Catching up with Karin Salvalaggio, author of Walleye Junction

Please welcome Karin Salvalaggio back to the blog! Her brand new book, Walleye Junction (and the third book in her Macy Greeley series) will be out next week, and she kindly answered a few of my questions about it, and more!


What can fans expect from Walleye Junction? Will you give us a teaser?

In Walleye Junction, detective Macy Greeley goes up against the forces directly benefitting from America’s ongoing problems with opiate-based prescription painkiller abuse. She’s been seeing the damage done to communities and families throughout Montana for years, but is still shocked by the scale of the abuse and corruption. When controversial radio talk show host Philip Long is kidnapped, Macy fails to rescue him before he is brutally murdered. It is a failure she takes personally. Philip Long’s daughter Emma is Macy’s equal and in a perfect world they could be friends, but they do not warm to each other. Both are too mistrusting. Macy’s issues stem from her ongoing difficulties with her son’s father and her fear that she’s lost the respect of her colleagues while Emma is haunted by past events. They must both overcome these obstacles if they wish to move on.

How do you think Macy has changed the most since Bone Dust White? Has she surprised you along the way?

Macy’s character has changed tremendously over the three novels. In Bone Dust White, Macy is heavily pregnant and somewhat ambivalent about the impending birth of her first child. Newly single, she is struggling to accept the end of her relationship with her boss Ray Davidson. Because she is pregnant she isn’t physically assertive and she certainly never draws her firearm. She is this lumbering, ungainly woman who is clearly uncomfortable with her situation.

The fact that Macy’s physicality dramatically shifts in the second and third books shouldn’t be a surprise but in a way it is. It was as if I was getting to know a completely different woman. Motherhood doesn’t make Macy more risk adverse. If anything she’s out there working harder than ever. Though she has occasional regrets she really has no interest in switching gears and slowing down. She knows she will be miserable if she does.

In Burnt River, the second novel in the series, Macy is a physically fit mother who takes a lot of risks when pursuing the case. She is also sexually assured and at times even aggressive. She is incredibly sharp in her role as an investigator, but her occasional drunken lapses and self-destructive behavior indicate that all is not well. While she loves being a mother, her ongoing relationship with Ray is causing havoc. He is manipulative and cruel and she’s often at his mercy. Ending it proves to be more traumatic than she could have ever foreseen.

In Walleye Junction we see Macy go through the painful process of moving beyond Ray. She’s met Aiden and slowly negotiates a space for him in her life but this time it is on her terms. Ray’s legacy makes it difficult to trust her romantic instincts but she is incredibly assured in her role as criminal investigator. Ray was once her mentor and now she is proving herself to be an even better investigator. She is also far more physical in this book. She actually kicks a guy’s ass. Writing that scene was especially gratifying.

What kind of research did you do for Walleye Junction?

Walleye Junction is based on short story I wrote four years ago so I had that to draw from as inspiration for Emma Long’s character and her relationship with her hometown, Walleye Junction. But it was an article in The Atlantic on the growing problems of heroin addiction in my home state, West Virginia that gave me the idea of centering the novel around America’s prescription painkiller epidemic. An extensive article in the LA Times further sharpened my resolve that this was an issue I couldn’t walk away from. Countless individuals have become addicted to opiate-based painkillers. An unholy trinity of unscrupulous doctors, profit driven drug manufacturers and a government that caved into lobbyists has created a manmade epidemic and the unfolding tragedy can be witnessed throughout the United States. The articles in The Atlantic and the LA Times were incredibly well researched and sited source material. By tracking down the sources I was able to get a pretty realistic idea of the scope of situation. The next step was to incorporate it into my storyline.

Why suspense? What do you enjoy the most about reading, and writing, in the genre?

I love the complexity of a beautifully written suspense novel. If the characters, setting and narrative arc are thoughtfully constructed, the reader will be fully vested in the outcome. There’s a great deal of subtle manipulation that’s going on behind the scenes but when it’s well written it never comes off as heavy handed. In successful suspense novels it’s not just the plot that’s a puzzle. There’s also the delicious logic that was in play as the writer carefully crafted the piece and for me this is part of the drama. I don’t just enjoy readings such books, I also enjoy picking them apart to see how they tick. In suspense novels the stakes are very high. Matters of life and death are not to be taken lightly. I therefore take the responsibilities that come with writing in this genre very seriously. If I’m going to kill someone off in my books I better have a damn good reason for doing it.

If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?

Interestingly, there are several books on my shelf that I’ve read on average of once a decade since I first picked them up 40 years ago. With each reading I experience something new. In a way it’s like reading them for the first time but of all of my favorites I’d probably choose All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy as the book I’d love to read again for the first time. Now that I’m a published author and I have difficulty turning off my editorial voice, it would be interesting to see if my reaction to the book is just as visceral as it was more than 30 years ago.

It’s been a while since we caught up… Have you read any good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?

With an upcoming deadline on the fourth book in the series and Walleye Junction’s forthcoming publication I’ve been busy so my reading list has been a bit neglected. I’m looking forward to reading Laura Lippman’s Wilde Lake, Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller and When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen. There are couple of books that have stood out over the past year. Within the crime genre I recommend A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson, Don’t Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams and Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton. I’ve also recently read an anthology of Shirley Jackson’s previously unpublished work – Let Me Tell You, which I highly recommend and James Salter’s Light Years, which is and always will be absolutely exquisite.

What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?

There’s so much that’s going on at the moment! I’m pleased to have nearly finished writing the fourth book in the Macy Greeley series. Tentatively entitled Silent Rain, the book reintroduces Grace Adams, a central character from Bone Dust White. While she’s matured since Macy met her in Collier, Grace has not been able to shed her past and is plagued by a series of stalkers who strongly associate her with the crimes that took place in her hometown. When a best selling author turns up dead, presumed murdered, in his fire ravaged home, Macy has to put Grace on the top of a list of suspects, which is uncomfortably long.

I’m also excited to be starting work on a standalone thriller that has been in the planning stages for some time now. It will be set here in London and I’m hopeful the volatile mix of politics and familial dysfunction will be a winning combination. As a writer, I’m really looking forward to this new challenge though I’m not sure how I’ll manage to squeeze it in between writing the Macy Greeley detective series.

Keep up with Karin: Website | Twitter

About Walleye Junction:

When outspoken radio talk show host Philip Long is kidnapped and murdered, Detective Macy Greeley leaves her young son in the care of her mother and heads up to remote Walleye Junction, Montana to take charge of the investigation. It is initially believed that Long’s murder is the result of a controversial radio show he’s done on the rise of far right militias in the state. Within days the two kidnappers are found dead following a massive heroin overdose, and the authorities are hopeful the investigation is finished. But there are too many discrepancies for Macy to settle for obvious answers. The kidnapper’s bodies have been moved, their son is on the run and a series of anonymous emails point investigators toward the murky world of prescription painkiller abuse. Macy soon finds herself immersed in small town intrigues as she races to find who’s really responsible for Philip Long’s murder.

Meanwhile, Philip Long’s daughter Emma is dealing with her own problems. It’s been twelve years since she left Walleye Junction after her best friend died from a drug overdose. Emma finds that little in Walleye Junction has changed in her absence. She is also becoming increasingly uneasy as the familiar surroundings stir up memories that are best forgotten.

With Walleye Junction, a taut, propulsive mystery, Karin Salvalaggio will once again grip readers from the opening page to the stunning conclusion.

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