by Julie, happy to see March coming
I am delighted to welcome Cheryl Head to the Wickeds. Her new book, Time’s Undoing, is garnering wonderful reviews, and I asked Cheryl to come on the blog to talk about her writing, and the book. We decided to do an interview:
Name (s): Cheryl A. Head
Genre(s): Crime fiction; Private Investigator series
What drew you to write crime fiction?
I love the mystery genre, and have read it all my life starting with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, then moving to the short stories: especially Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. I love all the 40’s and 50’s Noir films–even the bad ones, and as a young adult I was entertained and inspired by Sue Grafton, Walter Mosley, and Barbara Neely. I adore the Blanche series. Those writers, and their works, made me want to write crime fiction.
What sets your book apart from what is out there?
My series protagonist: Charlene (Charlie) Mack is a Black, Lesbian, professional Private Investigator. I think that does it. LOL
Do you write a series or standalones? Why?
I’ve done both. And will continue to do so. I like the opportunity a series gives an author (and reader) to really get to know a character and see her/him evolve. And if that character is in anyway likeable, or relatable, one becomes invested in the protagonist’s success. That’s the beauty of a series. When I write a standalone it usually revolves around some point I want to make that just won’t leave me alone. My first self-published novel was an historical about the lives of two, young “Negro” soldiers during WWII. That story just begged to be told. The same for my newest (Time’s Undoing, Dutton Books). It is crime fiction, and has historical elements . It is a very personal story, built around a family tragedy, involving excessive police force in Jim Crow Birmingham, Alabama. I’d been carrying this story in my bones for decades. When George Floyd died the words flowed from me. It was sometimes painful, but very cathartic.
What are you currently writing?
Short Stories. I love to write them. I don’t think I’m proficient at them, yet. I’ll probably take a class or two to get better at structure and resolution. I’m definitely a life-long learner. A good day is when I learn something, about an issue or idea I think is important, and it stays with me.
What are you reading right now?
Last year I think I only read crime-fiction. Scores of books. So far, that’s what I’m also doing in the New Year. I’m book blurbing for friends. I’ll work on a new Charlie Mack this year, I’ve already written a few chapters.
Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?
To whom much is given, much is expected. It’s a verse from the Bible. New Testament.
Favorite writing space?
A train. I am an absolute writing fiend on a train. At home I don’t have an everyday writing space. I move around. I don’t tie myself to my desk.
Favorite deadline snack?
A Hershey chocolate bar with almonds. But any chocolate will do.
What do you see when you look up from writing?
Depends on where I am. I like to take frequent breaks and often I’ll walk around (or cook) to help me think.
Tell us about your current book.
Time’s Undoing has a dual timeline, with both an historical and contemporary protagonist. Meghan McKenzie is a young, newspaper journalist who sets off to investigate the unsolved killing of her great-great grandfather, Robert Harrington, by a Birmingham, Alabama police officer. She uncovers many of the facts of his murder, and steps on enough toes to put herself in danger. The historical chapters imagines Robert’s life, and ultimate death. Two very different writing challenges, but as an author the historical sections transported me to a different emotional level. That’s not happened consistenly for me. I often felt my grandfather was guiding me in the research and the writing.
Thank you for being on the blog today, and congratulations on the new book! Readers, Cheryl will be choosing one commenter on the blog today and sending them a copy of Time’s Undoing.
About Time’s Undoing, which is released today:
A searing and tender novel about a young Black journalist’s search for answers in the unsolved murder of her great-grandfather in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, decades ago—inspired by the author’s own family history
Birmingham, 1929: Robert Lee Harrington, a master carpenter, has just moved to Alabama to pursue a job opportunity, bringing along his pregnant wife and young daughter. Birmingham is in its heyday, known as the “Magic City” for its booming steel industry, and while Robert and his family find much to enjoy in the city’s busy markets and vibrant nightlife, it’s also a stronghold for the Klan. And with his beautiful, light-skinned wife and snazzy car, Robert begins to worry that he might be drawing the wrong kind of attention.
2019: Meghan McKenzie, the youngest reporter at the Detroit Free Press, has grown up hearing family lore about her great-grandfather’s murder—but no one knows the full story of what really happened back then, and his body was never found. Determined to find answers to her family’s long-buried tragedy and spurred by the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, Meghan travels to Birmingham. But as her investigation begins to uncover dark secrets that spider across both the city and time, her life may be in danger.
Inspired by true events, Time’s Undoing is both a passionate tale of one woman’s quest for the truth behind the racially motivated trauma that has haunted her family for generations and, as newfound friends and supporters in Birmingham rally around Meghan’s search, the uplifting story of a community coming together to fight for change.
About Cheryl Head:
Cheryl A. Head writes the Anthony, and Lambda Literary-nominated, Charlie Mack Motown Mysteries. Formerly of Detroit, her books are included in the Special Collections of the Library of Michigan. The most recent book in her series, Warn Me When It’s Time, received a Silver Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and was dubbed “chilling and prescient” by The New York Times.
Time’s Undoing, a crime novel based on her family’s personal tragedy will be published by Dutton Books in February 2023.
Cheryl now lives in Washington, DC with her partner, and canine supervisors: Abby and Frisby.