Rhodi Hawk writes the spookies. Her first novel, A Twisted Ladder, featuring psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc and her newest book in the series, The Tangled Bridge, just came out on Oct. 30th. Rhodi was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and I also have a signed copy of A Twisted Ladder to give away, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Rhodi, I read that you got the reading bug when your grandmother read to you from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. What were some of your favorite authors or novels when you were growing up?
Yes, that was one she read to me and later, I read it for myself. I still go back to it. I love all the children unapologetically misbehaving or using tools such as temper tantrums (going mad dog) to get their way. And I love the illustrations. I remember the first novel-length book I read was The Boxcar Children. I was enthralled. Then in school, I remember reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries, short stories collected by Alfred Hitchcock, and books like Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series.
You won the International Thriller Writers Scholarship for your first novel, A Twisted Ladder. Can you tell us a bit about it?
A Twisted Ladder opens with New Orleans psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc coming to terms with her brother’s suicide and her father’s schizophrenia. But she soon realizes that there’s a common thread between both, and it may not have anything to do with mental illness. In fact, she herself begins to experience sinister, unexplainable phenomena. At the same time, she’s falling in love with Ethan, a neuroscientist and colleague at Tulane. The story line follows Madeleine’s descent into a world of river devils, interwoven with glimpses into the distant past, when Madeleine’s ancestors grappled with the same hauntings. As children of the briar, they develop uncommon abilities—they can perform miracles—but they also develop dark tastes. Madeleine struggles to maintain who she is, but then finds herself ensnared in murder. She realizes she as to decide whether to embrace what she’s become, and accept that things will never again be the same.
How about teasers for your newest book, The Tangled Bridge?
The Tangled Bridge picks up where A Twisted Ladder left off. Madeleine and Ethan stumble into a string of simultaneous murders among street people living near Bridge City. But, the murders seem unrelated, and the murderers are otherwise non-violent perpetrators who have no motive. Madeleine knows instinctively that river devils are involved. And that means that there must be a connection with one of the children of the briar, like herself.
Do you think your career in Army intelligence helped you in writing A Twisted Ladder and The Tangled Bridge, especially the psychological aspects?
If anything, it contributed in that there was a lot of opportunity to let my imagination run wild. There was very little emphasis in psychology, at least for my MOS (Military Occupation Specialty).
What’s your most unusual writing quirk?
Hmm. I think it’s probably the level to which I need to get absorbed in order to flow. It’s hard for me to sit down for small amounts of time—I need long stretches. And when it’s working, I lose track of time and look up from my work a bit disoriented. It almost feels drunk! Or like waking from a dream. I hit that zone and it usually bodes well for the story.
What is on your nightstand right now?
Live by Night by Dennis LeHane. I’d gotten a few chapters into it, was engrossed, then my husband pointed out that it was built from the same world as another book by LeHane, The Given Day. So I stopped reading Live and started Given, finished that; and now I went back to the beginning of Live by Night all over again. Both are amazing tales.
What’s one of the most daring things you’ve ever done (that you’re willing to admit to)?
Daring stupid, or daring acceptable? If the latter, I guess jumping out of an airplane. Oh, I had a parachute, so it wasn’t all that harrowing. (We won’t talk about the “daring stupid” stuff.) That was an exhilarating feeling. Would love to do it again.
If you could pack your bags and travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go, and why?
Poland. I speak Polish because I learned it in the army. But that was a long time ago (we won’t say how long) and I’ve STILL never been to Poland! I’d spent so much time learning the language, studying the geography, and absorbing myself in the culture. I need to go. I’d like to see the mountains. Stol lat!
Quick! What’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
My husband. He’s ridiculously funny. If I can attribute a flat tummy to anything, it’s the double-over, hard rocking belly laughs. That’s got to be good for the abs.
When you’re not busy writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a home body. I like to relax with the husband and kids, dabble in the garden, and feed the birds and squirrels. I also like to play with our dogs, sugar gliders, fish, geese, ducks, and bearded dragons. My home is full of life!
Is there any news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
Yes. I’m currently on book tour for The Tangled Bridge, which has been a whole lot of fun so far. In December, I’ll have a short story out. It’s called “A Head and a Foot,” for the Zombies vs. Robots anthology, Women on War. My first time writing about zombies, so this was a lot of fun. I’m also working on some collaborative efforts. One is a five-author project that I’m doing with my writing group, Candlelight: Hank Schwaeble, David Liss, Joe McKinney, and Robert Jackson Bennett. The other collaborative work is a short story with F. Paul Wilson. And finally, I’m working on the next book in the Twisted Ladder series. I love returning to that world.
Keep up with Rhodi: Website | Twitter
About A Twisted Ladder:
Psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc has spent her whole career trying to determine the cause of her father’s schizophrenia. She always felt that if she could unravel the disease’s origins, she could cure the man who left her and her brother, Marc, to practically raise themselves on the Louisiana Bayou. When Marc takes his own life, Madeleine embarks on a shocking journey into her family’s history – fraught with dark secrets, conjured demons, and a powerful relative who puts Madeleine’s own life and property in peril. The only way she can save herself is to face the ghosts of the past, the dangers of the present, and the twisted ladder that links them all together.
About The Tangled Bridge:
Psychologist Madeleine LeBlanc is desperate to escape the madness that has followed her family for a century. She’s struggling to adjust to her new-found power and to stick to the pact that protects her sanity.
But an innocent little boy is being hunted—by Madeleine’s half brother and her great-grandmother, Chloe, and by the demons they control. The boy is a threat to their bloodline, to their very nature, but Madeleine cannot let his young life be callously destroyed.
Thrust into an age-old battle of dark versus light, Madeleine dives deep into the history of her family and into the vast paranormal underworld of New Orleans, a world seemingly controlled by her great-grandmother.
The only way to stop Chloe lies past the tangled bridge that could lead to great power…or total destruction.
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