Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Penny Rudolph's Eye of the Mountain God

Penny Rudolph’s latest book, a contemporary thriller set in northern New Mexico, was released in April by St. Martin’s Press. The publisher describes Eye of the Mountain God as: An explosive combination... A woman who finds five emerald arrowheads wrapped in her newspaper, an autistic child who knows the unknowable, and a man who applauded the events of 9/11 and is determined to become the American Che Guevera. Two-time Edgar Award-winner Warren Murphy, calls this book, “An exciting thriller with a Southwestern flavor...(that) combines elements of Rudolfo Anaya’s and Tony Hillerman’s novels.”

Rudolph’s earlier mystery/thrillers include the historical Listen to the Mockingbird set in New Mexico during the Civil War, the contemporary Thicker Than Blood about California water politics, and its medical thriller sequel Lifeblood, both set in downtown Los Angeles.

She has worked as a bartender, truck driver, chile picker, musician, science writer, and medical writer. In her work as a journalist she has watched open-heart surgery, talked to ranchers about cattle breeding, and interviewed NASA scientists about Saturn. She’s also made the rounds with a game warden, interviewed opera stars and Apache hunters, worked with archeologists, and watched the making of steel. She has taught journalism at New Mexico State University and won more than 50 national writing/editing awards, including an Eppie and an International Gold Quill. She lives in Albuquerque.
Book excerpts are available at

Welcome, Penny. It's a pleasure to have you here.
What was your inspiration for each of your novels?

Thanks, Susan. Eye of the Mountain God: There really is a documented tale of five emerald arrowheads revealed by the Pima Indians when the Spaniards first entered what is now southwestern New Mexico in the 1530s. The story is linked to the Spaniards’ search for the mythic seven cities of Cibola. The emeralds may have been used to lure them away.

Listen to the Mockingbird: I read an interesting account of the experiences of a woman who came to New Mexico as an Army wife during the Civil War. Soon after that reading, I happened across an old grave in southern New Mexico. The stone read: She owned a ranch and held up a stagecoach. And for whatever reason, I wanted to combine the two real women into a fictional one and tell her story.

Thicker Than Blood: I worked for years for a large water agency in Los Angeles and I’d been looking for a way to shape a story about California’s water wars. One day I was waiting in a large indoor parking lot in Maryland for a friend. Bored, I rifled through a small publication I found in the parking lot office. It included a bio and photo of the lot’s owner, a woman, and an attractive one at that. I began to wonder what if the head of a water agency was killed by a company car in a hit-and-run......

Lifeblood: I had never considered writing anything but stand-alones, but my editor wanted a sequel to Thicker Than Blood. This is a good incentive to start looking around for some stray inspiration. When I realized that the other half of my years in Los Angeles was as a medical writer, I was on my way.

Please give us a short synopsis of each one.

Eye of the Mountain God
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN 0-312-54546-0 Hardcover $24.95
An explosive mix: A woman who finds five emerald arrowheads inside her morning newspaper, an autistic child who knows the unknowable, and a man intent on becoming the American Che Guevara.

Listen to the Mockingbird
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN 1-59058-348-5 Trade Paperback $14.95

Award-winning historical and somewhat feminist mystery/thriller: The Civil War in New Mexico, murder, a lost gold mine, and one woman's compelling secret—Matty Summerhayes is a rancher determined to conceal her past. A stranger carrying a baffling map is murdered, Texans invade her valley, and soon disaster is stalking her.

Thicker Than Blood
Poisoned Pen Press
ISBN 1-59058-366-1 Trade Paperback $14.95
ISBN 1-59058-148-2 Hardcover $24.95
ISBN 1-59058-163-6 Large Print Trade Paperback $22.95

Recovering alcoholic Rachel Chavez owns a parking garage in downtown Los Angeles. One smoggy morning she changes a tire for the head of a water agency. Before the day is out, he’s killed by a hit-and-run driver, Rachel spots blood on a water agency fleet car in her garage, and within days she’s caught in the cross-fire of California water politics.

ISBN 1-59058-346-9 Hardcover $24.95
ISBN 1-59058-347-7 Large Print Trade Paperback $22.95

Recovering alcoholic Rachel Chavez owns a parking garage in downtown LA. She discovers two unconscious Mexican boys locked in a van and rushes them to the hospital, but when she checks back, there's no record of either child.

Where can we get these books and in what formats?

All my books are still in print. Mountain God is the latest, released April 2010. They’re available from bookstores, from libraries, from online booksellers. In addition to the formats I’ve listed above, I think all are now available in several ebook formats, including Amazon’s Kindle.

Congratulations on your award-winning Listen to the Mockingbird. To what do you owe your success?

To a huge lot of very hard work and an equal amount of stubborn determination. Someone once described it as staring at a computer screen until beads of blood break out on one’s forehead.

Do you have favorite characters you can tell us about? Are they based on real people?

I guess all my main characters are part real people, sometimes a combination of two or three real people, shaken up, tossed about, and fictionalized. For one thing, I’ve enjoyed killing several former bosses, and turning another into a bag lady. For me, a story is always character driven. I’ve even enjoyed some of my minor characters, too. In Mountain God, A red-headed Hispanic woman who has a gift for ESP and a tendency toward colorful cursing. Also an 80-something woman artist living in a cabin she built to homestead after World War II when she gave up a less-than-laudable career in San Francisco. In Mockingbird, a clever black woman, a freed slave, with a strong sense of what is proper, and a flair for humor. There are more, but this is getting too long.

Are you currently writing another novel? If so, when can we expect its release?

Yes, I’m working on a manuscript tentatively titled The Girl in the Yellow Dress about a nurse practitioner in rural northern New Mexico accused of killing a young girl. But I’ve got to admit I have no idea when I’ll finish it because I’m now distracted by a couple more ideas I want to pursue in the historical genre.

Do you have upcoming events you can mention?

February 19, 2011 I’ll be at the Moriarty, NM Civic Center at a literacy event sponsored by the local library. I love small towns, and I love libraries.

How do you promote?

My favorite way, since I was a teacher, is giving short workshops.

Want to try  Penny's great recipes? Purchase Killer Recipes at Amazon in print, ebook, or Kindle formats. It's a fun cookbook chocked full of wonderful recipes from writers all over the country and a few from Canada. Proceeds go to The American Cancer Society research projects to end cancer in our lifetime.

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