Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman who landed her dream job as the receptionist at a karate school. She’s here to tell us about handsome instructors, a local bookie, and more mysteries than she’d counted on.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in the same small town I live in now, Sandstone Cove, on the shores of Lake Erie. My dad was a police officer and my mom stayed at home with me until I was a teenager. It was a safe place for a kid even with the influx of tourists all summer. My friends and I used to ride bikes and spend a lot of time at the beach. I loved to spend time on the front porch listening to my dad and his buddies talk about cases they’d worked on as well as working in the garden with my mom.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My favourite toy as a child was my bike – until my dad died. He and I used to ride around town and around the shoreline as far as we dared to go. He’s where I got my curiosity for solving puzzles and my sense of justice from. Once my mom went to work for an interior design company, Dad and I spent more time together. Since he died a hero, the town renamed the park near where I now live in his honour. If I need a dose of his wisdom, I simply go for a run there to reconnect.

What do you do now?

What I know now is that my little world isn’t as black and white as I’d thought as a kid. My dad was shot while responding to an armed robbery at a bank and one of my most supportive friends now is in the mafia. It’s both scary and comforting that he sits out front of my house when I get myself into trouble.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

While Dead Without Remorse isn’t about my latest adventure, it does fill in a couple things that readers of the series missed due to an anthology story in between Dead Without Glory and Dead Without Pride. This is the adventure where an explosion leaves a gaping hole in the streetscape where the Nine Lives Consignment Shop and the former Yoshida Martial Arts School once stood.

When police find remains of a bomb—and a body—inside, I need to track a killer before the suspects scatter like debris. Especially after my boyfriend, Mick Williams, crawls out of the rubble! Let me tell you, I was terrified!

What did you first think when Mick came out of the destroyed building?

When Mick came out of the old building, I have to admit the thought he’d destroyed it for insurance money crossed my mind. He and Razi had just opened the new Phoenix Martial Arts School and money was tight. I had to figure out who else had a motive to blow it to smithereens along with the consignment shop next door. Lucky for me, I had my best friend Marion Yearly to help. Oh, and Kane and Gary.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

The scariest thing in all of my adventures is stepping waaaayyyy out of my comfort zone! Seriously. I’ve been kidnapped, shot at, stalked, and still manage to stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong. I think the scariest thing of all will be my next adventure. I have some major live decisions to make that will affect a lot of people.

What is the worst thing about working for a martial arts school?

The worst things about working in a martial arts school are the instructors and the students. They cause me grief when they don’t show up for classes, especially the instructors, and they can be a great source of frustration. Take my advice and don’t ever fall for your boss without thinking things through. Even if he is a handsome, self-assured karate sensei. Do your homework and listen to what his friends have to say!

What is the best thing about it?

The best things about working in a martial arts school are the instructors and the students. They push me to be my best and think outside the box. They’re always great sources of information (aka gossip!) and sometimes help me crack a case whether they realize it or not. Instructors and students can also be a great source of entertainment. They can also become some of your best friends.

Tell us a little about your friends.

Marion Yearly and I have been friends forever. She’s a 911 operator so always in on the latest gossip. She has the ability to get hold of information the police won’t always give me willingly. She’s also joined me on my karate journey despite her profound hatred of exercise. Good thing she likes hanging out with good-looking men who sweat.

Mick Williams started as a friend. We’ll get back to him later.

Kane Garrick nearly took my head off the first time I met him. Literally! He was practicing on the beach with a sword. Our relationship is hard to explain. We’re on the fence as to whether we’re best friends or more. Ninety percent of the time, he’s there for me and I’ve helped get him out of a jam or two.

Happy Harvey owns Happy Harvey’s Hangover Hut. Not where you want to go if you have a hangover, but if you’re looking to get one. Happy’s been friends with my parents—and now with me—since I was a kid but lately he’s got designs on my mom and they’re talking marriage! Not sure how thrilled I am about that. Mostly because my mom and I haven’t seen eye to eye since Dad died.

Doc has been our family doctor literally since before I was born. He’s a great source of grounding me when I tend to let my suspicions run rampant.

Gary del Garda and I have this weird father/daughter dynamic. Gary’s a mobster. My mother holds him responsible for my dad’s death and hates him. He controls everything that happens in Sandstone Cove and is both one of the nicest and most scary men I’ve ever met.

Any romantic involvement?

Mick Williams is the hot sensei at the karate school where I started working a few years ago. At first, I found him a bit intimidating but training with him and working so close with him made my head spin. After three years, we started dating. While everyone else seems sure we’ll settle down one day, I’m not so sure. There are lots of red flags that I’d ignored early on that are coming back to bite me.

Kane Garrick is in a gray zone here. We’re friends and work well together but when he kissed me for the first time WOW! Try as I might to keep him in the Friend Zone, it’s getting harder and harder to do.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

There aren’t many people I truly hate. I guess it’s the way my parents brought me up. To give people the benefit of the doubt until you know better.

Well, except my ex-boyfriend Jason Thayer who’s a local cop. Him I know better.

Oh, and the guy who called the police on me while I was looking for clues in the back alley behind the consignment shop. Never mind. He’s dead now. No, I didn’t do it. That explosion did. His grandma’s a piece of work though.

Don’t get me started on that so-called psychic that comes to town and tried to schmooze Kane.

I still haven’t decided if Gary is a villain or a good guy. I suppose that depends on the situation.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

OMG! My new favourite drink is Marion’s Lemonade Margaritas. She and I spent my one half-day off drinking it right before that explosion rocked Sandstone Cove. It’s delicious, but boy does it kick you in the butt later. She’s managed to get a few of us hooked on it. It’s one of those drinks for days off only!

I love the colours that grow in my garden. Which leads me to my two most relaxing pastimes—the ones that give me time to think and hide from the mysteries I seem to get involved in. Gardening and meditation are the only things that keep me sane.

What does the future hold for you?

Uh-oh. I knew you’d come back to this one. One thing that is coming up for me is training then grading for my black belt in karate. It’s been a long time coming and I’m terrified, but looking forward to getting it over with. Now that Mick has hearing issues, I’m not sure if he’ll be the one to do my training. Fingers crossed he asks Razi Mauli to do it and not Kane. Too much friction with Kane in many ways. Razi, while he’s big and scary, is a great guy. Spoiler alert, he also becomes Marion’s boyfriend.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I’ve never told Mick or even Marion about that kiss with Kane. Honestly, they’d both be disappointed. Mick that he had serious competition. Marion that she didn’t get the details that night.

There is one more secret I’ve been holding close to my chest that no one except my readers and Detective John Fabio know. He suggested I become a police officer and gave me the application forms. I’m nosy, conniving, and not afraid to confront people, which he doesn’t think is a good quality by the way!

Diane Bator is a mom of three, a book coach, and the author of over a dozen mystery novels and many works-in-progress. She has also hosted the Escape With a Writer blog to promote fellow authors and is a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto and a board member of Crime Writers of Canada. When she’s not writing and coaching authors, she works for a professional theatre. No surprise she’s written her first play, which may lead to more.

You can find Gilda on the pages of her eponymous 5-book mystery series, starting with Dead Without Honor.

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