Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

Barbara Nickless – Play of Shadows

Barbara Nickless - Play of Shadows - In-Studio Interview with Tea, Tonic & Toxin
Barbara Nickless - Play of Shadows - In-Studio Interview with Tea, Tonic & Toxin
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
Barbara Nickless - Play of Shadows

Play of Shadows by Barbara Nickless

Colorado crime novelist Barbara Nickless joins Sarah and Carolyn to discuss her book Play of Shadows.

Barbara is the Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of the multi-award-winning Sydney Parnell crime novels. Barbara’s new series features forensic semiotician Dr. Evan Wilding—a man whose gift for interpreting the words and symbols left behind by killers has led him to consult on some of the world’s grisliest cases.

Learn more about Barbara Nickless below!

Learn More: Read more about Barbara Nickless.

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TRANSCRIPT: Play of Shadows by Barbara Nickless

Sarah Harrison: Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters: And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic, …

Sarah Harrison: … but not a toxin …

Carolyn Daughters: And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer. Today we have Barbara Nickless as our guest.

Sarah Harrison 1:00
Live in the studio. There’s no live anymore live right now. That when you’re hearing it, yeah,

Carolyn Daughters 1:06
You and I are a throwback to the 40s. And that the 40s Come on. How about the 90s 1914? So let me tell everybody a little bit about Barbara she Barbara Nicholas is the Wall Street Journal and number one Amazon charts Best Selling Author of the multi award winning Sidney Parnell crime novels. Barbara’s new series features forensic semiotician not an easy word to say. Dr. Evan wilding, a man whose gift for interpreting the words and symbols left behind by killers has led him to consult on some of the world’s Grizzlies cases. Barbara is the winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence, the golden quill award, suspense Magazine’s Best Debut of 2016, Amazon editors best mystery thriller and suspense novel, and a four time recipient of the Colorado authors league writing award. In addition, she has been nominated for the Colorado Book Award five times and one three times our lives in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains where she loves to hike, cave snowshoe and drink single malt scotch. Her most recent travels while conducting research for a novel involved taking cover from rocket fire and being grilled at military checkpoints. So much to find out.

Sarah Harrison 2:27
I know, that was really exciting to ask about that. Welcome, Barbara Nickless. Before we let you talk more than that, I’m gonna read a back of the book summary of Barbara’s book Play of Shadows, which came out in November.

On a stormy Chicago night renowned. How do you say semiotician Dr. Evan Wilding and his brother, River, who’s back from an archeological dig reunite in a mystery. A package addressed to both of them contains a hand drawn maze, an ancient cretin coin and a cryptic greeting. Let the game began. The opening move is murdered. In a downtown alley, a man has been found nearly cleaved into a symbol drawn on his forehead and a savage rip in his throat. Given the close, Evan sees a parallel to a fearsome Greek myth, which means his friend, Detective Addy Bisset is on the trail of a legendary flesh eating monster. One terrifyingly human and tumbling a panic city toward chaos. Evan Addy and river scrambled to discover who’s behind the appalling crimes and decipher the baffling motives. The body count is rising. The end game is nowhere in sight and the stakes are nothing less than life and death. It sounds fascinating. It is fascinating folks, Kellen and I both got to read it.

Carolyn Daughters 4:10
I loved it. I found it to be a great page turner. And in fact, sometimes I would get to the end of a chapter and like last night, I was finishing and are getting very close to finishing and I was like, Oh, I’m just gonna pick this up in the morning. I’m like, No, I’m not. I wanted to keep reading and the chapters are very well structured such that each one ends it is really nice.

Sarah Harrison 4:37
it makes you like jump into the next one. Before you pause yourself. Is that something you know how to do on purpose?

Barbara Nickless 4:44
Well, my work here is done. That is definitely something they teach us. You know, ABCs of authorship is like never end a chapter with a character going to sleep because then that’s what your readers will do. Oh, interesting. So keep it Moving and I read a Hannibal Lecter book. That way I, the chapters were short, and they were cliffhangers and I stayed up all night.

Sarah Harrison 5:08
Because I cannot actually read before bed because then I can’t sleep. My brain just happened to like. And I actually and so our interview will reflect this a little bit, I am neurotic about my slow reading. So I went ahead and bought the first book in the series to read that one. And so some of my questions, some of our questions, kind of compare and contrast the first and the third book. So it may be better. Well, maybe we should talk about where you were earlier today. Before we got to see you, you are at a really cool event that we are just hearing about.

Barbara Nickless 5:47
Absolutely. I was at a Sisters in Crime event here in Denver and Sisters in Crime as a group that was formed to give women more of a voice and mystery and thriller writing. Because at one point, it was mostly men authors, and there was definitely a bias that way. So women are wonderful at supporting women. We have this local group, we have quarterly meetings, we have book clubs. You don’t have to be published to be a member, we have plenty of pre published members and men are welcome to we call them misters.

Sarah Harrison 6:18
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So we got Barbara while she was up here today to come join us in the studio.

Carolyn Daughters 6:27
Yeah, so I have not read the first book. So I’m interested in. Sarah, you’re taken, obviously Barbara years on the evolution of our protagonist, Dr. Evan wilding. So you write a first book with him. And, you know, you’re you’re developing basically his character basically from whole cloth, right? It’s, I’m figuring out who he is. But in many cases in a series and author is learning about their characters as the books evolve. And so how did he start out as a character? And then how did he change over the books?

Barbara Nickless 7:04
Oh, those are great points. Carolyn. So Elvin actually came to me 20 years ago. You know, sort of like Athena coming from Zeus has had, he just came in the name, everything about him except that I changed. Instead of the detective being his brother, I changed it to the love interest or potential of interest. So he came, came to me, I don’t really know where, from where. And that’s why it’s interesting with series, and the characters, how much they can grow and change or how much they need to grow and change. So I know that some series writers plan out their characters entire arc, from from first book to the 20th, or whatever it is, I don’t do that I I just kind of let the character show me what they want to do or the direction they want to head in. So he sprang out of my interest in undecided undeciphered writings and codes and all of that stuff that we love as kids, right?

Sarah Harrison 8:06
Yeah, that was, that was amazing. The way you got into that. So I noticed, you know, the the very first book in the series, you went deep, deep, deep on rooms, translate rooms, and there was pages and pages of rooms and process. You call it transliteration and how that works. Oh, you know, it reminded me of an author. We’ve read a couple of her books already. And we’re gonna read another one. Dorothy Sayers. I’m familiar with her.

Barbara Nickless 8:37
I’m familiar with her. Although I haven’t read her work, I’m sad to say it was part of the group in New York.

Sarah Harrison 8:43
She is British,

Carolyn Daughters 8:45
she was British, she was writing around the same time as Agatha Christie. And she is very different from Agatha Christie, Agatha Christie, for me is always a page turner and just, you know, amazing from beginning to end. And I find with Dorothy Sayers that I would, it would take me a while to get in it. And I’d sometimes be a little confused, and then she would get me and she wouldn’t let go. And she does something that you do, which is she dives really deep into particular subject matters. She either came in with that expertise or decided I want to learn more about that and displayed her research and expertise in the book in such an interesting way that the readers come away feeling like I was entertained and educated there, which is how I felt with your book, by the way, as you know, it’s obviously scratching the surface, but I felt like these are things that I’ve never given any thought to. I’ve been to Crete and I never thought about any of these things.

Sarah Harrison 9:42
So you’ll have nightmares now.

Carolyn Daughters 9:46
You know, I’m never going back. Talk a little bit about your, your process, your interests, your research. So this book is going real really deep into signs and symbols and semiotics and where are your interest there? You obviously have interests there. What did you come into the books knowing what did you sort of evolve as you were writing the books and like, talk a talk a little bit about your interests there? Sure.

Barbara Nickless 10:19
Evan, as a character actually appears in the last book of my previous series. And that was when after this 20 years of wondering what to do with this character, he finally had a place for me to put him which was dealing with the manifestos posted by mass murderers, talking about how the world is wrong them and why they need to kill a bunch of people to feel better about that. So my editor asked me to do a spin off series based on that character. And as I was trying to figure out what my story would be, and what particular languages and codes he would be working with, I lost my son to epilepsy. And one of the many amazing things about Kyle is he had a real work ethic, and, and I knew that he would not want me to stop working on this book. So I buried myself in what I love. So in college, I was a medievalist, and studied a lot of Old English literature, including Beowulf. And so I went back to those wonderfully personal or immersive things. To many ruins, maybe. But that was that was what I needed at the time. And so I’m grateful that my editor was tolerant of that, and that a lot of readers have appreciated learning about it. Had I written the book under different circumstances, it might not have been quite so Old English poetry and kennings and runes heavy. But it was real soloists to me at the time. No,

Sarah Harrison 11:57
I thought that was awesome. You’re like, well, what you didn’t know was your Beowulf. No, Evan can figure it out. And I’m guessing the second book had a similar theme. I didn’t get through that one. But then your third book here, the play of shadows went much more into these cretin on undeciphered languages. Tell us about those.

Barbara Nickless 12:20
Sure. So that’s always been a fascination. And that was one reason I turned to Crete was because first of all, I mean, I just love Greek mythology. I grew up without my mother was a literature teacher. And I absolutely loved hearing those stories. And, and then the fact that Crete has these undeciphered scripts, and I already had planted that Evan was working on the faceless desk, which is a desk that was found in Phaistos, in Crete. That, that still is uninterpretable. And now I’ve heard that artificial intelligence is actually might be making a break on Linear A, which is one of the undeciphered scripts concrete, I

Sarah Harrison 13:00
just read an article about AI ciphering undeciphered scripts. On the way here, it’s interesting,

Barbara Nickless 13:07
I want to see what they do with that, because a big problem with deciphering letter A is they don’t know what language it was written. The culture from Crete is the Minoan culture, and they don’t know what language they were speaking, which makes it really hard to decipher a script. So it’ll be interesting to see where that goes. And I’m hoping it doesn’t put Evan out of a job.

Sarah Harrison 13:40
Do you have in your mind? Are there more Evon books you’re planning to write to sit this story arc continue? Are you wrapping it up here and the third book?

Barbara Nickless 13:48
Actually, we’re probably just doing a trilogy and I’m moving on to I’m writing my first standalone and it’s a spy thriller. So that’s new for me. A big thing for me as a writer, as I’m always trying to figure out how to learn the next thing. What have I not done yet? First person versus third person or single point of view versus multiple points of view?

Sarah Harrison 14:10
I just say kind of the technical details inspire you.

Barbara Nickless 14:15
Yeah. So next door as a pianist, I you know, it’s the same thing, right? You, you, you do these attitudes to try on and learn different skills. And I do the same thing with writing so. So with good reviews on Play of shadows, it’s like okay, great. I can do you want castigate or whatever it is? What’s next? And so now spy thrillers. We’ll see how that goes.

Sarah Harrison 14:37
Oh, that’s awesome. It’s like you’re kind of competing against yourself there. Lee personal best, right? Yeah. And Evan is a pianist. So that’s really neat that you are too Yeah,

Barbara Nickless 14:48
He’s a little restricted. He would love to be a pianist and and I think that was channeling some of my own frustrations because one of my favorite composers is Edvard Grieg and he had big hands list. And I can’t compete with that. And I guess you get so frustrated trying to, to you

Sarah Harrison 15:07
talked about the finger reach. And I’m gonna get confused in which book I’m talking about. Like, it must be the first one is giving piano lessons. Yeah. to the to the neighbor’s daughter. Yeah, he’s has this internal monologue about the reach of his fingers. Yeah. Yeah, it’s very, it’s very interesting.

Carolyn Daughters 15:24
And so even so this book has play of shadows has multiple authors. And so the each chapter is starting with the name of the person from whom the third person narration is coming. So we’re channeling ADDYs thoughts, we’re channeling Evans, thoughts or rivers? Do you write first person as well? Or is that a future challenge of yours?

Barbara Nickless 15:47
Actually, my first series was in first person. So Sydney’s stories were all first person, which I found out later that beginning writers aren’t supposed to do but told me that why is that? I think just because it can be difficult to separate the author from the character. And so going to third person with oven was a challenge. I didn’t know if I could do that. And so I think sometimes you just write your way into it. See, which works best.

Carolyn Daughters 16:15
Did you find it challenging or enjoyable maybe to be able to jump from one head to the next in these chapters? Even the Minotaur in this book has some chapters. You’re able to dip in and out of various people’s heads, which if we’re only channeling one protagonist, and only in one person’s head, maybe we have that comprehensive view, but maybe this is more, I don’t know, maybe more fun.

Barbara Nickless 16:45
Yeah, the short answer to that is yes, both more fun and more challenging. I in the in the thriller genre, we were talking about this earlier with the cliffhanger on the endings. And an a very effective way to do that is to switch point of view. And with my first series with Sydney, I found myself a little frustrated, because I could never cut away to where the action was really happening. Because it was like a camera inside her head, it was always right with her. So this way, I can leave Addie in a predicament and jump to Alvin and leave Evan in a predicament and jump to river. And so you know, keeping track of the threads was a little more difficult. But the rewards were were worth it. I

Sarah Harrison 17:27
noticed too, that was one of the differences that jumped out at me between the first and third book is the first book, he did go back and forth between heaven and natty which didn’t label them. And then in the third book, you went back and forth, and there was a lot of different characters. How tell it was that one of the technical challenges you like set yourself like a goal or tell me how that changed throughout the series.

Barbara Nickless 17:52
So first, to address the fact that in the first book, The the points of view aren’t labeled Evan unnati, that that probably should have been consistent. And it just didn’t happen. But I think with two characters, it’s less confusing, right?

Sarah Harrison 18:06
I didn’t feel like there was any confusion at all. I just dove in there and saw who was talking, which of course, if you’re doing it for five or eight characters, that could potentially be quite confusing, I think

Barbara Nickless 18:17
it was easier to send that clear signal that that was specifically the challenge I set for myself was was to move in between those, those HUDs. And and when you do that, really every time you jump point of view, you’re sort of starting the book over, because the reader will get immersed with one character. And sometimes I’m sure you’ve had that reading experience where you’re like, No, I really want to stay with

Sarah Harrison 18:41
that character. Exactly, totally.

Barbara Nickless 18:44
And so I did my best to make sure that when I transitioned like that the characters were in the middle of some sort of interesting action to pull the reader through.

Carolyn Daughters 18:54
Right. So in some cases, the next chapter from the next channeling the next character is happening almost simultaneously, like we see rivers doing this and Evans doing this other thing. And in some cases, the next chapter is sort of picking up the baton from the last one, like a relay race. And so we’re kind of moving from one moment in time to the next moment in time. And that kept me reading. So I didn’t at any point feel. Okay, this character’s chapters ending I’m moving in New Chapter, now’s the time to go to bed like, Oh, this is like, let’s figure I need to know what’s happening next. So I really felt that pretty consistently from beginning to end of the book. Yeah, yeah, that I really wanted to know, like, which is a skill set, right? So there’s an arc for the whole novel. There’s an arc looked back up even on more there’s an arc for a series, you’re seeing some people map out the whole series, and then there’s an arc for a novel and then each of the chapters have a sort of mini arc or a scene and sequel. That’s, I would think, challenging to do. You have 50 some odd chapters in here.

Sarah Harrison 20:11
How do you manage all the different technical aspects of which I’m not a writer, so I’m always just entranced by how writers accomplish what they do. It seems like you figured it out,

Barbara Nickless 20:28
for me is like, Oh, my poor brain is getting too old for this. But I think once you’re actually immersed in the story, there’s a rhythm, there’s a pattern. And my, I would hope that most writers start out as readers first and so you you internalize a lot of that story making pattern. I started out with fairy tales, which is, you know, one of the oldest ways of telling stories and I still love fairy tales. Yes. And I think that some of that comes out in my work too. So hopefully,

Sarah Harrison 21:01
what do you mean you started out with fairy tales like writing them reading them as a kid reading them?

Barbara Nickless 21:06
I think it was his name was Andrew laying the colored fairy books. So there was green, yellow, violet, all these beautiful stories and with lovely illustrations and I thought life should be a fairy tale and you know the prince was going to write down and everything was going to be fine. And and then the darker aspects of some fairy tales a lot of Grimms fairy tales have been sanitized for for kids, but he originals Yeah, we’re we’re very dark and metal. Ronin Haim, I just slaughtered that name. But he, he talked about the value and letting children see these dark things. So that so that they don’t go through life quite so naive because bad things will happen. So it’s a it’s a teaching tool. It’s iterative into what might come heightened awareness. Yeah. Yeah, it’s good way of putting it.

Carolyn Daughters 22:02
Yeah, Sarah. I know you love fairy tales.

Sarah Harrison 22:06
Oh, yeah, I’m a huge I have a four year old and a two year old. And I’m obsessed with children’s literature. So so it’s not just grim. That was dark. They all were like Hans Christian Andersen. Yeah, rips my heart out. The matchstick girl. I have this complete collection that I read through each of my children while I was nursing them. And, I mean, this is not a fairy tale. This is a story about prostitute dying a terrible death. And you’re killing it. I’m confused. Like, yeah, they were just the Little Mermaid. Their moral story.

She dies, folks. She dies. Spoiler, Covina, Little Mermaid. No, no. No, you could. Well, no mermaid is old enough that if you haven’t read the original, and I got it, I gotta tell you something to make you go read it. Yeah, she turns into a wind anyway. Yeah, Pinocchio was crazy.

Barbara Nickless 23:11
But it’s the same thing with our classical literature. Right? You look at the Iliad and the Odyssey. And these are not about pretty things.

Sarah Harrison 23:18
So you go very, very deep of both books. And it sounds like more than that into kind of the psychology of the psychopath, the serial killer. And tell us about why you’re kind of honing in it. You do touch in both books that I read them on a little bit around their origin story, too. So tell me about the serial psychopath and why this is your? Well,

Barbara Nickless 23:47
you know, first of all, it just makes a good story, for sure. But it’s the psychology is absolutely fascinating of what causes somebody what combination of nature and nurture, nurture causes somebody to turn into a monster? Are they made are they born? One of one of the books that I used was Jonathan Kellerman. He’s, he’s known for his mystery novels, but he is a psychologist, and he wrote a book called savage Swan, about where children how how children turn bad and why. And so that was really a Bible for me and writing play of shadows. And how, how does society and how does the family either nurture healthy response or help foster that, that bad response?

Carolyn Daughters 24:39
How they contribute to whatever the child ultimately became.

Barbara Nickless 24:42
Exactly, and if you took a pair of twins, which have, you know, started out with essentially identical nature and put them in different environments, why does one become a serial killer and the other one becomes a college professor or psychologists themselves are.

Sarah Harrison 24:57
So what did you learn? share with our listeners real quick? because you’ve learned to

Barbara Nickless 25:02
write, it’s not bright, it’s nurture seems to take, or I’m sorry, nature seems to take a huge aspect of this. And they’ve actually done brain scans that show that the brains themselves physiologically are different, as well as the parts of the brain that light up from, like day one information from a young age, because that was

Sarah Harrison 25:25
the research of one of your characters, right? Yeah, Peter and lols father was researching kind of good and evil children.

Barbara Nickless 25:32
Where does Where does evil come from? And and so, as a society, what do we do with people who really probably can’t help being what they are, you know, we’re so especially since the Victorian times, we’re so moralistic and judgmental about people, whether they’re dealing with addiction, or whether it’s overweight, or, you know, whatever thing that they might have that we tend to think we’ll just stop, or just do this differently. If your brain is different, how do we how do we respond to that? And how do we deal with people who no matter what kind of treatment they might get while in prison, aren’t going to get better? They’re going to be psychopaths, because that’s what their brain is. Do you have any like ideas about that? I thought you were gonna ask me if I had a psychopathic brain.

Sarah Harrison 26:23
I mean, I hope you certainly have charmless here. I don’t know where we’re going, Oh, well, that’s a characteristic of a psychopath. Yeah, that sounds like the unsolvable problem.

Barbara Nickless 26:39
I think so. And I think, again, going back to addiction, it’s a little bit like that. What do we do as a society with with these, and we need to sort of rip the top off some of this and dive deep and and say, Okay, what we’ve got is not working. What are some of our other alternatives? And I don’t know, there’s a reason I’m not in politics, because

Sarah Harrison 27:02
I’ll write a novel about it.

Carolyn Daughters 27:08
Yeah, I didn’t feel like the novel was prescriptive in any way. As if, okay, readers, this is the situation just do the house, right? Because the one character is He has two sons in the novel. And one of them, you know, might have been a problem child as a child. And so he takes various steps to try to bring him back in line. I’m going to send him here. I’m going to educate him in this way I’m going to so he’s sort of playing with even what’s possible, despite hardwiring, I guess, yes. Can you can you loosen the wires in a hardwire sort of thing? Beautifully

Barbara Nickless 27:48
Well said Carolyn.

Carolyn Daughters 27:49
Well, guys, we’re done. This has been my day has been made and we will talk to you soon. Was wait when

Sarah Harrison 28:03
was Peters father modelled on any particular researcher that you’ve been? Lets you clearly dive deep into your research?

Barbara Nickless 28:11
I do. It’s I have to find the book to write that goes with the research that I want to do. But no, he’s not modeled on a particular character, just a certain type of autocratic father. A little bit of that arrogance of, of what some people and I will say it’s often men because our society supports that attitude more in men than in women. That they figure. There’s nothing they can’t solve. They can figure out because they’re very smart. Yeah, you

Sarah Harrison 28:44
do. You kind of there’s a lot of moments of hubris in the book where somebody is sort of doing the impossible in either very proud of themselves or or know that they’re kind of like maybe overreaching a little bit. Yeah,

Carolyn Daughters 29:00
you’re right. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, like I say, sometimes, well, this person is amazing. How do you know just ask them? And yeah, there’s, there’s a little bit of that sort of, you know, throwing around the degrees earned and the you know, you know, in a few days and all that, that kind of thing.

Barbara Nickless 29:21
Well, you have to understand my family’s from the south, and that’s a thing. Yeah. Oh, oh, where did you get your degree? My child got their degree from all that kind

Sarah Harrison 29:32
of probably not just isolated to the south, but you probably

Carolyn Daughters 29:38
know. There’s so much research that goes I would imagine, I’m guessing that goes into your books. At some point, I was overwhelmed by it as a reader, not not an edit in almost a identifying with the author sort of way where I thought what she did here and all of these areas was is incredible. And then you’re a prolific writer on top of that, so mind blown. So you have to understand something about semiotics you’re understanding something about police procedure, you’re understanding something about psychology or what what am I missing? Chicago, the University of Chicago.

Sarah Harrison 30:18
There’s rocketfire added to that. I want to hear more about this research process.

Carolyn Daughters 30:23
There’s so much that you could see why some budding authors who want to write, you know, I want to write this novel, may never ever write that novel, because wow, like, what I just said, is mind blowing. And yet, you did it in all of these areas in the book, in a way that reflected to me as the reader that you understood what you were writing about. So like, what is that process of, of all of understanding all of these different areas? How what what are you researching? How are you researching? Who are you talking to, to, like, confirm that, you know, you’re not out in left field with regard to police procedure here, or whatever? The thing?

Sarah Harrison 31:02
Give us some days in your life of researching?

Barbara Nickless 31:05
Sure. So I will start by saying, honestly, I don’t recommend it. My, I learned about publishing cadence, which is apparently the frequency with which you put out a book. And I don’t have the best publishing cadence. And so what my publisher wants from me is a book every nine to 12 months. That’s all I could write on. Without all that research, it would be much faster. So any of you who are intimidated by research, don’t be just write your story. I happen to love the research process. Yeah. And when I first started out, I didn’t have any publishing credits, it was really difficult for me, I would I would read books, because that’s safe. And that’s always the first thing I turned to is a book for information. But when it came time to actually reach out to people, it was it was intimidating. And I was very lucky to meet a detective here in Denver, that through somebody introduced and he was not only a detective with the police department, but he was also a rail fan. So he knew so much about trains. And he took me he took me to view the homeless sites, he wouldn’t let me go in for some reason. He got me in Union Pacific, and I got to get on a train. And it was all very exciting. And, and then once I had that first publishing credit, it became easier to go to what we used to call the corporate world. Smedes are subject matter experts. And most people love to talk about what they do. There’s a reason they do I just, I just had a two hour phone call yesterday with a yacht expert in Florida from my current book, and I could not shut him up. But I didn’t want to I mean, it was fascinating. He had so many things to say. So having, if most writers are introverts, I think that’s probably true. So having the courage to make those cold calls, just recognize that people love to tell their stories, and most people are astonished by writers. So that’s a huge source. And then of course, the books and then I signed up for things like the FBI Citizens Academy, the sheriff Citizens Academy and the police citizens.

Sarah Harrison 33:17
What is that? I’m not familiar with that at all.

These are all organizations designed to let the public know what these law enforcement agencies do. So you can experience what are they all about? Why do they do what they do? You get to do ride alongs when I did my police ride along, we had everything that night, we had a suspected homicide. It turned out not to be it. It was a suicide. We had a home invasion. We had kids doing drugs, we had a gang incident. We had the cop accidentally locked me in the back of his car. And that’s just while he was definitely the suspect of the suppose. homicide victim. How high was in the backseat for that it’s like I can’t get out. I’d like to I’d like to get out. I’d like to leave just in case this guy really is homicidal. Yeah, and then there was a domestic violence incident where I had to go and hide because people showed up at the doors. It was very exciting. So that’s a great way to get a sense of course of what their daily life is like. And then I also volunteered to be a victim and especially situations with first responders. So we had a scenario with the sheriff’s department where there had been a bond that derailed a train and and so we were victims on the ground and they didn’t warn me what we might go through and then so all of a sudden. You can’t see anything. You’ve got clothes on, you know that you’ve put on these rags so that they can tear them apart. And suddenly you’re being put through this cold shower because they have to wash off in Toxic Materials and knowing

there will be a cold shot, a realistic response.

Barbara Nickless 35:09
So all of that feeds into it. It’s a hoot and a half, to be honest. The scenarios, I got to do a gang shooting.

Sarah Harrison 35:13
That’s I knew I knew that medical schools had like, you know, fake victims. I did not I guess I should have I did not realize the police also had these sort of victim scenarios, You were a gang member? Did you get anybody? No, they got me. Okay, well, good. I guess.

Carolyn Daughters 35:41
That’s what you get for being in a gang.

Sarah Harrison 35:45
that is wild. That’s an intense research is how does that relate to this whole rocket fire and military checkpoints? Is that your upcoming book?

Barbara Nickless 35:53
That’s actually the book after the one I’m currently working on. So I went to Israel and the West Bay. Yeah, this was in May. Before everything that happened. I was very fortunate to get in and out before that, but it was we were in Tel Aviv and it was the first time that Hamas had fired on Tel Aviv in several years. And it was kind of funny if we have time for that.

Sarah Harrison 36:17
Absolutely. All the time for that. We had we were with a

Barbara Nickless 36:21
tour group I call her my travel wife because our husbands don’t want to travel so we traveled together. So it was three o’clock in the afternoon. We were done for the day and I’d taken a shower I was in my bathrobe and Kathy was in the shower and all of a sudden I hear the sound that sounds like an ambulance only it just keeps going and going and going and I realized oh that’s that’s Kathy’s phone and it’s it’s a red alert I look at it says you know bombs bomb alert Tel Aviv and then I start hearing you know what does an American tourists do when they know she runs out on the balcony to see what’s happening and and I saw Sue they have what they call the Aaron Doom which are Patriot missiles that will take out the incoming fire. And so I saw those explosions I saw people running in from the Mediterranean to to take shelter because even when the the mortar fire is taken out by these Patriot missiles, there’s shrapnel so you don’t want to be outside. So I went back in and and I’m knocking doors a county I really think we should go to the safe place another shower showers done, she comes out she hasn’t heard any of it. And and she’s wearing shorts and a T shirt and I’m in my bathroom. I said we need to go to the sacred right. So she looks at me and she says I am not leaving this room and my shorts. Oh just so naive. So yeah, everybody else was was herded into the safe place. And finally the hotel sent somebody out to very politely say, are you

Sarah Harrison 38:05
nuts you’re doing makeup — Just a minute, I’m almost ready.

Carolyn Daughters 38:13
I’m picturing you on the balcony looking at all of these empty balconies except a few scattered people who are also Americans.

Barbara Nickless 38:22
Pretty much. The husband and wife from our tour group or on the street. And I won’t use the language that was used on them because you know, we’re on the map. But they said you will get the bleep and side somebody came out and grabbed them because they were doing like I was which is staring up with your mouth open. Yeah, so and then we had a military checkpoint. And that too was that was scary. Because we were coming out of the West Bank. We had a Palestinian driver. And that’s why we got pulled off. And they really gave us a third degree and are standing there with their AR fifteens. Like, oh, we have a plane to catch.

Sarah Harrison 39:01
I did not know being a writer was this exciting. But maybe I should become a writer.

Barbara Nickless 39:05
I think you should. Come to the dark side. It’s a lot of fun. It really

Sarah Harrison 39:16
Well, it makes it extremely believable. Like Carolyn, I was just like, how does she know? This? Right?

Carolyn Daughters 39:23
I’ve read you know, I’ve written some fiction and read a lot of people’s draft fiction and you know, probably mine when they’re reading it. But you can tell when you know, somebody’s set their book in Paris and you know, in your reading and you’re like, you’ve never been to Paris, have you? You know, you can tell that. And you can tell when somebody has been somewhere done whatever the activities are, or has at least enough knowledge to have asked the questions and really covered the bases. And, you know, at the back of the book, you mentioned BETA readers and you have all of these subject matter experts who were reading what you’ve done And, and weighing in Plus, you’re getting this firsthand, you know, boots on the ground experience in a lot of these areas. So I think it does make a difference from a reading perspective. It feels real.

Barbara Nickless 40:13
I’m glad to hear that and, and just for those writers who can’t get to Paris for whatever reason, you know, it’s fine though subject matter experts find the people who want to talk. And there’s always Google Maps, which is really useful. But I watched an interview with an espionage writer, she was with the CIA. And somebody pointed out that in northern Italy, they don’t drink Prosecco. In southern Italy. They love it. Oh, she’s like, well, those mistakes are just gonna happen. Yeah. be forgiving of yourself. Yeah, it’s

Carolyn Daughters 40:47
It’s not going to be perfect for sure.

Sarah Harrison 40:49
Your Italian audience will judge you but they judge everything you eat but just

Carolyn Daughters 40:53
having an Italian audiences are waiting right? That means very international. It’s just true. It’s being read ever. We should all be so lucky as to like the book is being read around the world. And somebody found fault with the Prosecco. Yes, yes.

Sarah Harrison 41:07
So many eating mistakes stories from Italy when I was there, and all the judgment heat that oh, we

Unknown Speaker 41:15
are so judgy as a society.

Sarah Harrison 41:18
After lunch, are you crazy? One of the research areas? That is a little list aggressive? But I know you must have done some is into dwarfism. Yeah. And so that’s a major, major component in this series. Evan is a person with dwarfism. Tell me about how you landed on that. And, and how you go through that?

Barbara Nickless 41:46
Yeah, I, for me, that was an angle that was that was fascinating, and actually a lot of fun. And I’m gonna go back to just a very small personal experience I had, so I’m blind in my right eye. And I was working for corporate America. And I was I was attending this conference. And at some panels, somebody asked, well, I work with, with somebody who’s blind in one eye, and their eye turns in, and I never, I’m so uncomfortable looking at them. I never know how to handle it. And I’m sitting there going, that’s me, I’m the one with the eye turning. And, and I, and I wanted to stand up, I did stand up to say, here’s, here’s how to handle that, you know, just ask them, which is the good i and, and, but the thing that shocked me is I found myself sounding very defensive. Like, oh, this is a defect, and I have to apologize for it. And I have to make allowances for it. And I have to explain to people how to react to it. And it’s, it’s a minor disability, but it’s real. And so I think that paved the ground, you know, when when, sometime after that Evan popped up as a character. And I always feel as if with each book, you have a chance to be a voice for someone. And, and there’s a lot of argument in publishing and in the world right now, whose voices do we have the right to claim and who’s whose voices can we speak in and who shoes Can we walk in, but the beauty of a novel is that allows you to walk in the shoes of somebody you never would. So for whatever reason, Evan came to me he always had dwarfism. And, and so I just decided to go with that. And so that’s one again, I dug in to my research. I don’t personally know anybody with dwarfism. So that was out. I reached out to the Little People of America and did not hear about Oh, really? That’s surprising to me. Yeah, I don’t I don’t know what that was about. But I read memoirs, I read books, there’s a wonderful book called far from the tree by Andrew Solomon. And he talks partly about his experience as a gay man, with parents who are very disapproving. But then he drills down into specific things of when parents have children who are very different from them. And how do you raise a child like that and and he had a whole section on dwarfism, which was extremely helpful. And then they made a documentary of that, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s absolutely what’s the name of it far from the tree farm through Solomon.

Sarah Harrison 44:19
We’ll have to put that in the show notes or something.

Barbara Nickless 44:22
It’s something I think everyone should read and understand where people are coming from and I also put somebody in my at first light who’s neurologically different neurology be divergent. And I’ve heard from people with autism who have you know, love that character and appreciate the character so I, it was fun for me to do whether I have the quote unquote, right to do that or not, I don’t know. But I tried to be fair with it. And there’s a great Richard Russo quote, which I love and he says, a novelist should comfort the afflicted and afflict The comfortable? Isn’t that great? It is. So you try and do that, right? You

Carolyn Daughters 45:06
want somebody to get to page last and then put the book down and still be thinking about it. Right? Yeah. So a book that you could come back to, or that has characters themes, ideas that are resonating with you long after you’ve finished reading. That’s, that’s incredible. So I would chalk that up as a win for sure. Yeah, he’s such an interesting character. And I would think when we’re writing characters who are different from ourselves at their core, they’re human beings. So you have to come at it as okay, this is a living, breathing, thinking human being who feels things, you know, deeply in, in these instances, and just really making them a full, you know, full fleshed out character, I would think, yeah. And he felt he felt that way to me. Yeah.

Sarah Harrison 45:56
Well, a two-part question from that. So your research into dwarfism is, of course, always extensive, all your researches. Do you have anyone with dwarfism review like your manuscript to make sure the voice feels on target? Or has anyone with dwarfism reached out to you that’s read the book and have any comments?

Barbara Nickless 46:20
The first part of that the answer is my publisher hired a sensitivity reader. Okay, what not a person with dwarfism. Okay. But somebody who could look at that. And that was very interesting, because there’s some common idioms in our language, like, Oh, are you going to fall short on that? Oh, and they pointed that out. It’s like, oh, like, I hadn’t thought of that. Yeah, I wouldn’t

Carolyn Daughters 46:41
have thought of that. That’s interesting.

Barbara Nickless 46:43
Yeah. And I don’t I mean, as you know, for me as I have blind person, I, it’s okay, if you turn the blind eye, it doesn’t. My case, it’s literal. So that’s the first what was the second part of the question? Oh, have I heard from friends? I haven’t. As far as I know, I haven’t heard directly. But

Sarah Harrison 47:02
Nobody’s reached out to you to be like to say, Thank you for seeing me or you’re totally wrong, and I’m mad at you.

Barbara Nickless 47:09
Yeah, neither. Neither one of those. But I but I’ve heard from friends who’ve said, Yeah, you got it. So that was good. And that was a lovely thing with my first series with Sidney Parnell. She was a former Marine, served a mortuary affairs, and I heard from a lot of veterans, really caregivers, and that was that was absolutely lovely. It’s like, okay, I’ve done my job here. Entertain first, that’s the first thing, but if you can slide in anything else, you know, slight and a little spinach?

Sarah Harrison 47:39
It didn’t feel like spinach. No good. In fact, I was like, I was a little bit in awe. I was like, wow, she’s gonna tackle this one. I would be, I would personally be a little bit scared. And that’s, you know, you hear so much coming up. And I included a question I didn’t know. But it was sort of, it’s been coming up on my newsfeed a lot, where the Snow White live action has been canceled. And one of the points of contention was the representation of people with dwarfism and some people against it, and some people mad that it was being taken out and turned into seven magical creatures, like taking jobs from persons was dwarfism. Exactly. I don’t know if you had any sense, since you seem very kind of deep into the community.

Barbara Nickless 48:26
Yeah. I remember when the controversy started, and Peter Dinklage spoke out against Why are these roles, the only ones that little people are offered? And he himself has played in movies, where it could have, you know, with some changes, the character he portrayed could have been portrayed by, you know, by a person of what we call normal height.

Sarah Harrison 48:54
He was in Game of Thrones, right? Yeah, I think he was in 30. Rock. I think Tina Fey dated him. It’s possible. Which I? I honestly love.

Carolyn Daughters 49:07
He’s extremely handsome.

Sarah Harrison 49:09
So is Evan apparently in the book.

Barbara Nickless 49:11
Yeah, it’s funny, though. resemblance. But yeah, and in his interesting play of Cyrano de Bergerac, where Cyrano was not a dwarf. And Peter Dinklage tackled that role and did it fabulously. I thought, oh my gosh, how is he going to do the swordplay because you kind of need some reach and but he pulled it off completely. But it’s it really is difficult and there’s definitely a schism in the in the door of community as to you know, gosh, I gotta feed my family. food on the table. I have to earn a living. Maybe this is not you know, playing the orphans know why it is not the ideal for me, but it’s a job right? And Peter Dinklage has the luxury of being able to turn down jobs.

Sarah Harrison 49:59
He doesn’t have to feed his family from that.

Carolyn Daughters 50:02
He gets to make different levels of decisions. It’s so interesting in this book. At one point, maybe two-thirds through River. Evans, brother River, who is a Indiana Jones-ish looking, you know, strapping Yeah, looking acting. Yeah, even with the Indiana Jones hat. And at one point, he says to Evan, you’re the only person who even notices you know, that your height, you’re the only person. They they have sort of a debate and it’s the closest I think Evan gets to really feeling anger toward this brother he has loved his whole life. And they get over it, you know, as loving brothers do. But we see these scenes or snippets of interactions throughout the book, where people make these comments that I just every time I read them, I went just to Evan about his height, or, you know, smirked or laughed or made really just offensive “cute jokes,” but they weren’t cute. I thought, River’s right, but in some sense, River doesn’t fully get it. And so maybe we can’t fully get it unless we’re Evan.

Barbara Nickless 52:36
Yeah, I think that’s really true. And that’s kind of what I was trying to highlight in that scene. There’s only so far we can go on walking in somebody’s shoes. And it was interesting after Dark of Night, which is the second book came out. There’s a scene where Evan is is stared out in Chicago and somebody responded with Oh, nobody tells us Chicago. Nobody’s going to stare at a door in Chicago. Well, sorry. You know, just go on YouTube and watch the spoofs or watch people just start videoing videotaping, videotaping anymore. videoing somebody who has dwarfism. And, and you’ll see that that’s still a thing. Dwarf tossing is still a thing. What Yeah, yeah, that’s, it used to be sort of a geek. You know, the geeks at the circus kind of thing. It’s still happening. And there’s, there’s people who are allowing that, allowing themselves to be that, again, it’s food on the table.

I think Evan and river are both really interesting characters. I loved Addie and Diana. Oh, good. They were very different. At no point did I conflate them or what I was never confused by their descriptions or behaviors, their their thoughts, but really, both interesting women and I always gravitate toward strong female characters in a book and, and I liked that they weren’t dumbed down in any way or made sort of incidental to the scenes they were in, they were actually quite important to every scene they were in. And then of course, being in more scenes than anyone else, and rightfully so is the protagonist, but I really just thought, in the scenes that where they appeared, they’re actually integral. So I was thinking, even if you edit them out, you would feel their absence. Yeah. And, and so, like, male characters versus female characters, again, we get into what what’s our purview as a writer, as a female writer, writing Dr. Evan Wilding. It’s complicated stuff. Like we were saying, at the core they’re human beings.

I mean, it is funny writing from a male perspective because what it there’s there’s that joke about how often men think about certain things. Like, every few seconds. I had to portray women from the viewpoint of man, which was like now how would a man view Diana? So that was fun too. But yeah, it’s your right, you know, what perspectives can we tell and I loved having the the female perspective and having smart, tough axe throwing?

Carolyn Daughters 55:40
Oh, at one point Addie bursts into tears and her partner Patrick sort of takes her aside. So they’re not in the public purview or, you know, they’re not being witnessed by anyone. And he says to her, you know, first of all, he’s older, and he’s male, and he’s, but he’s really human about it. And he’s like, Yeah, I’ve cried myself in several of these kinds of incidents as well. And I liked how human he was. And he wasn’t just some sort of blustery guy, but they were two police officers, human beings, you know, reacting to events that had played out in the book. And I think that those sorts of things make the book Rich versus, you know, something that is, is maybe something more typical in a book where we would see that she’s crying, and now that’s a problem. And she can’t cry because she’s a police officer. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Barbara Nickless 56:39
It’s interesting. And it’s funny, you bring that up, because just having been at the Sisters in Crime event this afternoon, and the cops talking about having to deal with traumatic events and how they process post traumatic stress. And I teach creative writing to veterans. So of course, we’re dealing with a lot of PTSD. And that’s, that’s the greatest joy to me of writing is the characters and getting into the characters and imagining how they would feel about things or how they would respond to things. So I’m glad that that came across.

Sarah Harrison 57:11
Along those lines, I noticed this book had a lot of brothers. So you had a River and Evan, you had Lowell and Peter. You had Eddie and Billy. Was that a conscious theme to kind of deal with these different types of like you say dysfunctional brothers, or was it just a coincidence?

Barbara Nickless 57:39
That is such a great question, Sarah. I don’t think it was. It was intentional. First of all, I have a brother. I don’t have any sisters. I have a brother who’s seven years older. So I know the brother sister thing. Or I know what it’s like to have a brother. And and also the actions in this book are the kind that are normally perpetrated by men. So yeah, there’s a part of me that regrets not making river ovens, brother, female and female Indiana Jones, Diana and yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s, there’s enough similarity there that I think that it works. So I have kind of wondered about myself, and sometimes the family relationships I pick, you know, the fathers and the mothers and the siblings and how that all folds in.

Sarah Harrison 58:28
Each of the brother sets had this father character that really was impactful, and usually not a good way. There were a lot of absent mothers, whether they actually died or they just weren’t there. And then there’s very negatively influential fathers again. Was that a conscious choice or just kind of bubbled up from somewhere?

Barbara Nickless 58:50
I love that you ask these kinds of questions, but they’re tough. You know, partly that goes back to the fairy tales. Because think how often there’s no mother. And there’s an incompetent. Very,

Carolyn Daughters 59:01
Very common in fairy tales.

Sarah Harrison 59:03
Gretel comes to mind. My daughter’s obsessed with Gretel. She’s always saying I’m Gretel. Murray is Hansel. They’re like, why is the mother doing this? I’m like, she’s the stepmother.

Barbara Nickless 59:19
Stepmothers are always evil in these books, right? I mean, Cinderella is the classic traces. What is the psychology of that? Where did these fairy tales come from? Was it did we have a lot of orphans at the time that these books were being? You know, these fairy tales were being written? I don’t know. But the mother is typically considered the nurturer. And the father is the breadwinner. So, father’s often absent. If you take away the mother, you really have somebody who’s bereft. They’ve lost that protection and they’re thrust into society that that may, that may be cruel, and that’s what happens in these fairy tales. And that’s what kids can take away is Yeah, even if I lose that support system, I’m going to be okay. Right can manage, right?

Sarah Harrison 1:00:04
I was thinking about the mothers, and you have two single mothers. And both of their kids got killed and nobody searched for them. These two single mothers are very upset in similar ways. Can you talk about that?

Barbara Nickless 1:00:21
I think the combination, I’m going to do a little self analysis. You know, first, first of all, the fairy tale thing. So those were the stories I loved. Second, you have I believe, more families with that, or single parent families, it’s the mom and the dad. So that’s just more common. And then having lost my own son, I could understand the pain and, you know, his his case was epilepsy, but I was helpless. There was nothing anybody could come in and fix or do about that there was nothing to be done. So I I suspect all of that plays on and, you know, the reason I teach writing to veterans, it’s, it’s a combination, it’s collaboration between the Department of Defense and the National Endowment of the Arts, to bring healing arts to veterans and writing is one of the the best tools for working through PTS or whatever issues you might be dealing with and I suspect I’ve got an element of that on my end You know, I can process it that way. And it’s good yes it out.

Carolyn Daughters 1:01:33
Terrible fathers in this book.

Sarah Harrison 1:01:37
as well. You finally need Evans father. I just there’s not a nice I actually couldn’t even believe it. I was like, he is the biggest turd Is there a person who is like this? I’m sure there is but do you know not modelled on Barbara’s father. Write that down. Wow, he was he was just unbelievable to me. I just couldn’t believe I wanted to slap them through the page,

Barbara Nickless 1:02:08
you know that it’s that massive ego and parents who consider children an extension of themselves. So if there’s something wrong with the child, then there’s something wrong with it. Right?

Sarah Harrison 1:02:18
Shun him. Well, and that’s what made it so incredible. Of all these. So you have these three sets of brothers, six brothers, Evan, who maybe is arguably the most shunt is also the one who wants to actually have a family and be a parent. What is that about?

Barbara Nickless 1:02:35
I think he just wants a normal family life. That’s he’s mostly a homebody. Now, he wasn’t in his younger days, but but it’s also a chance to Yeah, to kind of rectify those wrongs. And I and I saw an interesting documentary actually, it was the Andrew Solomon far from the tree. And it was too to people with dwarfism, that were having a child and whether they were they hoping that that child would be of, of average height? Or were they hoping that the child would be a dwarf and, and that was I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna give it away. I’d expect but yeah, go watch that. It’s, it was really interesting, their decision making process on that, you know, mother to have a child and, and, and what they hoped for.

Carolyn Daughters 1:03:28
Yeah, you can picture I can picture Evan sort of, he’s gotten to a place where not everything is perfectly resolved in his life, but he has been parenting himself to some degree, giving himself what was lacking in his own parenting. And then I could see him being a great partner and parent, so I could see all of that coming to fruition whereas River has a lot of those qualities as well he’s a very likable character and a great brother but maybe has a few more of his father’s traits I want to travel the world I get you know, it you know, I get a little itchy if I’m sitting somewhere too long and I got to be on an airplane and go do something else another adventure. And at one point, Evan is talking about going to Mali, and I was nervous for him. It’s not the safest place. And at the end of the book is you know, saying well, I probably won’t be going to okay and so you’re seeing this series is being a three-book books series. So we don’t want to talk about how the book ends, but we might not we do but we won’t we Yes, we do. But we want but we might not see Evan in another book.

Sarah Harrison 1:04:59
you gonna sneak him in? him as another character like you did before.

Barbara Nickless 1:05:01
That’s a great idea. We’ll see my editor has asked me to write a spin off of this one with river. Oh, with river and another character. And so then I’ll need to address those issues. Rivers, constantly wanting to run away, basically. We’ll see how the psychology of that works out.

Carolyn Daughters 1:05:23
Maybe the in the spy novel, they’ll need, you know, semiotics expert to plan on.

Sarah Harrison 1:05:29
It sounds like you need one all the time. Just in your back pocket.

Carolyn Daughters 1:05:36
I know. I mean, and he was so smart in so many different areas. He could even not only with the signs and symbols, but the, in the mythology, but the psychology potentially underlying what was happening? Well, I can picture that this might have been, you know, that the childhood this individual had, or he could actually extrapolate in really interesting ways. So he was, he was an introspective and obviously very educated guy.

Barbara Nickless 1:06:04
Yeah, that was fun to play with. And as we now know, from this interview, you don’t know what you’re going to reveal about yourself in your writing.

Sarah Harrison 1:06:14
While and I do know, some folks were were toxic parents are involved. They have actually fared the best when they didn’t get toxic attention when they were a little bit neglected. And it’s sad from that perspective. But then also, it’s a good thing, and that they, they weren’t kind of warped by either. So I could see Evan kind of benefiting from kind of just being left to his nanny. Yeah. loved him.

Carolyn Daughters 1:06:43
That’s basically one point. They had good nannies. Yeah. I would think that that would help. Yeah.

Sarah Harrison 1:06:51
Well, I just, I just had one more sort of group of questions. And I know this is going to be an extra bonus length feature, because Barbara is so fascinating. But you are in so much depth of detail around Chicago. Carolyn and I both used to live in Chicago. Tell me about the setting of Chicago, then how did you land on that within? I guess you used a lot of Google Maps, right?

Barbara Nickless 1:07:22
It was a combination. So I was made in Japan. Born in Guam. Oh, and I’ve lived in Colorado most of my life. So my first series of son in Denver. I didn’t want to do that, again with the second series. And I had spent this fabulous weekend with my brother in Chicago. He lives on the East Coast. And we met in Chicago, and we just geeked out on all the museums, and it was a blast. And my husband’s aunt lives in Chicago. So the plan was for me to go live with her for a while and really get to know the city. And then the pandemic happened. So, so yes, I had readers, beta readers from Chicago, and I had Google Maps. And then, before the next book, I got to go and spend a good amount of time in Chicago and go go to all the different places that I cover in my book. So you did

Sarah Harrison 1:08:13
see the University of Chicago. Which in my mind is one of the highlights. I got to tour their campus and it’s just is fabulous.

Barbara Nickless 1:08:20
I got to go in and I picked where Evan’s office was. And so yeah, I could totally hang out there all the time. So wonderful. And then and then all the streets that they went to, and there was a walk and all of that. So hopefully that came through.

Carolyn Daughters 1:08:39
Yeah, I have a sister who lives in River North and in Chicago. Oh, yeah. So every time I’m seeing something in the book, I’m like, oh, River North. Yeah. various landmarks and streets. Yeah, that was fun.

Sarah Harrison 1:08:56
Awesome. This has been a fascinating interview.

Barbara Nickless 1:09:00
You guys are great. You have wonderful questions.

Carolyn Daughters 1:09:03
You make it easy when you write a really interesting and fun book. We recommend anybody pick up this book. It’s play of shadows. And there’s a three book series here with Dr. Evan wilding. And then you also have another series that I have not read yet, and that is the Sydney Parnell crime novels.

Barbara Nickless 1:09:26
Yeah, she’s a railroad cop here in Denver. So, railroad police have the same jurisprudence as traditional police, except that their their territory is like 100 feet wide and 30,000 miles long. I pair her with a Denver detective so that, you know, I can cover both railroad property and off railroad.

Carolyn Daughters 1:09:48
I think it’d be fun Sarah, for us to read one of those. The Sydney cartels and have you back sometime.We’re huge train fans.

Sarah Harrison 1:09:59
are Oh yeah, I used to work on the train. He’s like, What did you do? I was a car manager and tour guide and Alaska. Wow, I used to give Alaskan tours and I got to run through the railroad. I could have been a SME. have kind of very narrowly. Not for the most part, though. Part of I wasn’t on the narrow gauge part that was supposed. It was narrow gauge. So you got me there? Over railroads. I try to go on all the trains. But when and what is your upcoming series?

Barbara Nickless 1:10:46
So I’m writing a standalone, it’s a standalone spy novel and after great agony and back and forth with with my publishers marketing team, we finally have a title called the drowning game. You never know. It’s both. So I went to Singapore in August because part of the novel set in Singapore. So that was a lot of fun. It’s really cool. No, I just, I just have to find an excuse.

Sarah Harrison 1:11:18
To become a writer. This is what I’m taking away. I assume all these trips are tax deductible. All right. And where can people find you Barbara? What are all your social handles? You have websites? How can they look you up?

Barbara Nickless 1:11:37
So I have a website www.BarbaraNickless.com. And you can find my social media links on my website.

Sarah Harrison 1:11:53
Everyone check out Barbara, go run out get any of her books. I’m sure they’re all fascinating

Carolyn Daughters 1:11:58
and will share all of your your website and social all of that. Amazon links all of that on our website as well.

Barbara Nickless 1:12:06
I appreciate that. Thank you. This was a lot of fun.

Sarah Harrison 1:12:10
This has been amazing. And until next time listener, please stay mysterious.

Carolyn Daughters: You can learn more about all our 2024 book selections at teatonicandtoxin.com. You can also comment, weigh in, and follow along with what we’re reading and discussing @teatonicandtoxin on Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Sarah Harrison: And until next time, listeners, be sure to stay mysterious.

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1 comment

  1. Enjoyed your interview with Barbara Nickless. I have read all of her books and we have corresponded via email on a number of occasions. I think that I caught her attention when I introduced myself by saying that I rarely read books written by women because they tended to talk too much and nothing ever happened. We have both lost adult children, her son to epilepsy, my daughter to murder, so there is a common experience of life-changing tragedy. Barbara very graciously read an account that I had written about an experience I had while I was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, offering praise and encouragement beyond anything that I could have expected or imagined. I will always be grateful to her for that.

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