Join me in welcoming Michele Dorsey into the pages of the MurderBook. Michele is the author of the Sabrina Salter mystery series set in the U. S. Virgin Islands, and published by Crooked Lane Books. The first two titles in the series are Permanent Sunset and No Virgin Island. [Please note: This interview took place prior to Hurricane Irma which caused such catastrophic damage to St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands.]
MB: Between the two of us, I can count at least seven careers. You have been or still are a lawyer, law professor, nurse, and novelist. I just happen to have a very restless mind. What’s your excuse?
MICHELE: I am insanely curious. That’s not entirely tongue and cheek. Each of my professions has led me to another. As a nurse, I worked with disabled children and their families. Besides observing how desperately children with disabilities needed advocates, I couldn’t help but notice the effect illness has within the family structure. When I became a lawyer, everyone expected me to specialize in malpractice, but I was a magnet for families in turmoil. Later, having seen so much conflict as a family law attorney, I was filled with stories I needed to retell through fiction.
MB: I’m fascinated with book titles. Most of them are fairly functional and sometimes they’re even eye catching, but they’re rarely affecting. The title of your second Sabrina Salter mystery––Permanent Sunset––however, goes quite a ways past that. For some reason, it evokes in me a sense of both mystery and melancholy––which to my way of thinking makes it a real homerun of a title. Where did this come from?
MICHELE: I wish I could take credit for it, but my editor suggested a list of titles when the ones I proposed didn’t thrill him. No Virgin Island, the first in the Sabrina Salter series was named during a brainstorming session with my agent. Titles are tough combinations of artistry and marketing mastery. I struggle with them and am grateful for the help from my agent and editor.
MB: Tell us about your decision to set your series in the US Virgin Islands, and about your connection to the islands.
MICHELE: I have been going to St. John in the Virgin Islands several times a year for more than thirty years and now am fortunate enough to spend my winters there. Two thirds of it is in a national park with water as aqua and pristine as you’ll find anywhere. I tell people if you picked up the beautiful mountainous state of Vermont and plopped it into the Caribbean, you’d have St. John. It makes my soul sing. It’s as simple as that.
MB: The often-given advice for writers is ‘Write what you know.’ Given your rather rich inventory of careers, it would seem natural that your main character––Sabrina Salter––would follow one of those paths, but you’ve chosen to give her something completely different. She runs a resort house leasing company. How did you decide on this?
MICHELE: I have written about lawyer protagonists, but Sabrina felt different to me. Sabrina’s first career was that of a successful television meteorologist. I’m a New Englander and I love weather, which is why she wasn’t a reporter. Her real story is about being a survivor, first from a difficult childhood, and later when her world is toppled and she finds herself accused of murdering her sportscaster husband. There are strong family themes in both books. And her boyfriend, Neil Perry, is a former lawyer turned island bar owner. My grandmother would have said he’s a bit of a rogue.
MB: Sabrina is a very charming, very smart woman. Tell us about how she came to be and whether there are any real-life counterparts or inspirations for her.
MICHELE: Sabrina’s story was inspired by every child I’ve known who was born into a difficult situation and struggled to triumph.
MB: What are you reading these days?
MICHELE: I’m finishing a reread of Rebecca and moving on to the latest Inspector Banks novel by Peter Robinson, Sleeping in the Ground. Talk about evocative titles. I’ve preordered Glass Houses, Louise Penny’s newest title. And I’ll be reading Dark River Rising by a promising debut novelist very soon.
MB: Who are some of your favorite authors, outside the mystery/thriller genre? What draws you to them?
MICHELE: Elizabeth George, Tana French, and Louise Penny are fabulous writers who tell complicated stories about characters that never leave me. They each write police procedurals, a subgenre I enjoy, but don’t write. Yet.
MB: What can you tell us about what’s coming next from the pen of Michele Dorsey?
MICHELE: I’m finishing a stand-alone domestic suspense novel about a female law student in Boston who doesn’t know her true identity. Her search for her past so she can have a future is placing everything she believes about her family ties and her life in jeopardy. Thus far, it’s untitled. Any suggestions?
MB: Thank you for spending time with the readers of the Murder Books blog.
Michele’s books are available wherever books are sold. And, you can follow Michele through her website at http://cmicheledorsey.com, and on Miss Demeanors, at https://www.missdemeanors.com, the very interesting blog she co-writes with several excellent crime novelists.