WON Landing Page OCT 2022

An interview with M.L. Rowland, author of ‘Zero Degree Murder’

Babbs interviews author M.L. Rowland about her debut search and rescue based book.


Who better to pen a novel based on a search and rescue team than M.L. Rowland? For 10 years, M.L. volunteered on a search and rescue team based in southern California. She’s encountered situations from lost children separated from their hiking parents to dangerous survival situations.

Her first book, Zero Degree Murder: A Search and Rescue Mystery, published by the Penguin Group, captures a reader’s attention immediately, with the introduction of protagonist and extremely likeable Gracie Kinkaid, a search and rescue volunteer who is on a mission with her team to find a lost British film star. She winds up stopping a cold-blooded killer. Throughout the adventure, which I read cover to cover on a 3-hour flight recently, Gracie and the team educate and entertain readers in search and rescue methods and techniques.

In fact, anyone who hikes or hunts or spends time outdoors in remote locations, should read this book for the safety techniques alone. M.L.’s advice on safety tips and techniques may apply to an extreme adventure or even walk through a park.

M.L. took time recently from a European vacation to answer these questions. Take a look and see if you don’t sense the real deal pushing the pen on this story.


Head Shot_MLRowlandjpg

Photo courtesy of M.L. Rowland


Babbs: Please tell me what you’d like the readers to know about your background.

M.L.: I spent almost a dozen years as a very active volunteer on a very active search and rescue team in the mountains of southern California. Because I participated in hundreds of missions and trainings (including jumping out of a helicopter into the snow on the side of a mountain and overnighting in the snow with only a sleeping bag), I had to do very little traditional research for Zero Degree Murder. Much of what’s described in the book, from the setting to search and rescue procedures and protocol to some of the events, is drawn from personal knowledge and experience — my own and that of other search and rescue members.

Zero Degree Murder readers can be confident that what they’re reading represents an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be on search and rescue team. A friend of mine who read the book said to me, “So that’s what happens when you get called out on a search. I always wondered.”


Babbs: Have you always wanted to write a book? Seems like a lot of people want to, but never get around to it. How did you get it together to publish? 

M.L.: I can’t remember specifically having the goal of publishing a book when was younger, but I did write stories in grade school. Later, as an adult, I wrote (but never had produced) 6 or 7 screenplays. I didn’t turn to writing fiction until about 10 or so years ago, a difficult transition for me. Writing screenplays is like building the skeleton of a story — you only write what can be seen or heard on the screen. Writing fiction is completely different — like putting the meat on the bones.

Because Zero Degree Murder is my first book and because I was, for all intents and purposes, learning to write fiction when I was writing it, I rewrote the book no less than 10 times before it reached its current, published state.

Writing and getting a book published, especially a novel, takes nothing if not hard work and perseverance. So my best advice to anyone interested in writing and getting a book published is to work hard and, to borrow from Winston Churchill: Never give up. Never never never never give up.


Babbs: Have you always written about your experiences?

M.L.: Here and there, throughout the years, I wrote down some of my travel experiences, but nothing formal and nothing as extensive as this mystery series.

When I was considering switching from screenwriting to fiction, I began thinking about in what genre I wanted to write. At first, I considered a Western (a genre I love), but decided to take that classic advice to write about what I know and that was search and rescue.



Photo courtesy of M.L. Rowland


Babbs: Search and rescue. About what percent of search and rescue teams are made of women?  Please will you tell me about your background in this area?

M.L.: Each team’s composition is different, I believe depending quite a bit on the demographics of the community from which it draws its members. Some teams have a lot of women members; some not so many. There were a couple of years where I was the only woman on our team. It was interesting and challenging! That was due, in part, I think, on the normal ebb and flow of membership on a volunteer team. In later years, there were a lot more women.

On our team almost no allowances were made for physical differences and capabilities. Each team member needed to carry his or her own weight. Each team member needed to rely on every other member for his or her life. What I lacked in physical capability, I did my best to more than make up for in commitment, training and expertise. My specialties were tracking and technical ropes rescue.

I joined our local mountain search and rescue team with no formal search and rescue experience or training. What I did have was a love of the outdoors and a desire to serve my community. Much of the training I received was formal. Within the first year or so, I passed the National Association for Search and Rescue Search and Rescue Technician Level II test — both field and written, and which includes search techniques, tracking, land navigation and orienteering. I also received formal training in winter travel and mountaineering, avalanche, desert survival. I received a California State certification in Tracking and our county’s certification in Personal Vertical Skills and Technical Ropes Rescue. But, much of my training in search and rescue was “on the job.”


Babbs: Are you still active in search and rescue missions?

M.L.: As recently as late fall of last year I was very active on a local Incident Management Team, which manages critical incidents including search and rescue missions (as well as brush and wildfires, etc.).  With the release of Zero Degree Murder and the impending release of the next 2 books in the series, my schedule has become so busy that I haven’t been able to devote the necessary time and energy to the team. I love search and rescue and hope to become actively involved in it again when my schedule permits.

 Zero Degree Murder


Purchase Zero Degree Murder.

Visit M.L. Rowland’s website.

  • About Barbara Baird

    Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. Her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at https://www.ozarkian.com.