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Interview with Raquel Byrnes

Raquel puts herself into her characters’ shoes—literally—gumshoes, that is, because she took classes in how to be a private detective and how to target-shoot. So, Raquel’s heroines are investigators who follow a dearth of evidence and procedures in stories that contain what she describes as edge-of-your-seat pacing.

She worked with agent Terry Burns at Hartline Literary who sold her Shades of Hope series to White Rose Publishing. In Bayou Blue, her most recent release, she marks the completion of the series preceded by Purple Knot and Ruby Dawn.

Raquel, the books in your series have female private investigators as the main characters. Who is the heroine in Bayou Blue?

This book’s heroine is Riley Drake, a tough minded investigative reporter. Much like the main characters in the other Shades of Hope books, Riley is a woman at a crossroads.

Without giving away too many secrets, can you tell us about some of the suspense threads that readers will want to unravel?
Riley returns to the town where her brother is suspected of committing a terrible act and is determined to prove his innocence despite mounting evidence and threats from the parish’s devastated families. Her one ally is Jake Ayers, the town’s sheriff, who is intent on keeping a dark secret of his own. As she uncovers the truth behind her brother’s cryptic last words, she discovers a plot by the most unlikely of sources. With her family shamed, her life in danger, and her faith shaken, Riley must decide between revenge and redemption.

You have mentioned that quick pacing is part of your writing style. Why is that so important?
I find that often being in the thick of things, the desperate unplanned situations, reveals our true character and loyalties. Only when we are like those characters—pushed to the breaking point—can we finally see the amazing grace and strength God offers us. I think those moments resonate with people and I love to bring them to light in my books.

What, in particular, did you apply from your detective or target-shooting courses that added believability to this story?
As an investigative reporter, Riley uses the same types of skills that a detective would use to follow evidence. From interview techniques to painstakingly sifting through layers of information in the hunt for the truth, I hope my research has brought authenticity to Riley’s journey.

What was the most fun part about writing this book?
Definitely my research into traditional Louisiana cuisine! I had the opportunity to try crawfish gumbo, fried alligator, and beignets during my preparation for the story. Because Bayou Blue takes place in and around the waterways of New Orleans, it was important for me to get the local tastes spot on.

How do you include a faith element with your storyline?
Faith is integral to the journey for all of my characters. Whether it is a new belief that is tested as in Riley’s case, or ache for a walk that was lost, the spiritual heart of my books is always centered on trials and triumphs we all experience in our relationship with God.

Tell us about your journey as a writer and how you manage a busy household while writing.
I have to say that I would not be able to do what I do without the loving support of my husband and children. They are a constant source of encouragement and honest feedback (not to mention that my husband is a wonderful cook and often volunteers to take care of dinner so that I can meet a deadline). I am blessed beyond reason.

You acknowledge being an avid reader. What do you read and who are some favorite authors?
I am a huge fan of Dashiell Hammett and other authors of hardboiled detective novels from the twenties and thirties. Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, was a major inspiration to me as a young writer in high school.

Thanks for sharing with us, Raquel!

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