Dr. Randy Overbeck is a writer, educator, researcher and speaker in much demand. During his three plus decades of educational experience, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his writing with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. His new ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake, will be released on April 10, 2019 by The Wild Rose Press. As the title suggests, the novel is set on the famous Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to endless shorelines, incredible sunsets and some of the best sailing in the world. Blood is first in a new series of paranormal mysteries, The Haunted Shores Mysteries. Dr. Overbeck’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind, a thriller about the terrorist takeover of a Midwest high school and one teacher’s stand against the intruders, won the 2011 Silver Award for Thrillers from ReadersFavorite.com. Dr. Overbeck is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and an active member of the literary community. You can follow him on Twitter @OverbeckRandy, friend him on Facebook at Author Randy Overbeck or check out his webpage, www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

About the Book:

Wilshire, Maryland seems like the perfect shore town on the Chesapeake Bay—quiet, scenic, charming—and promises Darrell Henshaw a new start in life and a second chance at love. That is, until he learns the town hides an ugly secret. A thirty-year-old murder in the high school. And a frightening ghost stalking his new office. Burned by an earlier encounter with the spirit world—with the OCD scars to prove it—he does NOT want to get involved. But when the desperate ghost hounds him, Darrell concedes. Assisted by his new love, he follows a trail that leads to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, when two locals who try to help are murdered, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.

INTERVIEW:

  • Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.

After being dumped by his fiancé, Darrell Henshaw, a young teacher and coach, strikes out for new pastures and lands a job in Maryland. He cannot believe his good fortune as Wilshire, a quiet, scenic and charming resort town on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay offers him his dream job—teaching high school history and coaching football and basketball—and, as it turns out, a second chance at love. Except no one told him that a student was murdered at the school and that the kid’s ghost haunts the hallways.

You see, Darrell sees ghosts, though he’s not happy about it. His first encounter with the spirit world did not go well and he has the OCD scars to prove it. But, he decides to look into the murder, aided by his new love, Erin Caveny, but, after two locals who try to help are murdered and Erin’s life is threatened, Darrell is forced to decide just how far he’ll go to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.

Most of my stories have been inspired by the towns I’ve travelled to and the people and places I’ve encountered on my way. When visiting an area, I’m always been intrigued by the possibilities of unfamiliar places, the “I wonder if” notion. The initial idea for Blood on the Chesapeake actually sprang from a visit to a coastal New England town. The town boasted an old high school with an unusual architectural feature, a faux widow’s walk atop the second floor of the school building—which readers will discover is a critical part of the setting and narrative of Blood on the Chesapeake. Then, when I later journeyed to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I was overwhelmed by the quiet, scenic beauty of the region, but also intrigued by the duality of the cultures there. Here was a region bearing the hallmarks of a proud New England tradition, but also with roots still very much in the South. (The area was home to famous slave plantations and was split in loyalties during the Civil War.) I thought it’d be interesting to examine that contrast in a fictional exploration. In this most peaceful and beautiful of settings on the Chesapeake Bay, what if something horrific happened in this small town and they tried to cover it up?

  • Did your book require a lot of research?

Without a doubt. Although the central setting of the story—high school classes and coaching—was an area with which I have considerable familiarity, after more than three decades as an educator, several other parts of the narrative required a good deal of learning and research. Good thing I enjoy that. Here are just a few examples. Since I’m not a native to the Eastern Shore—one reason I made my protagonist, Darrell Henshaw, a fish out of water there—I made several trips to the region to make sure I had the geography, culture, names and details right. Also, like Darrell, I was fairly new to the water, so I had to learn a great deal about sailing on the Bay (and still required help and research to make certain details in the writing were correct there). I had to do considerable research about what happened in a small town after a lynching, so that this critical part of my novel would ring true to life. Finally, since the ghost story is an integral part of the tale—and I don’t pretend to have any particular expertise in the area—I had to learn from those that do to ensure my “ghost whispering” was credible and fits with what is known and accepted in this arena.

  • What will the reader learn after reading your book?

I’m hoping that readers are able to take away much by the time they close the cover on Blood on the Chesapeake. Like me, they may fall in love with this beautiful resort area, with its miles of undulating shoreline, the incredible blue-green expansive water of the Bay, its romantic and sometimes breathtaking sunsets, not to mention delicious seafood second to none. When readers have solved the mystery and come to know all the characters, they will have a better sense of life in a small town and the secrets possibly hiding there. They may also learn some painful lessons of history, like what happens in a small town, years after a horrid lynching. I certainly hope that, while readers may not believe in the ghosts, they will come away with a healthy respect for the spirit world and what lies beyond the veil. As Shakespeare wrote, “There’s more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.” 

  • What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

I’ve spoken with other writers who have been “burned” by writers’ groups, though my experience has been quite the opposite. I was fortunate to receive an invite to an area writers’ group that meets weekly and I’ve been an active member for years. Our group has included writers from fledgling to published and from various genres—mystery, horror, science fiction, fantasy, even poetry. Our group tries to support everyone’s writing, but in substantial, positive ways, although we also provide constructive suggestions for strengthening the work. (No fake praise.) Personally, I don’t believe my writing would have risen to the published level it has without the support of these peers.

Of course, you need to check out any writers’ group, and make sure they are a good fit for you, and to make sure they are serious about improving their craft. I’ve found valuable info on writers’ groups from writers’ conferences—if there’s one in your area. Otherwise, you could get some good advice from your local bookstore, if you still have one on those where you live. And of, course, you can use social media to find and vet a writing group.

  • Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

When I first start a manuscript, I write non-stop, scribbling ideas, bits of conversations, snatches of scenes, with little concern to typing or spelling—and I’m a terrible typist. Then I go back and work on each chapter—about six to eight pages—very methodically, working to get descriptions, characters, tenses, dialogue, etc. as good as I can at this point. When I think I have a decent chapter, I move on and repeat the process over and over again. Once the initial draft is on the paper, I find myself going back to revise a great many times, after an initial reading, after receiving feedback from my beta-readers, and later after sharing a chapter with my writing group. After I’ve had a break in writing—life intervenes sometimes—I always go back to my last written chapter, so I can see where I left the reader, and I find myself making a number of revisions again. But, even in the middle of chapter, say twenty-nine, I’ll find myself going back to an earlier chapter to tweak, adapt or correct something I noticed later. A fellow writer once asked me, how many times do I revise the manuscript? I’m not sure, but I know it’s well into double digits.

  • What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Hum, the best writing advice. That’s a tough question, as I’ve been blessed by much sound council about writing. I suppose some of the best writing advice I’ve received is that, to be the best writer you can be, you need support and inspiration. While writing is primarily a solitary exercise—just you and the computer— your writing will probably never be as good when it’s only “I” instead of “we.” Your skills will be strengthened, your writing enhanced and your confidence boosted, if you are an active, engaged member of a writing community. Attend and learn from writing conferences. Approach great writers you meet and ask for their help and suggestions. Find a great writers’ group and participate. Take time to provide support to other writers, both established and emerging. All this time in the community will pay dividends and you’ll likely find your writing growing.

  • Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I’m currently finishing the second installment in the Haunted Shore Mysteries series—tentatively titled Crimson at Cape May, another ghost story/mystery, this time set in the beautiful, historic resort town of Cape May, which also happens to be the most haunted seaport on the eastern coast. The Wild Rose Press already has first rights to the book and I expect this second novel in the series to be released sometime in 2020. Also, a third book in the series is in the planning, this time with nefarious happenings and help from beyond at a sunny resort in the Bahamas. At the same time, I’m working on a stand alone mystery about a drug dealer and murderer who preys on middle school students. You could probably say, I’m keeping busy.

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