You may have seen Carolyn Haines on CrimeReaders before. She’s a USA Today bestselling author and the founder of the Mad Catters, who write a multi-author series of standalone, single-author cozy black cat detective romantic mysteries. (My contribution, Trouble Most Faire, is #11 in the series.)
Carolyn is a prankster, and animal welfare activist who gives cats, dogs and horses a loving forever home. And if that’s not enough, she’s a heck of a writer. She writes the highly popular Sarah Booth Delaney series, set in the Mississippi Delta, the Pluto’s Snitch series set in the 1920s, and thought-provoking, creepy-but-not-gory horror novels, like The Darkling, The Seeker, and The Revenant.
Let’s welcome Carolyn to CrimeReaders to discuss her latest book, A VISITATION OF ANGELS.
JT: Carolyn, before we jump into the new book, can you tell us how you came up with Pluto’s Snitch as the name of the series?
CH: After I’d written the first book in the series, THE BOOK OF BELOVED, I needed a name for the newly formed PI agency. Since Pluto is the god who rules the underworld in mythology, that was a good start. Snitch is a slang word for a PI from the 1920s, when the books are set. Pluto’s Snitch.
JT: What can you tell us about the latest installment in the Pluto’s Snitch series?
CH: A VISITATION OF ANGELS is a story of dark, supernatural influences on a small isolated town in the northeast corner of Alabama. It’s also a fundraiser for animals.
JT: Right! Because 100% of all proceeds will be donated to Good Fortune Farm Refuge which will help animals receive medical treatment and loving homes. So it’s a good read for a great cause! Can you tell us a little about the book?
CH: Elizabeth Maslow is an educated woman living in the isolated town of 1920’s Mission, Alabama. She’s defied the town’s definition of a woman’s place—she’s unmarried and given birth to a child with webbed hands and feet. In a town fraught with superstitions and religious repression, Elizabeth is dangerous.
But Elizabeth is much more than an unwed mother. Since the birth of Callie, who she believes is fathered by an angel, she’s been able to “dream the truth.” And she’s determined to testify in behalf of Slater McEachern, a man charged with the brutal murder of a local woman.
Elizabeth insists McEachern is innocent. She’s determined to speak, no matter the cost.
Spirit detectives Raissa and Reginald arrive to help Elizabeth save McEachern—before she ends up on the gallows with him. Raissa and Reginald must unravel a crucial question. Does Elizabeth’s gift come from an angel, or from something much, much darker.
In the world of spirits and the dead, Raissa has learned to trust no one, especially not the dead. The dead lie.
JT: I love that: “The dead lie.” It’s a haunting line that evokes the transformation between life and death. That maybe, when we get to the other side, we’re not quite who we used to be. You revisit the idea of communication between the living and the dead in a lot of your books. Why do you think we’re all so fascinated by death and the dead?
CH: A better question might be why do we work so hard to acquire “things” when death is inevitable? Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend more time with those we love? More time caring for those less fortunate? All of the “acquiring” in the world won’t stop death. And it’s very true that you “can’t take it with you.” It is one of the most fascinating things about humans, though, that they get up each day, laugh and love and work, knowing where the ticking clock ultimately leads. People say animals don’t have a concept of death. I don’t believe that at all. I think they have an ultimate acceptance that lends such grace. They are aware—they just aren’t afraid. Too often, humans fear death.
JT: Do you think that may have something do with your fascination with cemeteries? What kind of interesting things have you found in them?
CH: I love to read the epitaphs on old tombstones. Some convey such loss and longing, and some are just downright funny. There’s a great one with a recipe for fudge! On the tombstone. And then the saying, “Wherever she walks, there’s laughter.” I just love that. And some markers are beautiful works of art like the weeping angel in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, MS.
I’m a person deeply rooted in my personal past, and while I won’t be buried, I do admire the thought and artwork that has been done into some burial sites. Also, I’m always on the lookout for ghosts!
JT: Which is the perfect segue to my next questions! What are your thoughts and experiences about psychic/medium abilities?
CH: I’m close friends with one psychic medium and one energy worker. I absolutely believe they are able to connect with “the other side.” I had a little special help with this book, A VISITATION OF ANGELS. John Edwards very kindly offered me some advice on dark angels. My experience is that those with a true gift, such as Mr. Edwards and my friend Helene Buntman (who the book is dedicated to), are so incredibly generous with their gifts. I can’t communicate with spirits, but I have, on occasion, seen them. I’m not as sensitive as others with real gifts, but I am very much aware. The older I get, the less they frighten me.
JT: The Pluto’s Snitch books are notably different in tone from your other mysteries. How is writing them different from writing the Sarah Booth Delaney books or the Trouble books?
CH: When I’m writing a Sarah Booth book, it’s like a visit with my oldest, best friends. It’s a joy to hang out with them and listen to their wisecracks and their absolute devotion to each other. Zinnia is a place of safety, though there are some dangerous villains in the stories.
The Pluto’s Snitch books are like time travel for me. I dissolve the present and I’m living in the past. My grandmother was a young wife in 1920 in rural Mississippi. She was a wonderful storyteller and often entertained me and my brothers with fabulous stories of sailing to America from Finland. She had seven children, and clearly remembered when electricity came to rural Mississippi. Telephones were a miracle. I love this time period because it was the first time women successfully asserted themselves, demanding their rights as equal citizens (an on-going battle). And these books are a little spooky. Gothic is the best description. And I love ghost stories! I adore them. So I get to indulge my creepy bone with these books. I also love the characters of Raissa and Reginald. She is a woman ahead of her time. Reginald is a man who is out of time, in more ways than one. They have a very interesting dynamic, and that makes it fun for me as a writer.
JT: And fun for us readers as well! The Pluto’s Snitch books seem to fit into the gap between your cozier mysteries and your horror novels. For eclectic readers like myself, it’s great to find an author who writes across the spectrum.
Readers, what are your thoughts on all this? Have you ever had a paranormal experience? Let us know in the comments!