Death by the Bay is the fifth and most recent book in the Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery series.
How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Door County itself was the inspiration for the series. For those unfamiliar with the area, Door County is a peninsula in northeast Wisconsin that juts out between the waters of Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. The peninsula has some 300 miles of shoreland. Known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” it is a mecca for artists and tourists.
Several years back I was sitting on one of the peninsula’s many beaches on a stunning sunny day and then again that same starless night in inky blackness. The difference was startling and prompted me to start thinking about the contrast between light and dark, good and evil. That’s when I realized Door County provided the perfect setting for a mystery: one in which there’d be a picture-perfect setting with sinister forces at work beneath the surface. This was the idea behind the very first book Death Stalks Door County.
The story revolves around a series of murders that are eventually linked to past events. For the plot to work, I needed a protagonist who was an outsider, someone who was unfamiliar with the locals and their shared histories and who was unaware of the old, unresolved grudges and misdeeds that continued to haunt them. As I worked on developing the sinister forces that drove the story, this character named Dave Cubiak slowly materialized on the sidelines. Eventually, I realized that he was the one capable of outwitting the killer.
Initially I intended to write the book as a stand-alone mystery, but as I worked on the manuscript more plot lines presented themselves and I knew that I had the start of a series. Now here I am working on book six.
What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
There’s lots to like about the author’s lifestyle: the independence, the exhilaration of creating something from nothing; the satisfaction of seeing my work in print and hearing from people who enjoy or are touched in some way by the characters and their struggles; and the opportunity to mix with other top-notch writers. I treasure every one of those aspects of being an author. At the same time, it’s an isolated life. I have to make a conscious effort to get out and stay connected with colleagues and friends.
Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My protagonist is a man, so he’s definitely not modeled after me! In some aspects Cubiak is an amalgam of several men, including my wonderful late husband, who have been influential in my life, but in most ways he’s a fictional character who lives only in my imagination and on the pages of my books.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I’d have told my younger self to start earlier. Until recently my professional life was spent as a nonfiction writer. During all that time, I dreamed of being a novelist. Looking back, I wish someone had said: Go for it, just jump in, no matter what else you’re doing.
If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
I picture Dave Cubiak as a younger Harrison Ford. But who would that be in today’s world? Readers have suggested both John Cusack and Ryan Gosling as potential Cubiaks. I’d be delighted with either, but I suspect that when the books are made into movies or a mini-series the lead will be played by a terrific unknown actor who’ll make the role his own.
Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have one favorite author, I have several. Among contemporary writers: William Kent Krueger, Donna Tartt, Kate Atkinson, Alan Furst, Sigrid Nunez, and Jane Hamilton. Among the legendary writers: Dorothy L. Sayers, Kent Haruf, Raymond Chandler, and Daphne De Maurier.
If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Albert Einstein, for the opportunity to glimpse how his mind worked. The same for Leonardo Da Vinci. Cleopatra, because she was a powerful woman operating in a man’s world, not unlike the way things are today. Dame Agatha Christie, the best-selling novelist of all time who surely could provide insight into human character and behavior. And, finally, Stephen Colbert to serve as host, so I could sit back and enjoy the conversation while sipping champagne and pinching myself to make sure it was real.
If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
That’s a tough question. If I could wave a magic wand and eliminate my inner ear imbalance and vertigo, I’d be an astronaut. Imagine the thrill of moving through space and seeing the tiny blue globe of the earth suspended in the vastness of the universe. How marvelous would that be!
On a more realistic level, I’d opt for being a trial lawyer.