Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Interview with Bill Tanner, a Character in Deadly Currents

Working Stiffs welcomes guest blogger, Beth Groundwater.

Deadly Currents, the first book in Beth Groundwater's RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series features the sport of whitewater rafting. The sleuth, Mandy Tanner, is a whitewater river ranger on the upper Arkansas River of Colorado, the most commercially rafted river in the United States. Her uncle, Bill Tanner, is the owner of a whitewater rafting outfitting company in Salida, Colorado. He's the most important person in Mandy's life. Let's find out why.

1. What's your relationship with Mandy Tanner?

I'm her uncle, her foster parent, her former employer, and her life coach—who she sometimes listens to. Let me explain.

Mandy's parents, my brother and his wife, died in a horrific car crash in Colorado Springs two months before Mandy was due to start her senior year of high school. She was 17 and living with me that summer, the second summer she'd done so. She was working for my outfitting company, doing odd jobs and learning as much as she could about guiding whitewater rafting trips. Mandy's a natural river rat who fell in love with riding the rapids the first time her parents brought her out to take one of my rafting trips.

After Mandy's parents passed, her brother David couldn't really be her legal guardian because he was just a college student, only 20 himself. Since she was already staying with me, it just made a lot of sense for me to become her guardian until she turned eighteen. We already got along real well, and I think we helped each other get through the grieving period.

You see, I'm a widower with no kids of my own, so I doted on my niece and nephew, especially Mandy. I loved spoiling them both when they were young. And it was real nice having another person living in that big old empty house, especially one as lively as Mandy. I call her my baby girl and she calls me her old grouchy bear. It’s all in fun, because I’m really not that grouchy. Mandy took care of me, too, especially when my gout flared up and all I could do was hobble from bed to chair. And she nagged me about my diet. But she's not around anymore to do that.

2. Why not?

You know, I kinda thought she would be. After Mandy graduated from the local high school, she stayed at my house and started working for me as a rafting guide in the summers and as a ski patroller on Monarch Mountain in the winters. I helped pay for her courses at Colorado Mountain College in Buena Vista until she earned an associate’s degree in Outdoor Education. I always assumed I'd leave my business to her when I passed. I still hope to.

But just like her daddy—and me, I guess, Mandy's got a stubborn, independent streak. A few years back, she moved into a small rental place of own, even though she could have continued to live rent-free at my place. Supposedly, it was because of that dog of hers that she adopted and named Lucky. You see, I'm allergic. But I think she would have found some other excuse to move out. She'd started dating and wanted her privacy. I really couldn't blame her, I guess.

But, when she applied for the seasonal river ranger position, that threw me for a loop. I thought she liked being a rafting guide, liked working for me. She said she wanted to try something I've never done, sort of prove herself. I hope that's all it is. I hope once she's tired of being a ranger, she'll take over for me in a few years so I can retire. In the meantime, I’ll be manning the reservation desk, shuffling the paperwork, and driving the shuttle vehicles until she comes back.

3. How has Tom King's death affected you and your business?

Frankly, I'm more worried about how it's affecting my baby girl. The man died in her arms, after all. That's got to have been hard.

But it hasn't been easy around here, either. Once word got out that Tom King fell out of one of my rafts, people have been calling and canceling their reservations. The fools don't realize that no matter which outfitter you use, whitewater rafting is an inherently risky activity. This isn’t Disneyland. We can’t make guarantees about anyone's safety because we don’t control the river.

This hit at a bad time, too, when the economy and tourism are already down. I'm afraid my business is in for a rough patch. I just hope I can ride it out. It's kind of touch and go now, if you know what I mean.

4. How did Beth Groundwater, the author of Deadly Currents, develop your character?

She interviewed Darren Olson, owner of Whitewater Encounters in Salida, and toured his premises to get an idea of how an outfitter business works. I run my business out of my house, much like he does, and the layout is similar. I know Darren fairly well. We both belong to the Arkansas River Outfitter Association. He's a good guy. Like me, he runs one of the smaller outfitting businesses along the Arkansas. We've both got to be smarter and faster than the big guys if we're going to survive.

My personality is different from Darren's though. Beth says I'm a mixture of different people she knows. Men in their fifties with barrel shapes and iffy health, most likely. And men with a blue-collar background who worked hard to scrape together their own small business. Men with a big heart. I can tell you, nothing feels better than getting a big hug from my baby girl.

There you have it, folks. Do you have any questions for Bill Tanner? What would you like to know about him? And feel free to ask a question of author Beth Groundwater, too. She’ll be monitoring the comments along with Bill. Remember, everyone who comments will be entered into a contest for a free copy of Deadly Currents.

If you’d like to see what the other stops are on Beth Groundwater’s virtual book tour and what other topics are covered, go to: . If you’d like to order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books ( and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.

Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, a 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket, 2009) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first, Deadly Currents, will be released March 8th. Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. She loves talking to book clubs, too, and not just for the gossip and wine! Please visit her website at and her blog at

The Arkansas River, heart and soul of Salida, Colorado, fuels the small town’s economy and thrums in the blood of river ranger Mandy Tanner. When a whitewater rafting accident occurs, she deftly executes a rescue, but a man dies anyway. Turns out, it wasn’t the rapids that killed him—it was murder. Tom King was a rich land developer with bitter business rivals, who cheated on his wife, refused to support his kayak-obsessed son, and infuriated environmentalists. Mandy’s world is upended again when tragedy strikes closer to home. Suspicious that the most recent death is connected to Tom King’s murder, she goes on an emotionally turbulent quest for the truth—and ends up in dangerous waters.


PatRemick said...

Welcome Beth and good luck with your new series!

Joyce Tremel said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Beth.

Sounds like an interesting story!

C.L. Phillips said...

I want to read this book - where can I get it? I love the Arkansas River in Southwestern Colorado, and have watched many a raft running east with the current.

Always looks like the river is going backwards to me, but that's the Continental Divide for you....

Must story concept!

Jennie Bentley said...

Congrats on the new series, Beth. Sounds fun!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for the warm welcomes, Pat and Joyce!

Hi C.L.,
Loved your "going backwards" comment about the Arkansas River! Thanks for asking about where you can find Deadly Currents. It should be on bookstore shelves and in libraries or you can order it on-line from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can find "Buy Me" links at:

Thanks for the congrats!

Patg said...

Welcome, Beth, and good luck with your new series. I rafted on the Snake once. One 4 point rapid. Enough for me.

Dru said...

I just started reading Deadly Currents and so far I'm enjoying it.

Do you like the youmg man Mandy is dating?

Sharon Hays said...

So, Bill, Has your gout improved; are you still working the reservations desk or are you now able to do more of the more risky stuff?
Have you met any of Mandy's boyfriends that you like?

Beth, I love your character development style. It really brings one into the story so they want to know more about them.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Pat, Dru, and Sharon,
Thanks for your welcome, Pat!

I do like Rob (Roberto) Juarez, and Mandy likes him very much, too. :) However, because of her past, she has commitment issues, so that's a stumbling block in getting closer to Rob. That relationship and its issues will be a subplot in future books in the series. Thanks for an excellent question!

Thanks for the compliment! Sometimes when I'm having a difficult time understanding where a character is coming from (usually not the protagonist, and usually a man), I'll pretend to be a person they trust and do a first-person interview, where I write their answers out in first person. It helps me get inside their heads. I'll let Bill answer your question for him. :)

Beth Groundwater said...

Aaargh, the gout question. You know, I don't much like talking about my health, or lack thereof, with Mandy or anyone else. Gout used to be called a rich man's disease, but I can tell you, I'm no rich man! I know I should be more careful about what I eat--and drink--but a man's gotta have some pleasures in life once in awhile. Trouble is, I pay for it with agonizing pain in my feet!

I'm nursing an attack right now, so the reservation desk is the only place you'll find me these days, but I'd sure like to get out on the river soon.

As for Dru and Sharon's questions about Mandy's boyfriends, I do like the current one, Rob Juarez. He's got a good head for business and is a real self-starter. More important, though, is I can see he really cares for her. He's real protective about her, which knowing my baby girl, is rubbing her the wrong way sometimes, I'm sure. But, hey, she could use someone beside me to look out for her. She's had a rough life.

Mandy dated a few guys before Rob, and a couple were real losers, I tell you. I kept my mouth shut, though, and eventually she saw the light and dumped them. She's a smart gal alright.

- Bill

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for allowing Bill Tanner and me to visit your blog, Working Stiffs! I'm praying for the people of Japan today, but I'll also check in a few times here for comments.

Linda McDonald said...

Love the character interviews Beth! I hope Bill's gout gets better. I have a friend who has gout and it sounds so painful.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Linda. I, too, have a couple of friends who have gout, and when they get an attack, it is indeed very painful.

Sheila Deeth said...

What a neat interview--so real. I shall enjoy these books.