Your writing comes off so well that several times I stopped reading and wondered, gosh did she really have this happen to her in real life! Do ideas come to you that you DIDN’T experience as a journalist?
First of all, thank you, Savannah! That’s a very kind thing to say. I definitely used my experience in the newsroom and on the crime beat to help shape my main character, Julia Gooden, and as background for certain scenes in the story.
But as a journalist, I never covered a child abduction case.
As a mom, the thought of something bad happening to my children is my greatest fear. So in this book, I wrote about what scared me the most.
The majority of the story was my imagination running away with itself (with a bunch of fact checking when I was done, of course). I’ve been a huge mystery, suspense, thriller, horror (with a touch of supernatural thrown in for good measure) fan for a long time. My mom, who was also a journalist, loved mysteries and read me, “And Then There Were None” when I was eleven, and I’ve never been the same since (in the best possible way).
So I think my experience as a journalist helped create a framework for the story, but most of the book wasn’t based on personal experience, and hopefully, years of reading mysteries helped spark a seed of creativity inside of me.
Do you find when you write powerful scenes, like many in this book, that you are exhausted afterwards?
Interesting question! No, I’d have to say that when I write an action-packed scene, I feel energized. Same thing when I was a reporter chasing a story. When you’re covering a breaking story, there’s a major adrenaline rush. My husband— who I first met at a newspaper where he was covering politics and I was covering the crime beat—and I used to talk about this after we got home to decompress about our day. Of course, if it’s a story where there are victims involved, you can’t desensitize yourself to that, and I would always have a hard time shaking what happened to them long after the story was written.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I’ve got two sons (Nash and Beck, both great little boys), and my writing desk is smack in-between the kitchen and our family room, so my “office” is located in command central of our house. That’s the only place where I write. Working in a newsroom helped me tune out background noise. A former city editor called it “being in the zone.” I’ve never gone to a coffee shop to write. My cluttered desk that has my kids’ homework piled to the side of it is my one and only writing spot. I have some treasures around it though: a black and white picture of my parents on their wedding day, and photos of my kids. There’s a bunch of clutter, but I love having those pictures around me when I write.
Is there anything you do to help spark your creativity?
No. I wish I had that magical formula though! Story ideas to me are like gifts. If I’m lucky, they come, and I follow their lead.
I do always draft a synopsis of the book (and man, I hate writing a synopsis, but in publishing, you can’t dodge that). For my own roadmap, I outline chapters before I write them. For me, sometimes the story will take a different turn as I’m writing it, and I just go with it. I just finished writing book 3 in the Julia Gooden series and the original synopsis I sent my agent and editor is going to need to be updated (ugh), because the story led me in a different direction.
If I ever feel stuck when I’m writing, I find that working out the scene in my head while doing mundane tasks (insert folding laundry here), helps. Just walking away from the story for a few minutes has always seemed to do the trick for me.
I love the cover, and thank God for my editor and publishing house because I’m horrendous at anything that is remotely art-related. Before the book came out, my editor asked me if I had any ideas for the cover. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to give him one okay option, and truth be told, my ideas probably completely stunk. I’m not being self-deprecating. I truly lack any artistic skills. When my 10-year-old son Nash has an art project for school, he knows he better ask his dad for help, because everyone in my house knows I’m helpless in that area.
If you could have been the author of any other published book on the market, what would it be and why?
Oh boy. Tough question. Stephen King is, was, and always will be my favorite author, but I can barely put myself in the same sentence with him. As far as mystery writers, there are so many I admire, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Michael Koryta, Lisa Jackson, and Lindwood Barclay. But one mystery novel I truly admire, from one of my all-time favorite mystery authors, Dennis Lehane, is Mystic River. Gone Baby Gone, another of Dennis Lehane’s books, is also a favorite. He’s brilliant. And he’s from Boston, where I used to live, so he has my hometown vote!
Do you prefer your watch/read order to be: book, then movie based on book OR movie based on book, then book?
I’m a book then movie type of gal. Books rule!
What do you like the most and the least about the main character Julia?
When I first started writing The Last Time She Saw Him, I wasn’t sure if people would like Julia. She’s certainly a flawed character. She is ultra-paranoid about her two boys when it comes to their safety (which I hope is understandable since her brother was abducted when they were kids). She’s stubborn. And she’s tough, out of self-preservation, something she learned as a little girl, since her father, a grifter, and her mother, an alcoholic, abandoned her after her brother, Ben, was abducted. But I like the fact that Julia is a good mom, an ethical, yet driven reporter, a loyal sister who’s never given up on the memory of her brother or her pursuit to find out what happened to him, and she is fearless when it comes to doing anything to bring her child home. I think she’d be a very loyal friend. I’d like Julia to have my back if I were ever in a fight.
I first thought about turning this into a series when I was trying to land a literary agent. One agent who I queried asked me if the Julia Gooden story line would be a series. It got me thinking, and that’s when I started to come up with an idea for the second book.
Duplicity (releasing April 2017)
Detroit newspaper reporter Julia Gooden is up against the city’s most devious criminal and her own painful past.
Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished facade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.
Julia’s marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims including the prosecution’s key witness and leaves David critically injured.
Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives, including her children’s, hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters.