My guest today is Jean Erhardt, native of Ohio but currently resident in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and their two Cairn Terriers, Hollis and Higgins. While she has written other books (non mysteries) she is currently focused on the Kim Claypoole mystery series.
The first book in the series, Small Town Trouble, was released in 2013 in eBook, print and audiobook. The second in the series is due out in May, 2014, Stay tuned for the title and cover reveal!
Don’t forget to keep reading to take advantage of Jean’s generous giveaway.
Elin: Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Jean: Yes, like many writers, I have a day job. I work full time as a sales counselor for a funeral home and cemetery in Portland.
Elin: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Jean: I am a professional painter, working primarily with oil on wood. I am excited to say that I will be curating as well as showing work at the Cannon Beach Gallery on the Oregon coast in May.
Elin: What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
I wish I had written Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. I’d be a multi-millionaire.
Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Jean: My characters generally arrive fully realized. I am lucky that way.
Elin: Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?
Jean: For many years, I wrote and published short stories, mostly with themes of betrayal and loss. Real upbeat stuff, eh? There is nothing more satisfying than reading or writing a beautiful and strange short story.
Elin: Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Elin: What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Jean: Currently, I am working on the fifth book in the Kim Claypoole mystery series. I have completed books two, three and four, and they are in the can! I have also started to write a new mystery series featuring Portland PI Haley Hammel. For years, I worked as a PI here in Portland and I will be drawing on some of my experiences and crazy adventures.
Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?
EXCERPT-SMALL TOWN TROUBLE
“Gimme,” I said, snatching the binocs from Amy. After all, I was the professional. Charlene was out the front door all right, headed like a high wind for a compact white car. She looked agitated. I couldn’t tell which form of agitation it was. Maybe she was twerked off at somebody, maybe she looked scared. Maybe she was just excited about getting off work.
Charlene wore short cutoff jeans, an ultra-tight T-shirt and sneakers. Her white-blond hair was pulled into a huge, floppy bun.
“What’s she doing now?” Amy wanted to know.
“Looks like she’s punching out for the night.”
In the weird blue light of Jimmy’s Place, I watched Charlene unlock her car door. She jumped in and promptly fired up a cigarette, then started the engine. Before I could say booballabies, Charlene sped out of the lot.
I cranked up the Toyota. “Let’s roll.”
The rainstorm that had been threatening all evening picked an inopportune time to let go. I flicked the Toyota’s wipers into high gear as the huge splotches came harder and faster, all the while trying to keep Charlene’s car in my view finder. I laid well off her tail, a little too well, actually, and we lost sight of her completely for a few minutes, caught back up, then I lost her again. I was definitely rusty in the tailing department.
I was also a bit distracted by a persistent pair of headlights in my rearview, but decided that I was just suffering from a slight case of the paranoids.
“Damn,” Amy said, binoculars once again pressed into action. “Can’t this car go any faster?”
Amy was right. Faster was the way to go. I put my foot to the pedal, passed a pickup truck which had turned onto the highway, and closed the gap. I was counting on the rain to make it tough on Charlene to notice us if she was inclined to check her rearview. The pavement was slick in spots from oil and from being dry too long, and the dang Toyota was having trouble holding the curves. Maybe I’d trade it in next time for whatever Charlene was driving. At least get myself a new set of tires.
“Aha,” Amy said, as Charlene’s car came back into view.
I clocked her. Charlene was doing a cool eighty on the straightaway.
“Hold up,” Amy said. “I think she’s turning off.”
Charlene made a hard right, headed out route 132. I let her make the turn, then followed her lead. The rain wasn’t letting up and, at this point, neither was I.
We went on like this for a couple miles, us on her tail and the rain beating the car like a platoon of angry little drummer boys. Then, without warning, Charlene jammed on her brakes and swerved off to the side of the road. I made a quick decision and, just short of her, cut a sharp right, and we bumped hard down an old rutted lane. I rolled just far enough down the road to get out of sight, then I cut the lights, spun us around and pulled off on the shoulder. I killed the engine and hoped we hadn’t attracted attention.
We were close enough to hear Charlene’s car humming.
“Now what?” Amy said.
I shrugged. “I don’t know yet.” I tried the binoculars again, but they weren’t much help. The trees were thick and clumped in all the wrong places. “What is she up to?”
“Maybe she lost a contact lens.”
“Maybe not.” A car coming up the highway from the opposite direction slowed and pulled in behind Charlene. There was the sound of a car door opening and slamming. Charlene’s lights and engine died. Then I heard a man’s deep voice. Hadn’t I heard that voice before? Charlene and the man spoke briefly, then it sounded like Charlene was getting into his car. More door slamming.
“Whoa,” Amy said, “a low-rent rendezvous?”
After a moment, his car pulled out of the turnoff, the headlights sweeping the trees, and headed quickly back up the highway. It looked like Amy and I were back in the tailing business.
The car was a dark, late-model sedan, nothing fancy, and Charlene was definitely on the passenger side.
The rain had let up a hair and Amy was working the binoculars again. “I think they might be arguing,” Amy said. “She’s waving her hands around.”
“You get a look at the guy?”
“Just the back of his head. He doesn’t appear to be wearing a hat, if that’s helpful.”
Amy was getting good at this. “Can you read the plate?” Maybe I’d get lucky later and find someone to run it.
Amy refocused. “Nope. Can’t quite make it out. Get closer.”
I knew it was risky, but I was working for Amy now. I gave the Toyota more gas and moved in on them.
“Oh, for chrissake,” Amy said, “I think they’re kissing.”
“Well, are they arguing or kissing?” I had seldom done these simultaneously with much success and figured no one else did either. “Get closer.”
I was practically driving up his tailpipe now. I took a good look, mentally noted the plate and backed off a bit. Amy was right the second time. They were making out. Charlene had her arms around the guy’s neck and, in between road checks, she’d suck on his face.
“Well, this is interesting,” Amy said.
Small Town Trouble by Jean Erhardt
Blurb: In Small Town Trouble, the first in my mystery series, you get acquainted with Kim Claypoole’s irreverent ways of dealing with the peculiar characters and events that seem to follow her around. Claypoole’s misadventures begin as she leaves her home in the Smoky Mountains to help save her kooky mother, Evelyn, from financial disaster. Setting off to assist Evelyn, AKA “The Other Scarlett O’Hara,” with her newest personal crisis, Claypoole leaves her Gatlinburg doublewide and the Little Pigeon, the restaurant that she owns with her partner and sometimes best friend Mad Ted Weber as well as a steamy love affair with TV diva Nancy Merit.
Claypoole’s savior complex leads to more trouble when she bumps into an old flame in her hometown who asks for help clearing her hapless brother of a recent murder charge. In true Claypoole fashion, she gets more than she bargained for when she gets dragged into a complicated quest to find the true killer that involves topless dancers, small-town cops, a stream of backwater character and even a meeting with the Grim Reaper. We’re never sure if Claypoole can muddle her way through the murky depths of this bizarre murder mystery before it’s too late. With biting humor and wit, Small Town Trouble will leave you guessing what’s around the next corner in the quirky world of Kim Claypoole and looking forward to her next adventure.
To be entered into a draw to receive a copy of Small Town Trouble, just comment to this post telling us the speed Charlene was doing on the straightway
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