Hot Diggity Dang!! Charlie Donlea has joined us for a spoiler free Q & A and I am so excited about it. I am really trying to play it cool here about it but all I want to do is fan all over it!! We have read all of his books in our reading group, I almost feel like he is a member!! Ok I will be cool and get on with it!!
Brenda: Welcome, Charlie! What does your writing day look like to you?
Charlie: I’m an early writer–like 4:30 – 5:00AM early. There’s a special sense of accomplishment that I get from waking up early and getting my word done while the world is asleep. I even make this a habit on vacation, sneaking off to find a quiet corner of the resort to get a couple of hours of writing in. That’s simply the best.
A perfect day of writing is being at my computer by 5:00AM and getting a thousand words done by 9:00AM. Mix in some editing and outline work, and I’m a happy camper.
Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for The Suicide House?
Charlie: I had the idea of a closed-door setting running through my mind for a while, I just wasn’t sure what that setting was — a small town, a cruise ship, an island… Somewhere a murder could take place that was isolated and could be made creepy. Then I went to see my niece compete in a swim meet at Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, Illinois. The high school was a beautiful ivy-covered building, and it made me think that a private boarding school was the perfect closed-door setting. Westmont Prep was born, and the story flowed from there.
Brenda: How did you come up with the idea of the characters for Rory and Lane?
Charlie: Rory Moore is an antisocial, OCD cold case expert who is on the autism spectrum. The “disabilities” that come with her many afflictions have the power to derail most people’s lives, but Rory has managed to harness those “defects” (Obsession and compulsion) and use them to her advantage to solve cold case homicides.
She becomes closer to the victims of the crimes she solves than she is to anyone in her life. Except Lane Phillips, her partner for the past decade. Lane is an ex-FBI profiler whose thesis (Some Choose Darkness) about how a killer’s mind works has become a multi-million copy bestselling true crime book. He and Rory make a perfect crime fighting, cold case solving couple.
Rory was hard to write at first because she was hard to get to know. It’s the same for me as the author as it is for anyone else who meets her–she only let’s a select few into her inner circle of trust. I’ve written two Rory Moore Books (both standalones) and have a third in the works. Hopefully by then Rory allows me into her inner circle.
DeAnn: Rory has such a unique hobby. How did you develop this? Is someone in your family a fan of antique dolls?
Charlie: No one in my fam likes antique dolls. They actually creep me out, especially if I run across one stored away in the basement!
Rory restores antique porcelain dolls as a hobby b/c it is a way to dispel the obsessive compulsive demands of her mind that, if allowed to run free, would derail her life. She stores all of those daily urges to repeat and obsess over every detail of life in a corner of her mind and then unloads them in her workshop when she restores the dolls. The craft of doll restoration demands all of the quirks and obsessions and redundancies that constantly run through Rory’s mind. In her workshop she can utilize those “defects” and it allows the rest of her life to be more normal. Antique doll restoration is more than a hobby for Rory, it’s her mode of survival.
The idea came from the podcast S-Town, which is about a genius antique clock restorer in Alabama. Instead of clocks, Rory restores porcelain dolls.
Brenda: You threw us a few shocking and bold twists in your stories that created some excitement and shock in our group discussion. Do you find yourself writing more on what/how you want or what you think readers will like?
Charlie: The best advice I have ever received was when I was trying to write and sell my first manuscript. An agent told me to write from the reader’s perspective and read from the writer’s perspective. I’ve done that ever since and I think it’s helped my not only understand thrillers better but to create some great twists in my own books.
Lindsay: Welcome and thank you for being here with us! I’m a big fan! I’ve read and loved every book you’ve written. I’m curious to know about your writing process — how long does it take you to write your books from start to finish? Do you plan out your storylines first? Or start writing and see where the characters take you?
Charlie: Thanks! It takes me about a year to write a book. It starts with brainstorming for an idea, and then researching it a bit. Then putting together an outline to see if there is enough to the story to carry it for 300-400 pages. Then, when I think I have enough ammunition (enough bows in my quiver), I set out into the forest to hunt (write the book). Sometimes I have to return to the outline (to refill my quiver with bows) when I get stuck, but so far I’ve managed a book a year and plan to stay on that pace
Brenda: Besides the Rory Moore/Lane Phillips series your other books are not series but have recurring characters. Can you tell us a bit about which ones we see recurring characters?
Charlie: I wrote an “author’s note at the end of THE SUICIDE HOUSE that covers some of this. I have copied and pasted it below:
All of my novels are standalone thrillers. However, astute readers will find little nuggets of the previous book sprinkled within the pages of each subsequent one. Although this is the second book in the Rory Moore/Lane Phillips series, I was careful to write each story so fans could read the books in any order.
If The Suicide House was your first adventure with the incomparable Rory Moore and you would like to read more about her, check out Some Choose Darkness. It fills in some background on where her quirkiness comes from. It’s also a hell of a thrill ride.
If The Suicide House offered your first dose of Gus Morelli, the crafty and wise detective, check out Don’t Believe It to discover more about his history, his fight with life, his contempt for people his own age, and how he came to walk on a titanium prosthesis.
Then, if you read Don’t Believe It and find yourself intrigued by the forensic pathologist named Livia Cutty, check out her original story in The Girl Who Was Taken.
Readers will also notice that the town of Summit Lake appears in Don’t Believe It. If you’re curious about the history (and secrets) of that town, you can read the novel named after it. Summit Lake is my first novel, and many readers’ favorite.
Thanks for reading my books. I’m forever grateful.
Lindsay: What are you working on now/next?
Charlie: My 2021 thriller is about a 9/11 victim who is identified by the New York Medical Examiner’s office twenty years after the towers fell. But it is this victim’s murderous history that draws the attention of a popular television newsmagazine host who is determined to uncover her true story
More of the Q & A in our Behind the Pages group can be found here