cultures, each book has at least one character from another ethnicity. Tava’e, the Samoan chess queen, coffee shop owner, and mother figure to Logan. The Vietnamese characters in FOREST PARK, one which becomes a recurring character in the series. The Chinese sibling musicians in SAFE HARBOR. The characters from Mexico in DEVIL’S CLAW.
Some of the experiences reflected through the actions and dialogue of the characters come from my direct relationships and observations over the years as As an anthropologist, I collected refugee stories and later, worked with and taught immigrants from various countries. That said, none of the storylines in my books are taken directly from real people. I am very respectful of all personal stories shared with me.
Why did you decide to write a mystery? What drew you to the genre?
Like most Mystery/Thriller authors, I was a reader of the genre first. When I experienced a back injury while going through a divorce and raising my two sons, good, solid stories told by Nevada Barr, Sue Grafton, Michael Conneally, and C. J. Box got me through that time. Those well-crafted stories were the only thing that kept my mind from dwelling on things over which I had no control. When I got well, and rebuilt my own life, I wanted to pay it forward and write stories like that for other people going through whatever challenges they were facing.
And it’s FUN! I only do things that have an element of fun in them.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Hmmmm…Great Question! No one has asked me that before. I make a killer chocolate fudge at Christmastime. And I took my horse, Babes, a 9-year old dunn gelding, bareback riding along the highway one day—like an idiot—and a big semi spooked him and he jumped over a wide ditch, I managed to stay on.
Tell us more about Thomas. Why is Logan so determined to save him?
She doesn’t think about these things long, she just does them. It’s in her DNA to be ferociously loyal. Even though Thomas is lying to her, she trusts him and does everything in her power to help, even at the cost of her own life.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Keep going! You’re going to have a wonderful life! (and don’t worry about whether or not you’re having a good hair day or you gain five pounds…)
Which novelists do you admire?
Amor Towles, Elizabeth Strout, Elly Griffiths, early Patterson, Nevada Barr, Michael Conneally, C. J. Box, William Kent Kreuger, Craig Allen Johnson, Tony Hillerman, Barbara Kingsolver (I’m seeing a trend here….) along with Grisham and Baldacci – particularly his Memory Man series. John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jack London…so many!
Is there something that compels you to write? And do you find that writing helps you achieve clarity about yourself or ideas you've been struggling with?
I don’t know what compels me to write. I’ve always had a creative drive to express myself in some way—either through dance, painting, sketching, speaking, teaching, whatever. Writing stuck for some reason and allows me to pursue topics of interest (and I’m interested in almost everything!), really get into it, do a ton of research, put my characters into the pot and stir!
I like the variety, but I also like the intellectual challenge of keeping all the balls in the air and weaving it all together. It’s tough sometimes, but always fun!
This is the first book in a series. How did the other books in this series tie in with this one?
They can all be read as standalones, but are definitely a series in that Logan grows and changes over time as she engages with new people and situations. She has an effect on them and they on her.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
My husband and I share an office, and I need to work in almost absolute silence so I can concentrate. If I am interrupted all those balls I’m keeping in the air fall down and I have to start all over. Grrr…..
If I’m digging deep for just the right phrase or word or how to get one of my characters out of a jam and you ask me where your car keys are at that moment, there may be a second murder victim..!
So, we’ve devised a system that works. When it’s time for me to write, I put noise cancelling headphones on, play a great background track of ocean waves pounding on rocks and tell my husband ‘The Logan light is on!’ so he knows not to interrupt for a while.
What are you working on right now?
I create a production schedule for each new book, so for the next few glorious weeks in January, I’m deep into delicious research mode, from which my storylines and new characters often emerge. For this book, I’m digging into the colorful, local history of smuggling along the Oregon coast back in the day.
I also write poetry and am working on a new poetry book, Tilting Windmills II.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best way to keep up on all things Logan, the poems, or my other hat, as a conversation host at my Saturday Salon, you can contact me through my author site, http://valeriedavisson.com or through social media. I love to talk with readers and so far have been able to answer every email, although it may take me some time depending on my writing schedule. You can also sign up for my blog and/or my author newsletter.
The newsletter is for major announcements of new releases, promotions, and events. For a limited time, all newsletter subscribers receive a free copy of my novella, BELLA: An Appalachian Love Story, the backstory of Logan’s great grandmother, Norah, and her violin. The blog is more informal and you can find topics of interest as a reader or a writer.