Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Q and A With Sibella Giorello, Author of the Raleigh Harmon Series

Closing her assignment with the FBI's Seattle office, forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, expecting a warm welcome. Instead she finds herself investigating an ugly cross burning at a celebrity's mansion and standing in the crosshairs of her boss at the Bureau. And the deeper Raleigh digs into the case, the murkier the water becomes...until she's left wondering who the real victims might be.

To make matters worse, Raleigh's personal life offers almost zero clarity. Her former confidant is suddenly remote while her former boyfriend keeps popping up wherever she goes. And then there's her mother. Raleigh's move home was supposed to improve Nadine's fragile sanity, but instead seems to be making things worse.

As the threads of the case begin crossing and double-crossing, Raleigh is forced to rely on her forensic skills, her faith, and the fervent hope that breakthrough will come, bringing with it that singular moment when the clouds roll away and everything finally makes sense.

Tell us the backstory behind writing the Raleigh Harmon series. I've read you wanted to write a different kind of mystery.

When Raleigh Harmon appeared on the page, I'd been reading mysteries for many years. So many years that I was about to quit. The secular mysteries were too dark, too gratuitous about violence and death -- and boy, was I sick of reading about demented Christians. But meanwhile the faith-based mysteries didn't always reflect real life, whose harsh truths slapped my face daily as a newspaper reporter.The book I wanted to read was missing. So I decided to write it.Raleigh Harmon came along as a kickin' Christian. She knows evil exists; she doesn't flinch from reality; she struggles daily.But she knows God's in charge. And He's good.
So good He loves the bad guys, too.

The latest installment is called "The Clouds Roll Away." What's  the story behind the title?

In this series, each title reflects some spiritual hurdle that Raleigh's facing. As a geologist, she's literally grounded in nature. But as a
Christian, she's forever looking over the horizon line. That duality of earth-and-heaven is reflected in the titles: The Stones
Cry Out, The Rivers Run Dry, The Clouds Roll Away. This last title reflects the idea that God isn't visible to us except during mere moments of time, little slivers of life, when the clouds roll away and we get a glimpse of eternity -- right before the clouds
roll back and we're forced to continue walking by faith.

You're from Richmond and the series takes place in Richhmond but you now live in Washington state. What do you miss most about Richmond?

Actually, I'm not from Richmond. I grew up in Alaska. But I moved to Richmond to work on the daily newspaper. I discovered a second home.Now that I've moved back west, what I miss are the Southerners themselves.Each region of America has its strengths, but Southerners are the best story tellers. And the most gracious. That means when you're invited to
"supper," you get more than a meal. You receive these remarkable stories
filling your heart and soul.I also miss the accents, the shifting lyricism from Virginia to the Carolinas, from Alabama and Georgia to Louisiana. They're all beautiful. And they turn the simplest phrases into poetry.

 Both you and your main character Raleigh have backgrounds in geology. Any other similarities?

Mt. Holyoke College gave us the geology degrees.And we both love a great cheeseburger.

Do you outline your novels or are you more of an organic writer?

I've tried both methods, but fall somewhere in the middle. It's like planning a trip: Hang on to your itinerary but don't pass up
serendipity. That's where joy comes in, along with the supernatural guidance every writer needs for encouragement.

Who are some of your literary influences?
Since I was a science major in college, and pretty much a flunky in high school, I can't claim any notable greats for literary influences. But my grandmother was a librarian and funneled literature into me from an early age.
In the realm of mystery writers, my influences are the people who carved out the genre, paving the way for a protagonist like Raleigh Harmon. My personal favorites are John D. MacDonald and Ross Thomas and Dashiell
Hammett. More modern influences are James Lee Burke and of course the real trailblazer for female sleuths, Sue Grafton. I wish we could extend the alphabet for that woman.

Sibella Giorello began her writing career as a journalist. Her stories have won awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer. Her novel The Stones Cry Out won a Christy Award. Visit her at http://www.sibellagiorello.com/

No comments: