ABOUT THE BOOK
WHO KILLED HER BOSS?
Local police had tagged single mom Becky Dennison as their prime suspect. But she’d only been in the wrong place at the wrong time…admittedly, with her boss’s lifeless body. Sure it looked bad, but Becky had no motive for killing…even if she had opportunity.When the director of the retirement farm for thoroughbred champions is murdered, Becky Dennison teams up with the handsome manager of a neighboring horse farm, Scott Lewis, to find her boss’s killer. Soon the amateur detective are hot on the trail of the murderer…even as their feelings for each other deepen.The amateur sleuths uncover a trail of clues that lead them into the intricate society of Kentucky’s elite thoroughbred breeding industry. They soon find themselves surrounded by the mint julep set – jealous southern belles and intensely competitive horse breeders – in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride.
And for Becky and Scott, this race on the Kentucky tracks has the greatest stakes of all: life or death!
Virginia: Well, I knew as much as any Kentucky girl knows, but not as much as I needed to know. My aunt (to whom the book is dedicated) is a thoroughbred breeder, so I’ve had some exposure to the breeding industry. And of course I had an easily-accessible resource to call with all the questions about details I needed to know as the story unfolded.
But I got the idea for the story when I visited a real thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. I didn’t really have a book in mind when I visited the first time—I had just seen signs for the place and thought it would be neat to take a tour. I was totally captivated by the horses in residence there. Some of those old guys earned millions of dollars in their racing and breeding careers. And the director of Old Friends is a truly dynamic man who is passionate about giving these horses a place to live out their last years in dignity. He made an off-hand comment during the tour that sparked an idea. He was telling me about a particular horse, and he said, “This guy right here was earning a $60,000 stud fee when he retired. He can still breed, and I’ve actually gotten requests to breed him, but I signed a commitment when I got him that he would never breed again. He’s retired, and he’ll stay retired.” I started thinking, “Wow. What would happen if someone wanted to breed a champion really badly?” And the book was born from that.
Page: I’m so glad that there is a stable that provides a loving and respectful place for these beautiful horses to live out their last days. And, I love to learn new things while I read.
But unfortunately, one of my VERY bad habits, as a writer, involves researching too much. How long do you normally allow for research?
Virginia: I allow several months for research, but I don’t pitch a project until I’ve got enough research under my belt for the idea to form. The key is learning to multi-task. I’m usually researching a book while I’m writing the previous book. For instance, I was heavily involved in research for Bluegrass Peril while I was still writing Murder by Mushroom, which came out in August. And while I was writing Bluegrass Peril (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #82), I was doing research for A Taste of Murder, which will be out next October. At the moment I’m writing A Taste of Murder, but I’m doing research for the book I plan to pitch to my editor in January.
To make matters worse, I also write contemporary novels for two other publishers. So while I’m actively writing and researching various mysteries, I’m also writing and researching contemporary books for Revell or Kregel Publications. LOL! It makes me dizzy just thinking about all the books I have going on in various states of completion!
Page: I bet! In fact, your website, http://www.virginiasmith.org/, shows that you have published many different kinds of books. (I’ve read Just As I Am and loved it, too!) In fact, you’ve covered quite a few difficult topics. How much real life do you put into your books?
Virginia: A piece of me shows up in just about every character I’ve ever written. To be honest, I didn’t realize just how much of myself I pour into my characters until I was almost finished writing my first published novel, Just As I Am (Just As I Am Series #1). In that book, many of the viewpoint character’s struggles with the judgmental attitudes of the people in her church were struggles I’ve had myself. But there was one secondary character, her roommate, who gave her a really hard time because this girl hated Christians. I honestly didn’t know why she hated Christians until one day I wrote the critical scene. I was sitting at my computer and the viewpoint character said to her roommate, “What is your problem?” And I sat back and said to God, “Lord, what is her problem?” And He told me. I literally gasped, and tears came to my eyes. I realized that the roommate had suffered terribly at the hands of her so-called Christian father – just as I had. The roommate was me! If I hadn’t accepted the Lord at an early age and allowed Him to work His miracle of forgiveness in me, I would have turned out bitter and angry, just like that character. I think that was one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever written. Certainly I can’t read it even today without getting teary!
Since then, I have recognized myself in almost every character, certainly the Lead characters. In Bluegrass Peril, Becky’s struggles over her relationship with ex-husband are very close to issues I’ve struggled with in my life. So I guess the answer to your question is: I put a lot of real life into my books, because I put myself in them.