Help Solve a Real Mystery!!

My guest today is Sue Senden, and she has an unusual story to research and tell. Sue says:

Most families have some sort of secrets they prefer to gloss over or rewrite their history in some way. In my family, there was the grandfather I never met, Henry. He died long before I was born. No one ever talked about him. He was as elusive as smoke. It took many years to learn why. When I finally discovered some information about him, it was the beginning of a mystery, of a quest and a need to discover what all had happened.

My grandfather was the skeleton in my closet.

He was murdered.

Murder is not something that happens and it is over once the case is closed. It is a crime that goes on affecting people for generations. This is a murder mystery within my own family the weight of that event has permeated my life to the depths of my being. It was a crime no one in the family talked about. My grandmother never spoke of her slain husband, so we knew little about him, my mother and her sister were children when it happened, and they suffered their own traumas over the event they witnessed.
So, I am setting out on a quest to find out more about him, his death and the murder. Since the records are old, little is on the internet, and I must travel to where the crime occurred and dig into the archives for some answers.

This murder is set in a turbulent and desperate era against a backdrop of crime, political corruption, great wealth and the power it wielded. It made headlines from coast to coast. It could have been a crime created by the best noir writers of the era, but it was not a story made up in the mind of a writer, it happened. It happened to my Grandfather; it happened to my family, it happened to me for I carry the remnants of that tragedy in the fiber of my being.

It is a story I want to write. It is the story I must tell. It is a book I will write.

That is where you come into this project. By your generous support, I will be able to travel half way across the country to see the records first hand and hopefully even find someone still alive who recalls this case. It is not something that can be done vial the internet, it must be done in person.

I do not know where it may lead me. I do not know if there will be complete answers. I expect this quest will generate more questions that will take me in new directions. I will chronicle this adventure into the dark past of my grandfather’s life and death. Come with me. Help me get some answers and heal an old wound that has scarred my family for generations.

The paranormal aspect: A strange event happened recently, my grandfather, Henry, came to me in a dream and said, “Research my past.” Please help me find out what he wants me to know.


If you’d like to help Sue find the solution to this mystery, please check her out on Kickstarter:

Joe January, Hero of the Novel One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

Bertram: Who are you?

Joe: My name is Joe January. I was a private investigator from the South Bronx, circa 1940. Was once described as an indignant Humphrey Bogart. Who am I to argue? The difference between Bogie and me is that I was the real McCoy. Where he took the scripts that Hollywood wrote for him, I took on the tough cases nobody else would. Unlike Bogie’s, my bumps and bruises were the real deal, not makeup.

Bertram: What is your story?

Joe: One Hot January is anything but a story, although it could be construed as a Hollywood type script Bogie might’ve been interested in bringing to the screen were he alive today. Not being a scientist, I can’t tell you the how behind what happened, only that it did happen. I know, it reads like science fiction, spanning two centuries and dealing with time travel and alternate realities, while the denouement is less than satisfactory—boy loses girl, boy finds new girl, loses her, finds the first girl and this time she loses him. But such is life: a happily ever after, while often promised, is never a given.

In a nutshell my story could be termed what Nietzsche called “the bungled and the botched.”

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Joe: Funny, just not in a humorous sense, but I’ve been accused of arrogance in my self-depiction, creating a sort of comic book superhero of myself. Yet in youth, we often view ourselves as invincible. It isn’t until later that we realize how fragile life is; furthermore, that we see the repercussions of our actions.

Antihero was a term first coined in the early 18th century to describe certain protagonists, those whose armor was less than shiny, indeed, tarnished. They often fall short of literary ideals, just as happens in real life. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-born Jewish American author who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in literature and was noted for his short stories, wrote: “Children have no use for psychology. They detest sociology. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff. When a book is boring, they yawn openly. They don’t expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish allusions.”

Yeah, I’m an antihero.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Joe: Imagine an alternate history in which the United States fails to enter World War II in time to help the Allies defeat the Tripartite before Germany becomes too strong to defeat. Imagine a future in which Germany has perfected genetic engineering and is systematically eradicating whole nations in an effort to secure the empire Hitler vowed would last a thousand years; a future in which Hitler lies in a cryogenic chamber, awaiting treatment for a cancer for which a cure has been discovered. Imagine a future in which a faction of genetically engineered people, opposed to Hitler’s tyranny, travel back in time to amend future history by influencing Churchill to withhold from U.S. Intelligence the vital decrypt specifying the date and time of the raid on Pearl Harbor. Now perhaps you begin to see my problem in the story.

I managed to uncover this seemingly impossible plot by agreeing to help a pretty young woman from Gramercy Park locate her missing father—a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College who was tasked with preventing the secret of Hitler’s location from falling into the wrong hands.

But the real meat of my story is about regret: how, through my own foolishness, I lost the two women who meant the most to me.

Bertram:  Do you embrace conflict?

Joe: I always find myself at the center of conflict. It seems to find me the way it finds the protagonist of any good detective novel. Do I embrace it? Does anyone ever embrace conflict? I don’t run from it, which is not the same as embracing it. I guess, as Philip Marlowe could tell you, it came with the territory during those years I was a PI. Like Marlowe, it became a way of life for me—fighting, in my own way, for truth, justice and the American way.

Bertram:  Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Joe: I approached J. Conrad Guest in 1992 with my story. He was an unknown back then. He had talent, although it was unpolished; still, he was no hack. What I liked about him was that he refused to write the formula drivel that the major publishing houses seek today.

It was a chance meeting, and I suspect he didn’t believe he could complete the project. Our encounter resulted in January’s Paradigm, the first book in the January trilogy. He’s since written the second volume, One Hot January, and the final volume, January’s Thaw. Both are forthcoming from Second Wind Publishing. Combined, they paint a profile of a man out of place out of time.

Although it took him ten years to complete the project, I’m pleased with the result. I think he managed to remain true to my story as well as my voice.

Bertram:  What do you need?

Joe: There was a time, in my youth, when I would’ve said the only things I needed were a challenging case and a beautiful woman with whom to lay for an evening of divine debauchery. The first was true, until circumstances deemed it necessary I find a new career. The second was a lie. Unfortunately it took my losing Lindy to make that clear to me.

Bertram:  What makes you angry?

Joe: Having been thrust one hundred years into the future in the blink of an eye, perhaps it’s easy for me to see how the world, our society specifically, has devolved: pornography, pollution, global warming, corrupt politics, terrorism, the pursuit of materialism—the American Dream—as a basis for happiness, and for all our purported connectivity through the Internet and cell phones, we are more disconnected than ever.

Why does there have to be a battle between the sexes? “Battle,” by default, denotes a winner and a loser. Sometimes the only way to achieve victory is through negotiation—by seeing an issue from the other’s perspective. If more people, men and women alike, attempted to see through the eyes of their partner, I daresay there’d be far fewer unhappy couples and fewer divorces.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Joe: That after I abandoned Lindy—it wasn’t my choice, merely circumstance over which I had no control—she’d had to marry another man out of necessity. We met once, Lindy and I, thirty-five years after the accident that took me from her. It took her a moment, but she recognized me and I knew her feelings for me had never diminished. Furthermore, that she forgave me the betrayals of my youth as well as my abandonment of her.

That anything but chance meeting resulted in my finding the closure I needed to give my past self a second chance to find the love he didn’t yet realize he had.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Joe: Most people either find love or love finds them, and they hold onto it, stay with it their entire lives. They are the fortunate ones. The unfortunate manage to make it out of this life without experiencing love, perhaps taking solace in the juxtaposed adage that it is better never to have loved than to have loved and lost.

I was fortunate in that love found me not once but twice, in two different centuries. In the first case I never realized what I had until it was too late. In the second, I fully realized what I had, but knowing didn’t prevent my losing her. You could say I’m living proof that one can be both lucky and unlucky in love.

Love found me the second time a hundred years after the first time. Her name was Ecstasy, and she once told me that she loved my loneliness—a man out of place out of time. I surmised that her love for me was born of pity. I didn’t have the heart to tell her my loneliness was the result of my losing the one woman who, at one time, mattered most to me. To this day I regret that I never told her how much she mattered. After Ecstasy was killed, I often wondered if she might not have known that all along—that my loneliness was for a woman who could never threaten to usurp her place in my life.

Bertram:  Are you honorable?

Joe: At one time I thought I was. I never stole money from a client for services I failed to provide; but that’s only a part of my life. I never kept secret from Lindy that I had other lovers and patted myself on the back for my honesty, crediting her for her choice to accept that arrangement. But in retrospect, such an attitude was anything but honorable. Once I realized I would never again find my way back to my own time, to enjoy the warmth of Lindy’s familiar and loving embrace, I lived my life to honor her memory, because it was the right thing to do and the only way I could make up for my treatment of her.

Bertram: Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

Joe: I was born on October 21, 1911. Newsworthy events of October 21 include:

         The Battle of Trafalgar began in 1805
         Thomas Edison invented the working electric light in 1879
         The first transatlantic radio telephone was made, 1915
         Trumpeter and bebop pioneer Dizzy Gillespie was born in 1917
         A new typewriting speed record was established by Margaret B. Owen in New York City, when she typed 170 words a minute with no errors, 1918
         Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame was born in 1956, as was my biographer, J. Conrad Guest
         The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—the only building in New York City designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—opened in 1959

Bertram:  Who was your first love?

Joe: That would be Lindy, my gal Friday in 1947. Sadly, I never told her how I felt about her. Then one day I was gone—whisked into the future. I took little comfort in knowing she still lived in her own time. To me, in 2047, she was dead and buried. Obviously she got on with her life after I abandoned her. But I like to think I could’ve made a difference in her life, the way it turned out for her.

Bertram: Who is your true love?

Joe: Ecstasy Givens, who I met the very day I arrived in 2047. I needed her in order to survive in the 21st century. Initially I loved her for her body, but in time she came to mean much more to me. In losing Lindy I learned what love is. Ecstasy was the beneficiary of what Lindy taught me, which pains me even if I imagine Lindy might be proud of the Joe January she in part helped to mold.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Joe: Duh. Read One Hot January and January’s Thaw.

Bertram:  Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

Joe: The day I was transported into the future. Not only did it save my life, it defined how I lived the remaining days of my life.

Bertram:  What is your most prized possession? Why?

Joe: My memory—specifically of Ecstasy and Lindy. Since they are both gone from me, they—their memories—are all I have.

Bertram:  What is your favorite scent? Why?

Joe: Smell and memory are intimately linked. Since Ecstasy was killed my favorite scent belongs to those items that still bear her essence—the clothing that remains in our closet, the afghan with which she covered herself while reading on cold winter nights.

Bertram:  What is your favorite beverage? Why?

Joe: A single malt scotch—Aberlour a’bunadh (pronounced ah-boo-nar) is my favorite. If I have to explain why, you’re obviously not a scotch drinker and wouldn’t understand anyway.

Bertram:  What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

Joe: That would be my fedora, which I was forced to give up wearing in the 21st century. You’ll read why in January’s Thaw. In the 1940s it defined who I was, as it defined Bogart’s screen persona. But I wore mine first, and my persona wasn’t make believe.

Bertram: If  you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

Joe: We face many choices each and every day of our lives, which over a lifetime add up to myriad decisions. Whether we choose to act or to refrain from acting affects the world and ourselves. There is nothing we do, or choose not to do, that doesn’t leave a mark on us. All of which lends credibility to the theory that countless universes exist, the result of the choices we make (or fail to make) and their interactions with the billions of other choices made or not made by others.

Too New Age for you? Remember, I come from an era before New Age.

See also:
Excerpt from One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest
Interview with J. Conrad Guest, author of One Hot January
Chapter One — One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

Click here to buy: One Hot January

Blog Jog Day

Welcome to Blog Jog, a one-day trot around the highways and byways of the blogosphere. Feel free to look around before you move on to the next blog in the jog.

With so many authors contributing their interviews to this blog, there is something for everyone. If you don’t know where to start, you can begin by reading my interviews with the recalcitrant hero of my WIP, Part I and Part II. If you are an author and would like to contribute your own interview, please check out the character questionnaire for instructions. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered in Second Wind Publishing’s best contest ever — a chance to win a copy of every title Second Wind will publish in 2011. Wow! So, be sure to leave a comment, then jog on over to visit author Melinda Clayton.

If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, you should be able to find the entire list of participants at: Blog Jog Day.

Detective Elton “Smoke” Dawes from the Winnebago County Mystery Series by Christine Husom

Bertram: Who are you?

Smoke: Detective Smoke “Smoke” Dawes with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department in central Minnesota.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Smoke: A few miles outside the city of Oak Lea, the county seat of Winnebago County.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Smoke: Professionally, it’s finding out who the bad guys are, identifying their crimes, and bringing them to justice. Personally, I’ll plead the fifth.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Smoke: It would be more accurate to say I confront and try to resolve conflict. It comes with the job.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Smoke: As a good brother, a good cop, a good friend. Loyal, dedicated, determined.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Smoke: Pretty much the same way I see myself, plus, some say stubborn as an old mule.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Smoke: Some of them want to kill me. I do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Smoke: She’s got a pretty good handle on what makes me tick. I’m not a guy that exactly wears my heart on my sleeve and the author respects that.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

Smoke: As an honest guy doing an honest day’s work, no matter how long that day gets to be. I fight against injustice, do what I can to help victims of crimes, and put bad guys away. 

Bertram: Do you talk about your achievements?

Smoke: Don’t have to, they speak for themselves.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Smoke: I’m a damn good interviewer, and have the ability to work as hard as I have to on cases.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Smoke: No money troubles. I live a pretty simple life, outside of work. I make a whole lot more than I spend. All that overtime.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Smoke: Unsolved cases and cases I’ve worked where kids are victimized. That’s hard to take.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Smoke: I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Smoke: I’m very healthy, especially for a guy pushing fifty.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Smoke: I have an older brother and a younger brother. We were a rough and tumble crew, liked good-natured fighting, which our mother always made us take outside so we didn’t break furniture.

Bertram: What in your past would you like others to forget?

Smoke: The incident that earned me the nickname Smoke. When I was a junior in high school, a young woman and I were in my father’s fish house ice fishing one winter day when we forgot about fishing for a while. I accidentally kicked over the kerosene lamp and didn’t notice it until the fish house was on fire. The young woman thought it was funny when she told our friends, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire and ‘Smoke’s’ real name is Smoke.”

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Smoke: My first real love was a woman I met while serving as the Lake County Sheriff, in northern Minnesota. I wanted marriage, she didn’t. It nearly broke my heart.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Smoke: Almost every day working as a Winnebago County Sheriff’s detective. We get some pretty tough cases, which Corky Aleckson tells about in the mystery thriller series.

Bertram: Was there a major turning point in your life?

Smoke: The above mentioned lover I wanted to marry who preferred an open-ended affair. I left the northern Minnesota county I was working for and returned to Winnebago County, my home.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Smoke: You want me to share it with a whole lotta people? I have very deep feelings for someone, and it’s best to leave them buried.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Smoke: I like in a log home on forty wooded acres with my own private lake and a duck slew. It’s my sanctuary.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Smoke: I like fishing, hunting, canoeing, playing my guitar, going to my nephews’ ball games, and tying flies and lures for fishing.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Smoke: The way a woman’s hair smells when it’s freshly washed. Must be from a moment in time way back when.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Smoke: Coffee, black. It helps keep me alert when I’m working, no matter the time of day or night.

Bertram: If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

Smoke: A woman with a bottle of clean-smelling shampoo.

Bertram: Where can we find out more about the Winnebago County mystery series?

Smoke: At Amazon and Second Wind Publishing. The books are called: Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River.

Manuel Enriques, Hero of Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes

Bertram: What is your story?

Manuel: My story is still being written, but a portion of it is chronicled in Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes.

Bertram: Who are you?

Manuel:  My name is Manuel Enriques and I am confidential aid to Governor Ferdinand Deza.

Bertram: Where and when do you live?

Manuel:  I live in the beautiful town of St. Augustine in the Florida territory.  The year is 1739.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Manuel:  What is a hero? A man who does what he must to protect that which he holds dear. I am such a man. If that makes me a hero, then I accept this role gladly.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Manuel:  The problem is that there is a pesky British spy wandering around causing trouble. The beast is wily and sly, but I’ll catch him, have no doubt.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Manuel: Conflict is in many forms. If it is in the form of a beautiful woman, I embrace and make love to it. If it is in the form of this annoying little fly speck of a spy, then I spit on it and grind it to dust beneath my heel.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Manuel: I haven’t many friends, but those are very close. They see me as strong, intelligent, passionate with women, stubborn and capable. How do you see me, cariña?

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Manuel: My enemies never see me. They are dead long before that. If by chance they do catch a glimpse, it is as of the face of death.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Manuel: Ah, my beautiful Dellani. If it were not for Gabriella, such stories we would write together! She sees me as romantic, passionate, handsome, slightly dangerous, and very well appointed.

Bertram: Well appointed?

Manuel: You will have to read my tale to find out what I mean by that.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Manuel: As accurately as any woman may know a man’s heart, yes.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Manuel: That is perhaps not a question I should answer here, eh, cariña?

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Manuel: Would you like to me say something poetic like a beautiful sunset or the seagulls above the water? I am not poetic man. What makes me happy is very simple, my love for Gabriella. It drives me, moves me to be the best I may be.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Manuel: I am afraid that what I am capable of will one day consume me. And I am terrified that I will lose Gabriella.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Manuel: In a soldier’s life, are there not many things to haunt him? What haunts me, cariña, is better left forgotten.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Manuel: Always. It is a point of honor.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Manuel: As much as I am able to be given circumstances.

Bertram: That sounds like a very cagey answer.

Manuel: And it is the only one you shall get.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Manuel: Oh, yes. I am very well appointed.

Bertram: You would love for me to ask again what that means, wouldn’t you?

Manuel: No, I would like you to read the book and find out.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Manuel: My most prized possession? Must I have just one? Perhaps my pistol. Or my best pair of boots? No, not really, although I am rather fond of these pants.

Bertram: Oh? Why is that?

(All PB gets is a sly grin and a slow, wicked wink.)

Bertram:  Where can I find to book so I can read more of your story?

Manuel: You can find it at Second Wind Publishing, LLC and at Amazon.

Karl Joseph Wildbach, hero of Hand-Me-Down Bride by Juliet Waldron

Bertram: Who are you?

Karl: My name is Karl Joseph Wildbach and I’m a younger son of the local miller.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Karl: I live in German’s Mill, PA, but most of the time I wish I didn’t.

Bertram: What is your problem?

Karl: My relationship with my father has always been difficult, but that doesn’t seem as important anymore as getting my peace of mind back after the long years I spent as a Union soldier.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Karl: Well, that’s not a question I’m happy to answer, but I do run—in my case, into the army, and now that I’m back home, all I really want to do is leave again.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Karl: To live honestly, to succeed through my own merits and not be beholden to any one.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Karl: I was raised to be a farmer, to know about land, crops and animals. I was also taught to balance the mill books, something I surprised myself—and everybody else—by learning to do darn well.

Bertram: What do you want to be?

Karl: A free man, free of my memories, and free of all the obligations my father has tried to wrap me up in.

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Karl: Not much these days, although seeing a field of corn in tassel, or buckwheat in bloom can take me out of myself. A piece of Divine’s blackberry pie and a fresh cup of coffee…

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Karl: My temper—and of losing it like my father used to.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

Karl: Things that don’t make any sense—which seems to be a lot of the things that make this world go around. People who don’t stand up for themselves make me angry too.

Bertram: What makes you sad?

Karl: Thinking about my mother, who died the night I ran away. If I’d been in the house, maybe I could have saved her.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Karl: You must be kidding!

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Karl: Well, that would be Miss Dawn McNally, my best friend’s sister.

Bertram: Who is your true love?

Karl: Don’t have an answer for that one yet. Maybe someday, but I’m not ready for a wife just yet.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Karl: My saddlehorse, Buck. He’s a dream to ride, and he’s a looker. It’s vanity, I guess, but I’m always proud to ride him out.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Karl: Those are for old folks who have time to waste. I’m at work, one way or another, from dawn to dusk, making sure the mill turns a profit, and that’s fine by me.

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Karl: Chicken pot pie, the way our cook, Divine, makes it. She doesn’t stint on the chicken. Sometimes she puts it all under a good pie crust instead of using noodles, but that’s more for Sunday dinners. When she uses noodles, she’ll balance a big hunk of chicken–white or dark–right on top of the bowl she serves you.

Bertram: Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

Karl: Five? Let’s see. I’ve got a handkerchief, a pocket watch and a good sharp folding knife. If I’m riding the fields and ‘susing the crops, I’ll take a notebook and a pencil stub along, but that’s about it.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Karl: I’m heading out west to tame some raw land. I’m hoping for the good luck and the good health to make my fortune by the work of my own hands, and to be away from German’s Mill, from everybody who knows me, and start my life fresh.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Karl: Cassie Taylor, the little brown girl who is growing up with the good Reverend Taylor and his wife over in Yellow Springs.

Bertram: How can we learn more about your story?

Karl: Juliet Waldron wrote it down in a book called Hand-Me-Down Bride. You can find it at Second Wind Publishing or Amazon. You can find out about Juliet here.

Constance Fairchild Hero of The Mills of God and The Well of Souls by Justin R. Smith

Bertram: What is your story?

Constance: I’m an 18 year old girl who likes to write poetry and study the Ancient Egyptian language.

OK — that’s being evasive. I’m also rather wealthy (my Board of Directors has the preposterous idea that I own 10% of the American economy).

I’m breaking an age-old family rule by mentioning that — our family has always valued anonymity. I suspect my grandfather had a Wall Street Journal editor murdered to keep him from publishing a story about us.

No danger of that happening to me, (at least now): I’m the only one left in my family.

My grandfather (or his minions) had my parents murdered when I was 14 — and then they murdered my aunt and uncle. After my grandfather died (of a stroke!) his subordinates planned to kill me too.

Bertram: Who are you?

Constance: My name is Constance Fairchild. I guess I answered some of this above.

OK — I guess I have to bring this up too. Promise you won’t laugh at me, though (some people do): I believe in reincarnation and recall a past life (by the end of The Mills of God, in complete detail). I have psychic powers too. In The Well of Souls, these powers become positively terrifying (but they save my life).

Bertram: Where do you live?

Constance: Right now, I live in New York City — in the penthouse of the Park Place Hotel with my housekeeper Matilda Appleby. My grandfather bought the hotel so he’d have a secure place to stay when he was in town.

I still operate it as a hotel, though. I love the hustle and bustle, comings and goings, conventions, etc. And I suppose it makes me feel less lonely.

In The Well of Souls, my adopted son, Tim, and his cat, Hamlet, live with Tilda and me.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Constance: Of course!

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Constance: In The Mills of God, I walk a tightrope, struggling to survive and protect my friends. In The Well of Souls, I battle conspiracies to take over the American government and a terrorist plot to blow up New York City with a 20 megaton hydrogen bomb.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Constance: No, but it always embraces me.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Constance: Never!

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Constance: As a shy, introverted person with a good heart.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Constance: The same way, I hope!

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Constance: As a introverted dingbat, probably. Actually some members of my Board of Directors also think that of me. My friend, Derek Kolodny (deputy director of the CIA), says being underestimated by one’s enemies is always a good thing.

Bertram: How does your author Justin R. Smith see you?

Constance: As his favorite character, I hope! Actually, I can’t speak for him; he has enough trouble speaking for me.

Bertram: Do you think Justin portrayed you accurately?

Constance: He’s a stickler for accuracy! The man is positively obsessive!

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Constance: I have many heroes: the great mathematician Leonhard Euler, the philosopher and detective Emmanuel Kant, and the greatest poet in the English language, Emily Dickinson.

Bertram: Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

Constance: Yes. My small circle of friends know about them. They are the only people I’d ever want to impress.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Constance: My brains and psychic abilities.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Constance: I’m shy and terrified of many social situations.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Constance: Those are the only troubles I don’t have!

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Constance: It depends on your definition of luck. Most people think I’m very lucky because I’m wealthy.

I’m not a party animal who enjoys expensive jewelry and fast cars — the trappings of wealth. I’m the kind of person who brings a book to a party — and reads it! My housekeeper, Tilda, says I’m the anti-Paris Hilton: if I ever ran into her, there’s be a nuclear explosion.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you?

Constance: My parents, in many ways.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Constance: Yes, my first boyfriend.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Constance: Always!

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Constance: I try to be.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Constance: Yes.

Bertram: Do you have any handicaps?

Constance: No.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Constance: What do you mean? A birthmark behind my right ear in the shape of a scimitar? No.

OK, I’m a bit — how shall I say it? — large-chested and men are always hitting on me (when my bodyguards aren’t looking).

I inherited that from my mother who always claimed to have been an actress. I never found any movies with her in them, though. Maybe she was a porn star who Father became infatuated with. Maybe that’s why Grandfather despised her so. Maybe Grandfather’s minions only intended to kill Mother and Father was collateral damage.

My God — your innocuous question has stirred up so many others!

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Constance: I was raised by nannies and, whenever I got so attached to one that I called her “mother,” my biological mother fired her.

I must have filled a hundred spiral-bound notebooks with my musings, my poems, and a diary of all my dreams. I called these notebooks ‘my research’: My past life undoubtedly influenced me as a child. It was no accident Nanny nicknamed me ‘the professor’. There are no accidents.

I lived in the grim concrete canyon of Park Avenue South, in a twenty-four-room apartment on the fifteenth floor. My room was the first off the main hallway, and my window overlooked an inner courtyard. Even now, I remember that clearly.

I had a print of Hieronymous Bosch’s Hay Wain on the wall opposite the window. It was inspired by the Flemish peasant saying, ‘Life is a wagon of hay and we all run after it grabbing as much as we can get.’ The central panel depicts a hay wagon with a mob of people chasing it. Men kill each other and women prostitute themselves for the hay. The right edge of the panel shows the people physically changing into the animals they’d always been. And the right panel shows them entering the gates of Hell. On the rare occasions she entered my room, Mother called it ‘That horrid thing!’

Perhaps she saw herself among the writhing throng.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Constance: No.

Bertram: Did you get along with your parents?

Constance: On the rare occasions I saw them, yes. When they threw parties and receptions, I was confined to my room or told to go to a movie. Many of their friends didn’t know they had a daughter.

The year before they died, Father promised we’d spend Christmas together as a family. On Christmas Day, my nanny told me they’d flown to Paris the night before.

Bertram: What in your past had the most profound effect on you?

Constance: My past life gave me the skills I needed to survive.

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Constance: A crazy German performance-artist named Walter Hildebrand.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Constance: My most prized possession is a computer printout I found in Switzerland. It’s covered with two seemingly random arrays of numbers. As for why I value it so much — you have to read The Mills of God.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Constance: Writing poetry. Here’s a sample, from The Well of Souls:

Childhood is a difficult time —
Each season — an arduous birth.
Playing amid unnoticed grime —
Drawn taut between Heaven and Earth.
Graven masks in memory’s shadows —
From times and tales long lost
Haunt their moonlit meadows,
Endowing lives — storm-tossed.
Each awakening stirs a fear —
No adult’s terror can match: —
To pristine eyes — new worlds appear —
New minds must grasp from scratch.
Where they find childhood’s courage, though —
Is a secret — only children know.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Constance: I love classical music. My favorite composers are Beethoven and Sibelius. I love the regal bearing of Beethoven’s Ghost trio, and the refined terror of Sibelius’s 4th symphony.

Bertram: What is your favorite item of clothing?

Constance: A dress and piece of jewelry that I’ve only worn twice. They are my parents’ last gifts to me and my most treasured keepsakes. My parents were going to visit me at school in Switzerland and give them to me as a graduation present.

The jewelry is a diamond tiara my grandfather commissioned from Cartier’s, supposedly modeled after the tiara Napoleon gave to Josephine.

The dress is an ankle-length evening gown. Tiny black fish-scales cover it, each reflecting an iridescent rainbow in the light. When I wear it, my slightest movements send cascades of color rippling up and down my body.

Bertram: Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

Constance: A pocket computer so I can jot down poems when they occur to me. A lipstick. A hair brush. A can of mace. A sheaf of papers needing my signature, from my company, Horizon International Corporation.

Bertram: What are the last five entries in your check registry?

Constance: I don’t know. My accountants handle that for me.

Bertram: Thank you for being so candid. If someone wanted to know more about you, who should they contact?

Constance: Justin R. Smith, the author of The Mills of God and The Well of Souls. 

Oh, and here’s a picture me writing out my responses to your questions: