Marty Eberhardt and Katayoun Medhat are mystery writers hard at work adding to their respective series. These members of SouthWest Writers (SWW) each had a new book published within the last year and has an interview posted on the SWW website.
Author Marty Eberhardt started the Bea Rivers cozy mystery series in 2021 with Death in a Desert Garden. Her latest release set in the Sonoran Desert is Bones in the Back Forty (Artemesia Publishing, 2023). Look for Marty on her website MartyEberhardt.com, on Facebook, and on her Amazon author page. For more about her work, read her 2021 SWW interview.
What trouble does your main character, Bea Rivers, face in Bones in the Back Forty?
Lots of trouble. A skeleton is found on the grounds of the garden where she works … this doesn’t seem to be much more than an interesting puzzle at first. But then somebody’s car hits her boss on a bicycle, and he’s in a coma. She has to take over. And someone seems to be stalking her. It’s not clear if these things have to do with her help with the murder investigation related to the skeleton. Her boyfriend lives halfway across the country and she’s a single parent with way too many responsibilities.
What makes Bea the kind of protagonist that readers connect with and root for?
She’s an overwhelmed working parent who’s trying to do a good job. There are lots of people like this everywhere! As the story progresses, her confidence and competence grow. I was pleased to see this.
Bones in the Back Forty is the second of the Bea Rivers Mysteries. When did you know you wanted to write a series?
I figured I would write at least three books, showing how the protagonist changes. I also wanted to show the Sonoran Desert in its many seasons; the series is in some ways a love song to the Sonoran Desert.
Why do you write cozy mysteries as opposed to other kinds of mysteries?
I don’t much care for gratuitous violence, nor do I wish to be explicit about sex. I like mysteries with great characters, a complex plot with a murderer who’s not easily discovered, and plenty of humor. Cozy mysteries and traditional mysteries fit these categories. These genres are also appropriate for conveying some messages that matter to me … such as climate change is real and threatening; water conservation is essential in the arid Southwest; and natural and cultural diversity can provide great joy to all humans. In this book, I also have a message about respect for our ancestors.
Do you have any writing projects in the works?
I’m working on a third Bea Rivers mystery, set in southern California, and also a long-time project … a historical novel set in early 1960s Saigon.
Katayoun Medhat is the author of the Milagro Mysteries that began with The Quality of Mercy (2017) and continued with Lacandon Dreams (2018). Her newest book in the series is Flyover Country published in 2022 by Leapfrog Press. You’ll find Kat on her website KatayounMedhat.com and her SWW author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Read more about her writing in SWW’s 2020 interview.
What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Flyover Country?
As Old and New West collide and bad faith actors prepare for future rule, the bucolic idyll of Milagro crashes and burns. A gruesome find, the slaying of a miniature horse by a cougar, and the mysterious vanishing of a park ranger give cop Franz Kafka, aka K, plenty of opportunity to misinterpret events, overlook clues, and create some more adversaries. As K deals with the tragic fallout of his job, he finds himself caught up in a lethal clash of worlds. So it’s basically a tale of contemporary life—with twists.
For those who haven’t read the first two books in the Milagro Mystery series, tell us about your main characters.
K is a stranger in a strange land. He is a natural rebel, great at subverting authority and questioning the status quo, and so isn’t really cut out to be a cop. Maybe he is jinxed, because every time he tries to do his job properly, inevitably tragedy follows.
K’s soul brother and sidekick, Robbie Begay, ex-Navajo police officer and track-reader, is everything that K isn’t — pragmatic, cynical, great at his job, and not at all given to illusions. The cases Begay and K work on bring out their differences and challenge their friendship, and often it is facing hazard and danger that draws them back together. There is a gruff tenderness and generosity to their relationship, which has led some readers to call their friendship a bromance.
A third main character of my books is the community of Milagro in which K, who is quintessentially a loner and, like so many men who must go down these mean streets, commitment-phobic, has found a kind of Ersatz family.
Did I mention that K is now the owner of a bookstore? And the bookstore is becoming something of a community hub, which, as we shall see, brings with it an entirely new set of conundrums.
How did you choose the title of the book?
Apparently “flyover country” is used as a derogatory term for the swathe of rural land between the metropolitan seaboards. To me it holds a suggestion of the forgotten, the hidden, and the elusive; the friction between a bird’s-eye view and the teeming, bustling reality on the ground. The novel’s plot takes place down in the valley and up in the unknowable territory of the Mesa, in a kind of hell and heaven scenario.
What makes your series unique in the mystery genre?
The Milagro Mysteries are ethnographic and psychological mysteries. They are about a place, Milagro, and its people and the ravages and havoc that is played upon them, mostly by larger outside forces that are hard to withstand. The series’ core lies in its unique outsider’s view of rural America, and my conviction that deadly serious subject matter is best served up with a dose of satire.
Which of your three published novels did you enjoy writing the most, and which one was the most challenging?
The newest one is always the favorite one, and the most challenging—until the next one comes along. Writing my first book, The Quality of Mercy, was stress-free: entering terra incognita with no road map, no expectations, and an explorer’s enthusiasm. Milagro #2, Lacandon Dreams, in retrospect might have been the most challenging, because writing your second book is a whole other ball game to writing your first.
What writing projects are you working on now?
Currently I am editing Vision Quest, Milagro Mystery #4, the most ominous book in the series so far. And I’m working on a stand alone, which may turn out even more sinister and is set in Europe. And, of course, I’m seeding Milagro Mystery #5…
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.