Oooh, St Patrick’s is in the air & Derby Day will be here before you know it. This week we welcome Columbus, Indiana writer Kit Ehrman, a devotee to the Churchill Downs scene.
Tell us about your latest project, Kit. Didn’t you write a book about the Kentucky Derby?
My most recently available book, TRIPLE CROSS, is the fourth installment in my amateur sleuth mystery series that is set in the Horse world. It’s available everywhere online, both in print and e-book editions. In TRIPLE CROSS, barn manager Steve Cline is in Louisville for the running of the Kentucky Derby. Although he doesn’t expect to stray far from the Horse world, he has enrolled in a private investigations course and is working on the final project–a simple record’s search. But the very act of initiating the project triggers a series of events that spiral out of control and plunge Steve into the world of the ultra rich where greed and revenge and ambition drive some men to commit unspeakable acts in a power play that culminates in a bloody triple cross . . .
This story, set in Louisville and at Churchill Downs during the running of the Kentucky Derby, was inevitable, I suppose, since the books are set in the Horse world, and Steve’s father is a raceHorse trainer. From a logistics point of view, setting the book in Louisville was perfect, too, since I live in South Central Indiana.
Not only did I fall in love with Louisville during the research and plotting phase of TRIPLE CROSS, I learned some unexpected fun facts along the way such as: hotel security, Churchill’s routines and security, oil and gas exploration processes, hiding funds offshore, corporate espionage, Derby festival events, the gear balloonists carry, airbag deployment, and what a Mint Julep tastes like.
I loved the journey of researching, plotting, and writing TRIPLE CROSS and was rewarded with some wonderful reviews such as: “There is plenty of action here, all set against the excitement and pageantry of the build-up to America’s greatest Horse race. Neither race fans nor devotees of suspense will be disappointed.” ~Booklist AND “[the story is] . . . well-told and well-plotted, providing the reader with thrills aplenty in the buildup to the Kentucky Derby.”~Louisville Courier-Journal
You can learn more at www.kitehrman.com where you can also view a book trailer featuring some key Louisville and Churchill sites.
Currently, I’m working on book number five, a story of evil and revenge which brings back the bad guy from AT RISK, the first in the Steve Cline Mystery Series.
Where do Louisville/Southern Indiana readers know you from, outside of your books? (Hobbies, clubs, memberships, favorite places).
Besides writing and book promotion, I spend some free time painting acrylic abstracts http://abstractartforyourhome.weebly.com/ and training my three dogs for Obedience and Rally competition. Two years ago, we rescued two Boxer-mix siblings, Buddy and Brea, and a third dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier, joined our family as a rescue, as well.
You do a lot of scouting the local area for your books. Tell us about that.
I love setting fiction in real places, and I am nitpicky about close, accurate research, so I take lots of photographs, interview people when possible, and do tons of online research to supplement my road trips. For TRIPLE CROSS, I toured the back and frontside of Churchill Downs. I stayed in the 1888 Historic Rocking Horse Manor Bed and Breakfast on Third Street during the 2005 Kentucky Derby weekend. I attended the Derby and essentially visited every scene set in the book, from Riverfront Plaza and Bristol Bar & Grille (love those Green Chili Wontons and the famous Hot Brown), to Wagner’s Pharmacy near Churchill’s Gate 5, to the Central Avenue Overpass where Steve almost comes to grief. I also ate (and drank) many of the meals mentioned in the book. Umm. Outside of Louisville, I toured several Horse farms in Lexington.
For TRIPLE CROSS, I did it right, visiting the places I was writing about before I finished the book. In the past, though, I haven’t always worked as efficiently since the earlier books are set in Maryland and Virginia. Oftentimes, I ended up researching, plotting, and writing the book before I could visit the real setting. But what’s available online today is amazing, so tweaks to the story, meshing reality with my fiction, were minimal. Being from Maryland helped, too.
Tell us about working in the Horse industry.
I worked in the Horse industry for twenty-five years, and all because of a Dick Francis mystery! I “discovered” Dick Francis when I came across a Reader’s Digest Condensed Edition of IN THE FRAME. I loved Dick Francis’s portrayal of the Horse world and read every book that he’d published, quit my government desk job, and went to work on a Horse farm that’s very much like Steve’s Foxdale Farm. I started green, knowing little about Horses or Horse care, and was promoted to barn manager of this 150-Horse show barn in three months. I lied to get the job, claiming some knowledge, but I guess they figured it out when I bedded some stalls with hay. (In my defense, it was pitiful, brownish hay). But as with everything else I do, I jumped in with both feet. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding Horse care, bought a Horse of my own, learned to ride over fences and groom and event. I learned Horse anatomy and was responsible for of all of the medical needs of a large herd of pricy show Horses. Later, I worked at a breeding farm, delivering foals on the night shift. This was and will always be my favorite job, despite living a schedule directly opposite everyone else’s. There is absolutely nothing like being present when a mare is foaling in the middle of the night, watching the two get to know each other in the quiet calm of a silent night.
When I became a stay-at-home mom, I boarded Horses, but still had time on my hands, and that’s when I turned to writing. I threw myself into that process with all the enthusiasm I had with the earlier Horse jobs and found I loved writing fiction as much as I love reading it.
Who are your favorite writers from the local area?
I admire mystery author Sue Grafton’s amazing body of work, Elaine Fowler Palencia’s poetic writing and strong voice, and Louisville mystery author Beverly Graves Myers’ unique, vivid historic Venice setting.
I had some workshops with Palencia at the Novels-in-progress workshop. She’s a terrific writer, indeed, and a wonderful teacher. Tell us about your favorite bookstores/coffee shops/writing haunts. What makes them special? (If you don’t buy into the stereotype of the writer surrounded by books and coffee, then tell us more about where and how you write.)
Here in Columbus, Indiana, Starbucks is my home base for brainstorming plot with fellow writers, hanging out with our local mystery book lovers club, or just chatting with friends. Writing is something I just can’t seem to accomplish in public–too many distractions. I need to be at my desk by the window with a pair of headphones blaring an eclectic mix of music from Handle to Seether. I know I’m really making progress when a CD switches off, and I haven’t heard one word because I’m so in the zone. I guess I got into the habit of playing music because, when I began writing, the kids were little. They were at the computer next to mine, playing a Logo computer game with a hideous, repetitive soundtrack. I needed something to block that out.
What’s next on the writing slate, for you?
The fifth Steve Cline book is on my slate right now. I am excited about it, but I’ve also been working on a second mystery series featuring a professional investigator who is also an amateur jump jockey.
Kit, that sounds amazing. Best of luck to you with all your writing endeavors, and I’m sure the LouisvilleKY.com readers will enjoy your Derby-centric novels! I’m raising my mint julep to you & doffing my derby hat!
Readers, if you’d like to try one of Kit’s mysteries for free, download AT RISK while it’s free on Amazon. Check her website for other free download links. What a great way to sample the work of this hard-working author!
If you know an author who deserves to shine in the Local Author Spotlight, please get in touch. Either side of the river is fine–we speak Southern Indianaese, too! Books about relevant local subject matter are encouraged, as well. Email RedTashBooks@gmail.com and please put “LouisvilleKY.com Author Spotlight” in your email subject. Thanks!
Stay tuned for more local author news. I hope you’re discovering some fantastic new reads, from names new and old on the literary scene.
Leslea Tash is a Southern Indiana journalist-turned-novelist. Formerly known for a weekly national column on parenting and family life, she now writes dark fantasy like the 5 Star Amazon hit Troll Or Derby and The Wizard Tales under the pen name Red Tash. She always welcomes your feedback on this column on the LouisvilleKY.com site, on Facebook, on her websites or twitter.