Friday, March 29, 2013

Interview with Lee Mims - Author of Hiding Gladys!

Happy Friday!

I have a visitor on my blog today! Lee Mims is the author of Hiding Gladys and she took her time to answer to some interview questions about her book and herself.

Before we continue with the interview, I would like to share some information about Lee Mims' book Hiding Gladys!

Hiding Gladys:

What’s a live rattlesnake doing sunning itself in the back seat of field geologist Cleo Cooper’s Jeep? Nothing good, you can be sure but the dilemma of how it might have gotten there isnt as crucial to her as making certain it doesnt stay. Yet, alarming as such an uninvited passenger might be, more disturbing to the plucky, single-minded Cleo is the need to nail down her deal for mining rights to a rare, vastly valuable North Carolina granite deposit.

The problem is that the property owner, Gladys Walton, has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared, while neglecting to sign the final documents.

First, a murder interferes with locating her: is the woman’s body found dumped in a well that of the missing Gladys? Amid the wooded, rocky countryside, suspicious misdeeds multiply and Gladys’s conniving relations all behave extremely badly.

The increasingly provoked Cleo sees her dog shot, the progress at her job site dangerously disrupted and, finally, is made witness to another death. Whom can she trust? And what kind of distractions should she allow herself when so much is at stake? Both her charming but exasperating ex-husband and an even more seductive former lover are both on hand competing to rescue her; it’s clear to Cleo, though, that she must go it alone and risk the consequences.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Lee Mims!

How does a geologist come to write a novel?
I wrote this story because I love geology and am fascinated by the rapid advances made in both mining and oil and gas exploration. Writing about a field of which you have personal knowledge and a real passion for, I think, makes stories more believable. A novel based around my adventures in mining seemed like the perfect fit.

For those who haven’t read it yet, tell us what Hiding Gladys, book one of the Cleo Cooper Mystery Series, is about.

Book one is a story about a woman geologist who is driven to make a success of her life all on her own. She is a rugged individualist who doesn’t mind risk as long as the reward is great enough. To that end, after finding a rare granite deposit on the coastal plain, she sets out to execute a simple option to lease the property on which the deposit lies from the elderly landowner, Gladys Walton, but complications arise starting with a rattlesnake in her car.

After her dog is shot and she falls down a well onto a body all in the first few days prior to testing, she wonders if things could get any worse. They do. Gladys goes missing and her two greedy children make it clear they intend to take over their mother’s affairs. A series of mysterious accidents, a nervous banker and an imposing sheriff bent on finding a killer all work against her as time and her money are running out.

Bud Cooper, her ex-husband and all-around good guy, whom she still loves but is unable to live with, tries to help her. But she is distracted by an old lover and former geologist, Nash Finley.  


Did you live any of these experiences?

Hiding Gladys is ultimately a work of fiction intended to entertain, but I did set out to write it to capture some of my own experiences in a fictional, fun way. All of the day to day activities Cleo goes through in preparing the property for testing and the actual drilling with the crews I’ve done many times. I even had a drill rig turn over on a swampy piece of property and had to find an all-terrain wrecker to salvage it. I’ve had some experiences with boats, in particular skiffs like the ones described. I’ve come across rattlers, bears, ATF officers, stills and several lost hunting dogs in the field, but these experiences are all just seeds for my imagination. It doesn’t take much to recall one of them and expand it into some life-threatening event for Cleo.


Let’s talk a little about your main character Cleo, and how you shaped her personality. Is she your alter ego?

Cleo and her dream of achieving personal wealth through hard work and risk taking is a dream many people have. Like me, she believes in being responsible for herself. Her methods may, at times, skirt the edge of the law, but she never breaks it. She’s a risk taker, but only with her own life and resources. One of the most important components of her personality though, and the one I use to get her into a lot of hot water, is her compulsion to go it alone and not to use her wealthy ex-husband’s continuing devotion and desire to protect her as a crutch.

When we talk about an alter ego, we think of a second personality different and distinct from who we know we are. For instance, I’d like to think when faced with a masked intruder in a closet I’d have the gumption to fight back, to defend myself as bravely as Cleo. Could I? Would I? I don’t know, but Cleo does and that’s what makes writing about her fun.


How does her character evolve throughout the series?

Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it to say that besides being an amateur sleuth/geologic consultant, her on-again-off-again relationship with her ex-husband is the thing that Cleo struggles with the most in her life. The series picks up on Cleo’s life about five years after she finally divorces Bud, unable to accept even after twenty years of trying, being coddled and spoiled. Still when bad things happen, it seems he’s always there to help if she wants him. History has told her she’s sure she doesn’t. She’s sure if only she acquires enough wealth, she’ll never need to depend on anyone. But by the end of the series it may be that Cleo learns true love trumps independent wealth, but having both trumps everything. It may be, but I’m not saying.


You have lived in North Carolina your entire life, except for just a few years in Washington, D.C., and the book is set in your home state. You even provide a map for readers to visualize where things are geographically. How important was NC to this story?

For each story I have planned, North Carolina and its unique geologic past is one of the key characters, if you will. For example, a rare granite deposit beneath the coastal plain of North Carolina like the one in Hiding Gladys actually does exist, just not a far east as my imaginary one. And book two, Trusting Viktor, centers around a vast deposit of natural gas fifty miles off the coast. This deposit actually exists and several attempts to drill an exploratory well in it have occurred. The US Geological Survey estimates this reservoir to be larger than Prudhoe Bay. A kernel of truth, they say, makes a story more believable.


Your background in geology obviously influenced some details in the book and the overall plotline. Did you have to do much research to flesh out the story?

From a geologic standpoint, Hiding Gladys was written from personal experience. I did have a detective friend help me depict the crime scenes accurately and make sure I kept my guns straight. I also had a banker friend help me with the financial issues in the story. My second book Trusting Viktor, which centers on oil and gas exploration, took a considerable amount of research. Although I was trained as a petroleum geologist, I have no personal experience in that field. That’s where still having lots of friends in the industry comes in handy.

Which mystery authors do you read – and who are your favorite amateur sleuths?

I think Sue Grafton’s A to Z mysteries were the ones that really got me hooked. Her Kinsey Mulhoney will always be a favorite, although I desperately want to fix her hair. For sheer fun, you can’t beat Jane Evanovich and her bounty-hunter heroine Stephanie Plum. I also like some of the amateur sleuths created by male writers like Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr. James Hall’s Hap Tyler in Hard Ground, or Thorn in his many “Thorn mysteries” or Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar, the sports agent sleuth are also familiar friends I look for on the book shelves.

How many books are planned for the Cleo-led series?


What can you tell us about your next book, Trusting Viktor?

Trusting Viktor is a real labor of love for me for two reasons. One, I’m fascinated by the technology used today to find and retrieve fossil fuels in an economically feasible and sustainable way—it is tantamount to exploration in outer space. And two, the story offers another view of what it would mean in jobs and revenue if the Manteo Prospect—the name for the actual deposit that exists of North Carolina’s coast—were to prove economically viable. So with that in mind, unable to ignore the lure of big risk/big rewards, Cleo joins her ex-husband Bud in a high stakes quest to find this vast gas deposit and bring it to market. Little did she know that the company they invested in is about to go bankrupt. Budget and staff cuts cause them to enlist the aid of Cleo as a back up to a wet-behind-the-ears well-site geologist.

Cleo comes across a clue to the whereabouts of a treasure of incalculable value and is reunited with a one-night stand she thought she’d never see again, a young Russian geologist, Viktor Koslov.

About the author:

Lee Mims is and always has been a North Carolina farm girl. She played outdoors from dawn to dusk, built forts, drank water from garden hoses and ran with sticks. And for 25 years, she raised and trained Quarter Horses.

She was often sick as a child, and it was while staying home with her mother that Mims learned the beauty of words. Together they read endlessly: short stories, fairy tales and adventure novels.

Because of her love of the great outdoors, she later earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and worked as a field geologist. And as a popular wildlife artist, Mims owns her self-named studio where she does both portrait and fine art oil paintings. She has two pieces on tour with Paint America and recently sold a painting to Ms. Andy Griffith for his museum.

Books never escaped her, and her geology background inspired Hiding Gladys, the first of the debut author’s Midnight Ink-published Cleo Cooper Mystery Series. Busy writing the next installment, Trusting Viktor, Mims is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

She lives on a family farm in Clayton, NC with her husband.


Thanks goes to Lee Mims to finding answer to all the questions!

Happy reading!



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