That's right, we're back, and we have a fantastic interview for today!
I'm lucky to have gotten time with Mira Gibson! An author of mysteries and psychological literary fiction, Mira can be found most days working in the sunshine of beautiful Long Beach, NY where she dreams up small town characters and writes intriguing stories that are filled with unsuspecting tenderness. She's kindly dropped by with some answers to questions and a huge peek into one of her books. Let's get right to it!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I went to a very small school in rural New Hampshire, which placed a huge importance on creative writing. In First Grade, all of the students, including me, would make books using paper, cardboard with wallpaper laid over it, and markers. Throughout grade school, I wrote so many little books like this, and even kept a handful of them, which I still have.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I recently transitioned from writing in my spare time to writing full-time as my primary source of income… Thank you, savings! I’m still getting the ball rolling, but I’ve settled into a daily rhythm that seems to work for me. I write from around 9am to 1 or 2pm, usually one chapter, and then use the afternoons to market my books on social media, which generally includes creating graphics on Canva and scheduling all of my social media posts for the next day. For me, I’m the most productive in terms of word count when I write in the morning and aim to complete one chapter, whether it’s 1,000 words or 4,000 words.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I live really close to the beach where there’s a 2.4 mile-long boardwalk, and I basically spend all my free time at the beach and walking on the boardwalk when I’m not writing and marketing at home. I don’t care if it’s the dead of winter and the boardwalk is covered in patches of ice, I’m on it, slipping and sliding around, LOL. I also watch a fair amount of YouTube when I’m relaxing at home. Call me boring, but one of the best channels is Useful Charts. I have no idea how those guys make charts so fascinating, but they pull it off with every video!
What is the first book that made you cry?
I believe the first book that ever made me cry was Frederick Reiken’s The Odd Sea, but I was about 19 years old when I read it, so it’s possible another book made me cry when I was younger. I’m kind of a strange writer because I mainly write within the mystery genre, but my favorite genre to read is literary fiction. The Odd Sea is definitely literary fiction, and there’s just something about that genre that’s able to pull on my personal heartstrings much more easily than the mystery, suspense, thriller genre. That being said, because I find literary fiction so touching, I can only bear to read one book from that genre per year. Mystery novels, on the other hand, I plow through, easily reading 2 or sometimes 4 novels a month.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing always energizes me. On days when I write, I almost feel high afterwards and have a ton of upbeat energy for the rest of the day. When I don’t write, I actually feel down and can barely motivate myself to leave the house, almost like a kind of disappointment-induced depression, if that’s a thing, LOL.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, I have, I do, and I will. Prior to starting my own writing business and publishing in my name “Mira Gibson,” I worked as a fiction ghostwriter for about 8 years, so I have a lot of experience writing under other names and navigating the pros and cons of not being credited for my written work. Next month, I’m actually going to launch a pseudonym, “Catherine Gibson,” to publish the cozy mysteries I’ve been working on, since that genre has an entirely different audience than mystery, thriller, suspense readers. Funnily, “Catherine Gibson” is technically my legal name, so perhaps this isn’t a real pseudonym, LOL, but it feels like one. My middle name is “Mira,” and I’ve been known as “Mira” since I was in diapers. No one ever calls me “Catherine” unless I’m in some serious trouble–gulp!
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
Developing and writing stand-alone novels is my nature. It’s what I do best and it feels the most “right” to me. However, I knew going into indie writing that series sell far better than stand-alones. I’m still towing the line, in a lot of ways. For example, The New Hampshire Mysteries is technically three stand-alone novels that have minimal character overlap. What ties them together is the location and subject matter, so that by the time readers complete the third and final book, they walk away with a sense that they have enjoyed the world of the trilogy and had a lot of fun reading the last book when characters from the first two books really overlapped.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Honestly, when I got down to business with the right book covers, everything changed. I think for a lot of writers, myself included, that are first starting out, the temptation to create your own book covers using tools like Canva is huge, because you want to save money, but it’s a mistake. I had my ups and downs with professional cover designers, who don’t always hit the nail on the head, but using them helped to “up” my game, sales-wise. That being said, now I use BookCoverZone.com, and I recommend this site to anyone, and no one is paying me to plug them, LOL. I just think that book covers are so important, they make or break sales. People really do judge books by their covers, period.
What does literary success look like to you?
For me, I’m currently aiming to make a living writing full-time, but I’ve had so many small successes along the way that really count in terms of keeping the fire of determination and perseverance alive. Every book sale, even if it’s just one sale, is a victory, and so is every review. The market might seem flooded, but the way that I look at it, I’m not necessarily trying to be the “most visible” author on Amazon. My goal is to connect with readers who will like my books, and to build those relationships by writing more books that they will like, and Amazon just happens to be our meeting place, if that makes sense. Likewise, I have a really small pool of followers on Goodreads, but since every follower is a loyal reader, I consider that to be one of my literary successes. You have to celebrate every small step, because wherever you are today, there are hundreds if not thousands of other writers who have yet to reach your level. Just keep looking up and keep going!
What do you have coming next?
I wrote a mystery novel back in late 2018 that has been sitting in a drawer, unpublished ever since. I really loved the manuscript at the time I wrote it, but I felt the story could benefit if I didn't look at it for a few years. I’m currently in the process of editing this mystery novel, which I plan to publish in either February or March as SMALL TOWN SECRETS. I’m still playing with the blurb, but the following will give you the gist of the story:
Passionate, wounded, and fiercely alive, Leeanne Hessinger has never felt free. She wants something more, something bigger than the life she’s stumbled into as a wife and dispirited drug store clerk, but fleeing to a town unknown to her with a single promise in mind—to finally write a novel—comes at a very high price. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death a year later, a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront, and the sheriff investigating the crime covers up her own treacherous involvement with the dead woman. Full of twists and turns, SMALL TOWN SECRETS reconstructs a year in the life of Leeanne Hessinger, as she walks the brink of her own destruction and inches closer and closer to death. The cost of freedom, for Leeanne, is ultimately her life. This stand-alone story centers on the murder of a dangerously mesmerizing woman, and challenges the concepts of both freedom and feminism as lines between ambition and culpability blur. Fans of mysteries and psychological thrillers will likely love this novel for its deeply drawn characters, voice-driven narratives, and controversial subject matter.
The New Hampshire Mysteries: Complete Series is available exclusively on Kindle Unlimited:
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About The New Hampshire Mysteries:
This mystery series consists of three stand-alone novels that center on the Lakes Region in New Hampshire where I was raised. All three stories feature different characters, with some crossover characters culminating in the third and final book. I write with a dark, edgy voice that shines through the characters and packs a real punch with every twist and turn these novels take, which is why I consider these stories to be psychological thrillers. That being said, the subject matter of this mystery series includes dark material that some readers may find disturbing, so please beware.
DADDY SODA (A New Hampshire Mystery, Book One)
Hannah Cole has built a life around her job as a receptionist at the local precinct after surviving a tumultuous upbringing, one she's worked hard to forget. For years, Hannah has hardly spoken to her overbearing mother or the half-sisters she barely knows: shy Candice, and Mary, a stunning fifteen year old with an eerie grip on the town. But when she learns her mother has been kidnapped, she returns home to the shack on Hermit Lake and the step-father she's never trusted.
Detective Cody McAlister has never seen a case like this. The kidnapper has planned every detail with exquisite precision and when body parts begin to arrive at his department, the glaring reality becomes all too clear: Kendra won't be alive for long. The key to the deranged kidnapper's motive and identity may be held in the unsteady hands of a twelve-year old girl. But Candice hasn't spoken a word since that tragic night.
As Hannah and Cody's investigation takes them from abandoned strip malls to the outer reaches of the marsh, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Hannah finds herself reliving hellish memories of the shack she thought she'd never have to face. If she doesn't unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past, she won't find her mother in time. In small-town New Hampshire where what you see is what you get, no one is who they seem.
ROCK SPIDER (A New Hampshire Mystery, Book Two)
In the chill of a foggy night, life as Gertrude Inman knows it ends when her car crashes into the murky waters of a quiet lake, killing her teenage sister. Though she survives, she has no memory of the accident or the long, disturbing night leading up to it.
Returning to her position as a social worker, she's assigned only one case: to assess the home of a reclusive family where a ten-year old girl died by suicide. The mother is a former Hollywood starlet, the father a retired cop, but it's their seventeen-year old daughter - a peculiar girl with a cunning smile and a mysterious hold on the family - who reminds Gertrude of horrifying, fragmented memories. And this seemingly straightforward case launches her into an investigation that will threaten the very fabric of her sanity.
Jake Livingston has had his eye on the family and not just because he's been reporting on the strange occurrences that have been happening ever since their youngest took her own life. Men have gone missing, others are winding up in jail, and it would seem those who cross paths with the Kings are silenced in the same bizarre, ritualistic manner. If the woman from social services isn't careful, he knows she'll be next.
As Gertrude delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding the suicide, it proves to be linked to a brutal crime, one far more shocking than she could have imagined because it has everything to do with the night her sister died.
TAR HEART (A New Hampshire Mystery, Book Three)
Recently transferred to the Center Harbor Police Department in the dead of winter, Detective Lucas York is on the downhill slide of a once-promising career when he's called to Squam Lake where a body lies trapped beneath a thick sheet of ice.
The victim, beautiful and respected, appeared to have the perfect life—a charming husband, an adorable baby boy, an idyllic estate a mere breath away from the lake. She also appears to have the face of a woman with whom Lucas shared a dark, lustful night nearly a decade ago, one that has haunted him into obsession.
It's been years since Holly Danes has seen her identical twin, a fact she both regrets and rationalizes. Rose had her secrets and it tore them apart, but nothing can prepare Holly for the dangerous world she must infiltrate in order to catch a killer who left no clues. Peeling back the layers of her twin's troubled past, she slips into Rose's life in search of answers. And the deadly game of cat and mouse that results traps her with the one man whose need to uncover the truth is as intense as her own. But can she trust Lucas when this case begins to stir the most volatile of human emotions in his heart?
As Lucas and Holly sift through the circumstances of Rose's increasingly disturbing lifestyle, a stunning discovery changes everything they thought they knew about the enigmatic woman. And when the killer strikes again and again, they are pulled down a deceiving trail of smoke and mirrors, unaware that someone very close to them is the murderous psychopath.
Excerpt from The New Hampshire Mysteries: Complete Series
It was freezing, the moonless night deceivingly still except for the stiff wind.
Vacantly, Rose stared at the lake shrouded in darkness, its icy surface, the snowdrift spilling out from the shore, as dread ratcheted up her spine, her heart pumping madly.
As the frigid wind bit into her, she agonized over calling her husband and leaving another voicemail message. She was gripping her cell like a wishing stone, she realized, when the wind changed course, causing her hair to whip into her eyes.
He hadn't picked up when she had tried his cell phone. Dialing his office line had rendered the same result and unnerved, Rose had left a brief, frantic voice message, keeping her point cryptic while urgently demanding he get back to her.
How much time had gone by between her first and second messages? Had minutes elapsed or hours? Anxiety was skewing her sense of time. Her mind was racing like a hamster on a wheel, spinning faulty logic, analyzing their curt exchanges in a favorable light, though she knew she was lying to herself. The hints Benjamin had dropped, the vague answers she had offered to quell the issue, appease her husband, and put the whole matter to bed, amounted to a foregone conclusion.
The wind picked up, blowing in from the lake and kicking up snow—needles whipping her face, dampening her light-auburn hair.
Folding her arms, Rose hunched her shoulders. She should've thrown her coat on. A thin sweater and jeans weren't enough to keep warm on a wintery New Hampshire night.
The floodlights over the porch cast just enough light to illuminate the backyard, the natural snow banks, the footprints and fist marks her son had left in his quest to make snowmen and angels. On several occasions he had peed along the shore, intrigued as any two-year-old that the hot stream could melt the snow crust.
He was kneeling where the drift spilled onto the frozen shore. He scooped snow into a powdery ball then chucked it into the wind. Almost before leaving his mittens, the snowball came apart, flurries raining over him. He cackled uproariously and looked at his mother, certain she would find it hilarious.
But she was somewhere else entirely, cradling her phone to her ear, her shoulders rounded in a secretive hunch, as she paced. Her tone, ordinarily melodic and light, sounded guttural, an edge of panic cloying up her throat with every word.
“Benjamin, please,” she insisted, her cell phone was ice against her cheek. “If you don't get back to me...” She had nothing to threaten. She didn’t even have a convincing explanation for her colossal mistake, one that had been years in the making. “Please, don't do this. Call me.”
After hanging up, she switched the cell-setting from vibrate to ring, turned the volume up as loud as it would go, then clutched it worrisomely beneath her chin as if willing the device to ring, only vaguely aware that Tucker was running in circles along the shore.
This life meant everything to her. She wouldn’t let it crumble. She refused.
Decisively, she dialed his office line and left yet another rushed, cryptic voicemail message, nervously fiddling with her necklace, its pendant—a relic of the life she had traded for this one—where it rested against her collarbone.
Roughly the size of a quarter, the heart-shaped pendant adorned with a jagged opal was one of her sister's finest. Holly had crafted it from her own design, working late into the night at her studio, determined to make her jewelry dream a reality even at the expense of her finances.
Holly ran hot and cold with her, always had and always would. For twins, they rarely saw eye-to-eye. Each had a tendency to be easily sucked into arguments, going for the other's sore spots, kicking one another when they were down, perpetually raw and on guard whenever the other was near. But there had been periods of calm before each storm. And it had been during one of those rare occasions that Holly had given her the necklace.
Where had it all gone wrong?
And why was she now tumbling down the same pike with Benjamin?
Secrets, she thought, tucking her cell phone into the back pocket of her jeans. Rose had her secrets. It was who she was. She liked them. She needed to lead that second life. The one her husband didn’t know about, the one that breathed thrill into her bones with each passing day. Except now he knew. She sensed it. And the house of cards she had built on well-crafted lies and sheer audacity would soon come fluttering down.
She would do anything to prevent its fall.
With shaking hands, she pulled up Holly's contact, tapping quickly against the LCD screen, though her staccato breath obscured it with white plumes of condensation, and sent the call through.
When she glanced up with ringtone blaring in her ear, she saw Tucker padding out onto the ice—ice she knew wasn’t safe—and bolted after him, sprinting as fast as she could, her boots punching hard against powdery snow until she reached the icy shore.
He turned, doe-eyed and oblivious to the danger he had placed himself in, a big smile on his face.
“Rose?” Holly's voice came strained through the earpiece. “Did something happen? Is Tucker okay?”
She didn't respond as she waded cautiously onto the ice, her son watching her and at times clapping the snow off his mittens with no awareness that the ice was thin enough to crack.
He was ten yards away, standing where freezing lake water had seeped up onto the ice.
“Tucker, honey, come here,” she said, reaching out for him to take hold of her hand though he was yards away, a mere shadow in the darkness.
Holly kept saying her name over and over again impatiently, but Rose was fully focused on her son, praying the ice would hold, as he shuffled playfully towards her.
It wasn’t until she had Tucker by the arm, a breath of relief rushing out of her, that she returned the cell to her ear.
“I can't get a hold of Benjamin,” she said urgently, Tucker skipping and bounding beside her, though he was tethered in her grasp. She ushered him towards the shore. “I'm afraid I messed everything up.”
Holly sighed into the receiver, knowing her sister far too well to waste time trying to calm her down. Rose didn't panic except irrationally, and there was often no getting through to her. If Rose believed she had done something to jeopardize a relationship, then Holly trusted she surely had. She had done similar to Holly so many times it had ultimately resulted in their estrangement.
“What do you expect me to do?” Holly asked, at a loss. “It’s not like he talks to me. He probably hates me. I thought you did too, for that matter.”
“I don't hate you,” she murmured distractedly as she helped Tucker through the sliding glass door that connected the porch to the living room.
Confrontational, she asked, “What did you do?” her tone stripped of its prior compassion.
“I can't get into it.”
“He'll come home eventually, won't he? You can talk to him then.”
“He hasn't been home in weeks,” she said in a brittle tone, stripping Tucker out of his winter coat and snow pants, and getting him situated with his Thomas the Tank Engine toys. “I tried his office. I tried the resort. I tried his cell. There are no more numbers to try.”
Again Holly sighed and when her voice came through it held an edge of resignation mixed with defeat.
“Are you asking me to come over?”
Debating, Rose made her quick way to the sliding glass door, which she had left ajar and just as she was about to close it, she remembered Tucker’s shovel and pail in the yard.
“I don't know,” she said, suddenly indecisive now that she had Holly in her ear. She trekked towards the pail, but didn't pick it up when she reached it. “I hate that we don't talk.”
Holly let out a sardonic laugh, which relaxed into a carefully measured breath, and Rose expected the usual lecture over whose fault that was. “What are you really worried about, Rose? The police knocking on your door?”
She snapped, “Why would you ask me that?”
“Why do you think? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“I'm concerned I'm losing my husband.”
“I thought you had gotten it together,” she said as though she was pained that her twin was heading down a long, familiar, yet sordid road she should've outgrown by now. “You have a son, for Christ's sake.”
Rose gazed out across the lake, scanning the darkness as if doing so would free her from every mistake she had ever made. “I shouldn't have called you.”
“I can't do this with you anymore. I can't go months without hearing from you then get a call in the middle of the night when you're freaking out. I can't.”
Holly continued rattling off the countless ways her twin had disappointed her over the years, which mostly centered on the sad fact that their problems had prevented Holly from seeing Tucker, but Rose was suddenly distracted. The distinct sound of tires crunching over compacted snow followed by a brief flare of headlights blazing across the yard sent her heart punching up her throat. A vehicle had pulled into the driveway.
“Holly,” she said, interrupting her sister's tirade. “I think he's here. He just pulled up. I have to go.”
As Rose lowered her cell phone, Holly insisted she not hang up, but she didn’t have a choice. She ended the call and started through the snow, thoughts tangling over what to say to him, how she might convince Benjamin to stay with her, though every option seemed trite if not manipulative.
Expecting her husband to come through the front door, she rounded the porch, snow crunching under her boots and icy wind stinging her cheeks, but before she could pad up the steps, she caught sight of a figure stalking around the side of her house.
Whoever the figure belonged to, the person was wearing a black ski mask.
“Who’s there?” she asked, treading cautiously, terror riding high. When she added, “Get out of here,” her voice was a frayed thread.
“I thought we had an understanding,” said the masked figure, cocking the gun she hadn’t realized was in the person’s hand.
Her eyes snapped up and she instantly knew who the person was.
Some secrets were meant to stay buried.
“Don't do this,” she begged and then tried to lie. “The police are on their way.”
“I doubt that.”
Suddenly, her mind felt starkly paralyzed with fear.
Without thought, Rose took off running. Punching her boots hard into the snow and pumping her arms, she dashed with little concern that she was rushing headlong towards the ice. When she reached the lake, charging hard across its frozen surface, she nearly slipped, but righted her balance, and pressed onward.
Whimpering and glancing over her shoulder to see if she was being chased, she felt the ice shift under her boots, and in the next instant a deafening shot rang out.
She didn't understand that she had been hit until she slammed onto the ice and began skidding and gasping and praying that this wouldn't be the end of her life.
She slid to a stop, her cheek pressed to wet ice and eyes locked on the masked figure hidden in the distant shadows.
Beneath her the thin sheet of ice gave way and she plummeted into the freezing depths.
Her last thought was of her son and the secret she had died for.
Holly Danes stood under the portico and pounded on the front door. She should’ve worn gloves. A hat would’ve been a nice touch. The tips of her ears felt numb. Before making the drive, she had shoved her revolver—a Smith & Wesson J-Frame Center-fire, as snubbed-nosed as a bulldog—down the back of her jeans. No bigger than her palm, the compact metal bastard had absorbed the freezing temperature, and because of it an icy chill was radiating from where it rested against the small of her back, contributing to the misery of this ordeal.
Why the hell wasn’t Rose coming to the door?
She glanced over her shoulder, scanning the dark driveway for Benjamin’s car as if she could’ve possibly missed it when she had started up the walkway. If he had returned like Rose had mentioned when she cut their call short, it might explain why her sister wasn’t answering the door. But his vehicle wasn’t in the driveway, only Rose’s sleek BMW cloaked in eight inches of fresh snow.
Her knuckles were chapped where they rapped again and again against the steel surface of the door, unsuspecting in its brick-red hue. By the looks of it, you would never guess the three-story house was a fortress, the sum total of each barrier—entrance door and rear fortified with state-of-the-art locks, the windows wired with alarms as well as the cellar’s trap door round back—all masquerading as a stately Colonial home, so the opposite of her own that she had felt like a trespasser even when invited inside. Not that she had set foot in her sister’s home recently. It had been two years to the day, in fact.
The fixture overhead dimly illuminated the window on the door, its tungsten glow causing a glare where frost had formed, but she could tell the living room lights were on. The foyer wasn’t that deep.
Again she pounded on the door, this time with the heel of her hand to spare her frozen fingers, and called her sister’s name. She was met with silence.
Shifting her weight, she eased back a step, mindful that the landing was slick with slush over thin patches of black ice, and studied the door as if a way to break in would jump out at her.
That’s what would be required, right? What Rose’s distressed tone had implied? The subtext of her staccato panic, the grand leap from desperately pleading for help to entirely abandoning the request had filled Holly with grim intuition.
Estrangement hadn’t broken their connection.
Her twin was in trouble.
Center Harbor was a small town and last she had heard, Benjamin had just taken over the accounting at his parents’ resort on Squam Lake. He had been sleeping there. Making excuses for his absence, he had explained the disarray of the Wythe Resort’s bookkeeping, the importance of his new position, and the money it would afford Rose and the baby.
Standing under the portico, sensing Rose was near but unable to let Holly in, pitched the memory of their last encounter—the one that had ended their relationship—into the forefront of her mind.
Benjamin was nothing if not consistent.
He liked avoiding his family.
The last time she had been at this house, Holly had sat on the living room couch listening to her sister rage at her husband over the phone in the next room, his home office. Rose’s footfall had indicated pacing—angry pattering punctuated with a stomp, turning on her heel to stampede in a new direction. She had probably had the receiver clamped between her cheek and shoulder, the telephone in her fist, the cord restricting her, maybe wrapping her legs, instigating her frustration, not that Holly had seen.
Her particular brand of outrage, the shrill tone and scattered arguments, which had ranged from reasonable to hysterical—This family will fall apart if you’re not here, and What if Tucker chokes on a grape? I don’t know the Heimlich maneuver!—had tipped Holly off.
It had taken her less than a minute to locate the evidence of her suspicion as to why Rose sounded like a jittering maniac. Hunting for the television remote controls, finding an old one in the coffee table drawer, and popping the battery compartment open—Rose’s most treasured hiding spot—Holly had been confronted with the heart-sinking fact that her sister had started up again, as she stared at the 8-ball, plastic packed to the gills with cocaine. The discovery had stunned her, but the revelation that followed had been far worse.
Rose was still breast-feeding.
“Give me that,” she had demanded, snatching the plastic bag, her eyes firing enraged, though the faintest hint of remorse shined through. Holly hadn’t even heard her sneak back in.
“What about your son?” she had shot back.
Insisting, “This is old,” Rose had tucked the 8-ball into her pocket and tried to stare her sister down, but to Holly she had only looked indignant.
Holly couldn’t remember what she said nex