Book Trivia

I wrote DON'T TELL five (count ‘em, five) times. Each time the plot and the characters changed, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. The only thing that stayed consistent through all five incarnations was the final “showdown” scene between Caroline and Rob.
The “aha” moment that led to DON'T TELL's fifth incarnation came to me on a ski lift in Copper Mountain, CO. It was so incredibly quiet and my mind settled. Then it hit me like a bolt – Rob had to find something in her car to know she was still alive. After that, I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with the characters!
Steven and Jenna in HAVE YOU SEEN HER? were the main characters from the very first book I ever wrote, which no one will ever read because it was pretty awful! I hid that 1000 page tome under my bed, but loved those characters so much that I resurrected them when it was time to write the sequel to DON'T TELL. In that very first under-the-bed book, Steven was “Sam,” a pediatrician. Jenna was “Jordan,” and was a chemistry teacher, just like in the final version.
I wrote I'M WATCHING YOU in 17 days. One moment I especially remember: when Kristen tells her co-workers what she'd gone through, I found myself crying. I wiped my eyes, then yelped as my eyes burned like fire. I learned to never eat salty potato chips while writing the moving scenes!
The villain in NOTHING TO FEAR scared me like no other villain I've written. There were whole days when I was afraid to let her in my head. There was no softness to her, no vulnerability, no soul.
A line from YOU CAN'T HIDE came from one of my former students. We'd been discussing the film “The Sixth Sense” in my creative writing class and this student commented that it was scarier than most horror flicks “because he sees the ghosts during the daytime too, when he's supposed to be safe.” That led to Tess's explanation of the reality of severe mental illness when Aidan believes a killer confined to a psychiatric hospital is on an extended vacation.
The lovely poetry in COUNT TO TEN was written by my very good friend, the equally lovely Cristy Carrington. I met Cristy in the café of our local bookstore when I saved her from a sleazy man trying to pick her up. She was trying – unsuccessfully – to get him to leave, looking at me with “Please help me” eyes. I'd never met her before, but got up, sat at her table and said, “I've been waiting for you for an hour.” Then I looked at the sleazy man and said, “Please excuse us. Like, I mean now.” It was my “mama” tone and he scampered away, tail between his legs, LOL. Cristy and I have been friends ever since!
DIE FOR ME was not supposed to be a trilogy! Daniel Vartanian was supposed to have a very small role, as a small-town sheriff. But I started writing the scene where he's standing on his parents' front porch and they're missing–and he had a sister! Who knew? It was a case of a story truly taking on a mind of its own.
The character of Sophie Johannsen in DIE FOR ME was my homage to archeologist/galactic linguist/all around cool guy Daniel Jackson from the TV show “Stargate.” I was hooked on “Stargate” at the time and thought, wouldn't it be cool to be an archeologist and open your mouth and have all kinds of languages emerge.
SCREAM FOR ME was inspired by my first (and only) viewing of an autopsy. I hadn't planned to view an autopsy. I was just touring the lab of the morgue. But the tour took an unexpected turn and suddenly I was in the viewing suite and there was a dead person on the table on the other side of the glass. I remember thinking, “I didn't know they used giant cabbage patch dolls to teach autopsy technique.” Then the other side of my brain snapped, “It's not a doll, you idiot. She's dead.” Then the two sides of my brain argued for what seemed like minutes, but was only seconds. The next thing I knew, one of my companions was smacking me on the back because I'd stopped breathing. The disassociation from the reality of the body was both real and surreal and I wondered what it would have been like had I known the victim. Alex Fallon was born.
The plot for KILL FOR ME came to me when I toured a CSU office in the Midwest. In the middle of the cubicles was an office with a closed door and a combination lock. Behind the door the detectives working internet crimes against children viewed the tragic filth that would drive most of us mad with grief and rage. Every day, they go in the “Room,” close the door and look for children's faces, for any clues they can find to identify the perpetrators. I wondered what that kind of work would do to decent people. Luke Papadopoulos was born.
I CAN SEE YOU was based on an idea offered by my very good friend, Sonie Lasker. She's my personal trainer and karate sensei. We were working out at the gym and she said, “I know this guy who plays an online game where he can buy and sell property. And get this – crimes done in the game can be prosecuted in real life!” I said, “No way!” and went home to check this out. Eve's story came from there.
Eve Wilson (I CAN SEE YOU) was a hard character to write. She had lots of baggage, largely because I'd put her through a heckuva lot in previous books. I was reminded of that scene in “It's a Wonderful Life,” when George and Mary are married and buy that old house that they'd thrown rocks at earlier in the movie. When the wind blows through the windows, George wishes they hadn't thrown those rocks. I wished I hadn't thrown so many rocks at Eve! Getting into her mind was intense.
The Hat Squad in I CAN SEE YOU is based on the real-life Atlanta homicide department. My friend, retired Lt. Danny Agan, was the commander of the division and started wearing fedoras on the job. It became a lovely tradition, the experienced detectives buying the first fedora for the rookies on closure of their first homicide. Before his retirement Danny was able to present his own son with his first fedora. I love this tradition and was honored to bring it to my Minneapolis homicide detectives.
When I first started to write SILENT SCREAM, I knew I had to flesh out David's character. Of course everyone loved him, but nobody (including me) really knew him. Again I was working out with Sonie and I said, “He's such a nice guy.” She waggled her eyebrows and said, “I wonder what he's hiding….” I wondered too.
SILENT SCREAM was supposed to be my eighth book. I'd plotted out David Hunter's book after finishing DIE FOR ME, but realized that I'd left too big a cliffhanger with Daniel and Simon's photographs. And what was Susannah's secret? I had to go back and write their stories first!
I researched SILENT SCREAM by visiting a local fire department. I was lucky enough to be able to go up in the bucket of the tower truck. It was awesome and I hope you like the scene in which David and Olivia do the same!
YOU BELONG TO ME Heroine Lucy Trask was going to be a lonely medical examiner, but I got a flash of inspiration while watching Katherine Heigle in "27 Dresses."  There's this great scene where she models all 27 dresses she's worn as a bridesmaid and one of them is this goth get-up with a spiked collar.  Lucy Trask's alterego was born! Recently a reader sent me a video of violinist Lindsey Stirling performing "Phantom of the Opera" -- and it's LUCY!  I was mesmerized.  Check Lindsey out and you'll see what I mean!
NO ONE LEFT TO TELL heroine Paige Holden is based on my true-life best friend, Sonie Lasker.  People think that Paige is bigger than life, but Sonie is more so.  The most decorated female martial artist in the world with 18 gold medals, Sonie is a black belt in three different disciplines and now a valued member of the US Navy.  She was my personal trainer before she joined the Navy and one day, while we were working out, she said, "I want to be the heroine in one of your books and I want to get the hot guy." I pondered this then said, "OK, but she can't look like you. She'll have sex with the hero and I can't think about you doing that.  Our friendship only goes so far."  LOL.  Sonie was THRILLED with Paige and I was happy too!
One of the most heartwarming results of NO ONE LEFT TO TELL has been the letters from parents of children with Down Syndrome.  I loved Holly Carter and hoped to portray her as a highly functional member of her family.  Thank you, parents who've emailed me.  You've made me smile so many times!
DID YOU MISS ME heroine Daphne Montgomery was the first of the Baltimore characters to walk into my mind.  I instantly fell in love with her brash, bold personality - especially her Dolly Parton hair and lime green miniskirts.  That she was a breast cancer survivor is due to a request from my oldest friend, Kay Conterato.  She'd been crying with one of her friends who'd been diagnosed with late stage breast cancer and it didn't look good.  I said, "What can I do for you?" I felt so helpless in the
face of that kind of despair.  She said, "Write a different kind of heroine.  Write one who is a breast cancer survivor and has a happy ending."  I said, "Yeah, I can do that."

To the men and women who've emailed me with your cancer survival stories, thank you.  To those who've been given a little hope by Daphne, I'm humbled.