Of Elections and Influences: How the 2016 Election Inspired Libby Fischer Hellmann’s HIGH CRIMES

High Crimes CoverSR: What’s HIGH CRIMES about? What inspired you to write it?

LFH: How do you solve a murder when there are 42,000 suspects? 
That’s the task facing Chicago PI Georgia Davis, hired to hunt down those behind the assassination of Resistance leader Dena Baldwin at a demonstration fourteen months after the 2016 election.

I took the 2016 hard. I felt paralyzed: I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t talk about anything except the state of our nation. I probably drove away many people who previously thought I was a nice person. For a year I let my rage control me. Then I realized I was giving him too much power over me. I had joined a Resistance Facebook group a few days after the election, and one night I had the eureka moment: What if the leader of a FB group is killed? Who would have done it and why? That was enough to get me going. High Crimes was the result.

SR: Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.

LFH: A Chicago PI investigates the assassination of a Resistance leader 14 months after the 2016 election.

SR: How do you think Georgia Davis would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

LFH: She would tell you it wouldn’t happen on page 57. It would have happened on page 23.

SR:  Georgia has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

LFH: Canada. She can deal with frigid weather.

SR:  What conspiracy theory is Georgia most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

LFH: Georgia is not a conspiracy theorist, except for the JFK conspiracy, which we know was indeed a  conspiracy. On the other hand, I do believe in JFK, RKF, Martin Luther King, jr, and Roswell. Diana? No. Flimsy at best.

SR:  Is Georgia more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

LFH: Neither is an option.

SR:  Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If your protagonist could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?

LFH: Katniss. She’s a loner and has serious baggage.

SR: What’s Georgia’s greatest fear? Why?

LFH: She’s already faced it – being abandoned.

SR: Was there a specific issue that really motivated you to write this particular story?

LFH: The 2016 election.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

LFH: That our civilized, democratic way of life is fragile and can collapse quickly when corrupt people are leading it.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

LFH: We are both introverts at heart.

SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with Georgia who would win? What is Georgia better at than you? What are you better than your protagonist at?

LFH: She would win at arm wrestling, working out, boxing, shooting a weapon, solving an intractable case. I’m a better reader and writer – she’s slightly dyslexic.

SR:  If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you? For Georgia?

LFH: Me: It’s a Small World After All (song)

Her: It’s a Small World After All (song)

SR: Carpool karaoke. What would be Georgia’s song? Yours?

LFH: Mine: Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat

Hers: Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

SR:  Cage match between you and Georgia. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why.

LFH: She would. She boxes when she works out and she’s in great shape.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

LFH: Gone With The Wind; I don’t think it had much effect. I never wanted to be a writer.

SR:  Did you try your hand at poetry as a teenager or use stick figures to illustrate your comic books? Tell us about your early writing efforts.

LFH: I wrote a play.

SR: What do you think the hardest emotion to elicit from a reader is? Why?

LFH: Compassion – because a reader typically wants a winner and a loser, good vs evil, and compassion demands you see the humanity in everyone.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

LFH: Having written

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

LFH: Writing. But I love editing.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

LFH: Narrative, which includes description, tone, sentence structure, and observational skill.

SR: Did you set yourself a specific writing challenge with this book? What was it, and what was the reason?

LFH: Not in HIGH CRIMES. This was personal. I had to write it to control my rage.

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

LFH: I was a Cinderella 5 years in the making. The biggest obstacle came when my first agent fired me and told me to write something completely different. I followed his advice and was published two years later.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

LFH: I pretty much ignore the market. I write what interests me.

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

LFH: Moriarty. Definitely. I’m drawn to the dark. And I don’t think Holmes plays fair with the reader.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

LFH: Remember the dummy.

SR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

LFH: I once stuck a piece of chewing gum behind a door jam on a tour of the White House. When I returned on another tour a few years later, the gum was still there.


Libby Fischer Hellmann - Photo Credit Michael Candee, First Light Creative

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago over 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fifteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. 

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony and three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. She has also been nominated for the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times. Libby hosts both a TV interview show and conducts writing workshops at libraries and other venues. She was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500-member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. Her books have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese. All her books are available in print, e-book, and audiobook formats. More information can be found online at libbyhellmann.com


Micah Dean Hicks picks the Playlist for Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Final for Online



One of my front teeth is half fake from a knife-throwing incident when I was a kid.” – Micah Dean Hicks








If readers were listening to music as they enjoyed your book, what song would be playing with the opening scene? Why?

Tricky, “Hell Is Round the Corner”


This is the perfect song to open the book. Eerie, cautious, a warning. Martina Topley-Bird’s ethereal voice and Tricky’s prophetic chant. “Hell is round the corner where I shelter,” and it is for Jane and her brother Henry, living amongst the ghosts of Swine Hill. The spirits are swallowing the town, growing restless, drawing closer. Bad things are coming.

What song do you think best illustrates your protagonist’s emotional state during the first part of your book? Why?

St. Vincent, “Fast Slow Disco”


This is a great song for Jane. Possessed by a ghost that allows her to read people’s minds, Jane is always “thinking what everybody’s thinking,” even when she doesn’t want to. She’s stuck in a town she desperately wants to leave, her ghost her only friend. Still, the spirit is better than nothing. And maybe there’s reason to be hopeful. She just met someone new.

There are often significant turning points in a story that advance the plot. This can coincide with an emotional shift for a character. Do you feel like there’s a song that illustrates a defining turning point for your character? If so, which one and why?

Portishead, “Mourning Air”


After Jane loses everything and with nowhere else to go, she drives to her ex-boyfriend Trigger’s house. The two of them were only together a short time, “a moment … in a half lit world.” She’s almost completely alone, “reaching out in this mourning air.” Jane knows they weren’t great for each other, but Trigger is someone she can depend on. He’ll be there for her, won’t he?

Are there other songs that you imagine would be really fitting for specific scenes in your book? If so, feel free to share the songs and a little about why these songs would be fitting for your soundtrack. (For example, they can illustrate the emotions of your protagonist, antagonist, or another character, or fit thematically with an event in the story or the plot.)

The Noisettes, “Scratch Your Name”


This song is for Bethany, the unbeatable girl trailing thousands of ghosts in her wake. The dead won’t let her leave the dying town of Swine Hill, though, so Bethany’s stuck. She can fight and claw and rage, but nothing she does, no matter how big, seems enough to save her.

Maddie Medley, “Coming of Age”


This might the theme song for Jane’s boyfriend Trigger. Jane wants to know everything about him, but Trigger has secrets. No one visits his house. Something bad happened to his family, and they don’t talk about it. Still, even if he feels like he can’t tell Jane everything, he loves how she puzzles over him.

Santigold, “Creator”


This is Henry’s anthem. A boy possessed by a ghost that helps him build impossible machines. Henry is all unbridled confidence, thrilling in what his hands can make. He doesn’t ask should I, only can I, and the answer is always yes.

What song would be suitable for the conclusion of your novel?

She Keeps Bees, “Radiance”


This song is an ending. Triumphant and sweet, but so sorrowful too. How much did Jane lose to get here? What was she able to keep in the end? Read and find out.

Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

On February 7th at 7pm, I’ll have a release party in Orlando, Florida, at Writers Block Bookstore. And on March 20th at 7pm, I’ll be doing an event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ll have a bunch of other events all through the spring. I should have an updated event schedule up on my website soon



Micah Dean Hicks is a Calvino Prize-winning author of fantasy, fabulism, and fairy tale retellings. His writing has appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, The New York Times, Lightspeed, and Nightmare, among others. His story collection Electricity and Other Dreams is available from New American Press. Hicks teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida. His novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones is coming February 2019 from John Joseph Adams Books.

Kicking Off The New Year

Better late than never? What a month. My mac is dying in long, slow stages. Our internet was out for weeks, limiting me to tethering for work and little extra time for indulgences.

Plus the list of household repairs got longer and longer …

But what better way to return than with some exciting news for readers.

Great News For Readers! Isabella Maldonado has a Special Announcement:

death blow cover, amzAs luck would have it, my publisher has arranged to have the first two books in my series discounted during the month before publication of the third book. Please let your readers know!

Discounted 1/26/19 through 3/1/19 across all ebook vendors (Kindle, Nook, iBook, Kobo):

  • Blood’s Echo (Veranda Cruz #1) (9780738751337), discounted to $0.99

o   Print book on Amazon discounted to $7.99

  • Phoenix Burning (Veranda Cruz #2) (9780738753935), discounted to $1.99

o   Print book on Amazon discounted to $7.99

March 8, 2019, Book 3 in the series, Death Blow, will go on sale at bookstores (nationwide and overseas) and on Amazon!


To celebrate, Isabella is sharing a look into her workspace!




Plus, we have Dana King chatting about

his new novel, Ten-Seven.



The Truth Waits Cover with quotes


And – lost in the holiday season shuffle –

Susanna Beard talks about what made her an author.

Plus, catch up with her TBR pile and author assistants!

Triple Threat: Three Things That Turned Susanna Beard into an Author

Formative events that made me a writer:

1. At school, my writing was often chosen by the English teacher to display at the end of term. So I always felt that I might want to write a novel. When I was about seventeen years old, I told my father this. His reaction was that I would find it far too difficult: you needed to do a tremendous amount of research to write a book. The inference was that I wasn’t clever or able enough, and although I remember thinking: ‘But I like researching’, I was certainly delayed by his response.

I’m sure he didn’t mean to be negative. My sister and I agree that he had huge respect for writers and said this because he couldn’t imagine anyone in his family achieving the dizzy heights of publishing a novel. Nonetheless I vowed that one day I would do it.

Perhaps it was his reaction that made me all the more determined.

2. In my teens, I adored my English teacher. She was perhaps the only teacher at my grammar school who earned my respect. She oozed enthusiasm for Dickens, Austen and the Brontes – and therefore so did I (to this day, Bleak House is one of my favourite Dickens novels). She loved Thomas Hardy (oh, the Mayor of Casterbridge!), and she read us Pooh Bear stories at the end of term. Just for this, she was my hero.

She would sit on a spare desk at the front of the class, fold her skirt under her demurely, and let us listen and rest. I still adore Pooh. What a woman! I know she would be proud of me now.

3. Many books have had a lasting impression on me, and it’s tempting to talk about the most recent one. But I think the one that affected me most when I first read it was Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits, published in 1982. I was stunned. It’s beautifully written, and through the skill of her writing the story has a magical, mystical feel.

I haven’t read it recently, although I promise myself all the time that I must, but I know her writing would inspire me again. It’s one of those stories that has deep, dark secrets which gradually reveal themselves through the characters and their reactions to events. The story details the life of the Trueba family, spanning four generations, following the post-colonial social and political upheavals of Chile (unnamed in the book). Allende deals with some very complex and dangerous subjects while bringing to life the fictional family.

It’s an extraordinary book, and even more so for being a debut!

251A1726Susanna is fascinated by human relationships. She can be found people-watching wherever she goes, finding material for her writing. Despite the writer’s life, she has an adventurous streak and has swum with whale sharks in Australia, fallen down a crevasse in the French Alps and walked through the sewers of Brighton – not in that order.

Her passions include animals — particularly her dogs — walking in the countryside and tennis, which clears her brain of pretty much everything.
Susanna’s debut novel, Dare to Remember, a psychological thriller, was published in February 2017; her second, The Truth Waits, was launched on 1 November 2018. She aims to keep writing, and never to get old

Police Politics and Acts of Violence Collide in Penns River: Dana King Talks about His New Novel

cover-king-ten-seven-6SR: What’s your new book about?

DK: A seemingly random act of violence mobilizes the entire Penns River Police Department at a difficult time. New officers were added to satisfy a consent decree and no one is quite sure how good they are; the deputy chief continues to finagle for the top job; the drug trade is picking up; the local mob boss is thinking of switching sides; and a random bridge jumper. All these things keep diverting the detectives from the case at hand.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

DK: The inciting incident comes from an actual murder in Colorado Springs about 30 years ago I saw described on the Investigation Discovery series Homicide Hunter. The “star” of the show, retired police Lieutenant Joe Kenda is, as fate would have is, a Western Pennsylvania native born and raised about 20 miles from the fictional town of Penns River.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

DK: Refining the first draft into something people will want to read.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

DK: Writing the first draft.

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

DK: Holmes, definitely. I like to figure things out.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

DK: So far, so good.

SR:  Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If you could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?

DK: Raylan Givens from Justified. He’s just so cool, and manages to be badass without actually doing anything sometimes. Like the time he talked the guy out of trying to quick draw on him. Or when the killer thought he had Raylan and Winona trapped in the motel room. Raylan was always a step ahead in those situations and he knew it. The confidence was badass in itself.

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

DK: The first one that comes to mind is No Kids Hungry. They get some money every year now, but they’d make out well if I ever struck it rich. I’m not religious but it’s a sin that children go hungry in a country where people will pay tens of thousands of dollars for an Andy Pafko baseball card. (No offense to Andy Pafko.)

SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

DK: I have a few podcasts coming up but the dates aren’t locked down yet. Check the Events page of my web site atwww.danakingauthor.com for regular updates. I plan to be at the Gaithersburg (MD) Book Festival May 18 and the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference September 13 – 15. And Bouchercon, of course, in Dallas at the end of October.

Check out our 2018 interview with Dana King about Bad Samaritan.

dana king author photoDana King has two Shamus Award nominations for his Nick Forte novels, for A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window. He also writes the Penns River novels, of which the fourth novel in the series, Ten-Seven, releases from Down & Out Books on January 21. His work has also appeared in the anthologies The Black Car Business, Unloaded 2, The Shamus Sampler 2, and Blood, Guts, and Whiskey.

Creative Chaos: Isabella Maldonado’s Workspace

death blow cover, amzBy nature, I’m a neat and organized person, but I’ve noticed an interesting trend. Over the course of writing a novel, increasing levels of entropy creep into my workspace toward the end of each draft.

In a bizarre parallel with the frenetic pace of my characters hurtling toward the climax of the story, my life becomes increasingly chaotic when the end of a manuscript is in sight. I step back from social media, socializing in general, and sometimes household chores like tidying my desk.

Because I’m the designated vice-president-in-charge-of-household-papers, the pile of documents to sort, coupons to cut, receipts to file, and general detritus spreads until I consider putting on an outbreak suit to wade through it.

This stage of the process drives me a bit batty because, as I mentioned, I’m kind of a neat freak. But I’m in the flow, so there’s no stopping or slowing down to take care of routine paperwork. I vow to get to it later. The compilation of settings, plot pieces, and characters in my mind competes with the growing collection of incoming information screaming for my attention. All but the most urgent papers are pushed to the back burner as I sprint headlong toward the finish line.

At the end of the day, my husband ventures into my office with a fresh stack of mail. Scanning the desk, he raises a brow. I narrow my eyes. He wisely says nothing and puts the newest pile on a chair in the corner before slowly backing out.

True to my word, when each draft is finished, I clean and purge my workspace. The office is returned to its usual state of orderliness. Peace is restored. Like a bear in the springtime, I crawl out from the cave ready to engage the world again. Thankfully, this only seems to happen in the last month of the process.

Attached are a couple of pictures of my office as it is now. I’m embarking on a new novel, so I’ll document the before status of my surroundings. Later, I might get pics of the after status! Or not…


Don’t forget to check out the details here about Isabella’s books, which are on sale for a limited time, and her new release in March 2018.


hi rez author photo, maldonado, 600x600Isabella Maldonado is an award-winning author, retired police captain, and regular contributor on News Channel 12 (Phoenix NBC affiliate) as a law enforcement expert. Her last police position was Commander of Special Investigations and Forensics. During her career, she was a hostage negotiator, department spokesperson, and precinct commander prior to attending executive management training at the FBI National Academy in Quantico. The first Latina to attain the rank of captain on her department, she received Meritorious Service and Lifesaving Awards. Isabella is a past president of the Phoenix Metro chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives in the greater Phoenix area, where she writes the Det. Cruz mystery series. Her debut novel, BLOOD’S ECHO, won the 2018 Mariposa Award for Best First Book. The second in the series, PHOENIX BURNING, received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was named one of the best suspense books of 2018 by Book Riot. The third installment, DEATH BLOW, will be published on March 8, 2019 and is available for pre-order now.

Advent Day 1: Hap and Leonard



Fuck Sundance.

And fuck Netflix for not picking up this amazing series.

Hap and Leonard managed to touch on issues related to race in an entertaining and comedic way, delivering a tremendous cast, awesome storylines, and one of the best shows ever created.

So fuck Sundance for canceling it for no fucking good reason at all. And fuck Netflix for not picking it up. Sundance, who once produced the brilliance of Rectify … Sundance is dead to me now.





Advent Day 2: Bosch

Advent Day 3: I’m Sorry

Advent Days 6, 5 & 4: The Bleak Worlds: The Man in the High Castle, The Leftovers & The Handmaid’s Tale

Advent Day 7: Trail of Lightning

Advent Days 10, 9 & 8: Horror (It Comes at Night, Heredity, It & bonus, Castle Rock)

Advent Day 11: Barry

Advent Day 12: Salt

Advent Day 13: Blackkklansman

Advent Day 14: Dark

Advent Day 15: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Advent Day 16: Terror is our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horror

Advent Day 17: Freeze-Frame Revolution

Advent Day 18: Haunting of Hill House

Advent Day 19: Wind River

Advent Day 20: Letterkenny

Advent Day 21: Black Mirror

Advent Day 22: The Oddling Prince

Advent Day 23: The Americans

Advent Day 24: Fight Fascism

Advent Day 25: Bodyguard

Advent Day 26: Baskets

Advent Day 27: Literature