Carolyn Haines, who also writes as R.B. Chesterton, is the author of over 70 books in a number of genres, from general fiction to mystery to horror. She is a native of Lucedale, Mississippi but now lives in Mobile, Alabama where she teaches fiction classes at a university. She founded Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501C3 animal rescue, and has been selling cookbooks based on her mystery characters to raise funds for a spay/neuter program for low-income families. Spaying and neutering is the only humane answer to pet overpopulation. More information can be found at http://www.carolynhaines.com
Your latest release is BONE TO BE WILD: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery releasing this month. Tell us about this series. Currently, I’m working on the 16th Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta mystery. The 15th, BONE TO BE WILD, releases May 19 from St. Martin’s Minotaur. Sarah Booth (and in the South we always use those double names) is a failed actress who returned home to Zinnia, Mississippi to save her family home, Dahlia House, from repossession by the bank. She stumbled into solving a mystery, and as the books have progressed, has partnered up with Tinkie Bellcase Richmond to form the Delaney Detective Agency.
Sarah Booth and Tinkie make great partners because they are so different. Sarah Booth loves horses, dogs, and cats (and they are part of the mystery) and the outdoors. Tinkie is a true Daddy’s Girl. She knows how to manipulate men, manage money, and read social situations, and that is very important in getting answers.
Sarah Booth is haunted by the past, and also by a literal ghost, Jitty. While Jitty never interferes with the mystery, she is a touchstone for Sarah Booth. She connects her to her past, her heritage, and her conscience. Jitty is also bossy, fun, and never dull. She has a keen fashion sense and hopes decades to illustrate her point—via wardrobe. The mysteries run the gamut from murder (some men just need killin’) to insurance fraud, etc.
Why is setting important? As a writer, I believe the best characters spring from the soil. In this series in particular, each character is very connected to the land. Sarah Booth sacrifices a lot to save her home.
Love of the Mississippi Delta is a part of the character of Sarah Booth, and I suppose that reflects my love of land. I have a small farm where I run an animal rescue and take care of horses, cats, and dogs. While I am not Sarah Booth (I can only wish) she does share some of my traits. Setting informs character.
Tell us about your characters. I’ve written many different kinds of characters, from the noble to the downright vile. The Sarah Booth mystery series characters have become my friends. I’ve been writing the series for nearly two decades, so I’ve spent a lot of time with the crew. They have grown and changed—as I have. Readers write me saying that the charactershave become like close friends to them too—which is so flattering. These characters are an instant bond I share with my readers.
Tell us about the other series that you write. I’m currently working on a historical ghost story. It has potential to be a series, but we’ll see how it works out. I write darker fiction under the name R.B. Chesterton. These are not gory or bloody, but more psychological stories that have a supernatural element. They are standalones.
Do you have a favorite writing place? I love my desk, where I can look out the window at my horses grazing.
As a recipient of the Harper Lee Award are you excited about the release later this year of her novel Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird? I am very excited for Harper Lee and for her millions of readers. I can’t wait to read the book. TKAM had a huge impact on me when I read it back in the 60s. It was a book about injustice and how one person standing up for the truth can make a difference. My parents were journalists, and they believed that too.
Do you have a favorite mystery character by another author that you would like to invite for dinner and what would you serve? Call me twisted, but I’d like to have dinner with Hannibal Lecter (but only one meal—don’t want him hanging around). I’d serve a nice chianti and fava beans.
What’s next for you? I’m always working on something. The next Sarah Booth book will be LULLABY BONES (working title) and I’m deep in the historical ghost story, which is set in Mobile. I have a new puppy I rescued who is headed to a home very soon—always a bittersweet moment.
And, alas, my sabbatical will soon be over and I return to the university to teach. I love my students, but the work is intensive.