It’s no secret how much I love Lisa Regan and her character Josie Quinn. Well I love them even more after Lisa joined us for a Q & A in the Behind the Pages Goodreads group. Lisa generously spend as afternoon with us sharing her insight to Josie, the series and her writing process. I am excited to share with you some of our Q & A with Lisa.
Brenda: Right off we need to start talking about Josie! In the first book, she came across a little too hard for me and then once I found out a little more about her and seen the dynamics between her and Ray I started to warm up to her. I think the thing I love about her the most is her character development from one book to the other. You perfectly paced that with revealing a bit about her and her past in each one.
How did you go about developing Josie? Did you plan her character out or did she grow as you were writing?
Lisa: Josie is a little intentionally thorny and out of control in that first book because I wanted her to grow and change throughout the series. When I was planning out the first three books, I had no idea that the series would take off the way it has and so those first three books are a pretty complete arc. She starts off kind of rogue and a little obnoxious and I wanted her to become a little more patient and more self-aware and then finally confront the largest parts of her past in book 3. Since then, I do a little bit of planning with each book in terms of asking myself, “What can I throw at her this time that’s going to test her and how will she respond?” Then I let the writing happen and see where it goes. So now it has become a book by book sort of thing. I’m often surprised by her which is kind of cool. It makes it fun. But I don’t want to stop testing her and I’d like her to keep growing as a character as long as I’m able to write the series.
Brenda: As an author can you tell us about your emotional connection to Josie? How do you go about capturing who she is as a character?
Lisa: I feel very connected to Josie. I believe it was last year that I was asked to write a short story with a character from one of my other books in it (Jocelyn Rush of Hold Still and Cold-Blooded) and the whole time I felt like I was cheating on Josie. People say to me, “Don’t you want to write something else?” and I feel like no, that would make me very sad! I love Josie. We’re very different though. I don’t have all the trauma she had in her childhood. I’m way more emotional than her. I mean just about everything makes me cry! Good and bad! I cried this morning watching the Today show!
In a way, Josie is my hero though because she is someone who will always run toward the danger. She wants to protect people and help people even if it kills her. It doesn’t matter the cost to her–justice is justice. You see in Book 1, Vanishing Girls, that when faced with injustice, she can’t walk away. I think she says to someone, “I’m not built that way” and it’s true. To her, it’s not a choice. It’s who she is. I love this about her.
In capturing her, I constantly have to remind myself of the type of person she is–she’s kind of closed-off in the sense that she tries very hard never to freak out. She compartmentalizes. She’s hyperfocused on work. But she’s also very compassionate and empathetic. A lot of times, when she’s in a scene, I have to remind myself things like, “Well this would make me bawl right then and there and Josie wants to bawl but the difference between us is that she can control herself so I can’t have her crying right here, she’s just going to push through!
Brenda: You grabbed me in the first book Vanishing Girls with all the characters and I was so happy to see you still gave them focus in your stories. I enjoyed the focus you gave to Josie’s relationships with her colleagues and friends in the series and then gave some of them their own story with a crime.
For me, it made Josie a realistic character and you kept it real with how each relationship grew or how they changed.
Did you plan out in advance to give the characters a crime for Josie to solve in your books or did that all come together from one book to another?
How did you go about developing the dynamics between the characters? Did you feel that out from one story to the other or did you know from the start what direction you wanted them to go?
Lisa: That came together book by book. What readers seem to enjoy the most are the books that have some kind of personal stake for Josie whether it’s to do with her or someone in her sphere. So when my editor and I were talking about book 4, we discussed doing something with Gretchen and perhaps a crime in her own past that personally affected her. Then for Book 5, I originally had Sergeant Lamay’s wife being the murder victim and my editor felt it wasn’t close enough to Josie. So I thought what if we put Noah in this horrific situation? How would he act when tested? What would it do t their relationship? So I went that route instead.
In terms of the dynamics between characters, I kind of let it happen organically as I write. I find that Mettner is always playing devil’s advocate to Josie and it kind of gets Noah’s hackles up sometimes but for Josie, this is a normal part of working a case is to try to disprove one another’s theories. With Gretchen, it started out a little rocky because Josie was under so much pressure but now they’ve got this great rapport that’s borne of mutual respect and I think that Gretchen can say things to Josie that no other character would get away with, particularly because Gretchen’s faced a lot of trauma in her past as well. Gretchen and Josie are a lot a like in that they’re very work-focused and try to be unemotional.
I really just try to let them be themselves and see where it goes based on the cases they work and the pressures they’re put under.
Brenda: In Josie’s voice can you tell us a bit about her?
Lisa: If you asked Josie to tell you a little bit about herself, she wouldn’t want to talk about herself. So she’d probably say: “My name is Josie Quinn. I’m a detective with the Denton City PD in central Pennsylvania. I work with a great team of investigators and together we do our best to solve whatever crimes happen in our town.”
Brenda: Even though I think your books get better with each one I thought that Her Mother’s Grave was the best one. In that one, you reveal the demons that haunted Josie from her past. I was a bit surprised by how dark that one was from your other ones. I do have to say it was brilliant. You stirred up some thoughts and emotions from the Traveling Sisters there with that. I also thought that was a turning point for Josie with some of the things that were revealed there.
Did you intend to go a little darker there or was that the direction that Josie took you in while writing the stories? Was it always your plan to reveal some of Josie’s past the way you did or again did that come as you were writing?
Lisa: To be honest, my tendency is to go really dark and then my editor has to pull me back. So that book–and every book, really–is usually much darker than the finished product as my editor will kind of indicate to me that I can still make the impact I want without being quite so dark. She’s always right.
My plan, especially with those first three books, was to parse out the information a little at a time so readers would want to keep reading to find out more. I said in an earlier comment that I planned the first three books as a pretty complete arc because I didn’t think people would enjoy the series so much and want more. I thought if I plan a nice complete arc with these three books and don’t get to continue the series, then readers will have a nice little trilogy to read. So that’s why I tried to spread out the tidbits about Josie’s past so you really don’t know the entirety of what happened to her until the end of book 3. Even in later books, I’m still finding things out from her. But yes, that was intentional!
Debra: I love how fast your books come out, you are obviously a fast writer. Which I love. How long does it usually take you to write a book on average?
Lisa: It usually takes me between 6 weeks and 3 months to write a first draft (I’m getting faster as I go) and then there is about 2-3 months of intensive editing. Usually the first draft that I turn in looks nothing like the finished product. My editor is really fantastic at pulling better stuff out of me once the first draft is written. I couldn’t do this without her.
Lisa: I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed Finding Claire Fletcher and Losing Leah Holloway. Those titles have a very special place in my heart. I don’t have any firm plans to write more in that series only because I’m contracted to write so many more Josie books. But I do have ideas for new adventures for Claire and Connor so never say never
DeAnn: My initiation to you was a binge read of the first three books and I couldn’t read them fast enough! I love that you write so quickly. How did you learn so much about police procedures? It seems so realistic that I have to assume you’ve done your homework!
Lisa: I’m so happy to hear the word binge in connection with my books! That’s fabulous. Thank you for that. Well I read a lot of books about police procedure but I’ve also talked to a lot of people in the profession over the years. Right now I have a friend I went to grade school with who is a police officer on a city force in Pennsylvania that is a similar size to Denton which is fictional. He’s really wonderful. I can message him on Facebook in the middle of the night with the most inane question and he’ll answer in great detail. I’ll say, “I need Josie to do this . . . ” and he’ll tell me everything I need to know. I also am a member of my local chapter of Sisters in Crime who have speakers every month come and talk to us about their specialties. We have some amazing speakers that I’ve learned so much from. Last year, I attended Murdercon which was a conference for writers who wanted to learn about police procedures. It was two days of intensive classes taught by law enforcement to help us make our stories more authentic. Generally I find that law enforcement people are happy to help if you just ask!
Nicole: How do you come up with the titles to your books? And is there a favourite book you’ve written?
Lisa: I actually have no control at all over titles which is a good thing for me because I stink at coming up with them! My publisher handles that. I can make suggestions (not that I have any) but usually they come to me with a list and I tell them what I love or what I hate and then ultimately, they decide.
I don’t think I could choose a favorite overall book. I have favorites for different reasons. The book I enjoyed writing the most was Book 5, The Bones She Buried, because that was a story I’d wanted to tell for many years in some form or fashion. I remember turning that first draft in to my editor and actually feeling like I missed the book, as if it was a person! LOL. I couldn’t wait for her to get it back to me so I could work on it some more. The one I am most proud of is probably number 8 which just came out last week, Find Her Alive because it was so difficult to write and I was convinced it was just terrible when I turned it in but then with the help of my editor and many, many rewrites and changes, it transformed into a completely different book. I worked so hard on that one and I was actually happy with how it turned out. Then my favorite book to read over and over in the editing process was the first one, Vanishing Girls. With each book, after it’s finished, I’ve probably read it 8-12 times in a short amount of time and usually I find it hard to concentrate on something I just read a half dozen times last week but with Vanishing Girls, I was able to maintain focus every time I read it. Every book in the series is special to me in some way though. I would say the way I think of it is that I just have a list of my favorite scenes from the series in my head. It’s hard to pick one book. I love them all for different reasons. Each one taught me a valuable lesson about writing as well.
For more of our Q & A with Lisa can be found here