The Bouchercon World Mystery Convention was supposed to be in Sacramento, California, this year. I should be on a plane right now, in fact, flying home with a suitcase full of books (and a mild hangover).
Instead, Bouchercon came to our living room this year. Great panels and interviews, and a live Anthony Awards celebration. Thanks so much to all the committee members for their incredible work transitioning to a virtual conference and making it special for all involved.
One Night Gone was a finalist for the Macavity Award and the Anthony Award for Best First Mystery, and I’m thrilled to say it won BOTH AWARDS! I had to give the Anthony acceptance speech live, and I was incredibly nervous, so I forget everything I said but hopefully something nice was said in there somewhere. I’m still in shock, honestly. My fellow nominees for both awards–Angie Kim, Tori Eldridge, Samantha Downing, J.P. Pomare, Lauren Wilkinson, John Vercher–wrote some of the best books last year. Read them all.
It was also a delight to discuss research with my fellow panelists Terry Shames (moderator), Cara Black, Ann Parker, David Schlosser, and Linda Townsdin.
Thank you to everyone who read One Night Gone, reviewed it, emailed me pictures of it in Target, and did anything at all to support the book, big or small. It is much appreciated, and a very bright light in this otherwise dim, scary year.
Friends! Pleased to introduce you on this last day of July to the fears of Cheryl Head. Cheryl lives in the Washington, D.C. area, but she’s originally from Detroit, where she sets her awesome Charlie Mack Motown Mystery Series. If you’ve never read these books, you’re in for a treat. I love Charlie for all her complexity as a character. She’s strong and sassy, but also very vulnerable, and gets into plenty of trouble while fighting for justice. Check out the latest, Find Me When I’m Lost, right here. And now, read on to discover all the things that keep Cheryl up at night…..
What is the scariest thing you remember from childhood?
It’s an incident from when I was probably ten or eleven. My younger sister and I had a summer camp trip to an amusement park in or around Detroit. My mother’s last words to me had been, “Take care of your little sister.” My sister, Linda, who was always a dare devil, wanted to ride the rollercoaster. I’d never ridden one, but somehow I knew it wasn’t something I’d like. Linda insisted on the rollercoaster ride. I said no, but she darted from the line into one of the cars. I followed to protect her. Thus began the most harrowing and frightening event of my childhood. Going up in the air, and then down at fast speeds, when I’m not in control, is not my idea of fun. I still do not ride rollercoasters. You will find me on the ground, holding the purses, backpacks and jackets, and waving to my pals on the ride.
“Going up in the air, and then down at fast speeds, when I’m not in control, is not my idea of fun.”
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes. I do, although I’ve never seen or interacted with a
ghost. But I do believe we are spiritual beings and spirit has no temporal, or
physical boundaries. So ghosts must move amongst us all the time. I am a
religious person, and the idea of a Trinity where one of the expressions of God
is a “holy ghost” resonates with me. I wouldn’t mind having a ghostly visitor,
one who is friendly, who helps me imagine things I could not imagine. That
would make me a better writer.
What’s something most people are afraid of that you are
Snakes. As long as I can outrun it, I’m not afraid of it.
Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Yes. Ten years or so ago, the Washington, D.C., area had an
earthquake. I was working at a desk on the lower level of my house, and I felt
the movement very clearly. On the second roil, I stood and walked to the front
of my house to the staircase leading to the upper level. I very clearly (in my
head) heard a voice say: “Get out!” I
did. I was the first on my block to head to the sidewalk and knocked on a
couple of my neighbor’s doors to tell them maybe they should also come outside.
Turns out it was a 5.8 earthquake. It freaked me out. Decided that day that my
reaction to danger is more flight than fight.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
In my first Charlie Mack Motown Mystery, I write about
Charlie being knocked unconscious, hogtied, and left for dead under furniture
in an overgrown city lot. It took me several days to write that scene, trying
to get into Charlie’s head, and imagining the sensory reactions she would have
to such an experience. Readers have told me the scene is dynamic, but it was
scary for me to envision and get down on paper.
Do you have any horror movie dealbreakers?
Yes. No slashing of women with knives. That theme used to be
so ubiquitous in horror movies—and now in a lot of the crime/mystery content on
various cable/streaming networks. I’ve watched it in the past, but I can’t
watch it anymore. I recently tried to watch Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill,
but I just couldn’t get past the elevator scene. If you know that movie, you
know what I mean. Really the whole “slasher” genre is crossed off my list.
What is your favorite monster/villain?
The monster in Alien. It is such an adaptive monster.
It has the ability of camouflage, an unyielding desire to survive, acid
secretions, with sentient intelligence, self-awareness, and it likes to kill.
You are renting a remote house with a few close friends
when all the electricity cuts out. Are you the friend who does down to the
basement to check on the situation? If
not what do you do when someone else does, and you hear them calling your name
from that dark basement?
I’m a crime writer. I don’t go to remote houses without thinking a bit about the potential dangers and pitfalls, and having made some preparations. I will not be the one going into a dark basement for any reason, mostly because of mice, not bad guys. But, I’ll be able to give my more courageous friends my flashlight, or candles that I’ve brought. I will also have warned my friends to wait until morning to figure out the electricity, so unless it is my child (I will move into any dangerous situation to protect my child) my friend will have to fend for him or herself.
Cheryl Head spent twenty years in public television and radio before turning to fiction writing. Her award-winning first novel, Long Way Home, is a story of the experiences of black soldiers in America’s segregated war-time army. Head writes the Lammy, Goldie, and Next Generation Indie Books-nominated Charlie Mack Motown Mysteries, whose female PI protagonist is queer and black. Head is director of inclusion at the Golden Crown Literary Society, whose mission is to increase the visibility of lesbian-themed literature. She is also a Bouchercon board member. In 2019, Head was named to the Hall of Fame of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.