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Alone With No Family Or Home

Rosalind Barden Author Interview

Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case follows an 11-year-old girl who discovers a dead body, becomes the suspect in her death, and has to prove her innocence. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

BeforeSparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case, I wrote a short story, “The Monkey’s Ghost” that appeared in History and Mystery, Oh My! an anthology of short historical mystery stories that went on to become an FAPA President’s Book Awards Silver Medalist.  That story stayed with me, and I felt there was more to tell about the kids in Depression-era Los Angeles who snoop into the mysterious goings-on in an old mansion.  I ended up changing a lot from the short story.  Sparky is a new character, along with Tootsie and Gilbert.  On advice from the publisher, Mystery and Horror, LLC, I made the child characters older.  Instead of eight, Sparky is eleven and Bobby is twelve, which I think works better for the novel.  I kept the idea of a strange old house, but transformed it from a Victorian mansion, to silent film star Tootsie’s Art Deco mansion.  Fiction works best when characters are put to a test, which Sparky certainly is when she is accused of murder and must solve the crime in order to prove her innocence.  The victim, found alone on a park bench, is a girl who is like Sparky at the beginning of the book: alone with no family or home.  Sparky’s empathy for the victim goes against the tough-girl image she likes to project.  At heart, Sparky wishes to belong to a family.

Why choose this place and time for the setting of the story?

I was always drawn to the Bunker Hill area in downtown Los Angeles, and only later discovered its fascinating history. In the late 1800s, the wealthy built their mansions on Bunker Hill to escape the heat in the downtown flatlands and to enjoy the amazing views.  By the 1930s, Bunker Hill had been in decline for years.  The severe economic downturn of the Great Depression only added to the woes of the residents.  Many of its fancy mansions were converted into rooming houses.  Though it was home to many regular working people, it was also a refuge for the world’s castaways and misfits.  Bunker Hill in 1932 is where homeless Sparky feels like she belongs.  Decades later in the 1950s and 1960s, long past Sparky’s time, Bunker Hill was completely redeveloped.  Unfortunately, the people who lived in old Bunker Hill, including many retirees, were displaced.  Instead of Victorian mansions, it is now covered with skyscrapers, museums, and concert halls.  It is still a hill, but is shorter than it used to be.  Certainly, it is a picturesque area, and I love the music and art spaces.  But Bunker Hill looks nothing like the bustling, funky working-class neighborhood that it used to be.  I would have liked the old Bunker Hill, and I wish I’d seen it back in Sparky’s day.

What were some educational aspects that were important for you to include in this children’s book?

The heart of the story is about friendship and family.  Sparky, who was orphaned and later abandoned by the relatives who were supposed to care for her, has developed a tough exterior.  She is used to fending for herself and thinks she can handle anything.  That is, until she is accused of murder and must hide from the law.  Solving the mystery is something she cannot do without the help of Bobby, Tootsie, and Gilbert.  She must learn to trust them and rely on them.  In the process, she finds a home with Tootsie and Gilbert in their strange mansion, and they become the family she always hoped for.  She learns that family can be found anywhere, and all that really matters is loving and caring for one another.  I think the book’s themes are why it has a wide appeal, not just to young adult and middle-grade readers, but also to grown-up readers.

Is this the first book in the series? If so, when is the next book coming out and what can your fans expect in the next story?

Yes, Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case is the first in the Sparky of Bunker Hill mystery series.  The next book is Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cannibal Caper, where Sparky finds herself in one crazy pickle after another.  Cannibal Caper has missing jewels, a peculiar pet shop, tommy gun trouble, and who’s that gourmet cannibal?  Can Sparky untangle this murder mystery mess?  The rub: it may be all Sparky’s fault.  I am very excited about Cannibal Caper and hope that readers will feel it has been worth the wait.  I don’t have a release date yet, but my revisions to the draft galleys are back with the publisher, so it’s coming!  Readers who would like updates, plus bonus short stories, and giveaways can subscribe to my Readers Club here:  I always love new subscribers!

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Lots of characters have it bad in my Bunker Hill neighborhood smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, but I’ve had it rougher than most. 

There may be something to this 13th business. That’s my birthday, and I’m learning to dread seeing it roll around. My mother died on one birthday. The cousins dumped me on my last. This year, 1932, I found a dead kid on a park bench. It’s my eleventh birthday, and the day me, Sparky, ended up on the run, wanted for murder. 

If the dead girl wasn’t enough, the dirty newspapers pinned every body in LA on me, and even blamed me for the Great War. I wasn’t even born then. The price on my head got bigger by the day. 

It was up to me to find out who killed the girl and why I got framed, before I ended up dangling from the hangman’s rope.
Humorous, fast-paced murder mystery for readers of historical mysteries, cozy mysteries, 1930s mysteries, and mysteries with amateur sleuths.  Enjoyable for middle-grade, young adult, and adult historical mystery readers!

Firebird Book Award 1st Place Cozy Mystery Winner, Author Academy Top 10 Mystery Winner, and Critters Readers Poll Top 10 Finisher for both Best Mystery and Best Young Adult Book.

Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case

Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case is a captivating tale that transports readers to 1932 Los Angeles. This engrossing story follows the journey of an 11-year-old girl named Sparky, a street-smart and resolute young girl who unwittingly becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a young blonde girl she found dead on a bench. The story begins on her birthday when she had saved up a box of sweets to celebrate her special day. However, her birthday takes a drastic turn when she finds herself accused of a crime she did not commit.

Author Rosalind Barden’s writing had me hooked from the first page, and Sparky’s character immediately drew me in. The author has done an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of the buildings and characters, making them easy to visualize. Tootsie’s character adds an interesting layer to the story, and her home is described in such detail that it feels like a character itself. The food Sparky is offered at Tootsie’s house is also beautifully described, making the reader’s mouth water. Sparky’s character is tough and independent, but the author has also demonstrated that she has a kind heart that she tries to keep hidden. This makes her a lovable character, and the reader cannot help but root for her as she tries to solve the case and live her life without fear. The mystery in this story is expertly crafted, pulling the reader in and keeping them gripped until the very end. The suspense is palpable, making it difficult to put the book down. I found myself constantly wanting to know what would happen next and how the story would unfold.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-written, suspenseful mystery. Sparky of Bunker Hill and the Cold Kid Case is a page-turner that will leave readers eager for more.

Pages: 218 | ASIN : B07H49P46T

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