I am very happy to have with me a fellow mystery writer and Oahu resident, Gail M. Baugniet, author of For Every Action There Are Consequences.
Laurie: Good morning, Gail. So happy you could join me for MONDAYS ARE MURDER.
Gail: Hi. Thank you for inviting me to your site today, Laurie, another beautiful day in paradise!
Laurie: Tell me, you live in Hawaii, but chose to set For Every Action There Are Consequences in Chicago. Why Chicago—and why 1968?
Gail: Hi. Thank you for inviting me to your site today, Laurie, another beautiful day in paradise! Why 1968 Chicago? Through a series of Pepper Bibeau novels, my goal is to revisit the places and events of an earlier time that slipped away from me while ‘life’ was happening. During 1968, I worked in Chicago’s Loop, across from the Civic Center (later renamed Daley Plaza). Many days, I ate lunch seated at the base of Picasso’s sculpture with the activities of the city unfolding before me. Chicago, with its civil and political unrest of 1968, was a fitting choice as a backdrop for my first mystery novel, For Every Action.
Laurie: So this time and place holds a special significance for you. Your descriptions of Chicago at this unique time in history are so vivid, I felt I was actually there as I read the book. What kind of research did you have to do to bring the setting to life?
Gail: An author’s goal is to place the reader in the story. Your compliment is fully appreciated! Because I wanted to re-experience events before writing about them, I returned to Chicago and walked the streets of the Loop, sat at the base of Picasso’s sculpture, visited Grant Park and The Art Institute of Chicago, attended a play at Auditorium Theater, and ate at the Congress Hotel. I spent time looking through 1968 newspapers on microfiche in the Harold Washington Library Center (the old Chicago Public Library is now the Chicago Cultural Center.) I also read several books about Chicago, including true crime stories, memoirs of a Chicago police woman, and famous and infamous local legends.
Laurie: You not only revisited the setting by writing about it, you literally revisited the places in your story.
You yourself are not of Hawaiian Ancestry. Why did you create a protagonist who is part Hawaiian? Does Pepper Bibeau’s Hawaiian ancestry give her a different perspective on the events in the book?
Gail: When I first lived in Honolulu, from 1992-1999, I developed a fascination for the Hawaiian culture and history. My free time was spent hiking picturesque trails, learning about volcanic activity, and visiting heiau sites on six of the main islands. In 2000, I returned to the mainland for four years. During that time, I outlined a plan for my Pepper Bibeau mystery series and wrote the first draft of For Every Action. My purpose in creating a protagonist with a multi-national ancestry was two-fold: to maintain a link to Hawaii, and to utilize my knowledge of genealogy research.
The novel’s protagonist is based on two of my close friends, with their explicit permission, and I believe the amalgam of personalities and ancestries increased the depth of Pepper Bibeau’s character. An unexpected facet of Pepper’s backstory emerged due to conflict between her maternal Hawaiian ancestry and a branch of her father’s family. A history of hostile treatment from mainland relatives biased against her “Polynesian tan” worked to give Pepper a unique outlook on life, allowing her to empathize with 1968’s civil unrest while functioning effectively within the ethnic diversity of Chicago.
Laurie: Many crime stories have strong female protagonists. What makes Pepper stand out from the rest?
Gail: You are right, Laurie. Many of today’s crime stories feature female protagonists who successfully demonstrate their ability and strength to take control by discovering or foiling the antagonist. Pepper Bibeau’s experience as a nurse with the Army Nurse Corps during a 12-month tour in Vietnam developed in her the mettle to pursue an unconventional career as an Insurance Investigator in For Every Action. She is aware of weaknesses in her personal life but applies the single-minded approach of her insurance investigations, using facts to determine action, to mitigate indecision in private matters.
Laurie: How much of you do we see in Pepper Bibeau? In what ways is she not like you?
Gail: I once thought there was nothing of me in Pepper Bibeau. Ah, so naive was I. It will be quicker for me to list ways in which she is not like me. Pepper’s father died when she was four and she acquired several father-figures who watch her back, supplying an invisible safety net of support. She inherited land handed down from her father’s ancestors that allows her to maintain her independence. She has a young son, out of wedlock, who lives with relatives on The Big Island of Hawaii, a decision she made ten years ago and struggles with daily.
Laurie: Your readers, including myself, are hoping for a sequel. Is there one in the works? If so, when can we look forward to spending more time with Pepper Bibeau?
Gail: I completed the first draft of my second Pepper Bibeau novel and am now in the editing phase. My goal is a Spring 2012 publication date.
Laurie: Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about the plot of the sequel?
Gail: The second novel is set in Wisconsin, 1970. One of Pepper Bibeau’s insurance investigations takes her to Washington Island, off the northern tip of Door Peninsula, where a disoriented blind woman asks her to help clear up a murder. Another case involves a suspicious death. While Pepper works to untangle what should have been two simple claims, emerging details braid together lives and untimely deaths separated by decades. Pepper’s boss prefers to assign her to out of state cases, reasoning that she is related to so many people in Wisconsin that it is impossible for her to remain detached during an investigation. She starts to appreciate his theory as family skeletons begin seeping out of closets. The deeper she digs for answers, the bloodier Pepper finds the soil.
Laurie: It sounds very exciting. I can’t wait to read it. Is there anything else you want to share with us?
Gail: Yes, thank you. This is the link to my blog site, which also has links to my other sites (including Twitter, Facebook, and The Independent Author Network):
FOR EVERY ACTION There Are Consequences: