Character Interview: Nan Sampson’s Charlie

Over the last year or so, I’ve interviewed many of Nan Sampson’s characters. One of those characters was Charlie. If you would like to read the first interview I conducted with him, you can find it on Nan Sampson’s site here: https://nansampsonauthor.com/2015/07/30/an-interactive-character-interview-meet-charlie-mccallum-from-my-ellie-gooden-mystery-series/. 

In this interview, I was able to catch up with Charlie and see how life was treating him. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me while ‘Charlie’ was written by Nan Sampson.

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Charlie McCallum sat in one of a pair of broad, chintz-covered, wing back chairs in front of the fireplace in the study of the Birches Inn, crossing one leg over the other and vice versa, drumming his fingers on the arm of the chair.  He ran long fingers through his mop of curls, which had grown overlong during his recuperation from his broken leg.  He really needed to find a place in Horizon to get it cut—maybe Per, his new landlord of sorts, could recommend a barber.

The Birches Inn was a lovingly restored Queen Anne Victorian that sat on a hill just outside the small, southwestern town of Horizon, Wisconsin.  Once the home of a mining baron, it was now the premier place to stay in the county for tourists, wedding parties, honeymooners and even the occasional temporarily displaced local.  Filled with period antiques and seamless replicas, it was genteel, elegant, and yet homey and comfortable.  He loved the place—the lace curtains, the damask wallpaper, the oriental rugs, the rich, mahogany furniture and best of all, the pocket doors.  If he ever had a house, he wanted one with pocket doors.

The study today was lit by firelight and table lamps, the pale winter sun shining ineffectually through the windows.  Outside, snow covered the ground, decorated the birches and aspens that graced the property, and the temperatures were closing in on zero again.  The study, however, was toasty warm and delightfully cozy.  It was the perfect setting and he’d asked Arabella, who owned the Inn with her husband Seth, for private use of the room today.  Since tourists this time of year were few and far between, she’d readily agreed.

He’d met his anticipated visitor, a woman named Kelly Blanchard, once before, at her little shop.  That had been almost a year ago, back when Ellie had first moved to this little one-horse town.  It had been the strangest meeting he’d ever had. 

And now, here he was, meeting with her again, and much like the previous time, he wasn’t really sure why.  But he didn’t mind.  Their conversation had been fun and, in a way, incredibly helpful in terms of his relationship with Ellie.  In fact, without Kelly’s advice, he might not even have a relationship with Ellie.  Not that Ellie was ready yet to admit they had one, but hey.  Baby steps.

He grinned, scrubbed his finger through his curls then stood to pace, trying to keep his hands off the plate of chocolate chip cookies he’d asked Arabella to bake.  Tit for tat, he thought.  Kelly had served him cookies last time, it was proper he return the favor.  His stomach fluttered nervously as he waited.  What on earth, he wondered, would they discuss today?

Kelly entered the inn and was grateful to get out of the cold. She was a Texas girl for a reason! But she did enjoy the occasional snow. The woman at the front directed her to the study, and when Kelly pushed open the door, she smiled at the warm and cozy atmosphere. “Now this is a place I could spend forever in,” she smiled at Charlie when she saw him there. She headed over to him with a plate of chocolate chip cookies she had made just for this meeting, but then she noticed the cookies already on the table. Kelly laughed. “I made these for you because I knew you liked them from our last meeting. Guess great minds think alike. But still.” She placed them on the table and shook Charlie’s hand before sitting down across from him. “So, Charlie, how have you been since our last chat?”

“Aw, you’re so sweet!  Thanks!”  He still remembered the taste of those chocolate chip cookies from their last meeting.  “I’ll save yours—I know they’ll be better, even though Arabella does a bang up job.”

He sat nervously, then stood up again almost immediately to pace.  “Things are good.”  He gestured down at his leg, which was finally cast-free.  “Leg is healing well.  I still limp some around Ellie, just to yank her chain.”  He paused.  “Oh, wait, you probably didn’t hear about that.  I broke my leg in November.  And Ellie nearly got herself shot.  One of her college friends was murdered and Ellie had to jump in to investigate.”  He shook his head.  “Girl needs to learn to wait for back up.”

“Hold up.” Kelly lifted her hand. “First off, was this another murder Ellie has solved? And secondly, she almost shot herself? How? And…how did you break your leg.” Then Kelly paused, realizing she had asked a lot of questions. She chuckled, sitting back in her chair. “And answer those in whatever order you want.”

He grinned, grabbed one of Kelly’s cookies. The things were like crack.  “Maybe I should start from the beginning.  Ellie came back to Chicago in November—she and Kate were going to meet up with their old college friend, Lacey.  But before the three could get together, Lacey turned up dead in an alley.  No one, not even me, believed it was a random street crime, so Ellie hired me to help her investigate.  In the end, we identified the killer and Ellie cornered them.  The killer had a gun, and before I could get into a position to help her, nearly shot Ellie.  As I raced to help, the killer fell and knocked me down a flight of stairs, resulting in me being laid up for eight weeks.”  He grinned.  “So just to keep my hand in the game, so to speak, I decided I’d recuperate up here in Horizon.  Gotta keep an eye on that girl.  I’m staying at her neighbors house, officially, since Per had a spare room, but I try to spend every waking moment in her cabin.  Worming my way into her affections.”  A chuckle.  “And I’m growing on her.  Like fungus!”

Kelly chuckled at his last statement, but she shook her head. “Hate to say this, but it almost sounds like Ellie attracts murder. It’s a bit dangerous to be her friend.” However she shrugged and grinned at Charlie. “But that’s why she has you there at her side.” She winked then leaned forward, took a cookie off the plate and met Charlie’s gaze. “So how are things progressing between the two of you?” She lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair and ate the cookie.

He stared out at the snow for a moment.  “Um…I liken it to the growth of a glacier.  A little progress everyday.  While it’s happening it’s hard to tell, but if you stand back and look at the big picture, you can definitely see the change.”  He rubbed his jeans, watched the fire dance.  “We’re getting somewhere.  Not sure where exactly, but somewhere.  I just need to be patient.”

“And how are you doing with needing to be patient?” Kelly tilted her head to a side. “Do you consider yourself a naturally patient individual, or is that a trait you need to strengthen?”

“Well, I’m not Yoda.  But I guess I’m more Yoda than Han Solo.  Ellie would be Han.  She needs to charge off in a direction—any direction—to feel like she’s getting somewhere.  I’m okay waiting.  One day she’s going to realize we’re an “us”, and it will have happened so gently and so naturally, she won’t feel the need to rail against it.”  He grinned.  “Meanwhile, living with her, around her, certainly isn’t boring.”  He leaned back in his chair.  “But hopefully she won’t trip over another body before spring.  I can’t remember ever being this cold.  And I’m a Chicago boy!”

Kelly tried not to laugh when he said what he said about Yoda and Han, but finally she cracked a smile. “Well, Charlie, gotta tell you somethin’. If she’s Han, then you need to be Princess Leia. Just forgo the whole golden bikini thing, okay?” Kelly laughed but then forced herself to regain her composer. “Okay, okay, I know that’s not what you meant, but just had to say it.”

He laughed, hard.  “So glad you’re one of my tribe, Kelly!”  He glanced down at himself.  “But hey, you don’t think I could pull that outfit off?  Have I gained that much weight?”

Kelly laughed again then tilted her head, giving him a thorough look. “Well, maybe you could pull it off. If you did, there would have to be pics for proof!” She grinned at him, but then shook her head still chuckling. “Okay, but back to the questions! What do you think of Ellie’s habit of stumbling upon dead bodies, and she’s not even a detective or anything. I mean…isn’t that a bit…odd?”

He paused, his expression darkening.  “Ellie…Ellie’s a magnet for shit like that.  I mean, I want to say it started with the murder of her parents.  God, what a horrific crime.  But really, based on stories I’ve heard from Kate about some things that happened back when they were in college and first learning about “the Craft”, it seems like dark stuff—woo-woo creepy stuff—has been following her around for a long time.  So the fact that dead people harass her, or that she stumbles over fresh corpses at the drop of a hat, at some level doesn’t really surprise me.  Death and tragedy seem to follow her around like Erik the Red.”

Kelly frowned. “It’s just odd…to me. But at least she has you there.” She smiled at him. “Are you still working for the police?”

He ducked his head, looked away.  “Um, no.  No, I’m freelancing now.  I got my Private Investigator’s license over the summer.”

This caused Kelly to furrow her brows, and she leaned forward. “What happened that caused you to leave the police?”

“It…the…the job just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  Dan says I’m just being a flake, a spoilt prima donna.”  He gave a shrug.  “Maybe he’s right.  Maybe I’m just better off working for myself, doing my own thing.”

Kelly narrowed her eyes, and she regarded him for a long moment. “By all the ‘maybes’ you’re saying, it sounds like you’re not convinced yourself. Leaving your job like that isn’t something you just wake up one day and decide to do. It’s a decision that takes time to process and think through before committing to it. Did something trigger it? Did justice not get served on a case?”

He jerked upright, met her eyes, looked away again.  How did she do that?  “It wasn’t a knee jerk decision, I’ll tell you that.  As for justice…”  His tone became bitter.  “Well, apparently justice is a subjective thing.  Contrary to what I’d always been taught, it doesn’t apply equally to all people.  Whore, junkies, minorities, all those disenfranchised folks at the bottom, they don’t get justice unless it fills a quota or it helps someone’s political ambitions.”  He stood, paced back to the window.  “Hell, it isn’t even just the poor who get the shaft.  Look at Ellie.  Her parents’ were solid upper middle class and their murders were never solves nor will they be unless someone like me…”  He pressed his lips together, shook his head before finally turning to face her again.  “I still support the Force.  There are damn good cops, damn good men putting their life on the line every day.  But justice, the kind with a capital J?  Looking for that these days is like going on a snipe hunt.”  He shrugged again.  “So I got out.  Now I can give justice to people on my own terms, or at least kill myself trying.”

“And justice is supposed to be blind, but sadly it isn’t.” Kelly shook her head, but she leaned forward, intertwining her fingers as she locked eyes with Charlie. “But is it right for you to take justice in your own hands? You may be right on all accords, but…there’s a very thin line between the vigilante and the villain in all spheres of life.”

He clenched his jaw, forced himself to relax.  “Look, I’m no vigilante.  When we cornered Lacey’s killer, I had a cop buddy of mine with us.  He did the Law and Order thing.  I don’t intend to be judge and jury.  But I want like hell to make sure the alleged criminal gets to trial.  That’s all.  I just want to give Truth the chance to be spoken.  What happens after that is in the hands of the system.  I still believe in the system.  Just not some of the people who fancy themselves in charge of it.”

Kelly stared at Charlie for a long moment. She could feel his irritation with her questions, but that only probed her to dig deeper. When she spoke, she spoke with a soft voice. “What was the case that has troubled you so much? Is it Ellie’s parents’ case being unsolved and that is troubling you because you are getting closer to Ellie? What was the case that finally made you take that step?”

He sighed.  She wasn’t going to give up.  And maybe, just maybe, he was ready to talk about this.  “No, it wasn’t Max and Serena Gooden’s murders, although I haven’t given up on that case.  I have the files and one day…”  He ran his fingers through his hair.  he felt sweaty, nauseous.  “There was a young girl.  A young Asian girl.  Fifteen.  She was turning tricks in around Chinatown.  I knew her from working the beat there, knew which pimp she worked for.  I’d even tried to talk her into getting out, getting her into a shelter, but sometimes these kids can’t see the forest for the trees.  Anyway, she turns up in a dumpster near Ravenswood area—hell and gone from her normal haunts.  She’d been raped, strangled and tossed into a dumpster behind shop like a piece of trash.”

He paused, swallowed.  Felt the lump in his throat, the bile rising.  “There were no wits, very little in the way of physical evidence, at least in the official file.  My partner and I worked it hard for three weeks, but every day that passes, more cases pile up on your desk and she was just a girl, just a low class run-away hooker.  She didn’t rate. So we had to let it drop.  Officially.”  He glanced up at Kelly.  “But I couldn’t.  I knew her.  She was a sweet kid.  So I kept digging, on my off time.  And eventually I turned up a witness, someone who’d seen her getting out of a fancy car and heading into a building on the arm of a man.  A very well-placed man.  I took the evidence to my superior…”  He fell back against the chair.  “Well, you can guess what happened.”

“He told you to drop it, and you couldn’t, so you left the force,” Kelly guessed, but allowed him to confirm this or correct her.

“Basically.  I tried going over his head, to the DA, but got shot down there too.  The guy was untouchable.”  He rubbed his face.  “The hell of it is that I’ll bet money this wasn’t the only girl this guy killed.  And I can’t do anything about it.”  Outside, snow was falling again.  A white blanket, covering over the ground.  Hiding all the defects in the landscape.  “So yeah.  I left.  I suppose that makes me a coward, part of the problem.  But I just couldn’t face it.  Plus, by doing what I did, I’d pretty well screwed my chances to advance anyway.”

“Charlie, it doesn’t make you a coward.” Kelly shook her head. “You hold to a higher standard than most people, especially when it comes to justice, and when other people won’t adhere to your standard, you have to move on. It is better to do that than to compromise and lower your standard because if you did *that*, years from now you would look in the mirror and not recognize the man you have become. But standing firm on what you believe, *that* takes strength.” She gave him a reassuring smile then sat back in her chair. “However, have you thought about encouraging Ellie to get her PI license too? I mean, she’s the one who keeps stumbling upon the dead bodies. You two might as well be a team.”

He grinned but shook his head.  “Oh, no.  No, no, no.  I want Ellie to stay a civilian.  She’s a great business woman, and she makes a mean latte, but law enforcement would drive her absolutely crazy.  She’s not exactly a rule-follower.  Even as a P.I., there are a ton of rules to follow.  Besides.  Her getting a PI license would just mean she’d get into even more trouble.  And I don’t think I could take that.” He considered a moment.  “Besides.  We’re already a team.  She just hasn’t realized it yet.”

Kelly laughed at that then reached for another cookie. “Fair enough, and true, I would say you two make a good team.” She smiled at him and broke off a piece of the cookie to eat while she contemplated her next question. Once she had swallowed, she asked, “Now though, you are a PI, so you have other cases than just Ellie’s, right? Have you taken a break from all of that while your leg heals, or how does that work?”

He blew out a breath.  “To be honest, paying cases are hard to find.  I’ve been kind of coasting since I broke my leg.  I mean, it’s not like I’ve actually moved up here.  Not for real.  Most of my stuff is still at Dan and Kate’s – I’m sort of between formal addresses at the moment, since apparently being a PI doesn’t really pay very well and I lost my lease.”  He scanned the room, the book cases, looking anywhere but into Kelly’s penetrating gaze.  “I’ve sort of been helping the local Chief of Police out with a couple of things.  And once in a while I get tagged by a friend of mine who works for the Feds.  But really, at the moment, I’m on, um, oh, let’s call it a sabbatical.”

“And are you enjoying this sabbatical? or are you going stir crazy yet?” Kelly smiled at him.

“God!  Stir crazy doesn’t even cover it.  Especially now that the leg feels better.  So I had Kate send up some of my files – the ones from Ellie’s parent’s murders.  I know if I keep digging I can turn something up, despite how long it’s been.  But I’ve got to do that on the sly.  She’d kill me if she knew what I was doing.”

Kelly furrowed her brows. “She doesn’t want you looking into that?”

“You gotta understand, Ellie is a really private person.  And she has this thing about law enforcement.  They totally bungled the case and put her through hell over it. Because I used to be a cop, I’m sort of painted with the same brush.  If she knew I were looking into it—without her permission, without her asking me to – she’d probably break my leg on purpose.  And leave me out in the snow to freeze.”  He gave a rueful grin.  “She’s got a temper, our Glenda Goodwitch.”

This made sense to Kelly, so she nodded, but it only brought up another issue. She set her chin in her palm and raised her brows. “And what are you going to do when she does eventually find out because she will.”

“Ah.  Heh heh.  Yeah.”  He rubbed his hands on his jeans.  “That’s, um, going to be interesting.  I’m hoping I can find a good time to spring it on her.  Some nice, quiet moment.  After she’s had two or three mojitos maybe.  Or has been sedated for surgery?”

“Yeah, I can totally see you randomly saying something like, ‘Hey, will you marry me? Oh and I’ve been looking into your parents’ case…’ Not sure which of those statements would surprise Ellie the most.” Kelly shook her head, chuckling at the thought.

“I think either might be lethal!”

Kelly gave him a wicked grin. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to wear a bulletproof vest and stay a safe distance from her when you break the news. Hopefully she’ll be stunned for a moment, giving you enough time to get a little of a headstart to run away.” Then Kelly sat back in her chair. “But anyway, you will figure out what to say when the time comes. Hopefully you can tell her yourself rather than her finding out and confronting you. That would be bad.”

“Yeah.  That’s the plan.”  He sighed.  “Pretty sure the guy who wrote the book on relationships never counted on an Ellie Gooden.  She’s unique.  But I can’t imagine spending my life with any one else.”  He glanced up at Kelly.  “I’m sunk.”

Kelly smiled when he said this. She liked that he knew who he wanted to spend his life with but that he wasn’t forcing Ellie into a relationship. “Just be patient, Charlie. You’ve done well as far as I can tell. When the time is right, you’ll be able to tell her what she means to you, and I really hope both of you the best.” Then Kelly glimpsed at the clock on the wall and sighed. “Well, my time here is about done.” She looked back at Charlie and smiled as she rose to her feet. “It was great chatting with you again. Thanks for agreeing to meet with me.”

He stood as well. “No, the pleasure was mine.  I, uh, I haven’t talked about the thing… the reason behind my resignation, with anyone before.  I really appreciate you listening.  And uh, you were right.  About the fine line between vigilantes and villains.  I’ll keep that in mind, especially when I find the a-holes who killed Ellie’s parents.”  He stuck out his hand.  “So.  Thank you.”

Kelly shook his hand and smiled. “It was my pleasure. And some time another, you’re gonna have to be honest with Ellie. Honesty is very important with any relationship. For now though, I need to go. Enjoy the cookie!” With one more smile and a wave, Kelly turned and headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nan Sampson’s third novel in her Coffee and Crime series, ‘Forest Outings’ is now available. You can find it, along with the other books of her series, at the following links:

Amazon Link to Restless Natives, Book 1 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:  https://www.amazon.com/Restless-Natives-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01EQTOTOS

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Amazon Link to Office Heretics, Book 2 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:

https://www.amazon.com/Office-Heretics-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KXW537Y

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Amazon Link to Forest Outings, Book 3 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6W6LCK/

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GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8386474.Nan_Sampson

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Nan-Sampson/e/B00LSWJ4Z6/

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Author Interview: Nan Sampson

For this interview, I actually met with an author who I’ve interviewed several years ago. Since then she has released a few new books, so I thought I would check up with her. Her name is Nan Sampson, and she writes MYSTERY. If you’re interested in her first interview, you can find it here: https://meetingwiththemuse.com/2015/07/08/author-interview-nan-sampson-bach/. However, this interview we discuss her mystery series and get caught up to date. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Nan’ was written ’Nan Sampson’.

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Kelly dusted off shelves in her Muse Shop as she waited for the timer for her cookies to go off. A few minutes passed, and she heard the timer sound, so she put down the dusting cloth and went to the kitchen in the back of the shop to pull the cookies off the cookie sheet.

She had just finished plating the hot cookies on a plate when she heard the door to her shop chime. Taking the plate, Kelly made her way back to the front and she smiled widely when she recognized Nan Sampson. “Nan!” Setting the plate of cookies on the kitchen, Kelly went to Nan and embraced her then pulled back. “You’re just in time! Just finished baking some cookies.” She turned back and grabbed the plate. “Care to sit at that table and chat?” She gestured to a table near the front window. “Afterwards, you’re welcome to meander about the shop. So how have you been?”

Nan grinned.  “Oh, my gosh.  I could smell the cookies out on the sidewalk.  I’ll bet they draw a lot of customers inside!”  She took a seat at the table and smiled warmly at Kelly.  “I’ve been great!  It’s so good to see you again!”

“It’s great to see you as well! By all means, have cookies!” Kelly sat down across from her and took a fresh cookie too. “So, before we talk about your writing and books, catch me up briefly. How have you been in life? Everything going well?”

“Gosh.  It’s been…an interesting year.  The day job has been particularly demanding, I suffered a rather ridiculous fall that took me down for about eight weeks, and my teenager is, well, a teenager.  But really, on the whole, we’re blessed to have the life we live.”

Kelly winced when she heard about the fall. “You doing okay though? I mean, after the fall? That can knock anyone back for a bit. And yeah, teenagers will be teenagers!” She chuckled, shaking her head.

“I’m good.  The broken nose was just humiliating and the broken hand has mended.  The real damage was to my pride!  Sooooo embarrassing as it happened at work!  The trick now is getting back to my publishing schedule.  I had a rather ambitious schedule back in September and the fall sort of… forced me to revise that.” Nan grabbed a cookie off the plate and savored it.  “OMG, these are so good.”

Kelly smiled. “Glad you like them! And on the bright side, at least you can write about having a broken nose!” She shrugged. “Okay, so, catch me up on your writing endeavors. You’ve recently published another book. Is this the second or third one of the series? I think when I last interviewed you, you had just released the first book. I’m not sure how far behind I am.”

Nan relaxed back in her chair.  The atmosphere of the shop was so beguiling.  You couldn’t stay anxious here.  “I’ve just released the third book in the Coffee and Crime series titled ‘Forest Outings’.  I think it’s my favorite so far.  I’m STILL in draft mode on the Steampunk novel, as well as the first book in a space opera trilogy.  Those were supposed to get finished in November and December respectively, but now will get pushed back until late spring.”  Her stomach fluttered.  It felt so odd talking about ‘her’ novels.   She was proud of what she’d accomplished, but sometimes talking about her own work felt a bit like bragging, which she’d been raised to believe was rude.

“Well, I hope you get to publish those steampunk and space opera books. I’d love to hear about them. However, I think we need to focus on the book you have published. Since it has been a while since our last interview together, remind me again, what is the Coffee and Crime series about? And how has it progressed since Book 1?”

Nan eyed the plate of cookies, then mentally shook her head.  Maybe later.  “The Coffee and Crime series features marketing manager turned coffee shop owner Ellie Gooden.  In the first book, Restless Natives, we see her moving from Chicago to a small town in southwestern Wisconsin to open her shop, The Sacred Caff, and getting embroiled in a murder.  Book Two, Office Heretics, has her returning to Chicago for a visit and to help solve the murder of an old college friend.  And Book Three, Forest Outings, takes place back in Horizon, Wisconsin, where a dear friend’s son is accused of murdering a colleague from Madison.  There is an element of the paranormal in the series—Ellie frequently encounters the shades of the dead— and then there is the ongoing mystery of who killed Ellie’s own parents, which won’t be resolved for quite some time.”  She plucked nervously at the hem of her flowing purple Boho blouse.  “Why does it never sound as interesting when I say it aloud as it does when I’m writing?”  She looked back up, gave Kelly a grin.  “Haven’t quite perfected my elevator speech yet.”

Kelly laughed when she heard Nan’s last statement. “I know. Summaries never sound as good as we come up with in our head once we say them aloud, but you’ve done well. Don’t worry.” She sat back in her chair, smiling at Nan. “Now, are these books surrounding the same original murder from the first book? Or was that was solved already and Ellie just got roped into solving yet another murder?” She tilted her head, curious.

“All separate and unrelated murders.  Each one gets solved by the end of each book.”  Nan laughed.  “Just call her Jessica Fletcher of the midwest! Pretty soon, people will run when they see her coming, knowing someone is going to die.” She considered.  “I guess that’s a trope of amateur sleuth mysteries.  You have to suspend disbelief there.  I mean, most cops don’t see as many murders as these amateur sleuths do.  But that’s also part of the fun!”

Kelly nodded. “She’s not an actual police detective though, right? That’s what makes this whole series interesting. But she has Charlie with her, right? And he’s with the police? I can’t remember the details!” She shook her head, chuckling. It had been about two years since she interviewed Nan last, so she was rusty on the details.

“No, she’s no cop.  She can’t stand the cops, after the way they bungled the investigation into her parents’ murders.  And yes, Charlie is there, although he’s a P.I. now.”  She couldn’t help grinning.  “Is it bad for a writer to have favorite characters?  I mean, as a parent, you can’t have ‘favorite’ children, but Charlie has got to be my absolute favorite character ever.  I love the sparks between he and Ellie.  Not just the romantic ones, but the snappy patter.  They’re oil and water and yet they work so well together.”

This caused Kelly to grin, and she leaned forward, setting her forearms on the table. “So, how have the characters evolved over the last few books? Have they surprised you? Are they what you expected? Or a bit of both?”

Nan took another cookie off the plate and bit into it before she even realized what she was doing.  Dang magic cookies.  “Oh, the relationship between Charlie and Ellie definitely heats up over the course of the series.  That’s another fun element, that romance.”  She pursed her lips, thinking.  “Originally, during the inception, Charlie was just a one-off, a bit part.  I had envisioned Ellie taking a different path in her relationships.  But leave it to Charlie—he can worm his way into anyone’s heart.  That really surprised me.  And the way Ellie is growing…I hadn’t anticipated some of what is happening.  Especially the way things are starting to go with the riddle of who killed her folks.  It’s evolving and morphing, but in such a great way.  As a writer, you gotta love it when the work takes on a life of its own!”

“Yes, when the story takes a life of its own, and all you can do, as the writer, is hang on for dear life—that’s the best.” Kelly grinned then took another cookie and sat back. “So this third book, was it just the next natural step for the series? Or did something specific give you the idea and inspire it? If that makes any sense.” She shrugged and ate the cookie.

That made her stop and think.  “You know, I don’t really know where the idea for Forest Outings originated.  There’s a certain pattern, or rhythm I’m working towards in the series, where the books take place alternately in town or someplace else.  So I knew I needed a murder in town, but I just wasn’t ready to kill off a townie yet.  And I had just read an article about some eco-warriors doing some tree-sitting in California, and then things just kind of jelled.  The next book, however, which doesn’t have a tile yet, will take place in the Wisconsin Dells and was inspired by a trip a couple of friends and I took up there for a mini-writing retreat.  We all got plot ideas from that trip!”  A movement from one of the shelves caught her eye.  Something had scurried or slithered or flittered or something.  She wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if it had been the Golden Snitch, there were so many fabulous curiosities in the shop.  Focus, Nan, focus.

“Sounds like a wonderful time.” Kelly smiled. “So, you said you have another book already in the wings. Any idea how many books will be in the series, or will you just see where it takes you?” She lifted her brows.

Nan giggled.  “Oh, I have so many ideas in the wings, the inside of my head looks like the skies over O’Hare!  As for this series, I have no particular number in mind.  I’ll let the series take me wherever it wants to go.  As long as readers are still enjoying them and I’m still having fun writing them, I’ll continue.”  She took one final cookie.  “But there are so many other things I want to write too.  We’ll just have to see where the journey takes me.”  She brushed crumbs off her ample bosom and onto a napkin, thinking her bosom would be less ample if she could just stop eating cookies!  Oh, what the heck.  Life was short and these were magic cookies anyway.

Kelly saw Nan’s conflict and grinned as she scooted the plate of cookies toward her. “Enjoy them.” She smiled. “However though, in addition to this series, you want to write and publish other series! How are you going to split your mind with all those different stories? I can’t even imagine doing that!!!”

Nan thought briefly.  “Actually, it’s not really that hard.  I have a different set of musical tracks I end up associating with each series, each world I create.  Music is hugely important to my creative process.  So when I want to get “into” a particular world or character, I just play that set of tracks and BAM, I’m there.  And to be honest, I’m kind of ADHD.  I can only really concentrate on one book for about two months straight.  So I do a two month draft process, set the book aside to, um, ferment,” she chuckled, “and either start the draft of something completely different, or work on a revision of something I’ve already drafted.  I usually have about three WIPs going at any given time, in various stages of either drafts, first pass revision (the hard one), or outlining.”  She rubbed at her temples, grinning.  “And people wonder why I can’t remember where I’m supposed to be most days.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Well, I am glad you can manage that because I know I couldn’t. Fantastic for you!” Then a clock on the wall chimed, and Kelly looked up at it then frowned. “Our hour is up.” She looked back at Nan. “Unfortunately I need to get back to work, but I’ve really enjoyed catching up with you.” She smiled as she rose to her feet. “If you’d like, you’re welcome to take a look around. Be careful though. Got plot bunnies lurking that like to jump out and bite people.”

Nan stood, thrilled at the opportunity to rummage around in the shop.  She reached out a hand to Kelly.  “Thanks so much!  I loved catching up with you as well, it’s always a blast talking with you.  And remember, O Great Muse, if you’re ever in Horizon, Wisconsin, stop into The Sacred Caff for a cuppa.  Ellie wold love to treat you!”  Then, abruptly eschewing a handshake in favor of a brief, heartfelt hug goodbye, she let Kelly go about the rest of her day and headed straight for the shelf where she’d seen movement earlier.  Plot bunnies beware, she announced mentally, Nan was on the hunt for inspiration!

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nan Sampson’s third novel in her Coffee and Crime series, ‘Forest Outings’ is now available. You can find it, along with the other books of her series, at the following links:

Amazon Link to Restless Natives, Book 1 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:  https://www.amazon.com/Restless-Natives-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01EQTOTOS

book-1

Amazon Link to Office Heretics, Book 2 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series: 

https://www.amazon.com/Office-Heretics-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KXW537Y

book-2

Amazon Link to Forest Outings, Book 3 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6W6LCK/

book-3

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