Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer of Interviews: DR Ransdell

Today I'm pleased to welcome DR Ransdell!

1. What was your inspiration for your book?  I love spending time in Greece, so sending my mariachi player on vacation there seemed like a good excuse to think about this beautiful country. I worked on Rhodes for the 1994-1995 school year. Even though Rhodes Town had a population of some 50,000, it seemed small. I used some of that small-town island mentality for this book.  Another big influence was my brother, to whom this book is dedicated. Andy gets into so much trouble in ISLAND CASUALTY that his brother Joey needs to come bail him out. Hopefully I’ll never find myself in a similar position, but if I do, I’ll send an S.O.S. to John right away.

Can you tell us about how your own experiences influenced this story?

When I went to Greece on a university trip, I fell in love with the language. I fell in love with the bouzouki scene, the beach scene, the café scene. I spent the next decade vacationing in Greece. There were so many great beaches to choose from! For ISLAND CASUALTY I used a fictional island named Amiros, but in the back of my mind I was thinking of Kálymnos, which was the first island I visited myself. I’d been invited by Greek friends whose camaraderie is much like the friendship Andy feels with Eleni and Nikos.

2. Would you classify this series as plot driven or character driven? 

When I read mystery novels myself, I’m more focused on character than on plot because I enjoy getting to know the characters and their foibles. My own works reflects this preference. Despite all his flaws, or maybe because of them, I enjoy spending time with Andy and following his travails. Whether he’s performing folk music, following a clue, or trying to get a date, I have fun playing around with his decisions and their consequences. 

3. Can you tell us a little about your main characters?
By profession, Andy is a skilled mariachi violinist. He loves performing and he’s good at it. The problem is that Andy is also an “everyman.” He tries to make right decisions, but just as the rest of us, he has trouble reading the signs. He thinks he understands situations, but he doesn’t always catch nuances. He’s kind-hearted, but he trips himself up by trying to help the wrong people at the wrong times.

Rachel is a mariachi player from Tucson who’s found a unique niche for herself in Greece. During the summers when the tourist trade keeps the tavernas crowded, she helps out by playing in the local bouzouki band. This works perfectly for her because it gives her the opportunity to spend all summer in Greece and then return to her job in Tucson as soon as the tourists go home over. Life on Amiros is bittersweet for Rachel, however, since one of her former lovers was the island’s star musician.

4. Without giving away too much, tell us about the main conflict. 

The novel is about the intense love a man has for a woman, the lengths he’s willing to go to secure that love, and the obstacles he encounters. The plot itself is quite romantic.

5. What do you hope readers take away from this book? 

If they haven’t been to Greece before, I hope they get inspired to travel there. I hope they hear the songs in the taverna and feel the ocean spray on their faces while their toes sink into the pebbles. I hope they also enjoy reflecting on the value of genuine friendships and loyal family members. Finally, I hope they’re intrigued by a central theme; while we might like to see everything in black and white, many situations are closer to gray than we first imagine. 

6. What song best describes your writing style?

The song that best describes my style is “Golpe traidor,” a fast Spanish-language song that sounds happy even though the words explain why the singer needs to extract revenge. The song is fast from start to finish without changing tempo. It’s also tongue in cheek; it’s too dramatic to be taken overly seriously. My writing mirrors the song in that I write quickly every day until I get through an entire manuscript. Even though I’m writing murder mysteries, they’re not about the end of the world or nine dozen murder victims. They’re stories that are particular to that setting and that time period. They could happen to anybody.

7. Night Owl or Early Bird?

Night owl! Now that it’s summer and I don’t have to get up to teach any classes, it’s harder and harder for me to get to bed before four a.m. The truth is that I love to stay up late. No phone calls. No TV shows. I can work in peace. And I always make the mistake of thinking, “I can get this one more little thing done….”

8. Skittle or M&Ms?
There are a few foods I can’t keep in my house because I have no control over them: peanuts and M & Ms (plain, peanut, or almond)!

9. Who are your favorite authors?

For fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien. For travel saga, Lawrence Durrell. For mysteries, Robert Crais, Gianrico Carofiglio, and especially John Grisham.

10. Can you tell us about any other future projects? 
ISLAND CASUALTY takes place in Greece, but Andy’s vacation won’t last too long. His next adventure will take him south of the U.S. border. On a non-fiction note, I’ve been working on a memoir about my adventures playing in a mariachi.

Get your copy of ISLAND CASUALTY here:

Meet DR Ransell:
D.R. Ransdell writes from Tucson, Arizona, where she enjoys good swimming weather most of the year. During the school season she teaches composition to international students at the University of Arizona. She also moonlights in a mariachi band, which gives her plenty of ideas for murder victims. When vacation starts, she hits the road, leaving behind several mischievous cats. One of her favorite travel destinations is Greece, where she can devote afternoons to splendid beaches and evenings to bouzouki music. Please visit her at

Youtube Videos   
Music & Writing Blog
Cat Lovers’ site

More about Island Casualty:
Depressed about the death of a lover, Andy heads to the Greek island of Amiros for what he hopes will be a sex holiday with Rachel, another mariachi player. En route he meets a fellow passenger who accidentally leaves behind one of his packages. By the time Andy realizes the man’s mistake, his acquaintance has melted off into the crowd.
                Andy spends the evening searching the port for his travel companion to no avail. The next morning, the man is found floating in the harbor. In the island’s daily newspaper, a picture of Andy enjoying a cup of coffee with the victim advertises their so-called close connection.
                Worried about the newspaper’s claim that he and the deceased are spies, Andy turns himself in to the local police chief. Soumba laughs at the trumped up charges and tells Andy he has nothing to worry about. Andy would be happy to agree, but later that evening, he’s run off the road by whizzing bullets.

                Such dire circumstances force Andy to begin his own investigation of the drowned man, but instead of finding facts, he finds himself at the mercy of another assassination attempt. He offers to leave the island, but he realizes that the only way to keep his friends safe is by uncovering the truth about the drowning victim. The more he learns, the more he’s drawn into the history of the island and the complicated connections among its inhabitants.