Our own Liz is on the hot seat today, answering the questions we usually pitch to guests on the blog.
Tell us a bit about your new book. What inspired you to write it?
Reports of a new meth facility reach the Pennsylvania State Police. At the same time, rumor is a man previously accused of meth production is back in the Laurel Highlands. It’s a connection even Trooper First Class Jim Duncan’s trainee can make. Meanwhile, Sally Castle’s colleague is being uncharacteristically nervous and reticent. What’s he hiding? Sally is determined to find out. When the two investigations converge, it uncovers disturbing secrets in the county justice system—secrets worth killing to keep.
This one was inspired by a bit of overheard conversation: “You’d better fix this, or else?” Of course my writer brain went into overdrive. Who better fix what? Or what will happen? Who would do the threatening and who is being threatened?
So many possibilities.
How did you get started writing?
I’d toyed with the idea of writing a novel for years (I was an English major in college and that’s what English majors are supposed to do, write books) and even started one in the late 90s–kind of a traditional/cozy/amateur sleuth thing. But then I had kids, and I had to work and, your know, life.
Flash forward to 2011 and I lost my job. Instead of pushing me right back into the job market, my husband said, “Why don’t you take the summer off and finish that book you started?” So I did. Then I joined Sisters in Crime, and Pennwriters (a state-wide writer’s organization), and the rest is history.
No, that book will probably never see the light of day. I probably made every writing mistake it’s possible to make in that one and a few more no one’s heard of. What can I say, I’m an overachiever.
What do you think makes a good story? How do you incorporate that into your writing?
For me, it’s all about characters. I can forgive a lot of plot mistakes if the characters are compelling. Note I say “compelling” not “likable.” I’m not a big fan of the need to make every character likable. The protagonist of Dennis Lehane’s The Drop is not likable, nor is Raymond “Red” Reddington, of “The Blacklist.” But I couldn’t put Lehane’s book down and I watch every episode of “The Blacklist.” So I don’t need people to be the sort you invite for dinner.
However, I do need to find them interesting and sympathetic enough to want to follow their story. For Reddington, he loves his daughter with a passion and he’d do anything for her. He has his own kind of moral code. Not a nice man, but I can related. And hope for the best.
So when I write, that’s what I try to do with my characters. None of them are perfect (who wants to read about that?), but I hope they grab attention and you want to follow them. I’ve had a couple early readers give me positive feedback in that area so I’m hopeful.
What’s next for you?
The immediate next step is getting the second book, Heaven Has No Rage, ready for submission to the publisher. It’s already scheduled for release in August 2019. I also recently completed a historical mystery that I’ve tagged “Rosie the Riveter meets Sam Spade.” I’d like to see that in print at some point.