Q & A Behind the Pages with Janelle Brown Author of Pretty Things @janelleb

Janelle Brown joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group for a spoiler free Q & A about Pretty Things and her writing process. I am excited to share some of the Q & A with you here today.

Brenda: What does your writing day look like for you? Do you have a choice of beverage or something you have with you while you read?

Janelle: Hi all! Nice to be here. To answer this first question: My typical (non-pandemic) day usually starts by dropping the kids at school and then racing to my office, which I share with a bunch of other writers. It’s basically a co-working space for writers. (Here’s a story about our office: https://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-j…).

I work there until 3:30-4pm and then race back to get the kids. During the day, I try to write about 1000 words, and generally what I drink when I’m writing (and reading!) is a either Nespresso coffee with lots of cream and sugar, or a Pamplemousse LaCroix!

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for Pretty Things?

Janelle: It’s always hard for me to pinpoint where my ideas come from, because they often formulate around a lot of disparate things that come together. But I was inspired for Pretty Things by a few things:
1) Kim Kardashian being robbed by jewel thieves who had been tracking her Instagram posts. This was so interesting to me!
2) The desire to write about a modern female con artist. I felt like there haven’t been a lot of books that did this and I was very curious what one would do in the social media age.
3) Lake Tahoe! I have always wanted to set a book there, it’s a place I love and it’s so atmospheric.
4) Spending time on Instagram and thinking about Influencer culture, and its impact on how we see ourselves.

All these kind of synthesized into what became Pretty Things!

Brenda: What came first for you the plot or the idea of Vanessa and Nina?

Janelle: I started with a very rough idea of the plot – I knew I wanted it to be the story of a grifter who targets someone she’s been following online, with twisting and turning of who is doing what to whom. Then I started thinking about the character of Nina, and who she was, and the plot started to become more clear as she evolved as a person. Vanessa came last, just because she was the hardest character to write.

Brenda: How did you go about capturing your character’s voice? Was there one that you enjoyed creating more than the other or you struggled with?

Janelle: It’s always a lot of hit or miss. I start by trying to write in someone’s voice and keep trying different directions until it starts to feel right to me. It’s really intuition.

With this book, Nina came very easily and quickly. Vanessa was the hard one. I wanted her to initially come off as a privileged heiress but become more and more humanized as the book went along. I wanted her to be a little unbalanced and for us to be unsure whether this was the mental illness that runs in her family, or her own insecurity talking

Brenda: In the voice of your characters Vanessa and Nina can you tell us a bit about them in a couple of sentences?

Janelle: Ha, that’s a challenge! What if I used some sentences from the book that I think sum up the characters?

So I’m a grifter. You might say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree—I come from a long line of bagmen and petty thieves, opportunists and outright criminals—but the truth is that I was not raised for this. I had a Future. That, at least, is what my mother used to say to me late at night when she found me reading Anna Karenina under the covers by flashlight: “You have a Future, baby, the first one in this family.”
And for a while there, I even believed her. Got caught up in the great American myth, the Puritan ethic of nose-to-the-grindstone-and-thou-shalt-prevail. That was back when I thought the playing field was even, before I learned that it was not flat at all; and that, in fact, for most people not born into privilege, the playing field is a steep incline and you are at the bottom with boulders tied to your ankles.

I know what you’re probably thinking: Look at the spoiled rich girl, all alone in the great big house, trolling for our sympathy when she doesn’t deserve any of it. You feel so smug, looking at me! And yet you also can’t seem to look away from me. You follow me on my social media accounts, you swipe up to study my links, you watch my YouTube fashion tutorials and like my travelogues and read every Page Six mention you can find. You can’t stop yourself from clicking on my name even though you tell everyone that you hate me. I fascinate you.
You need me to be the monster so that you can position yourself in opposition to me and feel superior. Your ego requires me.
And there’s another thing, though you would never admit this out loud: When you look at me, you also think, I want what she has. Her life should be mine. And if I were given the resources at her disposal, I would do it all so much better.
Maybe you’re not so wrong

Brenda: I thought you took some very unlikable characters and made me feel some empathy for them with their backstories. Was that something you planned and were aware of it or did that happen as you were writing?

Janelle: Yes! That’s absolutely my intention. I wanted them both to come fully to life. For the theme of the book, it was important to me for the characters to be flawed but empathetic: The book is a lot about image and judgement in the social media age, and the need to look beyond the frame to see the real person. I wanted readers to be surprised by what they felt for each character, and for their feelings to evolve as they read

Norma: Can we first talk about that cover? It is absolutely stunning and one of my absolute favourites. It definitely caught my eye and enticed me to request an eARC. Would you mind enlightening us how you felt when you first seen the cover of your book. I can only imagine how exciting you must have been. Did you have a hand in choosing the cover design?

Janelle: I have so little to do with the covers! It’s really the fantastic team at Random House who did them. They sent me a few options to choose from and I picked this one. And then we went back and forth a few times to fine-tune things — for example, we tweaked the quantity and variety of jewelry that appears on the cover, and changed the font a bit from the original design. But mostly credit goes to them!

Norma: Pretty Things is such a fitting title for this story. Did you have a title in mind before you began to write this story or did it come after?

Janelle: Nope, the title came dead last! I had an entirely different title for the book but my editor / publisher weren’t in love with it so we did a lot of brainstorming to come up with this one. The idea for Pretty Things as a title came from my agent, actually – she pulled the phrase from the book, because I use it a few times throughout. I loved the idea.

Brenda: What do you want readers to get from your books? Is there anything you would like us to know?

Janelle: I would love readers to find my books entertaining, but also provocative. I want to create a world and a story and characters that people get lost in, but that also keep them thinking about afterwards. My favorite books are ones that linger with me, and I realize later what the ideas in them were. I hope mine do that for my readers, too!

Brenda: Are you working on anything you can tell us about?

Janelle: Well, I’m writing the TV pilot for the series of Pretty Things that Amazon is adapting for Nicole Kidman’s production company! And beyond that, I have a new book in the works… but it’s far too early to talk about.

Form more of the Q & A can be found here

Behind the Pages Q & A with John Marrs @johnmarrs1

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs is now available! It’s one not to be missed! John Marrs joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads Group for a Q & A and answered our questions about his books and writing process. I am excited to sure some of the Q & A with you today!

Brenda: Hi John! Thank you so much for joining us and answering our questions!! What does your writing day look like to you? How has it changed for you?

John: My first four books were written on trains as I commuted to London from my home an hour and a half away. When I gave up journalism two years ago, I write from 10am until 6pm most days in my office at home. It took quite some getting used to being in the quiet compared to what it was like being on a train.
Since our son was born last year, I now grab the hours when I can and they are usually in the evenings and at weekends. I have to be flexible and work around him for now.

Debra: Hi John! Thank you so much for joining us! I just read an ARC of What Lies Between Us and loved it. I know you were a journalist for twenty-five years, during that time did you want to write books, was that always a thought in the back of your mind or a natural progression?

John: No, I never had any plans to be an author, I just came up with an idea for a book and thought of it as a fun project. I wanted to know if I could write a book that people should enjoy. Two years later, When You Disappeared was complete and it’s gone on to sell more than I could have ever imagined.

Debra How do you come up with the ideas for your books?

John: Ideas vary. One came from a conversation with a friend whose partner was a helpline phone operator, another was based on a newspaper article, one was a dream I had, and another appeared one night as I was on the train going home. They can come from anywhere at any time!

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea of Maggie and Nina in What Lies Between Us? Did the idea of them come first or did the plot?

John: After The Passengers I wanted to go back to writing a character led story and had an idea about two women who shared a house but who hated each other. I wanted to write something that felt claustrophobic , that was twisty and turny and in which the reader never knew whose side to be on. This was one of those books that kind of wrote itself, I really enjoyed the process. It brought out my devious side and I’m not sure I’ve been able to bury it since… lol

Brenda: In the voice of your characters Maggie and Nina can you tell us a bit about them in a couple of sentences?

John: Maggie: My daughter is a complex character, but one whom I love dearly. Her decisions are questionable but I know that deep down, the beautiful child I raised and loved still exists inside her.

Nina: She is never going to leave this house after what she has done to me. If it’s the last thing I do, she will spend the rest of her solitary life paying dearly for robbing me of the life I deserved.

Brenda: Was there one character between Maggie and Nina that you enjoyed creating more than the other or you struggled with?

John: I enjoyed writing them both equally. Maggie is a little more wistful, the voice of experience but is thrown into a situation that she has no frame of reference for. Whereas Nina is just full of anger, spite and self satisfaction. Now I think about it, I probably enjoyed writing Nina more as she gets to be callous and cruel and we all know it’s more fun to write from the perspective of a baddie!

Debra: I loved the twists, turns and reveals in What Lies Between Us. Are these easy to come up with? Do you know what they are going to be before you begin writing your books or do they come naturally as your writing progresses?

John: As for twists, I have some ideas ahead of writing, but often, the best twists are those that come to you when you’ve already started writing. In What Lies Between Us, the very ending came after I’d finished the original ending. It was a sudden flash of inspiration

Norma: Hi John, What Lies Between Us was quite the impressive, twisty and gripping read. I absolutely loved both characters and their voices.

The title of this book is absolutely brilliant, clever and such a fitting representation to the storyline. Did the title come first or after?

John: Thank you! For a long time the working title was The Woman Upstairs, even though variations of that have been done to death. I met with my editor for lunch and we brainstormed ideas but came up with nothing. The next day this title came to me in a flash. I love it as it’s so fitting.

Brenda: What research did you do for The Passengers? What were some challenges you faced there with the tech side of it while creating an entertaining read?

John: I knew nothing at all about driverless cars when I started to plot this book. So I basically read everything I could about them, watched a lot of YouTube videos and traveled to the Geneva motor show in Switzerland to see first hand what these cars were about. Once I learned how they operated and had a factual knowledge, then I slipped into gear and started using my imagination to come up with the scenarios in which I could use them to tell my story.

Brenda: Of course, we have to talk about the social media side of the story. I thought you did a brilliant job there. You had me horrified at the thought of voting for the characters live on social media yet I found myself caught up in tension you created there and I was rooting for the characters. As I learned more about each character I changed who I was rooting and that was entertaining for me. Your pacing was spot on there!!

How did you pull that all off? lol, Why did you use social media to create that tension?

John: That’s really kind of you to say. I love social media, I waste many an hour getting lost in rabbit holes on Facebook, instagram and Twitter. But I know a lot of it can be toxic and it seems like it is getting worse. So for this book I decided to capitalise on it, to show social media at its bleakest and to use the public and their inability sometimes to realise the people they are bullying are still human beings. Like I say in the book, it’s pack mentality and it’s a disturbing trend.

Brenda: I loved that your stories are unique and different from each other as well as your characters. In The One and The Passengers, there are a few characters. How did you go about creating your characters and capturing their voices? How did you keep their character traits straight and their storylines especially with The One?

John: There is a lot going on in my head when I’m writing multiple characters at any one time! It doesn’t help that I tend not to write methodically. I’ll do bits here and there and then tie everything up at a later date. I don’t keep loads of notes on each character, I store them in my head and I prefer to work organically and let the characters alter and shift as the story goes on. The One was easier because they are five separate stories under the umbrella of one book. But in The Passengers, their stories or at least the situation the characters fine themselves in, are linked so it was more complex remembering who was doing what in which chapter and linking them together.

Norma: I noticed on Social Media that you were asked a question and I think it such a great one that I’m going to ask something similar here for you to comment on. What does it feel like to hurt a character in your book? Do you know a character’s destiny before you start writing or does the flow of the narrative guide you there? Have you ever hurt a character that you absolutely loved? Was it hard for you to do or you accepted it as it was written? 🙂

John: Have no guilt or qualms about hurting a character, making their lives miserable or killing them off! I have killed off a fair few leading characters in my time and it always keeps readers on their toes. Sometimes I know their destiny from the start but much of the time, I will just start writing and see where the words take me. It’s more fun and spontaneous like that.

Norma: I wish you all the success with The Lies Between Us and look forward to your next release. Do you have anything in mind yet that you are able to share with us? A little tidbit….LOL

John: It’s all been written and comes out in the uk this July and probably next year in the US and Canada. It’s called The Minders and is in the same universe as The One and The Passengers, a five minutes in the future style thriller. It’s very different to What Lies.

For more of the Q & A you can find it here

Q & A with Lisa Regan in our Behind the Pages Goodreads Group @Lisalregan

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.

Debra: I love the Josie Quinn Series but I also loved Finding Claire Fletcher and Losing Leah Holloway. Will you be writing more books in this series? I hope so!

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

Behind the Pages Q & A with Wendy Walker @Wendy_Walker

The Night Before by Wendy Walker is now available in paperback. To celebrate the releases Wendy Walker joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads Group to discuss the story and her writing process. I am very excited to share with you all the fantastic insight Wendy shared with us.

Debra: Hi Wendy! Thank you so much for joining us. I would love to know how you get your ideas for your books 

Wendy: I get ideas from all different places. The key is to be observant of everything all the time – people, places, situations, reactions, etc. If something catches my attention then there is likely something of interest to others as well.

Debra: Do you do an outline of your plot or do you just write and see where the story takes you?

Wendy: I do outline carefully before I begin to write. I have to know where the pieces to the puzzle are going to fit in so that the plot can be woven together. Sometimes I will have a new twist idea as I’m writing and then I have to go back and revise to make it work, but otherwise, I know what’s going to happen

Brenda: What came first for you the plot or the characters Laura and Rosie? Laura and Rosie were very different sisters and this created some interesting dynamics in the story. How did you come up with the idea of them and can you tell us a bit as to why you created them so different?

Wendy: Rosie and Laura developed as I structured the plot. I knew Laura would be edgy because I wanted her to be someone on the edge of losing it – I wanted there to be a reason Rosie feared what she might do to the man and not the other way around. Then came Rosie – I wanted her to be softer but also tough. They had to be two sides to the same coin. Rosie is how Laura might have turned out if her father had shown her love.

Brenda: How did you maintain that suspense, tension and sense of dread? Were you aware that you were creating a sense of dread as you were writing or was it created as you were writing the story?

Wendy: Creating suspense is definitely a tool I had to learn. Plotting helps me a lot with this. For example, if I know someone is the killer, I will be careful to hide clues in other places, like a conversation about something totally off topic between my killer and someone else. I will drop in a comment there so that when the reader finds out who the killer is, he or she won’t feel blindsided because the bread crumbs were there. I also use red herrings and foils and other devices to distract the readers from the real ending!

Brenda: You explore some interesting psychological themes with your characters. How do you go about capturing their voices? How do you go about researching those themes for your characters?

Wendy: It is always my goal to make the reader have to read every sentence because nothing is there to fill the space. Everything is written to build the characters or drop a clue. The psychology here was very important. I like to have realistic element to why a character is a certain way. So I researched attachment disorders using experts I found and came up with her personality – a reason why she always chooses the wrong men and then hates herself for not being able to change. Attachment disorders are fascinating! Many of us have them to some degree. At the most extreme, it’s why people who grow up being abused or witnessing abuse will subconsciously choose abusers for their adult partners. They are drawn to the familiar because their brains know they can survive it. We are wired to do this – to seek out circumstances that we know how to survive, even if they cause us paid. And we also try to fix the past by recreating the problem and then solving it as grown ups. It’s our way of dealing with unresolved pain.

Debra: Do you ever get inspiration for your characters based on people you have met or know (or observed) in your real life?

Wendy: I almost never base characters on people I know but I do draw from themes that I see in relationships and also different personality profiles.

Sometimes at night these days, if I watch the news, I can get into a real slump emotionally. Like most of us I’m sure. I actually try to put those feelings onto a character and then imagine what she or he might say about them and what plot I could build that would provoke such powerful feelings. It’s a way of coping sometimes.

Norma: I’ve been learning that authors don’t always have a say sometimes in their book titles and covers. I was just wondering if you can enlighten us a little bit on that. When we first received our e-Arcs it didn’t have a cover and then when I actually seen the cover I was totally blown away with it. Did you have a hand in picking out the cover design? The title is perfect BTW! 🙂

Wendy: On covers and titles, this is true! We do not have the last say, although we can weigh in. There is a fuzzy line between creativity and marketing and what appeals to me won’t always appeal to the masses. This is true even with the content of the book. I like very dark, gut wrenching stories so I always have to tone things down just a bit when I’m writing, or usually editing. It’s so important to have a trusted team behind you to let you know where you’ve strayed!

Leslie: I know a couple of questions have already been asked, Maybe you can just describe your writing process a bit for us?

Wendy: To address a few of the questions at once – I always try to build to a dramatic ending where all of the clues are coming together but the suspense is also building. In The Night Before and Don’t Look For Me, I changed to very short chapters where the timelines finally meet and the characters are in the same place at the same time. I also try to come up with some spine chilling”scenes” that the reader can visualize and that will cause a powerful sense of surprise or fear or dread or shock. But I also like to have an emotional wrap up at the end so that it leaves the reader with a strong and lasting connection to the characters. I love books where I think about the characters as if they were real people for days after I finish reading. As if what happened in the book actually happened to someone. That’s always my goal

I also love to write in first person, and every book I have written has at least one first person narration. It is usually the character who requires the most explaining! It’s much easier for me to explain a complex personality by writing a stream of thought and going off on tangents etc, because I think that’s how we are used to experiencing people in real life. When we we build a relationship with someone, they tell us things directly, not through another person, and I think this builds closeness with the reader and allows for more nuances to come through.

DeAnn: Hi Wendy! Thanks for joining us. I’ve read 3 of your books and you are an “auto-request” author for me. I truly enjoy the characters that you create.

I’m curious if you feel pressure to keep putting out great books or have you developed confidence now in your abilities?

Wendy: I do feel pressure but it’s not negative. It feels like a challenge and it means that I am always thinking in terms of plot!

Diana: Welcome, Wendy! I absolutely loved All Is Not Forgotten! I look forward to reading more of your work! I want to ask you which authors or books inspired you to begin writing?

Wendy: I personally enjoy books that force me to feel something provocative, either good or bad. I want to be made to feel things I don’t normally feel in my life. So I try to write that way as well. I also studied some psychology when I was practicing law, so I always look for angles that will allow me to go into those areas.

Lindsay: Hi Wendy! Thank you so much for being here with us!! I’ve been a HUGE fan of yours ever since reading All Is Not Forgotten. One of my most favourite books ever! My question mirrors Brenda and Debra’s – I’m wondering if during the planning process of your novels, are your characters created through inspiration from people you know in real life? Or are they completely imagined and not based on anyone in particular? Your characters are done so extremely well in every novel. I’d love to know how these characters are “born”.

Wendy: Sometimes a situation in my real life will make me start thinking about the broader issue and how it might impact others and then I will extrapolate from that theme. For example, The Night Before was definitely inspired by my life as a single middle aged woman with a lot of single friends all out there in the darting world. Even though I wrote about a young woman dating, the stories that inspired the basic theme behind the plot came from my life.

Debra: Are there any scenes that were particularly hard/difficult to write?

Wendy: Scenes that are hard to write are the ones that need to be written for the plot but that don’t have anything that dramatic in them. Like some of Rosie’s investigation into the disappearance. The reader needs to know why and how she ended up in a new place but the process of that isn’t interesting to me because I already know!

For more of the Q & A discussion you can find it here

Behind the Pages Q & A with Wendy Walker @Wendy_Walker

We have some absolutely amazing news to share with you all and we couldn’t be anymore excited to have one of our favourite authors Wendy Walker spend some time with us to celebrate her paperback edition release April 28, 20120 for The Night Before. Wendy will be joining us for a Q & A in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group on April 27 @3:00 EST to discuss The Night Before, her writing process and give us a sneak peek into Don’t Look for Me. Please join us by adding a question or comment into the thread which you can find the Spoiler Free Q & A here

From our reviews for The Night Before

If I were to give you one piece of advice while reading this book would be to put all your other books aside so you can totally be immersed in this tale. 

WENDY WALKER delivers an intriguing, clever and engaging read here with quite a few surprising twists and turns. The story is told in multiple timelines with alternating points of view between two sisters, Laura and Rosie and therapy sessions between Laura and her therapist. The intensity level of the story increases slowly as the story progresses and had me guessing and questioning almost everything that was happening in this book. What really made this novel for me was Laura’s character and the ending. She was a complicated, relatable, believable and realistic character. 

This was a fast-paced, tension-filled, edge-of-your-seat thrilling read!   I couldn’t flip these pages fast enough! I absolutely love Wendy Walker’s writing – it pulled me in from page one and kept me fully captivated and intrigued until the very end. The various perspectives flow perfectly, revealing new pieces of this addictive and twisty story that will have you changing your theory more than a few times throughout.

The gripping and speedy pace, the vivid characters, the skillful narration, the unwavering tension.   It all adds up to one fantastic story that will leave you in high anticipation of what Wendy Walker will come out with next! 

I love unreliable characters and Wendy Walker does such a great job here with keeping me on our toes with the best possible sense of dread as I tried to figure out who was the danger and who was in danger.

Behind the Pages Q&A with Samantha Downing @smariedowning

Samantha Downing joined us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group to discuss My Lovely Wife with us and we are very excited to share some the Q & A with you all here today.

The paperback version of My Lovely Wife is now available!!! Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel.

Brenda Welcome, Samantha! Thank you so much for joining us! I loved My Lovely Wife and I am excited about the paperback release because I think it is one everyone needs to read. We read My Lovely Wife in two different reading groups and we all loved it! It made for an exciting discussion. Tell us a little bit about how this journey has been like for you

Samantha Hello everyone! Thank you for having me!

This journey has been really exciting. I can’t explain how thrilling it is to have people read something that you’ve been working on for so long! Publishing is a long process, but to be able to see your book on the shelves makes it all worth it. I’m grateful to be a published author!

Norma Hi Samantha and welcome! Thank you so much for joining us! I absolutely LOVED My Lovely Wife! It was a favourite and I always recommend it first to anyone who asks me what my favourite thriller is. How much time do you spend promoting? It must be fun seeing all the positive feedback. Tell us how that feels.

Samantha I try to spend as much time as I can promoting my book! I’m on social media every day, interacting with people as much as possible. And I have signings whenever I can. I also go to writer’s conferences, which are really fun.

The positive feedback is really incredible, especially for this book. It’s dark, so I didn’t know how many people would really enjoy it. I’ve been both surprised and happy that so many people like it!

Lindsay Hi Samantha! Thank you for being here with us! I LOVED My Lovely Wife! Such a brilliant and unique storyline! How did you come up with that storyline? Did something spark your initial idea for the storyline?

Samantha Thank you so much for having me! The original idea for My Lovely Wife came from a documentary about a couple who kidnapped a woman. In that case, the man was the instigator and he pretty much forced his wife to go along with it. I started wondering about it the other way around. What if the woman was the instigator? What would she look like?

So I answered my own question and came up with Millicent.

Mary Beth Yay, For Q&A with one of my favorite authors! Welcome Samantha! I loved My Lovely Wife and He Started It. I would like to know where is your favorite writing place?

Samantha Thank you so much! Oddly, I love to write in airports and on airplanes. First, because the noise is like white noise…I just filter it out. Also because I never connect to the internet in airports so it’s easy to keep focus!

Paulette Samantha welcome! My Lovely Wife what a stunning debut, it lived up to the hype hands down…. congratulations on your success. I would love to know where the inspiration for this book came from? did you find any of these characters personally relatable to you

Samantha Thank you! The original inspiration was a documentary…and then it took on a life of it’s own! I think there’s a bit of me in every character, that’s unavoidable. For example, Millicent is a control freak and so am I! Rory is very sarcastic, and I am the same way.

Also, I come from the California suburbs so that suburban life is something I know a lot about.

Terry Hi Samantha, I just wanted to tell you I loved what a smart and twisted book that was! No spoilers, but I totally was fooled and yelled “What?!?” at the ending – very entertaining!
Did you actually figure out the ending, then write the rest of the book to lead into it? It makes me want to read it over again to find clues….

Samantha I did not know that would be the ending! Because I don’t plot my books, I don’t know how they are going to turn out at first. Usually by the middle, I figure out where I want to go…but sometimes I change my mind :)Then I have to go through edits and revisions, of course!

Brenda I loved that My Lovely Wife was narrated from the husband’s perspective, rather than the wife. Why did you decide to his POV over Millicent’s?

Samantha This was very deliberate. I wanted Millicent to be seen only through her husband’s eyes, so we only see what he sees and hear what he hears. After all, this is how we know people in real life. We make judgments based on our interactions with them…we can’t ever know what is in their heads. That’s how I wanted to present Millicent, through the eyes of someone who loved her.

Brenda What I loved about My Lovely Wife is how you created a multi-dimensional couple and family. I found it fascinating to see the different sides to them as a couple, parents and the disturbing couple they were. The children brought some fascinating dynamics to the story as well.

How did you go about creating this? Did you start with the idea of them and the different sides to them, mapping it out or did they come together as you were writing?

Samantha I didn’t really map it out, because I don’t plot my books. But what I wanted to show was a very normal couple with a normal life. Because if they didn’t have a normal “front” they would get caught very quickly. People had to believe they would never do such a thing in order for them to get away with murder.

And they are very normal…until they aren’t!

Brenda I recently finished He Start It and loved it!! Can you give us a sneak-peek into it?

Samantha Thank you very much, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! He Started It is about three siblings (and two spouses) who have to go a on a road trip in order to get their grandfather’s inheritance. Along the way they have to deal with family secrets, old grudges, and a lot of scores to settle.

I loved writing this book, it was so much fun, and I hope you all enjoy it as well!

Brenda I found both Millicent and Beth snarky fun and entertaining. In their voice can you tell us a little bit about each?

Samantha This is such a great question! I will give it a shot in their voices:

Millicent: I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m a wife, a career woman, and above all else, I’m a mother. That’s all you need to know. Thank you.

Beth: Look, I’m not saying I’m a bad person, per say, I’m just saying I’m not perfect. Really, who is? I don’t know. Never met anyone perfect, so don’t expect me to be

Brenda What would you like readers to get from your books?

Samantha My goal is to write the kind of book you can’t put down. I’m a reader, like everyone here, and to me there’s nothing more enjoyable than a book you can’t stand to put down. The kind of book you think about until you can pick it up again.

For me, that kind of book is usually a thriller, as that’s my favorite genre. And that’s the kind of book I hope to write. A page-turner, so to speak!

For more of our Q & A with Samantha Downing can be found here

Our Traveling Sisters reviews can be found here