What inspired you to write the story?

I had been moving in this direction ever since the Indiana Jones movies and Romancing the Stone were popular. About the time I had decided to write in the mystery genre, I watched a slide lecture on Mount St. Helens. The lecturer narrated an incident about falling into a pit of “quick mud” while researching in the volcanic monument area. It struck me that the harsh landscape would provide an excellent backdrop for a mystery.

 How long did it take to write the book?

 From the time I first got the idea, I worked on it about four years. I anticipate the next one taking closer to two years. I did a lot of background work on Torrie, her family and background, and potential locales before starting, so many of the elements of the next novel are pre-established.

 Does the novel really fit the mystery genre?

 It’s hard to identify a pure mystery anymore, since there are so many interesting new sub-genres. I have been accused of writing science fiction, and in the sense that I have fictionalized scientific facts, I guess you could call it that. But I tend to associate science fiction with aliens and outer space, and I wouldn’t be comfortable in that arena. But it has an amateur sleuth and a couple of dead bodies, so technically it qualifies as a mystery.

 How much of you do we see you in Torrie?

Not too much—she’s braver than I am. Of course she thinks and reacts the way I do in a lot of situations and has my quirky sense of humor. I think I’ve also borrowed a lot from my daughters since she belongs to their generation. In reality, I relate more to her mother, whom we didn’t see too much of in this novel. Watch for her in the next book of the series.




How did you plot the novel?

I started with some broad ideas about what might happen before I made my first trip to Mount St. Helens. My daughter Andrea helped me brainstorm while we were camping out and seeing the sights. Being in the locale suggested a lot of plot elements that I wouldn’t have come up with in front of the computer. Once I had numerous ideas swimming around in the idea pool, I took a piece of poster board and wrote down all the events that would take place. Then I started connecting them so I could see what had to happen first. I’m very visual so I made timelines and maps and character sketches and tacked them up all around my office, along with all my Mount St. Helens pictures.

 How did you go about researching?

 I did some background research on Mount St. Helens before my first visit—the usual reading, searching online, sending for brochures, and the like. After my first visit and further refining of the plot I did more in-depth research on certain topics. This is when I did interviews, both in person and online.

 Did you have an editor?

 Since I published the work myself, I did not go through the traditional editorial process. However, I passed the early drafts along to friends for reading, and had an English teacher colleague do a final proof before submitting the finished product.

Since I’m an English teacher myself and have an advanced degree in composition, I felt I could manage that part of the process on my own. It wouldn’t work for everybody. So, please don’t try this at home.




         Will Fireweed Glow have a sequel? Be a series?

 I had been tinkering with the Torrie character for some time and had actually written her into another novel, but that one wasn’t coming together the way I wanted it to, so I shelved it—maybe indefinitely.

I wanted to write novels that dealt with significant issues and that had less predictable plots. My market research indicated that mysteries were big sellers and that a series had an even better chance of success. Being a realist, I knew that if I wanted a readership, I had to give the public what it wanted, sort of.

So, yes, this is a series. My ulterior motive is that I love to travel, so I decided to develop a character who would be free to travel and stick her nose into other people’s business.

 Where will the next adventure take place?

 It takes place in France, where Torrie and her mother are searching for the family fortune and running from ruthless heirs. The idea is based loosely on family lore from my mother’s side of the family.




Is the Fireweed a real plant?

 Yes. It’s very common in forested areas and is one of the first plants to appear after a forest fire. I had never seen the plant until my first trip to Mount St. Helens. In fact, it was seeing the abundance of its eye-catching blooms that sparked the idea for this critical element in the plot development. The biggest difficulty was deciding whether to make the plant a force for good or evil. I decided that impending evil had more potential.

 Could the events described really happen?

 Well . . . some of them could. I interviewed a biogenetics expert before I finalized some of the plot elements, because I wanted the happenings to have a ring of truth to them. Mutated species do actually make some bizarre changes, and many plants glow in the dark. A mutation moving from one species to another is not likely, but changes that spread into the environment are indeed irrevocable.




 Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

 That’s hard to answer because it keeps changing. My favorite reading as a teen was anything by Phylllis Whitney, gothics, and historical novels My all-time favorite is The Monk. In my “long book” phase I was a Michener fan and loved Dr. Zhivago. One of my favorites is Sphinx, one of Robin Cook’s early books. I wish I could plot international intrigue, like Irving Wallace, or write scientific thrillers like Michael Crichton, but I’m not well-versed enough on scientific theory or the global scene. Recently, I have been reading a lot of Nevada Barr; I like her outdoor national park settings and strong female heroine.

 How long have you been writing?

 Probably from the time I learned to hold a pencil. I have a copy of my first poem that I wrote when I was seven. I wrote for the school paper starting in junior high, and was published in local publications. I have taken every opportunity to write, and had my first pieces officially accepted for publication about twenty years ago.

 Do you see yourself writing full-time?

 Yes, I can see that, but probably not for a while. My day job is adjunct instructor of English and Spanish on the college level. It works in nicely with writing on the side, but I would love to some day dedicate myself full time to writing.




Why did you decide to publish electronically?

 I was previously involved in self-publishing, and one of my short-term jobs was as Managing Editor of a weekly shopper, so I had a little experience with the process. It’s an economically feasible way for an unknown author to present one’s work to the public—the true critics. That whole field has changed dramatically with all the electronic and print-on-demand options.



 The list of people who were involved in some way in this project could go on endlessly, but I have (hopefully) included the most significant contributors. Unfortunately, the interior design I chose for my book did not allow for a page of acknowledgements, so I hope this will in some way compensate. Although FIREWEED GLOW is a work of fiction, I attempted to research thoroughly so the story line would seem plausible. Any errors are my own.

 First, of course, is the wonderful artwork for the cover and interior done by Steve Kellar, art student at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). He worked closely with me in order to create an artistic representation that captured the essence of the novel. I am pleased with his work every time I look at the book. Also contributing was Stan Anderson, who took the author photograph for the cover. It was quite a challenge to find a setting in Des Moines that looked like the Northwest, but he managed.

 For the inspiration for the setting, I have Dr. John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in California to thank. It was a slide presentation of his fall into the mud pit that sparked the idea of setting my novel at Mount St. Helens. He also graciously included my daughter and me in the ICR tour of the area that figures prominently in the plot line, and provided me with numerous helpful publications.

 Considerable background information was given to me by Jane Bradley, Chair of the Biotechnology Department at DMACC, and Deputy Mark of the Cowlitz County, Washington, Sheriff’s Department. A special thanks to the many rangers and guides at the interpretive centers at the Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument and other tourist sites in the area, especially to an unidentified young Mount St. Helens ranger in Gore Tex who introduced me to Fireweed and the pocket gopher—heroes of the regrowth process.

 To my fellow “plotters” Andrea and Sharon, who camped out with me, and put up with my endless imaginings and scribblings, as well as contributing a number of ideas of their own. And a big thanks, to Amy. If she hadn’t lured my daughter out to live in Washington State, none of this would have come about.

 To my early readers: Fay Chaplin, my mom, who has always read anything I put in front of her; to Leona, Melba, and Janie, who read the electronic version; to Sharelle, a colleague, and to Emily, fifth grade home school student, who both read review copies. Especially to Janice, who proofread the final copy, and her grandson Andy who was my on call tech.

 Thanks to Barry Benson, for his excellent article in the Windsor Heights Press Citizen, and to Mike Manno, who finished his first mystery novel Deadly Habit, just before I finished mine, and shared his war stories with me.

 And finally, to my late father, Glen Chaplin, who always believed I was going to make it as a writer, but never got to see the finished book.