Regular readers of my blog may recognize Heather Day Gilbert as the author of the epic Viking historical, God’s Daughter. Heather also writes mysteries, including the recently-released Miranda Warning, a contemporary Appalachian suspense novel set in West Virginia.
Today, one of the characters from Miranda Warning joins us for an interview. Meet Nikki Jo Spencer. Nikki Jo, welcome. I hear the mountains of West Virginia are beautiful. Could you help us imagine being there?
Nikki Jo: Oh honey, it’s hard to capture it, but I’ll give it a shot. I live in the town of Buckneck… there’s a story behind that name, but my husband tells it better than I do. Anyway, our house is snugged down in a little valley just outside town. Our roads are crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Everyone loves our mountains in the fall, but I think the spring is even more impressive. It’s green just about everywhere you turn your head.
Janet: It sounds beautiful. Is there a down side? Anything you wish would change?
Nikki Jo: Not one blessed thing. I’ve always loved living in West Virginia—my family goes way back here, and so does my husband’s. My church family is wonderful, my son and daughter-in-law live nearby, my youngest has a great school… all in all I’m just pleased as punch.
Janet: What’s your biggest challenge right now?
Nikki Jo: Well now, it might be time management. I have lots to keep me busy around the house but I’m also really active at church. I like to keep my yard up and I have a bunch of bulbs I need to plant, but just no time to get around to it. My boys keep me hopping, too.
Janet: Tell us a bit about your family.
Nikki Jo: My husband, Roger, has a great sense of humor. That’s partly why I married him. I have three sons: Petey’s the youngest, and he somehow got red hair. Andrew is our middle boy, and he’s in college studying to be a doctor. He… well, he goes through girlfriends pretty fast. No idea why, but I’m hoping that will slow down someday. Like I said, my oldest, Thomas, lives in our cottage behind the main house. Thomas married Tess. She’s a West Virginia girl, like me.
Janet: Ah, yes, Tess. Is she a good match for Thomas?
Nikki Jo: They haven’t been married long, but I’d have to say yes. Thomas has always been pretty serious—he’s a lawyer now, so that’ll tell you something. Tess sort of lightens him up. She’s pregnant, you know. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m hoping it’s another girl to balance things out in our family. I want to teach my grandbabies to cook and sew… all those things my boys didn’t care about.
Janet: What about that mysterious letter? How do you think she should handle it?
Nikki Jo: I don’t know what letter you’re talking about… and what do you mean, handle it?
Janet: Oops! I assumed you knew. What will you do now, ask Tess about it, or wait for her to ask for advice?
Nikki Jo: Oh, I don’t pry. No ma’am, I don’t. But maybe you can tell me a little more about what you know when we’re done talking….
Janet: Do you know a woman named Rose?
Nikki Jo: Rose Campbell? Only Rose in these parts. She was the prettiest woman ever born around here… but honey, Rose died forty years ago. What does she have to do with anything? She was best friends with Miranda Michaels—Tess’ good friend over at the Haven. That’s an assisted living home.
Janet: Oh… and it’s Miranda who showed the letter to Tess. She said it looked like Rose’s handwriting. I wonder what’s going on.
Nikki Jo: Rose’s poor husband, Paul, still lives in that house where she died. Don’t think he ever got over her. But then again, you never know. He’s a quiet one.
Janet: Are you a woman of faith? If so, is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a difference for you?
Nikki Jo: Yes, I’m a Christian. I love to sing in the choir—the old hymns are my favorite. I know it’s not popular to sing about blood these days, but I do love Alas and did my Savior Bleed. I don’t like watered-down gospel. Jesus died and bled for me and that’s something I’m always going to be grateful for.
Janet: Grateful indeed! I understand you love to cook for a crowd. What are some of the dishes your family looks forward to?
Nikki Jo: My boys each have their favorites. For Roger, it’s meatball subs. For Thomas, it’s a good ol’ southern pork barbeque. Andrew likes my cabbage rolls. And Petey… right now he’s happiest when I fix plain old sloppy joes.
Janet: It all sounds good to me! Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Nikki Jo: Morning. Why not get up and greet the day head-on?
Janet: What’s your favourite season?
Nikki Jo: Oh, I love Christmas. Every year I have a special theme for my tree. I think this year will be my most unforgettable yet.
Janet: That gives us something to look forward to! I’m sorry to come back to Tess, but I’m concerned about this letter she hasn’t told you about. If there’s trouble, do you think she might try the lone ranger route?
Nikki Jo: I wouldn’t put it past her. That girl has been through more than she’d ever say out loud and she’s tough in her own ways. Still, if she is in any kind of trouble, we all need to know. With her being pregnant, well… maybe they’d better move up into the big house with us if there’s anything dangerous around… I think I need to go find my phone….
Janet: I guess I’ll have to read Tess’ story and find out what happens. Thanks for visiting today, Nikki Jo, and introducing us to your world.
Miranda Warning, Book One in A Murder in the Mountains Series
Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her.
But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox—a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting—Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer…or the next victim might be Tess herself.
Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains’ lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.
Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.
You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, released June 20th.
I heard from Nikki Jo and she really enjoyed this interview. She said you’re invited over anytime for some coffee and homemade scones, Janet. 🙂
Thanks, Heather and Nikki Jo. And coffee and homemade scones sound fine. I’d love to see Nikki Jo’s part of West Virginia, after reading about it!