1. What genre(s) do you write and what attracts you to that genre?
I have written three thriller novels for MIRA Books, featuring Kate Lange, a struggling thirty-something lawyer. In each of them, I delve into a thriller subgenre: DAMAGED (June 2010) revolves around a biomedical thriller element, INDEFENSIBLE (January 2011) focuses on psychological and legal suspense, and TATTOOED (June 2012) features forensic anthropology.
Although I have several more stories planned for the Kate Lange series, I have switched gears from contemporary suspense, and am working on a historical espionage novel.
2. What’s your writing strength? What do you think separates you from other authors?
My readers tell me that they enjoy the pace of my books – I keep the plot moving between multiple points of view and maintain a tight time frame in the Kate Lange series. Also, I think I’ve brought a very human element to the fast pace of suspense writing, and I know my readers have enjoyed reading about my characters’ struggles, and how they handle the consequences of the situations they face. After all, when we read about a terrible crime in the news, don’t we all wonder how we would react if we had to confront a killer? And how would that affect our lives? This is what I like to explore – the impact of crime on people, from the professionals who investigate it, to the victims and the people who are inadvertently pulled into the vortex.
I don’t really focus on what other authors are doing, but in terms of my own approach to writing, I invest my time heavily in research to ensure that I provide the most accurate subject matter that I possibly can. For example, when I wrote the Kate Lange series, I researched and consulted subject matter experts in police procedure, legal procedure, forensic pathology, psychology, forensic anthropology, and tattooing. I like to create complex, plausible layers in my books.
3. What’s your writing kryptonite? What is always tough for you to tackle?
I find writing the opening of a book the toughest. Finding your characters’ voice, establishing the setting, creating dynamics, and ensuring that the plot and character arcs are set up is challenging. I usually find that the first one hundred pages are the most exacting, demanding, hair-pulling and agonizing parts of the writing process. Many Americanos -- and the occasional dose of chocolate -- are required.
4. Do you work with critique partners?
When I first began writing as a career, I critiqued extensively with historical romance author Kelly Boyce. She and I have similar sensibilities. But both of us have become so busy with our work deadlines, that we have not been able to continue regular critiquing. However, we still bounce ideas off each other and will seek each other’s advice when we are stuck on a plot point. My agent, Al Zuckerman of Writers House, critiques all of my work.
5. Where are your favourite places to find inspiration for new ideas?
I often get snippets of ideas from news stories, usually based on criminal cases. I read the news every day.
But in general, I find I am often more inspired by an experience than a place. The character of Kate Lange was inspired by my career experience working in the legal and consulting fields.
I often write to theme music, and the emotional experience that I pull from the tone or mood will put me in the headspace I require for writing a character’s voice. For example, in TATTOOED, the lyrics of Tears’ For Fears’ Mad World (…the dreams I had of dying/were the best I ever had…) were very evocative of the desperation and anger of the main antagonist, and I used those to put me in the head of a newly-released offender who is obsessed with a woman to the point of sexual murder.
Conversely, I am listening to Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire for a key section in my current manuscript.
6. What piece of advice has stuck with you most since joining RWAC?
Years ago, when I was revising my first, unpublished novel, I knew I had a problem, but I couldn’t figure it out. Then, historical romance author Deborah Hale gave a workshop on Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, based on Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO’S JOURNEY, and it was a major epiphany for me in terms of structure. I find myself returning to Vogler every so often when I am creating an outline. I don’t slavishly follow it, but it reminds me of elements I should bear in mind.
7. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I have returned to my historical roots, and am working on a sweeping espionage novel set at the end of the French Revolutionary Wars:
The powers of Europe are dangerously shifting, and a lone female spy holds the key to the fate of nations…
This novel has been a major undertaking for me, but I am loving the challenge. From a creative perspective, the old adage, “ a change is as good as a rest” works for me. I like to mix things up a bit, because then when I return to my other characters, I am refreshed and recharged. I always want to make sure that my readers – and my characters -- get the best of me, in every book that I write.