Kathleen Bailey is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Silence Says the Most, her latest novel in the Olivia Penn Mystery series.
Welcome, Kathleen. 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.
Silence Says the Most is book two in The Olivia Penn Mystery Series. The series follows the story of advice columnist Olivia Penn as she goes through a transitional period in her life, partially due to a succession of murder mysteries she gets wrapped up in. The series is set in her hometown of Apple Station, Virginia, which is in the Shenandoah Valley. Silence Says the Most takes place five months after the first book, Where the Light Shines Through, and it’s a fall-themed cozy mystery. Olivia finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time as a body is discovered amidst a mysterious algae bloom at a park lake.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
The idea for the mystery came partially from my experience working with children on the autism spectrum as a pediatric physical therapist. I often treated children who had expressive and receptive language impairments. Though many on the autism spectrum may not use verbal language to communicate, they often express themselves through other means. One of the main characters in Silence Says the Most is a boy on the autistism spectrum who doesn’t speak. He witnesses a crime and then draws a picture of what he has seen, implicating Olivia as the key to solving the murder. It’s up to Olivia to make sense of his drawing, because in his silence, he holds the key to the mystery.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
The theme is in the title: silence says the most. Sometimes what is not said is more telling, important, and true than what is. In a literal sense, at the heart of a mystery is a boy who doesn’t speak. The theme plays out in Olivia’s life in different ways, especially as she revisits a past relationship as a new one is potentially beginning.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Character development is a process for me. The main characters who recur in the series get fleshed out in my imagination—I know what they look like, sound like, their mannerisms, etc. Characters play roles in the story in relation to the series’ protagonist Olivia Penn. For instance, Sophia, her best friend, is a physical therapist. Sophia is a nurturer who helps others heal and develop their full potential. As Olivia’s best friend, she serves the same function. She is someone Olivia leans on when she needs advice, unconditional acceptance, or a comforting voice to steady her. I like all my characters, and I don’t have a particular favorite.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Bringing the small town of Apple Station, Virginia, to life involves world building. This includes developing the setting: giving the reader enough details to ground them in the place and time. What does the setting look like? What are the sounds, sights, and smells of the season? Who populates the place where the story is set and what is life like there? You want to provide enough details for the reader to engage their own imagination so they feel they’re right there in the scene with the characters.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Loads of research goes into writing, but most of it is not detailed in the book. For instance, in Silence Says the Most, there is a mysterious algae bloom that occurs at a lake. I did a lot of research to ensure that the scenario was plausible, but the reader doesn’t have to know about specifics that aren’t germane to the mystery itself. In my first book, Where the Light Shines Through, I included an epilogue of sorts that spoke to two specific plot points that were key to the mystery because both issues aren’t well known or understood, and I thought some readers may be interested in learning the factual basis for them. Much of the research related to the crime gets done during the plotting phase, but there are always things I’m looking up as I’m drafting and editing to ensure accuracy.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
I want to thank all my readers for their support! You can connect with me through my website at kathleenbaileyauthor.com. For updates, news, and occasional photos of my adorable feline fur baby, please join my newsletter!
Thanks for answering my questions, Kathleen, and good luck with Silence Says the Most, the latest book in Olivia Penn Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Kathleen Bailey: Kathleen is the author of The Olivia Penn Mystery Series. She writes mysteries with heart and humor that keep to the traditional and cozy sides of crime. Kathleen has degrees in English, psychology, and physical therapy. She previously worked as a pediatric physical therapist for over twenty years with children who have special needs. She now spends her days obsessively plotting and sleuthing in Virginia where she lives with her husband and adorable feline fur baby. When she is not incognito, she is a member of Sisters in Crime and the James River Writers.