Pearl Interview: Lori G. Armstrong

17 Mar
Black Pearls Magazine Intimate Conversations
Lori G. Armstrong left the firearms industry in 2000. Her first mystery novel, BLOOD TIES, published in 2005, was nominated in 2006 for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel by the Private Eye Writers of America. The second book in the Julie Collins mystery series, HALLOWED GROUND, released Nov. 2006, was nominated for a 2007 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original, a Daphne du Maurier Award and won the 2007 WILLA Cather Literary Award for Best Original Softcover Fiction.
SHALLOW GRAVE, released in Nov. 2007, was nominated for a 2008 High Plains Book Award, a Daphne du Maurier Award and was a finalist for the 2008 WILLA Cather Literary Award. The fourth book, SNOW BLIND, released in Oct. 2008, won the 2009 Shamus Award, from the Private Eye Writers of America, for Best Paperback Original. Lori is a proud fourth generation South Dakotan and lives in Rapid City with her family.
Pearl Pick Bookspotlight: No Mercy by Lori G. Armstrong

Mercy Gunderson is a straight shooter with a hard edge. On medical leave from the Army, she returns home to South Dakota, which isn’t much safer for her than Iraq. Arriving just after the death of her father, it is up to Mercy to decide what to do with the family ranch. Trying to deal with her irresponsible sister and nephew and feeling guilty that she didn’t make it home soon enough to see her father one last time; Mercy is suddenly pulled into the local community when the body of a Native American boy is found on her land. But nobody seems to be doing anything about it, especially not the local law enforcement.
When tragedy strikes again, Mercy is ready to throw all her energy into her own investigation, and she’s out for revenge. As she digs up the truth behind the shocking crimes, Mercy uncovers dark and dangerous secrets and must race to stop a killer before everything she’s fought for is destroyed forever.
Intimate Conversation with Lori G. Armstrong
Ella:  Readers, former Army sniper Mercy Gunderson debuts in the first book in a gripping new mystery series.  Lori, tell us more about your main character.
LA) My favorite description is from a reviewer who said Mercy Gunderson is as tough as an old army boot. Mercy is a 38-year-old woman who has spent twenty years in the army, specifically as part of a covert all-female sniper/black ops team. She’s back in South Dakota on medical leave, trying to decide what to do with the ranch that’s been in her family for over 100 years, in the wake of her father’s death. Mercy has dealt with more than her fair share of tragedy, and in her mind it all revolves around the ranch. She’s trying to find her place as a civilian, as well as dealing with her sister, her nephew, the community’s questions and expectations about her past and her future puts her more on edge than when she was getting shot at every day in Iraq. She’s loyal, cool-headed and tenacious, with a taste for whiskey and trouble.
Ella: Are your characters from the portrayal of real people?
LA) No. I’ve never based a character—main or secondary—on a person I know, or a person I’ve seen on TV, or in the movies, or in magazines, etc. Some authors get a kick basing fictional characters on their family and friends, and if that works for them, great. But it doesn’t work for me—I prefer making stuff up, picking one or two internal defining characteristics, throwing in a rational or irrational fear or two, and then narrowing those parameters to see what chaos ensues.
Also, the problem with using real people is many readers already assume I’ve written myself into the lead female role of a book. Not so. Obviously I’ve never done half the crazy or dangerous stuff my characters do, nor do I want to experience it firsthand, but it is fun and often exhausting living vicariously through them. I’ve been asked on several occasions if I’ve based a character on “so and so”– invariably readers are disappointed when I admit all my characters, from major ones to minor ones, are 100% fictional. Yet, I borrow specific characteristics, sometimes physical, sometimes personality quirks or odd mannerisms from people I run across. I always carry a notebook with me since I’m a big people watcher. I love to read body language and attribute meaning to it.
Ella:  What issues in today’s society have you addressed in the book?
LA) Because NO MERCY is based on a ranch in western South Dakota, I’ve concentrated on the land issues that affect families who’ve been ranching for generations. The conglomerates coming in buying up land and turning it into private hunting areas, driving land prices sky-high. The family ranch, the family farm, and that entire rural way of life is disappearing. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? What if an outsider’s definition of progress hurts the entire community? Race relations are still a big issue here—the “us versus them” mentality of whites and Native Americans. As much as I try to incorporate the reality of these serious issues facing us here in the west into my books, I strive to strike a balance between relaying accurate information and providing engrossing entertainment.
Ella:  What sets your book apart from other books in your genre?
LA) Off the top of my head, I say location and setting separate my books from the pack. The greatest compliment I’ve received as an author was from a reader who said they’ve “been” to South Dakota and the setting in my books is as vivid as the characters. Another plus, few writers are penning mysteries set in modern-day South Dakota. There’s a lot written about pioneers and the Deadwood Gold Rush Days, so my goal was to create a contemporary story that shows the diversity of the people who live here. Also, what I feel sets my books apart is the fact I write kick-ass female leads. Strong women, with strong minds, strong bodies, who use strong language, embody a strong sense of self, and are unapologetic about having a strong sex drive. Some of what they do and say isn’t politically correct, but it is accurate. I’d rather stay true to my characters and my vision for a story arc, than knuckle under to what is selling well within the genre.
Ella:  What is the best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
LA) Write every day. Write what you love. Find a critique group or critique partner you trust to give you honest feedback about your work. Accept the only thing you can control in the publishing business is the amount of time you write. Not marketing, promotion, or conferences. Focus on writing. Period. Do it every day. My favorite quote is from author Nora Roberts, who knows a thing or ten million about writing: I live by this quote every day:  “I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank page.”
Ella: Please share your latest news, awards and online contact information:
LA) The fourth book in my Julie Collins mystery series, SNOW BLIND, won the 2009 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original. I’ll be doing an extensive blog tour for the release of my hardcover debut, NO MERCY, throughout the month of January. I’ll also be on book tour across the country for NO MERCY from Jan. 12th, 2010, through the first part of February. The specific details and event dates are listed on my website:
I blog once a week on a variety of topics at my group mystery blog:
I recently joined another group blog where every two weeks I’ll be talking about writing and maintaining two identities—writing mystery under my “real” name, and writing contemporary erotic westerns under a pen name:
I still haven’t been bitten by the Twitter bug, but my daughters (and my publicist) have been nagging me to open a Facebook account, so I gave in!
Ella: Thank you Lori for joining us today. We love a great mystery!


Please join in the discussion by leaving comments or congrats below.Twitter with Ella

Praise for No Mercy by Lori Armstrong:

“Within just a few pages of No Mercy I was gripped…Lori Armstrong is the real deal and so is the setting and the characters in this novel which by turns is tough, sassy, sexy, and unique. As gritty, haunting, and authentic as South Dakota itself, No Mercy is a terrific series debut. ”
—C.J. Box, Edgar-winning author of Below Zero
“Mercy Gunderson shoots straight onto the list of my favorite heroines. A master of snappy dialogue and twisting plots, Lori Armstrong proves again why she is an award-winning author. No Mercy is a thrilling mystery, a hard-edged, fast-paced, no-holds-barred roller coaster ride.”
—Allison Brennan, NY Times bestselling author of Original Sin and Fatal Secrets
“People always ask me what I read and I tell them Lori Armstrong. There comes a point when I need to read her like I need a shot of whiskey at the end of a hard day; Lori’s writing is like that, unforgiving and deeply satisfying.”
—Craig Johnson, author of The Cold Dish and The Dark Horse
“Mercy Gunderson, the protagonist in Lori Armstrong’s wonderful new series, is everything readers hope for in a lead character: strong, capable, hot-headed, and soft in all the right places. Set in South Dakota ranch country that’s so well evoked you’ll smell things you wish you didn’t, with a compelling cast of supporting characters and a dynamite mystery sure to keep you guessing until the very end, No Mercy is a no-holds barred, flat out winner of a series debut.”
—William Kent Krueger, author of Heaven’s Keep and Red Knife


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