Auntie M had the good fortune to interview Dorothy Hayes recently about her new release, Keys to Nowhere. Dottie has generously offered to giveaway a copy of the new book to one lucky person who leaves a comment~
Auntie M: –Keys to Nowhere is your third Carol Rossi novel. How did you decide to write about a Connecticut-based investigative journalist?
Dorothy Hayes: Marni, I do believe in the basic rule: write about what you know. I was a reporter for more than five years for local Connecticut newspapers, The Wilton Bulletin, a weekly, and then The Hour, a daily in Norwalk. The culture of the newsroom comes to life only because I lived it.
AM: -How much of Rossi’s personal life is based on Dorothy Hayes?
DH: Rossi is married to a much younger man, and so am I. But I, gratefully, have four grown children and a huge family. Rossi has one baby, and her parents have passed away. Rossi is a writer and a vegan, and so am I. She is my alter ego, however, for she lives a perfect life on Peaceable Kingdom. She and Jerry rescue animals and live in rare harmony with nature. Of course, Jerry is a police detective in Wilton, Connecticut, where they reside, so when their tranquility is rudely broken, a new mystery is born. Also, people in desperation turn to Rossi, who is a bit of a local hero, then she’s forced into being a reluctant amateur sleuth and in that role she faces potentially lethal violence.
In the end, Rossi is far braver and cleverer than I.
AM: -You’ve chosen 1985 as your time frame. What prompted that decision?
DH: I wrote full-time as a journalist in that time period. My mysteries focus around the crimes of the times and are based on facts and research going back to my newspaper beginnings as a writer. The Mafia and serial killers were just being uncovered in all their various forms in the seventies and early 80’s. The God Father, for instance, debuted in 1972. Also, crime was at an all time high in New York City, where Broken Window takes place, 2,000 homicides a year, and with gangs roaming the subway trains.
AM: -In Keys to Nowhere, Rossi decides to leave her infant with her husband to pursue the case. How does Rossi justify that decision?
DH: Well, Marni, being a new mother, Rossi understood her friend’s fears. When Vera Dearborn shows up at her door in hysteria, telling her that her two teenagers and her sister have vanished in Tucson, Arizona, Rossi puts herself in Vera’s shoes. If her baby disappeared she’d want help as well. She struggles with this decision and is subject to mother’s guilt big time, but it’s impossible for her to say no. Rossi is sure that she’ll persuade the Tucson Police to work on the case somehow. If they won’t, she’ll go beyond her investigative journalistic role and again venture forward as an amateur sleuth, as she’s done in the past. That in fact happens, leaving Rossi to pursue, against her better judgment, a serial killer before he strikes again.
AM: -What pitfalls will Rossi face having no official credentials once she arrives in Tucson? How do you get around that?
DH: Rossi usually works with her detective husband and it’s a two-way street. She attacks the case as an investigative journalist and he follows police procedure, which often misses major points. Both benefit from the dual investigations. But now, Rossi is on her own. She strikes a bit of good luck in the form of a young police officer, Brian Larson. Jerry also telephone’s Larson, leaning on him a little as a brother-in-blue. But nevertheless the police insist that the three women are “runaways,” and refuse to open a missing person’s case. But the compassionate Larson extends a helping hand to Rossi.
AM: -How does Keys to Nowhere compare to your two others, Murder at the P&Z, and Broken Window?
DH: Murder at the P&Z is a classic Whodunit. I don’t want to give it away by telling what the crime of the time was behind the murders.
Broken Window and Keys to Nowhere are missing person stories. Broken Window deals with human trafficking in the US, while Keys to Nowhere is about serial killers. I’m not giving anything away for this is fairly clear from the beginning of the two mysteries.
AM: -So many readers enjoy reading a series protagonist. How does that work for you as the author?
DH: I’ve fallen in love with my characters. I get a kick out of the trouble Rossi finds herself in and how she cleverly works her way out of it. I’m always surprised by my characters. Like my vegetables, I’m an organic writer. My stories grow as they go. I place my characters into situations and allow their instincts and emotions to take over. I, of course, put myself in that character’s role. I never know where the story is heading. Stephen King does the same and I often wondered if I should be more buttoned down about the plot, but King said a plot all mapped out is like a prefab house, and I get that. I’m excited when I begin a new mystery, Marni, for I don’t know where the heck it is going. It’s an adventure for my readers and for me.
AM: -What’s a typical writing day like for Dorothy Hayes?
DH: It’s up with the sun. Write to about two or three in the afternoon. I feel totally satisfied. Writing is my natural habitat. Marni, when I was a kid, I wanted to two things: to have four kids and to write novels. I’ve been blessed with both.
AM: -Where do you find your plot ideas for the cases that attract Rossi?
DH: Coming from newspapers, my stories are all based on crimes of the times. Through my research, I love research. I have great fun preparing for a book once I know what the underlying subject will be. In the Author’s Note of all my books, I reveal the real life crime mainly reported in newspapers, I also do a great deal of reading on the subject in books, which I list. At times I’ll list the names of people in real life who were models for my characters, and the dates of the crimes reported and the name and date of the newspaper article. Once I’ve got my topic, I research more, and before I know it, characters pop up like surprise, but welcomed, guests at my door.
AM: -Who do you like to read when you’re not writing?
DH: Henning Mankell was one of my favorite mystery writers, I’ve read all his Kurt Wallander books. Kurt is a flawed, but real human being and I love character driven books, as a rule. Now, I’m reading Chernow’s Hamilton like many other readers. I’ve just finished Dead Wake, The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, and The Guns of August. I’ll keep reading newspapers, novels and histories until an idea strikes my imagination and then we’re off again, me and my characters, to another adventure.
But, Marni, it was The Ballad of Reading Goal, a ballad I read by Oscar Wilde, that moved me as a writer; “Yet each man kills the things he loves, by each let this be heard…” In his writing, Wilde allowed me to feel the raw emotions of the last few minutes of a condemned man’s life. This was impossible for me to experience otherwise. It stunned and amazed me. Homer’s The Iliad was the first book that made me cry, I even know where I was when I read it–that was when Andromache sees Hector’s dead body, her wonderful husband, being dragged through the dirt by Achilles. Hamlet…I could go on.
Books such as these were an awakening for me.
My passion, as a writer, humbly and thanks to incredible writers, is to transport readers to places, times and feelings impossible to reach other than in books.
READERS: Don’t forget to leave a comment if you’d like to win a free copy of Keys to Nowhere~
Dorothy Hayes, a staff writer for local Connecticut newspapers for five years, received an honorary award for her in-depth series on Vietnam Veterans from the Society of Professional Journalists. Prior to that she was a Language Arts teacher. A staff writer for a national animal protection organization for six years, she wrote her first novel, Animal Instinct, in 2006. Dorothy lives in Stamford, Connecticut with her husband, Arthur. She also raised four children, and is the mother-in-law to three, grandmother to fourteen, and great-grandmother to Bella.
Her other books in the Carol Rossi Mystery Series are: Murder at the P&Z, 2013 and Broken Window, 2015. Her short story, , was published by Mysterical-E, December 2016.
She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime-Tri-State Chapter, and Mystery Writers of American. Visit her at dorothyhayes.com.