Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Author Interview: Boo Walker, Author of Lowcountry Punch

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Boo Walker, author of Lowcountry Punch!

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Boo!

How long have you been a writer?

10 years

Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?

I do national sales and marketing for Hedges Family Estate, a vineyard in Eastern WA State. So I spend a lot of time on the road traveling the country slinging juice. I feel like I have a mini-Anthony Bourdain kind of life (though I'm not that cool), and I couldn't be happier.

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.

Back in the old days (in my twenties), I was a songwriter and banjoist for a band in Nashville. In 2001, I was diagnosed with Focal Dystonia, a career-ending hand disorder. Depressed and in a desperate struggle to figure out a way to satisfy my creative urge, I happened upon Nelson Demille's Plum Island. After reading it (more like ripping through it), I knew I had to write a novel.

Please give a brief description/storyline about Lowcountry Punch.

After losing the love of his life and nearly destroying his career, DEA Special Agent T.A. Reddick, a banjoist and avid sailor, has just left Miami for Charleston, SC, where he's thrown right into an undercover operation to topple a high-society cocaine smuggler, and everything gets in the way, including several more women that are determined to capture his love.

What was the inspiration for this story?

This is my Lowcountry version of Miami Vice, the television show I had a love affair with as a child. And Charleston is one of the greatest, most intriguing cities on the planet, and like all of them, she has a dark side that's so much fun to explore.

How did it feel to have your first book published?

There's not many better feelings than the day you see your book for sale, knowing that all that pain and joy and effort you put in has finally led up to the point where you can finally share your story, where you can finally share your real voice, the deepest part of you.

Do you write books for a specific genre?

I'd say modern thriller with a mystery edge.

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

Though I'll dabble in anything, I love to read in the same genre as I write. Like I mentioned earlier, Nelson Demille's Plum Island is very important to me. His character, John Corey, who has graced several books over the years, is the best protagonist since Travis McGee, my other all time favorite character, who was created by John D. McDonald. At the moment, I'm on a Harlan Coben kick and have read just about everything he's ever done. I'm so fascinated by his ability to create page turners. In the end, that's what I want to master, writing page-turners. The kind of book you give five minutes and it becomes obvious what you'll be doing for the next couple of days.

Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?

I am certainly a creature of habit. With my hot tea and my dogs by my side, and some good jazz or electronic music playing, I sit at my desk in my office in Charleston and write every morning just as the sun begins to rise. And if I'm on the road, I have my laptop out and write in airports, hotels, and even in the air.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

It all begins with a character. Who is he? What does he want? And what women can I throw into his life to cause problems? As far as subject matter, I usually find myself fascinated with something I have read recently and that gives me a jump off point. For example, with my new one, Turn or Burn, I was looking for inspiration when I read a piece on the Technological Singularity in Time magazine.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

I'm a morning guy, whether it's in my office or on a plane. Very often I wake up and start at it within minutes. The only way to battle procrastination is to start typing.

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

I love character development, especially creating a romance. I'm no Danielle Steele, but I really like how love pushes a story along. And I like to play with how love can really get in the way, how it can affect a character's decisions. The toughest part is fighting that little voice in your head that says you're wasting your time. Every writer has the voice of doubt, questioning your ability, asking you why the hell you're spending all that time locked up in a room. But that makes the victory of finishing a book that much sweeter.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?

I just married the most amazing woman I've ever met: a fiery, gorgeous Italian-American who can cook better than any chef that I have encountered in my travels. I'd be happy walking the beach with her for the rest of my life. I'm also learning to play banjo left-handed, hoping that I can beat this dystonia thing.

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

Read. Read. Read.

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

Someone reaching out to me and saying they enjoyed my book. It doesn't get any better than that.

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

Facebook, Twitter, and email, which can all be found on Come find me and say hello!

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

Anything I will ever write will have a great part of me in it, but I can't say that I've ever been a cocaine smuggler or a DEA Agent. But I've had my heart broken and I've had my own life experiences that find their way into all my words. I do enjoy research, too. For Lowcountry Punch, I spent many hours with the Charleston DEA who were instrumental in feeding me ideas and setting my facts straight.

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

John D. McDonald, Nelson Demille, Harlan Coben, Stephen King, George RR Martin, Allan Folsom, Daniel Silva, Greg Iles, Stuart Woods, Pat Conroy, Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Safron Foer, and his wife, Nicole Krauss.

What is your definition of success as a writer?

Anyone who finishes what they are working on.

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

I just sent my newest novel, Turn or Burn, to my agent, and I'm on pins and needles right now. It's about Harper Knox, a private military contractor who decides to battle his PTSD by returning to where he grew up, ripping out his family's cherry trees, and planting a vineyard. But as he quickly learns, making wine costs lots of money. So he takes a job in Seattle protecting a doctor who is breaking new ground in the race to combine man and machine. The assignment proves to be anything but a normal bodyguard gig, and he and Francesca Daly, a fiery Italian transplant (sound like my wife?) and fellow contractor, grow close as they come to losing their lives.

Thank you Boo for allowing me the opportunity to interview you on Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and for taking the time to share some things about you and your writing career with us!

About The Author:

Boo Walker spent his College of Charleston years and a few after in Nashville as a banjoist and songwriter for the avant-garde punchgrass band, The Biscuit Boys. Some hand problems knocked him out of the game, and he stumbled into a position with Automated Trading Desk, a short term equity firm based out of Mt. Pleasant, SC. To feed his ravenous muse, he began writing his first novel, Lowcountry Punch. Around that time, what started as a passion in wine became a neurosis.

After six years of the Wall Street thing, Boo decided it was time to end his sedentary, computer-driven lifestyle. He grew out a handlebar mustache and moved clear across the country into a double-wide trailer situated on 5 acres of Malbec vines just down the road from Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain in Washington State. The Hedges family took him in and taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. He now travels North America peddling the family's juice, and chances are you can find him in an airport somewhere.


BUY THE BOOK: Lowcountry Punch

Book Description: Lowcountry Punch

After the worst Christmas Eve of his life, DEA Agent T.A. Reddick leaves Miami for the magical city of Charleston, South Carolina, hoping a return to his roots will heal a broken heart and the guilt of killing a friend. The sleepy and sultry town of Charleston is filled with echoes of the Old South: genteel playboys, society debutantes, and quiet cobblestone streets. But as Reddick will soon discover, there's danger lurking under her charming veneer. When a movie star's death shines a national spotlight on Charleston's underground cocaine trade, he must go undercover to find the main supplier and shut him down. As a hurricane bears down on the port city and the DEA gets ready to spring its trap, Reddick must contend with more than he ever could have imagined.

Brash and bold, T.A. Reddick is a hero you won't soon forget. Lowcountry Punch is an action-packed novel that will have you on your knees begging for more.

Book Excerpt: Lowcountry Punch

                                                      Chapter 9

On the way to the office, I stopped on the side of the road at Mickey’s Boiled Peanut stand. Big Mickey parks his red trailer in the lot near the Earth Fare, which is James Island’s version of a Whole Foods Market. If you can get past the folks that don’t believe in deodorant, it’s a good place to fill your cart.

Mickey was pushing three hundred pounds, so as he waddled over to the back to fill up my brown bag with his boiled peanuts, the trailer tilted with him. He had three choices: regular, Cajun, and ham-hock. I always asked him to layer them in one bag. Give me a pound of Mickey’s peanuts, a cup of coffee, and a Pelegrino, and I can go for miles. I thanked him and walked back toward the Jeep.

Something hit me hard on the back of the head. I dropped onto the asphalt and everything went black for a second. Two black men hoisted me into the back of a trunk, tied my hands with a zip tie, and shut it. I kicked and thrashed until I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

The back of my head hurt like hell. I felt around with my hand. Had a bloody gash on the right side. The nausea nearly overwhelmed me. I tried to shut it out and sense where we were going, but it was hard. Much more difficult than figuring out who had decided to take me for a joy ride. I hadn’t given Tux enough credit. That’s what I get for letting my guard down.

I looked at the glowing hands on my watch and marked the time. I had the day off, so unfortunately, no one was expecting me. Tux had me all to himself. Two minutes later, I could tell we were heading over a bridge. I guessed the West Ashley connector. A few more turns and another bridge confirmed it. Then the highway wasn’t too hard to figure out. Smooth and fast. The engine working harder.

Fourteen minutes later, we took an exit. It could have been one of three or four. It was impossible to tell. All I knew was that we had driven into North Charleston. The nausea faded but the pain had only begun to throb. I made a few more futile attempts to bust open the trunk. Then several turns. Finally, a big bump and we slowed down and came to a stop. A garage door squeaked open.

The engine shut off. The trunk opened. Two of them. I recognized one instantly. Jeff Cooke. One of Tux’s known associates. A shadow of a beard, groomed neatly. A flat nose. Street tough. Detectives liked him for Jared’s murder and had been looking for him. The other guy had on a light blue Adidas warm up suit. His eyes were tucked into deep sockets.

“Did you guys happen to grab that bag of peanuts?” I asked.

“Shut the fuck up.”

“That was my breakfast.” Cooke jerked me up by my elbow. Dragged me out of the trunk. He had hard, calloused hands. I couldn’t get my feet down and fell onto my back. He helped me up in a not so polite way. 

I grunted. “Be gentle, honey.” 

He walked me through an empty garage and into an abandoned house. Probably for sale. The other guy followed us in and when I turned, I noticed a .38 in the front of his jeans. Cooke threw me to the ground in the living room. Brown walls. Some spider webs on the ceiling. Two large glass doors leading to the backyard with a ragged curtain covering half of them. 

The other guy made a phone call. “We got him… yep. Aight.” He looked at Cooke. “Change of plans.” 

“You gonna tell me why I’m here?” I asked. “I don’t have all day. I’ve got a luncheon on the other side of town.” 

“You might wanna start sayin’ your prayers,” Cooke said. 

I sat up slowly. Somehow, I had to make a move. Sounded like it was gonna get a lot worse. 

The man with the .38 walked by me toward the kitchen. It was the only chance I had. I threw my legs up and kicked him in the balls. Then got to my knees and thrust my head into his chin. His jaw cracked and he fell backwards. 

Cooke was in between the glass door and me. I pivoted around and was on him before he had time to get over the shock of the action. I tucked my bound hands into my chest and ran right into him. His back hit the curtain and then smashed into the glass door. We brought the curtain down, breaking the glass and tumbling down the brick steps into the backyard. Glass shards splattered over us and the patio. 

I stood quickly, knowing I wasn’t even close to being free. The fall had knocked the wind out of him, but Jeff was stirring. I kicked his head with my boot just like the old UVA days, trying to knock his head into the goal. I didn’t score but his lights went out. 

I went back up the steps, lifting my hands in the air. As I reached the broken door, I started to cut the zip tie with a sharp edge of glass sticking out of the doorframe, but the big guy was up and reaching for his gun. I had to get out of there. I sprinted toward the chain-link fence at the end of the yard. He began firing. 

The bullets whizzed by me, giving me a shot of adrenaline. It gave me the power of an Olympian on steroids, and I increased my speed. Reaching the first fence, still bound by the wrists, I leapt into the air. My feet caught on the top of the fence but I made it over. I tucked a shoulder and rolled. Coming back to my feet, I didn’t even turn around. The bullets were coming quickly, cracking into the house in front of me. 

As I rounded the corner, I felt one hit me in the side. I hadn’t been shot in a while, but it was a familiar feeling. I felt the wound to see how bad it was. I was so adrenalized that I couldn’t tell. I could feel the warm blood dripping down my side but I had no idea how deep it was. As long as I could run, it didn’t matter. Staying close to the houses, I didn’t slow for a second. Seeing some signs of life in the distance, I began to head that way. 

Breathing like I was dying, I reached the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly. I finally realized where I was. An older woman was pushing a grocery cart to her car and had a cell phone to her ear. I went right for her, mumbling that I’d get it back to her as I snatched it away. I ran toward the grocery store. Didn’t see Cooke behind me. I yelled to the first clerk I saw, a high-school girl, “Call the cops!” 

The clerk stalled. Someone else screamed. 

“I’m DEA. Call the cops. Okay?”

The clerk went for the phone. 

“Is there a security guard here?” 

With a phone to her ear, she shook her head. I wanted a gun. I had no idea if he was still coming. I dialed Chester’s number with the woman from the parking lot’s cell. I walked back outside and scanned the parking lot. No signs of trouble. Chester picked up. I said, “I’m at the Piggly Wiggly off Rivers. I need you here now. Tux sent some guys after me.” 

“Oh, shit. You all right?” 

“I took a bullet. I think I’m okay, though.” I touched my side. “Jeff Cooke was one of them. Black jeans and a white polo. The other one, same age, has on a blue Adidas warm up suit. White stripes up and down. Get an APB out.” 

“On it. See you in a few.” 

                                                        * * * 

After getting patched up by one of the paramedics, I climbed into Chester’s g-car. The bullet had only grazed my side. Another scar to remind me of what’s important. A crime scene unit was at the house where they’d taken me. Both men were gone. Lots of good DNA, though. They didn’t have time to clean up. The whole county was looking for them. 

Chester and I only knew one way to fix this problem. Something we should have done earlier. We both had logged hours dealing with gangs in L.A. and Miami, and sometimes you have to treat them like businessmen. They appreciate it and it prevents trouble. Even when we did catch my attackers, they wouldn’t finger Tux. I had a feeling Tux already knew about the botched attempt, and he was expecting me. 

We drove to his house, only five miles away. He owned a little white house in a neighborhood that had begun its leap into gentrification. He paid the mortgage on it with income from a legitimate landscaping business that he had owned for five or six years. Tux knew how to be careful and cover his ass. 

He was on the porch, looking like he was waiting for us, just like I’d thought. His feet were propped up on a table, not a worry on his mind. An older BMW sat in the driveway. I was going to let Chester do the talking, but seeing Tux there got me excited. I stepped out of the car and said, “I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced.” I slammed my door and hiked up the steps. 

He had a well-groomed appearance complimented by some gold around his wrist and neck. No visible tats. Dark skin. He had on jeans and a white muscle shirt. Very broad shoulders. Clearly had a thing for lifting. Looked like he’d be a hell of a lot of work to beat down. 

“Who are you?” he asked. 

“You know exactly who I am.” I pulled the table out from under him and his feet hit the floor. 

“I’m guessin’ you’re a cop,” he said, all tough and badass. “I could smell you coming ‘round the corner.” 

“You’ve been looking for me. Now you got me.” 

“All I know is I have two pigs in my yard.” 

Chester came up the steps. “I’m Agent Benton. You know who my partner is. We’re looking for some resolution. You don’t need to admit to anything.” 

“You can get back in your car and ride out. I didn’t do nothing wrong.” 

“Such eloquent speech,” I said. “No ivy league for you, huh? Very surprising.” 

“Don’t you come into my neighborhood insulting me.” 

“You threatening me? Is that a good idea?” I got in his face. “That’s what your cousin did.” I stood back and lifted up my shirt and ripped off the bandage covering my wound. “I owe you one for this anyway.” 

Chester pulled me back and said, “Tux, I know you aren’t gonna come clean, but I want you to hear us out. You don’t fuck with us. I know you feel like you got to, but don’t do it, man. We won’t let up. I know he messed up your cousin, but I doubt you’re gonna get an apology out of him. You know he had no idea who Jesse was. The guy robbed a bank, took a baby hostage, and shot his mama. He had it coming. But because I want you to owe me, I can help Jesse out. We can make sure the prosecutor goes easy. That is, if you wanna back off Agent Reddick. We’re still gonna track down the boys who grabbed him.” 

My turn. “Or you can try again. I’ll dance with you every night, sunshine. We could go right here. You’re the least of my worries.” 

Ches waved his hand, trying to shut me up. “He’s got a hot head. You both do. Leave this one alone, Tux. I’ll look out for Jesse.” 

Tux thought about it and then nodded at him. 

Ches started to walk back down the stairs backwards. “Then we’re cool.” 

“We’re cool.” Tux put his feet back up on the table. “Just get this muthafucka off my porch.” 

I threw up my middle finger and started down the steps. “You know where to find me.” 

As we drove away, Chester said, “You know, Reddick. I’m startin’ to like you. You don’t take shit from anybody, do you?” 

“I wanna know who gave him my name.”

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