Cathy Pickens has been, under different names, a lawyer, a business professor, a university provost, a clog-dancing coach, a church organist / choir director, and a typist.
The most profound influences on her life have been her family, her faith, Nancy Drew, and Perry Mason. She grew up in a small town and, forced to move to "big cities" to support herself, first as a lawyer and then as a professor, she found the only way to return to the comfortable familiarity of her childhood was by moving Avery Andrews back home and chronicling her exploits.
I've been a partner in a law firm that specialized in complex civil litigation, representing folks who'd been seriously injured. So I know the inside of a courtroom and what goes into assessing a case. I'm a member of the South Carolina Bar, and I've taught law to business students for twenty years. I figure it's better to show folks how to avoid trouble rather than fish them out of it after the fact.
I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Forensic Medicine Program, an innovative collaboration of agencies in Charlotte-Mecklenburg: police, fire, medic, crime lab, medical examiner, educational facilities, hospital emergency and surgical facilities, and district attorney's office. One goal of the program is to train and standardize evidence collection procedures by first responders.
I've read mysteries since Santa Claus first delivered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden to my house. We didn't have a bookstore in the town where I lived, but we had a fantastic library — right at the bottom of my driveway! Mysteries have always been the staples in my reading diet.
I enjoy writing mysteries for the same reasons I enjoy reading them: they are intellectual puzzles, requiring that my mind be engaged. They take me to other locales, both strange and familiar. I can revisit characters who've become like friends and watch them grow and change over time.
Murder mysteries are the classic battle between good and evil — and they reassure us that good can triumph. They are the hero's journey into an unknown realm, where she then re-emerges with the solution or potion or secret, bringing with her new insights, new understandings. The best modern mysteries have become increasingly complex: they engage the moral ambiguities of our society and help us sort those out. This is certainly a time when we need help believing that good triumphs — and that we know what good is.