Interview by my publisher, Lion Hudson

Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of the addictive Branigan Powers Mystery series. Titles in the series include: The Cantaloupe ThiefThe Cover Story, and Death of a Jester.

For 27 years, Deb worked as a journalist in the Deep South. Then she retrained as a Baptist pastor and became a pastor at the Triune Mercy Center in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. Her memoir, The Weight of Mercy, tells the moving story of that career and life change.

Here Deb chats with us about her new book, what inspired her to start the Branigan Powers Mystery series and her amazing work at the Triune Mercy Center.

What started you on the path to writing the Branigan Powers Mystery series?

My first editor at Lion Hudson asked if I was interested in writing a sequel to The Weight of Mercymy memoir about pastoring a church to the homeless. I told him no, but I’d always wanted to write a murder mystery! Lion Fiction took me on and asked me to set up the mystery as a series.

I combined two of my “lives,” so to speak, in the series. Branigan is a newspaper reporter, as I was for 27 years, and she lives and works in northeast Georgia. That’s a part of the country where my grandparents had a farm and I spent many summers. And Malachi is homeless, which allows me to bring in the community in which I now work.

How did you come up with the idea of using ‘creepy clown’ sightings in Death of a Jester?

This actually happened several years ago in many areas of the United States, maybe abroad, too. Greenville, SC, where I live, had a large number of reported sightings. Nothing ever came of them, but that’s where I jumped off and thought, “What if….?”

If you had to solve a mystery, what character from Death of a Jesterwould you choose to help you and why?

Definitely Malachi because he would bring an outlook unlike mine. As I say a lot in the series, he sees things that aren’t there rather than things that are.

Homelessness is a theme you touch upon in all of your Branigan Powers Mystery books. Can you tell us a little about your work as pastor of Triune Mercy Center?

Triune is a non-denominational church in a fast-growing Southern city. We serve some hot meals, and offer a food pantry and laundry services, but mostly we concentrate on radical welcome and giving people the tools to move forward. So we have social workers, drug rehab placement, attorneys, medical resources, outreach to the jails, programs for sexually traumatized women, art, music, drama and Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. We recently helped to launch a safe house for sexually traumatized women. We invite the people we serve to turn around and serve each other by volunteering at the church.

My first Branigan Powers book, The Cantaloupe Thief, literally grew out of a comment made to me by a homeless man. He said, “Pastor, do you know the worst thing about being homeless? It’s not being cold or wet or hungry. The worst thing about being homeless is being looked right through.” That started my thinking about what “being looked right through” might mean in regards to a murder mystery. What might these invisible people see? What might they know? I felt it was a population that is not dealt with in many books because few writers know about it.

If your novel were being made into a movie, whom would you pick to play Branigan Powers and Malachi?

This is a funny question because a Hollywood producer once contacted me about making The Weight of Mercy into a movie or TV series. All my friends who are mentioned in the book went into great detail about who they wanted to play them. Of course, it never transpired.

But for Branigan and Malachi, I’d need to go younger! Maybe Claire Danes or Sandra Bullock for Branigan, and Jamie Foxx or Michael B. Jordan for Malachi. Michael’s a little young, but maybe they could scruff him up to look older.

What does your writing space look like?

My writing space is a very cheerful sunroom, with five uncovered windows that look onto my back yard. Above my desk are framed family photos, caricatures of my younger daughter and me given to us by friends, a painting from Key West, and two bulletin boards with beach scenes. I find that I need the room to be a place where I want to go.

What have been your most rewarding experiences as an author?

I would say the opportunities to meet readers. I’ve spoken at Harvard University, churches from the Carolinas to New York, and book clubs. I never knew there were so many book clubs, and the idea that they are choosing one of my books, reading it together, and often having me visit never ceases to amaze and thrill me.

Novel in progress

I finished a novel this winter — a stand-alone, darker and more brooding than the Branigan Powers series. It’s called “Murder, Forgotten.”

Now I’m looking for an agent. The only thing keeping me sane is those stories of writers who were turned down 40, 50, 60 times before an agent took a chance.

I cannot wait to write that blog!

 

New release! Sort of….

Lion Hudson has released “Death of a Jester,” the third Branigan Powers mystery, in the UK and for online orders. However, it will not reach American bookstores until August.

The staggered release is due to Lion Hudson changing its American distributor. The new sales team needed more time to get the book into stores in the U.S.

Watch for an announcement in late summer of a book launch party in Greenville, SC. I hope you can be there!

New book in the works

My English publisher underwent a downsizing then a buy-out, so I wasn’t at all sure that it would accept the third book in the Branigan Powers series. But Lion Hudson has indeed taken it.

The tentatively titled Death of a Jester is in the editing and cover-producing process. I hope to report a launch date for some time this year.

Launch Party!

 
I hope you will join me on July 13 at Fiction Addiction, 1175 Woods Crossing Rd. in Greenville, for a drop-in to celebrate the launch of “The Cover Story.” Come any time between 5:30 and 8 PM.
 Fiction Addiction is a small independent bookstore, but we can spread out into a courtyard for wine and refreshments.
“The Cover Story” is the second in the Branigan Powers mystery series.
The Cover Story
A fatal crash involving two college students  seems like an unfortunate accident. But when the surviving girl wakens, she tells a curious story of the vehicle that forced them off the road — an old-fashioned, 1950s-style hearse.
Branigan delves into the mystery that takes her to a college campus, and leads her into dangerous fraternity and sorority pledge parties.
Reunited with the homeless Malachi Martin, who is so adept at seeing what isn’t there rather than what is, Branigan must uncover what is really going on at the college before other students are put in danger.
Hope to see you there!