B. Aline Blanchard is a writer, sculptor, and visual artist based in Sarasota, Florida. We discussed writing for a presentation to the Kanaya Book Club. This is part two of that Q&A.
As a reporter/photographer early on in your career, did you come across many female detectives?
I didn’t meet female officers until I got to Florida. As a journalist, I did have several years on the police beat, and the ear of a very helpful state police commander who helped flesh out the character of Walter Bishop in the CW McCoy novels.
What made you choose the case of the scheming investor in Peak Season?
I was reading the saga of Aubrey Lee Price, who boarded a ferry in Key West, stripped, and dove into the water. The disappearance initially was ruled a suicide. He was declared dead, but not before allegedly stealing millions from investors. Reading this I thought, in this day and age of surveillance, how could anyone disappear? And if he knew his actions were wrong—he penned a rambling confession to his family before vanishing—how could he justify his actions? CW discovers the unfortunate answer in the first book.
Why did you change some of the Sarasota landmarks?
When asked the same question about Santa Barbara, Sue Grafton said she wanted the flexibility to move buildings and streets. For people who are not familiar with Sarasota, I wanted to simplify the landscape. I also didn’t want readers to confuse the corrupt officials in the novels with the people who actually occupy those offices, many of whom helped me to research the books.
Besides being a writer, you are also a musician and a photographer. How did these experiences give authenticity to your writing?
Born Under a Bad Sign is the best example of how a profession can bring nuance and authority to a work. Quinn’s knowledge of music and his obsession with playing Woodstock come directly from my work as a guitarist. Elizabeth’s drive to become a photographer arose from my experience and that of the photographers who mentored me.
Did you also live on the farm you depicted in Born Under a Bad Sign?
I grew up next to a farm owned by our bus driver. He used to let the neighborhood kids swim in the cow ponds in summer and ice skate in winter. Much later, when we built our first house, we became friends with the couple who owned it.
Did your work at an advertising agency give you the material to write Mr. Magic?
Yes, a decade in advertising gave me a mixed view of public relations and marketing, just as my years as a journalist provided the material for Mr. Mayhem, the first of the Brinker books.
How much research do you do for each book?
Research for the crime fiction is ongoing. For Distant Early Warning, a novel of the Cold War, I spend a good six months reading about the 1950s and watching dozens of movies and television programs from the era. Research into the Flood of ’55 was especially intense, given that my parents had lived through that natural disaster.
Next: Transforming tragedy
Jeff Widmer’s latest book is Distant Early Warning, a novel of the Cold War.