Hi, I’m Carla Roma and welcome to Bandit Creek, a small town with a mountain of secrets. The fall is one of my favorite times of year. The beautiful colors of the leaves, the first snow, getting ready for Thanksgiving — it all brings back memories of Thanksgiving that we have shared with our own families. Like that first day of school, the fall also brings the promise of new starts. I have been delighted to read DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK. It’s clear from the title that this book is a mystery story, but, it’s also a story of redemption and new beginnings. Today, it is my pleasure to interview Amy Jo Fleming about her book, DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK, the fifth book in the Bandit Creek series.
Carla: As a writer, I imagine that one of the first questions anyone asks you is where do you get your ideas?
AJF: I come from a family of storytellers and teachers. The stories of the young women who went west and taught in one-room schoolhouses are stories of courage and adventure. I wanted to capture the traits in my heroine that would make her willing to dare this great endeavor. I wanted to write about these young women who ventured out alone, to teach the children of our settlers and acknowledge the important role they played.
Carla: How do you commemorate those early schoolteachers?
AJF: It was important to see Charlotte, my heroine, feeling lonely and unsure at the beginning of the book. Then we see her confidence grow when she makes a success of her job as a teacher. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she puts on the annual Thanksgiving Pageant. It was a chance to show her with her students, teaching them and encouraging them to be successful.
Carla: When we first meet Charlotte, she is waiting in a train station. It really brings to mind another great story where the heroine is first seen at the train station.
AJF: Okay, I’m busted. Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book ever. I did want Charlotte to have a lot of the same qualities as Anne did, like courage and spunkiness. Charlotte is almost an orphan, on her own in Bandit Creek because her parents have gone west, but she doesn’t have the innocence of a child. She has to rely on the kindness of strangers. She has to make her own way and decide who she can trust and who she can’t.
Carla: Annie is a school teacher who became a fallen woman. Why did you choose to make her a teacher as well?
AJF: Annie’s story is a cautionary tale for a young woman in the early 1900’s. She was originally in the same situation as Charlotte, a young teacher on her own in Bandit Creek. But she made very different choices. She lived to regret her choices. We all know that young women, who are on their own, face risks. That’s as true today as it was in 1911. Charlotte, with her attitude, was just better prepared to deal with some of the risks she faced.
Carla: We don’t get to see very much of the character of Eileen McArthur who opens the book.
AJF: No, we don’t. She is the focus of the mystery and the only way we get to know her is by the way the other characters talk about her. Her story is tragic because her life ended so early.
Carla: Now who is Alec Forrest?
AJF: Alec Forrest is the true orphan in the book. He witnessed the death of his parents. Now we’re back to the question of how being an orphan affects a person. It left a lot of scars and he copes by blocking everyone out. But he never has lost that basic sense of honor and decency that his parents taught him.
Carla: And the way I picture him, he’s very good looking in his lambskin jacket.
AJF: Honestly Carla, when I think of Alec, I think of Alex O’Loughlin who plays Steve McGarret on Hawaii Five-O – that striking dark, brooding appearance. A hero to die for.
Carla: And throughout the book, the tension grows on two levels…
AJF: Yes, the real mystery is what happened to Eileen McArthur and is someone out to get Charlotte, too. But the other theme of the story is will love triumph for these two characters who have been so hurt in the past.
Carla: Your book was quite a ride, Amy Jo. I could hardly put it down.
AJF: Thank you for saying that. The kind of story that I want to tell is a page-turner. I want the reader to be swept away to the world of Bandit Creek and then have the satisfaction of saying that’s the ending I was hoping for.
Carla: DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK is your first fiction to be published. You must be excited.
AJF: So excited. The group of Bandit Creek writers has been spectacular to work with. I feel so privileged to be part of this project. I just can’t tell you — I am so excited that my book is going to be published.
Carla: Thanks, Amy Jo and congratulations on your first publication.
You can find out more about Amy Jo Fleming at amyjofleming.blogspot.com. Her book, DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK will be available from Amazon.com and Smashwords.com on November 15, 2011. If you have questions or comments for me or for Amy Jo, please leave a response and we’d be happy to reply!