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An Interview with Author Dale Garratt

Author Dale Garratt is a New Mexico native and a longtime educator who has taught in schools across the United States as well as in South Korea. His travel experience and geopolitical interests informed the writing of his debut novel, The Peace Road: A High-stakes Geopolitical Thriller (August 2023), which is described as “an absolute nail-biter, fast-paced with cutting-edge twists and turns.” Look for Dale on his website at, on Facebook and Twitter/X, and on his Amazon author page.

Dale, what would you like readers to know about the story you tell in The Peace Road?
The threat of a hypersonic missile attack by North Korea is even stronger now than it was two years ago, when I started writing the book.

The book starts with North Korea launching a hypersonic ICBM at the U.S., narrowly missing Los Angeles. This triggers a series of events leading to naval battles between the U.S. and China, which is the shadow behind North Korea. An underlying theme is the concept of a peace road: a literal road that could facilitate peaceful relations in East Asia. The novel also explores the path to peace in romantic relationships.

Who are your main characters and why will readers connect with them?
Ric O’Malley is the protagonist, a top quantum physicist at Sandia Laboratories and a Medal of Honor recipient. He is a really good person, and I think the protagonist in a thriller should be. He has a great sense of humor, a remarkable adaptability to varied situations big and small, and truly cares about the lives of others.

Ric’s wife Marie, a high school science teacher, understands that her husband is involved in events of national and international consequence but equally values her role in educating students. They have a great marriage but face a serious challenge in the course of the book. I think that many readers will relate to the realities of relationships and a career-life balance that the O’Malleys go through.

U.S. President Sarah Jacobsen is a tough leader, and at the same time is able to look at concepts out of the box. She may shed light on what it takes to make a great president.

Do you share traits with your protagonist Ric O’Malley?
Like most people, I like to think I’m a good person! I’m a geopolitical news addict. I’ve taught at several high schools in Albuquerque, and I am licensed to teach science. Ric has a PhD in physics and I have a PhD from University of New Mexico (UNM) in language, literacy and sociocultural studies. Like Ric, I have a very good marriage. But over the years we have experienced and resolved a challenge that occurs in many intimate relationships.

Describe one or more of the main settings.
Albuquerque plays a central role. Ric lives here and his team is based at Sandia Labs. In the course of events, Ric is attacked twice in Albuquerque by would-be assassins. Of course, East Asia is a main setting, particularly North Korea, South Korea and Japan. Also, the Western Pacific Ocean, where naval battles between the U.S. and China take place.

How did you approach your research for The Peace Road?
Fortunately, I have personal experience with East Asia. We lived in South Korea for eight years, teaching English to middle school and then university students. I was able to officially stand on North Korea soil with students at the Panmunjom Village on the 38th Parallel. I continue to read two South Korean newspapers and keep up with what’s happening in politics and the economy. I delve into online information, but I make it a point to read sites that present different views. Triangulation, as we teachers say.

One priority for me was making sure that the military technology used by all five countries in the book was accurate. There are great .mil and .gov sites for U.S. technology and very good intelligence about China’s military technology. For North Korea you can find “propaganda” websites and read a lot between the lines about its military, economy and politics. Of course, anything you are really interested in as an author can turn into a rabbit hole. That’s something you always have to look out for.

In 2022 I attended the Quantum New Mexico Symposium at UNM where UNM, Sandia Labs, and the Air Force Research Laboratory were featured. Participants were able to actually visit Sandia and see the latest research in quantum computing. We asked questions of the researchers themselves — it was the kind of thing you can more easily do in New Mexico than in other states.

What obstacles did you face when writing about the technology used in your novel?
The main problem in writing about quantum computer research is that it is advancing so fast! It’s fascinating but a challenge to keep up with. Yesterday’s Business Outlook (March 24, 2024) in the Albuquerque Journal featured an article that could have been written about Ric O’Malley. It was an interview with Jake Douglass of Sandia about quantum research there. He says in part, “[Quantum technology] is a field where we’re [NM] truly world leaders.”

What part do beta readers or critique groups play in your writing process?
I sent the first draft and new drafts to more than a dozen friends who are good readers and/or writers. They gave me some valuable and honest suggestions as well as many practical editing suggestions. Getting several beta readers is, for me, more helpful than just relying on a couple.

Tell us about your writing process or your writing routine. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both. I start with the overall shape of the book. While I’m doing that, I freewrite almost every day, putting down material that can make up chapters. Then I move from shaping the book to writing an outline. Then chapters fall into place in the outline. I write better in the mornings, and I make it a practice to schedule appointments and errands in the afternoons.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
I love Louis L’Amour’s westerns and Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. In the thriller genre, I really like Tom Clancy — the actual Tom Clancy! David Baldacci’s Memory Man series has a lot to teach writers. My favorite author is Daniel Silva. His thrillers are almost always exciting, and the way he dives into a European locale is not only entertaining but also informative. One example is The Confessor with its fascinating deep dive into the Vatican and the Catholic Church. But like most geopolitical thrillers he has a European setting. It’s time now to include settings in Asia.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m writing book two of the Peace Road Trilogy. It takes place in North Africa and the Middle East. Religious, economic, political, and other major threads in this most ancient part of the Earth are woven together. It’s very exciting to me, and I hope it will be so for readers.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
In the midst of current geopolitical turmoil and conflict, there is hope. My book ultimately shows a realistic, doable path toward a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. And a real peace road there could be a key component.

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

Author Update 2022: RJ the Story Guy

Retired high school teacher RJ Mirabal (aka RJ the Story Guy) is the author of an adult fantasy series (the Rio Grande Parallax trilogy), a young adult fantasy (Dragon Train), and the children’s book series Trixie the Brown Dog. His newest release is Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog (November 2021), the second book inspired by his adventurous rescue dog. You’ll find RJ and Trixie on their websites at and, on their Facebook pages at RJMirabalAuthor and TrixieTheBrownDog, and on Instagram and Twitter. To find out more about RJ and his writing, visit his SWW author page and follow the links to previous interviews.

What can readers expect from the second book in your Trixie series?
Trixie’s adventures continue as she looks for new things to do and has more Dog Fun with her people. She likes sniffing, walking, running, and playing but those take a back seat when the Brown Dog faces an unexpected challenge. Trixie still can’t talk the way her people do, but she communicates what she wants and how she feels through grunts, whines, whistles, barks, growls, and wagging her tail and body while singing her Dog Opera. Fortunately, RJ The Story Guy interprets all this for a reader’s enjoyment. Big things to overcome, toys to chew and tug, places to go, lots of exploring, and a new fantasy adventure await readers in Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog.

How did you get into the mind of the main character, Trixie the Brown Dog, and draw readers into her story?
I’ve always had a close attachment to animals because I am an only child who grew up in the countryside. My dogs and cats were constant companions. As a kid, there were always animals in our family, usually several, including cows and chickens for a few years. Apparently, by instinct, I watched and related to my animal friends very closely and came to understand what they were thinking. Even though the only language animals have is their body language along with barking, meowing, mooing, clucking, grunting, howling, etc., I could usually tell what their moods and desires were.

Since my wife and I have only Trixie as our family pet, we’re all in tune with each other. Once I could read her wants and emotions through her body language and dog vocalizations, I developed an understanding of her character and personality. At that point, especially during walks, I began to think of stories where she was the central character in a series of dog adventures. As a writer, I quickly realized I was developing a book about a rescue dog finding and relating to her new people in a unique way as a result of her personality and experiences. I naturally assumed other animal lovers of all ages would see their own dogs and themselves in the simple stories I told about her.

Was there anything surprising or interesting you discovered while doing research for this book?
My research was simply recording our experiences with Trixie. For Round Brown Ball of Dog, Trixie suffers an injury to what is a dog’s equivalent of the ACL (ligament) associated with the knee. What was surprising were the details of the surgery to repair the injury and how we had to follow a very restrictive regimen of recovery/therapy for several weeks. Going through that experience with Trixie was all the education I needed for story material. That and, of course, Trixie’s characteristic reactions to the gradual return to normal walking and playing. We were surprised that, although she was used to running hard and walking a lot, she adjusted to the restrictions fairly well. However, she was not at all happy about the pain and disability in the first several days after the surgery! Gradually she had a full recovery.

You wrote the Rio Grande Parallax series for adult fantasy readers and Dragon Train for young adult fantasy readers. Tell us why you went in a new direction with the Trixie books.
I wanted to explore a part of my deep experience with animals and make it accessible to others, especially children. The audience I had in mind was a child that had either little or no experience with a pet. I wanted them to learn how to relate to animals in a positive way. The Parallax series are very gritty stories with mature content while Dragon Train is an adventure story based on close relationships between people and other non-human beings.

The Trixie stories are meant to be fun with a few simple messages about love, loyalty, adapting to new situations, facing basic fears, and developing personal responsibility. The obvious target audience (including reading level) is children, especially those six to twelve years old. Yet, I’ve striven to make the stories high-interest for all ages since I envisioned adults sharing the stories with children and grandchildren.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m writing books two and three of the Dragon Train Quest Series. The second book, Dragon Train Rebellion, will trace the growth of the dragons’ rebellion against human enslavement and abuse of all three types of dragons. In my story, there are blue dragons who are intelligent and large, silver dragons who possess moderate intelligence and are the size of horses, while the small dog-like silver dragons have limited but very focused intelligence. Humanity is unaware of any dragon intelligence and self-worth, but my main character, a teenage boy, becomes aware of their true nature and joins the dragons to fight for their freedom. The third book, Dragon Train War, will explore the horrors of war and how enemies have to find a way to gain peace and guarantee freedom for the oppressed.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I want readers to know that I welcome comments, thoughts, and reactions to my writing. I would like to engage directly with “followers” who have enjoyed my stories. And I want to learn why my writing appeals to them. Of course, suggestions and ideas are always something I like to share so I can strive to meet readers’ expectations while following my creative pursuits. I guess I’m talking about a fan club. Anyone want to organize one?

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Author Interview with RJ the Story Guy

RJ the Story Guy (aka RJ Mirabal) is a former high school teacher who began a writing career in earnest in his retirement years. After publishing a fantasy series set in an alternate New Mexico, his adventurous rescue dog inspired a new direction for RJ’s writing. Trixie Finds Her People (Trixie the Brown Dog, Book 1), released in 2019, is his debut children’s book. You’ll find RJ and Trixie on their websites at and, on their Facebook pages at RJMirabalAuthor and TrixieTheBrownDog, and on Instagram and Twitter. Read about RJ and his fantasy series in his 2015 and 2017 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

What is your elevator pitch for Trixie Finds Her People?
The ordinary life of a rescue dog may not seem adventurous—unless you’re that dog. When an uncertain older couple and their granddaughter Abigail adopt Trixie, their lives turn into a series of wonderful, humorous, and sometimes scary experiences. Chapters touch on everything from surviving frightening Big Booms of lightning to setting out on challenging fantasy episodes in Trixie’s dreams. Every day stirs the dog’s curiosity and sharpens her intelligence. Trixie Finds Her People launches readers (middle elementary ages 8 and up) on a journey of discovery, facing fears, and finding love. Interaction with Mommy, Poppa, and Abigail adds richness and new sources of fun for the lively, mixed-breed Brown Dog.

This is a departure from your previous projects of speculative fiction (not only in genre but audience). What challenges did this new direction pose for you?
I had to force myself to write more simply, use shorter sentences and paragraphs, and create imagery that was more immediate and straight-forward. I couldn’t indulge in the kind of inference and sophisticated vocabulary like I had in my Rio Grande Parallax series. Actually, that turned out to be a very worthwhile endeavor because I feel my writing is now more appealing. Writing this book challenged me to create clear images, dialogue, and action with more impact. Of course, there’s the obvious need to view everything I write through the eyes, ears, and imaginations of young readers. Somehow, I believe that should benefit all my writing from this point on.

Tell us how the book came together.
It started with my experience with my newly adopted rescue dog, Trixie. She is so bright, inquisitive, and funny that the idea of sharing most of my experiences with readers came to me within a few months of adopting her. I started observing her in terms of creating character and finding story lines in her explorations, personality, and antics. Very soon I thought it would be necessary to view the story from her point of view while still including human dialogue which she, logically, can’t fully understand but could sense the feelings behind human communication. It is not first person, but everything is presented from her point of view.

The writing process, once started, fell neatly into chapters each about 8-15 pages long, easily written in a sitting. Those episodes merged into a loose plot that took me through Trixie’s progress from being raised outdoors with 14 other dogs (and her 8 puppies) to becoming the sole animal living indoors with three people. Her life blooms in this new situation as each chapter adds more range to her lively, strong personality. Since I don’t usually write in long, day-after-day sessions, the episodic nature of the story made the writing easier when life interrupted. In less than a year, I had the first draft. From there I shared chapters with my critique group to begin the editing/revising phase before I prepared the book for publication.

What makes this book unique in the children’s market?
I believe a significant number of books like this either take on strong elements of fantasy or they are strict nonfiction or they become vehicles to explore current social justice issues. I decided I wanted a book that had a gentle, family friendly approach that inferred finding simple joy in life is as important as social significance. And, as for fantasy, I thought a little would be fun, so I wrote a few chapters that enter Trixie’s mind as she has various dreams. Dogs sleep a lot and the actions and noise they demonstrate during sleep suggest they have lively dreams, so I created fantasy stories that were suggested by incidents in her daily life.

Why did you use a pen name for Trixie Finds Her People?
I spent a lot of time promoting my adult fantasy trilogy as a story definitely for mature readers with a fairly sophisticated vocabulary. Since this new book is aimed at younger and family audiences, I had to separate it from the perception of my previous writing, so I went with the friendly pseudonym of RJ the Story Guy. I’m not going to great lengths to cover who I am, because I’m promoting the book to my earlier readers, but I’m also gathering new readers through promotions that emphasize this new persona.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Putting myself in Trixie’s body and mind and then reflecting her joy for life was my favorite thing. Of course, some of the episodes have scary moments, so I had to think how a dog would react to something like a thunderstorm and fireworks (which play a role in two of the most important chapters in the book). It’s always exciting to leave my ordinary life behind and enter another one when I write—one of the joys of writing which you can’t put a price on.

You have played the hammered dulcimer for years. Has the creativity and discipline you employ as a musician (or music itself) helped you in your writing journey?
Being a musician is another channel of self-expression, but it is through the creation or re-creation of sounds presented with emotion. Writing is the process of creating and re-creating events, emotions, and people through words. Similar, yet through different means of expression. Both writing and music require serious commitments of time, imagination, and revision. In the end, both are usually shared with others. You end up putting your deepest self out in front of other people. Music, unless recorded, is very transitory. But writing is for the ages, even if what we have written ends up collecting dust on shelves somewhere in forgotten rooms.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have completed the first draft of a dragon story for middle-grade children, ages 10-14. In my Rio Grande Parallax adult fantasy, I created all my own creatures as well as used actual animals who happen to communicate like humans. Recently, I decided there was little point in resisting some durable creatures that already have a huge following among fantasy readers, such as dragons. Automatically, when people see a dragon on the cover and in the title of a book, they are intrigued. So, why overlook that attraction to acquire readers? I came up with a unique twist that I have explored with a dragon as one of my main characters and a fifteen-year-old farm boy as my other lead character.

Trixie continues to develop her personality and reactions to the world, so there are more dog stories to tell, both real and imaged. So far, response by readers has been positive, so why not tell more stories about Trixie and her people?

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Ronn Perea

Ronn Perea might be best known for his ventures into comedy and theater productions in the United States and abroad, but he is also a history buff and a published author. His newest book is the historical novel Elsie and Elsa (2018) which sheds light on important events that occurred in the American Southwest from 1943 to 1975. You’ll find Ronn on his website at and on Facebook.

What is your elevator pitch for Elsie and Elsa?
During the mid-20th century, many historical events occurred in the American Southwest that shaped the lives of many families. This story brings to light those events and the people who changed the course of history including World War II secret prisoner of war camps, atomic bomb espionage, the embryonic birth of technology, the Pope, the President, movie stars, celebrities, and a future rock-n-roll sex god. As this story takes place, a life shaping relationship grows between two high school girls, Elsie and Elsa.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book?
Fleshing out the history while actually viewing, touching, and feeling it.

Tell us a little about your main characters.
Elsie and Elsa were my mom and her high school friend. Historical events occurred around them that they were unaware of as the events happened. Elsie and Elsa would later be a resource as witnesses to these actual occurrences.

Do you have a favorite quote from the book you’d like to share?
I’ll paraphrase from the New Mexican 200th and 515th Coast Guard Artillery groups who were the first to shoot down Japanese planes on December 7, 1941 (the same day as Pearl Harbor). This time our guys were not surprised when the Japanese started to attack them in the Philippines. During the next four months, as our cut-off troops were using up their last bullets and eating their last slices of bread, newspapers back home were calling them The Battling Bastards of Bataan. When 70,000 Americans finally surrendered and were forced to march the infamous Bataan Death March, our boys were resigned to their motto, “No Mama, No Pappa, No Uncle Sam.”

How did the book come together?
Elsie and Elsa took ten years to compile, write, rewrite and edit. When about to be published, I discovered new facts that I had to include. It took another year before the book was ready for publication.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
As soon as I was out of college, I wrote my first novel. It’s now collecting dust somewhere.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I have realized that it helps to write about what you know. The intimate details are easier to describe.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
Ernest Hemingway. Action with historical. Do I need to say more?

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received on your writing journey?
Never give up. Explore all options, some will always work for you.

What have you learned as a comedian that has helped you with your writing career?
As a show biz producer of stage presentations, it’s simple. Start with a strong opening that leads to a solid middle that leads to a killer ending.

What writing projects are you working on now?
My next novel is about baseball. Not about the star home run hitter or the star pitcher. But when was the last time you read a story about five generations of a family of umpires? It starts in the future and goes back to the beginning of townball and how it migrated west. And how in 1880 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad brought it to Albuquerque.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Margaret Tessler

Margaret Tessler is the author of the Sharon Salazar cozy mysteries, five of which have been finalists in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. Her most recent novel, Relative Danger (2017), was originally planned as the 7th in that series but instead developed into a mystery with a new protagonist and a new setting. You’ll find Margaret on her website at and on Facebook.

What is your elevator pitch for Relative Danger?
I have two, depending on how many floors the ride takes us: 1) When the family pariah returns to town, she unleashes chaos; and 2) Becca Sandoval must uncover the reasons for the hostility generated by the family pariah and learn what’s behind the sinister order she’s joined.

What sparked the story idea?
All my stories are sparked by some personal incident. In this case, one family member caused quite a bit of dissension within the rest of the family over a particular issue. That was when I came up with the idea of having people wear warning labels. (Disclaimer: The people and incidents in the book have no relation to my real-life soap opera, which eventually fizzled out, by the way.)

Tell us about Becca, your main character.
At one point, Becca describes herself as being like “everyday people.” She’s down-to-earth and unpretentious (her musical tastes include both Alan Jackson and Chopin). She has a good sense of humor. She’s basically kind and sympathetic. People find it easy to confide in her. But her halo isn’t firmly planted, and she can be snarky when the occasion calls for it. One comment I often get from readers is that they like the solid, healthy relationship between Becca and her husband Diego in Relative Danger, and between Sharon and Ryan in the Sharon Salazar series.

How long did it take to finish the book?
I kept getting interrupted in my writing, so it took two years to complete. I shared the story with my two critique groups, which I call my “editorial committee.” In addition, I have three or four beta readers who added their input. Their combined feedback was invaluable.

Relative Danger is a departure from your six-novel Sharon Salazar mystery series. What challenges did this new work pose for you?
Originally, I had planned the story as the 7th in the Sharon Salazar series. Then I was fortunate to find two agents who expressed interest in the initial pages of the story. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t accept something that was part of an ongoing series. Since I’d written only a few pages at that point, I decided it would be simplest to change the names of my characters and set them in Albuquerque instead of San Antonio. I figured if that didn’t sell, I could always go back to my original version. However, as I continued writing, I discovered I liked my new characters and liked keeping them in Albuquerque. Although the personalities and careers of the main characters (Becca and Sharon) are similar, I needed to find ways to set them apart. For example, Sharon has a difficult relationship with her mother; Becca has a very warm relationship with hers.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
I’m always gratified when people tell me they can’t wait for the next book to come out. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who enjoy re-reading my books.

What does a typical writing session look like for you? What do you absolutely need in order to write?
“Typical” for me is mostly hit and miss. It might sound counter intuitive, but I find that writing sparks inspiration and not the other way around. What I absolutely need is to park myself in front of the computer, quit looking for excuses to procrastinate, and start writing.

You published a memoir, Life in the Slow Lane, in 2004. What was the hardest thing about writing that book, and what was the easiest?
The easiest part was that I could use material I’d already written over a period of eight years: weekly family letters plus a daily journal. The hardest part was deciding what to filter out so the book wouldn’t wind up with 100,000 pages.

What do you love most outside of writing and reading?
I have a large extended family, so family activities account for a lot of my time. I also enjoy gardening, and I like to sing and play the ukulele.

Do you have a writing project you’re working on now?
I’m working on a lighthearted mystery with multiple viewpoints that’s totally different from my other novels. It’s giving my brain a break!

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Steve Brewer

Author Steve Brewer brings decades of journalism experience to his fiction work. Twenty years and nearly thirty books after hanging up his journalist hat, he still writes tightly plotted, fast-paced mysteries and thrillers (as well as crime novels under the pen name Max Austin). Shotgun Boogie and Homesick Blues, both published in 2016, are the first two books in his Jackie Nolan thriller series. You’ll find Steve at SteveBrewer.blogspot and on his Amazon author page.

Here’s a peek at the series:

Jackie Nolan knows how to handle semi-trucks, shotguns, and the assortment of nasty characters who cross her path. She’s a good guy who doesn’t mind breaking a few laws to make life easier for family and friends, and herself—hijacking semis to pay off a truckload of debt (Shotgun Boogie) and stealing a dead woman’s identity to start a new life (Homesick Blues).

What inspired you to write Shotgun Boogie, the first book in the Jackie Nolan thriller series? How did Homesick Blues come about?
I’d been working with an editor at the Alibi imprint of Penguin Random House, and I knew he was about to ask me (over lunch) what I planned to write next. All I had in mind was a guy named Jack who boosted semis for a living. The editor asked if I could write a female protagonist. I said, “Funny you should ask! I’ve got this female character named Jackie who steals trucks.” He loved it. Unfortunately, his position got axed before we actually signed a contract. By then, I’d written TWO Jackie books. I decided to publish them myself. Apologies to those who already heard this story at SouthWest Writers’ 2016 Self-publishing Conference (watch the YouTube video here), but that’s exactly how it happened. Of course, then I had to come up with a woman named Jackie who knew how to boost trucks. She turned into a very capable woman.

You seem to enjoy writing from an antagonist’s point of view. Is that why Jackie has a bit of a dark side? Was there a learning curve involved in writing a woman protagonist?
Jackie definitely has a dark side, but she’s motivated by good (mostly financial) reasons. Her parents’ healthcare has put her deep in debt, and her boss is only too happy to make money on the side from stolen trucks. Jackie gives in to the pressure and starts stealing semis from local truck stops. By the time the novel opens, she’s actually begun to enjoy it. I’ve written female protagonists before (A Box of Pandoras, 2012), and lots of strong female characters, so the learning curve wasn’t huge. Once she started talking in my head, we were off and running.

Why did you choose Albuquerque as the setting for the series? How true did you stay to the city?
The nice answer: I love Albuquerque, and always get a kick out of sharing its features and foibles with readers. Also true: I’m lazy and I don’t like to travel. Most of my books are set wherever I’m living at the time. I stay true to the city, though I do change the names of some businesses, etc. We are a city with a big freeway interchange at its heart, and the truck stop there is a fascinating subculture.

Are there scenes from either book that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
All of them! These novels are written so tightly, they’re almost like movie scripts already.

What interesting facts did you discover while doing research for Shotgun Boogie and Homesick Blues?
1) Hookers who work the truck stop parking lots are called “lot lizards.” Lovely, eh? 2) Most semis these days have automatic transmissions. 3) Lots of truckers, particularly the young ones, are minorities. When I was growing up, truckers seemed to be universally white. They certainly were portrayed that way in the movies. Breaker, breaker, good buddy!

How has your 30+ year experience as a journalist benefited your fiction writing?
It taught me to write fast, and to do thorough rewriting.

You’re an instructor at the University of New Mexico’s Honors College. In what areas do you wish your students were better prepared for their writing journey?
Students in public schools aren’t forced to write as much. Now, more emphasis is placed on testing. So even Honors students, who are the cream of the crop, get to college needing to improve their writing. I teach them to write for a general audience, and to keep it clear. I also teach courses called Meet the Authors and American Crime Fiction. Lots of fun!

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write, and what do you do to get over this hurdle?
Sex scenes are tough. I try to keep ’em brief.

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you started your writing/ publishing career today?
Most everything. I’ve been through half a dozen publishers and five agents. I just keep writing.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m finishing up work on a novel called Side Eye (to be published in June 2017). It’s about an 18-year-old delinquent who gets hired to be the driver for an old mobster who’s losing his eyesight. Set in Albuquerque, with lots of action.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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