Guest Chick: Lynn Chandler Willis

Kathy here, and I’m delighted to welcome the first Guest Chick of 2023, Lynn Chandler Willis. Not only was Lynn one of the very first authors I had the good fortune to connect with, Lynn is also president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, a Shamus Award finalist, a PWA’s Best First PI Novel winner, and the author of three series including The Death Doula Series, featuring soon-to-be-released WHAT THE MONKEY SAW. Today Lynn talks about the things we do for research.

Take it away, Lynn!

Can I Hold One of Your Monkeys?

My latest book, What the Monkey Saw, releases later this month. Yes, the book features a monkey. A capuchin monkey to be exact. I don’t have any experience with monkeys. The closest I’ve ever come to sharing living quarters with a primate was many, many years ago when I was a kid.

There was a popular pet store in town at the time and they were known for having exotic animals. They often had baby chimpanzees. My dad, God love him, came close to buying one. Since this was way before the internet and Google, my mom, the practical one, pulled out our World Book Encyclopedias they bought from a door-to-door salesman and did her research. She nixed daddy’s idea very quickly. She also put the kibosh on moving us to Saudi Arabia when daddy was offered a sub-contracting job as an electrical engineer to bring electricity to the desert. My mom, my sister, and I would live in Paris and dad would visit one week out of each month. It was a five-year commitment and the pay, at that time, was astronomical. My sister and I were in our teens so the thought of leaving our friends weighed heavy on our minds. But Paris! I could finish school in Paris. Like with the chimp, mom did her research and slammed the brakes on the whole idea when she learned of how women were treated in the oil-rich country.  Maybe I get my tenacity for research from my mother?

So, back to the monkey. Other than seeing monkeys at the zoo, my experience with them was nil. But, like all authors, I wanted to know what I was writing about. I dove down that very deep well of research and learned everything I could about capuchin monkeys. They’re usually the ones you see in videos of little girls sporting a cute little dress carrying around a baby bottle. Or a little boy in a tiny t-shirt and diaper.

Aside from their cuteness, I wanted to know how much it costs to care for one, what they eat, their habits. Do you use a leash when you take them outside? I had to know what it was like to live with a tiny monkey, to hold one of these little things.

I bypassed Wikipedia and went straight for someone who would know the things I wanted to know. I Googled breeders. And whoa…I found one about an hour and a half away. Field trip! I was so excited. And oh…the photo ops I could use for promotion! I could see the captions: Me with baby Isabella. Here, I’m feeding Calvin. I excitedly called the number.

I don’t know about you but when I get really excited, I tend to talk real fast and use 1000 words when 20 would work fine.

A lady answered the phone, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi! My name is Lynn and I’m a local mystery author, well, I actually write crime and suspense, but anyway, my next book, the title is What the Monkey Saw if you want to look it up, features a capuchin monkey and I’m doing research on what’s involved in owning one and I found your website. You’re only about an hour away and I was wondering if I could come by and talk with you. Could we schedule something for maybe this Saturday?

Lady (after a long pause): What did you say your name was?

Me: Lynn Chandler Willis. I’m legit. You can check out my website at (spells it out) or my Amazon page. I have a couple books published. As I said, my next book, (gives title again) is about a former FBI agent who now works as a death doula and she’s hired to sit with a dying a grandmother whose grandsons are involved with hijacking drug vans and the book features a capuchin monkey and I want to get it right.

Lady:

Me:

Me: Let me give you my phone number and email address (recites the information).

Lady:

Me: So you think I could come by and hold one of the monkeys?

Lady:

Me:

Lady: Um…I’ll talk it over with my husband.

Me: Great! I’ll just…

Click.

Maybe she’s not a reader? Maybe I should call her back? I still want to ride down there and hold one of those little buggers. All in the name of research, of course.

Readers, what crazy thing have you done for research? What’s your policy on holding monkeys?

About Lynn:

Lynn has worked in the corporate world, the television news industry, baby-sat grandkids, and owned a small town newspaper. There are a lot of similarities between the corporate world and babysitting toddlers.

After starting her first newspaper in elementary school, Lynn went on to write novels and the occasional snarky comment on social media. She is the current President of SEMWA, the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Authors Guild. I’m a Shamus Award finalist, A Grace Award Winner for Excellence in Faith-based Fiction, and the winner of the PWA’s Best 1st PI Novel — the first woman in a decade to win the award.

Born, raised, and living in the heart of North Carolina, Lynn shares her little house on the farm with Finn, a rescued border collie, and a sassy little calico named Jingles. She’s slightly obsessed with all things Appalachia and North Carolina’s southern Outer Banks. 

About WHAT THE MONKEY SAW

After leaving the FBI, former agent Emily Gayle now makes her living watching people die. Consumed with guilt for leaving her ambushed partner to die alone, Emily returns home to the Appalachian Mountains to serve her self-imposed penitence for a non-profit organization as a death doula. Palm-to-palm like she was trained, Emily sits with the dying and holds their hand because no one should die alone.

Wanting some quick cash, Jude Courtland along with his younger brother and cousin begin hijacking pharmaceutical vans to sell the stolen insulin to a black-market buyer. Jude hopes to steal enough of the drug to cover the cost of his widowed grandmother, Hazel’s, chemo.

Fresh off a 36-hour traditional mountain wake, Emily meets her new assignment. Hazel Courtland and her grandsons.

As Emily and Hazel bond, the hijackings, and Emily’s suspicions escalate until they explode in tragedy. Emily’s faced with a decision that would shatter Hazel’s dying heart or destroy her own future. If she lives long enough to have one.

40 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Lynn Chandler Willis

  1. Thanks for that story, Lynn. It made me smile! The biggest thing I’ve ever done in the name of research was to take a cross-country train trip. I featured one in my first novel and wanted to make sure I got the details right. My wife and I had a grand time on that trip, all in the name of “research.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Lynn, this story made me laugh! I think you should call her back and try again!

    I don’t have any great research stories, other than embarrassing myself by asking physicians about handy ways to kill people, but I have had a monkey climb on my head. So half-credit?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Perhaps there should be a reverse-acknowledgment to the breeder in the front. “Thanks so much for NADA, and if I got anything wrong about monkeys it’s all your fault.” (I know, I know. I’m kidding.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lynn, Nice to meet you. I have always loved monkeys, so you have a pre-order out of me. 🙂 I’m one of those whacks who think mostly all animals are cute– even the ones who will rip you to shreds, so I’m game for most animal books.

    I love to dabble in writing, but I’d say my research is just simply living life. I’ve not really researched for a book, specifically. I’m not published. I’m working on a memoir. My research for that is memory. Uhh, my menopause brain isn’t very helpful!

    Congratulations on your upcoming release. It sounds awesome!

    Good morning, Kath! Always good to see ya post.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fun post, Lynn! A capuchin monkey sat on my shoulder when I was part of a Caribbean tour group. But first, I had to surrender my eyeglass and tote bag to someone far away from the monkeys because they take everything, and then the capuchin went to the next guest and urinated on her. No more monkeys for me.
    Best of luck with your fascinating book.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Lynn, your mom is a champ! And it sounds like your dad was a crack-up.
    I’m in a bit of the same boat myself re: research. My new series is set at a mid century motel in the mountains. I found a real one that’s the perfect prototype and reached out. The owner said, ask anything you want. I wrote him a simple q – and never heard back.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I’d love to hold a monkey but haven’t seen any up close.

    For research with my Sassy Cat mysteries, I went to a nearby pet grooming place without calling first. I don’t think they believed me when I said I was writing a mystery about a pet groomer and her talking sassy cat. Still, I asked if I could just sit in the corner and observe–nope!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ha! Love this story, Lynn! I’ve always been a bit frightened of monkeys, but they are fascinating to watch (from afar).

    I guess the strangest thing I’ve done for research is visit a friend’s funeral home in New Jersey, as research for my first Sally Solari mystery. My wife and I got a tour of the facilities downstairs (and yes, there were two “heads”–as they call them–there at the time, and then spent the night in her home upstairs. Strange and a bit creepy, but very educational. And she made a mean Martini.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh, Lynn, I’ve had so many conversations exactly like that!

    When I was 10-ish, my older sister was 20-ish and shared a house with some roommates, one of whom owned a spider monkey and an iguana that I swear was 27-feet long. I was so terrified when we visited, I sat on the couch with the iguana above me on the curtain rod and didn’t move. And when I expressed interest in the [caged] monkey I was immediately admonished to stay far away from him because he was the devil incarnate.

    I guess that was some kind of research, but not nearly as good as the Danube cruise I said we needed to take since, you know, I might want to write about one some day ….

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post, Lynn! I’m the Scaredy Chick, so…no real-life monkeys for me, thanks very much, no matter how cute. I tend to research my books without realizing it at the time, so I’m usually looking back on some weird or humorous experience. Better yet, someone else’s. I remember my hubby’s great-aunt telling a lovely story about her visit to rural China, where she had a hotel room that was so hot she kept the windows open. And in the dead of night there were monkeys involved. Many, many monkeys. They chattered and screeched and clawed and stole everything in her room but she was safe. She quickly realized what the netting around her bed was for. Hint: Not just giant bugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ACK, Lisa! That gives me sweaty palms! I was camping once at Lake Mohave on the beach. At a specific time in the middle of the night all the frogs—and I mean ALL the frogs—came from wherever they were to go down to the water … right over us and our tarp. I’ll never forget the pitter-patter of all the little toady paws. *shudders*But monkeys?? Now that’s an entirely different kind of horror story!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, I think the toadies are right up there on the “eek” scale, Becky. (*Grinch voice*: Oh, the noise noise noise NOISE!) Have you used that in a book yet?

        Liked by 1 person

  10. In the cause of “ research” I invited ghost hunters with specialized recording equipment to our SinC chapter’s annual retreat (there was a family cemetery behind our lodge). And — I went to Vegas!

    Like

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