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Quirky Q&A with Cathy Perkins: So About the Money

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Left-brain meets right-brain. Add in heart. Award-winning author Cathy Perkins skillfully blends all three in her newest mystery with a financial twist and a dash of romance: SO ABOUT THE MONEY.

When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. With an infinitely sexy cop—Holly’s pissed-off, jilted ex-fiancé—threatening to arrest her for the murder, the intrepid accountant must protect her future, her business…and her heart…by using her investigative skills to follow the money, before the killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass…and the next dead body is Holly’s.

How does Cathy do it? That’s what I wanted to know so I asked her a few quirky questions which she gamely answered for her third visit to K&T. Join me in welcoming the mastermind behind the Holly Price amateur sleuth romantic mystery series. (And be sure to read to the end to find out who won the Lark Brennan DANGEROUSLY YOURS give-away!)

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Krista passed along five sentences openers for me to complete for this guest post. Panic! My mind raced along with my heart. I have to be profound. Funny. Introspective. Yikes!

Wait a minute. I just have to be “me.” Whew. I know how to do that. So here we go. So-About-the-Money-2-200x300

1) I do my best thinking when… I’m moving. “Moving” can mean running, hiking or driving—anything that lets my mind relax. It may be getting into that zone that lets my subconscious toss out ideas that have churned around down there. Aside – the idea for So About the Money came while I was hiking with my husband along the Snake River in eastern Washington. As we pushed through some tangled foliage at the water’s edge, I peered over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” Yes, mystery/suspense authors think things like that.

2) I’m addicted to… coffee. Seriously, I don’t function without it. My husband is either an enabler or the best husband ever (my personal choice) because he always starts the machine when he gets up.

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3) In my spare time… Wait, you have spare time? Can you lend me some? I’m still rocking the day job while writing. Oh, and there’s the tree farm. And building the new house. And… But soon—really, really soon—I want to get back to the other creative outlets I adore—fused glass, watercolor, hand-sewing little girl dresses.

4) Smart women are… everywhere. “Smart” comes in so many varieties—I hope all of us can appreciate what everyone else has to offer. Book smarts, people skills; natural leaders and nurturers. Life is so much better when we focus on what women do well and help each other succeed.

5) Traveling… is my favorite thing. I love exploring new cultures and new places. My personal bucket list includes items big and small, local as well as international. Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Soap Lake’s mineral springs, and seeing Qin Shi Huang Di’s terra-cotta army in Xi’an, China.

What about you? Is there a place you’d love to visit?

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So About the Money by Cathy Perkins

Holly Price never expected to be back in Richland, Washington. She bolted out of the small town in eastern Washington for college—with no intention of returning. She also never expected her father to have a mid-life brain-fart and run off with his yoga instructor. His defection stranded Holly’s mother both personally and professionally. Without Holly’s CPA license, her mother would have to close the family accounting practice.

And absolutely the last thing Holly expected was for a hike with Alex Montoya to turn into the date from hell, but when he’d invited her to Big Flats, she’d heard “hike,” while he meant “hunt.”

Excerpt:

She peered forward and behind. “Alex,” she called, louder this time. “Where are you?”

She might be the commitment-phobe in this relationship, but surely Alex wouldn’t leave her out here. Everywhere she looked, dangling leaves and dried canes blocked her path. The sharp staccato of a dog’s excited bark broke the silence. Duke—ahead and to the right. The dog must have found the wounded pheasant.

She edged past a mushy spot. A harsher tang that reminded her of the dead fish they’d passed earlier grew stronger with each step. Nose covered with her hand, she rehearsed choice phrases to unleash on Alex when she finally found him, starting with a sarcastic, “Thanks for your concern,” before descending rapidly to “asshole.”

Something big rustled in the dense undergrowth behind her. Heart pounding, she spun around and peered into the thicket. They had coyotes out here. And drug grower/dealer guys. The only person they’d seen between the gravel parking area and this jungle was an Aryan Nation skinhead dude. Her heart stutter stepped. Oh, crap. What if this was his territory?

The noise from something plunging through the brush grew louder, closer. Blindly, she turned and crashed through the tangled foliage.

The rushes ended at a mound of dirt. She staggered into the clearing, her gaze zeroing in on Alex. Leaning over something on the ground, he tugged at Duke’s collar. The dog struggled, twisting his body in a muscular objection.

“Alex. Thank God.” Her knees felt weaker than she wanted to admit. “I heard something in the bushes back there.”

“Probably a deer. Stay back.” He wrestled the dog to the side.

His brusque tone shattered her mini-panic.

Well, don’t I feel silly.

A quick glance around registered the details. A drooping cottonwood canopied the clearing. Sunlit water lapped at the muddy shore. Gulls whirled overhead in a protesting flurry, lingering in a swirling complaint of dirty white feathers. The clearing looked like a teenagers’ party spot. Tattered food wrappers and empty beer bottles littered the ground. Filthy, torn clothing formed a soggy heap at the water’s edge.

The wind gusted off the inlet, carrying a stench across the clearing.

“Phew.” As bad as it smelled, she wondered if a dead fish was caught in the trash. A few birds remained near the river, their wings raised high, voices screeching defiance.

The pile of clothes had female-shaped contours. Eyes narrowed, Holly gave it a closer look. A pale, mud-streaked foot extended toward her. “Is that a woman?”

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Visit Cathy Perkins on Facebook, Twitter, and Cathy’s website.

For more Cathy Perkins K&T interviews:

The Two (Suspenseful) Sides of Cathy Perkins & A New Kind of Mile High Club with Cathy Perkins

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Congratulations to DARCY WOODS for winning the $25 Amazon gift card from Lark Brennan! And a special thanks to all of you who helped us celebrate Lark’s debut DANGEROUSLY YOURS last week. DANGEROUSLY YOURS debuts today!

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A New Kind of Mile High Club with Cathy Perkins

Today I am excited to welcome Cathy Perkins back to Kiss and Thrill! Cathy and I first met when we finaled in the Golden Heart® together in 2008, and our friendship has grown over the years as she’s one of the Northwest Pixie Chicks – a group of amazing authors I go on a writing retreat with every year. The annual Pixie retreat is one of my favorite weekends of the year and Cathy is a big part of what makes the weekend so special.

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Cathy has just released a new romantic suspense, CYPHER and I was among the lucky few who got to read an advance copy. I fired up my eReader as my plane took off in Anchorage, and when the plane neared Seattle I didn’t want to land. It’s that good.

I enjoyed it so much I’m giving it 5 airplanes and adding it to my list of favorite mile-high reads.

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RG: Welcome back, Cathy!

CP: Thanks for having me!

RG: What published author (any genre) turns you into a total fangirl?  Is there a particular book or is this based on their entire body of work?

CP: How much time do you have? So many favorite authors… Whew, narrowing it down to just one (or two 😉 )

Bouchercon (a huge reader conference for mystery and suspense people) was a constant fangirl moment for me. Every time I turned around, there was another favorite author! Two that especially stand out are Sophie Littlefield and Suzanne Brockmann. I’d just finished A Bad Day for Sorry and loved that Sophie’s heroine was middle aged and divorced—such a departure from the usual. Sophie was incredibly sweet. Her more recent books are women’s fiction, but she’s still on my auto-buy list.

Does anyone write romantic suspense better than Suzanne Brockmann? Well, obviously everyone here at Kiss and Thrill is fabulous, but I love the Troubleshooters!

Do you remember that Suzanne was the emcee at our 2008 Golden Heart ceremony, Rachel? Cowboy boots with her evening dress.  That seems to sum up her independent streak.

RG: Thanks, from all of us at K&T! And I forgot Suzanne was the emcee—I think I was too petrified to notice.

Have you ever written fan fiction, and if so, what work was it based on?  If you haven’t, is there any book or series you’d be tempted to write fan fiction about?

CP: I understand the concept of fan fiction – readers love the characters and continue with their own adventures for the characters – and can see the appeal. I have so many characters of my own I want to write about, so I don’t see writing fan fiction any time soon.

RG: Facebook or Twitter?

CP: I’m active on both. Twitter is fun for quick updates or call-outs, a chat with someone, and I still find it amusing that Alaska Air follows me.

RG: LOL! I was flying on Alaska when I read your book. Coincidence or kismet? Now that you have a 5 Airplane review, maybe other airlines will join your feed? 😉

CP: Facebook gives me more time and space to interact with friends. My personal “lists” (groups such as authors writing for one of my publishers, our Golden Heart group, South Carolina friends) make it so much easier to stay in touch. The constantly changing algorithms mean I have to work a little harder to reach people, but it’s still the best way I’ve found to share.

RG: Wait, our GH group has a FB list? Next retreat I need remedial Facebook lessons…

What is the strangest weapon you’ve used to kill off a character, either on or off-scene?

CP: We had a discussion about this on the Sisters in Crime loop, and I admit, I felt like a newbie reading ways they’d managed to kill off characters! My contribution to the strangest weapon category must be a punji stick chewed to a lethal point by a beaver.

RG: Love it! Okay, tell us about CYPHER.

CP: CYPHER just released and a fabulous romantic suspense author tagged it, a twisty mystery, a compelling romance. That sums up the story nicely.

RG: [blushing] Thanks! Ahem. I mean… what an apt description!

CP: Without giving away the plot and all the twists, CYPHER started with the premise, What if a hitman killed the wrong person? The “whys” lined up from there—why was the killer sent to murder the heroine? Why wasn’t she home? Why was her friend there and mistaken for her? The characters grew and became three-dimensional as I thought through the implications and how that character would react to events unfolding around him or her.

Cypher is the name of the Wainwright family business, a company Cara’s father built and devoted his life to nurturing. Cara at times refers to it as “the la-la land of Secret Military Stuff.” The company is at the center of the mystery, but its connections and secrets are as hidden as the buildings are from the public. The company provides a tangible symbol of the family relationships and dynamics, which are key components in the story.

Originally I hadn’t planned to have Cara Wainwright and Detective David Morris romantically involved, but I quickly saw the potential for conflict and knew I had to explore that relationship. Each of them had to overcome inherent suspicion and questions about the other’s motive while dealing with this enormous crisis surrounding Cypher and Cara’s family.

RG: Thank you so much for joining us today, Cathy! I’m already counting the days until our next retreat…

CP: Me too! Before I go today, I have a question for your Kiss and Thrill readers – Facebook or Twitter? I’m giving away a signed print copy of FOR LOVE OR MONEY to one commenter.

Okay readers, it’s your turn – tell us which you prefer: Facebook or Twitter! One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of FOR LOVE OR MONEY – another fabulous financial romantic suspense by Cathy! Winner will be announced in next week’s blog.

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads | G+

Amazon | B&N |Kobo

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A award-winning author Cathy Perkins works in the financial industry, where she’s observed the hide-in-plain-sight skills employed by her villains. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters’ lives. A member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America (Kiss of Death chapter) and International Thriller Writers, she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, handles the blog and social media for the ITW Debut Authors, and coordinated for the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for CYPHER, HONOR CODE and THE PROFESSOR, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

The Two (Suspenseful) Sides of Cathy Perkins

Today I want to offer a warm welcome to Cathy Perkins, an award-winning author (and Golden Heart Finalist) of compelling-yet-terrifying suspense stories and lighter mysteries with a financial twist. After I read The Professor (which was fan-tabulous and kept me up reading all night!), I knew I wanted Cathy to spend the day with us.
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Cathy: Good morning Sharon! Thanks for letting me hang out with the Romantic Suspense authors at Kiss and Thrill. I released two books this summer which are shelved as romantic suspense, The Professor (Carina Press) and For Love or Money (Entangled Publishing), but (shh, confession!) mine are really mystery/suspense with a romantic element rather than romantic suspense.

Sharon: That’s okay, Cathy. We love all kinds of suspense and mystery stories! When we chatted about this post, you mentioned you write both dark and light stories. Care to explain that comment?

Cathy: Sometimes writing in a different genre (paranormal or YA rather than suspense, for example) will keep ideas fresh for an author. I find writing different kinds of suspense stories stretches me as an author (and hopefully makes me a better one).

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As far as “light” and “dark” suspenses goes, just like romantic suspense has varying degrees of heat between the hero and heroine, mystery/suspense can contain degrees of darkness. All suspense novels have a villain who places the hero/heroine—or the world—in danger and shows the dark underbelly of human nature.

Tapping into the inherent conflict between right and wrong, good and evil, makes for some interesting stories. The best ones are page turners that keep you up past your bedtime. Now not all suspense novels keep you awake, afraid to turn off the lights (although a few of Patricia Cornwell’s had me wondering if that sound was a house noise or an axe-murderer breaking in—I had to back off of those!), but there’s always a sense that Something Really Bad will happen if the heroine doesn’t unravel the mystery, find the killer, defuse the ticking bomb or stop the assassin.

Sharon: I can honestly say The Professor kept me up all night worrying about axe-murderers breaking in!  Where do you think the dividing line between “light” and “dark” stories lies?

Cathy: Maybe it’s the tone of the story that makes people label a story “light” or “dark,” but the protagonist plays a role in the distinction for me. In The Professor, the main character is a state law enforcement agent who matches wits with a serial killer. Mick O’Shaughnessy must stop The Professor before he kills again. Readers tell me the scenes from the Professor’s point of view are deliciously creepy. (We are so not delving into anything that might say about me! No axe-murdering!)

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At the other end of the “darkness” scale, For Love or Money, an amateur sleuth mystery, is told from Holly Price’s perspective. A CPA (Certified Pain in the Ass according to the killer, and maybe according to the detective on the case), Holly relates to elements in the victim’s personal life, giving her a different motivation to ask questions and dig into details that don’t add up (in her opinion). She ultimately solves more than one crime, and makes the villain angry enough to come after her in the process.

Sharon: Oh, so the story is light or dark, depending on the POV character? Or is it the emotional tone of the book?

Cathy:  Hmm… Good question. While I mentioned that the main character drives the investigation and influences the way that investigation is handled, the emotional depth of the characters is a good indicator of the degree of darkness. I find the emotional depth comes from the characters’ inner conflicts, which may include a relationship issue. Maybe that’s why romantic suspense is so successful—integrating the external conflict with the relationship issues, drawing the hero and heroine together to overcome obstacles. But I digress. 🙂

Many mystery/suspense authors completely avoid any relationship in their books.  Jonathan King’s debut, The Blue Edge of Midnight, is a wonderfully atmospheric (very dark) suspense, whose guilt-ridden protagonist is in as much conflict with himself as he is with local law enforcement. At the other end of the spectrum, I think it’s safe to say Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum stories don’t spend much time on introspection. (Although Stephanie does have a relationship issue or two 🙂 )

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A novella linked to The Professor.

Like many of my favorite mystery/suspense authors, I always include a relationship element in my stories. I say “include” because the relationship (the romance) isn’t the primary focus of my books as it is in a romantic suspense. The emotional conflicts—romantic or other personal ones—flavor and complicate life for the main characters. They sharpen external conflicts when the internal conflicts force the main character to change and grow.

Now that I think about it, maybe the “light” or “dark” aspect is how deeply the story delves into the villain’s mindset, either directly through POV or indirectly through the investigation. Both draw the reader deep into a life or death situation.

Sharon: I think both of your answers are right. The light/dark issue is played out through the villain’s POV as well as the internal conflicts of the hero and/or heroine. But the villain POV scenes are usually what add the extra terror! What prompted you to change from dark suspense to lighter mysteries?

Cathy: I can only write so many dark stories and research really awful things people do to each other before I need to take a break. One of John Douglass’ (top FBI profiler) books gave me nightmares. Clearly, it was time to lighten up!

I also find darker stories like The Professor revolve around the actual investigation and the law enforcement officer, which means understanding how the detectives approach a case. Readers, including some from law enforcement, complemented me for “getting it right.” (I have wonderful resources; thanks y’all!)

The lighter stories allow more latitude. With For Love or Money, Holly can do her thing while JC’s over there doing whatever it is cops do. In her role as friend, confidant, or professionally as an accountant, Holly has access to people and information that would be more difficult for a police officer to obtain. She definitely does things no police officer could get away with.

Sharon: Do you decide ahead of time what type of book you want to write? Or is the type (light or dark) dependent on the characters who show up in your head?

Cathy: I’m drawn to darker stories, wanting to know the “why” behind a villain’s motivation as well as enjoying matching wits between my protagonist and villain as the investigation unfolds. It’s a choice for me to write something light when I need the emotional break.

I recently finished another dark story which my agent has on submission. I’m supposed to be working on Book 2 for Holly and JC (a sequel to For Love or Money that’s under contract) but this really dark story showed up and the characters will not leave me alone. . .

Sharon: I can’t wait to hear more!  And now for one of my favorite part of the interviews–the blurbs. 🙂

FOR LOVE OR MONEY

When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body while hiking, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. The verdict is murder—and Holly is the prime suspect. Of course, the fact that the infinitely sexy—and very pissed off—cop threatening to arrest her is JC Dimitrak, who just happens to be Holly’s jilted ex-fiancé, doesn’t help matters.

To protect her future, her business…and her heart…the intrepid forensic accountant must use all her considerable investigative skills to follow the money through an intricate web of shadow companies, while staying one step ahead of her ex-fiancé. She better solve the case before the real killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass…and the next dead body found beside the river is Holly’s.

THE PROFESSOR

The Professor presses his palm against her flank, feeling the liquid warmth of her blood, hotter than her skin. Hot, like the life force that he has claimed… The power over life and death is the ultimate thrill.

Someone is murdering women on South Carolina’s college campuses: three women, three different schools. The Governor’s order to State Law Enforcement Agent Mick O’Shaughnessy is simple: make it stop. More political maneuvering diverts Mick to nearby Douglass College. There, instead of another dead body, he finds Meg Connelly, grad student and faculty advisor for the latest victim.

Determined to finish her master’s degree, Meg doesn’t need anybody’s help – including her estranged family – to succeed. There’s something irresistible about Mick, but the last time she let someone get close to her, she lost everything except her self-respect.

As the investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But Mick’s interest in Meg doesn’t just endanger her heart–it puts her in the sights of the killer.

Once he gets her alone, he can take all the time he needs…

So, K&T readers, do you prefer light or dark stories? And if you have a preference, we’d love to know what your favorites are!

And for two lucky commenters, Cathy is giving away one copy of The Professor and one copy of For Love or Money.

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Cathy Perkins is a member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She writes predominantly financial-based mysteries but enjoys exploring the relationship aspect of her characters’ lives. Her suspense writing lurks behind a financial day-job, where she learned firsthand the camouflage, hide in plain sight, skills employed by her villains.

Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for HONOR CODE (a novella linked to The Professor) and THE PROFESSOR, she lives in Washington, the setting of FOR LOVE OR MONEY, with her husband, children, several dogs, and the resident deer herd.

Cathy can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Entangled Publishing, her website, and Goodreads.

Thank you for spending the day with us, Cathy. We wish you all the success in the world!

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