Lori Roberts Herbst is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about Photo Finished, her latest novel in the Callie Cassidy Mystery series.
Welcome, Lori. 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.
Set in Rock Creek Village, Colorado, the Callie Cassidy Mystery series follows a middle-aged former investigative photojournalist. Following a glitch in her career, Callie has moved back to the mountainside town of her youth, along with her golden retriever, Woody. Soon, she realizes she’s done with big-city life, and she begins to settle in, reconnecting with old friends and discovering new ones, like a stray tabby cat she and Woody call Carl. Callie eventually opens a photo gallery—and solves a few murders, of course.
Photo Finished, the fourth book in the series, finds Callie on a girls’ trip to a dude ranch in Mustang, Colorado, to celebrate her best friend Tonya’s upcoming wedding. All she wants is a fun-filled week with her girlfriends. But a town conflict over the ranch property keeps interfering, and when an obnoxious local woman turns up dead, it’ll be up to Callie and her posse to solve the crime.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
After three books set in Rock Creek Village, I knew I wanted to take Callie someplace new for one installment. Since she and Tonya just emerged from a rough patch in their friendship, it made sense Callie would want to do something special for the bride-to-be. The girls’ week idea enabled me to bring much of the cast to Mustang, too. Though I’m not sure how a dude ranch popped into my head, I knew right away it was perfect. Horses, snakes, trees, and lakes—what a perfect setting for a murder mystery!
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
In each book, I try to weave in a subplot that involves personal growth and relationship growth. Callie is forty-four years old, but she’s devoted the past twenty-five years, almost her entire adult life, to the pursuit of a fast-paced career. It’s left her little time to “find herself.” As skilled as she was professionally, she is a rookie when it comes to gaining insight and maintaining friendships. In this particular book, Callie grapples with the green-eyed monster. The exploration of jealousy seeps into other areas of the plot as well.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
The creation of characters is a bit magical to me. The people in my books are truly fictional, but sometimes it feels as if there is a real-life cast running around in my subconscious, waiting to be born. Not sure what it says about me, but villains, especially, come to me with a vivid three-dimensionality.
As far as favorites, I love Callie, of course. If I could pluck her off the pages of my books, I’d enjoy having her as a friend, flaws and all. I also have a soft spot for Callie’s parents, Maggie and Butch. Having lost my own parents, their presence evoke a tenderness that makes me feel safe and cared for. And then there’s…oh, for goodness sake, I could add all the regulars. I love them all!
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
The mountains are my happy place. They’re not easily accessible when you live in Texas, so my husband and I travel to Colorado as often as time and budget allow. Our favorite places are Estes Park and Manitou Springs. When we’re there, I try to soak in every detail for later life on the pages of the books.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Google has become a writer’s best friend. I’m sometimes slightly concerned that if the police ever suspect me of some dastardly deed, my Google history will provide a treasure trove of evidence! From snake venom to electrocution to how much Ambien it would take to knock a person out, I look guilty of almost any crime.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Writing Photo Finished gave me such pleasure—it may have been the most fun I’ve had with a book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did creating it!
Thanks for answering my questions, Lori, and good luck with Photo Finished, the latest book in the Cassie Cassidy Mystery series.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Lori Roberts Herbst: Lori writes the Callie Cassidy Mystery series, and has spent much of her life writing, editing, and psychoanalyzing. Through thirty years of teaching journalism, advising newspaper and yearbook staff, instructing budding photographers, and counselling teenagers, she still managed to hang on to a modicum of sanity. Her books have earned first-place CIBA awards in the Murder and Mayhem division. She currently serves as secretary of the Sisters in Crime North Dallas chapter and is a member of the Sisters in Crime Guppies and the Mystery Writers of America.