Q. In your latest thriller, Strike Me Down, Nora Trier is a forensic accountant who goes after thieves. How did your own training as a CPA prepare you to write this? Where did you have to stretch?
Mindy: I worked in corporate accounting for sixteen years before leaving to write thrillers full-time, so I was very familiar with the power struggles and corporate culture that drive Strike, the feminist kickboxing empire featured in Strike Me Down. I’ve never worked in forensic accounting, though. Forensic accountants are the detectives of the financial world. They chase thieves and money launderers, and that was a type of investigator I needed to research in order to write Nora authentically. I took classes from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and even set up my own online bank accounts, to see how easy it would be to get money out of the country. Spoiler: it was appallingly easy.
Q. This is objectively true: Minnesota makes a great setting for crime thrillers. Why is that?
Mindy: Minnesota has an amazing diversity of landscapes, and all of them are under some form of stress. The agricultural plains in the south are filled with struggling farmers. The Twin Cities are grappling with long overdue social justice and racial equity issues. In the north, mining companies threaten pristine forests, fueling debates over jobs versus the environment. Minnesota also borders the largest freshwater lake in the world, which has sunk countless ships. And all of this, of course, is happening on unceded Dakota and Ojibwe land where countless tragedies shaped the state we know today. When you live and work in these communities, when you see the struggle embedded in the past and present of this landscape, writing crime fiction doesn’t feel as much like a choice as an inevitability.
Q. You’ve been through an MFA program. How did it change how you write? And how do readers benefit?
Mindy: I started writing several books in my early twenties that I didn’t have either the attention span or the craft tools necessary to finish. MFA programs aren’t for everybody, but I was determined to write a book that made me proud and I needed the structure, mentorship, and community that masters level study provided in order to write that book. The long answer is that I learned how to wield craft elements like point of view, suspense, and characterization to make readers want to keep flipping the page and care about what happens next. The short answer is that I learned how to finish a book.
Q. One of your biggest successes, Everything You Want Me To Be, investigates the themes of identity, murder, and a small town’s deepest secrets. What do you think it is about that story that strikes a chord?
Mindy: Hattie Hoffman, the ill-fated protagonist of Everything You Want Me To Be, is a small town girl who dreams big. She wants more than the life she’s known, and is willing to risk everything to turn her dreams into reality. It’s a universal story in that we’ve all wanted some other life than what we grew up with. We’ve all dreamed of breaking free from the confines of our identities, and Hattie channels all of those thoughts and desires. Her story is ultimately a tragic one, but every book club I’ve attended invariably takes the time to imagine alternate paths for Hattie, to guide her into a life and identity where she might’ve matured and thrived. That tells me how much people see themselves in Hattie and how deeply they care about her story.
Q. What are you working on now?
Mindy: I’m so excited about my current project! It’s been a huge comfort—yes, I find fictional murder comforting, don’t DM me—and an escape during the 2020 pandemic. I’m working on a duet, a two-book narrative about four people circling a drug trafficking ring in Iowa. In the first book, a physics professor is forced to team up with a psychic to track down her missing ex-husband, who the police think she killed. In the second book, two of the side characters pick up the story and I can’t tell you more without spoilers. No publication dates yet, but I can’t wait to introduce readers to these characters and this world.