Please help me welcome Katherine Pritchett and her debut novel, What the River Knows. I’m especially pleased to host Katherine, since I was fortunate to be her editor for this tense, compelling read.
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When a hometown girl is brutally murdered, Detective Scott Aylward vows to bring a killer to justice. His focus on the case further damages his failing marriage and reinforces the knowledge that he always fails those who matter most–his parents, his boss, his wife, but most of all the victims who expect him to bring them justice.
His search for the killer takes him back to his roots and crosses his path with the missing piece of the puzzle. When the shocking truth is finally revealed, he finds himself unarmed and face to face with the killer. This time, failing might cost him his life.
He slowed his pace within twenty feet of a gray and twisted tree trunk that must have once supported a massive cottonwood, but now instead provided a windbreak that allowed sand to settle in its lee and let shrubs gain a foothold. He looked down the sloping bank of the dike toward the river, noting the lazy flow as it rippled barely a foot deep in half a dozen shallow braided channels within the banks. A gray heron took off from a sand bar, long legs dangling behind him.
He stopped and squatted to view the path from a different angle. Just this side of the tree trunk, he saw indistinct grooves in the sand of the path that could have been made by a body being dragged. Big bluestem waved behind the tree trunk, and a sand plum thicket guarded the north side of the approach. Buffalo grass carpeted the ground from the path to the tree, obscuring any sign from this angle. He stood up again.
Now it looked like there were faint marks in the grass, here and there, that could be drag marks. He continued on the other side of the path, careful not to disturb the sign. At last he was even with the northern edge of the sand plum thicket. Again, he went down to see what he could observe from this angle. He spotted some broken branches and a few tufts of buff fur, where the dog had bounded in to make his discovery and dragged the man in his wake. He followed the path of fur and branches with his eyes, and finally saw something large and too pale a pink to belong in that environment. Reminding himself to stay detached and professional, he stepped up on the tree trunk to get a better view.
And now, let’s get to know Katherine…
Where did you get the idea for What the River Knows?
This book was inspired by a murder nearly 40 years ago that is still unsolved. My suggestion about what might have happened and the character of the victim is purely my imagination, however.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?
It just seemed to me that the river witnessed the crime. It knew; now if it would only tell.
What is the most difficult thing about writing a book?
Other than knowing when to stop editing and revising and consider it done, I find I hit a spot about 2/3 through when it’s time to up the ante and start the wrap up. Sometimes I find myself floundering here trying to find that exact point.
What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular?
I quit writing on this one for a long time, because it was taking me someplace dark. I worked on a romance and life seemed to be imitating art, as I fell in love. Then my love died of leukemia after we only had five months together, and I couldn’t write on the romance any more. Then, the dark place I was already in found an outlet in this book, and brought me back to the light.
Are there any tricks or habits you use when creating a story?
I use music to create a mood. Romantic ballads for a love scene, exciting music for chase scenes. Then I try to write as if an actor would have to convey all emotions without the narration. This makes it easier to show, don’t tell.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and how do you like it?
I work for a natural resource agency and have for 30 years. I love most of the work (get a bit frustrated with the red tape from time to time). The job has taken me from coast to coast and got me behind the scenes for experiences not available to the general public. The people I work with in my agency and others are passionate about what they do for the benefit of the public and the natural resources we protect.
What’s the main thing that you could get rid of in your life that would give you more writing time?
If I could just quit procrastinating, I would have so much more time for writing and everything else I need to do. However, sometimes the time I spend just sitting on my porch watching birds gives me insights I wouldn’t have if I were more efficient. I’ll quit procrastinating—someday.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read What the River Knows?
I hope the readers of any of my books come away with a greater understanding of how multi-dimensional human beings are. Good guys, bad guys, victims, bystanders, perpetrators: all have wants and needs and reasons for the things they do. When those reasons collide, we have conflict. Someday, maybe we’ll learn to avoid those collisions. We’ll learn to foster each other’s humanity.
What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?
What is your favorite quote?
I don’t know who said it or if I made it up. You can’t choose the hand you’re dealt, but you can choose how you play it.
Thank you so much for joining me, Katherine. I enjoyed the interview and wish you the best!