Sometimes a certain locale can be inspiring. Please help me welcome my next guest author, Radine Trees Nehring, as she shares her inspiration for her stories. First a glance at her bio and then we’ll get right to the good stuff!
Radine and John Nehring lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when they discovered the rural Arkansas Ozarks on a camping trip there in 1978 and fell in love with the area. They bought their first eleven acres in the Ozarks that same year (later expanded to 23 acres) and, working on weekends, built a weekend cabin. In 1988, they left Tulsa and moved full-time to Arkansas. Radine’s writing career opened when she began selling articles and essays about the Ozarks to regional and national publications. Many were collected in her first book, Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, published by Brett Books in New York 1995. (That book was later sold to a Chinese publisher.) Radine says that all her writing, including her nine mystery novels, share what she loves about the Ozarks with readers. Her various awards and lively book sales prove that readers do enjoy the stories set in real places. This includes a New York reviewer who, after reviewing several in Radine’s To Die For mystery series, came with her husband to Arkansas on vacation because she wanted to visit all the book locations.
Radine says, “I enjoy writing about places I love, and sharing these with readers everywhere. Both they, and I, can experience famous Arkansas adventure areas as each crime story related to the area unfolds.”
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Radine: I did not begin writing for publication until I fell in love with the Ozarks of Arkansas. Then there was so much I wanted to share as I was discovering it for myself and found unique and very interesting. Evidently others did, too. Until that time not many people outside Arkansas and Missouri knew much about the Ozarks. (For example…they are not mountains, but eroded uplift plateaus.)
Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?
Radine: Carrie McCrite arrived fully developed. I am not sure why, but I am grateful it happened. Seemed like I had always known her and even her parents, who do not appear in any of my writing.
Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?
Radine: All of the thirteen stories in this book are set at or near Spring Hollow (called Blackberry Hollow in all my books). It’s the area around the home John and I developed on our Ozarks land and the surrounding area we became very familiar with. I could walk every bit of the places covered in the stories, including the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs where Carrie and Henry were married and the mall where the baby abduction occurred. The library in one of the stories is very real and accurately described as well. I experienced the stories as I wrote them.
Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?
Radine: Each character came “full grown” into his or her part in the story. And Shirley and Roger were already fully developed in several of my full length novels. I often know my book characters better than people I meet several times a week. “Real” people are often hard for me to get to know. Never (thus far) any book people.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Radine: Since every location in every one of the short stories (as well as all the main locations in my eight full-length mystery novels) was known to me, the only research needed was for details in the novels. I spent time at each of those sites and often worked with staff there. That, fortunately, led to acceptance and usually welcome for the completed novel. I have never had to ask permission to include a real location, but most readers would not know they were real down to the last doorknob. I do think, however, that being “in” the real place myself did help in developing each story.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Radine: Have never made drafts. Yes, I might change details within a story as I edited, but never finished any novel or short story and then did any very extensive re-write. I was member of a critique group at times during the writing process for some novels and short stories and group members would sometimes make suggestions for changes I thought of value, or ask questions that led to a change. But none were ever major. Initially, a St. Kitts Editor suggested that I make Carrie younger than she seemed in A Valley to Die For, but I knew Carrie too well by then to consider a change. One interesting development along that line is that I discovered early on that female readers of any mature age assumed Carrie was their age. Therefore I have never stated her age or answered questions about it. (I just say, “I don’t know, I never asked her.”) Assumed ages have ranged from 50s to 80s.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Radine: Novels usually take me about a year to write and edit. Several individual short stories were written over probably 6-7 years, and some were published in anthologies at that time though stories were edited again for publishing in Solving Peculiar Crimes. Most of the stories in that collection are new, however, and each took a few days to think through and write. (As to the few that had been previously published, I had always received full return of rights. One example is the baby abduction in the mall, a Christmas story I wrote and donated to an anthology to benefit Toys for Tots.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Radine: Can’t think of any rituals. I just sat down at my computer and took up where I left off the day before.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Radine: Yes, I have done that, and the “word of the week” has varied so I can’t name a single one though the ones you mention must surely fit. I usually catch it when I do a first edit.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Radine: Role model. Hmm. It was Carolyn Hart who first encouraged me as a beginning mystery writer. She also charmed me with her Death on Demand series. Same was true of Margaret Maron and the Deborah Knott books somewhat later. Another, still more recently, is Marilyn Meredith. My husband and I also enjoyed spending time with Marilyn and her husband, Hap, at many mystery writers’ conventions we attended. I especially like her Rocky Bluff police procedural books, written as F. M. Meredith.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Radine: After we built Spring Hollow house in the rural Ozarks I had my own office. I wrote at my computer desk there, and re-read for editing on a love seat in my office. After my husband and I moved to a condo duplex in Fayetteville, AR, I again had my own office and computer desk. I edit sitting on a day bed in my office.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Radine: I began writing short articles and essays for publications before I retired from a full-time job in Tulsa, but after we moved to Arkansas I could be a full-time writer. I did have one sort of part-time job however. I had my own radio program. “Arkansas Corner Community News” aired weekly on a Northwest Arkansas radio station. I researched and wrote all the news items on that program and delivered the news on the air. (Got pretty tired of nighttime board and committee meetings, truth be told.) I did enjoy doing radio work, however, and the notice and “fame” (😊) I got around the two counties I covered was fun. Covering the yearly Christmas Parade in the town nearest us was a high point. I usually invited a local “citizen of note” to join me on the air and serve as a commentator about people and organizations we were seeing in the parade.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Radine: Achievement. Maybe promoting this wonderful area and getting to work with so many people at the various locations I covered. And, the writing I do does give me a sense of accomplishment.
Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?
Radine: Talk to over dinner? No question…none of the “dead British ladies” like Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers, but any of several mystery authors I have met and enjoyed being with at the writing conferences that used to be held frequently around this country. Several of them are gone now, but they were considered good friends, and I miss them.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Radine: Success was/is a satisfying degree of recognition for my work, which helps validate it, and the fact I am pleased (and, honestly, still enjoy re-reading) my written work. Don’t know if I will write more to submit for publication but gee, there are the daily emails that keep me in touch with distant friends and family. As soon as COVID clears enough I intend to go back to setting up at one of many stores in an area grocery chain that has welcomed me at their entrances on past weekends to sell books. Lots of nice people to talk with whether they buy books or not. I have really missed that.
Readers familiar with Carrie McCrite and Henry King in Author Radine Trees Nehring’s popular To Die For mystery series will be one step ahead of those of us just beginning the journey into Ozark stories featuring right, wrong, and redemption. Carrie’s eagerness to help people in trouble often draws her into puzzling and dangerous human events. Her friend (and by this time, husband), retired police officer Henry King, provides support and back-up (and caution warnings she usually does not heed). Solving Peculiar Crimes includes thirteen short stories that feature real locations and many varying types of crime, not always murder. Christian readers will be comfortable with Carrie’s tendency to pray when in difficulty and danger.
Just hearing about your love of the Ozarks makes me want to plan a picnic hike somewhere! With fall here, the weather may cooperate, too. Thanks for swinging by, Radine, and sharing your inspiration with us.
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