I was recently interviewed by Many Books. I am sharing a few insights here with a link to the complete Q&A at the end of this post.
What inspired you to write about someone who loses an old friend to what appears to be suicide?
When journalists get too close to exposing corrupt government officials, their lives are in peril. The inspiration for Rita evolved from a 1970’s unsolved murder near Washington, DC with events from more recent journalist murders in Mexico and Slovakia woven in. In all the cases, colleagues took on investigating the killings as personal; they became crusades.
Tell us more about Rita Mars. What makes her tick?
Rita Mars has been an investigative reporter. She’s quick and she’s smart. She does not tolerate fools. She can be abrasive. She’s the daughter of a policeman, a Viet Nam vet with definitive rules. While she rebelled against the rigidity, the lessons learned prepped her perfectly for her role. As she got older, she wanted more a hand in the justice she sought as a reporter, hence her leap from writing about wrongs to having a hand in “righting” those wrongs.
You used to work as a crime reporter. How have your real-life experiences in crime reporting influenced your work?
Immediately out of grad school, I became a reporter for the Fort Smith Times-Record on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border – home of the famous “hangin’ judge” Charles Parker of the movie True Grit fame. There were several murders, including one that remains unsolved today, but the highlight of my stay there was my getting to meet and interview Sam Ervin, Senate lead on the Watergate investigations. I was hooked then on writing about the back-channel manipulations of underhanded politicians.
Learn more about Valerie Webster, her current work and her new book, Objects of Desire, coming in the fall of 2022.