The Body on the Beach Virtual Book Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway

Tuesday, November 7, 2023


The Body on the Beach: A Kat Dylan Mystery
Written by Chris Wieland
Illustrated by Leanne Franson
Ages 9+ | 360 Pages
Publisher: The Smart Aleck Press (2023) | ISBN-13: 9798985701326

Publisher’s Book Summary: In this sequel to 2022’s The Crabtree Monsters, thirteen-year-old girl detective Kat Dylan and her little brother, Alec, are back!

Even after cracking the case of the century, Kat and Alec are still stuck in Crabtree, Michigan, and suffering through a long, cold Midwest winter. When Gabby, a middle school “mean girl,” approaches her with a problem, Kat can’t imagine it’s worth her time—or that there’s a chance Gabby’s problems will lead to the next big mystery. But when Gabby becomes the focus of the local police, especially Kat’s Grandpa Nick, her interest is piqued. Before Kat can get to the bottom of things, she finds Gabby lying dead on Crabtree’s frozen beach.

Suddenly, Kat is awash in questions. Who killed Gabby? Could Kat have saved her if she’d paid closer attention to the mean girl’s troubles? From there, Kat, with Alec in tow, sets out to find answers and bring the murderer to justice. Along the way, she learns that Gabby’s case is tied to another investigation: the kidnapping of a rich kid from Chicago whose family is intertwined with the people who own most of Crabtree.

As she and Alec dig, they find themselves at odds with kidnappers and killers, private eyes and cops, and more than a few kids and adults who would just like them to go away.

Available to purchase here.


Chris Wieland is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He is also the father of two fierce children, including a tough, smart tween who helped him find the voice of his protagonist, Kat Dylan. He lives in Southern California with his family.

For more information, visit:
Life is What It's Called - You seem to have vast writing experience, including filmmaking; how has your background helped you write The Kat Dylan Mystery series?

Chris Wieland - I’m someone who has always wanted to write fiction, and from a young age, I focused on accumulating the kinds of experiences that would give me fuel to write the kinds of stories I wanted. Filmmaking helped me focus on visualizing action and character, knowing how to create a world for my reader. It also helped me sharpen my dialogue-writing skills and realize that you need conflict on virtually every page to keep the reader going.

In the case of The Kat Dylan Mysteries, when I first came up with the idea for what would eventually become The Crabtree Monsters (the first book in the series), it was for a screenplay. I wrote the script, which then was about two teenaged crime-fighting brothers, and I shopped it around in Hollywood. It eventually got optioned for production, and then re-optioned several times, and at one point, it looked like it might get made. But it didn’t, and eventually the rights reverted to me. I still believed in the characters and the story, but I decided to write it as a book so that I could have control over the vision (the look of the town, the twists of the story). When I started doing that, my own kids were starting to read middle grade chapter books. When I read with them, I was surprised at how few tough, smart girl heroes I found – unless they were living in a fantasy world or had survived the apocalypse. My kids wanted girl heroes who lived in a world like theirs, but could still have adventures and face danger around every corner. So I made my older detective a 13-year-old girl, and I took direction from my kids. But I kept so much of what had gone into the original scripts – the pacing, the action sequences, the splashes of color, and so on.

Life is What It's Called - Will readers need to read The Crabtree Monsters before reading The Body on the Beach?

Chris Wieland - Of course, as their writer, I’d like readers to get them both!

Having said that, I’ve written them so that they stand on their own. When characters from the first book show up in the second, I try to encapsulate what’s happened to them so far (anything that you need to know going forward). This is meant to be a series of Kat and Alec’s adventures, not a three- or six- or eight-part story with one plot across multiple books. Each book is its own mystery. The characters grow and develop over time, but you’ll be able to follow the twists and turns of The Body on the Beach without knowing anything about the Monster Gang (the villains of The Crabtree Monsters).

Life is What It's Called - How would you rate the scariness of The Body on the Beach for kids?

Chris Wieland - The books are meant for ages 8-13, although I’ve heard from kids (and adults) outside that range that like them. They’re not horror stories, but there is some violence that might be a bit much for some kids younger than 8. What’s important to me is that the violence and the action of these books have consequences – people get hurt or are in danger. I don’t make light of it, which I suppose could be tough for a younger reader.

Likewise, the puzzles that Kat and Alec solve are usually pretty twisty and turn-y, and I spend a lot of time walking through how they figure out the solution. I think if you’re much younger than 8, that might be hard to follow, but if you’re in that age range or older, I want to keep you guessing.

Life is What It's Called - What scene was your favorite to write and why?

Chris Wieland - In The Body on the Beach, there are two big action sequences that I really loved writing – one is a chase that begins on an el train in Chicago and spills out into the city’s Loop neighborhood. The other is an attempted rescue on a not-completely frozen Lake Michigan. In both cases, I wanted to write something that was exciting and that kept my audience on the edge of their seats, wondering how Kat and Alec could possibly get themselves out of trouble.

But also – and this was true in The Crabtree Monsters, as well – I love writing Kat and Alec’s dialogue and banter. It doesn’t matter if they’re just annoying each other, or if they’re doggedly trying to solve a puzzle together. Either way, I love creating the rhythm of their back and forth, and also creating the layers of this sister/brother team. Writing those scenes makes me smile. 

Life is What It's Called - How many books will you write for this series?

Chris Wieland - I’ve plotted out through the sixth book right now, so I’ll definitely do at least that many. One of the things that’s been important to me is creating a series of books where the key characters don’t just “go back to normal” at the end. Each adventure changes them forever because they have to face serious dangers and because they occasionally have to make decisions that will resonate for a long time. So Kat and Alec in the second book are different people than they were in the first. I’m writing the third book now, and they’ve continued to grow and evolve.

So what’s exciting is that is that once I’ve gotten to the end of the sixth book, I’ll be writing about two characters who have grown and changed enough that it’ll feel like a new series, even if it’s the same girl detective and wise guy skater brother.

Life is What It's Called - What do you hope kids will enjoy and take away from reading The Body on the Beach?

Chris Wieland - Most of all, I hope they have a great time reading this book. I want them to be on the edge of their seats, and to think that they’ve enjoyed a great thrill ride with some laughs and mind benders mixed in. I also want them to feel like they can be like Kat and Alec – tough and smart kids who save the day because they work hard, they don’t give up, and they protect each other. I would love it if readers also take away a sort of moral value from the book – that it’s heroic and admirable to do the right thing, to do what you believe, and that’s it’s not always easy. There will be people and obstacles standing in your way, but you can still succeed and be true to what’s right. If kids come away thinking like that, maybe they’ll do something heroic in their own lives. It may not be rescuing someone on the ice, or figuring out the identity of a murderer, but maybe they can make a difference to the people in their lives for the better. If Kat and Alec can inspire that kind of heroism, I’ve done my job well.


Enter for the chance to win signed copies of both Kat Dylan Mysteries (The Crabtree Monsters and The Body on the Beach) and a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • A signed copy of The Crabtree Monsters
  • A signed copy of The Body on the Beach
  • A $50 Barnes & Noble gift card.
Four (4) winners receive:
  • A signed copy of The Body on the Beach

The Body on the Beach Book Giveaway 

This post is sponsored by Smart Aleck Press. The review and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

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