Growing up in a very small town (Lucedale, Mississippi), books were my best friends. I recently gave a talk at a Creative Writing awards ceremony and as I was working on my speech, I remember those long ago days when I could fall into a book and forget everything around me. Even though I lived in rural Mississippi, I traveled all over the world with exciting characters who were far smarter and bolder than I was. I was an insatiable reader, and as a writer, I have had the pleasure of writing in multiple genres, from general fiction to horror. But mysteries hold a special place in my heart.
When I wrote THEM BONES, the first Sarah Booth Delaney book, I didn’t actually set out to write a mystery. I was sitting at my computer when I heard Sarah Booth (the main protagonist) and Jitty (a Civil War era ghost with fashion sense and a quick humor) arguing. Jitty was concerned that Sarah Booth was unwed and without an heir. The Delaney family plantation, Dahlia House, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, was about to be foreclosed on by the bank.
Sarah Booth (double names are commonly used in the South) had recently returned to Mississippi after trying, and failing, at a Broadway career. When a former high school acquaintance hires Sarah Booth to find out the secrets of one very handsome man, Sarah Booth discovers that while she may not be a Broadway actress, she is a pretty darn good sleuth.
Once I had hold of the characters—and they are a fun group to write about--I was off and running. I had read mysteries all of my life, beginning with Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling creations, and dozens more. While I’d loved reading mysteries, I wasn’t certain I could plot a mystery. All I knew was that I was writing about my home state, a place I love madly, and about characters who quickly became my close friends. In other words, I was in hog heaven for a writer.
The book coming out May 19, BONE TO BE WILD, is the 15th in the series of books featuring Sarah Booth and her friends. It’s a story about a sexy blues guitarist and a blues club at a crossroads that is a target for an anonymous killer. And it’s a story about murder and the importance friendship.
While the Sarah Booth mysteries don’t need to be read in order, many people enjoy the development of the friendships between the characters. In my real life, my friends have played a huge role in my joys, successes, and the sad parts, too. So in the world of Zinnia, Mississippi, friendships are equally important. Sarah Booth’s love life is a total mess, and she isn’t one to listen to reasonable advice from her friends or even from the ghost who haunts her home.
As Jitty would say, “Bless her soul, she tries.”
A word here about Jitty. She is a ghost who wears the most outlandish outfits and offers Sarah Booth advice and sometimes a message from “the Great Beyond” where Sarah Booth’s parents are. (They died when she was 12.) But Jitty plays no role in solving the mystery. She is Sarah Booth’s guiding angel (and sometimes a devious little devil) but her role is to offer Sarah Booth personal advice, not to engage in solving the mystery. She is also a thorn in Sarah Booth’s side because she’s smart and sassy and unwilling to accept less than a hundred percent from her charge.
BONE TO BE WILD incorporates many story elements that I love. Who can go wrong writing about the blues in the very place they were born—the cotton fields of Mississippi. There is also a threat from the past, a murder and an attempted murder, a friend finds true love, a fiendish little dog is rescued, a prissy and arrogant woman gets her comeuppance, and Sarah Booth finds a rare moment for a horseback ride across the barren cotton fields on a brisk November day (with a handsome man).
I live on a small farm where I am the chief bottle washer at Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501c3 rescue. I care for dogs, cats, and horses. When I was growing up, my two ambitions were to be Nancy Drew and a cowgirl. It didn’t work out exactly as I planned—but I wouldn’t trade a minute of any day.
I hope you’ll give the books a try. Kick your heels up, grab a book and a beverage, and have a good, long read.
Carolyn Haines is the author of over 70 books in many genres. BONE TO BE WILD is the 15th book in the Sarah Booth Delaney series. Haines is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence. The series has also been named best female sleuth by Romantic Times. She is currently at work on #16, LULLABY BONES, which will be published May 2016 by St. Martin’s Minotaur. You can learn more about Carolyn, her rescue, or her crazy life at www.carolynhaines.com Or join her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.