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Interview with Randy Overbeck, author of amateur sleuth mystery Cruel Lessons

cover of Cruel Lessons by Randy Overbeck

On a school camping trip, fifth graders experiment with a dangerous new hallucinogen and die in a horrific accident, their deaths shattering the quiet town. Assistant Superintendent Ken Parks, hoping to redeem a fatal mistake from his past, grasps the opportunity to conduct the district investigation of how students are getting the drugs. Almost before he begins, the cops make a stunning arrest. But Parks battles on, convinced the real pusher is still out there, poisoning more kids until he receives an anonymous threat: if he continues, those close to him will pay. Is Parks willing to risk those he loves for a chance at redemption?

Excerpt from Cruel Lessons

Struggling desperately to force her mind to think, Amanda tried to consider her options. It was all happening too quickly. The next treacherous turn came at her fast. She had no way to slow down. White knuckles gripped the steering wheel.

The bend ahead showed a hard curve to the right, not quite as tight as the last one, but steeper. And she felt the car accelerating, though she hadn’t touched the gas pedal. Right before the car hit the curve, Amanda spun the steering wheel. The car lurched around the bend. The driver side of the car lifted up. Halfway through the long bend, Amanda watched the hood tilt in the turn until it was almost vertical. No seat belt on, she was catapulted down the leather seat, crashing into the passenger door. 

“Hell!” she cried, reaching to grab her bruised shoulder.

She froze as the two wheels still on the ground shuddered in the gravel, sliding off the small road. Slammed against the side door, she heard the tall weeds and low branches whip against the body. But the car didn’t slow. Blood streamed from a gash on her forehead. For an instant she lay there stretched across the passenger door, holding her breath.

Then she sensed the car teetering. The front tire bumped something hard. Amanda stared, unbelieving, as the car began to flip. As the Regal made the first revolution, she screamed.

Interview with Randy Overbeck

-What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer, though being a fiction writer is a more recent change. When I was young, I would make up stories and in high school even dreamed of writing the “Great American Novel.” But the desire to serve children as an educator beckoned and I answered the call, though I never stopped writing. From teacher to college prof to school leader, writing was always a major part of these jobs. As I neared the end of my three plus decades of educational experience, I returned to my first love of fiction writing. Now, five successful novels later, I’m enjoying where I am in my writing journey.

-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?

My setting is a world I know fairly well or at least I have some memory of the time and place, fall, 1994 in a small rural school district. I’d probably have a conversation with my character, Ken Parks and let him know his past doesn’t have to define him. See below.

-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)

After a few drinks, Ken would no doubt confess his guilt about his responsibility in the death of his younger brother, probably ending up in tears. I’d listen and remind him none of us are without sin. We all carry some guilt around. And then I’d buy him another drink.

-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?

I think I just answered that above, but if I get a do over, I’d love to sit down over drinks with my other protagonist, fourth grade teacher, Stacy Thompson. She’s a beautiful, complicated woman (with some secrets in her past) who cares about her students so much she puts their needs ahead of hers. I think we’d have an interesting evening out.

-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?

Not sure. I’ve been fortunate enough never to be confronted with a duel, much less with a dwarf. Knowing my tendency to talk however, I’d probably try to talk him down and offer to buy him drinks.

-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?

Believe it or not, I feel comfortable writing a quite a few genres, mysteries, thrillers, historicals, romance even a bit of erotica. But what would really challenge me is writing children’s books. I made a few stabs at it but my attempts were pretty miserable. My hat’s off to writers who can master the skill to tell a captivating story in limited vocabulary and space. Not me.

About Randy Overbeck

author Randy Overbeck

Dr. Randy Overbeck is a best-selling author of the award-winning series, The Haunted Shores Mysteries, the three entries earning such national awards as the Gold Award from Literary Titan, Mystery of the Year from ReaderViews, Best Book from Chanticleer and Crowned Heart of Excellence from InD’tale Magazine. He hosts a new podcast, “Great Stories about Great Storytellers,” which reveals the unusual backstories of famous authors, directors and poets. He is also a speaker in much demand, sharing his multi-media presentations, “Thanks Still Go Bump in the Night”  and “A Few Favorite Haunts” with audiences all over the country. More info about his novels, programs and podcast can be found at his website www.authorrandyoverbeck.com .


Randy Overbeck will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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11 thoughts on “Interview+Giveaway: Cruel Lessons by Randy Overbeck

    1. This is the story that is closest to my heart. I’ve actually harbored this story for more than 20 years, in a slightly different version. But it waited for me to mature as a writer before I was able to tell it effectively

    1. CRUEL LESSONS is the first entry in a new series set in schools called “Lessons in Peril.” This far I have the concepts for the next two entries in the series.

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