Today Melinda Mullet is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Died in the Wool, her latest novel in the Whiskey Business mysteries series.
Welcome, Melinda. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
MM: Died in the Wool is the fourth book in the Whisky Business Mystery Series. The protagonist is a young woman named Abi Logan. A highly respected, globe-trotting photojournalist who suddenly finds herself thrust into the male dominated world of whisky making in rural Scotland when she inherits a distillery from her uncle. Being both inexperienced and a woman she’s harassed and threatened, but she refuses to back down especially after one of her employees is found murdered in a vat of the distillery’s finest. It’s a murder mystery of course, but it’s also a journey of personal discovery for a woman burnt out by her own over-stressed life. In the whisky world she finds a new life, and a new purpose.
Died in the Wool finds Abi investigating a suicide and a kidnapping at a woman’s shelter in Edinburgh when the police seem unmotivated to help the already marginalized group of women.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
MM: I’d been following my husband around on a tour of the Speyside whisky distilleries in Scotland and at what felt like distillery number four hundred and thirty seven, I found myself thinking that the giant wooden vat we were peering into would make a great place to discover a dead body. Other mystery people will understand that this isn’t really as disturbed a thought as it seems, nor is it a subconscious desire to be rid of my whisky loving husband. From there I started writing the Whisky Business series.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
MM: The story looks at preconceived gender stereotypes and at the crisis of self that so many of us face at the mid-point of our lives. What am I doing with my life? How did I get here? Where am I going? Am I really happy? I think these are things that all of us can relate to. Abi is in the process of reinventing herself and finds that the challenges associated with facing down the whisky fraternity, learning a new craft and bringing her own business skills into play are enlivening. She of course also discovers that a life-time of detailed observation has made her good at solving crimes.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
MM: All of my characters start as a name and then a detailed character sketch. Once they have a name they become a person in my mind and I lay out a detailed character portrait covering everything from their age, weight, height, to their childhood issues, their biggest fears, their values and their panic response. Once I have this I can drop them into any situation and feel confident about the way they will react. My favourite characters are always the extremely complex ones. They are the most fun to write.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
MM: I always visit the places I write about. Like Abi I take lots of pictures as I roam around. Sometimes odd little vignettes that can bring a place to life — light reflecting on the water, a crumbling stone bridge, flowers, the local tea shop. Those generally show up in my books somewhere. It’s also nice to look back at the pictures to refresh my sense of place. A good picture can bring back the smell and the feel of a location for me.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
MM: I’ve done a great deal of research on the art of making single malt whisky and could bore my readers with reams of tedious information, but I don’t! The actual whisky making is in the background, but I try to use the complex process as an analogy for investigation. It can be as tricky to distil truth from lies, as it is to distil the golden heart from a batch of new whisky.
For this series I also did quite a bit of research on smuggling and bootlegging in Scotland. It’s a fascinating history and bits and pieces of it pop up in the various stories.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
MM: The Whisky Business series walks the line between a cosy and a traditional mystery. You won’t find gratuitous violence on the page, but the mysteries tend to be more complex. Of course, there are plenty of light moments and an enchanting setting that leaves you feeling as if you’ve gone on a delightful holiday and solved a few good puzzles along the way. I hope your readers will take a trip to Scotland with me this summer!
Thanks for answering my questions, Melinda, and good luck with Died in the Wool, the latest book in the Whiskey Business Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Melinda Mullet: Melinda was born in Dallas and attended school in Texas, Washington D.C., England, and Austria. She spent many years as a practicing attorney before pursuing a career as a writer. Author of the Whisky Business Mystery series, Mullet is a passionate supporter of childhood literacy. She works with numerous domestic and international charities striving to promote functional literacy for all children. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her family.