Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Maggie Toussaint Talks About Muddy Waters

Today's guest is mystery and romance author Maggie Toussaint, inveterate kayaker and author of the recently released romantic suspense novel, Muddy Waters. I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie on the Cruise with Your Muse conference cruise last year, and we had a delightful visit at a conference cocktail party in a dark, dungeon-like bar, one of many themed bars on the ship, with lots of black lights and gothic sculptures lurking in the corners. I apologize in advance for not being tech savvy enough to post all the wonderful pictures Maggie provided, so I'll post them over on the sidebar for today--complete with captions :). But here in the post proper, we have the book cover for Muddy Waters, and the photo that inspired the story, and then Maggie herself. Welcome, Maggie!

Predators lurk in the moss-edged shadows of the deep South. Hungry gator eyes rise above the muddy water’s surface, biding their time, watching for hapless prey. Water moccasins and rattlesnakes favor the wooded shoreline, lush with thick vegetation and hiding places.

And yet the natural beauty of the same setting fairly takes your breath away. Centuries old cypress trees guard the shore, wildflowers grow in unfettered abundance, exotic birds call out, sometimes mournfully, sometimes in a shrill cry like a wounded person. In the pregnant stillness will suddenly break forth the sharp rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker pounding into a tree for bugs.

Threaded through the plants and animals is life-giving water, from the mighty Altamaha which flows ever eastward to the Atlantic Ocean to the salty seawater which pushes inland twice a day in the diurnal tide cycle. With such changeable currents, the water bottom stirs, adding silt and sand to the water column. This opaque mirror of this water perfectly reflects the sky, the light, and the shadows, but it also conceals everything below the water’s surface.

In such a beautiful and yet dangerous place, a writer with an overactive imagination might easily embrace the “what if” line of thinking. What if a two-legged predator lurked in those dark places? What if that person had a gun? What if their target was approaching in a slow boat?
This precise what-if moment lent itself to a turning point in my latest romantic suspense release, MUDDY WATERS. In the book, the wetland setting adds to the suspense by providing that brooding sense of danger in the thick shadows, adding to that sense of someone watching you.
My heroine Roxie Whitaker traveled the world with her missionary parents but put down roots in her grandmother’s coastal town of Mossy Bog. Her passion for preserving the town’s history ignites simmering resentment. Helping out an absentee neighbor leads to an awkward situation when he finds out. Putting her stamp on the real estate business she inherits upsets Gran’s friends. And that’s where the story starts.

Sloan Harding left Mossy Bog as soon as he was able. He never wanted to return to the town where his father had been the town drunk, where he’d been one quick step ahead of the law in his bad boy days. If not for a kindly neighbor who’d encouraged him to join the Army, he would most likely be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

But a hole in the roof of his ancestral home draws him back to Mossy Bog. Awash in memories, he decides to put to rest the ghosts of his past by searching for his alleged lost inheritance. What he hadn’t counted on was a strong physical attraction to the girl next door. What he hadn’t counted on was the townspeople still seeing him through the same accusing eyes all these years later.

Here’s an abridged excerpt from MUDDY WATERS:
Sloan dipped the paddle into the shallow water of the man-made canal. The kayak glided across the smooth surface like a dream. The vaulted tree branches lent the historic canal a cathedral-like feeling.

Though the water they traversed was less than three feet deep, the ever present mud obscured the water’s clarity. Roxie rested her paddle across her lap and glanced at him over her shoulder. “When I traveled with my parents, I felt so off-balance. I would start to feel the rhythms of a place, and we’d be off to a new town. Living with Gran in Mossy Bog saved me. I missed my parents, but I found myself.”

He considered her words, testing them, trying them on for size. “Sounds like Lavinia was home, not the town.”

“That could be. But it’s more than that. Not having to move every six to twelve months gave me the chance to be me. Gran provided the stability I craved, but this place by the sea, it healed my heart. Gran’s gone now, and I could pick up stakes and move anywhere in the world, but why would I? This is my home.”

Her truth resonated deep within him.

Muddy waters. He wasn’t just crossing them, he lived in them. Gators trolled beneath the murky surface, waiting for him to display weakness.

His everyday life was far from this place, this woman. But he could adapt. A glance at his watch confirmed what he knew. As much as he wanted this idyllic moment to never end, both of them had places to be. “I hate to mention this, because I would be happy to stay here all day, but we need to head back.”

Roxie sighed. “I wish it was Monday already.”

They paddled the tandem kayak steadily through the lush setting, a gentle breeze stirring the tree leaves and airy swags of Spanish moss overhead.

Suddenly Roxie stopped paddling, glancing around.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you feel it?” she whispered. “I’m sure someone’s out here watching us.”

Adrenaline shot through him. He hurled forward in his seat, giving her a hard shove. “Get down!”

A split second later, a gunshot rang out. A bullet thwacked into the trees about head high. “Stay down,” Sloan ordered, reaching for the pistol strapped to his ankle.

“Hey! There are people over here!” Roxie yelled. “Stop shooting.”

“Roxie,” he hissed. “Stay down!”

Sloan cursed himself for letting his guard down. He quickly appraised the wooded canal. No shooter visible on the banks, but they didn’t have to be close with a rifle. His mission crystallized.
Protect Roxie.

Neutralize the shooter.

She glanced over her shoulder at his handgun, disbelief marring her face. “You’ve brought a gun? Here? Are you nuts?”

Heart hammering, he beached the craft on the soft bank and tugged her out, tucking her behind a cypress tree. “Don’t move.”

Review from Mary Gramlich, The Reading Reviewer: Great book, wonderful mystery and a red hot love story underlying it. Roxie and Sloan really mix it up in and out of the bedroom and that is what makes for a great romance. You can’t ask for more than that now can you?
Buy Muddy Waters in digital format: Kindle and Wild Rose Press
Buy Muddy waters in print: Wild Rose Press and Amazon

Maggie Toussaint


Maggie Toussaint said...

Thanks for having me here, Liana. I'd forgot all about our conversation in that dark bar aboard the cruise ship. Now that I think back I'm remembering a lot of noise from the crowded room - I know, showing my age. But I did enjoy our conversation and I'm glad we met.

Looking forward to reading folks' comments today and seeing if they get the same spooky/beautiful vibe from my kayak moment!

Keena Kincaid said...

I love seeing the land that inspired the kayaking scene from Muddy Waters. It was one of my favorite from the book.

The photos are lovely, too. I can feel the heat and humidity through the Internet.

J L said...

I plan to bookmark this so I can return to it when winter hits Minnesota. I will need some of this heat then! Great blog, Maggie. Feel like I'm there!

Diana Cosby said...

Hi Maggie,
How interesting, I did not know you enjoyed kayaking. I bet paddling through the swamps is amazingly inspirational. No wonder your stories are filled with wonderful intrigue. :)
You continue to be an inspiration, and I wish you every success! ^5

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

What a wonderful blog post and excerpt! I could see it, feel it, and then really feel it in my spine when the shot rang out. Definitely adding this to my list. :) Great job, Maggie!

Luanna Stewart said...

Great post, and super excerpt. You really made me experience the place, and now I"m worried about cottonmouths, hehe.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Wow, Maggie, great excerpt, very suspenseful. What awesome pictures. I love the one of you and the wetland in the background. It really sets the mood and I can see how it inspired you. I'm looking forward to reading the book!


Julia Barrett said...

Love the pics! Great excerpt! I've been through the Everglades and to Southern Louisiana so I can imagine!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Keena,

Southerners are quite passionate about the land. As the daughter and granddaughter of seafaring men, how could I not fall in love with this place on the coast?

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your kind words about Muddy Waters.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey JL,

I don't envy you your northern winters, that's for sure! Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the blog.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Diana,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm an occassional kayaker, definitely not into it enough to have my own gear, but you get a whole different perspective from the water. That's what struck me, how vulnerable you were, and that's what I wrote into Muddy Waters.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Stacy,

Thanks for your commetns about the blog and about the excerpt from Muddy Waters. These two characters are still so alive in my head. I hope others feel the same way.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Lu,

Be careful where you step when you are in the south, that's for sure. Some people don't realize that snakes swim. They do, and they often float on stuff in the river, like bunches of dead marsh grass.

But I promise you there aren't any snake bites in Muddy Waters. Hope you enjoyed it!


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Steph,

I'm fortunate to love the water and the marsh and the land. Some folks down here steer clear of the wetlands, but you are safe as long as you know what you're doing.

I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. I'm always glad when I have time to explore nature as it is so restful for me.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Julia,

Thanks for your comments about the scenery. I particularly like the interplay of light and shadow, which is what sparked the what-if moment for Muddy Waters.

Unknown said...

MAGGIE--this looks like another winning mystery, Maggie Toussaint style. I love the excerpt, and the review the said it was a "red-hot" romance. I'd expect nothing less of you than receiving high praise. Good luck with your release!
I do love those photos--I got a peek at them early this morning, knowing I could come back later in the day. Good job! Celia

LK Hunsaker said...

Beautiful post and nice excerpt! Definitely a nice setting for suspense. :-)

Diane Gaston said...

I've seen the place and I agree it is the perfect setting for mystery and romance!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey Celia,

I'm so glad you enjoyed the pictures, the blog and the red-hot review. It's so nice when these things come together.

Thanks for stopping by Liana's place!


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Loraine,

So glad you stopped in and left a comment. I'm pleased with how popular this blog has been and I greatly appreciate the support of my friends!


Maggie Toussaint said...


I'm still sorry I missed your visit to my hometown on the way to RWA nationals, but I wouldn't have missed seeing my brand new grandbaby for anything.

Coastal Georgia is magical to me and I hope that I've imparted that fullness of setting to Muddy Waters.

Thanks for stopping by my kayaking blog.


Sheryl Browne said...

Ooh, what a decisive man. Definitely Alpha. Sloan could protect me anytime! Nice interview, Liana. Great photos, girls--and nicely displayed too. :)

Well done, Maggie!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Maggie, your scared me. I used to live in Florida and there were alligator infested lakes all around us. See me shiver? Great post, though. Best of luck with MUDDY WATERS!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Sheryl,

Glad you enjoyed the post and the man! It's always nice to have you visit.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey Caroline!

I didn't mean to scare you so much as make you appreciate that setting can be a character too. In Muddy Waters, the idea that one place felt like home and that it was both beautiful and dangerous was integrated into my storytelling process.

Thanks for stopping by!


DanielleThorne said...

Lovely pictures and post. I would LOVE to learn how to kayak. Thank you for sharing!