Friday, July 10, 2020

An Interview With T.G. Wolff, Author of Driving Reign

TG Wolff writes thrillers and mysteries that play within the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong. Cause and effect drive the stories, drawing from 25+ years’ experience in Civil Engineering, where “cause” is more often a symptom of a bigger, more challenging problem. Diverse characters mirror the complexities of real life and real people, balanced with a healthy dose of entertainment. She holds a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

One Bite at a Time: Give us the hundred words or fewer rundown on the new book, Driving Reign.

T.G. Wolff: Nothing is simple. Cleveland homicide Detective Jesus De La Cruz
finds out the truth of that when he investigates an apparent suicide as a favor for a friend. The threads he tugs are wound through a sex scandal, a deadly drug dealer, a conceded college jock, and a holier-than-thou matriarch. The facts have Cruz wondering if there is such a thing as an innocent man- or woman. Truth is a rope, tied in a noose. As he closes in, the knot tightens, but who will pay the price? A killer or a member of Cruz’s own family? (Editor’s Note: 97 words. She can come back whenever she wants.)

OBAAT: Driving Reign is the second book in a series called the de la Cruz Case Files. Did you plan to write a series from the start, or did you get the first book finished and decide you have more to say in this universe?

TGW: I knew this one was a series. This structure is the kind where the main characters continue to grow but each main mystery is independent. This is one of my favorite type of series to read.

Knowing it was a series allowed me to be patient when revealing backstory and developing the characters. I was able to plant seeds that will grow into future side plots and maybe even a main plot or two. With this being the second book in the series, those seeds are already turning into something fruitful.

OBAAT: We both write procedural series, so we have some shared experiences. What is it you like best about a series? Is there anything you find limiting?

TGW: In series, I am usually strongly drawn to the characters. I want to be part of their next adventure. This is exactly what I try to give my audience. In my head, every character is the star of their own show, which allows even minor characters to be interesting and contributing.

If there is something about a series that can be limiting, it is that you have to live within the world you created. Some storylines just do not fit Jesus De La Cruz. Or, maybe it is better to say, if he had those storylines, they would have very different outcomes than if another character owns them.

OBAAT: Who are your primary influences, either literary or visual?

TGW: My two earliest influences were Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe (no relation) and TV’s Lt. Columbo. With Wolfe, you have the continuing characters I talked about liking. You also have smart, solvable mysteries. I like knowing everything Archie knows. With Colombo, you know more than Colombo knows, and yet it was never boring to watch him cover the curve. The other thing both have in common is a minimum of violence. I know that is oxymoronic with murder mysteries, but graphic violence doesn’t do much for me. I’m interested in the puzzle. I write the same way.

OBAAT: Good point about Columbo. For me the fun is trying to guess when Columbo figured it out, and how he’s going to turn the tables to get a confession. Since we’re talking about television, you’ve decided that tonight you’re going to watch a movie you’ve never seen before. What is it, and why did you chose it?

TGW: Wait- you mean I’m allowed to touch the remote control? I can pick anything I want? (Kidding, not kidding). Lately when I do sit in front of a TV, I am still picking mysteries, but with a twist. Just yesterday, I watched an Agatha Christie mystery in French. (No, I don’t speak French). Through Roku, I have found the adaptations of the M.C. Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth stories (interesting, but very slow), Bosch (too dark, literally, couldn’t see a damn thing) and Harry Dresden (should be awesome but wasn’t, that’s why it only lasted one season). I tend toward mysteries or comedies, staying far away from reality. There’s too much of that in the world.

OBAAT: You also put out a podcast that’s different from anything I’ve heard elsewhere, called “Mysteries to Die For.” Tell us a little about that, and where you got the idea.

TGW: My teenage son, Jack, is a natural musician. He was playing around on the piano with bass lines one day. I was working with my 2019 release Widow’s Run, which I honestly wrote to be read out loud. I started reading as Jack played and it worked. When I was promoting Widow’s Run in 2019 (pre-COVID), Jack and I performed the first chapter at Centuries and Sleuths bookstore in Chicago. It also worked well. After months of stalling because it was work to figure out how to podcast, we launched in March 2020. The first half of the season is Widow’s Run. The balance will be performances of public domain mysteries and those that authors allow me to perform.

This has been a great adventure. Jack is writing music and/or adapting classical pieces (to avoid copyright issues). We get deep into characters to find their bass lines. He has explored areas I never expecting him too including Russian national music, deep roots gospel, and rap. It’s special when a middle-aged white women and her kid are making dinner while listening to Enimen’s first album and discussing the appeal.

OBAAT: The classic final question: What’s next, and what are you working on now? (In case they’re not the same thing.)

TGW: My next release from Down & Out will be in February 2021, Suicide Squeeze, A Diamond Mystery #2. I’m working on Cruz’s next story – no title yet – slated for February 2022. I’m three chapters in and enjoying the writing. For the podcast, we have a few more months until the Mysteries to Die For is finished with Widow’s Run. Then we will start in with classics. I think the first will be Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat.” One of my favorites!

1 comment:

TG Wolff said...

Thanks for including me in your blog. Happy to be here.