Behind the Book

Starting a new series can be challenging and fun. The world I am about to create is a vast, infinite world where I have complete freedom to create and explore, however I wish. The moment a new concept for a story comes to me, my imagination soars with ideas for scenes and characters. I usually have no idea how my book or series will end, and that gives me the freedom to go down unseen paths.

For me, the characters are the most important part of every series. The protagonist takes priority, because if I’m going to be inside her head for years to come, she must be clear in my mind. She has to be clever and capable of overcoming any and all obstacles I throw her way. My protagonist must also be interesting and flawed with room to grow over the course of the series.

Although all of my protagonists are strong-minded females, they are also unique. Like all of us, they have their own set of personal problems to deal with. Lizzy Gardner, the protagonist in my first thriller series, was traumatized as a teen, and her family was not supportive. Faith McMann, the heroine in my most recent trilogy, was supported by her family and community while she looked for her missing children. And now we have Jessie Cole, the heroine in HER LAST DAY, the first book in my newest series. Jessie grew up in a dysfunctional family and is raising her niece on her own. When it comes to solving cases, she must learn to trust others if she wants to get the job done.

All three of my female protagonists are survivors and, to them, their path is clear. Nothing will stop them from searching for a family member or protecting those they love. I believe my established readers will connect with Jessie just as they connected with Lizzy and Faith, because Jessie has a good heart and is determined for justice to prevail.

Creating a new antagonist is equally exciting and important, but on an entirely different level. Although he or she won’t be around as long as my lead, this person needs to be fully fleshed out to be believable. I have written about many evil men and women, mostly serial killers. Although digging into the mind of a horrifyingly evil person can make for sleepless nights, I do enjoy the process of discovering all there is to know about my killer. It’s essential to my story that I know what makes him tick. Was he verbally and physically abused as a child? Was he bullied and shamed? Was he a natural born killer or a product of his surroundings? Once I know what motivates my killer, it’s easier for me to get inside this person’s head and write the scene from that point of view.

One of my greatest challenges when starting a new book in a new series is writing the first one hundred pages. Since my characters are not fully developed at this point, I’m not as confident when crafting their reactions to what is happening around them. Once I get to the halfway point, I’m much more familiar with who my characters are, and the words begin to flow.
Writing HER LAST DAY was a particularly rewarding experience because the idea for the Jessie Cole series had been floating around in my subconscious for years. I first thought of the idea while I was working on my latest trilogy. As ideas and scenes came to me, I took notes and filed them away.

When I was finally able to start writing, it was interesting to see how my story evolved from what I had first envisioned. The characters went in directions I didn’t see coming. For instance, Ben Morrison, a crime reporter with amnesia was originally going to be my main protagonist. But the story wasn’t working for me without a strong female lead. That’s when Jessie Cole came into the picture, a private eye obsessed with finding her missing sister.

Jessie Cole has much to overcome. Her mother abandoned her family when Jessie and her sister were young girls. Her father didn’t handle it well and has been drinking ever since. After Jessie’s sister disappears, not only is Jessie obsessed with finding her, she is left to raise her niece on her own. Jessie has spent so much time taking care of everyone else, she has never had time to figure out who she is or what she wants from life. Jessie often reacts without thinking and sometimes that gets her into trouble. She also has a blood phobia—the sight of it makes her faint. It’s not hard to quickly deduce that she’s most likely in the wrong line of work. Jessie has many flaws, but it’s her compassion and determination to do the right thing that will endear her to readers. I’m excited for my readers to join her as she hunts down the Heartless Killer—a deeply disturbed serial killer—in HER LAST DAY.