I've been going a million interviews on the book and the series this month which I should link to on the website, but here for now, here are some of the most common questions (and one uncommon one!)
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
Blood Moon is the second in my Huntress/FBI thriller series, which follows a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for a female serial killer. But if you talk to FBI profilers, some will tell you that from a psychological and forensic standpoint, there’s no such thing as a female serial killer. Women commit homicide, but not sexual homicide. That’s a little-known fact that has interested me for a long time. For years I’ve been looking for the right story to explore that issue.
Then two years ago I was at the San Francisco Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, and there were two back-to-back discussions with several of my favorite authors: Val McDermid interviewing Denise Mina, then Robert Crais interviewing Lee Child. There was a lot of priceless stuff in those two hours, but two things that really struck me from the McDermid/Mina chat were Val saying that crime fiction is the best way to explore societal issues, and Denise saying that she finds powerful inspiration in writing about what makes her angry.
Write about what makes you angry? It doesn't take me a millisecond's thought to make my list. Child sexual abuse is the top, no contest. Violence against women and children. Discrimination of any kind. Religious intolerance. War crimes. Genocide. Torture.
That anger has fueled a lot of my books and scripts over the years.
And then right after that, there was Lee Child talking about Reacher, one of my favorite fictional characters, and it got me thinking about what it would look like if a woman were doing what Reacher was doing. And that was it—instantly I had the whole story of Huntress Moon, the first book in the Huntress series.
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
They’ll learn that there is no such thing as a female serial killer! But the series also seems to force readers to question their own beliefs about justice and punishment and retribution. I am thrilled that so many people find themselves torn about what they want to see happen to my killer, and that they even find themselves hoping for a love that really shouldn’t ever happen. So I guess what readers learn is that there may be some vast gray areas between good and evil.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Tons. I made this series hard for myself by making the main character an FBI agent, which means I had to cram a lifetime of forensics and law enforcement procedure into several months of catch-up. Luckily author and former police detective Lee Lofland has created a fabulous program for writers to experience hands-on police and forensics training under the supervision of an incredible professional staff, the annual Writers Police Academy. I couldn’t write this series without it.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I am a compulsive outliner. I was a screenwriter for eleven years, and there’s no way to do that job without precise outlining. You need to be able to tell the whole story to the studio long before you get to sit down to write. I use index cards, the three-act, eight-sequence structure, a story grid, the whole nine yards – all the stuff I teach in my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks. But once I have that outline, the first draft can and often does take off in directions I never anticipated. The characters have their own ideas about what needs to happen. You’d be a fool not to go with the flow in the heat of the moment, to mix a metaphor.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
Hmm, I’ve never tried green apples in the bathtub. Kind of sexy! I agree with Spielberg, though (who wouldn’t?). Driving is very good for me. Especially for this series, since the books are all about road trips – each book in the series is an interstate manhunt. More precisely, a womanhunt.
Night driving is the best. I also get a lot of ideas from dreams. The shower is good. And dance class.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I was voracious. I read everything. But I was always most attracted to mysteries, thrillers, and horror. Anything with a spooky cover, I was all over it. I need the adrenaline rush! Stephen King, of course, Ira Levin, Ray Bradbury. Early on I discovered that I especially love the feminine perspective on crime and the supernatural – Shirley Jackson, Daphne DuMaurier, Mary Shelley, Agatha Christie, Barbara Vine. I think women know a lot more than men do about terror.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
Without question, having readers read my books and experience the world and the characters just as if they’re caught up in a film. And then being able to dialogue with them about the story and characters and their experience of the story. It’s such an intimate relationship. Incomparable.
Huntress Moon, $3.99
A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers:
a female serial.
Blood Moon, on sale now: 99 cents