Matty Dalrymple is a suspense writer from Chester County in Pennsylvania. She is the author of the Ann Kinnear suspense series, as well as the Lizzy Ballard thriller series. Matty is also the host of the Indy Author Podcast, which focuses on the craft of writing, the publishing journey, and how to reach readers. Her latest book, THE FALCON AND THE OWL, was just released in October. Matty has been gracious enough to take a few minutes to talk with me.
MB: Let's start by talking your latest book, THE FALCON AND THE OWL. The new book is the third novel in your Ann Kinnear series. Give us a brief introduction to Ann and tell us about what inspired the character.
MD: All my novels and short stories relate to the theme what happens when an extraordinary ability transforms an ordinary life? Although I didn’t fully appreciate it when I created Ann, the idea of being able to communicate with the dead—not in a woo-woo, Ouija board sense but just as you might communicate with any other person—opens up fantastic opportunities for suspense and mystery. Ann is someone who is uncomfortable with her ability—she’s been scarred by having people she cares about believe she’s suffering from psychological issues, or by having strangers believe she’s a charlatan—and has withdrawn into a tight circle of trusted friends and family. She’s an interesting contrast to the protagonist of my other series, The Lizzy Ballard Thrillers, who is a young woman who should really isolate herself but keeps being enmeshed in problems caused by her desire to engage with the world around her.
MB: Without giving away any spoilers, tell us something about THE FALCON AND THE OWL that we won't find in the jacket copy or PR material?
MD: In addition to the mystery that Ann Kinnear is trying to solve, which is triggered by a small plane crash in the Pennsylvania Wilds, there’s also an interesting debate going on between Ann and the primary antagonist, aerobatic performer and air racing pilot Gwen Burridge, about the nature of celebrity. I had a lot of fun exploring that … and I’m looking forward to the time when I have the same concerns about burgeoning celebrity that Ann has! The aviation theme also gave me a chance to bake in some of my own experiences as a student pilot and as an aircraft owner—for a time, I was the caretaker of a 1946 Stinson Voyager.
MB: Your first book, THE SENSE OF DEATH, was released in 2013. How long did it take you to write it? What did you learn from writing that first novel that helped you moving forward with your writing career?
MD: THE SENSE OF DEATH took me two-and-a-half years to write. Not only was I still working a day job, but I was feeling my way through the writing process. What I learned after that book launched was that writing the book is only part of the effort—and sometimes the easiest part. The other part of an author’s life is continually finding ways to bring the book to the attention of the readers who will love it.
MB: Let's chat about writing for a moment. Every writer has their own specific nuances when it comes to writing. Some have a special place set aside for writing. Some outline their plot, while others "fly by the seat of their pants." Tell us about your writing process.
MD: Now that I’m making writing and publishing my full-time career, I can’t afford to have a book take two-and-a-half years to write, so I’ve developed methods to speed the process while still maintaining a high level of quality. My plots tend to be quite complex, with the story relying heavily on who knows what when, so I write a very comprehensive outline to ensure that all the pieces hang together logically and suspensefully. I can share that early version with trusted readers to find any holes or places where the reader’s attention might wander and address those concerns before fleshing out the rest of the book with dialogue, scene-setting, deepening character motivation, and all the other components that make a book compelling.
MB: Out of all your books, was there a scene that you found particularly difficult to write?
MD: I’d say that would be the climactic showdown between Lizzy Ballard, along with her allies, and Tobe Hanrick, the villain of THE IRON RING. It was emotionally difficult because Lizzy, someone I truly love, was at the mercy of my most unrepentantly evil character. I tend to paint the moral make-up of most of my antagonists in shades of gray, but Hanrick needed to be evil through-and-through in order to pose the moral dilemma I needed to set up the conclusion of that trilogy. I needed to make the scene suitably harrowing to convey that dilemma, while also being careful not to step over a line into action that would be traumatic for my readers. I also had a technical challenge of needing to achieve a certain outcome and having each character play a certain part in that outcome in a way that would be in character and satisfying for the reader. I felt that I had walked that tightrope successfully when my fellow Pennsylvania crime novelist Sherry Knowlton wrote in a review that THE IRON RING “peaks with a mind-bending fight scene that you have to read to fully appreciate.”
MB: Let's shift gears for moment and talk about reading. Many writers say that reading is just as important as writing. Do you have a specific genre that you tend to frequent when selecting a book to read?
MD: I tend to read in the suspense / thriller / mystery genres, because I like to keep on top of what other authors in those genres are doing. I just read and loved ORDINARY GRACE by William Kent Krueger—he has an astounding way of evoking a place and time, and I became totally immersed in the world he created. I feel that authors should read beyond their genre as well, not only because it’s fun but also because you never know what you can learn from great works in a different genre. I recently read TIME OFF: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO BUILDING YOUR REST ETHIC AND FINDING SUCCESS WITHOUT THE STRESS by John Fitch, which offered some valuable reminders to me not to let my writing and publishing work—much as I love it—take over my life.
MB: What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
MD: I love THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier. Its backdrop is a world-wide pandemic—I know, we’re all probably over pandemic stories, but this one is portrayed in a somewhat fantastical way—and alternates between a world inhabited by those who have died but are still remembered by someone who is still alive, and a woman stranded at an Antarctic research station. It is a completely original and fascinating concept. I’d love for anyone who reads it to drop me a note at my website and let me know what you think!
MB: Finally, what can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
MD: I’m working on Ann Kinnear Book 4, which returns to Maine, the setting for Book 2: THE SENSE OF RECKONING. Ann and her sometimes-mentor, sometimes-competitor Garrick Masser are working on a documentary focused on their spirit-sensing abilities. And when a man dies in a fall from a hiking trail and a young woman jumps to her death from Otter Cliffs, Ann needs to contact those victims to find the truth behind their deaths.
Thanks for taking the time to me today. Good luck with THE FALCON AND THE OWL.
To learn more about Matty and her books, you can visit her website at mattydalrymple.com. You can also check out her website about the craft of writing at theindyauthor.com. You can also follow Matty on Facebook at facebook.com/matty.dalrymple, on Twitter at twitter.com/mattydalrymple, and on Instagram at instagram.com/matty.dalrymple.
You can purchase THE FALCON AND THE OWL at these retailers.