Dani Pettrey and Michelle talk about Dani’s new series, research and the fight against sex slave trafficking.
Michelle: First of all, congratulations on starting another fun series, Chesapeake Valor! The reviews from all over have been very positive. I know that has to make your author’s heart happy.
Now, let’s talk about the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series, Cold Shot.
For those who are unaware of the book plot, here’s the blurb from the back:
In college Griffin McCray and his three best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore Police Department, Declan Grey would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would study to become a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world–and their friendships–crumbled.
Now years later, Griffin has left the police and his friendships behind. Still trying to forget a case that went bad when he was a SWAT team sniper, he’s living a quiet life as a park ranger at Gettysburg. Quiet until skeletal remains are uncovered near Little Round Top—and they aren’t Civil War era.
Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Grey steps in to take over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes that he’ll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he–and those he cares about–are going to escape a downward spiral of crime, danger, and murder.
In case you missed our review of Cold Shot in January, check out what our own Shondra Brown had to say about it.
Now, onto the questions!
There is a saying that runs: Old sins cast long shadows. Grief and unforgiveness in Griffin’s life, I would say, cast longer ones. He has a deep trauma in his past, one that drives him to pursue justice, but also one that colors a lot of what he’s does. Griffin lives in a shadow.
Portraying realistic characters with pasts like these is difficult, and more difficult still is allowing them to do things which are going to make their lives worse, not better. What is one thing that Griffin does in his shadow-living that you would tell your readers to avoid doing?
Dani: Griffin holds on to a grudge for way too long causing him and a dear friend pain. Forgiveness not only sets the offender free, it sets you free as well. Be gracious and forgive.
Michelle: In Cold Shot you have the Baltimore Police Department, the FBI, and the Park Service interfacing with one another. That’s a lot of agencies to keep track of and a lot of departmental differences to maintain. What tools did you use to make certain that Declan, Griffin, and Parker all followed their department’s procedures as they dealt with the mystery?
Dani: I spoke with a police officer and a forensic anthropologist along with doing a ton of research. Hopefully I got it right.
Michelle: Finley Scott too, has certain things that she needs to abide by as a forensic anthropologist. Where did you go to learn about what she should and should not be doing when she makes the gruesome discovery at Round Top?
Dani: An amazing forensic anthropologist spent hours speaking with me, walking me through what would happen in those circumstances step-by-step. She was amazing and I was so grateful for her time and help.
Michelle: Christian Romantic Suspense as a genre has grown and changed, and while it still has some reader expectations, I personally think that it has become a much richer and deeper medium than it was ten years ago. For example, both in your Alaskan Courage book, Stranded, and in Cold Shot you tackle the subject of sex slave trafficking.
While that isn’t all that your books are about, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a dark subject handled in a way that is real and at the same time, you don’t allow the plot to wallow in the dark. Instead, you populate your stories with characters like Marley Trent who refuse to do nothing in the face of suffering, and Griffin and Finley who take great risks in pursuit of justice. Why is it that you chose, twice now, to address the topic of sex slave trafficking in your books?
Dani: I chose the topic because it’s near and dear to my heart. I suffered some abuse as a child and that stays with you and makes you empathetic to anyone suffering any kind of abuse. The fact that we have modern slavery is abhorrent, and I feel God has laid a passion on my heart specifically for helping bring to light the travesty of sex slave trafficking.
Michelle: How can people who feel as Marley and Griffin and Finley (and you!) do about this topic help to put an end to it?
Dani: They can contribute prayers and/or monetarily to organizations that work hard in the trenches to combat sex slave trafficking. Samaritan’s Purse and the International Justice Mission are two that come right to mind. In fact, I’m donating a percentage of every copy of Cold Shot to the International Justice Mission. In addition, or instead of that, I’ve been amazed to find a ton of local resource groups and non-profits who meet regularly to do what they can to combat sex trafficking as well.
Michelle: Cold Shot, the first in the Chesapeake Valor Series, isn’t the only story of yours that’s new, you also have a tale in Sins of the Past which is available now! Will you tell us a little about this tale? What adventure of yours awaits for readers, along with stories from Dee Henderson and Lynette Easton in this triple story collection?
Dani: Sins of the Past was such a joy to write. I loved partnering with Dee, my mentor, and Lynette, who was also mentored by Dee. Both of us years before we were published. I also got to go back to my Alaskan Courage series and introduce readers to the McKennas’ parents. It was such a blast.
Michelle: Thank you so much for your time, and your patience, Dani, in answering these questions. Before we say adieu, I have one last request! I know that writers have little time to read but also that reading is incredibly important to a writer. What is on your shelf for this summer that you hope to get read? Fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Share with us what stories are waiting for you!
Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
Fading Starlight by Kathryn Cushman
Beloved Mess by Kimm Crandall
Thanks so much for having me. I so appreciate you!