A Conversation with Author Tina deBellegarde

Q–  Which book are we talking about today?

A– DEAD MAN’S LEAP revisits Bianca St. Denis in Batavia-on-Hudson, New York.

It is the second book in my series. The first book, WINTER WITNESS was an Agatha, Silver Falchion, and Chanticleer Award-nominated book.

In DEAD MAN’S LEAP, Bianca and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, and they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers to seek shelter, close quarters fuel simmering disputes. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. 

Dead Man’s Leap explores the burden of secrets, the relief of renunciation, and the danger of believing we can outpace our past.

Q–  What inspired the idea for your book?

A– Many years ago, as a young teenager, I briefly lived in this same Catskill Mountain town. At that time, I was shocked to hear that the older kids in my school used to jump off the cliffs into the river or creek. I thought that was crazy since I was never a strong swimmer, but then I found out that one boy’s jump resulted in an injury that put him in a wheelchair. It was a stunning thing to know a peer had done such a thing. This jump has stayed in my memory for all these years and when I decided to set my series in this area I knew that one of the stories would center around a cliff and jumps of this type.

Q–  Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

A– I have always been drawn to strong independent women and my first and favorite is Jo March from LITTLE WOMEN. I wanted to see myself in her. I admired her nonconformity, her resilience and her talent. I have since looked for similar characters in my readings and I hope to convey some of that strength in Bianca and the other females in my series. 

Q–  What does it mean to you to be called an author?

A– Authors are the people I most admire in the world. Books have helped me work through my struggles, have helped me find direction in my life, have entertained me, and have provided an escape during difficult times. It means everything to me to be called an author. The beauty of some writing makes me daydream and at times makes me cry. Good prose is transcendent and can be a balm even for hurts we didn’t know we suffered. To be someone whose writing might do that for others is a dream come true. 

Q–  How do you define success as an author?

A– I know that success as an author is generally measured in dollars and sales, but I am lucky enough to be experiencing another kind of success. I have had readers write to me to tell me that they are transported by my writing, that they see themselves in a character, or that my writing inspired them to be better writers. I have had a great deal of help from the writing community and I have tried to pay it forward and to my surprise, my help has been instrumental to a few authors. These are successes that aren’t measurable on a ledger but make writing worthwhile for me. These successes have also resulted in more confidence on my end which has made the writing experience more fun for me. 

Q–  What do you look for in a story as a reader?

A– As a reader, I seek a slow-burning character-based story. I love a good plot like anyone, but a riveting plot with little or no investment in the character always falls short for me. Whereas a well-developed character study, even when the plot is secondary will always keep my interest. I have always been an observer; reading is another window for me.

Q–  What has been your favorite reader feedback?

A– To my immense pleasure, I have had a fair amount of readers and reviewers say that my books remind them of Louise Penny’s books. I love how she develops her individual characters as well as the dynamics of the village relationships. It’s an enormous honor to have my work compared to hers. 

Q–  What is your all-time favorite book or author? Do you think this has influenced your writing?

A– Anne Tyler is a master at character development. Her stories are so engaging precisely because each character is so well-drawn. We as readers can relate to their quirks and their concerns. I have always said that if Anne Tyler’s books had no plot I would still read them. She has definitely influenced my writing. My favorite part of creating my books is creating my characters, their backstories, their needs, desires, flaws and aspirations. 

Q–  Do you have any quirky writing rituals?

A– I pick a playlist for each project. For example, I wrote WINTER WITNESS while listening to Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else album. I wrote DEAD MAN’S LEAP to Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet. All I need is the opening beats of each album and my head is in that particular book. It puts me on a wavelength, in a certain mood.

Q–  How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block?

A– This might sound cliché, but I avoid writer’s block by sitting down to my computer or legal pad. As long as I sit down to write, I write. If I wait for inspiration before I sit down, other things in life take over. So, my personal formula is sitting in front of my screen or blank page, preferably with a cup of coffee and some music. This ritual seems to signal to my brain that it is time to focus on what I intend to write and it works for me. 

Q–  Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests?

A– I find baking, cooking, and making jam very relaxing and I use them as a way to de-stress. We have a huge garden that keeps us busy planting, harvesting, and preserving. We also keep bees and have 300 shiitake mushroom logs in our woods. 

Q–  What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

A– Make sure you share your writing and get out of your vacuum. You need feedback, guidance, criticism, and encouragement. Don’t keep your writing locked up. 

Q–  What are you working on in the near future?

A– Book 3 of the Batavia-on-Hudson series is underway. The working title is AUTUMN DISPATCHES and this time a large part of the story takes place in Japan. Events in DEAD MAN’S LEAP have led Bianca to go to Kyoto. 

I am also working on a collection of interconnected short stories on a Japanese theme. And I have started to sketch a standalone novel.

Q–  What difference do you see between a writer and an author?

A– I don’t know if others see it this way, but my sense of identity in this field evolved. Early on, I avoided giving myself a label and merely said ‘I write.’ Once I had a little more confidence and had sold my first short story, I started calling myself a writer. It wasn’t until I had a book contract that I called myself an author. 

All along I obsessed on the idea of the falling tree in the woods. If I write but I am never read, can I call myself an author? I feel writing exists to be read, it is a symbiotic relationship. When I write, only half of the equation has been solved. I need a reader to complete the process. 

Q–  What would the title of your autobiography be?

A– Second Chances

Describe yourself in as few words as possible.

A– Persistent, sensitive, and introverted.

Q–  What would your dream library look like?

A– Floor to ceiling books, lots of windows with breezes passing through. Many armchairs, sofas, and tables. Coffee brewing. Real deep quiet, the kind we used to have in libraries. I love the role libraries play in the community these days and that requires more noise than it used to, but I still believe there needs to be a truly quiet part of the library. 

Q–  Name three fun facts about you or your work.

A– I love hot-air ballooning
I visit Japan regularly since my son lives there
My wonderful husband built me a writing cottage which is the perfect writing space.

Q–  If you had a secret room that opened by pulling on a book, what book would you choose?  

A– THE TWENTY-ONE BALLOONS by William Pène du Bois

Q–  If you went on a road trip with any author, who would it be, and where would you go?

A– Haruki Murakami and we would go jazz club hopping.

Q–  If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

A– I would either be a book publisher or start a literary journal. I love the idea of being instrumental in bringing good books and short fiction into the world that might otherwise languish. 


Dead Man's Leap by Tina deBellegarde Banner

Dead Man’s Leap
by Tina deBellegarde
May 1-31, 2022
Virtual Book Tour

Dead Man's Leap by Tina deBellegarde

Synopsis:

DEAD MAN’S LEAP revisits Bianca St. Denis in Batavia-on-Hudson, New York

Rushing waters…dead bodies…secrets…

As Bianca St. Denis and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Leonard Marshall’s historic inn hosts the sale each year, but it is his basement that houses the key to his past. When an enigmatic antiques dealer arrives in town, he upends Leonard’s carefully reconstructed life with an impossible choice that harkens back to the past.

Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers of Batavia-on-Hudson to seek shelter, the river rises and so do tempers. Close quarters fuel simmering disputes, and Sheriff Mike Riley has his work cut out for him. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. Are they investigating an accidental drowning or something more nefarious?

DEAD MAN’S LEAP EXPLORES THE BURDEN OF SECRETS, THE RELIEF OF RENUNCIATION, AND THE DANGER OF BELIEVING WE CAN OUTPACE OUR PAST.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 1685120849 (ISBN-13: 978-1685120849)
Series: A Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

He inched toward the precipice, his toes gripping the stone ledge as if they had a will of their own. He lifted his head and squinted into the sunlight still streaming through the blackening clouds. He took in the expanse of rushing water below. In all his eighteen years, Trevor had never seen the creek roil so ferociously.

A clap of thunder startled him. His toes relaxed, and he felt as if the slightest wind could take him over the edge. Lightheaded for a second, he regained his footing and his purpose.

He had no choice if he wanted all this to stop.

He needed to do it.

And do it now.

The downpour would break again soon. But for now, all he could hear was the rushing of Horseshoe Falls beneath him, the roar drowning out the noise of his past.

Of his father.

Of his mother.

Yes, his mother. He had expected his father to be weak, and wasn’t surprised at all after he left. But his mother? A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional. At least that’s what she had always said before she had turned their world upside down. It was bad enough when she had played at being the sexiest woman in town. At least when his friends teased him then, it was meant to be fun. But this was worse, far worse. Now they wanted nothing to do with him. Now they used him as a punching bag.

His gang no longer looked to him as their leader. They ridiculed him for what his mother had done. From the beginning, he knew those kids were bad news. What choice did he have? In grade school he’d been bullied. Well, he had put a stop to that in high school. Can’t be bullied if you’re the biggest bully.

His mother was gone. His father was gone. And now his posse. First, it was the cold shoulder, and a few snide remarks. Then he was cornered in the locker room after the game one day. That was the hardest. He hadn’t taken a beating like that since the fifth grade. But the tables had been turned on him so fast that he never saw it coming. Trevor realized now that they were never friends. They were just a group of trouble makers who hung out together. Good riddance to them. He didn’t need them anymore.

Another thunderclap reminded him where he was. On the edge. Right on the edge. He either had to do this properly or he would be going over anyway.

Trevor looked over his shoulder one last time and heard a faint commotion in the background. Once they rounded the path, he closed his eyes and jumped.

* * *

Bianca St. Denis stretched to grab the cord just out of reach above her head and yanked on it with all her force to bring down the attic staircase. She tilted her head to avoid being struck as it made its way down. She unfolded the retractable stairs and put one foot on the first rung. But there she stopped, not sure she could take the next few steps. At forty-two the issue wasn’t her physical ability to climb the steps, she was active, even fairly athletic. The old saying went “the mind was willing but the body was not.” Well, in her case “the body was willing but the mind was not.”

She had stayed out of the attic all these months since Richard’s death. She had made do without her ski parka this past winter, and used Richard’s barn jacket she’d found in the mudroom instead. She had made do without the spring curtains she would normally switch out in the living room each March. The winter ones still hung heavy and foreboding. And she made do without the patio cushions she had sewn two seasons ago. She simply sat on the raw wood when she wanted to read or eat in the backyard. She hadn’t realized the number of things she had been doing without by avoiding the attic, not until the town started buzzing about the rummage sale. She pretended it was because she hadn’t had time to search for the items, but she knew better.

She took her foot off the rung, bent and picked up the stairs again, refolded them, and let them float to the ceiling. The hatch closed with a neat click.

* * *

Once Trevor hit the water, his tension disappeared. He welcomed the release and let himself drop. Slowly he was pulled down into the chaos of the rushing water, but his mind had floated above it all. He didn’t feel a thing, he observed it instead. He watched as his body sank, as it swirled in the vortex of the overfull creek. He watched as his body escaped the current and floated peacefully in the murky water. And he watched as he gave in to full renunciation and allowed the water to decide what was to become of him.

His thoughts slowed, as muddy as the water surrounding him.

They slowed, but he could not make them disappear.

He had managed to avoid jumping off Dead Man’s Leap every summer, but this year he knew he couldn’t get away with it. They had already threatened to make sure he jumped this year. That was only part of what the summer had in store for him. Who could he turn to? His grandparents had no idea what he was going through. They always hid their heads in the sand anyway. There was nothing they could do for him. So, he had taken matters into his own hands.

He was shocked when his head broke the surface, and despite himself he gasped for air in enormous mouthfuls until he gagged. He bobbed there, undecided, until he finally attempted the few strides to reach the cove. It took him longer than he expected, like swimming in molasses. A cross between his fatigue, his indifference, and the strong current kept him from reaching the bank in the three strokes it would normally require. On his knees, he crawled out of the pull of rushing water and dropped on the shore.

* * *

Leonard Marshall picked up the package, the paper crinkling in his hand. He carefully unwrapped one layer, then another. Layer after layer until he held the smooth tiny statuette in his hand. He trembled, and smiled, attracted and repulsed at the same time. How could such a tiny thing hold so many emotions for him? So much power over him? It was so small he could cradle it in the palm of his hand. He closed his fingers around it. It disappeared. He opened them again, and there it was. With it came a flood of memories. Exhilarating. His heart raced with a quick pat, pat, pat.

The basement door creaked. He took in a breath.

Time slowed and his heart with it.

Thump……thump……thump.

The light clicked on.

Another creak. Above him a step, a pause, another step. The door ached on its hinges as it opened wider. The light flicked off. The door closed. The steps faded. He let out his breath.

* * *

Trevor had never experienced fatigue like this. He crawled onto shore in the shadow of the cliff and collapsed. He never expected to make it out of the water, and now that he had, he lay there drawing in large mouthfuls of air, as if his lungs would never get enough. He stayed there, staring up at the sky, watching the dark clouds shapeshift. The rain would be there any moment, and to his surprise, he welcomed it.

As his breathing relaxed, he realized that the pain he felt was a sharp object stabbing his back. He rolled over, removed it, and threw it off to the side. As he turned to lay back down, his blurry eyes focused on the object. It was a bone. A human bone? He scrambled onto his knees and slowly made his way over to it. He was repulsed and fascinated, but mostly he was frightened by the sight of a bone and what that could mean. What had happened here, right here in this cove?

In the distance, he heard their drunken voices again. He knelt and grabbed handfuls of dirt to cover the bone. He heard them approach the edge of the cliff.

“He came this way. I saw him jump.”

“He’s too chicken, he didn’t jump. But when I find him, he’ll jump alright. He’ll jump or I’ll send him flying.”

“He jumped, I tell ya. Leave him alone. You wanted him to jump, and he did. I saw him. Let it go, already.”

“Yeah, well if he jumped, where is he?”

“You think he’s still under? You think he hit his head like that kid a while back?”

“I’m telling you, he didn’t jump.”

“There’s nowhere else to go but down. Of course, he jumped.”

“I’m going in. If he did jump, we’ll find him down there. He’s probably hiding under the cliff.”

Trevor carefully picked his way out of the cove. Scraping up against the cliff as close as his body would allow, he followed the contours until he came out on the other side of the falls. With his last bit of strength, he climbed up the rocky trail alongside Horseshoe Falls.

***

Excerpt from Dead Man’s Leap by Tina deBellegarde. Copyright 2022 by Tina deBellegarde. Reproduced with permission from Tina deBellegarde. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Tina deBellegarde

Tina deBellegarde has been called “the Louise Penny of the Catskills.” Winter Witness, the first book in her Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, a Silver Falchion Award and a Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Award. Her story “Tokyo Stranger” which appears in the Mystery Writers of America anthology When a Stranger Comes to Town edited by Michael Koryta has been nominated for a Derringer Award. Tina’s short fiction also appears in The Best New England Crime Stories anthologies. She is the vice-president of the Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and Writers in Kyoto. She lives in Catskill, New York, with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby where they tend to their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She winters in Florida and travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro.

Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
tinadebellegarde.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @tinadebellegarde
Instagram – @tdb_writes
Twitter – @tdbwrites
Facebook – @tinadebellegardeauthor

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
05/02 Showcase @ Books, Ramblings, and Tea
05/05 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews
05/06 Interview @ I Read What You Write
05/07 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
05/10 Review @ sunny island breezes
05/11 Review @ It’s All About the Book
05/12 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
05/13 Review @ Waterside Kennels Mysteries
05/13 Showcase @ Books to the Ceiling
05/16 Review @ Quiet Fury Books
05/17 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
05/18 Guest post @ The Mystery of Writing
05/18 Showcase @ Nesies Place
05/23 Guest post @ Novels Alive
05/24 Review @ Scrapping & Playing
05/25 Review @ Lisa Wetzel (FB)
05/30 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty
05/31/ Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews
08/08 Interview podcast @ Blog Talk Radio
08/08 Review @ Just Reviews

Enter to Win:

THIS IS A GIVEAWAY HOSTED BY PARTNERS IN CRIME TOURS FOR DEAD MAN’S LEAP BY TINA DEBELLEGARDE. SEE THE WIDGET FOR ENTRY TERMS AND CONDITIONS. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

There will be FIVE (1) winners (US ONLY) for this tour.

  • TWO (2) winners will each receive a print edition of Dead Man’s Leap by Tina deBellegarde
  • TWO (2) winners will each receive a digital edition of Dead Man’s Leap by Tina deBellegarde
  • ONE (1) winner will receive a $20 Amazon.com Gift Card. 

4 Comments

  1. Great interview! I loved your answers.

    “I was shocked to hear that the older kids in my school used to jump off the cliffs into the river or creek.”
    Kids do this around here too. Only it’s a bridge they’re jumping off of. The cops always kick them off, but the next day they are back at it again.

    Like

    1. You know kids….but it scared me to death. It stayed with me 50 years later and made it into my book.

      Like

  2. Thank you for a wonderful interview. I thoroughly enjoyed answering your intriguing questions. Not the usual interview. Very refreshing. Thanks for hosting me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stop by anytime, we enjoyed talking with you. I love that your husband built you a writing cottage. I am lucky if I can get mine to build a book shelf 😉

      Like

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