Bachman: What can you tell us about your latest release that dropped January 5th, Between the Carries?
Sheffield: Between the Carries is the third book in the Tyler Cunningham series, and was in some ways the most fun to write. I feel comfortable approaching the writing these days, and am more confident now than I was writing the earlier books. The story starts off with the protagonist, Tyler, wondering about his place in the world that he’s made: he’s a transplant from NYC, who fled to the Adirondacks after his parents were killed on 9/11, and has since amused himself aiming his savant-esque abilities at a variety of research problems and the occasional consulting-detective. He is interrupted in this process when a friend asks for help in the aftermath of a brutal murder, and ends up answering his own questions/doubts while solving a couple of murders (and narrowly avoiding getting murdered himself).
Bachman: How does it continue story-wise for readers with the series, A Tyler Cunningham Adirondack Mystery?
Sheffield: It connects to the other Tyler Cunningham novels, and novellas, revisiting some old characters and storylines, introducing some new ones, and continuing to explore the Adirondack Park itself as very nearly a character in the series. The novel could certainly be read as a stand-alone, but I think that people will enjoy it more with some familiarity with past events in the series.
Bachman: For those that don’t know, Between the Carriesis the third installment in the series, what can you share with those just discovering your work about the others projects you’ve finished?
Sheffield: Tyler Cunningham is a detective like no other. He mostly wants to hide from the rest of the world. Readers have wondered if he’s somewhere along the Autistic Spectrum, which is an issue that this third books deals with in some detail. Being that he does not easily establish or maintain social relationships, the ones that he has (is forced to) formed are important to the functioning of his life and lifestyle; a number of these relationships are the subjects of a collection of novellas that I wrote that parallel the novels (mini-adventures that are more character-driven than the novels). The books and novellas and Tyler have been described as “Macguyver-ish”, “Jack Reacher with Asperser”, and “Carl Hiiasen in the woods”.
Bachman: You wrote a collection of novellas, The Weaving, a highlighter of characters from the novels, what was your motivation to make a collection like this?
Sheffield: My wife, Gail, and I go out for dinner once a month to discuss my writing projects (she beta-reads, and does a first-run edit on all of my work), and one of the secondary characters came came up during our conversation. Gail was surprised at how quickly I answered some background questions about the character, and it came out that I knew the back-story of all of them, and most particularly how they first met and established relationships with Tyler Cunningham, my protagonist. She said that I should write a few of them down to share with fans of the novel while they had to wait for the next novel to come out, and I gave it a try. The stories in the novellas were a big success, but even more than that, they filled in some details that people interested in the story and setting of the novels really enjoy. Once we had four of them, we decided to release them in a printed format, which is The Weaving. I have a couple more of the stories kicking around in my head, and may get around to downloading them to paper sometime this year.
Bachman: Tell us, please, where the inspiration for such a character as Tyler Cunningham came about? Is there some of you in him?
Sheffield: I am at least partly Tyler (or he’s partly me). The inspiration for him came from the rich variety of people I’ve met in my life, and in my work as a Special Education teacher for the last 15 years; I’ve learned to celebrate our differences, and that “NORMAL” is just a setting on the clothes dryer. Tyler is different, and has to work hard to make his life work, and the world work; in this way, he’s not unlike most people I’ve met … the interesting differences come in how his brain takes in and processes information. His particular, and unique, makeup help him solve crimes, but they also keep getting him in trouble, as he continues to fail to understand, and take into account, the foibles of human nature (and particularly the criminal mind).
Bachman: On your website, you have an interview posted where readers sent in questions asking either you or your character Tyler Cunningham, that’s so unique! How did you come up with something like that?
Sheffield: After my first two novels, Here Be Monstersand Caretakers, were published, I got a couple of emails and private messages asking me questions; a few of them seemed directed at Tyler. I got the idea to open up the floor to a Q&A for either of us, and tried to answer the questions for Tyler as he would. It’s something I had fun with, and would love to do again.
Bachman: From the looks of it, you’re an outdoorsy guy and love where you’re currently living, with this I found a quote that you wanted the Adirondacks to be a character within your story. How did you manage doing that successfully?
Sheffield: The Adirondack Park in Northern New York is a fantastic place to live and explore. It’s big and mostly devoid of people, but absolutely jam-packed with wild places and wild beasties. I’ve had a great time exploring some of the wildest parts of it for the last few decades with a crazy collection of friends, and wanted to share some of my favorite places with readers of my stories. When I’m telling or writing or reading my stories, I can feel and see and smell and hear the places described, because I’ve explored them a thousand times; it’s something that apparently translates well in print, because lots of people comment on the feeling that they get for the Park in my books.
Between the Carries takes readers back into one of the wilder spots in the Adirondack, a motor-free zone accessible only by canoe and multiple carries or portage back into the woods; the map on the cover should be helpful to readers in understanding the wildness and isolation of the backcountry while they’re reading about Tyler running (paddling?) for his life.
Bachman: In December 2014, you were in an anthology,Murder, Mayhem, Monsters, and Mistletoe; do you plan on collaborating with other authors in the future?
Sheffield: The anthology came up at the perfect time for me, and was a lot of fun. I was done with principle editing for Between the Carries, and wanted to try something new when the opportunity came up. I loved working with the variety of writers involved in the project and would love to work with any/all of them again at some time in the future. I have talked with a writer up in my neck of the woods about a collaboration in which we would alternate chapters, telling the story from two different characters’ perspectives. Beyond that, I love the idea of collaborating on a themed collection, and hope to be invited to do so again sometime.
Bachman: For those new to your stories, what’s something you’d like a reader to walk away with after reading one of your books?
Sheffield: I hope that readers of my books come away with a different perspective on life, or some aspect of life. I would love for a phrase or scene or conveyed feeling from my story to stick with them long enough to make them smile and think, and maybe even tell a friend about “this cool thing I just read in a weird detective book.”
Bachman: Do you ever go back and read your own stories? After they’re published and perfected that is.
Sheffield: Every summer, before I start my next novel, I go back through and read all of my books … not every word, but big chunks of them. I want to get the feel for them again, and to immerse myself in the words and weirdness and feeling of place and people. It’s always fun, and always surprising, and I always find something new to enjoy about a story I’m clearly familiar with, having read them all a number of times. I don’t know why it surprises me, since I often revisit books I’ve read before and enjoyed, but coming across my own cleverly turned phrase, a scene that was well-executed, or some nuance of character that I’d forgotten always makes me happy.