Thank you, Julie Weston, for talking to MWA NW about your new book, Miners’ Moon, which comes out on December 3, 2021!
Tell us about your upcoming release!
Crime photographer Nellie Burns and Basque Sheriff Charlie Asteguigoiri travel from central to northern Idaho to investigate bootlegging and possible complicit town officials. A suspicious mine explosion pulls them into a second investigation. They wire retired miner Rosy Kipling to join them. He brings Nell’s black Lab Moonshine.
While Charlie roams the backcountry in search of illegal stills, Nell questions survivors of the explosion and a madam. Rosy descends the principal mine to listen and pry. The two investigations lead all three to discover secrets and lies—from “soda drink” parlors, local brothels, worker hints deep in the mine shafts—that have deadly consequences. A town dance lures Rosy, Charlie, and Nellie to play and shades of romance, until a fire blows up a town.
Predictably, Nellie gets in over her head. A rock burst seals off Charlie and Rosy in a mine collapse. Moonshine plays an instrumental role, and Nellie tries to rise to the occasion in spite of her debilitating fear.
All four of them long for their high desert home, but cannot return until they expose the secrets and lay bare the criminals before their luck runs out.
Please tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up in an Idaho mining town in the 1950s and ‘60s and worked for a lawyer who helped form a labor union after a long strike by a national union. I even wrote a book about it: The Good Times Are All Gone Now, Life, Death and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town (2009, University of Oklahoma Press). Because of those experiences, I attended law school and practiced in Seattle for over thirty years. After my memoir of place, I turned to writing a series of mysteries, all set in 1920s Idaho. Each features Nellie Burns, a photographer, her black Lab dog Moonshine, a Basque sheriff, and a one-eyed miner. The first, MOONSHADOWS, takes place in Hailey and Ketchum, Idaho. The second, BASQUE MOON, is set in the Stanley Basin, and the third, MOONSCAPE, in Craters of the Moon. Other distinctly Idaho characters join each book, ranging from a sheep rancher and sheepherders to moonshiners, cowboys, a saloon girl, and Chinese residents, among others.
My husband, who is a photographer and provides not only the books’ covers but his large format camera expertise, and I now live in Hailey, Idaho. We enjoy reading, skiing, hiking, biking and writing and photography.
What was your journey to publication like with this title?
My traditional publisher is Five Star Publishing, a division of Cengage. I found them through Women Writing the West at a time when they were expanding their publications from strictly Westerns to Frontier Fiction and some mysteries. The first three mysteries were a matter of submitting my manuscripts, working with their developmental editor, Hazel Rumney, and waiting for the hardback book to appear. With MINERS’ MOON, I thought the journey would be the same. I submitted the manuscript in late fall of 2019. I waited to hear from Ms. Rumney about any changes she recommended. Then the pandemic hit in mid-March, 2020. Five Star closed for at least six months. Finally, in late 2020, Ms. Rumney and I worked on the manuscript and it was accepted in early 2021 by Five Star, who had begun publishing again. Because of the extensive delay, many of Five Star’s already accepted books were re-scheduled for 2021, thus delaying my publication date to December of this year.
Did you do any unusual research while writing this book?
Around 1990, I visited the Bunker Hill mine in Kellogg, Idaho. The mine had closed in 1980 or so, but it had re-opened for a short period of time. The mine had been pumped of water on a continuing basis for the decade in between. Because I was writing about Kellogg, where I grew up, a friend invited me to go down the mine to see what it was all about. It was an enlightening and nervous-making experience for me to travel inside and down the mine thousands of feet. I will never forget it. I wrote about my time there in my book mentioned above. It turned out to be research for a short section of MOONSHADOWS, my first mystery, and to be the basis of adventures in MINERS’ MOON, along with my experiences of the labor strike in 1960 in Kellogg and the work I did for an attorney then. I also visited the Crystal Mine near Kellogg in 2019 to refresh my memories.
Some time ago, I visited the Bordello Museum in Wallace, Idaho, to learn more about the workings of an actual bordello, a number of which were open during the period when I lived in north Idaho. Information about prostitution, which continued until 1990 in the mining area, fills another chapter of Good Times along with a menu of services, and served as research for MINERS’ MOON and Nellie’s photographing of women who worked in such houses.
What’s your favorite book that you’ve read in the past year?
I read a lot! The Cold Millions by Jess Walter is a favorite, as well as The Women of Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell. The Underworld by Kevin Canty tells about the Sunshine Mining disaster in novel form. The Deep Dark by Greg Olsen is nonfiction about the same disaster. Both of those books struck close to home, as I knew men who perished in the Sunshine Mine. In another vein, I loved Project Hail Mary by Andy Wier.
How can people learn more about your book and follow you?
My website includes all of my books, descriptions and awards my books have received. See www.julieweston.com . I am on Facebook as Julie Weston and Instagram as westmorjw. My husband and I collaborated on a coffee table book with his photos and my writing about the Four Corners area of the Southwest: The Magical Universe of the Ancients: A Desert Journal (Big Wood Books, LLC, 2020). www.bigwoodbooks.com .