A summer full of secrets, a hottie boy-next-door, and suspense – I gotta read this! Today my guest is Peggy Rothschild, author of PUNISHMENT SUMMER (October 2015, Evernight Teen).
Peggy Rothschild grew up in Los Angeles. Always a mystery-lover, she embraced the tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys before graduating to the adult section of the library. An English major in high school, she switched to art – her other passion – in college. At present, Peggy lives in the beach community of Ventura with her husband and their cats. (The cats frequently act as consultants during the writing process, attacking pages they don’t think are quite up to snuff.) In her spare time she focuses on transforming their yard into a drought-tolerant paradise
Me: So tell us a little about the book.
Peggy: Sixteen-year-old Nicki is sent to stay at her grandfather’s cabin near the town of Punishment in the Mendocino Forest. As always, she hides her burn scars and keeps quiet about the mother who ran out on her. But soon after arriving, she begins to suspect Grandpa is also keeping secrets. Her exile brings an unexpected bright spot: Grandpa’s German shepherd, Queenie. The hunky neighbor boy’s another plus, though she quickly starts to doubt his honesty.
From secret pot farms to human trafficking, Nicki discovers nothing in the ‘Mendo’ is what it seems. When Grandpa takes off and the lives of new friends are endangered, Nicki must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect those she cares about. Before summer ends, Nicki will learn there are some choices she can’t undo.
It’s a good thing Grandpa taught her how to shoot.
Me: Love suspense! How long did it take you to write this book?
P: Wow, that’s a surprisingly tough question. I started noodling around with the idea, doing research and developing the character almost two years ago. I got a rough draft together, then set it aside to work on another project. About a year ago, I returned to Nicki’s world, did more research, and did several rewrites and revisions.
Me: Letting it rest, sounds like a smart thing to do. What Genre do you write and why?
P: Motives fascinate me. The why of people’s actions. Because of this, I’ve always been drawn to mysteries and puzzles. Not surprisingly, my first two books (aimed at an adult audience) were mystery and suspense. This is my first Young Adult contemporary novel – but there are a number of little mysteries throughout the story.
Me: Can you pick a favorite line from your latest work and tell us why this is your favorite?
P: Our house was no picnic but, even though the missing and dead shadowed our rooms, we never mounted their heads.
I like the above line because it captures Nicki’s situation; how her home life wasn’t ideal, but she knew how to navigate those waters – unlike at her grandfather’s cabin.
Me: Feels like a very telling line about your character. What can you share with other writers were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
P: I wasn’t sure how the editing process would work and was chewing my nails before my editorial letter arrived. Turned out all my angst was for nothing. The suggested edits not only made sense, they strengthened the writing. It turned out to be a very pleasant experience.
Me: That’s great! Do you have a favorite author(s)?
P: I have so many, that I need to break it down. In mysteries, my favs include Nevada Barr, C.J. Box, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Tana French, and Brad Parks. In YA, I love J.K. Rowling (of course!), Brandy Colbert, Mindy McGinnis and Jandy Nelson
Me: Love some of those YA authors too. What are a few things about yourself most people would expect?
P: I tend to write about characters who are athletic and coordinated, so readers might expect me to bear those same traits. While I LOVE to exercise (bicycling, walking, yoga), I’m not terribly coordinated and have fairly accident-checkered past. (In the last year, I cracked a rib and broke a toe.) Unlike my heroines, the odds of me running and jumping over something without landing on my face are minuscule.
As a part of researching a previous book (Clementine’s Shadow), I took the PC832 Concepts class, a required training course for peace officers. On the first day, I discovered I was the only one taking the class for personal interest. But, I was glad I stayed. I got a much better grasp on the law, learned how to do a ‘follow-along’ hold, how to cuff someone, AND passed the marksmanship segment on the firing range. (I still have the perforated target to prove it!)
Me: Impressive! Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers?
P: Keep writing and find a good critique group. It’s easy to get discouraged and being part of a community helps. With fellow writers, you can kick ideas around, get feedback on pages, and share your pain when the story’s bogged down.
Me: Great advice! If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
P: Now that I’ve seen the book cover for Punishment Summer, that’s who I picture as Nicki. I could easily see Keith Carradine playing Grandpa, and Logan Lerman playing Ben, but I’m not sure who I’d cast as Todd.
Me: Something fun. Chocolate or Wine (or any other adult beverage)?
P: If we’re talking beverages, mine would be chardonnay (I don’t drink coffee). As for chocolate, I love it dark but don’t want it mixed with anything. Just a piece of dark chocolate, straight up!
Me: What is your favorite meal?
P: Vegetable Yakisoba
Me: Something I haven’t tried! Favorite Color?
P: Aqua – especially when paired with orange. Those colors together just pop.
Me: If you were a superhero, what would your name be? What would you wear?
P: Oh, probably something mundane, like “The Organizer” (She’ll organize those stacks of paper into a single mound!). Being a super hero’s hard work, so I’d want my costume to be comfy – probably yoga pants and a T-shirt with a giant ‘O’ on the back. 😀
Me: Well organizing is a lot of work! What’s next in your future?
P: I like to step away from a manuscript so I can come back with fresh eyes. Because of that, I’ve got three manuscripts going right now. One, a mystery geared for adults, is about a con artist-turned magician’s assistant. I feel like I’m closing in on final edits for that one. I also have a YA mystery set in 1977 during a bad wildfire season in California, and will be doing rewrites for that manuscript soon. I’m also working up some sequel ideas for Punishment Summer.
Me: That’s great! Sounds busy 🙂 Thanks for joining us today, Peggy. And for our readers, check out all of Peggy’s links and an excerpt from her book below.
Click on Author Interviews on my homepage if you’d like to be featured on an upcoming post of Behind the Scenes, an author spotlight series.
Excerpt from Punishment Summer:
The hill climb seemed endless. Up, up, up we went, keeping beneath the cover of trees and shrubs. Other than the fact that Queenie periodically growled at Ben, the dog seemed to enjoy the journey. Though the pine-scented air felt cooler under the trees, my T-shirt soon became soaked with sweat. I wanted to take a drink from my canteen and pour some water into my palm for Queenie, but worried about the etiquette. Would I have to offer Ben a drink? I wasn’t sure I wanted to swap germs with the guy. I longed to ask how much farther we had to go, but held off. He sounded pissed enough the last time I asked. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and continued climbing.
Ben stopped, held up his hand. He leaned in, his body heat adding to the day’s warmth as he whispered in my ear. “We gotta keep real quiet now. Watch where you step. Try to make as little noise as possible.” He moved off, walking in a strange semi-crouch.
I tried to mimic his stance as I followed. He stopped at the hill’s crest and knelt behind a tree. I hunkered down in his shadow, my arm around Queenie. Below us stretched rows and rows of bright green plants. Slender pines edged the field. Two men walked between the rows, the height of the crop almost to their knees. The large buds on the branches of the closest plants were easy to spot. Each man carried a plastic jug, dribbling liquid on the crop rows as they passed. The nearer of the two wore khakis plus a dirt-and sweat-stained undershirt. The distant man looked more pulled together: short-sleeved shirt tucked into his pants, hair tidy.
From what I could see, other people had spent time in the clearing, too. Maybe even lived there. Hammocks hung between half a dozen trees. Empty food cans rusted in a pile. The remains of an old campfire sat surrounded by cooking pans, food wrappers, and discarded cigarette packs. On the far side of the field sat a trash heap. Two men didn’t make a mess this size.
Black hoses ran between the rows of plants into the woods beyond. Now that we had settled in our spot for a couple minutes, the odor hit me. The place smelled like an outhouse.
Queenie’s body tensed, but she stayed silent. I leaned down and rubbed my cheek against the top of her head.
Gemma once tried growing a couple pot plants behind her garage. A gardening crew took care of their property and her parents never went behind that building. But none of the plants I’d seen before looked like this. Star-shaped clusters rose toward the sky, the glossy leaves reflecting back the sun’s rays. I stared at the sheer size of the growing area and tried to calculate the number of trees someone had chopped down. This was no home patch. This was a huge commercial operation. Ben warned me, but I hadn’t believed him.
Now I knew. We were in way over our heads.