A Liv Bergen Mystery
by Sandra Brannan
Greenleaf Book Group Press
After living in Wyoming, Washington, D.C., Washington state, and Colorado, Sandra Brannan returned to her hometown in South Dakota, where she is surrounded by a tribe of family. She enjoys working with relatives in the mining business; living in the Black Hills with her husband, Joel; smiling with pride over the journeys taken by her four sons; doting over her three grandchildren; and appreciating all of life’s blessings, too many to count. Sandra’s Liv Bergen mystery series include In The Belly Of Jonah, 2010, Lot’s Return to Sodom, 2011, Widow’s Might, 2012, and forthcoming title Noah’s Rainy Day.
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Question: Your Liv Bergen mystery series is making quite a splash on the literary scene. What can readers expect?
Sandra Brannan: My goal with every book is to either change a reader’s plans or make him or her lose a night of sleep. In my first book, I loved hearing how people couldn’t put the book down or how they read it in two days. That’s when I know I’ve done my job as a writer. In Lot’s Return To Sodom, the stakes are higher for Liv when she is thrust into the investigation because her brother Jens becomes the leading suspect in the murder of his fiancé. A bit at odds with the FBI’s investigation, the tension between Liv and Streeter builds. I call it my chrome vs. Carerras or leather meets Luciano book, since Liv draws from her taste in operatic music to pull her through some tough scrapes.
Q: You received emails of praise every day from fans who read your first two books, In the Belly of Jonah and Lot’s Return to Sodom, most saying they couldn’t wait for the next in the series. Followers are going to want to know anything they can about book 3. Can you give us a sneak peek?
SB: Widow’s Might is a natural extension of Lot’s Return To Sodom, occurring within the same timeframe and located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The widow Helma Hanson is my story’s unlikely heroine in Book 3, accompanied by Liv’s sister Elizabeth, befriended through a support group of parents who lost their babies to SIDS. Just as in Lot’s Return to Sodom, the line between good and evil is blurred, but in Widow’s Might, the premise is simply what happens when a well-intentioned concept becomes so powerful, that it buckles under the weight of itself, crushing to death the very life it was designed to save. I am having fun showcasing the colorful life of ranchers in the Black Hills and underscoring the pioneering and indomitable spirit of the Dakotas.
Q: The intriguing Agent Streeter Pierce and amateur sleuth Liv Bergen have such a unique relationship. How do you create that chemistry on page?
SB: I’m a sucker for unrequited love, like in the Bridges of Madison County and the African Queen. Real romance is all about the sweetness of anticipation and the fulfillment through patience, effort, and commitment. I haven’t followed the modern day method of character development under a tangle of sheets. Instead, I have tried to create a real and lasting chemistry between Liv and Streeter that most of us – if we’re lucky – can relate to, which is one of a deep respect and friendship, a meaningful relationship to last a lifetime.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for writing mysteries? Who are your favorite authors?
SB: Real life is most assuredly stranger than fiction. Most of my inspirations are from real life issues I contemplate or experience, which I twist into a finger-biting tale that generally has a happy ending, if you ignore the murder that makes the book a mystery. A single famous painting inspired In The Belly Of Jonah. And the angst I remember feeling as a teen when my coach was called away from our softball tournaments in August to attend to another discarded body inspired Lot’s Return To Sodom.
When I’m asked to list my favorite authors, I always forget about mentioning some I just love, so I apologize in advance. My favorite authors are my best teachers for writing, although I’m finding less time to discover new authors these days. First and foremost, I love mysteries, thanks to John D. MacDonald. Normally, when I find time, I have some “go-to” authors I know won’t let me down. When I want to laugh, Janet Evanovich, Lisa Lutz, and Nora McFarland are those authors. When I want a bit of ‘home’, I turn to C.J. Box or fellow Rapid Citian, Lori Armstrong. When I want a well-constructed thriller, John Grisham, Jeffrey Deaver, Patricia Cornwell, Robert Crais, and Gayle Lynds never let me down. And when I want a reliable page-turner, a good friend on my nightstand includes James Patterson, Harlan Coben, Michael Connolly, Sue Grafton, and Lee Child.
Q: You literally traveled across the country (from South Dakota to Florida to Colorado to New York and many more) to promote the series when the first book launched. What are your best and most memorable experiences from the tour?
SB: What a blast! Coming from a miner like myself, ‘What a Blast’ and ‘You Rock’ are the highest compliments I can give.
The bloggers at the First Annual Blogger Convention after BEA in NYC in May 2010 were incredibly patient and kind to teach me what the world of blogging was all about, something I knew nothing about (a common theme for me relating to everything books). I truly attribute much of my success to their early support of the Liv Bergen Mystery Thriller Series!
In September 2010, the booksellers and librarians were overly gracious and welcoming to me, honoring my efforts by naming me an Indie NextPick Notable. Heady for a debut author like me!! I have a very tender place in my heart for all those booksellers who took a chance on ‘unknown me’ and offered me book signings or spent the time teaching me about issues unique to the book industry while I stopped in for stock signings. They took the time. They cared. Booksellers are a special link in the chain of keeping Americans connected and engaged and deserve the recognition for holding fast as that chain keeps being pulled in different directions.
And then there are the many associations who welcomed me with open arms to their fold. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard the entire time I was at SIBA and the Moveable Feast was a trip! I met a lot of helpful authors at Bouchercon in San Francisco and was amazed at their friendliness, absorbing their wise words of advice like a sponge. Ever since then I have had amazing experiences at book events, including ThrillerFest, Southern Book Festival, Malice Domestic, Magna Cum Murder, Library events, fundraisers, and all the other fun events I’ve attended in 2010 and 2011. A highlight was being asked to emcee my native state’s South Dakota Book Festival banquet in October 2011.
But the most memorable experiences I have had during the past year are those from fans, whether it was through emails, on social networking sites, by mail, or in person. YOU ROCK!
Q: You sponsored a teen blogger to go to the annual Book Blogger Convention in New York City and have supported teen writers in other ways. Why is this so important to you?
SB: I have never felt stronger in my life that the children genuinely are our country’s—and world’s—future. I love America and come from a long line of relatives who have fought for our freedoms in the different branches of military from WWI to the War in Iraq. The freedom to think and speak one’s opinions is grossly underappreciated or taken for granted by so many of us Americans and it takes only one trip to a country where those freedoms don’t exist to experience an eye-opening moment of realization of what our troops have fought for and protected for us all these years. Blogging embodies that constitutionally given freedom of speech and these young teens in time will need to fully understand the weighty responsibility that comes with that right to share opinions and how they will interact with the loyal followers they will inevitably attract.
My brother gave a speech once about a man walking along the shoreline, tossing beached starfish back into the sea after a blustery storm. When an onlooker suggested that most of those starfish would eventually dry out, the man said, “I know, but all I have to do is save one.” Simply put, this sponsorship is intended to encourage that one teen with a voice to speak out. That one starfish.
I have always volunteered to help kids, including being a tutor for kids at risk, a coach for softball, for basketball, for Special Olympics, a girl scouts leaders, a caretaker for nursery/toddler room at church, and as a motivational speaker. Since coming out with my mystery series, I’ve had so much fun Skyping in classrooms across the country or attending career fairs to encourage kids of all ages to write.
A teen with the desire to make a difference is what our country needs to succeed. So let’s encourage them!
© Copyright 2013 by Sandra Brannan. Reprinted with permission by Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved.
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