Why did you choose the crime/thriller genre?
They say write what you know, but I think it should be write what you read. I’ve been fascinated with crime fiction for years. I was four books into John Sandford’s PREY series when I decided I wanted to give it a try. I didn’t think it would be so difficult, but I immediately realized how complex crime fiction can be. It is a fertile playground for a writer.
How long did it take to write the manuscript?
About six months, all told. Four months working on a draft, a month of revisions, then a month of getting it out to my independent readers and incorporating their suggestions, then a final polish edit. Not too bad. I spent a couple of months doing on the street research before I started writing as well.
How did you come to develop tough lady homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson?
Taylor is an offshoot of my own hero complex. She is uncompromising in her moral code, never hesitates if there is a person in trouble, and works hard to keep the people around her, strangers and friends alike, safe. I admire her tenacity and her ability to see the world in black and white. There’s good, and there’s evil. She knows which side of the fence she’s on.
Are Dr. Baldwin and Whitney Connolly based on a combination of people you’ve known?
Every character has elements of real people and situational responses, but for the most part they are purely figments of my imagination. Baldwin is certainly an ideal. Whitney is a worst-case examination of a greedy, self-serving reporter who puts her story and goals above the public safety. I certainly don’t know any media person who would be as callous and irresponsible as she is.
Why does Nashville work as the story setting?
For starters, it’s not L.A. or New York. Many, many successful series are based in areas where crime is expected to be heightened, and people are familiar with those settings. Nashville isn’t a happy go lucky place. Metro has to deal with very serious violent crime -- gang issues, prostitution and drug-running, meth houses, rapes and murders. I thought an examination of the dark side of a thriving southern town would be a challenge. Plus, Nashville is chock-full of history and scandal, has a delineated class structure but is an “everyman” place. It’s not perfect, and that was appealing.
Does this novel work without your “field research” with Nashville Homicide Police?
I don’t think it would work nearly as well. I strive to make this story and the actions of the police as realistic and accurate as possible. I wanted to show just how difficult their lives are, how much time and effort goes into investigations. Without time on the street, seeing how Metro works from the inside, I wouldn’t have been able to breathe life into Taylor and Baldwin or the story.
Do you have a regular writing routine and how does it work?
I shoot for at least 1,000 words a day, no matter what. I get up in the morning, handle the “business” side of things (email, blogs, and newspapers), grab a Starbucks and settle in. I find that noon to four are my most productive times, then I re-read what I’ve written, edit, do more business. I easily work twelve hours a day, with breaks, of course. Thankfully, I do this full-time. The writers with day jobs have my utmost respect.
You were mentored by best-selling author Lee Child. What did you take from that and apply to the book?
Lee has been an inspiration. He is a brilliant writer, a classy, charming part of the crime fiction community. He is always willing to listen, suggest and mentor, for which I am eternally grateful. His advice on promotion and how to keep a series character fresh and exciting has been invaluable. His obvious discipline (a book a year) and his “help others” attitude is a standard I try to hold myself to. He teaches by example, which is rare in a world where competition is paramount.