Friday, March 7, 2014

Interview & Review: Zero Degree Murder by M.L. Rowland

Please welcome author M.L. Rowland.  She joins us today to promote her book, Zero Degree Murder.  Enjoy our interview with her after my thoughts on the book

Publisher: Berkeley
Date of publication: January 2014

As a volunteer for Timber Creek Search and Rescue, missing out on holiday festivities is nothing new to Gracie. After all, disasters don’t stop happening because of a cooked turkey. So when Gracie is called out on Thanksgiving for four hikers missing in the wilderness of Southern California, she packs up her gear and heads out to find them.

The mission quickly goes from routine to deadly. An early season blizzard sets in. The one missing person the team does find, famous actor Rob Christian, remembers being attacked by someone else on the trail, someone trying to kill him. And Gracie’s partner leaves to get backup, taking the radio—their only link to the outside world—with him.

Zero Degree Murder is a fast paced, exciting thriller.  I was definitely sucked right into the book. This is a book that I think would be a good movie.  It has everything you look for in a good thriller...a creepy bad guy, a handsome movie star, and a no-nonsense tough as nails woman who you know is going to survive.  

The characters were engaging.  I really liked Gracie and Ralph.  Their deep friendship really came across. Gracie was a great match for mother nature.  I liked her will to survive.  The parts about wilderness survival were very interesting.  But, after reading about surviving in the cold, I'm not sure I'll be going camping any time soon!

I definitely recommend this book.  It's the first in a new series.  I look forward to reading more about Ralph and Gracie again in the future!

Kari& Autumn: What inspired you to become a writer?

M. L. Rowland: It wasn’t a lightning bolt that just hit me one day out of the blue; it was more of an evolutionary process.

I love books--they’ve always been a huge part of my life. I’ve never lived in a house that wasn’t filled with books. As a child, I was read to, mostly, if not exclusively, by my father. And I remember being at the library at a very young age, sitting on the floor and paging through books like ‘Flicka, Dicka and Ricka’ and looking at the pictures. In grade school, I was constantly bringing home books from the school library.

I think my oldest sister was the original inspiration for me as a writer. She used to write and illustrate her own stories in those small brown, spiral notebooks. While I was in grade school, I wrote a couple of stories of my own, emulating her. In college and after, I took a few writing classes, one of the most significant an imagery poetry class which had a huge influence on my current writing style. Over the years, I wrote some non-fiction pieces and several screenplays. Only within the last ten years, did I turn to writing novels.

Switching from writing screenplays to writing books was a difficult process for me. Screenplays are like the skeleton of a story—you write only what can be seen or heard on the screen. In other words, no internal thought or emotion, no ideas, minimal setting or character descriptions. Re-learning to write prose was like learning how to put the meat on the bones of the skeleton. Zero-Degree Murder” is the result of at least ten complete rewrites.
Kari& Autumn: Where do you come up with the ideas for your books?

M. L. Rowland: I spent almost a dozen years as a very active volunteer on a very active Search and Rescue (SAR) team in the mountains of southern California. So, following the classic advice to write what I know, I did! The heroine in ‘Zero-Degree Murder,’ Gracie Kinkaid, is a woman on a volunteer search and rescue team in the mountains of southern California.

Because I participated in hundreds of missions and trainings (including being airlifted out by a helicopter [no injuries involved], jumping out of a helicopter into the snow on the side of a mountain and overnighting in the snow with only a sleeping bag), I had to do very little traditional research for “Zero-Degree Murder.” Much of what’s described in the book, from the setting to SAR procedures and protocol to some of the circumstances and events, is drawn from personal knowledge and experience--my own and that of other SAR members.

For instance, “Zero-Degree Murder” heroine, Gracie Kinkaid’s  tumble down a steep, snow-covered mountainside was “borrowed” from my husband, Mark’s, winter mountaineering accident where he slid/tumbled/fell over 400 feet, hitting rocks and trees along the way, all the while trying to stop himself  using his ice axe (‘self-arrest’). (Luckily, he finally did. His ice axe and crampons were dented, and his helmet was cracked, but he walked away with only bruises--no broken bones!)
Kari& Autumn: What exciting projects are waiting in the wings?

M. L. Rowland: The second book in the Gracie Kinkaid Series, “Murder off the Beaten Path,” releases in October 2014. Book 3 in the series, as yet untitled, releases in the summer of 2015.

I have ideas for Gracie Kinkaid Books 4 & 5. And it would be great fun to see Gracie brought to life in television or a motion picture. Who knows to what heights she might ascend?!
Kari& Autumn: Who is your favorite literary character and why?

M. L. Rowland: That’s hard! I have so many favorite characters! 

But if I had to pick only character which resonates with me is Laura Ingalls from “The Little House” series (the books, not the television series). While there were other books I read or had read to me at an early age, “Little House in the Big Woods” was one of the first books I ever owned. I received it for Christmas when I had just turned five. I read it and “Little House on the Prairie” so many times when I was young, I have a familiarity and affection for Laura and her family and those stories that has stayed with me my entire life.

Kari& Autumn: Just for fun, if you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

M. L. Rowland: A bird of some kind probably—an eagle. Why? Because of the freedom that comes with flight, the weightlessness, the idea of soaring above the earth, the clouds. Occasionally I have dreams that I’m flying and they’re simply wonderful.

 About the author:
How far would you go to save the life of a stranger? Jump out of a helicopter into four feet of snow? Sleep outside in the winter? Dangle on a rope over the edge of a cliff?

M.L. Rowland has done all of these things and more, all in the line of service as a mountain Search and Rescue volunteer. During her twelve years on Search and Rescue, Rowland participated in hundreds of search and rescue missions and trainings, including technical ropes rescues, helicopter insertions and evacuations, and searches for lost children, hikers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and criminal evidence, in alpine, desert and urban environments. She served as the team’s Training Officer and participated in community events and public speaking engagements. Trained in land navigation, and desert and winter survival, including avalanche awareness and self-arrest, she holds a certification in tracking from the State of California. Rowland also served as a member and on the Board of a Colorado County Sheriff’s Department All-Hazards Incident Management Team (IMT) which manages local search and rescue operations, brush and wildfires, planned community events and other critical incidents.

Rowland is an avid political activist, naturalist and environmentalist. She lives with her husband, Mark, and their chocolate lab, Molly, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in south-central Colorado.

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