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An Interview with Author Holly Harrison

Retired university research scientist Holly Harrison devotes her time to writing mystery novels set in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Her debut novel, Rites & Wrongs (Golden Word Books, January 2021), has been called “a thrilling mystery” that keeps “readers riveted with a great story, fascinating characters, and exceptional writing.” You’ll find Holly on her website at and on her Amazon author page.

What is your elevator pitch for Rites & Wrongs?
Pascal Ruiz, a Santa Fe detective, becomes disenchanted with his job after solving a high-profile case that involved a stolen Stradivarius violin. That is, until the captain asks him, off the record, to look into the disappearance of his niece’s boyfriend, Bobby Pilot. Ruiz finds Pilot alive but unconscious in an abandoned pueblo, clothed in a Jesus costume and tied to a cross. It’s Holy Week and Ruiz suspects the Penitentes. He also believes the costume is the one recently stolen from the Santa Fe Opera Storage Building. In desperation to link the two cases, Ruiz crosses the line and puts his career in jeopardy.

Who are your main characters, and what do they have to overcome in this story?
The main characters are Pascal Ruiz, a Santa Fe police detective, and his friend Gillian Jasper. Ruiz needs to solve two crimes that are linked, by discovering who broke into the Opera Storage building and took the Jesus costume and who dressed Pilot in the costume and tied him to the cross. Jasper needs to decide whether to stay in New Mexico with Ruiz or return to her life in Washington, DC.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for the book?
I wanted to write a mystery rooted in New Mexico’s history, land, and people. I placed most of the action south of Santa Fe between the town of Golden on Route 14 and San Felipe’s Black Mesa Casino off of I-25. I set the story during Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter, so I could write about the Penitente reenactments and the Good Friday procession to Chimayo.

What sparked the story idea?
The story idea came to me one day as I worked in my garden. I uncovered an old brick from the Tonque Tile and Brick Company. Part of it was broken off but the name Tonque was etched on the front. The brick factory had been built in the early 1900s and remained active for thirty years. In the 1980s I had picked up the brick near Tonque Pueblo, a fourteenth century pre-Columbian abandoned pueblo. I decided that Ruiz’s next case would take him to that area south of Santa Fe.

Tell us how the book came together.
I spent three years writing the book. Then another year editing, getting feedback, and rewriting. When I started looking for a publisher, the pandemic hit. The world of publishing came to a halt, book conferences were cancelled, bookstores closed, book releases were pushed back. Pitching the book to editors and agents unsolicited became a daunting process. I decided to go with a hybrid publisher. The publisher does the edits, layout and design, publishing and distribution. The author shares some of the costs but reaps more profit from sales.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for Rites & Wrongs?
Growing up on the East coast, before coming to New Mexico, I had never heard of the Penitentes or their practices. I was intrigued with the group’s devotion to God as well as their community. There is an abundance of lore surrounding the Brotherhood’s beliefs and practices. My research on the lay Catholic group revealed how and why they came about and dispelled many of the myths and negative stereotypes.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Writing. I love the writing process, creating characters and turning them loose in different situations, letting them get themselves in and out of trouble.

Why do you write in the particular genre you’ve chosen?
I find mystery the perfect genre to unfold crimes and misdemeanors in New Mexico’s multicultural landscape.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Ann Patchett, Louise Penny, Tana French, Lily King, Susan Orlean, Patti Smith. I guess I have been reading a lot of women.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Sex scenes. I find them tedious to write and easy to leave out. When writing mysteries, sex often takes a backseat to murder and mayhem.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am trying to balance the promotion of Rites & Wrongs with work on New Territory, the third book in the series. Ghost Notes (about a stolen Stradivarius violin) is the first book in the series but it hasn’t been published. I have finished a draft of New Territory and am in the process of editing and rewriting. Next task will be to find a publisher.

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 J. L. Greger

Award-winning author J. L. Greger uses her travel experience and past life as a scientist and research administrator to add authenticity to her thriller/mystery novels. She Didn’t Know Her Place: An Academic Mystery (2017) is her newest release and the sixth book in the Science Traveler series (available at Amazon and Treasure House Books in Albuquerque). You’ll find the author on her website at and on her Amazon author page.

What is your elevator pitch for She Didn’t Know Her Place?
Would you rather be fired or face criminal charges? Dana Richardson faces this dilemma. A research center, which reports to her, is falsifying data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards. The last woman who tried to investigate the problem died under suspicious circumstances.

When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I hope readers rethink their attitudes about right and wrong. Many laws and regulations are examples of bureaucratic red tape and a waste of time and of money. However, can you lose your sense of right and wrong if you ignore too many of these seemingly petty laws and regulations? When should a boss act or a colleague report these misdeeds? The decisions aren’t always black and white.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Many of the events in this novel occurred. I had to constantly remind myself I was writing a novel, not a factual account of events.

How did the book come together?
This was the first novel that I wrote. I set it aside in 2011 but revised it extensively three times after writing and publishing other novels. Finally, I decided to revise it one last time in 2017.

Tell us about your main character.
Dana Richardson, on the surface, appears to be a successful woman scientist. Many readers will wish they had her power at work and her chutzpah. However, she is haunted by feelings of inadequacy because of frequent gender harassment and a strict upbringing. The net result is she often clashes with male colleagues, who assume they are entitled to take convenient but illegal shortcuts.

What makes this novel unique in the mystery/thriller market?
Science isn’t a collection of boring facts but the search for truth in the physical world. I try to infuse this sense of wonder about new scientific discoveries into all my novels. In She Didn’t Know Her Place, I focused on the importance of honesty in environmental testing.

Did you discover anything surprising while doing research for this book?
My professional experiences as a scientist and research administrator were the research for this novel. I was always surprised how many “nice” leaders had ugly secrets and how many scientists had heroic pasts.

You’ve written six books in your Science Traveler series. What key issues do you focus on to keep readers coming back for more?
First off, my science traveler is Sara Almquist. She’s an inquisitive busybody who just happens to be a skilled epidemiologist with practical experiences worldwide. Her enthusiasm for science and travel is contagious.

Second, I include recent scientific discoveries in every book. For example, I featured new research on weight control in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (2nd Edition, 2017) and on cancer immunotherapy in Malignancy (Oak Tree Press, 2014). Readers often comment that they always learn something new while reading my novels. These two books won the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Contests in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Third, I’ve traveled extensively and take Sara to my favorite locations, including Albuquerque. For example, Sara escaped villains by running across the roof of St. Francis Church above the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia in Ignore the Pain (Oak Tree Press, 2013). (I only walked across the roof.)

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Scientific research and mystery writing share many characteristics. Both are exciting but hard work.

Of all the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
Riddled with Clues (Aakenbaaken & Kent, 2017) was the most fun to write for two reasons. My dog, Bug, and I do pet therapy at the Veterans Hospital in Albuquerque. In this novel I shared our experiences with amazing veterans in the psych and rehab units (without breaking HIPPA regulations). Second, I used a friend’s notes on his experiences as a medic in the secret war in Laos in the 1960s to create the clues for this modern-day mystery.

What writing project are you working on now?
A Pound of Flesh Sorta, the next book in my Science Traveler series, is partially set in a meat-packing plant in New Mexico. In one sense, it’s an update of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, but with a Southwest twist.

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

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