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Archive for April 30th, 2019

headshotDr. Randy Overbeck is a writer, educator, researcher and speaker in much demand. During his three plus decades of educational experience, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his writing with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. His new ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake, will be released on April 10, 2019 by The Wild Rose Press. As the title suggests, the novel is set on the famous Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to endless shorelines, incredible sunsets and some of the best sailing in the world. Blood is first in a new series of paranormal mysteries, The Haunted Shores Mysteries. Dr. Overbeck’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind, a thriller about the terrorist takeover of a Midwest high school and one teacher’s stand against the intruders, won the 2011 Silver Award for Thrillers from ReadersFavorite.com. Dr. Overbeck is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and an active member of the literary community. You can follow him on Twitter @OverbeckRandy, friend him on Facebook at Author Randy Overbeck or check out his webpage, www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Blood on the Chesapeake. When did you start writing and what got you into paranormal mystery?

I know this may not be true for all authors, but one thing that has surprised me about the entire writing and publishing process is just how long it takes to get my novel from idea and concept to finished, polished product. When I checked my records, the first drafts of Blood on the Chesapeake date back almost eight years. Of course, the story and the writing has gone through several revisions over that time, including changing the story from a simple cold case murder mystery to a ghost story/mystery. And how did that evolution develop? Like a lot of my “light bulb” ideas, it was inspired by a session at a great writing conference, this time, the Midwest Writers’ Conference.

BloodontheChesapeake_w12700_750What is your book about?

After being dumped by his fiancé, Darrell Henshaw, a young teacher and coach, decides to find new pastures and lands a job on the Chesapeake Bay. He cannot believe his good fortune as Wilshire, a quiet, scenic and charming resort town on the Eastern Shore offers him his dream job—teaching high school history and coaching football and basketball—and a second chance at love. Except no one told him that a student was murdered at the school and that the kid’s ghost haunts the hallways.

You see, Darrell sees ghosts, though he’s not happy about it. His first encounter with the spirit world did not go well and he has the OCD scars to prove it. But, after he’s hounded by the terrifying ghost, he decides to look into the murder, aided by his new love, Erin Caveny. Together, they follow a trail that leads back to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, after two locals who try to help are murdered and Erin’s life is threatened, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.

What was your inspiration for it?

Most of my stories have been inspired by the towns I’ve travelled to and the people and places I’ve encountered on my way. When visiting a new area, I’m always been intrigued by the possibilities of unfamiliar places, the “I wonder if” notion. The initial idea for Blood on the Chesapeake actually sprang from a visit to a coastal New England town. The town boasted an old high school with an unusual architectural feature, a faux widow’s walk atop the second floor of the school building—which readers will discover is a critical part of the setting and narrative of Blood on the Chesapeake. Then, when I later journeyed to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I was overwhelmed by the quiet, scenic beauty of the region, but also intrigued by the duality of the cultures there. Here was a region bearing the hallmarks of a proud New England tradition, but also with roots still very much in the South. (The area was home to famous slave plantations and was split in loyalties during the Civil War.) I thought it’d be interesting to explore that dichotomy in fiction. In this most peaceful and beautiful of settings on the Chesapeake Bay, what if something horrific happened in this small town and they tried to cover it up?

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

Any new narrative poses multiple challenges and this novel was no different, but I enjoy meeting challenges, especially the literary variety. One significant challenge was the setting of the story, the when. The tale actually covers two different time periods; most of the narrative occurs during fall, 1998, but the murder actually occurred more than thirty years before that, in the early sixties. To be certain to have the details accurate to each time period—clothes, hairstyles, slang, music, happenings, etc.—was a significant challenge, but one I had fun trying to master all these.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Without a doubt. Although the central focus of the story—high school teaching and coaching—was an area with which I have considerable familiarity, several other parts of the narrative required a good deal of learning and research. Good thing I enjoy that. Here are just a few examples. Since I’m not a native to the Eastern Shore—one reason I made my protagonist, Darrell Henshaw a fish out of water there—I made several trips to the region to make sure I could get the geography, culture, names and details right. Also, like Darrell, I was fairly new to the water, so I had to learn a great deal about sailing on the Bay (and still required help and research to correct some details in the writing there). I had to do considerable research about what happened in a small town after a lynching, so that this critical part of my novel would ring true to life. Finally, since the ghost story is an integral part of the tale—and I don’t pretend to have any particular expertise in the area—I had to learn from those that do, to ensure my “ghost whispering” was credible and fits what is known and accepted in this arena.

What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?

That’s not usually not a problem. In fact, what happens more often with me us that the muse throws too much at me. I might be trying to work on one part of the novel, looking for inspiration, and the muse will give me direction on a later part of the story. Or on another different narrative all together. I tend to go with the flow and move to where the muse wants to take me. Usually, it works out and by the time I’m able to get back to where I wanted to be, the muse is gracious enough to give me what I need.

Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?

Not really. Since I only have a limited amount of time when I’m actually at the keyboard, ready to advance the story, I almost always have anticipation, rather than anxiety when I’m writing. Usually I have a number of ideas swirling around in my head and I can’t wait to get them down “on paper.” Of course, some anxiety strikes me, like whether I’m getting it right or heading in the right direction, but by now I’ve done enough revising and editing to have faith that I’ll take the time (usually many times) to get it right later and I don’t focus on that concern then. The times I sit down to write for me are freeing, because I’m glad to get the character or the murder or the ghost out of my head and into the computer.

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

Yes and no. When I’m in the groove, I will write pretty much every day, but I’m not a Prussian about it. Most days, I’ll write for two to three hours at a time, usually in the late morning or early afternoon. But some days you might find me at the keyboard for a couple hours in the evening or even in the middle of the night, if my characters won’t let me sleep. One thing I’ve learned is that for me, after a few hours, either my inspiration dries up (or maybe just takes a break) or my writing deteriorates. So I’ve learned to let it go and come back to it. I try to make the writing a regular habit, but I’m realistic about it. Sometimes life intrudes. For several months last year, we were designing and building a new house as well as selling our prior house. During that time, there was little time for writing. I didn’t stress over it, but simply returned to my writing commitment as soon as I could.

What was your publishing process like?

With my first novel, Leave No Child Behind, and with Blood on the Chesapeake, I worked with publishers, a small press with the first and a much larger house with Blood. I know other authors who have had good experience self-publishing, but I’ve chosen not to go that route, at least for these works. Originally, I was hoping to interest a strong agent and through him/her secure a book contract. Although I attracted the attention of a few agents, I was never able to close the deal. Dealing with the small press for the first book worked out quite well for me as they gave me some support and also considerable autonomy. And although my journey with the second publisher is still in its early stages, I had heard and read very good things about The Wild Rose Press and am looking for great things from them as the book moves forward.

How do you celebrate the completion of a book?

I’m not big into rituals, so I’m not sure how to answer this question. What is completion of a book? When the first draft is finished? When the tenth revision is done? When you’ve completed all the work from the feedback from the editor? When you get the contract for the book? When the first copy appears, on the iPad or in your hands? When the first thousand copies are sold? All of those are hallmarks of my journey of writing and I try to savor each one and learn from the experience.

How do you define success? For me, success is when I see my writing—years of imagination, creativity, perseverance, research and just plain hard work—come to fruition and become real, the novel published, the book in readers’ hands, great reviews coming in. And when readers, most of whom I’ve never met, write me to tell me how much they enjoyed my story. Rather than any financial measure, that for me defines success.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

That’s easy. I write because I love writing, because I feel I have something to say. But nothing in my writing life has brought me more joy than seeing how much my readers LOVE my work. After my first book, Leave No Child Behind, was published, I received scores of emails from readers telling how much they enjoyed it and how it scared them to death. (It was supposed to scare them.) Several years later, I still keep and re-read those emails.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

Many writers say that writing is a solitary act, just you and the computer. While I can’t argue with that, I need to add that my writing would never have risen above the minimum without help from outside. I’ve participated in several really good writing conferences including Killer Nashville, Midwest Writers’ Conference, Sluethfest and have found these experiences invaluable for “priming the pump” and getting me to think beyond my boundaries. Not to mention all the connections I’ve made with fellow writers. But I have found the greatest asset to my writing has been my regular participation in a really great writing group. These fellow writers have been both kind and cruel to my words, and my writing has improved as a result. My advice to aspiring writers is always to find ways to prime the pump and get a support system. And of course, read. Read a lot.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Thoughts?

I have to admit, in my darkest hours, I have shared George’s concern, but not often. I’ll acknowledge that at times my writing does take over and feels very much like an obsession—not unlike the OCD of my character, Darrell—but it’s a compulsion I welcome and relish. At least most of the time when my muse is speaking to me and the words flow.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m currently finishing the second installment in the Haunted Shore Mysteries series—tentatively titled Crimson at Cape May, another ghost story/mystery, this time set in the beautiful, historic resort town of Cape May, which also happens to be the most haunted seaport on the eastern coast. The Wild Rose Press already has first rights to the book and I expect this second novel in the series to be released sometime in 2020. Also, a third book in the series is in the planning, this time with nefarious happenings and another mysterious ghost at a sunny resort in the Bahamas. At the same time, I’m working on a standalone mystery about a drug dealer and murderer who preys on middle school students. You could probably say, I’m keeping busy.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

I’d like to think my new novel can and will appeal to a broad range of readers. One of the early reviewers for the book, best-selling and Edgar award-winning author, William Kent Krueger, made this exact point: “For those who enjoy a mixed bag in the books they read, Randy Overbeck has performed a nifty literary feat. Within a web woven of threads from a number of genres—a bit of romance, a lot of mystery, and a good deal of old-fashioned ghost whispering—he’s written a pretty solid social commentary.” So if you’re looking for a little romance or if you’re on the hunt for a good whodunit or if you’d like to curl up with an old-fashion ghost story or if you just want to be transported to a “setting to die for,” you’ll find all four in Blood on the Chesapeake. And, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

 

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