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
Find out more about his books: https://www.authorrandyoverbeck.com/books
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Blood on the Chesapeake, and what compelled you to write it.
Author: In my travels, I’ll always been intrigued by the possibilities of places I’ve visited, the “I wonder if” notion. When we journeyed to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I was overwhelmed by the quiet, scenic beauty of the area, but also intrigued by the duality of the cultures there. Here was a region bearing the hallmarks of a proud New England tradition, but 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 explore that dichotomy in fiction. 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?
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: 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.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Blood on the Chesapeake?
Author: Even though the book is set in the not-so-distant past (1998), I’ve tried to tap the themes and issues that are as relevant today as they were twenty years ago. The overriding theme of the story is racial injustice. Because I’m not an author of color, I tried to approach this issue my own perspective. What culpability and responsibility does a “white guy of privilege” have, when he comes face to face with racial injustice? As I completed this novel and it went through the publishing process, I was surprised—no, not surprised, rather disappointed—that with the Black Lives Matter movement and the resurgence of the White Supremists, this theme is more relevant than ever today.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Author: I write because I have stories to tell, because I think some stories need telling. Since I’ve been in the education profession for three plus decades, I’ve witnessed countless acts of unselfish dedication, heroism, bravery and stubborn commitment by teachers at all levels. Yet, what we have in the common culture is either lurid tales of the rare pedophile teacher or reports of failing schools and teachers. So, I thought, if I’m going to tell tales of heroism and bravery, of standing up against the odds and sacrificing everything to save others, then I would cast educators—teachers and coaches—in the starring roles. Because that’s what I witnessed for real every day.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Author: I’ve found that for me creativity cannot be scheduled. Yes, I do try to write every day, usually in the late morning and early afternoon, but I’ve discovered that sometimes the creative bug hits me in the middle of a TV show. Sometimes, an inspiration rumbles around in my subconscious so strongly that I have to get up in the middle of the night and head to the computer to get it down. I try to go whenever and whereever the muse leads me.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Author: One of the things that delight me when I’m reading is a masterful turn of a phrase or a really memorable scene description, you know the kind that places you vividly in the middle of the action. I strive for these goals when I write, though I’d be the first to admit I don’t always reach them. I actually enjoy revisiting and revising my language, searching for just the right word or phrase. Some parts of Blood on the Chesapeake have seen ten or more revisions to try to get it right.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: That’s an interesting question. I often let the narrative take me where it wants to go, sometimes not at all where I thought I was headed. For example, since I write mysteries, the whodunit is pretty important. I plot and write my stories with multiple antagonists and don’t decide who the murderer is until I get near the end of the book. I try to plant clues for multiple suspects, but don’t “drop the dime” until the last few chapters—for me and the reader.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: When I’m stuck. Writer’s block is not usually a problem for me. But occasionally, when I’m at a certain point in the narrative, I’ve been stymied at just how to get my character to do A or how to get him/her to B. Most of the time I’ve been fortunate. I can usually work on another part of the manuscript and my mind subconsciously works out a solution. I’m able to work through it, but while I’m in the midst of the problem, it can be pretty thorny.
M.C.: Your best?
Author: That’s easy. I write for myself, because I have something to say. But nothing in my writing life has brought me more joy than seeing how much my readers LOVE my work. After my first book, Leave No Child Behind, was published, I received scores of emails from readers telling how much they enjoyed it and how it scared them to death. (It’s supposed to scare them.) Several years later, I still keep and re-read those emails.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: Nothing. I suppose there could be a perfect storm of family problems that would derail my writing efforts, but only until the storm passes. I found even in the worst of times in my life, when I’ve had to face tragedies, deaths, daunting challenges, my writing has sustained me. I can’t imagine not writing. It’s in my DNA now.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: Seeing my writing—years of imagination, creativity, perseverance, and just plain hard work—come to fruition and become real, the novel published, the book in readers’ hands, the great reviews coming in, I’d say those are my happiest moments as a writer.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: Yes, though not in a psychotic, creepy kind of way. For a good many years, I was an educator. I lived, breathed, pondered, thought, planned how can I best teach, reach these children? What can I do that will enrich their lives through what they learn from me? Over the past several years, that same kind of obsession now haunts me about my writing. Even as I finishing the sequel to Blood on the Chesapeake, I’m constantly planning the third instalment, researching the locales, and at the same time I’m nursing my next novel, a standalone mystery about a drug dealer and murderer who preys on elementary kids. I guess as I write this, it does sound like an obsession.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: Without a doubt. I subscribe to the adage, “Write what you know.” All my narratives are set in the world of school, a setting I hope most readers can recognize and relate to, even if my stories—terrorists taking over a high school in the Midwest or a kid who was murdered haunting the halls of a high school in Maryland—are well out of the realm of ordinary. Because of my experience and familiarity with these settings, I hope I can render a story with credibility and connection for the reader.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: Interesting. I prefer S. J. Rosan’s quote: “Nonfiction is about reality. Fiction is about truth.” For me, fiction, my novels allow me to tell real truths, truths about how we treat each other, especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us, our children. My writing allows me to lay bare the beauty and the ugliness of the human condition. I’m buoyed when readers will tell me they had a teacher just like my characters, as it tells me my “truth” came through my words.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Author: Yes, I have both. At my website <authorrandyoverbeck.com> readers can learn more about me, check out my first novel, Leave No Child Behind, and of course order my new ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake They can also get the scoop on my next steps as a writer including when to expect the exciting next chapter in the Haunted Shores mysteries series. There they can also connect with me via Facebook at Author Randy Overbeck and via twitter @OverbeckRandy. Of course, readers can find my blog at the website or at this link. <https://www.authorrandyoverbeck.com/blog>