Private Investigators, Zombies, and Romance: An Interview with Author Frederick Lee Brooke

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Mr. Frederick Lee Brooke to the blog. He writes a female sleuth series about one firecracker, Ms. Annie Ogden. The third book in series, Collateral Damage, is currently on tour with lots of prizes (that info is included at the very end of this post). And I had the pleasure of reading the second in series, Zombie Candy, last year for another tour, and loved it! Seriously, check out my review. 

Although Annie’s series is sequential, it can easily be read in any order depending on what flavor you crave. ZC has a lot more humor and a bit of horror; whereas, CD will appeal to fans of romance. Read on for my interview with Fred, and see if we can’t peak your interest!

Although Collateral Damage is the third in its series, Annie Ogden’s mysteries can really be read in any order. How do you think the reading experience will differ for someone starting now on book #3 versus someone who started with #1, Doing Max Vinyl?

Each of the books catches Annie Ogden at a different point in her recovery from the trauma she experienced in Iraq. In Collateral Damage she’s far enough along that she’s capable of a relationship. So Collateral Damage is as much a story about Annie being tormented by the romantic choices she has to make as it is a murder mystery. Of course the two threads are tied together.

Last year, I had the pleasure of reading #2, Zombie Candy, and just loved it! The unique blend of humor and strong women (some born strong and some still learning to be) made for a lasting impression. How do you make your cross-gender writing believable? If you were to meet Annie in real life, do you think you’d ask her out on a date (provided you’re both single, of course!)?

I’d date Annie in a minute, yes! If she could just find her way out of the thicket of her own insecurities, Annie would have a great sense of humor. I think every author is challenged to get into the head of all their characters, whether male or female, and some are more successful than others. I liked exploring the relationship between Annie and her older sister Alison, who always bossed her around. Stuff comes out in dialog between the two of them that really gets to the core of their personalities, and it’s amazing how different they are from each other. But isn’t that true about all siblings?

Why did you decide to write a series about a Private Investigator—seeking adventure, wish fulfillment, something else? And how did you research the career in order to make Annie’s so believable?

Annie didn’t have a plan when she got home after 4 years in Iraq. I believe in plans, myself, but only up to a point. You make your plans, but usually things work out differently, and the same is true with Annie. She sees an ad in the paper for a P.I. course, and falls in love with the teacher. She certainly didn’t plan that.

How does Annie change and grow throughout the series? Will readers who first met Annie in Doing Max Vinyl recognize who she’s become in Collateral Damage?

I think readers will see the progression. Basically she’s a complete mess when she first gets home (Doing Max Vinyl), and that book covers a time period of just five days. So Annie doesn’t go very far in discovering herself in the first book. That was the main reason why I decided to create a series of Annie Ogden Mysteries. I wanted to see how Annie would develop. In the second book, Zombie Candy, the story is more about Annie’s best friend, Candace, and how she deals with her cheating husband, but along the way Annie is forced to confront a disturbing secret from her past. In Collateral Damage, Annie makes a full transformation. I decided to write the book in the first person to force myself to keep the focus on Annie.

Besides Annie, who’s your other favorite character from the series; why? Which character is the most like you, and how?

I like so many of the characters, it’s hard to choose! One of my favorite characters is June Sanderson in Collateral Damage. She and Annie were great friends in Iraq, and they reconnect at a reunion party. June is a lot less complicated than Annie in her mind. She discovered she was a celiac during her military service, and when she got home started up a gluten-free bakery. Her business is going great, and she would love for Annie to come and work for her.

How have your experiences living in both Chicago and Switzerland (and traveling to many other cool places) shaped the Annie Ogden series? What about your love of cooking?

I’m a Chicago native, so the Annie Ogden books always start out there, but in each of the books the action moves elsewhere. Maybe that’s a sign that I’m pulled in different directions. In Doing Max Vinyl a lot of the action takes place in Waukegan (okay, that’s actually almost Chicago), while in Zombie Candy the second half of the book takes us to a sunny village in Tuscany. In Collateral Damage the action moves to Tampa, Florida. I guess it’s natural that the settings in my books are places I’ve spent a lot of time in.

I do love to cook, so some of my characters are foodies, and Candace in Zombie Candy is a professional cook. I think bringing cooking and eating into the story helps make the characters real for me.

Is Annie’s work over, or will she be back to delight us in a fourth installment of the series? How many books do you have planned for her? Do you have any other new projects on the horizon?

Originally, I planned this as a 3-book series and I have been working hard on a new series. However, sometimes I get the feeling Annie Ogden would be good for another book or two. My new series has totally new characters and is set in 2021/2022 in a United States in which violence and politics have spun out of control. Only two characters carry over from the Annie Ogden Mystery series into the new books, Ike and Tranny, a couple of ex-cons who were introduced in Doing Max Vinyl. In the new series, they escape from prison, where they’ve spent the last nine years. There are a few things in the new United States of 2021 that they don’t recognize, and have to get used to.

Thanks so much for the interview, Emlyn!

About the book: When Annie Ogden’s ex-boyfriend Michael Garcia reappears, she has to confront a lie dating back to her time in Iraq. Will she go back to hot, passionate Michael, who has developed a disturbing interest in meth, or stick with her pudgy PI partner and fiancé, Salvatore? The calculus changes when Michael is arrested for murder. When Salvatore refuses to help investigate, Annie is forced to try to find the killer herself. Meanwhile her sister’s creepy husband, Todd, is making more of an ass of himself than usual. Annie’s problems with three obsessive men suddenly pale in significance when she realizes the killer has set his sights on her. Having changed his mind about helping her, Salvatore finds himself in a desperate race against time, the only man capable of finding the killer before it’s too late. Get Collateral Damage through Amazon.

About the author: Frederick Lee Brooke is the author of the widely-acclaimed Annie Ogden mystery series, which includes Doing Max Vinyl, Zombie Candy, and Collateral Damage. The books do not have to be read in order. Having lived in Switzerland for the past two decades, Brooke has taught English, run a business and learned French, German and Italian. You can find him online at Sign up for his newsletter and read all about his travels, recipes, and upcoming works! Connect with Fred on his website, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.

Mrs. Storm

Writing everything from Sweet Romance to Children's Books to Nonfiction, Melissa loves books, birds, and bonbons--in that order. She has an advanced degree that she never uses.

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