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

Behind the Pages Q & A with Tosca Lee Author of The Line Between & A Single @ToscaLee

Tosca Lee joined us in our Behind The Pages Goodreads group and shared some insight into her writing process and her The Line Between Series The Line Between & A Single Light. I am excited to share some of Q & A here today on our blog.

Brenda: Thank you, Tosca for joining us!

Tosca: Hello, Traveling Sisters!! Thank you for inviting me to join you this evening!! It’s been such a pleasure to get to interact with you this last year as these books have come out, and I so appreciate your readership, reviews, and the way you advocate for books, readers and authors!

Brenda: How did you choose the names for your characters? I personally love the name Chase. It’s my son’s name.

Tosca: I’m starting with the question of how I come up with character names, and the answer is that some of my choices are very deliberate, and some just happen. On the deliberate side, there’s Wynter, who is named after my step-daughter, who was the same age when I began writing The Line Between. Chase (love this name!) was a name that came along as I was looking for something that would go with his rugged but restless spirit.

Then there is the Reverend–a minor character who was named Carolyn Richtel after the real Carolyn–a hospice worker in AZ–bought the spot in a charity auction. I haven’t always gotten to do this, having written books that were biblical or historical in nature in the past, so it was really fun for me to be able to offer a spot up in this way.

One of my favorite names was for Piper’s husband, Jax–nicknamed Jax Daniels. Btw, Piper was original Carolyne before the charity auction happened.

Brenda: How did you go about creating your characters? Were any of the characters harder for you to write than others? Do you have a favourite character that you liked writing more than any others?

Tosca: In the sequel, my new favorite character, Otto, was named after one of my longtime fans’ last name. I really love incorporating the first and/or last names of fans and sometimes post while I’m writing asking for volunteers–with the caveat that I reserve the right to make them jerks or kill them. ;D

I really like the idea of slipping into another character’s shoes and skin. Generally, writing characters is one of my favorite parts of creating stories because it seems like you can never make them too complex or multi-faceted–because real people are like that. Every now and then I have to revisit a character because I just know there’s more to them–and I need to dig that out a bit more. This was the case with my initial pass with Wynter. I had to find where she was walking that line between knowing something was off in the cult, but also trying to adhere to the only world system she knew. It took a few tries, and ultimately I had to rely on my own very strict and sometimes difficult religious upbringing for reference. It was hard to go there, but once I did… things made more sense. That’s the common ground I met Wynter on.

As for favorites… Otto in A Single Light has become my new favorite. I knew there would be someone to come along in that story–I just didn’t know who or what he’d be like until I got there. And then there Otto was. I don’t think I’ve giggled quite as much as I did writing his scenes

Brenda: What does your writing day look like to you? What is the one thing you struggle with the most in your writing process?

Tosca: I don’t have much of a typical writing day–every day can be different depending on what stage of writing I’m in: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, rewriting, editing… And often in between books, I don’t write–mostly because I’m playing catch up with everything else and trying to pick up all the balls I dropped while working. That’s the hard part for me: I seem to only be able to focus well on one thing at a time!

The other thing that makes my schedule unpredictable is that when I married my single father husband (you can learn more about him at @TheFarmerBryan on Instagram), I became an insta-mom to four. So this-single-city-girl-turned-farmer’s-wife-and-mom-of-four has had some steep learning curve lessons in country life, kids, and trying to find time for everything! 😀 But I’ve loved every minute of it

I can tell you that drafting is probably my least favorite part of writing. I know that’s where the magic happens–and fun, unexpected things do occur! But it’s also a very messy process and is the least contained part of it. I really love rewriting because finally those sentences start to sound smoother and things make more sense. 🙂

As for “typical,” though, don’t be fooled by images from awards banquets and trips to NYC–98% of this job involves sweatpants with dog goobers on them and ponytails with dirty hair. 😉

Brenda: How did you come up with the idea for this series?

Tosca: I was on my way to meet with my publisher about what my next two books should be and I had just seen a headline a few nights before about a reindeer in Siberia that melted in the permafrost. The carcass turned out to be filled with anthrax and a nearby village got sick and a young boy died. I remember thinking this was fascinating and terrifying, and added the idea of a disease coming out of the permafrost to my list of idea scenarios–which also included a story about a young woman leaving a cult and starting over in the outside world, among others.

My publisher, when we met, said, “I like these two. I think you should put them together!” I thought he was crazy at first. But then I went home and started putting it together, and really enjoyed the story!

Brenda: Did you plot out the stories or did it come together as you were writing? Did you have The Line Between completed and then wrote A Single Light or did you mapped out them together?

Tosca: Hahaha, I ought to let my editor friend who goes through all my manuscripts before I turn them in to my publisher answer this.

The short answer is that I normally plot a little more than I did on my initial draft of The Line Between. There are two genera camps in the novel-writing community–the plotters and panthers (who write by the seat of their pants). I am a plotter with some pantsing tendencies. But I still have to plot. So the initial draft of The Line Between did not come together. It was a mess. I had to rewrite it from the ground up a couple times before it finally worked.

My editor friend said, “Um, we need to talk before you start the sequel.” And we did, and I laid that baby out in enough detail that I knew what was going on and the writing flew by and was SO much easier. You’d think after a dozen books (I’ve got a couple that haven’t sold yet) I’d know better, but we all keep learning along the way.

To the other part of your question: the smart thing to do would probably be to plot the second book before writing or at least finishing the first one. But in both my duologies, I did not do this. So by the time I finished the first one, I knew I had written myself into a challenging corner, and that my job in the second book was to write myself out of it–preferably at a faster pace with higher stakes than the first book, if possible. 🙂 And I think that was kind of the fun of it–that I was in the same situation as my characters. But I have to admit that it has made for sleepless nights. I remember gearing up to write Firstborn (the sequel to The Progeny) and thinking, “How does one take down an entire European cabal???” 😀

Brenda: Things get pretty intense in A Single Light and became quite the action-packed race against time. How were you able to maintain that tension? Was that something you mapped out or did the story guide you?

Tosca: So this time I mapped it–mostly. I always leave some wiggle room and I didn’t realize that there’d be as much to the drama underground at the beginning of the book. But when I got in there, I really loved exploring it and the claustrophobic feeling of the situation. So there’s always a little discovery along the way, but in order to make up for the time I spent rewriting the first book so many times and to maintain the relentless pace of the action, I had to be very cognizent about events and the passage of time vs. the stakes Wynter and Chase were up against. It was a very intense three months of writing for me with a lot of all-nighters or 4am bedtimes.

Brenda: Is there anything you hope readers will get from your books?

Tosca: The first thing is entertainment. I really hope readers who come to my stories get the escape that we look for in fiction. Beyond that, I hope they get a few heart palpitations (:D), or that they sigh or laugh or are just so in the moment that time slips by and suddenly it’s well past bedtime. I hope they’re inspired and learn or think about something new, too. But above all, I hope they enjoy themselves.

To read more of our Q & A with Tosca Lee you can find here

Thank you so much Tosca for our copies of both books!

Behind the Pages with Angie Kim author of Miracle Creek @AngieKimWriter

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim has been nominated for two Goodreads choice awards in best mystery/thriller and best debut categories. Of course, I am doing my famous happy dance over this news. I loved Miracle Creek and I love Angie Kim!! She has joined us twice for a Q & A. Once when we read Miracle Creek in our Traveling Friends Goodreads group and then again in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group. I have been slacking a bit with my posts due to life and haven’t posted till now. Now I am glad I have because I think this is a perfect time for this post.

Angie shared some insight into Miracle Creek, herself, her writing process and some of the most highlighted quotes provided by Goodreads. Today I am sharing some of the Q & A with you. You can find the full Q & A here

Brenda Let’s start with how all the success of Miracle Creek had felt for?

Angie Thank you so much, Brenda! It’s been more than a little surreal, quite honestly. I think all writers dream that their books will find an audience, and I of course did as well. But it’s one thing to have silly fantasies, and another to actually have so many of them come true. Because I’m new to the writing/book publishing world, I didn’t even know about many of the things that have happened to me, including Book of the Month, Indie Next, Amazon Best of Month, Library Reads, and all the magazines that feature most-anticipated and best-of lists. (SO MANY lists!!!!) It’s been really amazing and now that we’re gearing up for paperback publication next April, I’m finding out even more things, which are so exciting and fun. But the most fun and gratifying have been doing things like this and book clubs, where I get to interact directly with readers. So thank you!!

Brenda You wrote about themes you know from your life experiences. Can you share a bit of them that inspired you to write this story or shaped the characters for you?

Angie The three main threads of my life that I mined for Miracle Creek are my own experience being a Korean immigrant as a preteen, my first career as a trial lawyer, and my experience as a mother to three kids who all had medical issues as babies/toddlers. (All are fine now, thankfully!)

The immigrant thread – I moved from Seoul to the Baltimore area when I was 11 (much like Mary in Miracle Creek), and I went through a really rough period of being bullied in middle school, not speaking English at all and feeling lost as a result, and being separated from my parents (who ran a grocery store in a dangerous part of Baltimore). One of the things I loved most about writing Miracle Creek was that I got to explore this experience from my parents’ experience as well as my own. (The mom, the dad and the daughter of the immigrant family all have their own POV chapters.)

The courtroom scenes were amazingly fun to write for me, almost like going back to the courtroom, except that I got to control what the witnesses said! Being in the courtroom and questioning hostile witnesses was my favorite part of being a lawyer, so I loved revisiting that.

Finally, the parenting experience provided the foundation for Miracle Creek. I actually did HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) in a group chamber just like “Miracle Submarine” in the novel with one of my kids. I wrote about it in an essay for Vogue, which you can read here: tinyurl.com/vogueangiekim

Brenda You have a few different and very interesting characters each with their own heartache dealing with being a parent? What came first for you the plot/story or the characters?

Angie I would say the situation and setting came first – the HBOT world and the fact that there would be a disaster that occurs in that group chamber during an active session. Then, the characters–both the Yoo family (the owners of the HBOT chamber) and the patients and their families who are affected by the tragedy. The plot, the trial, what happened that led up to that moment of the fire, etc. – all that came as I was writing.

Brenda What character or characters did you identify more with?

Angie I probably identify the most with Mary Yoo, because she is me (as a preteen/teenager). The Yoos are the characters who are most directly based on people from my own life (me + my parents). As an adult, I also identify with Elizabeth, the mother who’s on trial, mostly because I, like her, felt guilty at times about having a child who had the least severe medical issues in the group HBOT setting and felt a lot of angst about that.

Brenda What does your writing day look like to you? Do you have a routine?

Angie I used to have a routine, which I hope to get back into once travel and events slow down a bit. After the kids are all off to school, I start with reading my previous day’s writing over coffee, and I just force myself to sit in my writing nook for as may hours as I possibly can. I don’t have any word count goals or time goals because it depends so greatly on what I’m working on. If I’m working on the beginning of a scene or chapter, it might take me days to find the right sentence. If I’m working on continuing a scene, I’m usually in the flow and can crank out the last 1/3 of a scene in one sitting.

Brenda On Goodreads you shared some insight into some for the most popular highlighted Kindle passages. Can you give us here some insight into them?

Highlight My Husband Asked me to Lie

Angie The first version of the beginning of the novel started with “The pounding. It’s the pounding I remember most,” and then went directly into the scene with TJ’s head-banging (in the middle of page 7). This original opening line was a rhythmic homage to Russell Banks’ THE SWEET HEREAFTER, which opens with “A dog—it was a dog I saw for certain. Or thought I saw.” I love the structure of that novel—the exploration of a tragedy, the causation and the aftermath, through four people’s POVs—and I wanted to do something similar with my novel.

But one day, the line “My husband asked me to lie” came to me, and I knew that had to be the beginning of the novel. It seemed so perfect for the themes of the novel, as well as the character arc for Young Yoo, who struggles to find her own voice and to stand up to her husband for much of the novel.

Brenda This is one of my favorite quotes from your book that I really could relate too. I love to see more insight into the quote “But life doesn’t work like that. Tragedies don’t inoculate you against further tragedies, and misfortune doesn’t get sprinkled out in fair proportions; bad things get hurled at you in clumps and batches, unmanageable and messy.”

Angie This is one of my favorites, too! As I commented earlier, I have three boys who all had medical issues. My first child was born deaf in one ear due to a neurological condition, which involved a lot of hospital visits, tests, and therapy when he was a baby/toddler. By the time he was four, when everything seemed resolved with that (and other associated neuropathies ruled out), we found out that he had two OTHER unrelated medical issues—celiac disease and ulcerative colitis—and my other child turned out to have severe anaphylactic allergies. Shortly thereafter, we had two medical scares with our third child for conditions completely unrelated to any of those. (Thankfully, all three kids are fine now.) I was a Philosophy major in college, and this set of events definitely made me think hard about how foolish I’d been to expect that going through one misfortune would mean nothing more would happen to my life, at least for a while.

Highlight “Having a special-needs child didn’t just change you; it transmuted you, transported you to a parallel world with an altered gravitational axis.”

Angie I did HBOT in real life with one of my kids who had ulcerative colitis. The standard treatments weren’t working, and he was in pain, throwing up every day, losing weight, and we became desperate and decided to try this experimental treatment. It was a group HBOT chamber like Miracle Submarine, with kids with chronic illnesses and special needs, including autism and cerebral palsy. It was an intense and intimate environment, with a confessional feel, and we parents talked about our lives and families. No matter what the condition or the severity, the one thing we all agreed on is that when your kids have a chronic condition, it’s not just your actions that change, but the whole world, your outlook, your relationship to society, EVERYTHING changes. One of my favorite things about having written this book is reading reviews and emails from readers who have children with special needs or chronic illnesses—hearing that they appreciate reading sentiments like this because they’ve thought it themselves, and it makes them feel less alone.

Highlight “That was the thing about lies: they demanded commitment. Once you lied, you had to stick to your story”

Angie I think lying is very difficult, precisely because of this. You have to stick to the story you tell, and you have to stick to all the ramifications of that story. My favorite part of being a lawyer (by far!) was being in the courtroom or taking a deposition, questioning a hostile witness and ferreting out and trying to find a weakness in their story. One of the best ways to do that, I found, was to ask them about a logical extension of their main story, something that must be true if they’re telling the truth, and then confronting them with a document or previous statement that contradicts that. The funny thing was, people would often continue to stick to their lie even when faced with incontrovertible evidence that it was a lie. It made them look ridiculous and destroyed their credibility, and yet, they’d persist. I found it fascinating, this commitment to their lies. It often led to a situation in which someone would lie about something little, insignificant, but rather than admit that they lied, shame would take over and they’d end up saying more and more outlandish things in support of that initial little lie, until the lie grew to something big and important. Shame is at the root of so many lies and secrets. I think it may be the most powerful emotion we have, certainly the most long-lasting

Brenda I really connected with the characters in their grief for their children and I loved that you added some of the inner thoughts that in grief we have, the ones that we are too afraid to say for being judged, unliked or feeling bad for thinking them. The thoughts that make us human. “So if a tiny part of us has these thoughts a tiny part of the time, thoughts we shut out as soon as they creep in, is that so bad? Isn’t that just human?”

Angie Thank you so much for highlighting this, which is what Elizabeth says to Teresa in response to what Teresa confesses to her, about her once having a fleeting thought (that she’s extremely ashamed by) of wondering if her life would be better if her daughter had died. This is a passage that Ari Shapiro read on NPR’s All Things Considered and discussed with me. I love that so much because it’s such a pivotal moment that’s at the heart of this novel for me. I think that there’s a Myth of the Good Mother, which is that mothers are and should be saintly. Elle Magazine said that Miracle Creek “tears the ‘Good Mother’ myth apart,” and I hope that that’s true. I think all humans have fleeting, shameful thoughts, but I think mothers who admit openly to having such thoughts are demonized. Being a mother is hard. It’s hard with any child, special needs and chronic illnesses or not. We should be able to be open and honest with each other about it, and not have it be so taboo. I’m not saying that it’s all hard and bad—not at all! There’s intense love and so much joy, but it can be awful sometimes, and we should be able to talk about that and process it with each other, together.

Brenda Can you tell us what your are working on?

Angie I’m working on my next novel (or trying to, anyway!). It’s about a 10-yr old boy who’s nonverbal (with autism) who goes on a walk at the beginning of the novel with his father, who’s his primary caregiver. But only the boy returns home. And because he’s nonverbal, he can’t tell us what happened to the father. His older siblings (17-18 yr old fraternal twins, one boy, one girl) become obsessed with working with him with assistive communication technologies and therapies to get him to communicate

What Angie had to say about us “I know this is an active group filled with passionate readers, and I loved getting a chance to think through and answer such thoughtful, insightful questions. Thank you so much for reading Miracle Creek and for inviting me to take part in this amazing discussion group!”

For more highlights on Goodreads can be found here