Rad-Reader:  Was Shane’s character based on anyone you know or just someone you came up with off the cuff?

Winter:  In every character I create, there are aspects of people in my life who make it into the character’s personality. As for Shane, he’s a whole mixing pot of a lot of men in my life, but if I could relate him to anyone, it would have been Robert Taylor’s version of Walt Longmire from the TV series.

Rad-Reader:  This being the first book of yours that I read, how did you choose Iowa as the location?

Winter:  This whole series was set in Iowa. I’m a full-blooded Iowan—Go ISU! When I was trying to pinpoint an area to set the series in, my agent at the time was pressing me to realize what I had known all along, I write the best books when I’m familiar with the setting. It’s amazing the amount of feel and flavor an author can put into a book when they don’t have to spend a lot of work on researching the area. And believe me, the townsfolks and secondary characters of McIntire County are true to life.

Rad-Reader:  Did you grow up in a small town?  Because you had the feel of that kind of town, having grown up in one?

Winter:  My hometown’s population is under 200. My husband’s hometown is over 1k. We are rural people. So, you can say I’m all small town, but I grew up on the farm.

Rad-Reader:  Do all of your books have the characters interacting with local police and FBI?

Winter:  Yep. Up to this point, most of my main characters have been police officers. Runner-up in that category has been characters that had or are currently serving in the military. The FBI are hit and miss in some of the books, but I work them when the reality of their services are needed.

Rad-Reader:  How did you come up with Liz’s character?

Winter:  Liza made her first appearance in Born to Die, book 2 as the one-time partner to the then FBI agent Boyce Hunt. I enjoyed having her in the book and hoped she’d return. Sure enough, she came back to be Shane’s counterpart. However, it wasn’t until this book that I really discovered who Liza Bartholomew was. I was 1/3 of the way through the book when she hit me with truth, she was African-American. Thankfully, I had never pinned her down with any particular race, so it was easy to go back and layer that in.

Rad-Reader:  Was her nephew always part of your story or was he someone you added as you went along?

Winter:  Her foster brother and nephew were there from the beginning when I was fleshing out her character. Quinn’s situation, however, took some time to form, because you always need something to drive your main character. And Quinn’s was the perfect catalyst to Liza’s situation.

Rad-Reader:  When did you decide in your writing this story to add another mystery of a body to the story?

Winter:  My books always start with a body. I can’t write a book that doesn’t have a mystery of a murder investigation. And when you have one body, never fails another is sure to follow. As much as I love writing murder mysteries, I love reading and figuring it out, too. And for the most part, that’s how I write. Trying to figure out who the actual killer is, along with my characters. It is a headache in a lot of the cases because I should have something to write toward. As in the case of Liar, Liar, I had a general idea, but it wasn’t until the actual reveal to Liza that it hit me what and who it was all along, and it shocked the heck out of me. You should have heard the screeching from my writing partner when she read it. My editor was stymied, too.

Rad-Reader:  Is it difficult when writing a murder mystery as to when you should add another body and how much information you give to your readers?

Winter:  No, actually, it’s not for me. Usually, when I hit a roadblock, it’s time to kill another person off. But I need a good reason to do it, and that reason unfolds as I work with the characters to solve the mystery of what killed the person. Information is easy, what isn’t easy is trying to not to give too much away.

Rad-Reader:  Was Shane’s character as easy one to write about?

Winter:  Compared to Liza, he was a cake walk. He’s all things I love, cowboy, soldier, cop, and leader. I’ve had him around for 3 books prior to his, so I got to peel away layers of who he was when he was acting like the big brother to his female deputies.

Rad-Reader:  Do you use an outline to write or do you just write and then write down characters?

Winter:  I’m a cold-stone Pantser. I can NOT have an outline or I won’t write the book. I have points, scenes, I write toward. I try to have a general idea of how the book ends, but they never go the way I think they should, so it’s just better to have a vague idea and let the characters take me there. Characters always come first. I spend a lot of time on their backgrounds to get a feel for who they are and how they tick. They drive the story, so it’s all up to them.

Rad-Reader:  How much control do you have with the characters and content in your books?

Winter:  As I just mentioned, the characters drive the book. As to content, I have full control. I’ve worked with my publisher long enough to know what I can and can’t get away with. But for the most part, I have all the free rein in the world.

Rad-Reader:  Does your publisher or others ever want you to change a character?

Winter:  I have yet to have anyone make me change a character. I’m not saying it won’t happen one day, but I’m not about to create any character that would need someone else coming in to tell me I didn’t do it right. In fact, I would have a very difficult time working with anyone who tried to force me to change my characters. That’s a warning sign that that would not be a good working relationship with me or the publishing house. I would turn down a contract if that be the case.

Rad-Reader:  When you are writing how or when do you decide to add a romantic scene?

Winter:  As I have said, it’s the characters who tell me when. I’m not pigeonholing them into a situation that isn’t natural. Sex for the sake of sex or the lust factor is stupid to me.

Rad-Reader:  Is it difficult to add both romance and suspense/mystery when you are writing a story?

Winter:  Once upon a time, yes. Now? Not even. In fact, I’ve been used as an example in my publishing house on how to do it. And Library Journal touted my ability to balance it out. It takes time and a good editor to mold it right, but in the last 3 books, I haven’t had my editor telling me, hello, you need romance here, or hello, too much cop stuff.

Rad-Reader:  Was being a writer a dream come true for you?

Winter:  Yes! Oh, God, yes! And like all authors before me, I had the naysayers coming out of the woodwork telling me it wasn’t “economical.” I’m not in it for the money—if I was, I wouldn’t need to work a full-time job. I got my first contract with another group of authors, but it didn’t feel real until my publisher offered a 4-book deal with me. Once I turned that 1st book in and saw it hit the virtual shelves 3 months later did feel awesome. 

Rad-Reader:  If your book was made into a movie who would you like to play…

Shane:  Sean Bean

Liza:  Ashley Drayton

Winter:  Since I use character models to help me with the characters, I have a big Pinterest board of who would fit the billing for:

Rad-Reader:  What song best describes your couple or book as a whole?
"Better Man"  -  Brett Young

Winter:  This was one of the songs actually playing as I wrote, especially the dance scene with Shane and Liza:
"Fire Away"  -  Chris Stapleton

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite food?

Winter:  That’s hard to pick, I love a lot of things. Bacon, a wood-fire grilled steak, gumbo, New Orleans style bread-pudding with whipped cream, and chocolate—dark chocolate mostly—are some of my all-time favorites. But the only concession I have about food, it’s really hard to impress me because I’m freaking awesome cook/baker myself—ask my husband, he’ll tell ya—so you better be outstanding to outdo me. (BTW, when it comes to holiday time cooking, I’m always picked as the one to bring freshly baked bread, and pies.)

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite music?

Winter:  The better question should be, what kind of music do I not like? I’ll listen to about anything except rap and hip-hop—if you can call it that anymore. Hands down—and this is my roots showing here—I listen to Country, but there’s getting to be too much pop in my country.

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite season?  And why?

Winter:  Would you believe Autumn? :D Why, because I was born in the fall, and I love the smell and weather. It’s all over perfect for me. I do like winter up to a point, that point being New Years, after that, I hate snow. I love snow falling, but I loathe driving in it.

Rad-Reader:  Your favorite T.V. show?

Winter:  Ooo, toughy. Hmm, well, when the 2nd season airs, it’ll be SIX on History, and when I can grab the last 2 seasons, I’ll be binge-watching Longmire—sobs because it’s over. I really don’t have anything I drop everything to watch and never miss an episode. Mostly my husband and I watch via video TV series that have long ago stopped airing if our library has the whole series. Right now, we’re in the middle of watching Strike Back and Iowa State athletics.

Rad-Reader:  Where is your favorite place to write?

Winter:  In our recliner rocker in the living room, because I have created a firestorm of problems in my neck, shoulders, and back from not having proper posture for typing over the years. And I sit at a desk all day for my F/T job, so I don’t like doing it when I’m writing. I do have a chair set up in my bedroom if things get too chaotic in the living room—I do have kids still at home, and they go nuts sometimes.

Rad-Reader:  What is your next project and when is it coming out?

Winter:  I don’t know. I’m working that problem out right now. Either way, it’ll be about a year before anything new comes out from me. Sorry, but I have a daughter who is jumping head first into livestock showing and 2 older kids doing the college gig, so Momma needs to work.

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers buy your books?

Winter:  Pretty much every legit e-retailer. Simon & Schuster have all those handy-dandy links here on my author page: Simon & Schuster buy links

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find you on the Web? 

Winter:  www.winteraustin.com My web designer and I are working to revamp the site, so it’s a bit behind on things. And then there are all the fun social media places like FB and Twitter:

     Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to reading your work again.  

     Thanks so much for being with us.  As you can see my hubby is a man of many words but he does as great questions.  Thanks for your quick response but most importantly how quickly you got all your answers and info needed for this interview.  With the holidays it made my life so much easier.       
    Thanks so much.  Please come by anytime and use our Shout Out: An Author's Place to let us all know when you have a new book coming out.  You are now a 1 Rad-Reader Misfit too.

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