Author Dean Hovey has returned to Pine County – and in more ways than one. His novel, “Killer Secrets,” is the seventh book in Hovey’s mystery series set in Pine County, and readers of the series will meet their old friends Floyd, Mary, Pam and Travis as they try to get to the bottom of a disturbing murder case even while they deal with the joys and tribulations of day-to-day life.
“I hadn’t written a Pine County book in two years and it was a bit of a transition to move back ‘home’ and refamiliarize myself with the characters,” Hovey said. “I was amazed at how quickly Floyd and Pam started ‘speaking’ to me. I was also surprised by the ‘voice’ that Pam developed as I moved through the book. Her voice drove the dialogue in directions I hadn’t planned.”
Much of the action of the book is set in Sandstone, where a longtime teacher is murdered during a 30th high school reunion – and turns out to have many dark secrets, some quite literally in his closet. Hovey said he had to do a fair amount of fact-checking to make sure his story was plausible and historically accurate.
“I do tons of research, on everything from cause of death determination to herbal medicine,” he said. “I was on the internet, I spoke with a master gardener, two or three teachers, a firearms expert, and my law enforcement consultant. I like to have the details right, like whether buckshot would penetrate a steel burning barrel.”
While he tries to make the mystery compelling, Hovey has been spending more time in his books focusing on the investigators and their relationships to each other and their loved ones.
“I realized people read my books because they connect with the characters,” Hovey said. “The plot is just a mechanism to let the characters tell their stories. I’ve enjoyed letting Floyd and Mary’s relationship slowly grow, but Pam’s biological clock is ticking and her character needed to make a leap. That, and a reader told me she’s been waiting 20 years for Pam to fall in love with someone.”
Hovey and his wife are now living Windemere Township in far northern Pine County. He said that being known as the author of these mysteries is a two-edged sword.
“I had lunch with friends and a woman walked up and wanted to hug me because she’d been touched by Pixie’s story in ‘Family Trees,’” he said. “My wife squirms at times because she’ll write a check and the clerk will look at it and say, ‘Oh, you’re Dean Hovey’s wife.’ The best/worst of that was the church choir member who asked my wife if she could sleep with her back to me.”
Hovey has now signed a five-year contract with BWL Publishing, a Canadian company that publishes the literary works of professional authors from Canada, Australia, Europe, United Kingdom and United States.
“They edit the manuscripts, design the covers, do the layouts, and get the books into more marketplaces than I could ever reach,” he said. “Collaborating with them has freed me to focus on writing, which is the part of the process I enjoy. Their support has allowed me to move from releasing a book every 12-18 months, to releasing two or three books a year.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Hovey’s usual book tours, “Killer Secrets” can be found at Thrifty White In Moose Lake and on Amazon.com, where readers can order a paper copy or in all of the e-Book formats. It is currently on order at the East Central Regional Library.
Hovey has many more writing projects in the works, and said it brings him great satisfaction that his readers have made deep connections with the characters he created – especially because he feels that way about them too.
“As Dennis Lehane, the author of ‘Mystic River,’ told me, ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. If you’re not invested enough in your characters to bring tears to your eyes, your readers won’t be touched either.’”