Today I am excited to feature author Engelia McCullough on my blog.
Let’s find out a little more about her and her The Truth series.
About the author:
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Baltimore, MD and raised in Cooksville, MD. Currently, I call the Owings Mills area of MD home.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
I have been writing since I was five. I’m a very creative person and at a young age I found that writing was a huge outlet for me.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
My current series, The Truth series, contains a protagonist that is somewhat modeled after me. I am an avid reader of all genres and I realized that there were no really strong mainstream African-American female crime characters. I wanted to introduce a character like that. Sarah Markes is a determined, intelligent, college educated detective raised in the diverse suburb of Hestfield County, MD. She encounters many professional and personal challenges just like everyone else.
What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
The worst advice I have received to date is that someone told me to write about something that I know versus something that I’m interested in. The feel of the conversation was how can I write about a mystery or crime when I’m not a detective, a lawyer or police officer of any kind? I tell people write about what moves you and you can fill in the little nuances later on that make it a more interesting read. I will admit that if you don’t have the background in the specific topic that research is a definite and it can be a little more difficult. I know it is fiction but the book still needs to be believable to a certain extent.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
That’s a good question as I just read an article on writing an outline for books. I’m a little backwards as I don’t write an outline unless I get stuck. I like to sit down and just start writing. Then when it starts to get a little muddled, I review what I have and use an outline to determine: 1) If my goal of the story has been reached up until that point. If not, I adjust it. 2) Where do I want to go from here? What’s missing to get me to the end of my story?
About her books
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Oh, gosh. I’m still doing research for this book. I am a crime fanatic. If I’m not reading about it, I’m watching shows on the ID or BIO channels. I have attended online seminars and conferences as well as I am a subscriber to the blogs of real life detectives and forensic experts. A more than valuable resource for me was the blog and interviews conducted by former NYC detective, Joseph Giacolone. The next thing on my list is that I would love to spend a day or night with a detective as well as get a tour of a forensics center. There is a forensics center in my immediate area that I discovered earlier this week. They are on my list to contact.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
On my website, I talk about another reason I created Sarah Markes. My aunt was murdered some years ago. Had it not been for the tenacity of my family I’m not sure her body would have been found or the murderers caught. The cold case of Kyle Spencer in the first book of The Truth Series, The Truth Finder, is loosely based on my aunt’s case. Also, Sarah is the type of detective my family could have used on my aunt’s case.
Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?
There is an awesome twist at the end that even surprised me as a little harsh. But you’ll have to read it to see what happens. I’m in the editing stages and I have already decided that this is a part I just cannot part with.
If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?
Absolutely. I have already started working on the second and third book in The Truth Series. These two books focus more on Sarah’s crazy family history as well as some things from her own past she’s kept hidden. I have included the WIP synopses below.
The Truth Revealed (Second Book in The Truth Series)
SILAS KNIGHT, the uncle of cold case superstar SARAH MARKES, is a beloved citizen, philanthropist and owner of The Knight Corporation one of the biggest energy companies in the nation. Silas is known for his giving nature and charm and he’s about to announce an international expansion project that will surely land him at number one on Forbes Top 100 List. That is until JONATHAN MARKES, his former business partner and Sarah’s father, is released early from prison and threatens to bring Silas down with secrets from their past. Now Silas is willing and ready to do anything to make sure that Jonathan keeps his mouth shut.
Sarah doesn’t have time to dwell on the release of her father. The charred remains of a young high school girl reported missing a year ago has been found in a makeshift grave at a backyard barbeque. Word of the senseless murder spreads throughout the community and causes panic in Hestfield. When Sarah finds out that the murdered girl is the daughter of the Police Academy Director and her mentor, she jumps on the case. Will she be able to find the person who committed this horrendous act or has the murderer skipped town for good?
Sarah is so consumed by the cold case that she hasn’t noticed the war between Silas and Jonathan being fought right under her nose. Then Jonathan does something that gives Sarah no other choice but to join in on the fight between her father and uncle. The question is: Whose side is she on?
The Truth Hidden (Third Book in The Truth Series)
Solving cold cases is what SARAH MARKES does best. However, this time a case is brought to the team that hits a little too close to home for Sarah—something she’s kept hidden since she was a little girl. Seven years ago, the bodies of three little girls were found discarded in several remote areas throughout Maryland with their young bodies covered in yellow daisies. All were under the age of six and had been brutally raped and strangled. Homicide cops pulled out all the stops fearing they had a serial killer on their hands but to no avail. The case went cold. Until now. His latest victim is Melissa Simmons, the mayor’s own daughter. And the person assigned to track him down…may be the one who got away.
Just for Fun
Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
What book are you reading right now?
I’m an official reviewer for the World Literary Café. Currently, I’m reading Deadly Science by Amy Manemann which is one of the selections in our monthly queue.
Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I’m afraid of snakes. Not deathly, just enough to probably never touch one but I have one living in my house. LOL. Don’t ask. Just call it a lapse in judgment ten years ago.
The Truth Finder (First Book in The Truth Series)
Located in central Maryland, Hestfield County is a low crime area compared to its neighbors in the north and south, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Known for its suburban life full of good schools and friendly neighbors where the Mercedes minivan is a standard, Hestfield is a suburbanite’s dream. This was not always the case. So, when the cold case unit is created in Hestfield as part of a “Let’s Continue to Strengthen Our Community” program all eyes are on the newly created team.
They call her the truth finder.
There isn’t a crime that cold case detective SARAH MARKES can’t solve. It’s the beginning of the holiday season and Sarah has just solved one of the biggest child murder cases in county history. With that behind her, she’s ready to enjoy the rest of the holidays. Until a longtime friend of her father’s walks into the police station desperate and asking her for help. Determined to keep any ties to her father out of her life Sarah refuses the request.
As the New Year begins, Sarah’s future is more than promising with a growing career and budding romance. Until one phone call changes her life. Struggling for answers with this unexpected loss; Sarah is about to lose everything until an event from the past reminds her of why she became a detective. Sarah decides to help her father’s friend.
Given only thirty days by her superior to work the case, Sarah musters every ounce of her training and personal conviction to find enough hard evidence to convince the hard-nosed District Attorney to reopen a ten year old case and bring an unsuspecting murderer, or murderers, to justice. Risking her reputation, Sarah embarks on a complex investigation that may leave her more broken than healed, both personally and professionally as her own family secrets are revealed.
A Maryland native, Engelia McCullough studied English literature at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her fiction has appeared in many publications and journals, including The Howard County Times and Lascaux Flash. She currently lives in Maryland and is in the editing stage of her first manuscript.