Interview: September 27, 2013
In THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, New York Times bestselling author Andrea Kane continues her acclaimed Forensic Instincts series. A recent string of murders appear to follow the MO of a killer well known to the Forensic team --- one they have already imprisoned. Using a blend of supernatural talents and technological wonders, the mismatched team must tackle a case both eerily familiar and horrifyingly new. In this interview, conducted by Bookreporter.com's Joe Hartlaub, Kane shares the joy of writing about a team frequently at conflict with itself, the differences between crafting series and stand-alone novels, and how her writing habits have changed to reflect her daily schedule over the years.
Bookreporter.com: Your latest novel, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, is the third and thus far strongest installment in your Forensic Instincts series. Were there any events that initially provided the seed of inspiration for the book’s primary plot?
Andrea Kane: As I was writing the first chapter of THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE (the first book in the Forensic Instincts series), I knew in my gut that the serial rapist and killer --- the one who Casey baited into being captured --- would be back to exact his revenge. I just had to wait until it felt like the right time to create that story. Well, the images in my head (which I won’t elaborate on now and spoil the book!) kept getting stronger and clearer until they were literally demanding that that story be told. Thus, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW came to life!
BRC: One of the more interesting elements of the novel is the mix of technology with what one might call the supernatural. Claire, one of the team members, is “gifted” --- though it’s not always a blessing --- with claircognizance, or “clear knowing,” of events where she is not present. At the other end of the reality spectrum, the computer that the team calls “Yoda” appears to have a personality of its own while seemingly tapping into the main artery of the information superhighway. Both elements work quite well together here. How did you come to develop this very interesting aspect of the team?
AK: Claircognizance and I just clicked from the start. I was fascinated by it, read about and explored it further, talked to the right people, and then just went with it. It’s as if I’m right there with Claire when she’s experiencing something. Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it keeps me up at night, it’s so creepy. But it’s real and it’s an intrinsic part of Claire. And Ryan’s total lack of understanding when it comes to this gives me a huge chuckle. Part of him respects her, and part of him is completely baffled by the whole unscientific process. As for Yoda, how cool is he? I knew he’d be omniscient and high-tech; after all, Ryan created him. But his personality came alive on its own. He has a C3PO and R2D2 appeal that I love and my readers love. Honestly, Yoda has as many fans as the rest of the team! And again, the conflicting aspects of technology and the mystery of human behavior really work to keep things interesting at Forensic Instincts.
BRC: While reading THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, I once again was impressed with how strongly the characters on the Forensic Instincts team are developed and delineated. Did you create them entirely from your own imagination, or where they inspired by people you know from the real world?
AK: I’m sure that subliminally, some of my characters’ traits are adopted from the people around me. But, honestly, I can’t say that it’s intentional. Each of my characters is born in my mind, and then marinated there for quite some time while they evolve into real, three-dimensional people. And then, of course, they grow and change throughout the book, just as we all do in life. Because I’m so closely melded with these characters, both mentally and emotionally, it’s hard to let go. So I LOVE that the FI team has become a series. This way, I don’t have to say goodbye!
BRC: On a related note, I have been particularly impressed with the manner in which you so clearly delineate the members of FI. They don’t necessarily mesh easily personally, but they get the job done professionally. As you write these books, do you ever find yourself concentrating too much on the role of one character at the expense of another? And if you had to pick a favorite among the team members, who would it be and why?
AK: There’s no doubt about it, each FI team member is a distinct individual. Sometimes their personalities collide, but there’s a deep, underlying respect among them. They work so well together because they never lose sight of that respect. Each character gets his/her air time, but, yes, the amount of time spent on each character differs in each book, sometimes in each chapter. Relationships need to be developed, specific skill sets need to be in the forefront at specific times --- but I think that overall, the whole team gets to be showcased. And please don’t ask me who my favorite is, because I promise you I don’t know. I’m equally attached and committed to all of them.
BRC: You have written a number of series books and stand-alone titles. Do you have a particular preference as to writing books with characters in common, or do you prefer single works that stand on their own? What do you find to be the advantages and disadvantages of writing either type of book?
AK: I have done both, and each has its own set of challenges. If I have to be honest, I really love writing series books, because I have the opportunity to bring back beloved protagonists and/or popular secondary characters. I know these “people” so well that I know how they would react in almost any situation, presented with the facts and obstacles of any crime. The biggest challenge to writing a series is staying true to the characters, while writing a whole new plot, without letting any aspects of the characters and their relationships get stale. I’m very cognizant of that as I write. Stand-alone works, on the other hand, are very fresh and free, with a clean slate that I can write on. The negative of that is that I’m starting from scratch on every level, so it takes me longer to get to know my characters --- which is challenging, but exciting, as well. So I truly enjoy writing stand-alone novels, too. Still, if I had to choose, I’d choose a series book, particularly an ensemble like the Forensic Instincts team!
BRC: In the Acknowledgements, you thank several members of law enforcement who assisted you during your research while writing the book. How did you go about finding people who were willing to help you with this? Are any of the incidents that occur in THE STRANGER YOU KNOW based in whole or in part on real-world cases that you discovered during the course of your research?
AK: I’ve been very fortunate to have established long-term relationships with the FBI and the NYPD. I started from square one and, through trust and time, developed valuable resources who are exceptional in their fields. I’m honored to be working with them. As for real-life cases, I start from scratch on my own, because most of my law enforcement contacts are bound by both confidentiality and security clearance regulations, and I always respect that. I would never attempt to cross the line between allowable and unallowable.
BRC:You have written a number of thriller series in the past. Have you ever been tempted to return to one of them, or to perhaps feature one or more characters from them in the Forensic Instincts series?
AK: Always. I think about Sloane and Derek from TWISTED and DRAWN IN BLOOD a lot, and think how great it would be if they joined forces with FI in some huge case. As for returning to write a book, I know that one day I’ll return to the “Monty” Montgomery series (WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME and DARK ROOM) and write Meredith’s book. Monty was so much fun to write, and I’ve gotten tons of requests for his younger daughter’s book. Her big sister and brother have already had theirs.
BRC: You have been writing for over two decades, which demonstrates a very disciplined approach to your art. How has your writing schedule changed or stayed the same over the past 23 years? How do you stay on track when the distractions and emergencies of daily living compete for your creative attention?
AK: My writing schedule has fluctuated all over the place. When I was first published, I was in “young mom” mode, so I wrote around my daughter’s nursery school and then elementary school schedule. I snuck back into my office late at night to pick up where I’d left off during the day. I got longer chunks of time to write as the years passed, but I was already broken in to a specific schedule. So now I still tend to write during “school hours” and then go back to my work at night --- sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. That’s the one thing I appreciate --- not having to get up at 6am any more. I start my day, my coffee, and my writing a couple of hours later now. As for life’s distractions and emergencies, that’s the toughest part for me. I find myself taking care of my loved ones, etc. during the day, and then, since I can’t sleep during those times anyway, I write at night. If my creativity isn’t there, I do research instead. It’s a very difficult juggling act. Right now I’m juggling two wonderful occasions --- the release of THE STRANGER YOU KNOW and my daughter’s wedding. Being a novelist and the Mother of the Bride is like splitting yourself in two!
BRC: What initially drew you to writing as a career? Was there any particular author who influenced your career choice, or your style and interest?
AK: I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, and making up stories in my head before that. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write or create stories. I’ve been reading forever, too, and inspired by suspense since Nancy Drew. I remember reading REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier, and thinking, “wow, that’s creepy, but there’s no heinous violence. Just twisted minds, and the psychological effects. That’s definitely my calling.”
BRC: We have many future authors among our readers. What is the best advice you could give them? Is there any one thing you did as an author that contributed the most to your success? And is there anything you did that you regret doing now?
AK: The best advice I can give future authors is: Do this because you love to write. Publishing is a very difficult business, and without a passion for writing, you’re lost. I think that’s what helped me, together with some amazing professionals along the way. I can’t think of anything I regret, because even the rejections and the hard times in this business make you grow as a person and as an author. You need to separate your left brain and your right brain, and remember that, while this is a precious work of art to you, it’s also a business that has to be navigated. Your book has to be edited, marketed and sold. You have to help make that happen.
BRC: On a related note, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, while it does contain some strong romantic elements, is definitely a thriller. What prompted you to move creatively from historical romances and fiction to contemporary thrillers? Are there any additional genres you would consider working in?
AK: It’s funny, because I don’t see that huge a change. It’s there, for sure, but it’s gradual. My historicals were always historical romantic suspense, and my initial contemporaries were romantic suspense, as well. They were a bridge to the psychological thrillers I write now (which still have relationships at their core, although not all of them romantic). I think it was a growing-up process for me as a writer. Different stages of life bring different directions. I think my current novels are more sophisticated (not better, just different). They reflect my own maturity and coming into my own as a writer. Would I write in any other genre? Right now, I don’t feel that way. But who knows what the future will bring? I could evolve in another direction. Even so, I don’t think I’ll ever give up writing my thrillers. They fascinate me.
BRC: What have you read in the past six months or so that you would recommend to our readers?
AK: Truthfully, I haven’t read any fiction in the past months. I’ve been reading heavy-duty research books, all nonfiction (some of them getting inside the heads of psychopaths). When I’m not doing that, I’m on wedding websites, planning the big event. I’m really looking forward to getting back to some fiction reading, although I doubt it will be soon, because I’m working on my next Forensic Instincts novel at the same time. Normally, I love reading other good authors’ thrillers. I buy them and neatly stack them in my office, ready to be read when I can finally relax! Next on my list is THE FINAL CUT by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison --- I’m really looking forward to reading that.
BRC: What can your readers expect from you in the future? Are you working on anything currently? Will we see more of the Forensic Instincts series?
AK: I guess I gave this answer away in my previous answer. Yes, I’m currently working on the fourth Forensic Instincts novel. It’s still in its fledgling stages, but I can tell you that Marc and his past play a big role in it, and there’s a brand new, equally unorthodox FI team member introduced. Other than that, I’ll let you be surprised --- for now!