Was it your goal to have more twists and plots in 14 to set it apart from All The Pretty Girls?
14 is a complicated, twisty book that practically wrote itself. The story just spilled forth, bending in on itself and surprising me in many places. I wanted to showcase Nashville, our investigative techniques, and show how dual jurisdictions can work together in a cooperative effort rather than infighting. I also wanted to explore the evolution of criminals who aren’t caught, where they might be twenty years after they commit their crimes. Have they gone on the straight and narrow, changed their MO, died? Who knows the real reason they stopped killing? 14 is a vision, a nightmare really, about what might happen in their worlds.
This book presents so many more challenges to Taylor Jackson professionally and personally. Was this also part of the objective in writing a sequel?
Absolutely. When you’re writing a series, you have to keep the characters fresh and intriguing from book to book. By default, you don’t let every detail of their lives out into the open in the first book. I try to let Taylor and Baldwin unfold as characters over the course of the books. And people in every profession, from cop to writer, face challenges over the course of their careers. Taylor’s challenges are compounded in this book, and her reactions to them define her future.
Is her live-on-the-edge father based on a character or combination of people you’ve known?
No, Win Jackson is purely a figment of my imagination. I think we’re all products of our upbringing, and as such, Taylor is a creation of her early environment. Win needed to be Taylor’s polar opposite, and he couldn’t be more different from her. Where she has integrity and courage, her father is severely lacking in any kind of morality. He does things that serve his purpose and interests, with complete disregard for the law. The juxtaposition of the two personalities allowed me to amplify their differences. His purpose as a character is to give the readers a glimpse into why Taylor is who she is. His immorality ultimately defines her strict moral code.
To set the story did you research habits of a copy cat killer?
My research is wide and all-encompassing. I strive for realism, and at the same time, recognize that Nashville can only have so many serial killers. I did spend a good deal of time searching for just the right type of killers to emulate. The Snow White Killer is Nashville’s fictionalized answer to the big guns – the Zodiac, the Son of Sam, the Boston Strangler.
This is an all-encompassing character piece as well as a thriller – delving into Taylor’s past, her imminent marriage, her feckless, missing father. What is more important to you – the story or the pace?
I think every great thriller has elements of both comprehensive character development and relationships, and breakneck speed. I love setting books in short time periods – 14 only spans seven days. It’s a challenge, but I think the reward is an engaging story that draws in the reader and doesn’t give them the chance to walk away. I want to hear that this story kept you up late, that you read well past your bedtime. That’s when I know I’ve done my job.
If you could give any advice to a writer wanting to write a series—and you have several more coming out in this series—what would you say?
Always respect your readers, and always give enough detail that your books can be read out of order. It’s a tricky, delicate combination, making sure that each book can stand alone as well as further the goals of the characters within. But you never know in what order new readers might pick up your books so it’s paramount to give enough of the backstory so they don’t get lost without giving it all away.