Please welcome to the blog Carol Shay Hornung, as she shares a bit about herself and the first in a series of mysteries with Dez Duschiene and his new husband, Stevie.
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Dez Duchiene is a hospitality professional who dabbles in politics and moves to New York City where he marries architect Stevie Langford and lives happily until a detective knocks on his door, asking about the death of a prominent conservative politician.
Whitney Travers was a former boss and friend, and despite their differing political views, Dez feels compelled to figure out who killed him, despite his husband’s objections. Wisconsin is trying to pass a religious freedom bill that would curtail gay rights, and Stevie is uncomfortable every minute they stay after attending the funeral.
Coming of age during the Act 10 protests that rocked the city in 2011, Dez feels like he’s in a familiar fight, one the liberals lost all those years ago. He walks a diplomatic line between the conservatives and liberals to collect information – but can he solve the mystery and save his marriage before it’s too late?
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Hello, Carol! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions! First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
Carol Shay Hornung – I’m a behind-the-scenes media specialist by day – I’ve worked in radio and print advertising for … many years. I went to Ripon College and was delighted to be a part of a co-ed fraternity that condemned hazing and embraced inclusion. As a result, my stories tend to have strong bonds between friends – found family – rather than traditional family structures.
What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?
Born in Chicago, but I’ve called Madison, Wisconsin home for most of my life. Four amazing lakes, miles of biking trails, and an inclusive, liberal brand of thinking that I find I can’t live without.
How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?
I’ve been a writer since I was twelve, when a movie I loved ended “badly” and I felt the need to rewrite the ending! I’m always happiest when I’m working on a project and for the last few years I’ve always had something to work on – few dry spells!
How would you characterize your stories? As romance, erotica, or something entirely different?
I write mainstream/mystery/LGBTQ/Lit … I don’t really fall in a specific category. I want to take LGBTQ characters away from the supporting roles and make them heroes, the driving forces behind the books, and there’s always a basic mystery to solve. On a mainstream level, things that happen in one book follow through to the next, an overall story arc. I have a love/hate relationship with lit – I want to employ the same craft techniques of theme and symbolism and character development, but I want to avoid the sadness, angst, and unlikeable heroes that often come along with lit. Good stuff that’s fun, with a dash of glitter. That’s my category.
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?
OMG. There is no one quite like Dez Duchiene. He came out of nowhere and absolutely insisted on running his first story through NaNo (National Novel Writing Month, held each November) in three weeks, then demanded a second book in December. I’ve found a voice through him that fits my heart and soul. I’ve always been drawn to writing male characters, but my critique group would say “Oh, a guy wouldn’t say/do that.” So I’d work on strong female characters. “Oh, she’s not emotional enough.” Dez came along – male presenting, with a gender neutral first name, and a husband (which fits my orientation. Stevie is damn fine) – and I’m suddenly able to do whatever I want with him since he is absolutely not constricted by pre-established gender norms. He’s smart, considerate, snarky, sometimes selfish, extroverted (I’m not), and hates Broadway musicals … and I love him.
How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?
Real life always factors into my stories. Each book in the Dez Duchiene series takes place in a specific city – the first is Madison, the second will be Nashville, TN, and I’m able to work in real locations to make the setting vivid. Plot-wise, I deal with real issues. In Slips of Yew, Stevie is uncomfortable in Wisconsin because he sees it as a red state and feels threatened and unwelcome by the politics. A friend of mine did, in fact say that he didn’t want to visit Wisconsin for those reasons. I also explore the psychology of conservatives and liberals interacting which has become more and more of a challenge these days. And going back to hating musicals … that came from my stylist who just groaned when I told him I was going to New York City and he said “I don’t do the Broadway thing.” What a great characteristic to help smash stereotypes! (Personally, I love musicals. But Dez doesn’t need to know that).
Editing: love it or hate it?
I delight in editing. I stress over getting the initial story written. I’m a mostly-pantser in that when I get an idea, I’ll write the first draft as simply and quickly as I can to lock down the basic story – in a way, I write a wordy outline with scenes and character development! Then I go back and flesh out the details and descriptions, enhance the subplots and make sure everything weaves together nicely. Finally, I go through and line edit the book in the extreme – I search for all those annoying crutch words and actions (look, shrug, sigh, turn, etc.) and replace them with meaningful actions and/or internalization. A few more read-throughs to make sure it’s smooth and logical (had a character put on shoes three times in one scene – that needed help!) and get it ready to be published.
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
My first two books Asperger Sunset, and Ghost of Heffron College, were stand-alone books. I had little sparks of ideas for possible sequels but nothing grabbed me. I was done. The Dez Duchiene mysteries are designed to be a series, and the characters grow and change as the books progress through time. In the first book Dez and Stevie are newlyweds, by the fifth book they are approaching middle age and all the experiences that come with that. I had books 1 and 2 written, with a solid idea for book 3 and my husband and I were on vacation in downtown Chicago. We were walking along Lake Michigan and he points and says “this is where the body washes up.” By the time we reached Buckingham Fountain, I had dozens of ideas racing through my head and had to frantically type it all into my phone so I wouldn’t forget any of it! Each book is a stand-alone mystery but they will be in a specific order, with events that happen in one book informing the events in the next. I love these characters and am perfectly content to write these stories as long as I can. It’s nice knowing I don’t have to say goodbye. I would definitely miss them.
In addition to Slips of Yew, I’ve published a paranormal mystery, The Ghost of Heffron College, and a more traditional mystery with a protagonist with autism, Asperger Sunset. All three books can be ordered through your favorite local bookstore or ordered from Amazon. You can find out more on my Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Carol-Shay-Hornung/e/B00DV3VZJS/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CarolShayHornung
There you have it, everyone! I can’t wait to check out Slips of Yew–I adore mysteries and I want to meet Dez for myself! Thanks for sharing with us, Carol!