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Interview: August 18, 2006

August 18, 2006

Kay Hooper has written over 60 novels in various genres and recently published the final book in her Fear trilogy, SLEEPING WITH FEAR. In this interview with's Carol Fitzgerald and Joe Hartlaub, Hooper describes how she conceptualized this series revolving around psychic investigators and comments on the popularity of television shows that feature the paranormal. She also explains how she continually generates new ideas for future novels and provides information on the first installment of her upcoming trilogy. SLEEPING WITH FEAR introduces Riley Crane, yet another new character who is part of the Special Crimes Unit and perhaps one of the most interesting characters you have created. The book opens with a very dramatic scene in which Riley finds herself covered in dried blood, with no idea of how she came to be in this state. Indeed she has no memory of the last two weeks. When you started writing, was this the opener, or did these beginning chapters actually get added later? What inspired this particular story line?

Kay Hooper: This was the opener from the get-go; I never had to go back to the beginning and change anything. Generally speaking, the story pretty much unfolds for me just as it does for the reader. As for inspiration, there was no one thing. I had spent the earlier books of the series establishing that SCU psychics had to cope with varying abilities and the problems connected with them; I wanted, in this story, to take the abilities away and force one of my psychics to feel her way through a difficult and dangerous situation without the aid of those extra senses.

BRC: The Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series is one of our favorites series, as we liked the trilogy of titles interconnected by a common theme. When you initially conceived the idea for this thriller series, did you perceive that it would be structured in this manner?

KH: I didn't know with the first book, STEALING SHADOWS, but by the time the third book was done I knew I wanted to keep doing the trilogies-within-a-series structure. I knew that the structure and title-keywords set my series apart from others out there, but even more, I enjoyed having three chances to explore a theme. What is the nature of Evil, of Fear? How can I take a single theme or concept and approach it three different ways? It's not only a challenge to me as a writer, but I feel it also enables the series to remain fresh for the readers even nine books in. Or 12, or 15.

BRC: What inspired you to write about a group of investigators with psychic powers?

KH: Not so much any particular inspiration so much as a lifelong interest in both the "paranormal" and criminal investigation. Also, a common theme in my work throughout my career has been one of the outsider, a bit different from those around him or her. I think it was a gradual evolution, really, to put those interests and elements together. Psychic investigators made sense to me; I was able to see the possible, if not probable, scientific basis for the abilities, and matching that with criminal investigation also made sense. It seemed to me that psychics --- blessed or cursed with abilities that few without them could ever understand --- were the ultimate outsiders. Exploring their journeys within the context of thrillers also seemed a perfect fit because it gave them a place to belong and a chance to do important work.

BRC: Several television shows such as "Medium" and "Missing" have characters with psychic or visionary powers. What do you think draws people to these characters?

KH: I think most people would like to believe that the human mind is capable of more than we know or understand, and that we have at least the potential to travel beyond reason and rationality --- and what science understands today. Plus, I believe most people feel like outsiders at some point or points in their lives, and shows such as these allow them to watch other, probably more obvious, outsiders coping with their lives and problems.

BRC: In SLEEPING WITH FEAR, you reference Riley's need to fuel her body more than the average person due to the "power drain" of her unusual psychic gift. Has your research shown you that such a thing actually exists?

KH: I believe in drawing logical conclusions, and I believe that is one. Just as we know some people burn calories at a greater rate than other people do, and that some activities burn more calories than other activities do, it only makes sense that for some people, certain activities would require more energy --- and more calories to fuel that energy. It was a possible "side effect" of psychic abilities I wanted to explore, like Isabel's headaches in SENSE OF EVIL, and Lucas's "tunnel vision" focus in HUNTING FEAR. It isn't just their unusual abilities my psychics have to deal with, but also the costs to themselves, their bodies and minds, of pushing those abilities past perceived boundaries.

BRC: You have written some 60 novels in various genres. Are there any creative exercises you use to keep your ideas new and fresh?

KH: No, other than doing my best to remain open-minded and allowing myself the time to follow my natural curiosity wherever it takes me. I love discussing theories, possibilities. As an example, some writer friends and I have recently discussed quantum physics. None of us are scientists, but we find ideas and concepts fascinating. The very best discussions, and daydreams, and books, begin with the same thing: What if....

BRC: On a related note, what is your writing schedule like? Do you have two, three, or even more books in progress at once, or do you generally begin, and complete, one book at a time?

KH: Usually one book at a time, though I often have the seeds of the next book germinating in my mind. It may be no more than a character's name or a "what if" idea, but it's almost a mild irritant, like an itch I know I'll have to scratch sooner or later.

BRC: SLEEPING WITH FEAR blends elements of a number of genres, including mystery, suspense, the paranormal, and romance. You are obviously a practitioner --- and fan --- of each of these genres. What authors, if any, from each have influenced you? And what authors from any field do you turn to when you wish to read for pleasure?

KH: I was a voracious reader long before I was a writer, and I read whatever I could get my hands on, so, yes, I certainly am a fan of a wide range of fiction. Among favorites are Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, Andre Norton, Stephen King, Elizabeth George, Dean Koontz, Anne Perry, Terry Pratchett, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters, Lawrence Sanders, Anne McCaffrey, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov --- and many, many others.

BRC: With the publication of SLEEPING WITH FEAR, the Fear trilogy would apparently be concluded. What will you be doing next?

KH: I'll be continuing the Bishop/SCU series with another trilogy, the keyword for this one, blood. The first title will be BLOOD DREAMS.