An award-winning, Houston-based novelist and journalist, Kathryn Casey is the creator and author of the Sarah Armstrong mystery series, as well as the author of five highly acclaimed true crime books including Shattered, She Wanted it All and Evil Beside Her. Singularity, the first in the Sarah Armstrong series, was met with rave reviews, as well as being a Deadly Pleasures magazine “Best First Novel of 2008″ selection; the book was included on Vanity Fair’s Hot Type page and won stars from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and the Tampa Tribune said the following about Singularity: “Not since Patricia Cornwell’s POSTMORTEM has a crime author crafted such a stellar series debut. Kathryn Casey hits the right notes.”
Blood Lines, the second in the Sarah Armstrong mystery series, released in 2009, was called a “strong sequel” by Publisher’s Weekly, and was also included in a Reader’s Digest condensed books edition for fall 2010. This brings us to the third and latest release in the series, The Killing Storm, which has been chosen as a Mystery Book Club selection, and Publisher’s Weekly has since labeled it “the best in the series so far.” In addition, Library Journal has awarded the book a star, and Kirkus calls it “pulse-pounding.”
Readers can learn more about Kathryn Casey and her works at her website.
Please tell us a bit about your book: The Killing Storm—characters, plot, etc.
The book opens during a quiet afternoon in a suburban Houston park. Four-year-old Joey Warner plays in the sandbox, when a stranger approaches looking for his runaway dog. While Joey’s mom, Crystal, talks on her cell phone, the stranger convinces the child to help search. By the time Crystal turns around, her son has disappeared. Yet her behavior is odd, not what one would expect from a distraught mother. Is Crystal Warner somehow involved in her son’s abduction?
Meanwhile, on a cattle ranch outside the city, Texas Ranger, Sarah Armstrong, assesses a symbol left on the hide of a slaughtered longhorn, a figure that dates back to a forgotten era of sugarcane plantations and slavery. Soon other prizewinning bulls are butchered on the outskirts of the city, each bearing a different but similar drawing. Before long, the investigations converge at the same time a catastrophic hurricane threatens. One of Sarah’s fellow rangers, a close friend, is murdered, and the clock ticks, as the storm moves in. If Sarah doesn’t act quickly, the child will die.
Finally, as dangerous winds and torrential rains pummel the city, Sarah deciphers the clues and is forced to risk her life to save little Joey Warner.
If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?
I would invite my main character, Sarah, for lunch at this great little restaurant not far from my house. I’d keep her there for hours, talking about her life as a Texas Ranger, discussing psychology and law enforcement. I’ve been reporting on real cases for twenty-five years, interviewing victims, their families, prosecutors, and forensic folks, even murderers. It would be interesting to compare notes.
If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any situation, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?
I’d like to be behind the scenes in the White House, working for a president, watching the deal making and the negotiations, a silent observer soaking it all in. I’m fascinated by those entrusted with so much power and how they use it.
Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?
I write in my home office, usually with a cup of coffee at my right hand and my dog, Nelson, a white ball of fur, lying at my feet.
What are you reading right now?
I gather I’m the last person on the planet to get to them, but I’m reading the Stieg Larrson trilogy. I’m on book two: The Girl Who Played With Fire. I’m enjoying it.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?
Fiction: I read Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke’s books, and I’m a Joyce Carol Oates fan from way back. Laura Lippman, Kathy Reichs, Lee Child, and I came of age reading Mary Higgins Clark. I write true crime books as well as mysteries, and I always pick up Ann Rule’s latest. I could mention many more authors.
If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jane Austen. She was an incredibly keen observer of her world, documenting her time. I admire her social commentary.
Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:
Please share with us a favorite memory.
There are so many. This is hard. Maybe two? Christmas at home when I was a child, the table set, my family gathering around, everyone talking and jostling, laughing, carols playing in the background. Many of those people are gone now, and I miss them. Second: A trip last year to the Grand Canyon with my husband. It was cold, bitter cold, and the Canyon was breathtaking with a thin coat of new snow. I didn’t want to leave. Something about staring into the depths of the Canyon in the near freezing temperatures felt exhilarating, free.
Please describe a perfect meal—including menu and those present.
Well, I do love to cook, but it would definitely be one I hadn’t labored over. My family would be gathered around the table. It would be June, and we’d be seated outdoors at a small inn in Tuscany, with a view of the hillsides. I was in one earlier this year that looked like the background in the Mona Lisa.
Our menu? We’d start with an antipasto, parmigiana-reggiano, prosciutto, black olives with glistening skin, chunks of melon and grapes. The main course: crusty bread, thin slices of Italian beef with rosemary, and homemade pasta, perhaps an artichoke ravioli I enjoyed in a small beach-side restaurant in the Cinqua Terre five or six years ago, followed by a salad that included fennel and slices of apple, splashed with a light vinegar and oil. I know this doesn’t fit with the theme, but dessert would be my Aunt Elaine’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. If you tasted it, you’d understand.
What are some of your favorite ways to relax?
Reading, playing with our dog, Nelson, taking long walks, especially when I’m trying to figure out a plot twist, going out with friends, cooking for my family and friends. I rarely indulge, but I truly love afternoon naps.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’m happy in Texas. I’ve lived in Houston for thirty years, and I enjoy it. The city is bustling and brawny, just a bit wild. Anything can happen here, and it often does.
If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.
Oh, my goodness. That’s a terrible question to ask. I guess, right now, I’d chose…. I’m sorry, I can’t choose. I would be missing so much.
Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.
I’m living many of my dreams. I’ve been incredibly lucky on many levels. My family, my friends, my career, I have so much to be thankful for. I’ve done some things over the years that I’d proud of, but what I’d most like to do is find a way to help more people. My dream is to find a way and have the available means to positively impact the lives of those in need. I’m not sure in what sphere. My mother died of Alzheimer’s, and I think sometimes that I’d like to start a program to help patients and caregivers. Our family struggled for so long, looking for help, it was maddening. Resources are scarce and this disease affects many.
What are some of your guilty pleasures?
I love chocolate, dark chocolate, and old movies. My mother-in-law died two years ago, but my husband and I watched over her, and I used to bring boxes of Belgian chocolates to the nursing home. We’d turn on an old black-and-white movie, Betty Grable and Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart or Audrey Hepburn, and we’d sample the chocolates and talk. It was a sad time, since she was very ill, but these are good memories.
If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?
That we really can get ahead in life without tearing others down. There’s so much ill will, too much animosity, envy, greed. It’s counter-productive. It’s paralyzing. I hate political arguments where one side goes bitterly after the other, without offering solutions of their own. There’s so much suffering, a growing need, and instead of picking on others, we should work together to fix the problems and make it a better world for everyone.