Today we are honored to have Kathleen Lopez joining us to talk about all things mysterious in writing.
Dr. Kathleen Lopez was born in Brooklyn, NY. Between the Shades of Light and Dark is her debut novel, followed by Prodigal Son and Sweet Child of Mine. She started writing at age fourteen as a junior high school journalist, a literary path she continued throughout her college career. She also had several poems published during her college tenure. While her current profession lies outside the world of writing, she continues to pursue her passion by writing novels, short stories, and poetry. Suspenseful thrillers, mysteries, and stories that take the reader along for the journey have always been among her favorites to read as well as write.
CLR: Welcome and thanks for stopping by to give our readers some insight into the world of mystery writing. Getting right to it, what is your favorite part of mystery writing?
KL: I love trying to figure out the ‘why’ of a story. Sometimes stories focus on whodunit rather than the motive. Solving the mystery to me is understanding what lead to this moment, what put this in motion that the reader now finds themselves in the midst of trying to sort through the clues. The backstory and motivation that feeds a mystery are the some of the best parts for me.
CLR: A lot of writers have day jobs, and I can see in your bio that you are no exception. What is your doctorate in?
KL: I do currently have a day job in the project management field, working in the realm of Government contracting. My PhD is in Project Management.
CLR: In what ways does your daytime gig influence your writing?
KL: When there is a particularly hard day at work, some of my co-workers would joke that meant someone was going to die (fictionally speaking of course). My day job may prompt my writing in the sense that it allows for a venting, yes, but rarely did it ever creep into my writing. It is a departure from the every day for me, which is good since I write murder-mystery and paranormal fiction. I am always trying to problem solve at work, so I guess that aspect fuels the solving the mystery part of my writing.
CLR: There seems to be a trend toward what the media calls “strong female characters.” Do you find yourself trying to write toward that trend?
KL: I do not intentionally write for a trend. When it comes to my main character, being my stories are a character thread (meaning the same character appears in my stories), ‘he’ is very much not a “strong female character.” I do have strong-willed female characters in my stories, which earn the spotlight in some of my books, but it was never a goal to ensure I incorporated that trait into the story. Each story, to me, will dictate the type of character needed to get the story out there. I do have “strong” women in my stories, who know who they are, what they want, and do what they need to do, but purposely writing to incorporate a trend was not a conscious intent.
CLR: What is your favorite type of character to write?
KL: I like a character that is dimensional. When you have a character that is just ‘there’ or what I refer to as a plot pusher, one that you develop because you needed an aspect of the story accomplished, they sometimes are not a challenge to capture. Those characters that are dimensional, that have a bit more meat to them, those are the fun ones to write. Not everything is on the surface; they have a full backstory. There is something more to them and it takes a while to fully understand who they are in the story. Trying to find out the motivation and the ‘why’ of them, that is what gets me about some of my characters. What made them act that way, what happened to them to make them who they are at this point in the story? The characters that develop slowly are my favorites.
Between the Shades of Light and Dark has a great mix of romance and mystery. What led you to that choice?
KL: When I started writing the book, I was 18 myself. Being a bit younger, the romance part of lie was fresh and new. I found early that some murder mysteries that I liked to read seemed a bit heavy, always dark, and just hard around the edges. I figured out early that a bit of a sideline to the characters added to the feelings readers would experience about them. If there were something to root for, a struggle that the readers would connect with and empathize with characters, it would make them more real and relatable. I think that romance and mystery do go hand in hand. They are very complimentary to each other for me and it helps heighten the story.
CLR: What influences do you feel weigh most heavily on your writing? (Social media, current events, your own personal history, etc.)
KL: When it comes to influences, I think it is more personal aspects than that of social media or current events. I tend to draw on how events or situations would make me feel personally in order to express that on the page. I do not really take stories ‘from today’s headlines’ as I like the creative aspect of developing my own universe where my characters dwell. I try not to directly use people or places exactly from real life, but like to incorporate a quirk or mannerism that I know of or some phrasing or word choices I find interesting.
CLR: I see in your bio that you have written short stories and poetry as well as mysteries. What are the plusses and minuses in writing in different formats?
KL: The pluses in writing different formats are the break it provides from writing in just one style. While you get your personal formula down by writing in a particular format, writing the same way each time, it could start coming across to the readers as formulaic and start to stray from originality. Changing writing styles breaks up the routine and reenergizes you. The flip side of that coin is that changing how you write and switching gears can be a bit disorienting, especially if you have not done it in a while. After writing novel after novel then trying to write a short story you may find that your personal definition of ‘short’ is not the same as someone else’s.
CLR: In my own writing, I see aspects of myself popping up in my characters. Does that happen to you? Which characters are most like you?
KL: Samantha has many qualities I had at her age. It was certainly a situation of ‘write what you know’ when I was developing her. I find that my female characters do tend to be stubborn, confident, and sometimes witty. While they are different people in their own right, they all seem to embody that assertiveness I try to possess myself. What is funny is my main character, the one that appears in all my stories (Det. Martin Shuller) is a lot like me too. He is always curious and wants to get to the story behind the story. He really needs to understand the ‘why’ in order to explain the ‘how’.
CLR: What is next on your writing agenda?
KL: I have a few stories on my to-do list. I am finishing a fictional short story right now about some mysterious disappearances and the reason behind them. I have also started prepping for my next book. I am going back to murder-mystery for this one and hope to have it out in the next year or two. There are also at least two more paranormal novel story ideas I will write in the future as well.
Samantha’s life is good, mostly. She loves her father deeply, but even daddy’s little girl finds the life of a military brat trying. Despite being the “new girl” too often, she soldiers on. Her mom could not. She lives for his life, but now wants one of her own. Helpless but to stand witness, Samantha’s life is once again packed up and shipped off, this time without her dad.
She now resides in the remote town of Columbus Cove. Saving her from the debilitating isolation was the cove’s latest resident, Channing Ashford. It’s as if he has stepped off the cover of a romance novel and into the sleepy little town. He is charming and handsome and Samantha’s sole focus. The reformed drifter reenergizes her and they find sanctuary within each other.
When a shocking murder claims more than one victim, the couple is blindsided. They find themselves embroiled in an investigation that threatens their newly found happiness. All their reserves of sanctuary are spent as the secrets that lay buried beneath the unpaved roads of Columbus Cove come to light.
Sheriff Martin Shuller was good at his job. He had a reputation of being a very thorough and very honest investigator. It had not surprised anyone when he was tapped to help with an investigation in a small neighboring town with shocking high profile murder. Shuller, willing to help the quaint cove, readily accepted the challenge. Leaving his town in the safe hands of his deputy, Shuller traveled to Columbus Cove and worked the Steven Harrigan murder investigation. With the dramatic end to that case now behind him, Shuller returned to his seemingly normal and quiet town of Huntersville. He was glad to be back, despite only being gone for the brief time. A weight had felt lifted once he could return to his town, his routines, his life. He felt as if all the previous mounting stress left him as soon as he crossed into his town’s outer limits. Quiet and normal was what he was seeking. It certainly was not what he found.
Not long after returning home to his life and routine, a murder occurs, and it is too close for comfort for Shuller. Shuller, who always kept his personal life personal, now is faced with a dilemma as his personal life is now entangled in the spotlight of a murder investigation. Not wanting to taint the investigation, he is powerless to help and is sidelined, watching his officers work the case. His only solace he finds now is with Jeanie. Jeanie Jacobs is the dispatcher of the local fire house. His long suffering secretary, Susan, finally worked her magic and had gotten the two together. Shuller now regrets the times he pushed aside Susan’s match making attempts in the past as he now realizes Jeanie is all he can hold onto during the course of the investigation.
Shuller tries to come to grips with these revelations as those close to him worry for the embattled sheriff. As with most murders, there is more than just a single victim. Shuller had never thought that what had occurred in that house on Cedar Mill Lane would have uprooted what the reality he thought he knew.
It surprised no one when Sarah and Jack married right out of high school; not because Sarah was pregnant at 19, but because they had been inseparable since sophomore year. Sarah gave birth to twins, Mark and Julie, and a year later, Jacob. They settled in upstate New York, Jack a business manager and Sarah a Real Estate agent. They had the ‘mom and apple pie’ life.
Their picturesque dream life turned into a nightmare when on a warm summer’s day at the local park, the penny dropped. What would forever be referred to as The Incident changed their family forever.
Four years later, they welcomed Christian into their home. The foster child turned adopted son never understood why Sarah was overprotective, but dutifully obeyed all her restrictive rules. When he started acting out, the couple were desperate to find out the cause of their son’s bizarre behavior. However, when Christian tells them about his friend they realize just why they are suffering at the hands of their son.
When it comes to family, it’s the ties that bind…