Monday, December 21, 2020

Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Adweek, and The Economist. She grew up in Quebec near the border of Vermont and now lives with her husband and children in a hundred- year-old house in Coastal Connecticut. Wegert writes mysteries set in Upstate New York while studying martial arts and dance, and is the author of the Shana Merchant series, beginning with Death in the Family.

Her new novel is The Dead Season.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Like Death in the Family — the first book in this mystery series — The Dead Season has a double entendre. The series is largely set in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York, and “the dead season” refers to the time of year when there are fewer tourists and the locals are left to themselves. But this is also a story about a law enforcement agent pursuing a killer, their fixation with each other, and the killer’s attempts to invade and disrupt her small-town life. For Senior Investigator Shana Merchant, who’s been trying to flush out serial killer Blake Bram and is starting to sense that he’s hunting her, the upcoming winter season is a harbinger of doom. When she learns that her estranged uncle has been found murdered back in her hometown of Swanton, Vermont, the dead season takes on another, more literal meaning.

What's in a name?

It isn’t a conscious decision, but when I’m naming characters I tend to use literary devices like assonance and alliteration: Shana Merchant, Trey Hayes, Robbie Copely, Blake Bram. I go for a mix of common names and unusual ones similar to what you’d find in the real world, and consider where the characters were born and raised. Since some of the action in The Dead Season takes place in Vermont near the border of Quebec, I gave some of the minor characters in that area French surnames. The goal is to make the players as authentic as possible.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I don’t think my teenage self would be particularly surprised by my novels or choice of genre. I’ve always read and loved mysteries. That said, the first book I tried to write (I was thirteen and only got about twenty pages in) was a NeverEnding Story-style children’s fantasy, so my teenage self might wonder how and why I settled on crime fiction. The answer is simple: it’s what I know best.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are easy for me; I have a whole file of those on my laptop. The trouble comes after that, when I have to decide how the story should end. I’ve started outlining in more detail so there’s no danger of painting myself into a corner, but I always make changes along the way, sometimes rewriting the final chapters two or three times. An ending can appear sound when it’s in my mind, but turn out to be shaky or unconvincing on the page. Endings can really impact the enjoyment of a book, so I’ll fuss with them for as long as it takes to get them right.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I’m always inspired by films and crime series; when I write, chapters play out in my head like movie scenes. Traveling inspires me, too. I’ve been visiting the Thousand Islands every summer for close to twenty years, and the place always leaves me awestruck. When it comes time to write, I try to channel my memories and recreate the atmosphere I experienced first-hand in the books.
Visit Tessa Wegert's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Dead Season.

The Page 69 Test: The Dead Season.

--Marshal Zeringue