D.A. Bartley's Blessed Be the Wicked
How lucky am I to be blogging the week that our own Miss Demeanor, D.A. Bartley’s Bless Be the Wicked, is launched. I got to hear her fascinating answers to these questions first. Your book releases today, what’s the day look like for you? Alison: I’m in Utah visiting my Dad, which makes the pub date particularly special because I get to share it with him. Tomorrow, I’ll be reading and signing at The King’s English. If you know Salt Lake, you know that TKE is one of the world’s most wonderful independent bookstores. It’s a place run by book lovers for book lovers. If you’re in the area, please stop by at 7:00 pm. I’d love to see you! You live in New York City, but the Abish Taylor series is set in Utah. Why? Alison: My grandma loved to point out that I come from sturdy pioneer stock. I do. My ancestors arrived in Deseret—now Utah—in the late 1840s and 50s. Most pushed handcarts from New York to the Salt Lake valley, although it’s rumored a few could afford covered wagons. Whenever I feel like complaining about walking a few extra blocks, I think of walking across the plains in winter. Suddenly, ten blocks in mid-town Manhattan isn’t so bad. You’re an attorney with a Ph.D. in political science. How did you come to write a murder mystery? Alison: The very first grown up book I ever read was an Agatha Christie. Both my mom and grandma were big readers, especially of murder mysteries. My mom passed away a few years ago after a ten-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. I was in Utah a lot during those years. On one visit, I went to a friend’s house north of Salt Lake. There was an enormous home at the end of her street with an amazing view of the mountains. It had been empty for a few years after the housing bubble burst. When I got back to New York, I couldn’t get that house out of my head. What could happen in a place like that? One morning, I just sat down and wrote. That might have been the end of it except for a week later my daughter suffered a moderate concussion and couldn’t read or look at screens. (She’s fine now and off to college next week!) She didn’t like the audio books I’d gotten her. She asked me to read what I was writing. When I finished the seventh chapter, she asked me what happened next. I didn’t know. She said, “Mom, go write more.” So I did. That’s how it went until she recovered. By then, I had written a good chunk of the story. What can you tell us about your protagonist, Detective Abish Taylor? Alison: Abbie is trying to re-start her life. In Blessed be the Wicked, she’s still reeling from having lost her husband. She had been living in New York, having left her state, family, and religion behind. Suddenly alone, she decides to move back to Utah to be near family, but her relationship with them is strained. Her father, a respected LDS historian, doesn’t understand why his daughter left the Church, and she doesn’t understand why he’s still a member. Family is just the first of Abbie’s problems. The death is a reminder of a dark history, a history powerful people would prefer stays forgotten. I hear the first murder has some religious overtones, is that true? Alison: Yes. When Abbie sees the first body, she recognizes the hallmarks of a ritual discussed in the early days of the Mormon Church. LDS scholars and historians debated blood atonement as late as the 1970s, but there are no verifiable examples that anyone was ever killed this way. Of course, as a writer, it’s just too much fun to play around with a macabre doctrine from the 19th century in today’s world. It reminds me how important it is to be mindful about what we believe, and how we believe. What is your schedule after this? Alison: Besides helping my daughter move into her dorm next week? I’ll be at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg, Florida where I’ll be on the panel discussing religion in mysteries on September 9th. On September 17th, I’ll be reading and signing books at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City.