Joyce St. Anthony is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Death on a Deadline, her latest novel in the Homefront News Mystery series.
Welcome, Joyce. 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.
Death on a Deadline is the second book in the Homefront News Mysteries. In this follow up to Front Page Murder, Irene Ingram is becoming more comfortable being the editor in chief of her father’s newspaper while he’s overseas as a war correspondent. The whole town of Progress is excited that movie stars are coming to town for the county fair and some are sure that one of them will be Clark Gable. When it turns out to be B-movie actor Freddie Harrison instead, and Irene finds his body in the dunk tank at the fair, she’s determined to find out what happened.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
Frankly, I’m not sure! I read about the Hollywood Victory Caravan that travelled from town to town encouraging citizens to buy war bonds. That kind of morphed into what if one of the stars was murdered? I couldn’t very well kill off a well-known star, so I came up with a B-movie actor instead. I made a connection to him through marriage to the sister of the town beauty shop owner. Irene had to get involved to clear the sister of murder.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Not really a theme, but just like in the previous book, prejudice is an issue. Instead of antisemitism, this time I feature a gay character who is terrified of his secret getting out. Back then, homosexuality was a crime and he not only would have been blacklisted, he might have ended up in prison. Friendship also plays a big role.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Characters have a way of just popping into my head, sometimes fully formed. One of my favorites is Irene’s younger sister, Lily. She’s fun to write. My all-time favorite character is in my previous contemporary Brewing Trouble cozy mystery series written under my real name, Joyce Tremel. Elmer Fairbanks is a 90 something WWII vet and pretty much says anything he thinks. He’s cranky, yet endearing.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. I chose to write a fictional small town in this series which made it easier. Although the town is entirely made up, it’s probably similar to real places in Pennsylvania during WWII. I just transferred what I saw in my mind to the page.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Historical fiction requires a good bit of research. Although the story itself is made up, I had to get the facts of what was going on in the world correct. I used newspaper headlines at the beginning of each chapter to ground the reader and let them know what was going on that particular day in the war. I even researched what the weather was like near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the days in the book. If I hadn’t I guarantee someone would email me that I was wrong! I learned a lot of things about the war I hadn’t known before.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Buy it, lol? Seriously though, I love this story. It was fun to write about the movie stars and there’s even a somewhat nasty gossip columnist who comes to town. There’s some sadness as well—one of the boys in town is killed at Midway. And I hope readers love the surprise at the end as much as I do.
Thanks for asking such great questions!
You’re welcome, Joyce, and thanks for answering my questions. Good luck with Death on a Deadline, the latest book in Homefront News Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Joyce St. Anthony: Joyce was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. In addition to the Homefront News Mysteries, she is the author of the Brewing Trouble Mysteries and the upcoming Cider House Mysteries written under her own name, Joyce Tremel. She lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband.