Interview: September 13, 2013
Bestselling author Nancy Bush has been writing for over 30 years. In her latest book, NOWHERE SAFE, she confronts readers with the question of who’s more frightening: sexual predators or a vigilante hell bent on making them atone --- in blood? In this interview with Bookreporter.com’s Kate Ayers, Bush discusses the surprising reason it’s actually easier to write violent scenes, why she enjoys having her characters cross from one novel to another, and how writing for daytime television is like writing in front of a runaway train. Although she’s known for her bestselling thriller series, Bush got her start in romance, and she talks here about why that was and how she successfully has moved between genres.
Bookreporter.com: NOWHERE SAFE deals with a vigilante dedicated to eliminating sexual abusers from the community of Laurelton, Oregon. Did you pattern Laurelton after any of Portland’s real-life suburbs, or did you create it out of whole cloth? If so, how?
Nancy Bush: I actually made up Laurelton, although I think of it as somewhere near Beaverton or Hillsboro, which are both west of Portland. The town had to be fake because I wanted one that was both close to Portland, but kind of meandered westward. The first time Laurelton was introduced was in my first joint novel with Lisa Jackson, WICKED GAME.
BRC: Detective September Rafferty has been through a lot recently. In fact, she is still on the mend. But she insists on going to work, a testament to her strength and resolve. Do you think she has as much resolve as the person she’s after? Does her resolve ever waver?
NB: I definitely think September has as much resolve as the person she’s after, but as she’s fallen in love with Jake, she realizes she has more to lose. She knows she needs to be more careful. That said, she certainly can set her jaw and go after criminals. In NOWHERE TO RUN and NOWHERE TO HIDE, she felt like she had to prove herself more as she was a newbie. But in NOWHERE SAFE, she’s been through enough to make her a little less rash.
BRC: Your vigilante, Lucky, has a background and a motive that might evoke sympathy. Did you find it difficult to maintain a good balance between Lucky’s good and evil sides, such that your readers wouldn’t be angry if you let something bad happen to her? Or even begin to cheer for her?
NB: Lucky first appeared in UNSEEN and has been missing ever since. Her choices put her clearly on the “bad” side, but she’s motivated by the right reasons. I thought I would kill her off at the end of UNSEEN, but she lived to fight another day! She definitely works outside of the law, but even I root for her. I’ve been asked if we would see Lucky again, and here she is in NOWHERE SAFE. Will she make a third return? There’s always that possibility.
BRC: September’s lover, Jake, is such a good guy. He treats her with great respect and patience, and obviously takes things to heart. However, his caring side almost gets him killed. Did you do that so your readers would like him even more, or was it to help September realize her true feelings? Or something else entirely?
NB: Jake’s ties to Loni, the ex-girlfriend who’s been in his life for over a decade, create a huge obstacle for him in moving forward with his relationship with September. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, it’s that he can’t quite disengage totally from Loni because she’s like a family member. He’s not in love with her anymore, hasn’t been for years. Still, he doesn’t hate her and therefore keeps getting roped in to helping her. September gets it, but she’s felt like the third wheel before, and feels like it now. It does make her realize how much she loves him and wants to be with him, and the only way that’s going to happen is for her to be patient --- something she’s not very good at. I also wanted to create a very emotional connection between the two, and sometimes when one person is near death, it helps define the other’s feelings.
BRC: NOWHERE SAFE has some very violent scenes. Do you have any trouble writing about assault and murder? Do you feel any queasiness creeping in now and then? How much do you have to visualize the scene? I mean, how vividly?
NB: Actually, the violent scenes, which are mostly action scenes, are some of the easiest to write because they’re fast. There’s not a lot of introspection. Do I find them cringe-worthy sometimes? Sure. I always make sure to read them over and ask myself: Would I like to read this? If the answer is yes, they stay in. If I think, yuck, too much, I tone them down.
BRC: Child abuse is so pervasive in our world today. Do you feel that writing a novel like NOWHERE SAFE helps keep it exposed and in the public’s consciousness?
NB: Child abuse is one of the worst things I can think of. Although it’s part of the subject matter in NOWHERE SAFE, it’s not “on page.” I feel like I should have a banner that reads “No child was hurt during the writing of this book!” The overall action of the story concerns catching the abuser before he can hurt someone, which is where both September and Lucky are on the same page.
BRC: Readers met Gemma LaPorte in UNSEEN. And now she makes an appearance in NOWHERE SAFE. That reminds me of Stephen King and his penchant for having characters from earlier books cross through the pages of later ones. Is that something you do often, and is there a fun reason for it?
NB: Guilty as charged. I often have characters move from one book to another, or even one series to another. It’s just fun to revisit some of them, especially if it feels there might be more story to be told, which was definitely the case with Lucky. Also, I find that my fans enjoy recognizing some familiar faces and learning what’s become of them. It’s kind of fun!
BRC: I read that you wrote for daytime TV several years ago. In one biography, you suggested that having to produce a story every day actually helped focus your writing. Why do you think that is? Could it be that it created some type of momentum, kind of like you got the thoughts flowing and they gathered speed?
NB: Writing for daytime TV is like writing in front of a runaway train. You can’t stop or slow down, so you’d better focus and get the job done fast! Also, I think it helped me with dialogue. You get a different ear for it when you’re writing for characters who’ve been around for years. You can’t have them say something that’s not part of who they are, or the fans give you hell.
BRC: I also read that you started in romance because it worked into your life as a mother and still allowed you to make some money. Over 30 years of writing, you have introduced more mystery into the plot, and have been venturing into suspense and thrillers. Which genre is your favorite, or do you like to mix it up a bit?
NB: When I first started writing, I was told I had too much suspense in my stories, so I worked hard to rein it in while I was writing the Silhouette Special Edition series. When I began writing for other publishers, I had to retrain myself to put the mystery and/or suspense back in. I wrote the Jane Kelly mystery series --- CANDY APPLE RED, ELECTRIC BLUE and ULTRA VIOLET --- before I started writing suspense. It’s still one of my favorite series, and I get a lot of fans asking when I’m writing the next book. The answer: I’m putting together a novella for a holiday anthology right now that stars Jane again, WHITE HOT CHRISTMAS, which will be out in late 2014. But that doesn’t mean I’m switching back to mystery from suspense. I do like to mix it up a bit!
BRC: We know there are secret societies and clubs out there. Does anything like Siren Song exist?
NB: I don’t know of any secret society like the Colony or their lodge, Siren Song, but man, sometimes something comes on the news about a cult-like group that makes my jaw drop, so you never know!
BRC: Of course, we want to know what you have in the works now. More Detective September Rafferty? And can you drop a hint as to what it might be about?
NB: I definitely plan to write more books with September as the protagonist, but I’m currently taking a break from the series. This winter SINISTER comes out, a book written jointly with my sister, Lisa Jackson, and a writing friend of ours, Rosalind Noonan. It’s a suspense novel set in Wyoming around the feuding Dillinger and Kincaid families. That one’s a lot of fun! And I’m currently deep into my next stand-alone thriller, I’LL FIND YOU, which will be out next summer.