Allison Brennan: The POISONOUS Interview

Poisonous by Allison Brennan is a very powerful story. The novel delves into very relevant issues from cyber bullying to social media’s role within people’s lives. The author makes a good point about how social media makes it easier for someone to say mean things without any repercussions. This intense plot also focuses on psychological issues involving a mentally challenged character and how family dynamics play into divorce. A cyber bully, Ivy, falls off a cliff; was she pushed or was it accidental? Maxine Revere, an investigative reporter that works on cold cases, is asked to find the truth about the fall.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?

Allison Brennan: Being the mother of five children I was considering a lot of issues. They came together for me with this story. I realized I did not grow up with social media. In the 1970s and 80s I could make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. I knew the stupid thing I did was not going to be around forever or go viral. Today it is on the Internet for everybody to remember forever. It comes down to our kids never being able to say or do anything they might regret, with the possibility their lives might be ruined forever. Teenagers always make mistakes, which is why I love writing about them or young adults.

EC: You write how parents are part of the problem where their children are concerned?

AB: They can make inappropriate comments or are always texting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people “unfriend” you because of the way you think or the way you vote. We can’t agree on every single issue. With social media people can say things or be offensive because they can distance themselves. Children emulate their parents. I decided to write about bullying because of a local tragic case of a young boy killing himself after being bullied online.

EC: You fed into my pet peeve with this story since it seems many people do not communicate face to face. Do you agree?

AB: My family has a rule now because of what happened a few years ago. We had gone out to dinner and all my five kids were either on video games or texting on their phones. ‘I said that’s it.’ I told them ‘keep it in your pocket or I will put it in my purse.’ After that when we went out to dinner once a month we were actually able to have a conversation.

EC: You also discuss divorce and every family involved appears dysfunctional. Agree?

AB: Yes. I took all these different elements to create the family dynamics. All these stories are parallel. I know people who had been divorced. The theory is not to say anything about your ex because you don’t want to force your children to take sides. But that is presupposing every human being is mature. Many adults use their kids because they are hurt or angry. This is why I showed how the parents in this story used kids as weapons in a divorce.

EC: You have some really bad characters in the book; can you discuss them?

AB: Lance Lorenzo is a rotten reporter. He doesn’t care about the truth, lied, and used children as pawns. He is probably the worst of every reporter I met when I worked at the State Capitol. He spins stories that feed his bias.

Bill Wallace is a father who has no redeeming qualities. He is a jerk-baiter, not an alpha-baiter, very selfish. I knew someone who decided to divorce his wife and basically told her in their marriage counseling session. He was a wimp, just like Bill, who only does things that please him.

EC: Is a recurringing theme reflected in the Maxine quote, “that part of my drive stems from the fact that I’m searching for answers for others because I have no answers for myself… Because if I couldn’t solve the problem, it would remind me that I can’t solve my own problems”?

She is doing a lot more introspection since her kidnapping in the book Compulsion. Still completely obsessed in solving others’ problems because of the many unanswered questions in her life. Remember she does not know who her father is or what happened to her mother. I have not made a decision yet if I will write about what happened to her mother in a future book.

EC: You wrote how Max finds the sight of water soothing. Is that how you feel?

AB: Yes. I do like being close to a lake or an ocean. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area so I was always surrounded by water. But I had to deal with the undertone so from a very young age I was completely intimidated since I was not a good swimmer or brave. I like being close to water but not in it.

EC: Do you think characters make the story?

AB: Yes. In fiction books or on TV you need people to be able to relate to the characters. I just started watching Orange Is The New Black and got hooked. I downloaded the first season to have something to watch as I flew to Florida. I ended up watching the whole first season since I sympathized with the main character.

EC: You mention in the acknowledgements section bestselling author Catherine Coulter who inspired you. Please explain.

AB: As I drove through the town of Sausalito I pictured Max chasing a kid. I had to travel through that town to get to Catherine’s house in Marin County where she hosted a spring lunch for fellow authors. Twice a year Catherine has local authors over to her house, which are mostly from the romance and mystery genre. She is very kind and generous. It was really nice to allow us to have that one-on-one with other authors and amazing food.