Episode 34: Sally Wright

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When I was lying in the hospital three months or so ago, after the boys and their children had gone home, Alan came back and kissed my forehead and said, "It's time you wrote it down..." I didn't have to ask what he meant... -- Sally Wright, Behind the Bonehouse Sally Wright's mysteries are beautifully written tales that wrestle with moral issue and the complex motivations of everyday people. You can learn more -- and see photos! -- on her website, SallyWright.net, where she also lists both of her series, in order. Two of the books we talk about in depth are her latest, Behind the Bonehouse, the second in her Jo Grant series, set in horse country, Kentucky; and Code of Silence, the prequel to her Ben Reese series, and featuring as a key plot element the Venona Code. Sally gives a shout-out to different authors who have influenced her writing, including P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, and Josephine Tey, but also Tolstoy and Jane Austen. As always, if you'd rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Enjoy! -- Laura Transcript of Interview with Sally Wright Laura Brennan: My guest today is Edgar Award Finalist Sally Wright. In addition to elegant writing and plotting, Sally does intense research for her novels. She has studied rare books, falconry, painting restoration, the Venona Code, and much more to write about her hero, Ben Reese, an ex-WWII Ranger and university archivist. Her latest series, the Jo Grant mysteries, focus on Kentucky’s horse culture and the families who live and die there. Sally, thank you for joining me. Sally Wright: Thank you. LB: Let's start with your Ben Reese series. Publish and Perish is the first book, and Ben is a rather unusual protagonist. He's not a cop, he's not a PI, he's an archivist. SW: Right. LB: And it's set in 1960. How in the world did you come up with the idea for the series? SW: Well, because I met a man who was an archivist at a university -- and this would've been probably about 1973, when I had my first conversation with him. And I knew him as an archivist and he seemed to be World War II age to me, and I asked him what he did in the war. And he gave me a jive response, and I kept just kind of pushing him. And he said, well, I was a behind the lines scout in Europe. I worked for Army intelligence. And I looked at him and I went, if I ever write a mystery novel, you're the character for me. Because I was so interested in a man of action who could do the really dangerous things that he had done in the war, who would come out of that war and do something highly intellectual and very different than what he had done previously. So that really appealed to me. So if I was can write that character, I had to do it at a time when his age -- I wanted to do it when he would have been in his late thirties or something. When he would have been in his prime. LB: So, when you started, you started with him in academia. Then you said that you wanted him to have a little bit more scope. SW: First of all, in knowing this gentleman, he traveled all over the world, he had worked studying archival matters and artifacts in several countries and that's what he would do in the summer when he had time off. And I went, I could put him anywhere. The plot could be based on an artifact or person he meets who owns the artifact or is looking for one. It really gave me tremendous scope. And then I got to go to very interesting places and meet very interesting people that I never would've met if I hadn't been working on the books. LB: You have a wonderful website that we're going to link to in the show notes -- SW: Oh, good. LB: SallyWright.net, correct? SallyWright.net SW: Yes. LB: And you talk a lot about how you come up with your ideas. There always seems to be a connection almost from one book to the next of where you get the idea for the next book -- and even for your next series, you got it traveling for the Ben Reese series.

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