Internationally acclaimed suspense author Sue Grafton is right on target with the powerful 18th volume in her bestselling Alphabet Mystery series featuring private eye Kinsley Millhone. InR Is for Ricochet, Kinsey is hired to help a young parolee make the tough transition back into the "real world." But riding herd on willful, rebellious Reba Lafferty proves to be a tougher job than anyone anticipated. Reba hasn't outgrown her taste for living life on the edge, and she's got a positive talent for taking other people along with her…including Kinsey. Sue Grafton spins a complex web of crime and passion in this tale of love, money laundering, and revenge. Here's what Grafton had to say when Ransom Notes asked her to talk about what she writes, and why…and how her most famous creation, Kinsey Millhone, fits into the big picture.
Sue Grafton: To me, mysteries are appealing because they have a strong story line -- beginning, middle, and end -- a hero, a villain, and (with luck) a satisfying resolution. Mysteries are designed to be read in one or two sittings, which is a blessing for busy people who don't have much time to themselves. My best moments with writing are those when I'm totally immersed in the scene in front of me. Most of writing is in the preparation; research, plotting, character development, and the outlining of sequences. I find the writing itself comes more quickly when I've done my homework in advance. Most of the cases I write about are fiction. In the real world, murder seldom makes sense, and the motives for such crimes are absurd, given all the pain and suffering involved. In a mystery novel, the killer generally has a strong reason for what s/he does. There's stealth and ingenuity, both of which Kinsey Millhone employs in her search for the truth.
Ransom Notes: : In Q Is for Quarry, the publisher included a forensically reconstructed portrait of the real murder victim that story was based on, in the hope that the victim might finally be identified. Has there been any progress on that real-life investigation?
SG: The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department has had close to 150 calls about the Jane Doe I wrote about in Q. So far, none have panned out, but we're all still optimistic that one of these days someone will step forward with Jane Doe's real name.
RN: What you do think exploring romantic/personal story lines, as you do in R Is for Ricochet, adds to the mix in a mystery?
SG: In this day and age, the mystery novel doesn't have to be as plot-driven as it used to be. I think of Kinsey Millhone as literally a "private eye"...someone who observes and comments on society at large. Most of what she does is related to crime and criminals, but certainly her personal life and her personal development work hand-in-hand with her professional life. In many ways, R is about romance, which seems like the perfect counterpoint to murder and death.
RN: Do you plan to continue to write about Kinsey after you finish the Alphabet series, or in books outside of that sequence?
SG: I did a great deal of writing before I launched myself into the current Alphabet series. I wrote and published two mainstream novels, plus articles and short stories. I also worked in Hollywood for 15 years before Ms. Millhone came along. These days, I write one book at a time with no clear sense of where I'm heading. I discover as I go, which is anxiety-producing but keeps me on my toes. Certainly, I intend to go all the way to Z...at which point I may retire!
RN: Do you like readers to contact you?
SG: I'm always interested in hearing from my readers...unless they write to insult or berate me. I can be reached through my publisher, or through P.O. Box 41447, Santa Barbara, CA 93140.