Saturday, May 24, 2014

Building a World - Welcome to Leroy! by T.L. Haddix, author of 'Deception in Shadows'

Building a World - Welcome to Leroy!

There’s something about life in a small town that is unlike life anywhere else. If you’re from a small town, chances are that the majority of the people living there know you or your family, or know of you or your family. If you’ve moved to a small town, then you know how long it can take for the people who are natives to let you in. If you’re in the South, good luck with that. It can take decades. ;)

I grew up in a small town--Hazard, Kentucky--which is situated in the heart of Central Appalachia. And probably the largest city or town I’ve ever lived in was Wadsworth, Ohio, which is about fifteen minutes outside Akron. I loved it there, and may in fact go back to live there someday. (And if you ever wondered what Leroy looks like, the small town of Medina, Ohio, is it, though they don’t have the Ohio River... but that’s another story for another day.)

But when I sat down and started writing “Secrets in the Shadows” in earnest in 2009, I wasn’t thinking about small towns as much as I was thinking about what I wanted my characters to experience. What I discovered, though, was that I had to think about the town of Leroy, Indiana. I had to know my way around town even if I was the only one who did. It turns out that because of the way I was setting that book and series up, I had to have characters who interacted with their surroundings more than just in a scene here or there. Otherwise, they’d feel too impersonal, and the book wouldn’t achieve the feel I was going for. The town itself had to become a character before I could figure out who the people living there were. So that’s what happened.

While there is a real Leroy, Indiana (located up near Chicago), that isn’t my Leroy. The real one is a tiny, tiny dot on the map, and hopefully they won’t mind that I borrowed their town’s name. My Leroy is located in fictional Olman County, which is wedged in between the real Clark and Jefferson Counties along the Ohio River, on the very southern border of the state. Naming the town was easy--for personal reasons, it had to be called Leroy. And laying it out on paper… well, that was a blast.

In my Leroy, there’s a town square encompassing around two acres, with large, stately oak trees, brick walkways, picnic tables, and plenty places to have a leisurely picnic or day at the farmer’s market. Surrounding this town square on three sides are old buildings, some newer ones now, but they all have that small-town Americana feel. Two and three stories, mostly brick, renovated, and with a thriving tourist trade. The courthouse, which has recently been renovated and thus doubled in size, sits opposite the Ohio River at the other end of the park. It’s one of the fancier courthouses, the kind you can see in towns like Salem or Corydon, Indiana.

Downtown Leroy is much like the downtown of Madison, Indiana--sitting on the banks of the Ohio in a wide plain that rolls gently up to bluffs. There’s the business section, then residential, and across the way on the other side of the fictional interstate that magically ties into the real Interstate 71 in Kentucky, there’s the industrial part of town. And again, much like Madison, up on the hill above town is the newer commercial section, including strip malls and shopping. Car dealerships, restaurants, movie theaters--that’s where you’ll find the majority of those.

I can see the town in my head as plain as day. If you go down Route 7, you’ll find that it runs alongside the river. It’s part of a scenic byway and ties into Clark and Jefferson Counties. Chase Hudson lives on that road. Heading back up through town, if you go past the courthouse a couple of blocks, you’ll find Robbie Bailey’s house, as well as Jason Hudson’s. Different neighborhoods, yes, as Robbie’s is more blue collar whereas Jason’s is a little closer to white collar, but close by. There are two main roads going up the hill, and the apartment building where Beth Hudson used to live is on one. The house Galen Gordon has dreams about is on another.

Coming out of town going west, you’ll find Richard and Jackie Hudson, Sampson Olman, and Ethan’s parents, James and Stella Moore. Ethan’s little place is out there, too. It’s mostly flat land, some rolling hills, farmland and open country.

I would like to live in Leroy. I think it would have been fun to grow up in Leroy. And who knows, some day I may find it--as I said above, Medina, Ohio, is close. But there’s no river, and there really needs to be a river. I like the movement of the flowing water, the promise it represents. So I’ll keep looking, and meanwhile, I’ll keep writing about Leroy. That will have to do for now.

Deception in the Shadows
by T.L. Haddix

Romantic Suspense
Date Published:
TBD - Late April 2014

When all the lies that have been hidden come to light, nothing will be the same.

From the time she came to live with her uncle Ron after the tragic deaths of her parents when she was a young girl, Carrie Greer never had reason to doubt she was wanted. Now a dispatcher with the county, she’s a grown woman building a life of her own. But after a trip to Florida, her uncle’s attitude changes… and not for the better. While struggling to come to terms with this shift in their relationship and all the collateral damage it causes, another tragedy strikes. Ron Smith is murdered. And the only person with an obvious reason to want him dead… is Carrie.

Robbie Bailey is finally free to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. But instead of attending classes, he ends up having to return to Leroy and to Carrie, the girl he’s been in love with since he was a teenager. He finds himself in the position of having to convince her of the depth of his feelings while protecting her from a vengeful killer bent on keeping long-buried secrets hidden. And he isn’t sure he can succeed at either task.

Deception in the Shadows is the sixth installment in the Shadows/Leroy’s Sins Collection, a series of Romantic Suspense novels by author T. L. Haddix. Other titles include Secrets in the Shadows, Under the Moon’s Shadow, Shadows from the Grave, Hidden in the Shadows, and In the Heart’s Shadow.

Read an excerpt:

Copyright 2014 T. L. Haddix
All Rights Reserved

The tastefully appointed den was quiet, save the sounds of the antique clock ticking on the mantel and the occasional popping of the logs that burned sedately in the fireplace. The room’s two occupants were holding an entire conversation with their eyes, as the woman seated behind the ornate mahogany desk turned an envelope corner to corner to corner. The socially polite smile she usually wore was absent, a cold harshness in its place that would have surprised most who knew her.
That harshness was no surprise to the man seated in the comfortable leather chair in front of the desk. Trey London shifted, moving so that he could set the cut-glass tumbler he held on a strategically placed coaster on the table beside him.
“How do you want to handle this?” he finally asked. His voice was quiet, even though they were alone in the big house and being overheard wasn’t a concern. Most things he did, he did quietly. People found his calm demeanor reassuring for the most part, with only a handful seeing that predatory watchfulness for what it truly was.
She sat forward, stunningly elegant even though she was attired in a simple blouse and skirt. Her fingers ran across the top of the envelope where she’d slit it with the pearl-handled letter opener earlier that day. “The same way we handled all Hatcher’s other little… indiscretions. Quickly and without blinking. Making those go away was fairly simple, and I see no reason this has to be different. You’ll take care of it?”
He nodded. “Of course. You know this will have to be dealt with in a more severe fashion than the rest. We can’t pay him off or scare him off.”
An arched eyebrow lifted as she gave a little shake of her head. “I’m aware. And I don’t care. He’s not worth my concern. Do you have a problem doing it?”
“You know I don’t. I’ve not spent the last fifteen years protecting your interests only to balk now. When?”
“Soon. The sooner, the better.” She lifted her own glass and took a sip of the amber liquid it contained. In the firelight and the warm glow of the Tiffany lamp perched on the edge of her desk, he saw her lips lift into a tiny smirk. “I worked too hard to get where I am to let someone traipse in and take it all from me with this kind of drivel. Hatcher and I never saw eye-to-eye about how these matters should be handled. Apparently, he’s been paying through the nose to keep this quiet. Well, this bitch doesn’t pay.”
That was the God’s honest truth, he knew. Oh, she compensated him well, very well, to act as clean-up man for whatever needed to be swept under the rug, but that was part of their understanding. He made problems go away; that was his job. And he was good at it. In the grand scheme of things, removing this newest problem wasn’t even the vilest act he’d ever performed to keep her safe. But it would be the first time he’d ever killed for her.
“I’ll see that it’s done.” He stood and straightened his sweater before leaving.
She stopped him as he reached the door.
“If you could make it look like an accident, that would probably be best. And we’ll need to find out what he has written down or stashed away, and make sure it disappears as well. Because you know he’ll have something. They always do.”
“Of course they do. I’ll take care of it. You know I will.”
“Why else would I keep you around?” Her eyes dropped to his crotch, and he shut the door of the den back with a quiet snick.
Watching her smile was like looking into the eyes of a shark, and despite the emptiness, he felt an odd sexual thrill run up his spine as she traced the edge of her glass with a blood-red fingernail.
“Why else, indeed?” He went to her, knowing better than to wait for her to come to him while she was in this sort of mood, and stood at the corner of her desk as he waited for instructions. His arousal grew as she slowly unbuttoned her shirt and stood, only to kneel before him. Of all the perks of his job, he thought, closing his eyes as her mouth found its way to him and started working skillfully, this was his favorite. The thrill of the danger of knowing she could have him killed, or that he’d be imprisoned for the rest of his life if the crimes he had committed on her behalf came to light, just added to his pleasure.

About the author

T.L. Haddix was born in Hazard, Kentucky, a small town in the center of the Appalachian coal fields. Taught to read by her grandmother, T.L. has had a life-long love affair with books, devouring whatever she could get her hands on. From childhood favorites such as the Trixie Belden series and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, to her current favorites from authors like Tami Hoag, Alex Kava, J.A. Jance and Lisa Kleypas (among many others), T.L. still finds refuge in the written word.

“Growing up, I wanted to be everything – astronaut, police officer, doctor, teacher, reporter, psychologist – there was no clear choice for me. I wanted to do it all. Becoming a writer has allowed me to do just that, because I can live vicariously through my characters.”

A resident of eastern Kentucky, T.L. is hard at work on her next book, when she isn’t chasing after her three cat-children with her husband.

Twitter: @tlhaddix

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