Tuesday, July 2, 2019

#56 Inside the Emotion of Fiction CRIMINAL MISDEEDS by Randee Green

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****Randee Green’s CRIMINAL MISDEEDS is #56 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? The title of my mystery novel is CRIMINAL MISDEEDS. My agent, Jessica Alvarez of BookEnds LLC, is the one who came up with the title. I had originally been calling my novel FAMILY TRADITION in honor of the Hank Williams Jr. song. Trust me, once you meet Carrie Shatner’s family, you’ll understand how it was a fitting title. But Jessica didn’t think that FAMILY TRADITION sounded like the title of a mystery novel. Jessica pitched some new titles at me, and we agreed that CRIMINAL MISDEEDS was a more genre appropriate title.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no. If yes, what publisher and what publication date?
CRIMINAL MISDEEDS was published July 1st 2018 by Coffeetown Press.

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I worked on writing CRIMINAL MISDEEDS off-and-on for three-and-a-half years. I began writing CRIMINAL MISDEEDS in January 2011 when I was in grad school working on my MA in Creative Writing. It wasn’t until the summer of 2014 that I felt that CRIMINAL MISDEEDS was ready to be submitted to agents. I was almost immediately signed to BookEnds LLC. After some revisions, my agent began sending my novel out to publishers in the fall of 2014. It wasn’t until January of 2017 that CRIMINAL MISDEEDS was picked up by Coffeetown Press. Then it was another year of edits and revisions before the novel was published on July 1, 2018.

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. And can you please include a photo? I wrote most of CRIMINAL MISDEEDS while sitting on my couch. I like to be in a quiet, comfortable place when I write. My couch is a good place to relax with my laptop. To be honest, it’s not the most comfortable couch and I have to sit on a big throw pillow to spare myself from back pain. 
What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? At the time I was writing CRIMINAL MISDEEDS, I was in graduate school and was only working part-time. I would do most of my writing in the afternoon or at night. I am a night owl, and I would stay up late into the night to write. I do a lot of my plotting using pen and paper, but I do the vast majority of my writing on my laptop.
     I usually have a big glass of ice water on hand when I write so that I don’t have to get up whenever I get thirsty. For the most part, I have to work in silence. I can get very easily distracted, so I won’t listen to music or watch television while writing. The only time I might watch TV while writing is when a NASCAR race is on or my favorite soccer team is playing. Even then, I will have the sound on just barely loud enough to hear it.

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? Detective Carrie Shatner comes from a long line of criminals, and, while she’s reluctant to admit it, she’s somewhat proud of her ancestry. As far back as the Shatners can be traced, they have been breaking the law and running from it, too. It’s a family tradition. Over the years, Carrie has tried to distance herself from her family’s criminal activities. But that is easier said than done. Carrie works for the Wyatt County Sheriff’s Department in Eastern Texas, and her main job is to cover up her family’s crimes and keep them out of jail.
     Criminal Misdeeds opens at the Wyatt County Fairgrounds with the Shatner family celebrating New Year’s Eve in their usual style – illegal fireworks, homemade moonshine, and a near brawl. After shutting down the party, Carrie does a final sweep of the fairgrounds and finds a dead body in a dumpster.
     Good news: the dead man is not a Shatner.
     Bad news: the Shatners are now suspects in a homicide investigation.
     Soon, the fairgrounds are overrun with law enforcement, including a Texas Ranger who is taking over the investigation. Sergeant Jerrod Hardy has never met any of the Shatners, but he has heard plenty of stories about their criminal activities – most of which are true. Even though Hardy’s initial suspect list is entirely made up of Shatners, even he’s having trouble believing that any of Shatners were dumb enough to kill someone and then leave the body at the scene of the family’s party.
     Despite serious misgivings, Hardy decides to allow Carrie to help him investigate. She’s convinced that the Shatners are being framed, and she believes that, with Hardy’s help, she can find the person responsible. Unfortunately, her family isn’t doing much to help prove their innocence. And outsiders aren’t making it easy for Carrie either.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? This excerpt is from the very beginning of CRIMINAL MISDEEDS. It is an introduction to my main character and her family. Carrie Shatner is a detective with the local sheriff’s department. She is also related to a bunch of criminals. Her family members expect Carrie to use her job to help them get away with their crimes. This is Carrie’s justification for why she does what she does.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference. The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. Excerpt from CRIMINAL MISDEEDS (pages 1-2)

     I come from a long line of criminals.

     Moonshiners, rumrunners, and drug dealers. Horse thieves and carjackers. Bank robbers, burglars, pickpockets, and con artists. And then there has been the occasional killer. You name it, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor, somewhere along the line a member of my family has committed it.

     As far back as the Shatner family could be traced – from southern England to the mountains of western North Carolina, and now to the Piney Woods of East Texas – we had been breaking the law. And running from it, too.

      It was a family tradition.

     You see, the Shatners have never swum in the baby pool of life. We’ve always been out in the deep end, and we jumped in headfirst.

     As for me, every day I fight my genetic predisposition to break the law. Some days I’ve been more successful than others. You see, I can’t break the law when I’m the one who is supposed to be upholding it.

     My name is Carrie Shatner, and for the last three-and-a-half years I have worked as a detective and crime scene technician for the Wyatt County Sheriff’s Department in East Texas. That would put my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University to good use except there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of serious crime in Wyatt County. I mainly sat behind my desk all day, twiddling my thumbs, playing Sudoku, and keeping up with my various social media accounts.

     While my official job was to process crime scenes and deal with all parts of criminal investigations, my unofficial job was to cover up my family’s illegal activities and keep them out of jail. I’d be the first to admit that what I have been doing wasn’t ethical. It was probably also criminal. I tried not to think about that too much. To be honest, I tried not to think about any of it too much. Most days I felt like quitting my job. Family obligation prevented that.

     I’m not saying that all of the Shatners have been hardened criminals. Sure, most of the older ones were. But at least some of the younger ones shied away from the family business and seemed to be sticking to the straight and narrow. And they were the reason why I do what I do. Yes, I clean up the crimes of the guilty. But I do it to protect the innocent.

     These days, the laws my various family members break have been fairly minor ones. Okay, some were still kind of major. But it was nothing compared to what we used to engage in. I mean, I’m pretty sure we were no longer involved in contract killing or organized crime.

     What I did know was that my great-uncles had a moonshine still out in the woods and a marijuana crop concealed in a bunch of old Cold War bomb shelters. Every time I caught one of my family members selling the homebrew or the pot, they would promise me it was the last time. I didn’t believe them. I didn’t arrest them either, because I knew it wouldn’t stop them. It would also infuriate the rest of the family. And, while tempting, that wasn’t a risk I was quite willing to take. At least not yet.

     Occasionally, one of the younger Shatners would steal a car or deface some public property or get busted for underage drinking. The older Shatners were always getting nabbed for public indecency and public intoxication. Some of them were also heavily involved in insurance scams. And then there had been the occasional assault. But we hadn’t killed anyone – accidently or on purpose – in years. Or, if someone had, I didn’t know about it.

     When you got down to it, the majority of the bad things that the Shatners have done were just plain dumb. And, as far as I knew, being stupid wasn’t illegal. We would have been in serious trouble otherwise.

     I don’t want you to go into this thinking that all of the Shatners were bad people. Most of them have just been a little misguided.

     At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

     Until I found the body.

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? While this is in no way an emotionally taxing scene, it is a difficult admission for Carrie Shatner. She is aware of her demons (ex: her criminally-inclined family members), but she does her best not to think about what they do until it directly affects her. She is about to be forced to take a deeper look into her family, and she’s worried about what she might uncover. She has been ignoring the elephant in the room for a long time, and now that proverbial elephant has turned into a dead body.
     This scene was more draining than emotional for me. Like Carrie, I needed to explain that the Shatners are bad people. But they aren’t all that bad. Carrie and Shatners may not be very good role models, but they are interesting people.

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt. I didn’t delete too much from the scene, but I did rewrite it a lot. Getting it worded right was a process. I didn’t want to include too much that wasn’t necessary, but I wanted to make sure that I included the crucial facts. I also wanted to keep it humorous.

Other works you have published? The second Carrie Shatner Mystery, CRIMINAL CHOKEHOLD, is due out later this year.

Anything you would like to add? Thanks for the interview!

Randee Green's passion for reading began in grade school with LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature, as well as a master's and an MFA in Creative Writing. When not writing, she's usually reading, indulging in her passion for Texas country music, traveling, or hanging out with her favorite feline friend, Mr. Snookums G. Cat.

Twitter: @RandeeGReen_12
Instagram: randee_green_author


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