August 1999's Author of the Month
(Chosen by Pam Stone)
Her first title ENGINEERED FOR MURDER was published in 1996 and the latest one AFFIRMATIVE REACTION just this month. Her second title FRAMEWORK FOR DEATH has been nominated for the 1998 Anthony Award.
When I read Aileen Schumacher ‘s first book Engineered for Murder I almost gave up. The protagonist is an engineer and the reading seemed to technical for me at first. But being a mystery diehard I decided to keep reading because the mystery itself seemed worth it and boy was I glad did. I had read both Engineered for Murder and Framework for Death and liked them so much that when I was asked to read and review Affirmative Reaction I jumped at the chance! I think this is a series I will always enjoy following.
I have to compliment Ms Schumacher's use of maps in the front of her books. They help the reader get a real sense of where the story geographically takes place.
Engineer Tory Travers reluctantly turned to Detective David Alvarez in Engineered for Murder for help in determining who wanted to kill her so badly. Tory returned the favor in Framework for Death when she helped David figure out what caused a structural collapse that exposed a secret room with two bodies in it. In Affirmative Reaction finds Tory needing David's help when she finds a woman's body in the storm sewer of an abandoned sub-division. One of the things I have enjoyed in this mystery series is that Tory and David have just a hint of romance which keeps the reader wondering will they or won't they…
AS: I always had an interest
in writing early on--I was the editor of my high school newspaper--but abandoned
it for the most part to pursue technical fields. In l988 I ended up writing
a technical book on hazardous materials management, and I finished writing the
first draft of my mystery soon afterward. I was 35 then, which makes me, ummmmm,
36.5 years old now, right? (NEVER question an engineer about her math!)
PS: What made you choose the mystery genre?
AS: That's a really simple
answer. I am a hard core mystery fanatic. (Or is the term "addict"?)
PS: Now that "Affirmative Reaction" is completed and on sale, what are your ideas for the next book and when should we expect it?
AS: I've done some work
on a historical series (set in Florida during the Civil War) which is really
different for me. (Yes, I did find a teensy tiny way to work engineering
in!) But it is just in its infancy stage, so who knows. I plan to
complete the 4th Tory book, where she returns to her home town and deals
with unresolved family issues, by February 2000. It will also deal with
the capriciousness of the judicial response to hate crimes, and is tentatively
titled EVEN THE LOSERS.
PS: Do you think you will ever write a stand alone mystery (without Tory)?
AS: Here's an honest answer--I
already have! After the first Tory book, I wrote a book about a theatrical
architect (someone who specializes in stage design) set in Connecticut, featuring
a real life mystery about the historical conviction and execution of Captain
Kidd. Sadly, I haven't been able to sell this book, but I plan to keep
trying. I have a sequel in mind for this character, who is named Rainee
Driver. I even have a name for this book also -FRATALITIES, and it's about
a suspicious death at a campus fraternity. (Have you figured out yet that naming
things is important to me?)
PS: We know that you draw Tory's profession from your own. Is there anything else in the mysteries that you draw from in your own life that you can share with us, for instance the characters, sites or situations?
AS: I am NOT Tory, and
I am NOT in love with David Alvarez! I was actually asked that on a TV
interview once, and my dearly beloved (except when I want to kill him) husband
of twenty two years was sitting in the audience. Can we all say "duh" together?
But yes, a lot of the "set ups" of engineering situations reflect interesting
projects that we've worked on, and the characters are often composites of real
people. In fact, Cody (Tory's son) is rather a composite of BOTH my children.
See, isn't composite a clever answer? Keeps one from identifying the sleazy,
slimey people you get to kill off while writing mysteries!
PS: Can you give us a hint where Tory and David's relationship is heading?
AS: Ooooooo. You
wouldn't believe THAT one. I'm rather shocked myself, but then, as another
author who is near and dear to me once said, "I just write down the stories
as they happen." Let's put it this way, Tory will have to come to grips
with what she can have in her life, and what's not possible. This fourth
books completes a look at a lot of issues in her life that have come to light
in the other books.
PS: Your book "Framework for Death" has been nominated in the Anthony Awards Best Novel category. How does it feel to be a part of a very prestigious group of writers?
AS: OMIGOD. Is that
concise and accurate enough? Every morning I have to convince myself it's
not something I dreamed. I still go around pinching myself. There
are so many really talented writers out there who labor away with little or
no recognition. I think the fact that a book from a small press could
get nominated for an Anthony is a message that miracles do happen--I am very
humbly grateful and touched that this one happened for me--this is truly the
definition of grace, at least for me.
PS: With your mysteries and business do you feel you have brought more awareness to the Engineering profession?
AS: I hope so. We engineers
are very bad at doing PR for ourselves. Engineering is truly an under-recognized
profession, a profession which touches our lives directly every day.
PS: How do you handle both your professions of engineering and writing while raising a family?
AS: Well, there is always
the threat of buying a big deep freeze and putting my family members in it when
I'm sweating a deadline. (I always promise to take them out and thaw them
right afterward...) We also have an iron clad rule in our family--if it's
been touched by a utensil, it's home made! Seriously, it's a thin line for me
between being bored and being over committed. I don't think there's any
one answer for everyone. As much as I long for the ability to shut myself
away for long hours and write non-stop, I know that my family, my business,
and the concurrent responsibilies keep me grounded. Deadlines are not
allowed to make me miss one of my son's baseball games or one of my daughter's
soccer games. Now, cooking dinner or cleaning the house, that's totally
PS: Do you have any advice for other working mothers?
AS: 1. Try to avoid writing true crime from personal experience! As tempting as shooting your family members may be in the short term, REFRAIN!
2. Remind yourself that your kids will get older, and though this will bring other complications, some things will get simpler. Use rule number two when rule number one doesn't seem to make sense.
3. Let your family members be invested in your success. I am fortunate in that my husband has always been supportive. Each of my kids gets 10% of my royalties, and that transformed them from being supportive to being real advocates! (I'm just hoping that with the Anthony nomination it won't occur to them to renegotiate their contracts...)
4. Become an expert
in writing in bits and pieces. If at all possible, purchase a lap top.
I can't emphasize the bits and pieces of my books that have been written while
waiting to pick up kids. My lap top goes just about everywhere with me,
except in the pool.
PS: Can you share your reading taste with us?
AS: I tend to like more
hard boiled mysteries, as long as there isn't graphic violence against children
or animals--I find even if I love a book, I can't get past that. If I had to
pick a subgenre, I would say that I like police procedurals best, but I also
like some romantic suspense.
PS: Do you have a favorite author?
AS: My VERY favorite is
James Lee Burke, but then I'm a Southerner through and through. Other
favorites--PD James, Carol O'Connell, Martha Grimes, Julie Smith (Skip Langdon
series), Elizabeth George, Sanford who writes the Lucas Davenport series, Charlaine
Harris (Lily Bard series), Les Standiford, and Jane Rubino, who is another Write
Way author. (Sometimes I remember the character name and not the
author, it's the creeping senility of being, ummm, 36.5 years old...)
PS: One more question, do you have a favorite part in "Affirmative Reaction" that you would like to share with us?
AS: When ENGINEERED FOR MURDER was published, a practical joker traffic engineer that we do work with called me up and left a message supposedly from one of the book's less desirable characters. I went nuts thinking I had unintentionally named this jerky guy after someone who was an engineer and lived and practiced in Florida. Then I realized who the call really was from, and talked to the guy. He told me that he liked the book except for two facts--I didn't kill any architects (!!!) and there was no Hero Traffic Engineer. I told him that I didn't know any Hero Traffic Engineers, and I could only write what I know! Then, I recanted, and in AFFIRMATIVE REACTION there is actually a chapter named "The Hero Traffic Engineer."
ENGINEERED FOR MURDER
FRAMEWORK FOR DEATH 1998
AFFIRMATIVE REACTION (1999)
ROSEWOOD'S ASHES (2001)
MURDER, MAYHEM, AND MISTLETOE by Terence Faherty, Bill Crider, Aileen Schumacher
A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers by Jo Grossman, Robert Weibezahl (Contributed to it)
Guide to Hazardous Materials Management: Physical Characteristics, Federal Regulations and Response Alternatives
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