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Interview: March 28, 2008

March 28, 2008's Stephen Hubbard recently spoke to romantic suspense novelist Lisa Jackson, author of such bestselling novels as ABSOLUTE FEAR, SHIVER and FATAL BURN, about what inspired her most recent publication, LOST SOULS.

In this interview, Jackson also shares her thoughts on the popular allure of vampires in books --- which figures predominantly in her latest work --- discusses her participation on a virtual cable network called Second Life and reveals details about future projects, including a collaboration with her sister, Nancy Bush. What was your inspiration for the storyline of LOST SOULS?

Lisa Jackson: There were three contributing factors in the process of coming up with LOST SOULS. First, because of what had happened to the character of Kristi Bentz in the prequel, ABSOLUTE FEAR, I wanted a story to show her unique, paranormal gift of being able to predict when a person might die. Also, I was interested in America's current fascination with vampires, and I felt the urge to do something around a cult where girls go missing. Going back to Kristi's alma mater of All Saints College seemed a natural for the backdrop of LOST SOULS.

BRC: When you have Jay McKnight introduce himself at All Saints College, he details the effects that Hurricane Katrina had on the police department. Did you interview officers in New Orleans about the impact of the storm on their cases and incorporate any of their true problems into LOST SOULS?

LJ: Actually, no. I haven't interviewed any police officers, but I did a lot of research, most of which was stories in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet. The information I gathered showed just how devastating to the police department, as well as the constituents, the storm was.

BRC: Vampirism has always had a lure for readers, and in LOST SOULS you write quite a bit about its romanticism as well as its savagery. What do you find to be so alluring about the topic, and why do you think it has sustained such interest and even seen a resurgence over the past decade or so?

LJ: That's a really good question and one I tried to explore in the book. There is something fundamentally sexy about the whole vampire thing, though I can't really explain it. Is it that they are immortal? That they are vulnerable to the light of day? That they need human blood on which to feed? Maybe all of the above, but I really think it is more about the danger. Being with a vampire is seductive and dangerous, life-threatening. I think it's that razor-sharp edge of excitement that makes them so alluring. As for why the resurgence, I think it's a natural wave of interest in all things paranormal. Kristi Bentz, the heroine of LOST SOULS, is trying to answer just that question. Fortunately, some of the classes in which she's enrolled at All Saints are devoted to just that subject. 

BRC: Kristi Bentz spends quite a bit of time lurking in chatrooms and researching online articles and MySpace pages to gain insight into vampirism and vampire cults. Did you spend time online researching this portion of the book?

LJ: You bet! I was incredibly fascinated with how many websites and clubs are dedicated to the undead. I did research as far as social gatherings in different cities and was amazed at how popular vampirism is. I also have set up Kristi Bentz with her own MySpace page and blog, so she can continue my research. Check it out!

BRC: The antagonists in your novels are all very disturbed individuals who have some similarities and yet many unique characteristics that really make them memorable. When you sit down to write, do you have a clear idea who your characters are, or do they tend to come out and make themselves known as you get the story out?

LJ: The characters --- the good, the bad and the very demented --- all evolve as I write. I might start the book with a scene from the villain's point of view, but if I do, I always return to that scene later, once I really understand him and get into his head. It's an odd thing, you know, seeing through the eyes of the killer, but until I do, he's just not real. Once he is…watch out!

BRC: Reuben Montoya, one of the main characters in some of your other novels, is more of a secondary character in LOST SOULS. Do you ever find it difficult to take a character who has been in the forefront and relegate him or her to a supporting role?

LJ: Not really. I've gotten used to having my characters move into the lead, then into the background. This series, set primarily in New Orleans, started with HOT BLOODED and that was five books ago. Throughout all of the books and even including a short foray into Savannah in THE NIGHT BEFORE, Montoya has a role, albeit not a starring one. He's just had to learn not to always be the "lead dog." The same could be said of his partner and Kristi's father, Rick Bentz, whom I think needs another story. I'm working on MALICE, the next in the series, and again, Rick Bentz's story. Montoya will again have to take a back seat.

BRC: LOST SOULS, while not a direct continuation of a previous work, makes several references to cases and events that have been detailed in your earlier novels. Do you worry that you may lose first-time readers who pick up this book, or do you think that you give enough information to keep them from feeling they have missed out on something? How are you able to give sufficient backstory without dragging on the story for long-time readers and yet catch newcomers up to speed?

LJ: I believe each book stands alone. That said, I hope they intrigue first-time readers to try the other books as well. The series doesn't have to be read in order, though it is true that it's obvious some characters survive the pitfalls of one book, if they appear in a later novel. My intent is to keep the readers' interest in the current book and maybe have them wonder about the past enough to read another.

BRC: Tell us a little bit about your Second Life appearance and the promotion of LOST SOULS. How did you get involved in the project, and what was the experience like?

LJ: Second Life! Talk about another segment of society! Not a cult, really, but a place where millions of people are living virtual, alternative lives. (Yeah, I know, hence the whole SECOND life thing.) I knew nothing about it, but one of the people I work with --- Peggy Hicks at Tricom Publicity --- is very cutting edge and she introduced me to Second Life. I'm such a klutz at the whole thing that Peggy had to create my avatar (animated virtual being named Lisa Jackson!). But how fun is it? I'm not great at moving through the world yet, but it's fascinating. I've heard of people who have virtual spouses who are not their real spouses and alternate world jobs. Goods and services are bought there. Second Life is mind blowing!

BRC: A basic writing question for you: When does your day begin, and how long of a work day do you set yourself up for? Do you operate on a word or page count, or do you simply give yourself a timeframe in which to work?

LJ: Okay, ya caught me. I'm not organized enough to have a page count. In fact, that really freaks me out. When I'm on deadline (which is often) I'm on a schedule, of course, but I could be writing at 11 at night, then up the next morning at 3 AM. Or not. It depends. I'm a morning person by nature, so I try to do most of my creative thinking in the pre-dawn and early morning hours. I can't have too many constrictions of time or duty when I'm on deadline. I need long, stretched vistas of hours to write as I hate to be pulled in and pulled out of the story. When I'm there, I am really there and I literally jump if interrupted. My writing style is "tunnel-visioned."

BRC: It would seem that you have little time for reading, given your busy schedule. But when you do have some downtime, what do you read for pleasure?

LJ: Anything I can get my hands on! I look for mysteries, a little horror, any bestseller. I have favorite authors, but also explore new books. Unfortunately, I have stacks and stacks of them yet to be read.

BRC: The last time we spoke you mentioned working on a book with your sister, Nancy Bush. How has that project progressed, and is it still expected early next year? What else do you have in store for readers?

LJ: Yes! It's still on. Now titled WICKED GAME, the book --- a mass market paperback set in the Pacific Northwest --- will be available in February 2009 and is co-written with my sister, Nancy Bush. Nancy and I have always been close and worked as a "team" but never actually published a book together. Our first endeavor, STORMY SURRENDER, written with a third friend 27 years ago, never saw the light of day. It was rejected all over New York. Since then, Nancy and I have honed our skills, and WICKED GAME is really a fun, hold-onto-your-seats ride. As for writing it, good news: so far, we haven't killed each other!

Also, after the publication of LOST SOULS, I have an original mass market paperback, LEFT TO DIE, which will be in bookstores in August of this year. This book is set in Montana in the fictitious Pinewood County where two female detectives are on the trail of a serial killer who holds his victims before taking them into the forest and leaving them to die. LEFT TO DIE is peppered with a lot of "unique" people. For a preview of LEFT TO DIE, or LOST SOULS and soon WICKED GAME, check out or my MySpace page. What's really fun is that Kristi Bentz, the heroine of LOST SOULS, has her own MySpace page, as does Detective Reuben Montoya. You can make them your new, virtual friends.