Sunday, March 6, 2011

An Interview with Mandy Tanner by Beth Groundwater

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.

An Interview with Mandy Tanner

Mandy Tanner is the 27-year-old whitewater river ranger protagonist of Deadly Currents, the first book in Beth Groundwater’s RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series. She’s agreed to be interviewed today, and to answer questions from Meanderings and Musings readers, but she’s a little nervous because she doesn’t have much media experience. Let’s make her feel welcome!

1. Hello, Mandy. Please tell us how you ended up becoming a whitewater river ranger.

Well, first, I fell in love with whitewater rafting. When I lived with my parents in Colorado Springs, they used to drive my brother, David, and me to Salida on summer weekends. We’d sack out at my Uncle Bill’s house and take rafting trips down the Arkansas River from his outfitter company. Riding the waves was such a blast that I couldn’t wait to start working as a rafting guide myself. After I started high school, I spent the summers with Uncle Bill and worked for him, doing odd jobs and soaking up as much knowledge as I could from the guides. I thought they were the coolest dudes around, and I wanted to be one of them!

Then my parents died in a car crash two months before I started my senior year in high school, when I was still 17. David was going into his junior year of college and couldn’t really be my guardian. Since I was already living with Uncle Bill that summer, I just stayed and finished high school in Salida. And he helped me get through the grieving. Then I started guiding for Uncle Bill’s company and taking classes for my associate's degree in Outdoor Education at Colorado Mountain College in Buena Vista. During the winters, I’m a ski patroller at Monarch Mountain.
I loved being a rafting guide, working outside every day and getting uptight city tourists to whoop it up by taking them for roller coaster rides on roaring rapids (like the one in the photo below). And doing goofball things to make them laugh, like starting water fights with the other rafts or having a dumbest joke competition on the slow sections. I needed to get out on my own, though. A few years ago, I moved into a cute little rental house, but the money I made guiding in the summer and patrolling in the winter wasn’t enough to pay the bills. And, I was itching to prove myself, to tackle some challenge that Uncle Bill didn’t already know everything about. So, I applied to be a seasonal river ranger.

2. This is your first season working as a whitewater river ranger. What do you think of it so far?

All the training was pretty easy for me, since I already knew a lot of that stuff from being a river guide. And I know every section of the river like the back of my hand, from running them so many times at different water levels. The rest of the rangers are a cool bunch, and my boss, Steve Hadley, is great to work for and really supportive. I think he’s a lot like Stew Pappenfort, the Senior Ranger of the AHRA (Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area), who Beth Groundwater used as an expert when she wrote my story. A picture of Stew giving some training is below.

The only thing I don’t like is the paperwork, but none of the rangers like that! Even though I enjoy the work and the people, I’m still nervous about taking on all that new responsibility. I’d only been a ranger for a couple of weeks when I had to rescue Hannah Fowler and Tom King. My heart was like, doing a drum solo in my chest.
Then Mister King died on me.

3. How do you feel about that?

Majorly bummed. Even though people keep telling me his death wasn’t my fault, I still keep thinking that if I’d done something different, he might still be alive. And I feel guilty about the effect on Uncle Bill’s business. See, Hannah and Mister King were riding in one of Uncle Bill’s rafts when it flipped in the Numbers Four rapid. I still don’t understand how Gonzo let that happen. He’s one of Uncle Bill’s best guides, and he knows the Numbers like an old milk cow knows the path to the barn. But anyway, word got out, and customers are canceling their trips with Uncle Bill, thinking Tom King’s death is his fault. But it’s not.
If anything, it’s mine.

4. You mentioned your parents are no longer living. Who are the important people in your life now?

Of course there’s Uncle Bill, and my brother, David. He works as an accountant in Colorado Springs, but we still try to see each other fairly often. Then there’s my boyfriend Rob Juarez. He’s got his own outfitting company, and he’s a real hunk. Man, does he fill out a pair of jeans, and I love it when he makes the standing waves tattooed on his biceps dance. The only problem is that we’ve only been dating for three months, and he already wants to take care of me. But I don’t want that, I like taking care of myself.
I’ve got a lot of friends here, too, “river rats” like myself, who are guides or rangers. And my best friend, Cynthia Abbott, is a bartender at the Victoria Tavern, where we all like to hang out, drink a few beers, dance to rock and country bands, and play pool.

5. When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

I already told you about hanging out at the Vic. I like to go for runs or walks with my golden retriever, Lucky. Sometimes I’ll take my mountain bike out for a ride, and sometimes I’ll help Uncle Bill if he’s in a pinch. And, there’re always the chores you have to do when you have your own place. Things seem to have a way of breaking in my house, and the landlord’s no help. And I never miss FIBArk, the First in Boating on the Arkansas whitewater festival. It’s coming up soon, and along with doing my regular river ranger thing, I’m volunteering on my days off.

Thanks, Mandy! Okay, Meanderings and Musings readers, do you have a question for Mandy Tanner? What would you like to know about her? And feel free to ask a question of author Beth Groundwater, too. She’ll be monitoring the comments along with Mandy. 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 characters in the book will be interviewed, go to: , and 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.


Mason Canyon said...

Kaye, another great interview.

Mandy, sounds like you have an intriguing job. Love the idea of working outdoors. Now that you're a river ranger will you still be a ski patroller? Best of luck.

Thoughts in Progress

Kari Wainwright said...

I've loved reading about Claire's adventures in the gift basket series, but now, I can't wait to meet Mandy and go rafting with you.

gkw9000 at

Harvee/Book Dilettante said...

Here's a question for Beth: Are you working on the next adventure for Mandy in the new series? What does Mandy do during the winter?


harvee44 at

Beth Groundwater said...

Howdy, Mason. Yes, I'll still be shredding the slopes at Monarch Mountain in the winters as a ski patroller. Being a river ranger is a seasonal job, spring through fall, so I need to do something else in the winters to bring in the dough. Gotta pay the rent, you know!

Hi Kari,
Nice meeting you, too. Beth tells me that you don't live that far from Salida. You should come out and raft the Arkansas sometime. You'll love it!

I'm out for now, but I'll be hanging around Kaye's blog all day to answer questions. What a blast this will be!

- Mandy

Beth Groundwater said...

Hello Harvee,
The second book in the series, Wicked Eddies, is already in production. I've turned it in to the publisher, Midnight Ink, and the next step is copy edits. In that book, Mandy is involved in a fly fishing tournament and finds a dead fisherman in a campground alongside the river.

I'm developing the concept for the third book in the series now. And Mandy answered your other question already, up above.

I've loaned my login to Mandy, so you'll see her answers under my label, but we'll both sign off with our own names.

- Beth

jenny milchman said...

Nice to cyber meet you, Mandy, and look forward to seeing you in the pages of Beth's book. I'm thinking there may be more to this Mr. King thing than you said in the interview? Which makes sense because it still seems like a pretty raw pain. But give yourself a break. I suspect you are the heroine in all this...

Sandy Wood said...

Hey Beth, I loved the basket series, but I love river rafting myself and think this series sounds great! Have you rafted these rivers often yourself? What is the best or most unusual experience you've had while rafting? And did you work that into your book?
Take care, Sandy Wood

Beth Groundwater said...

Hey there, Jenny! Nice to cyber-meet you, too. And thanks for trying to buck me up. All I can tell you is that I sure don't feel like a heroine right now. I was just trying to do my job, and I'm not even sure I did it right. Maybe my boss Steve will let me know.

- Mandy

Hi Sandy,
Thanks for your question. Yes, I've rafted the upper Arkansas River many times myself. The most scary times on the river are when you end up in the water, swimming the rapids instead of riding on top of them in a raft. Yes, I've gone swimming, and I can tell you that snow-melt water is COLD! When I describe various sections of the river in Deadly Currents, those descriptions are from personal recollection. Thankfully, no murders or fatal accidents have occurred on trips I've been involved in, though.

- Beth

Sharon Hays said...

Beth, that was quite an interesting backstory of Mandy. Now I am even more interested in reading the novel.

Very well done!

Kellie M. Rix said...

Hi Mandy,
Great interview! I would definately like to learn more about you. I haven't read your story yet. You have such an exciting job. I know a couple of people who are afraid of water, but want to experience the adventure of whitewater rafting. Do you have any words of encouragement?

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much for your compliment!
- Beth

Hi Kellie,
What a great question. You know, I always tell people who want to try whitewater rafting that first they have to be good swimmers and feel comfortable in the water. If someone freaks out in the pool, imagine how they'd feel in a fast-moving river! So, I think the first thing your friends need to do is take lessons from a good swimming instructor and get to like being in the water. Once they do that, their first rafting trip will be guaranteed to be a blast instead of a bummer.

- Mandy

I'll add to Mandy's comment, since I used to be a swimming instructor. A good instructor is trained in desensitization techniques for helping students overcome their fear of the water. And it's important for people to do this if they want to engage in any kind of boating activity. Because they have to be prepared to swim to safety if they fall out of the boat, whether the water is still or moving.

I had a student in an adult class who had almost drowned before (she actually went under the classic three times before someone got to her). I worked with her until she could spend a minute in the deep end wearing a PFD (lifejacket) without panicking, then swim to the side of the pool. We both felt this was a huge accomplishment and an essential skill she needed before she got on a boat or ship. Good luck to your friends!

- Beth

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Mandy, I'm so sorry to hear about your parents, but you sound like you love your family and your career. Now, since you don't have a mom and dad to warn you about the opposite sex, you seem overly excited about this Mr. Juarez and his dancing waves ;) I know Beth has a daughter probably about your age or so, why don't you consult with her. Nice interview!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

What a terrific post! Thanks very much Mandy and Beth!!

I look forward to reading more about your adventures, Mandy - you're like a little Energizer Bunny!

And thanks to everyone else for stopping by - MUCH appreciated. We hope to see you all often.


Mike Orenduff said...

Wow. One of my favorite writers on one of my favorite blogs. What could be better?

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Donnell,
Thanks for the advice, but since I'm in my late twenties and have had a few boyfriends, I'm pretty sure I can handle this. Yeah, Rob and I have only been dating a couple of months, and he's already looking for a commitment from me, but I'm holding off on that.

- Mandy

Thanks so much for having Mandy and I on your blog. We'll continue to check for comments tomorrow and respond, in case there are latecomers.

Thanks for your comment, and I'm looking forward to chatting with you at Left Coast Crime.

- Beth