I’m happy to introduce our readers to Carole Howard, whose first mystery, Deadly Adagio, set in West Africa, was published in July by Second Wind Publishing. (Check the bottom of this post to enter the book giveaway!) The novel offers a glimpse into the private lives of Embassy families, backstage politics among members of an amateur orchestra, and a collision of cultures; all contributing to an engrossing read.
Carole, your background as violinist in a community orchestra and your life in West Africa with a Peace Corps administrator both come across in your plot and characters. Can you tell us a little about how your experience in Senegal influenced the novel?
CAROLE: Living in West Africa was a pivotal chapter in my life; I loved it; I recently realized that my overseas experiences were unusual, and that things I found “normal” were considered exotic by others. I found that spending time in other countries shaped my perspective on life, on the world, on our country, and on human values, and I hoped to communicate some of that.
How much of the story did you have in mind before you started writing it?
CAROLE: I knew I wanted it to be a mystery, and I knew I wanted it to be set in West Africa. I figured out who the murder victim was and who the murderer was. I also knew I wanted an amateur orchestra to be part of the story because most people have no idea about the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes. Then I started writing. Between writing and revising (and revising and revising), I figured out the rest. In retrospect, I think I was a bit naive. Then again, if I’d known much more than that, I don’t know that it would have been as much fun to write.
What do readers tell you they find most surprising?
CAROLE: They like having a glimpse into the Peace Corps (I’m constantly amazed that people think the Peace Corps doesn’t exist anymore!) and the day-to-day workings of the State Department. Plus, without getting into any spoilers, there’s a common tribal practice that many Westerners consider cruel. I hope I’ve shed some light on that as well.
What advice about writing helped you most?
CAROLE: Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, spoke of the need for experiences to be composted before she could write about them deeply and honestly. That helped me deal with the fact that when I was in Africa, I couldn’t write about it. I was paralyzed by the overpowering sensory stimulation. But later, when I was home, it came more easily.
Your engaging voice first hit the stands in 2011, in About Face, your first novel. How did that book differ from Deadly Adagio?
CAROLE: About Face was more of a character-driven novel. The protagonist is a 50-something woman who’s trying to resolve the differences between who she used to be (Peace Corps volunteer) and who she is (Marketing Executive), whose body is conducting its own little mutiny, and whose boss is, let’s just say, not a nice guy. It may not sound as if it’s also funny, but it is. Really.
Are you working on another book?
CAROLE: After my husband and I retired, we did five overseas volunteer assignments, each in a different developing country, each about two months. I’m working on a travel memoir about those experiences. Let’s see now, three books, three different genres: I sure don’t make things easy for myself!
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Win a signed copy of Deadly Adagio by leaving a comment and an email address below. We’ll do a random drawing at midnight on Sunday and announce the winner next Wednesday!
You can find Carole Howard online here.