Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh by Peg Herring

My guest today is Peg Herring. Peg left teaching in 2002 to pursue writing  full-time. Her love of history and years of teaching Shakespeare naturally led to her writing historical mysteries, but she also writes contemporary mysteries. These books center on female characters caught in threatening situations. Being strong women, they stand up for themselves and, in the process, find that they are capable of much more than they ever imagined.

Anne – Welcome to my little corner of cyberspace, Peg. It’s a joy to talk writing with you! Tell us about your latest release.


Caroline Batzer and Sarah Leigh have been friends forever -- at least until Sarah starts acting oddly. Sarah, whose reputation in town is as close to sainthood as a Methodist can get, is unwilling to discuss why she suddenly wants nothing to do with Caroline. At first Caroline is bewildered, then hurt, and finally angry. It’s obvious the friendship is over. People change, she tells herself, and she moves on with her life.

Then Sarah disappears, and circumstances point suspicion at Caroline. A book Caroline wrote is published under Sarah’s name, and it appears that Caroline did away with Sarah in revenge. Caroline is confused, unsure whether to mourn her oldest friend or expose Sarah’s lies. When a mysterious phone call summons her to the Michigan forest near her home town, she is pulled into a frantic run for her life and a desperate struggle with a pair of killers. And it’s all because of Sarah Leigh.

Anne - Tell us about the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author.

Peg - I was at a mystery conference and got into an elevator with two other women. One of them poked the other, who looked at me and then said, “Oh, you’re Peg Herring. We’re reading your book, and we just love it!” It’s so great when strangers say that! I mean, your sister kind of has to, but they don’t.

Anne – What a fun experience! Outside of writing, what accomplishment are you most proud?

Peg - I was a high school English teacher for thirty years. It is a rewarding jobs as well as a difficult one, but to feel that I helped young people see their potential and perhaps achieve it is something I take pride in. I also hold the distinction of being the only person who ever set the school’s stage on fire, but that’s another story.

Anne – Okay, NO fair! I want details about you setting the school stage on fire. No? Okay… How many rejections have you received? Was one more memorable than others?

Peg - Like the vast majority of writers, I’ve got tons of rejection letters, many of which are less than three words: “Not for us”, “Sorry, no” or just “No.”

My most memorable rejection turned out to be positive. An agent scribbled on the query letter I’d sent her three things she found wrong with my manuscript. After I deciphered her handwriting, I corrected those three things and sent it back to her. The second time, she took it, sold it, and got me started as a writer! I didn’t know it at the time, but when an agent takes a minute to write advice, that’s like striking gold.

Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Peg - There’s only one word: persevere. To become a good writer, you have to write a lot, keep at it, keep getting better. To become a published writer you have to keep submitting and learn from every step, whether it’s forward or backward. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to look back and think how naïve I once was, how unaware of how things work. But everyone has to start somewhere, and I kept at it. Perseverance is key.

Anne – Would you share of an excerpt of SOMEBODY DOESN'T LIKE SARAH LEIGH

Peg – My pleasure!

Chapter One

Darkness masked the face of the terrified woman beside me, but her labored breathing matched my own. Stumbling blindly through the dark woods, we ran into tree trunks and tripped over mounds, each of us occasionally gasping from pain at the lash of a branch across the face or stubbing a toe on an unseen rock or root. I sensed her waning spirit and flagging energy. I was not much better off. And why should I care if she fell behind?

We had to stop running soon. For one thing, we had pushed ourselves farther than I would have thought possible for two women in the fifth decade of life. In addition, our hippo-like crashing through the woods made so much noise that our flight had to be easy for pursuers to track.

And worst of all, we had no idea where we were going. We could end up circling back to the very people we now sought desperately to avoid. Ahead I saw an earthy space just wide enough for the two of us, a nest half filled with old leaves that were almost compost. We lay down, struggling to quiet our exhausted lungs and staring into the black around us as if through sheer will we could see danger approaching.

In minutes, we heard them. One was some distance off but noisy. The nearer one moved stealthily, listening for movement. When I realized how close he was, I could have reached out and touched the fluorescent white strip on his sneaker.

The two men took their time. Each second’s passing felt like a year off my life. Any noise meant death in a place where no one would find our bodies for years. Our only hope for life was complete silence.

“They’re here somewhere,” the noisy one called.

“Quiet.” The reply was barely a sound.

The men stood for a long time, waiting for us to betray ourselves with a shift, cough, or cry. Some say it is impossible for two women to keep silent for long, but neither of us so much as twitched. While my body remained tense and still, my mind worked overtime.

How had this happened to me, middle-aged Caroline Batzer, the Bilbo Baggins of Aldridge, Michigan? What had I done to deserve this? Until two years ago, I had been Sarah Elizabeth Leigh’s best friend.

Anne – Fantastic excerpt. This is exactly the kind of book I enjoy reading! Where can readers reach you online?

Peg – At my website, on Goodreads, and at my blog.

Anne – Thanks so much for dropping by, Peg. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat and the excerpt. I wish you every success with SOMEBODY DOESN'T LIKE SARAH LEIGH

As always, readers, your comments are welcome and very much appreciated. Why not become a follower? I’ll be eternally grateful! Until next time, happy reading.

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Shuvcat said...

Good excerpt. And I want to know about the stage fire too! :) Melanie A

Peg Herring said...

All right, but it's embarrassing. I was directing THE WIZARD OF OZ, and I made this device that slid a measure of black powder onto the stage, hooked to a battery. When the witch appeared, I would set the powder off and she'd get a puff of smoke. It got too close to a paper flower in Munchkinland and next thing I knew, one of the parents was onstage, putting out the fire! Of course, the show went on, but I never tried pyrotechnics again.

Anne K. Albert said...

Oh, Peg! I love that story. Thank you for sharing. :)