Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Interview with mystery author Peter J. Ryan

Author Peter J. Ryan joins me today to chat about his new mystery suspense novel, Edge of the Sawtooth.

Peter J. Ryan spent years as a journalist before venturing into the wilds of fiction writing. Edge of the Sawtooth is his first novel. A tireless backcountry hiker and overall outdoor enthusiast, Ryan splits time between Huntington Beach, California, and Paradise Valley, Montana. He is married with four grown children and three grandchildren.

Please tell us about your current release.
Edge of the Sawooth is the story of Chloe Morrand, a twenty-something single mom who has suffered from both drug addiction and mental illness. At first glance, it appears that Chloe has turned her life around. She’d been taking her meds. She’d kicked her drug abuse. She loved her new job at Yellowstone National Park. Life was looking up.
Her father, Rick Morrand—local attorney—is hopeful that Chloe was finally on the right track. But on the morning she fails to show up at his house to pick up her nine-year-old daughter, Abby, alarms ring in his head.
His greatest fear becomes reality when Chloe’s body is found at the base of the Sawtooth in Montana’s backcountry. Authorities assume suicide— for good reason. But Rick doesn’t buy it.
For good reason.
First, former law partner Reiff Metcalf arrives in town to warn Rick about a disgruntled client headed to Montana in search of revenge. Then there’s Draper Townsend, fresh out of prison and eager to settle an old score. Rick also sets his sights on Chloe’s meth-head ex-boyfriend, Chase Rettick, who violently argued with her the day before she disappeared. And he can’t rule out Chloe’s supervisor at Yellowstone, who clearly was more than just her boss.

Local sheriff Caleb Tidwell brushes off Rick’s concerns, but as events unfold in a dark and sinister manner, Rick is certain Chloe was murdered. And it seems as if the murderer is now after him...

What inspired you to write this book?
Twenty-five years ago, mental illness came crashing through the front doorway of my life.

The arrival wasn’t completely unannounced. My oldest brother, Larry, had been diagnosed with manic depression—as bipolar disorder was then called—well over a decade earlier. Family members knew he was suffering, but due to a lack of understanding of mental illness, we felt powerless to help him. This was especially frustrating to me since I had been best man at Larry’s wedding, I felt extremely close to him, and I greatly admired him.

In June of 1992, Larry took his own life, changing my life forever. Little did I know, mental illness wasn’t done with me yet.

I have four children. Two of them have been diagnosed with mental illness. Is there a genetic component? Certainly. Somehow, I dodged the bullet.

But if I was to be of any assistance to my children, I realized I would need to acquaint myself with all aspects of the disease. At first, I was motivated by fear. As time went on, I sought to do my small part in defusing stereotypes and helping others understand the daily hardships faced by the mentally ill.

I thought the best way to do this was through a novel that revolved around the fictional character Chloe Morrand.

Excerpt from Edge of the Sawtooth:
Chloe’s past was her father’s prison. Rick had been burned by her behavior so often, he would freefall into despair at the first hint of trouble. Every time Chloe didn’t call, every time she didn’t pick up her phone, every time she was late, Rick feared the worst.

While Chloe’s recent sobriety was ample reason for hope, trust was built with matchsticks. His mind had attended far too many imaginary funerals.

Rick opened the front door and stepped onto the frost-covered porch, rubbing his biceps as he studied the Gallatin Range that bordered the valley to the west. Behind him stood the Beartooth Mountains, guarding the turquoise waters of the Yellowstone River as it made its serpentine journey north from the national park. The autumn sun had been slow to rise over the Beartooths’ cathedral peaks, but it was steadily igniting the smooth gilded foothills of the Gallatins.

Clouds waited patiently to the south, revering the cobalt-blue sky that had welcomed the day. For now, all was calm. Storms would come later.

What exciting story are you working on next?
The title of the next book in the Rick Morrand Series is Lost in the Crazies.

A skilled bow hunter named Garrett McRae is lost in Montana’s mysterious Crazy Mountains. His companions report him missing, but it’s been more than three full days since they last had radio contact with him. Searchers find some of the man’s belongings but no body.

Rick Morrand learns that one of the other hunters, Randall Boone, knows Garrett’s wife—perhaps a little better than he should. The wife also has an insurance policy, and the ink is barely dry.

Was it murder? Morrand needs to find out.

But first he needs to find Garrett McRae.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My sophomore English teacher in high school pulled me out of class and sent me to the library. My assignment? “Just write,” he said. It was a Catholic high school, and his name was Fr. Leonard. Great man. A couple of years later, I began to study journalism, receiving my B.A. from Northwestern University in 1980.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I still actively run a marketing company in Huntington Beach, California, although I have hard-working staff members who allow me time to write. Most of my employees have read my first novel and they have encouraged me to write more. I usually come into the office in the early morning, work until mid-afternoon, and then write at the day winds down. I also write on both Saturday and Sunday, usually about four hours each day. When I am in Montana, I try to focus mostly on writing. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I never actually get “writer’s block,” but I occasionally get “stuck.” When that happens, I exercise and pray for inspiration. That usually gets me back on track.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer like Ernest Hemingway, who was born in Oak Park, Ill., same place as me.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am honored when anyone takes time out of their life to read my book. The greatest compliment I can receive is knowing that someone was entertained, if not inspired.


Thank you for being here today!

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