Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Narrator: Tristan Kopta
Length: 7 hours 33 minutes
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Released: Oct. 23, 2019
One dark night, popular singer Kent Harrison goes missing after his performance at Tutbury Castle. When his body’s found in a forest, the police investigation focuses on Kent’s ex-wife, a local herbalist, a covetous colleague, and even the curator of another castle who tried to lure Kent into performing there.
But his occasional singing partner, Dave Morley, seems to have the biggest motive. He’s dying to make his name, money, and the big time, especially at the medieval Minstrels Court reenactment, where Kent’s appearance guarantees standing room only. Did Dave murder Kent to eliminate the competition…or had their partnership struck a wrong chord?
To entice him into investigating, ex-cop McLaren’s girlfriend plays detective. But Dena ends up in great danger. Now, McLaren must not only solve Kent’s murder but also rescue her. A hard task when a web of jealousy, anger, and lies covers the trails.
Jo A. Hiestand can usually be found at her computer, which is good, since she writes three mystery series. It seems a natural progression from her job as a graphic artist – crafting word images on a sheet of paper instead of creating graphics on the computer screen. Between the two computer stints, she lived in Britain for her semi-pro folk singing career and became friends with several English police detectives. The latter relationship was not a consequence of the former calling, however, but all these UK aspects find their way into her books. When not tapping on the keyboard, Jo enjoys reading, baking, and photography. She lives in the St Louis area with her cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.
Here, the author answers a few questions:
Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
My publisher contacted all their authors, announcing they were going to offer audiobook editions. Those authors who wished to offer their books for narrator auditions signed up. I submitted an audition segment of the book, my preference as to narrator gender and accent, and main character descriptions. I also supplied a list of pronunciations that might be helpful. My publisher submitted all that for auditions. I was lucky to have my book chosen by a narrator. He sent back a sample of his reading. I could either accept the narrator or ask my publisher to keep looking. I’ve had great luck with grand narrators for the first book, Cold Revenge, and this new audiobook, Last Seen. When I accept the narrator, he begins recording. He sends the finished chapters to the publisher, who emails them to me. I listen to the chapters as I read along in the book. That’s the only way I know if he’s left out a word or sentence, or mixed up a character’s voice with another person, or whatever. I note the chapter, the time (minute and second), and the mistake and what it should be. It’s sent back to him, he corrects it, and a few weeks later, Voila! The audiobook edition appears for purchase!
Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
Not at all. I had no idea my publisher was going to offer that, for one, and I also didn’t think any narrator would choose my books. I’m glad I was proven wrong! It’s been such a fun experience to have the books come out as audiobooks.
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
I got the idea for Last Seen when I visited Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire. As luck would have it, a medieval reenactment was taking place that day. I talked to the castle curator, Leslie Smith, about it and I got the idea that something like that would make a great basis for a mystery. When I got home to St Louis I emailed her, told her my idea, and asked if anything grand went on during the castle’s heyday. She suggested I use the Minstrels Court. It was a festival of musicians, jugglers, jousting, etc that was so popular it endured for at least a century. I created my story idea, emailed her occasionally during my writing when I had questions, and she helped me with information and actual photos of parts of the castle — specific photos I hadn’t taken while I was there. When I finished the book she set up a live interview with BBC radio! She was interviewed in the field at the castle, and I was interviewed by the radio personality over the phone from my home. I’m glad I visited the castle that day and that Last Seen is a result of that!
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
For one thing, I like my protagonist, McLaren, a lot, so I’m always thinking of adventures and mysteries for him. I have more ideas for him than I can write at the moment. I love Britain, so there are many places that I envision would be great for a mystery involving him, so that keeps my enthusiasm going. I’ve surrounded him with a best friend, Jamie, a fiancee and a sister, and McLaren’s Scottish grandfather and uncle. Any/all of those characters can have problems and need McLaren’s help to solve the mystery, so those are other avenues to create stories. I also write another British mystery series: the Peak District mysteries. Those revolve around a British tradition. If I get tired of McLaren, I switch to the other series. I think that helps keep the brain active and my desire going.
Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
Definitely! I think the conversations are incredible — either heart warming, chilling, or funny. The characters come alive in an audiobook; the narrator’s accents and voice inflections pull you into the story so easily. Even though I wrote the book and knew what was coming, I laughed aloud at times when I heard the humorous scenes. I even teared up at once scene.
If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
Yes, but I’d abide by the rule that says you can’t interfere or change history. I’d go to England and Scotland, medieval through Tudor times. That period fascinates me.
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
This makes no sense to me. There’s no law that says you have to read a book in order to count it as a story you’ve consumed. Reading is a way to immerse yourself into a book; listening is another. That’s like seeing a movie vs reading the book — you still have experienced the story but perhaps in a different form. Reading is great because you can envision the landscape and the characters, but listening is also good because the narrator gives the characters a 3-D quality through the dialogue. They’re really alive.
What’s your favorite:
- Food – B’stilla
- Song – There Is a Time by the Dillards, Short Grass by Ian & Sylvia
- Book – Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh, The Reckoning by Charles Nicholl, Faith and Treason by Antonia Fraser
- Television show – it varies, but right now it’s Shakespeare and Hathaway series and NOVA
- Movie – 13 Rue Madeleine
- Sports team – St Louis Cardinals (baseball)
- City – Christchurch, New Zealand
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t stop writing. Send your work out. If you stop, you’ll never be published.
What’s next for you?
Last Seen is the second McLaren mystery. The third book, Shadow in the Smoke, will be out as an audiobook probably right before Christmas. To date, I have written eleven McLaren books, and I have contracts on three more audiobook versions. I think those three will be out next year. I’ve just begun writing the twelfth McLaren mystery, Hide and Seek, so things are popping!
- Mr. McLaren, I know you were a police detective with the Staffordshire Constabulary. What made you leave that job?
A year ago a burglar broke into a pub that was owned by a 70-year old friend of mine. My friend hit the burglar with a fireplace poker in the process of defending his wife, himself and his job. The senior investigating police officer arrested my friend for assault, a charge that was obviously revenge and aimed at me for our personal differences. I was outraged at the arrest and threw the officer into a handy rose bush. When I was given the choice of taking a reduction in rank or resigning from the job, I left.
- Goodness! That was a life-changing decision. What do you do now?
I repair and build dry stone walls in Derbyshire. I like the work because it’s solitary — that way, I don’t have to deal with people or their betrayals. Also gives me time to think.
- I understand you’ve solved some cold cases on your own, mostly murders. When did you get your private investigator’s license?
I’m not a PI. I look into cold cases strictly as a private citizen. People I question have no obligation to answer my questions, but I find most of them are happy to assist me. When I need something official done, like arresting a suspect, I phone the Derbyshire Constabulary and they handle it.
- When you’re not busy with our stone wall job or investigating cold cases, what fills your time?
I have a girlfriend, Dena, and I try to spend as much time with her as I can. We’re both busy, though–she volunteers at a tiger sanctuary and I of course have my two jobs. But I also play guitar and sing with my folk group. That’s strictly amateur stuff, however. We sing in a pub for drinks. I also like to cook and bake. My mum taught me while I was a kid–basic, simple British dishes. When I was on my own, I ventured into international cooking somewhat, but I still prefer making simple things like cider-baked potatoes, leek soup, and honeyed turkey. I think I like baking better than cooking, and I usually make something at least once a week. Things like scones or shortbread or a cottage loaf. Kneading bread is very relaxing.
- Cooking and baking are great ways to unwind, yes. Does Dena like to join you in the kitchen?
Not really. I have her over for dinner about once a month, and she’s very content to let me do the whole meal! She says her culinary skill extends to opening a tin of soup and microwaving that, but I know she’s jesting. Dena’s involved in a lot of charity work and hasn’t the time or energy for cooking, although she can whip together a brilliant Lancashire Hot Pot when she really wants to.
- Had you always wanted to be in law enforcement?
I think I became interested in my late teen years. My family lived in Scotland, in Auchtubh, north of Edinburgh, until I was two years old. My grandfather assumed my dad (his older son) would follow in the family tradition of overseeing the family business one day. My grandfather owns Strathearn Brewery. It’s been in existence for three hundred years. When my dad moved our family to Derbyshire, England to help out another branch of the family, we put down roots there. I grew up in the English environment and, since we weren’t involved in the running of the brewery, I became enamoured with law enforcement. I really don’t know how or why that evolved, but I loved the job and made some smashing friends.
- You mentioned your folk group. Tell me a bit about that.
It’s a quartet: three lads and a lass. We do mainly British and American folk, mainly traditional things but we’ll sneak in a contemporary song or two at times. I play guitar. We took our group name, Woodstock Town, from one of the first songs we worked up, “Near Woodstock Town.” That was a smash hit when we performed it, probably because we had fewer wrong notes in that than in the others we sang.
- If you sing in a folk group, you must like music. Do you have any other type of music or group in particular as a favorite?
Obviously, I like folk. But I like classic jazz and many Romantic and Baroque era pieces quite a lot. Things by Handel, Bach, Telemann are favorites, as are Grieg and Mendelssohn. I like Marian McPartland a lot too. I lean toward traditional folk, but if you want names of contemporary artists, I’d include the American a cappella group The Wee Heavies and the Scottish lads The McCalmans.
- Getting back to your cold case investigations… Have any cases been particularly difficult to solve, or have any of the victims touched your heart?
I’d say the case I just finished was difficult emotionally for me. Dena, my girlfriend, had tried to get me interested in the case. She did a bit of amateur sleuthing so she could present me with some facts to entice me to investigate–her sleuthing was highly dangerous, by the way, and got her into grave danger. I had to rescue her and also solve the case.
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