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Interview: July 18, 2008

July 18, 2008

Lisa Gardner's latest novel, SAY GOODBYE, marks the return of FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy (last seen in 2006’s GONE), this time in a starring role. In this interview, Gardner explains why she chose to continue the Quincy family's story and describes the unlikely inspiration behind some of the book's more gruesome elements. She also discusses the amount of research she performed to give the narrative a unique and authentic flavor, shares her favorite scene, and reveals details about her next project, the sequel to SAY GOODBYE.

Question: SAY GOODBYE brings back Kimberly Quincy, Pierce Quincy’s daughter, in a starring role. Did you plan that?

Lisa Gardner: Absolutely. I wanted to return to Kimberly’s story. We’ve watched her grow up, join Quantico, become an FBI agent, and fall in love. Last time we saw her --- at the end of GONE --- she was living happily ever after with Mac. But is she a happily-ever-after kind of gal?

Q: So you wanted to return to Kimberly, and yet you rarely write back-to-back sequels. What’s up with that?

LG: You caught me. I’ve never planned a sequel to any book I’ve written. That I’ve now written five novels with the same characters --- Pierce Quincy, Rainie Conner, and Kimberly Quincy --- is as much a surprise to me as anyone. I'm idea driven. If my existing characters can work for my latest and greatest idea, I bring them back. It sort of just happens that the Quincy family fits into every other book.

Q: What was the impetus for the rest of the novel?

LG: My daughter developed a passion for spiders last year. Not daddy long legs, which maybe I could understand. No, she likes the big, fat, hairy tarantulas. Ended up decorating our front porch with over a hundred spiders, not to mention all the books she checked out from the library on the subject. At a certain point, I realized this had the makings of a book idea. So I created a tarantula named Henrietta as a major character. Henrietta is very special to the villain in SAY GOODBYE. You don’t want anything bad to happen to Henrietta.

Q: Speaking of villains, the reviewers clearly agree this is your creepiest novel to date. Was that a goal of yours?

LG: I haven't written anyone nearly as scary as Jim Beckett from THE PERFECT HUSBAND in a while, so I decided to terrify my readers. I wanted to show how monsters are made. Not tell you. Not lecture you. But show you. The scenes involving the villain are not sugar-coated; in fact, many of the scenes are from actual cases (for more info, check out True Crime Shopping). I think the end result is a very intense read. For some readers, it might be too intense. For others, this will hands down become the novel they read again and again. Interestingly enough, in my next novel --- due out July 2009 --- there’s hardly any on-stage violence, so go figure.

Q: You are known for the research you do for your novels. What went into the making of SAY GOODBYE?

LG: I was talking to a fellow author one day, and told her I wanted to learn more about bugs, but I didn't know an entomologist. She immediately volunteered her husband, who turned out to be a noted insect expert. He and I spoke many times, about the role of insects in decomp, etc., etc. Everything we covered, however, felt like something that had already been done. Then, one day, he mentioned that he'd discovered a black widow spider, and put it in a terrarium as a pet. You know, as if that was the most perfectly normal thing in the world to do. Immediately, I knew how he could help me with SAY GOODBYE.

I also spent a great deal of time learning about Evidence Response Teams from the FBI, which is an “extracurricular” I hadn’t even known existed. Finally, the whole family got to take a trip to Blood Mountain. There’s nothing that says quality time like searching for a crime scene.

Q: What is your favorite scene in the book and why?

LG: My favorite scene is toward the end, when Kimberly finally figures out how the killer has been hiding the bodies. I would like to take credit for that scene, which I think is ingenuous, but it was the idea of a good friend of mine. I was lamenting one day that I couldn’t think of any new and interesting ways to dispose of corpses, when she stopped me mid-sentence and exclaimed --- “I have the best idea; I’ll be right over.” Ironically enough, this is a woman who has never read my novels because she’s worried they’ll scare her too much.

Q: In this novel, both Kimberly and the shady informant, Delilah Rose, are pregnant. Why a “pregnancy” theme in such a dark novel?

LG: I initially made Kimberly pregnant because that’s the logical next phase of her life. Plus, I think this is what makes Kimberly so interesting as a character. It seems like most thrillers these days are populated by the antisocial, hard-as-nails loner with nothing to lose. Kimberly has a loving husband, a supportive father, a blossoming family. She has everything to lose, and yet she can’t say no to her job. You tell me what’s scarier --- risking your own life, or risking your unborn child’s.

Q: Will we see Kimberly again?

LG: It’s possible.

Q: Then what are you working on next?

LG: I have just wrapped up a sequel to SAY GOODBYE, except the character has moved to Boston where he must take on Sergeant D.D. Warren from ALONE and HIDE. It was fun for me to bring together two characters from two different series, so to speak. The book does not involve the Quincy family, however. I think D.D. is more than enough.