MA: W.S. Gager has lived in West Michigan for most of her life except for stints early in her career as a newspaper reporter and editor. Now she enjoys creating villains instead of crossing police lines to get the story. She teaches English at a local college and is a soccer chauffeur for her children. During her driving time she spins webs of intrigue for Mitch Malone’s next crime-solving adventure. Her second book in the Mitch Malone Mystery Series has a working title of A Case of the Accidental Intersection and is due out this month.
I understand you’ve been involved with writing professionally for a long time. Tell us more about that.
WSG: I have always been making a living from writing. I went to Central Michigan University and walked away with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. From there I worked at a half dozen newspapers for a decade, then came children whose schedule didn’t allow me to chase ambulances anymore. I moved into more public relations writing where I could control the schedule. Crime reporting always happened at the most inconvenient of times. During that time I also wrote speeches and that really helped me with dialogue. Getting into people’s heads and figuring out how they would word things. Four years ago I was recuperating from surgery and started on a book. This time I told myself I was going to finish it. I did and the characters in my head have never let me rest since!
MA: You’ve certainly dipped your toes in a few areas involving writing, but mostly non-fiction. What brought you to write a novel?
WSG: For as long as I can remember I have been a voracious reader. At many times I have started books and then life got in the way and I put them aside. It wasn’t so much as me choosing to write a novel, it was that I couldn’t not write a novel. Now the ideas just come. I could happily write 24/7. Then I would have to edit which I don’t find so much fun!
MA: It may sound crazy, but I actually enjoy the editing process. I like to think of my initial draft manuscript as a simple black and white sketch, but it’s during the editing process that I add color and dimension. Are your mysteries hard-boiled?
WSG: My stories are fun reads similar to a cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth named Mitch Malone. He has some issues and gets himself into trouble in my first book, A Case of Infatuation. Crime Beat Reporter Mitch Malone’s rules are simple: He never lets the blood and guts he covers bother him. He always works alone. And he hates kids. Mitch breaks all three rules when he unwittingly agrees to smuggle a potential witness out of a suburban Michigan home while police investigate a mob-style hit that’s left two dead bodies. Mitch sends his intern (a real hottie, but nonetheless an interloper) to interview neighbors, hoping to throw her off, but when he finds the pint-sized survivor the killer overlooked, he decides she might be helpful. When the FBI accuses him of the murder, Mitch goes into hiding with the bombshell intern who doesn’t talk and the precocious preschooler. Mitch works his contacts to regain his freedom from his roommates only to find they each hold keys to a bizarre story of disappearances, terrorists and the perfect hamburger recipe.
MA: (chuckling) I like Mitch and the story already…terrorists and hamburgers…I’m going to have to read it! Where did your hero come from?
WSG: Mitch came to me in a dream. I woke up with Mitch’s story buzzing in my head. I got up and six hours later I had half the rough draft done. Originally I thought the female in the book, Patrenka, would be the main character but Mitch just wouldn’t leave me alone and he took over the book.
MA: I know how a character can take control! What makes Mitch tick, besides trying to avoid kids?
WSG: Mitch likes to think of himself as a real loner. He doesn’t need anybody. He’s a bit full of himself. In A Case of Infatuation, he has a major character change in that he stops going for the story to doing what is best for his source and realizes he can care about somebody. In the second book with a working title of A Case of the Accidental Intersection, Mitch again gets involved in one of his stories and an accident victim propels him to dig deeper. Even though Mitch is learning to care about other people, his “it’s all about me” attitude does get him into some funny situations.
MA: With a character as colorful as Mitch, does he have an evil doppelganger nemesis of some kind?
WSG: There isn’t a reoccurring bad guy. In each of the books, the good guy (Mitch) wins and the bad guys go to jail. In book three, which is only in a rough draft phase, his love interest in the first book, Patrenka, returns. She is one woman who knows how to push all his buttons and walk away unscathed. Mitch struggles with trust issues and if he is ready for a full relationship. Every time he thinks he has her figured out, she throws him a curve and leaves him questioning what he wants.
MA: Does art imitate life in your stories?
WSG: Mitch is a crime beat reporter like I was for several years. Much of the background for Mitch came from my reporting days. Also some of the things he encounters are things I ran across while reporting. The beauty of fiction is I can take a kernel of truth and spin it to fit my purposes or make it worse than it was.
MA: It sounds like your writing has kept you busy. Are you writing more stories?
WSG: I plan on producing at least a book a year as long as I can get them published. I have a second mystery series featuring a female protagonist set in the nonprofit world that I will be marketing to agents and publishers shortly. I also have a great idea for a standalone book that isn’t a mystery. That one is just in the idea and notes phase but has really captured my interest.
MA: Will Mitch stick around and resurface in some of these new stories?
WSG: Mitch will stay in his own series I think and I have ideas for at least three more. In the second series that I call the Back Room Babes Books, each book will feature a different executive director from a different nonprofit organization and a major crisis and mystery for them to solve. Each book will have characters from the previous books in them. The stand alone book will not have any characters from previous books.
MA: What do you tell people about yourself and your writing, and what do you hope people gain from reading your stories?
WSG: In my writing, I try to not take it very seriously. That isn’t to say I’m not a dedicated writer but I like to keep my characters human. I want to provide a great story that you can’t put down but I also want to generate smiles and laughter with some of my character’s antics. My books are about dead bodies and mysteries that need to be solved but with unique characters that provide levity as well. I want people to be entertained when they read my books and walk away smiling.