What can you tell us about your new release, Two Days to Die?
Two Days to Die is my take on what I call a ticking-clock plot. The story revolves around a high-stakes game set up by an escaped drug lord who’s seeking revenge against the people who put him in prison. The first person who crosses a remote island wilderness in two days lives. Everyone else dies along with their families. Add in a pack of wolves, competitors trying to outsmart one another, raging whitewater rivers, booby traps, ruthless killers, and, of course, a budding romance, and you have a thriller that’s built for speed. Two Days also pays homage to one of my favorite literary tropes—the unknown loner who strolls into a fight between good and evil. Whether it’s a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western or the latest Jack Reacher novel, I just love it when someone as nasty and mean as the bad guys walks onto the scene to even the odds. I think it’s some kind of primitive emotion that’s hard-wired into our brains. When a truly evil person is confronted by a good person who is looking forward to the fight, we just can’t look away.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
My love of reading is what turned me into an author. I’ve heard of authors who had mentors or parents or teachers who cultivated their literary aspirations, but I’m not convinced that a person would be successful if they were relying on someone else to motivate and shepherd their artistic journey. I believe that if you’d be satisfied to write for your entire life and never be published, then you’re prepared to follow the path of a writer. It’s hard. And being good enough to be published is a prize that is humbling and empowering.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
I didn’t intend to do come up with such a diverse list but I think there’s something for everyone here:
Horror/Suspense – I was and will forever be astounded by The Ruins by Scott Smith. It is dread personified.
Young Adult – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is magic. The group of kids, the love they have for one another, and the tragedy of it all. Unbelievable.
Chick-Lit – Something Borrowed by Emily Giffen is captivating. It hooked me from the start. She captures how love has a mind of its own—even at the expense of things we hold precious, like friendship.
Thriller – Persuader by Lee Child is top of the heap. There’s something almost medieval about it. A lonely castle. A maiden in distress. A strong knight who must vanquish a dragon (well, not a dragon, but a man who may as well be one). It’s a simple thriller formula executed to the nth degree.
Sci-Fi – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is a classic. This is a book that is probably the number one archetype for summer blockbuster—in literature and movies. It’s such an outlandish premise. Not only are dinosaurs being brought back to life, but they’re being used to populate an entertainment park. What!? Unbelievable fun, mind-bending science, and nonstop action. Who could want more?
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask
I think Lee Child would be a fantastic guest. The talk show would be set at a bar. It would be called, “Great Minds Drink Alike.” We’d have our drinks and off we’d go. And with Lee, there’s only one question I’d need to get him to talk all night—“Tell me the difference between literary and genre fiction?” It’s a question that’s come up in many an MFA program and writers conference, but I think Lee would give a take on it that would make for great television.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Being done with a manuscript. By done, I mean edited, cover art completed, ready-to-be-purchased done. Because up until that time, it’s always on my mind. It’s great to finally put something to bed.
What is a typical day like for you?
My day is little different than anyone else’s. I’m taking the dog out to poop. Cleaning the dishes. Making lunch out of questionable lunchmeat I found in the back of the fridge. All of this is wrapped around sessions of writing, outlining, and editing. I once heard a story that made me laugh that probably sums it up. An author bounds into the kitchen where her husband is cooking breakfast and says, “My magnum opus is nearly complete. It has all the elements of best-selling genre fiction. It’s written with a style that surpasses the world’s greatest literary giants. And it finally provides an answer to the meaning of life. I’m going into my office now to write the final scene!” The husband turns around, scoops an egg from the frying pan onto a plate on the table, and replies, “That’s great. Eat your eggs.” So that’s my answer. The day of a writer is like any other.
What scene from Two Days to Die was your favorite to write?
Favorite is a little different than what I’d call it. How about, “heart-pounding?” In Two Days to Die, there’s a scene where I had to confront a phobia of mine. As a writer, I have to enter the mind of a character and live the moment with him or her, so this particular scene made me very uncomfortable. I had to keep stopping and telling myself it wasn’t real, and then I would reset and dive back in. It was awful. I couldn’t breathe. I was sweating. My heart was skipping beats. But in the end, I finished it and I believe it will put the reader into a place where the world falls away and they’re living the story through my character, moment by moment. A scene like that is always my favorite because it creates a space where the reader is sharing my experience. As you’ll note, I didn’t describe the scene. I’ll leave that up to the reader to figure out. I’m sure it won’t be hard.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?