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IL Interview Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

Feb 26, 2019

My special guest today is author Sherilyn Decter. She’s here to chat a bit about the first release in her new historical women’s crime fiction,Innocence Lost – Book One of the Bootleggers’ Chronicles series.

Welcome, Sherilyn. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

The Roaring Twenties and Prohibition were a fantasy land, coming right after the horrors and social upheaval of World War I. Even a century later, it all seems so exotic.

Women got the vote, started working outside the home, and (horrors!) smoked and drank in public places. They even went on unchaperoned dates (gasp)! Corsets were thrown into the back of the closets, and shoes were discovered to be an addictive fashion accessory after hemlines started to rise. And thanks to Prohibition, suddenly it was fashionable to break the law. The music was made in America- ragtime, delta blues, and of course jazz. Cocktails were created to hide the taste of the bathtub gin. Flappers were dancing, beads and fringes flying. Fedoras were tipped. And everyone was riding around in automobiles (aka struggle buggies and I leave it to your imagination why – wink.)

Bootleggers’ Chronicles grew out of that fascination. Writing as Sherilyn Decter, I will eventually have a series of historical crime fiction novels dealing with the bootleggers, gangsters, flappers, and general lawlessness that defined Prohibition. The Bootlegger blog rose out of all the research that I’ve been doing about this incredible era.

Growing up on the prairies and living next to the ocean, I am a creature of endless horizons. Writing allows me to discover what’s just over the next one. My husband and I have three amazing daughters, a spoiled grandson, and two bad dogs.

Please tell us about your current release.

Innocence Lost is the story of Maggie, a young widow struggling to raise her son in 1920s Philadelphia. Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootleggers’ playground. When her son’s friend goes missing and the police aren’t interested in investigating, Maggie steps way out of her comfort zone to begin investigating. After all, the safety of her son may be at stake. Providing support and guidance is a ghostly police detective, Frank Geyer. Together they battle police corruption and dangerous bootleggers in their attempts to bring evil-doers to justice.

What inspired you to write this book?

I start a story with the idea ‘what if?’ and begin to knit up those fascinating threads into something that grabs the reader and holds them to the end.

Stories about women at the crossroads have always inspired me. Maggie started out life as a feisty, independent girl but wound up thinking and acting like her turn-of-the-century mother. With her back to the wall financially and worried about the safety of her son, Maggie is forced to rediscover who she was before life got her down.

I am also intrigued about how people react when faced with extraordinary circumstances. They’re tested– revealing their true character, for better or worse. Several of the characters in Innocence Lost must come face to face with that truth. Innocence Lost is set in dangerous times, ‘not because of evil, but because of people who do nothing about it.’

Finally, the 1920s was an exciting era. Hemlines were going up, hair was being bobbed, women were stepping out, and that razzmatazz jazz got fringes flying. Prohibition may have cut off the legal supply of liquor, but that didn’t stop people from drinking, which created a business opportunity for folks who enjoyed risk and adventure. Great change has interesting consequences, often unexpected. And that leads me back to answering, ‘what if?’.

Excerpt from Innocence Lost:

Philadelphia has not yet lost its soul. It’s still the early days of Prohibition. Sure, you can see the rot around the edges beginning to creep in, but people, for the most part, are enjoying the thrill of being lawbreakers. The times; they’re dangerous, but not yet deadly. Bootleggers are still the boys from down the street, and hooch still has a bit of quality control to it. Hell, the most dangerous thing about the Twenties, so far at least, is hemlines. Those short skirts are trouble.

You can smack your lips at the scandal of it all. Everyone has a bit of an outlaw in them, don’t they? Many of the good people of Philadelphia are secretly thrilled to be able to thumb their noses at a senseless bit of government regulation imposed by morons in Washington. It’s a buzz to sneak out to the local speakeasy, get in with a secret password, and tip back a refreshing swig of illegal booze.

Ah yes, that inevitable illegal booze. Stashed in old warehouses; some of them are by the river, some close to the tracks, all hidden from view. Brick carcasses of abandoned enterprise, those warehouses now bustle with new business. Risky business. Bootlegging.

What exciting story are you working on next?
The decade of Prohibition and its effects on America provide an endless source of inspiration for compelling, dramatic stories. Having completed the five book series about bootleggers, the ghost of a police detective, and Maggie Barnes, I’m now heading south.

The next series is set in Florida and delves into the dangerous world of rum runners. There’s a trio of dynamic women who run things along Rum Row, a fortune teller who finds answers in the tarot, and a very nasty villain.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve always been a reader, losing myself in the pages of a good book. But I was finding it harder and harder to find the stories I wanted to read: stories of strong women facing exceptional circumstances, who find themselves along the journey. I love history and a touch of the paranormal. The stars aligned and I started to write.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I’m retired, so have the luxury of writing full time. As an early bird, you can find me at my desk well before dawn, spinning tales. I usually spend all my creative energies by lunch time, leaving me the afternoons to research historical aspects of my books, to look after the business side of being a writer, to cook or garden, to visit with my grandchildren, or play with my two bad dogs.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

All my stories have been written with one dog in my lap and another at my feet. (Yes, I have poor writing posture and long arms!) They wisely refrain from commenting on my first drafts and a good tummy rub often inspires the solution to a particularly vexing conundrum in the plot.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I was the tall, awkward, nerdy girl in glasses and her nose in a book. If I couldn’t be a teacher, I wanted to be a librarian. One of those weird quirks of fate that I had mentioned earlier put me behind a country bar slinging beer and mixing drinks instead of cool, quiet book stacks. But regardless of where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to, I’ve always had plenty of bookcases and my ‘to-be-read’ pile is at dangerous heights.