With Mercy Gunderson, Lori Armstrong has created a fascinating character, a protagonist in her series.
I interviewed Armstrong for her latest book, Merciless, which I liked so much that I went back and read the two earlier books in the series: Mercy Kill and No Mercy.
Mercy has just finished working as a Black Ops Army sniper in the war in Iraq and is trying, with limited success at times, to adjust to life back home in North Dakota. The three books chronicle her evolution as well as dealing with, and sometimes solving, crimes that happen way too often around her, often to people she cares about deeply.
She left work in the firearms industry in 2000 to focus on her writing.
I encourage you to try out this series. The new book comes out Jan. 8.
How did the idea for this story develop?
At the end of Mercy Kill I left Mercy with a decision on whether to join the FBI. For the first two books she’d been trying to find her place at the ranch and the community after leaving the army, so it seemed logical she’d want to go back to a career where there were rules. Not that she always follows them.
How would you describe your protagonist, Mercy?
Calm. And deadly.
In what ways are you similar to Mercy and in what ways are you different?
Oh, I’m not like Mercy at all with the exception that I like country music and bull riders. It’s far more fun, frustrating and interesting to write characters who are nothing like me.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I talked to the FBI, judges, ranchers, and people who work for one of the tribes. I also got to play with guns. Hands on research is always the best type. Since this is the third book in the series, so much of what happens in the book is internal, and I’d set the stage for this book in previous books, so the research was already done. I just expanded on it.
This is the third book in a series. Is it important for readers to read the other two? I confess I’m reading this one first, but it’s so good I plan to go back and read the first two. How far have you planned out this series?
This book could be read as a standalone, but of course I’d prefer everyone read the first two because Mercy does evolve throughout the series and you get a better sense of place. Most mystery readers I know have to start with the first book in the series, so if you’re one of those readers…I’d definitely say yes.
What’s next in store for Mercy?
Good question! I’ve got ideas but nothing solid, but I would assume Mercy will continue to get into trouble, kick ass and take names no matter which direction she goes.
Can you talk about your prior work in the firearms industry? What did you do and how were you able to use knowledge obtained doing that job for your current job?
My experience with firearms is related to working in the family gun business in the accounting department for a decade. However, my husband still makes his living in the firearms business, so I’m lucky enough to be able to pick his brain when I need to. He handles lots of cool firearms on a daily basis, which I remind myself would be Mercy’s dream job.
I understand you also wrote a romance series but under a different name. Can you compare writing this series about Mercy to writing the romance series–what do you like and dislike about writing each? Do you plan to write any more romance books?
I write romances under the name Lorelei James. Some people assume I started in romance and switched to mystery, but the reverse is true–I was first published in mystery and took on a pen name when I was offered a contract to write a romance. I’ve actually published a lot more romances and the series are really popular. I love writing in both genres, it flexes my mental muscles. Mercy is written in first person, and her point of view is the only one throughout the book, and that’s a little more challenging than writing in third person, like in the romances, where I can split the story between several points of view. I’m contracted with six more romances with two different publishers through the end of 2014.
I like to end my interviews with what I call my bonus question: What question do you wish you were asked more often and how would you answer it?
I’d like to get asked if I’d ever been in the army. And no, I wasn’t, but I have the utmost respect and gratitude for the women and men who’ve spent their lives in service to our country.