Pepper Bibeau Mystery Series Author Gail M. Baugniet @GailMBaugniet #Suspense

mystery series

I welcome Gail Baugniet, author of the Pepper Bibeau mystery series, to my blog today. Gail’s eclectic employment history with insurance companies and police departments has fueled her imagination with unusual plotlines.

Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process. Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of editing. How about you?

Thank you for welcoming me to your site today, Stacy. Winging-it and outlining run about 50-50 for my mysteries. I have a general idea where the story is headed before I begin writing. But in the first draft, the climactic ending is always a mystery to me and often changes in future drafts. For my fourth novel, I used the “index card” method of laying out scenes, turning points, plot, and character twists. This method allowed me to focus more on the storyline. I compare it to riding a bicycle to a specific destination. Even if you map out the entire trip, with markers for rest stops and a bit of sightseeing or lunch, you still have to do the hard work of pedaling the entire distance. Outlining, like mapping, just lets you move forward at a steadier, more confident pace.

How do you decide on setting?
Before I wrote my first Pepper Bibeau mystery, I outlined an entire series. The plan was to “revisit” those decades in my life when I was too busy getting-by to fully absorb events unfolding around me. Looking back, it is likely that Sue Grafton’s ambitious alphabet project influenced my original goal, which has since been cut from many novels down to six. The settings for my first two novels, Chicago and Eastern Wisconsin, followed the plan. But my first novel, which I started to write in 1998, didn’t get published until 2011. By that time, I had
lived in the birthplace of my protagonist, Honolulu, for many years. The shift to a Hawaiian setting felt right for the next novel. For my fifth novel, Blood Red Homicide, family intervention determined the setting.

Has your muse always known what genre you would write and be published in?
My father introduced me to the writing of Dashiell Hammett at a very young age in my life. We lived “in the country” and books were a main source of my entertainment. Over the years, I have enjoyed reading mystery series by Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Robert Ludlum, and Mary Higgins Clark, to name a few. When writing my own stories, the first effort at age nine entitled Ergo, Death, the mystery genre seemed an inevitable choice.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Research, hands down. Choosing Chicago for the setting of my first novel meant returning to the Loop and revisiting the Temple Building, Civic Center with its Picasso, the old library on Washington Street, the Chicago Art Institute, Grant Park . . . oh my. For subsequent novels, I traveled to Door County and Washington Island off the tip of Wisconsin’s Peninsula; several outer Hawaiian Islands; and the Boston area. Interviewing people is always a learning experience, especially those in law enforcement or the medical field, gun experts, local residents, and tourist attraction guides. Research of food and drink adds to the fun.

What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research?

While researching my third novel, set in Hawaii, I spent time in North Kohala on the Big Island. The area was once noted for its sugar plantations. These plantations were irrigated by ditches that extended from mountain to plateau. (fun fact: It takes 500 gallons of water to produce a pound of sugar.) After the plantations shut down, the ditches presented an unusual tourist activity known as “Flumin’ the Ditch.” Kayaks traveled down rushing waterways through steep ravines and tunnels, rainforest and countryside. While potentially dangerous, I partook of the adventure for the sake of research. And with much relish.

How much of you is in the books you write? In what ways?

In the beginning, I believed that not much of my personality was included in my stories. But then people began mistakenly calling me by my progatonist’s name. Oops! Physically, I do not resemble my main character, Pepper Bibeau, although her last name is taken from my family genealogy. Nor do the fine details of her backstory parallel my life. Apparently, though, the essence of me has filtered into my protagonist.

What is your latest book, in the works or just published?
Neshoto Junction Homicide and Blood Red Homicide both were released in 2016, January and June, respectively. Each is dedicated to one of my parents, the date of publication marking the 100th anniversary of their birth dates.

Blood Red Homicide is set in the New England states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Red Sox country. My cousin, who has lived in Boston since the 1960s, enjoyed reading my novels so much that he worked up a premise for a story. After we gathered for a family reunion in Boston, he sent me information that I used to write the first draft during 2014 NaNoWriMo. After I became totally committed to the project, I learned how much research was still required for me to tell an authentic story in such a setting. Had I known upfront what to expect, the story might never have gotten off the ground. In this case, ignorance was bliss. Serendipity might better describe my choice of editor for the story. Beforehand, I had no idea she lived in Massachusetts, and Stacy Juba had no idea that my story was set in Red Sox country. How ideal is that? (Stacy’s response – Pretty ideal! That was such a neat coincidence! And my husband used to cover Boston teams like the Red Sox for a local newspaper, so I picked his brain a few times, too!)

What else have you written already?
For my birthday in 2015, I decided to write myself a birthday present. I had been introduced to a new (to me) form of linked poetry, Japanese Renshi. I have enjoyed writing poetry for personal pleasure over the years, and this form fascinated me. In linked poetry, each poem is connected to the following poem by words. The last words of one poem are used to form the title of the next poem. Then the next poem shifts to a new topic or idea. My plan was to write 70 linked poems over a period of 70 days. But with the criteria laid out as described above, each consecutive poem seemed to flow like ink-stained water from the pen. I started writing on the first of the month and finished on the eighteenth of the same month. My cover design features a photograph I took during one of my walks around Honolulu. Once the book was available via CreateSpace, I moved to the second part of my plan. This involved gifting the small book, Another New Beginning 70 Poems for 70 Days, to 70 family members and friends.

Do you have or belong to a writing organization? Which one?
My entire life seems to be made up of writing organizations. I am a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and its affiliate internet email group of Guppies; a member and current president of Sisters in Crime/Hawaii; a member of the writers/critique group Waikiki Word Wranglers; and Hawaii Fiction Wrtiers.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?
My answer strays from the question a bit to describe the coolest surprise I was ever involved in arranging. During their lifetime, my parents never traveled far outside of their home state of Wisconsin. One year, after Dad retired, we “kids” decided to change that. I had the pleasure of presenting them with an early present from us: airline tickets for a Christmas trip to visit my younger sister and her family in New Orleans. Mom and Dad’s reaction appeared a bit guarded – until I laid out the itinerary. That December, I picked them up at their home and we celebrated Christmas with my brother and his family in Green Bay. Then we drove to Chicago where we celebrated the holiday with my older sister and her family. (It was so warm that year, we wore short-sleeved shirts and dresses to church!)

From O’Hare Airport, we flew to New Orleans. Our visit with my younger sister and her family included a trip to the French Quarter and Preservation Hall. Then we caught our return flight to Chicago, picked up the car, and headed back to Wisconsin. After quality time spent with relatives, numerous flights, and countless hours on the road, as I took the curve onto Main Street in Mom and Dad’s hometown, from the back seat Dad said, “Want to go again?”

For more about Gail Baugniet, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook
Check out Gail’s books on Amazon

Synopsis of Blood Red Homicide (A Pepper Bibeau Mystery): Insurance Investigator Pepper Bibeau would rather be in Vegas gambling. Instead, her boss sends her to New England to investigate a hefty life insurance claim on a Boston Red Sox player who died under suspicious circumstances. She may not understand all the rules of major league baseball, but Pepper knows how to score answers when a questionable claim is on the table. With local mobsters gunning for her, Pepper’s survival instincts escalate to high-pitch alert. She aims for a grand slam of clearing a questionable claim, helping to solve the homicide case, facing illusions of family security . . . and staying alive.

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting me on your site today, Stacy.

  2. I loved Neshoto Junction, can’t wait to read Blood Red Homicide. Gail, if you’d like a spot on my New Release Mondays, email me. I have Sept 5 open.

Stacy Juba