Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tom Mach - An Innocent Murdered - Author Interview

My thanks to Tom Mach for stopping by City Girl Who Loves to Read for an author interview during the blog tour for his book, An Innocent Murdered.

Author Interview

1. Why did you choose this setting?
I chose two locations for An Innocent Murdered. I created a fictitious Kansas town called Rock Meadow where a good part of the action occurs. But I also have a few chapters in my book where the plot continues in Chicago. I chose a Kansas town because I live in Lawrence, Kansas, and I chose Chicago because that’s where I was born and raised.

2. How is it a fundamental part of your overall theme?
Well, the Kansas town I selected is fairly laid back, people are friendly and the pace is slower. So when a priest in An Innocent Murdered is accused of being a child molester, it rocks the entire town. People in Rock Meadow are conservative, go to church of Sunday, and are family-oriented. It was a perfect setting for the explosive reaction folks had when they learned that someone had murdered the accused priest. Chicago also plays an important part of my story because the detective finds an important clue in an abandoned building which solves a cold case murder of a young girl—a murder that happened 25 years ago and which in a strange way helps the detective solve the case of the slain priest. The reader is presented with a contrast between a small town’s horror over an accused priest and a large city’s apparent apathy about the murder of a child.

3. How challenging was it to write about?
Setting should be considered as an additional character in a novel. In my case, I had a couple of major challenges. One was in not trying to identify the fictitious town of Rock Meadow with Lawrence. I had to make Rock Meadow a composite of several towns, with the progressive feel of Topeka, the country feel of Dodge City, and the progressive feel of Lawrence. Another challenge was for me to show Chicago as it really is while hiding the identity of the actual street where the detective uncovered shocking evidence in an abandoned building. I had in mind the actual street where I envisioned this happened while hiding from the reader its true location.

4. How did you develop your setting as you wrote your book?
There are several settings in An Innocent Murdered. One, of course, was the interior of the police department. With the help of television crime episodes and the help of a real detective who shared some of his experiences with me, I was able to create a believable setting. Another was an elegant house—which reminded me of a house I once visited, although the detective’s girlfriend had a ceiling mirror in her bedroom (I had to imagine that one!) The rectory was another scene, and I have seen several rectories during my life, so it was not that difficult to imagine, although I had to create in my mind where things were located—the fireplace, the bookcase, table, chair, and the door leading to the street—among other items. The fireplace was interesting because as the log snapped and crackled while the priest was confronted with his loneliness and heartache, a deepening sense of dread permeated the air. That was the same evening he was murdered. The mysterious painting in the abandoned cellar in Chicago was another shocking experience, but I don’t want to give any detail of that here because it might give away too much of my novel.

5. How do you transport them there through your writing?
In transporting my characters to different locations, I frequently indicate the location prior to the start of a new chapter. Sometimes I indicate where a particular character will be going by mentioning the character’s intention in the previous chapter. In An Innocent Murdered, police invade a motel where the prime suspect is hiding, a detective enters a gym where a teenage boy under the detective’s charge is shooting baskets, or that detective drives with a friend down the Stevenson Expressway in Chicago to locate an abandoned building. I have characters walking, stomping, running, driving a car, or flying in a commercial jet. The reader always has a sense of where the characters are going and how they are getting there.

6. How do you introduce them to an area they may not be familiar with?
I give the reader enough description so she knows what the characters is actually seeing. I might mention unusual things like the kind of sofa the detective’s girlfriend has, how far the wet bar is from the living room, what the outside of a friend’s house looks like, or what street the detective has to get to in order to get to the crime scene where the murder occurred.

7. How do you go about making the setting come alive for the reader?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the setting should be looked upon as another character in the novel. I do this by not only giving a physical description of the location—without getting carried away—but I also insinuate the setting by thoughts of a character or the dialogue between two characters. For instance, I have a scene where Detective Matt Gunnison is having a dinner with a friend named Susan. At first there is a physical description of the setting, but the dialogue picks up the rest to fill the scene in…

Matt and Susan shared a good view of Reagan Lake at the Equinox restaurant. The overhead lights were a light blue, almost coinciding with the color of the lake itself just out the large window. The soft strains of the instrumental music for “I Only Have Eyes For You” filtered through to the patrons relaxing at dinner. The moon beamed its bright yellow face at them.

Matt observes a sailboat about to dock at the pier. “Matt,” Susan said, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to go sailing somewhere. Perhaps disappear for a few days.”

“You’ve never been sailing? Ever?”

The conversation later switches gears…

“I was going to take you to a restaurant where they have more of a Western flavor, but you said you wanted to try the Equinox.”

Susan tilted her head. “I enjoy country and western music, of course. My father used to accompany the Honky Tonk Oakies as a guitar accompanist. I guess that type of music’s in my blood.”

We further learn that this is a high class restaurant and we learn something about her character as well. She’s not as comfortable here as she would be in a country and western bar.

When the scene much later switches to Matt and his friend Susan searching an abandoned cellar in Chicago. The reader knows this to be a creepy place…

A scream rang out from the floor below. The cellar! Matt grabbed his lantern and ran across the room, searching quickly for the entrance to the cellar. His heart raced, and he removed his gun from his shoulder holster.

“Susan!” he shouted, kicking open the cellar door. The damp and musty smell of the cellar assaulted his nostrils. His gun was poised as he raced down the steps. “Are you all right?”

The yellow beam from a flashlight played against the brick walls. Matt pointed his gun against the source of the light. “Susan!” he screamed. “What’s going on?”

About the Book
An Innocent Murdered

Book Details:
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Murder Mystery
Format: ebook
Price: $0.99
Buy Links: Kindle

Father O'Fallon has been murdered, and police officer Jacinta Perez is arrested and charged. Detective Matt Gunnison, however, is not convinced and with the help of Susan, an ex-nun, he discovers a fascinating link between the priest's death and the death of a child 25 years ago. Will Matt be able to solve both murders?

“What’s critically important here,” Matt said, “is the time this event happened. Mr. Zylinski, you said you knew it was about 9:13 pm when this occurred. How would you know that?”

“It’s all in the deposition, sir,” the man replied. “I checked my watch just before I got to my car. I had to be somewhere at ten and didn’t want to be late.”

The attorney leaned forward, a smile on her face. “I am sure you learned by now, Mr. Gunnison, that the bank clock was correct after all. During the day, that clock was not set back an hour for daylight savings time, but it was corrected by the bank manager at 6:00 that evening. So it really was 9:13 after all.”

Matt was a bit miffed at her know-it-all attitude. “Thank you for pointing that out to me, counselor.”

About the Author
Tom Mach

Tom Mach wrote two successful historical novels, Sissy! and All Parts Together, both of which have won rave reviews and were listed among the 150 best Kansas books in 2011. Sissy! won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award while All Parts Together was a viable entrant for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Award. He also wrote a collection of short stories entitled Stories To Enjoy which received positive reviews. Tom’s other novels include: An Innocent Murdered, Advent, and Homer the Roamer.

His poetry collection, The Uni Verse, won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. In addition to several awards for his poetry, Writer’s Digest awarded him ninth place in a field of 3,000 entrants. He also has a popular blog for writers of both prose and verse.

Connect With Tom:
Web Site

A $50 Amazon gift card to the commenter that Tom feels leaves the best comment. He will make his selection at the end of his tour. Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.


  1. Thank you for the clues!!


  2. marybelle-

    Any idea who committed the murder based on the clues I've given?

  3. Your story sounds really exciting. I would love to read it.

  4. HA...I don't have a clue as to who the murderer is. I'll bet it's one of those 'I didn't see that coming' moments in the book!

  5. the setting should be looked upon as another character in the novel

    That's a fantastic outlook, and one sure to make your story much richer.

  6. Karen H

    The clues are in the book but I think the identity of the true murderer will come as a shock to you. I hope you read it to let me know if you were surprised.

  7. Mysti Holiday--

    When I started writing I never thought of the setting itself as being a "character" but when you think about it, it makes sense.

  8. Mysti Holiday

    True, it does make sense. What do you write?

  9. Tom, thanks for a terrific post and for inspiring all of these wonderful comments.