About the book:Twenty years ago, Kate Cranbrook's eyewitness testimony sent the wrong man to prison for rape and murder. When new evidence exonerates him, Kate says that in the darkness and confusion, she must have mistaken her attacker's identity.
She is lying.
Kate would like nothing better than to turn her back on the past, but she is trapped in a stand-off with the real killer. When a body turns up on her doorstep, she resorts to desperate measures to free herself once and for all from a secret that is ruining her life.
Interview with Elizabeth BuhmannElizabeth, how would you describe your book in six words?
Dark, complex, with a strong twist.
How did you create the plot for this book?
I knew I wanted an old murder—I love mysteries about very old, buried crimes. It’s satisfying to unearth and set right an injustice that has been festering for decades. I’d been intrigued by cases in the news where new developments in forensic science were used to exonerate people who were in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. So I latched onto the idea of an old murder that would come unsolved when the man convicted for it was proven innocent twenty years later.
Many of these cases involve eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable. Usually the witness is just mistaken. I imagined a case where the witness deliberately lied. Then I had to come up with a set of circumstances in which a person might conceivably feel trapped into doing such a thing. And I had my plot.
It sounds fascinating. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
My main character, Kate Cranbrook. She’s a dark protagonist, especially for a woman. But I wanted to tell the story from her point of view, because she is the character who drives the hidden drama of the story. She is deeply flawed, and while her flaws are her strengths, they are also her downfall. She’s very bold, single-minded and determined.
Are you like any of your characters?
I related to Kate in a number of ways. Like her, I lived in other countries growing up and entered American culture as a bit of a stranger. Like her, I love solitude and gardening. But let’s hope the resemblance ends there! She’s a tough character.
Elsa Gabriel is a relentless old hag, so I suppose I resemble her, too.
Okay, a book with a cold case to solve, an author who likes solitude and gardening, and an old hag...you and I could be twins! But back to the interview...Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
One of my favorites: As a very young woman, Kate eloped during a drunken weekend fling. The man disappeared right after this escapade—but she’s still secretly married to him. In chapter thirteen, Kate hires a divorce attorney-slash-private eye named Max Weigel to find the missing husband. Max is one of my favorite characters. He’s a little bit goofy and just shrewd enough to—almost—see through Kate.
Who are your favorite authors?
This varies over time, but some of the longest standing faves are Edith Wharton, Joseph Conrad, Ross MacDonald, and Ruth Rendell.
How long is your to-be-read pile?
My list is usually short, rarely more than half a dozen books. I don’t know how to explain this (because of course being a writer I read quite a lot) except to say that I read like a wild pig on the scent of the next truffle. Nose to ground. I am always homing in on the next book to move my writing forward.
I have blinders on. You can’t easily distract me with the latest best seller. I do often hole up with a single author, to read everything she or he has ever written. When I was first working on Lay Death, I read all of Ruth Rendell—more than 70 novels—and closely studied several. And all of Ross MacDonald and outlined one or two of his.
I do the same thing...this is getting freaky! And your "a wild pig on the scent of the next truffle" is a great goosepimpleism. Sorry, this interview is about you... Suppose you get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?
Do I get to decide what actress should play my main character in the movie? Charlize Theron, without a doubt. She’s the perfect Kate Cranbrook.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
Faithful Place, by Tana French (on Kindle). I am loving it! A reviewer on Amazon compared my book to those of Tana French, whom I had never read. So I picked up In the Woods and thought it was fantastic. (The reviewer, it turns out, flattered me outrageously.)
I doubt that. Trust the reader! Do you have a routine for writing?
Definitely! I get up at about four o’clock in the morning almost every single day and write until seven or so. I write again at mid-morning for a couple of hours, and again for a while in the afternoon. Never in the evening. The early hours are for the most demanding and creative work. As the day goes on I tend to shift to editing and shorter writing projects.
Well that settles it. We definitely are not twins. I don't do mornings. Especially four a.m. My office doesn't see me until at least 11 a.m. What would your dream office look like?
I love my little office! It’s just a nook outside the dining room—hardly more than a pantry, but it’s quiet, cozy and decorative. Here it is:
I love Malla Nunn’s mystery series (3 books) featuring Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper and the Zulu Constable Shabalala. These books are set in South Africa in 1953 at the height of the Apartheid era. The books are tough, gritty, well written and well plotted, with a fascinating physical, social and historical setting.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I work in the garden, practice my Tai Chi, cook, walk, and (of course) read. I’m a bit of a recluse—but I do like to have my dog around.
I'm with you except for the Tai Chi...how do I keep making this about me? Sorry. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I sometimes think Hawaii, sometimes Southern France, or Scotland in the summer… but I figure I can live anywhere in the world, so the answer is: right where I am in Austin, Texas.
About the author:Elizabeth Buhmann is originally from Virginia, where her first novel is set, and like her main character, she lived several years abroad while growing up. She graduated magna cum laude from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. For twenty years, she worked for the Texas Attorney General as a researcher and writer on criminal justice and crime victim issues. Elizabeth now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, dog, and two chickens. She is an avid gardener, loves murder mysteries, and has a black sash in Tai Chi.
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