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Edgar Award Nominees + Debut Author Laurel Hightower

Continuing with my announcements of award nominations and debut authors, this week I bring you the prestigious Edgar Awards and ITW Debut Author Laurel Hightower.

Don’t miss last week’s interview with JJ Shelley and the Lefty Award Nominees.

A great way to find new books!

The Author

Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son, and two rescue animals. She works as a paralegal in a mid-sized firm, wrangling litigators by day and writing at night. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories.

To find out more about Laurel, follow her by clicking on the following links:  Goodreads and Facebook.

The Book

Rose McFarland is a Memphis S.W.A.T. sniper with a secret. Her uniform hides her burn scars, legacy of the house fire that left her without a family, but suppressing the terrifying ghostly visions of her childhood – The Whispers – took years of work.

Sixteen years later, the ghosts have returned, and as the walls between our world and the world of the dead grow thin, Rose will have to face her old nightmares to stop the Whispers from breaking free.

Buy the book by clicking the following links: JournalStone, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound

The Interview

Tell us about your Publishing Journey:

Whispers was actually the second novel I’d written – the first one I consider my training wheels. I learned a lot about what not to do with that one, and what to do – namely, planning, even if it’s just a rough outline. Whispers took a long time to complete, from 2009 when I started it to 2016 when I submitted it to my agent.

From there the publishing process was long and winding – the paranormal market is pretty tough these days, apparently, so I got plenty of rejections. I was thrilled when JournalStone agreed to publish – by that time I’d pretty much written it off, so it was surreal to start the wheels of getting my book out in the world. It was also crazy timing – I had recently returned to work after maternity leave, so I had my hands full, and finding time to get revisions out the door was challenging. But hey, who needs sleep, anyway?

What inspired you to write this novel?

I love ghost stories – haunted houses, haunted people, whether fiction or real life, so I knew that was what I wanted to write about. My work tends to be character driven, so Rose had already begun to develop as a character in my head, and I was interested in combining the elements of mysteries with the supernatural. I’m definitely not “gifted” in the sense that Rose is (thank goodness), but I’ve had some creepy experiences – there was a cool apartment in Knoxville that we ended up passing on because I’m pretty sure that place was riddled with ghosts. The energy in that place was just bad.

I love hearing from other people what their experiences have been – a surprising amount of folks I’ve met over the years have had brushes with the supernatural. I wanted to explore what would happen to this character, being inundated with them for most of her life, and how her upbringing and her visions would affect everything else.

What are you working on now?

After a crazy 2018, I finally got my next novel polished enough to send to my agent, another thriller but with less emphasis on the paranormal. I’ve got another couple of books in various stages of revisions, and am sketching out plans for something new, though still in the thriller genre.

In the future I’d love to work on something in the horror/thriller category with a more subtle set up, similar to what Paul Tremblay has done with A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. It’s not something I feel like I could have attempted back when I first started writing, but I learn so much with every project I work on.

Sounds like an amazing journey! Can’t wait to dive into your work.

Announcing the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award Nominees. Winners will be announced on April 25.

How many have you read?

To learn more about the authors and their books, click on their names below.


The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone Publishing)
House Witness by Mike Lawson (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Penguin Random House – Hogarth)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House – Berkley)


A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Seventh Street Books)
The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (Simon & Schuster – Touchstone)
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam’s Sons)


If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara (Prospect Park Books)
Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (Harlequin – Park Row Books)


Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler (W.W. Norton & Company – Liveright)
Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal by Jonathan Green (W.W. Norton & Company)
The Last Wild Men of Borneo: A True Story of Death and Treasure by Carl Hoffman (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Penguin Random House – Viking)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafia by Alex Perry (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)


The Metaphysical Mysteries of G.K. Chesterton: A Critical Study of the Father Brown Stories and Other Detective Fiction by Laird R. Blackwell (McFarland Publishing)
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger (Pegasus Books)
Mark X: Who Killed Huck Finn’s Father? by Yasuhiro Takeuchi (Taylor & Francis – Routledge)
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson (Pegasus Books)


“Rabid – A Mike Bowditch Short Story” by Paul Doiron (Minotaur Books)
“Paranoid Enough for Two” – The Honorable Traitors by John Lutz (Kensington Publishing)
“Ancient and Modern” – Bloody Scotland by Val McDermid (Pegasus Books)
“English 398: Fiction Workshop” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Art Taylor (Dell Magazines)
“The Sleep Tight Motel” – Dark Corners Collection by Lisa Unger (Amazon Publishing)


Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott (HarperCollins Children’s Books – Katherine Tegen Books)
Zap! by Martha Freeman (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Ra the Mighty: Cat Detective by A.B. Greenfield (Holiday House)
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson (Christy Ottaviano Books – Henry Holt BFYR)
Otherwood by Pete Hautman (Candlewick Press)
Charlie & Frog: A Mystery by Karen Kane (Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney Hyperion)
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon (Candlewick Press)


Contagion by Erin Bowman (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperCollins)
Blink by Sasha Dawn (Lerner Publishing Group – Carolrhoda Lab)
After the Fire by Will Hill (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Fire)
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma (Algonquin Young Readers)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (Wednesday Books)


“The Box” – Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Teleplay by Luke Del Tredici (NBC/Universal TV)
“Season 2, Episode 1” – Jack Irish, Teleplay by Andrew Knight (Acorn TV)
“Episode 1” – Mystery Road, Teleplay by Michaeley O’Brien (Acorn TV)
“My Aim is True” – Blue Bloods, Teleplay by Kevin Wade (CBS Eye Productions)
“The One That Holds Everything” – The Romanoffs, Teleplay by Matthew Weiner & Donald Joh (Amazon Prime Video)


“How Does He Die This Time?” – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Nancy Novick (Dell Magazines)


A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (Minotaur Books)
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman (Kensington Publishing)
Bone on Bone by Julia Keller (Minotaur Books)
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (Soho Press – Soho Crime)
A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier (Minotaur Books)

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Header photo from DasWortgewand on Pixabay. Click here for more info.

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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