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Interview: April 27, 2012

Lisa Jackson’s DEVIOUS, which is now available in paperback, centers on the brutal case of a novice nun who is found murdered outside a New Orleans cathedral. Detectives Rick Bentz and Reuben Montoya are investigating --- but the crime is much more complex than they first thought. In this interview, conducted by’s Donna Volkenannt, Jackson shares how she gets into the minds of serial killers. She also talks about her love of New Orleans, discusses her charity work, and gives a glimpse into several of her upcoming books. In your new novel, DEVIOUS, a serial killer is brutally murdering nuns. What was your inspiration for this latest installment in the Rick Bentz/Reuben Montoya series?

Lisa Jackson: To be truthful, this was an idea my editor came up with years ago. I couldn’t do anything with it at the time, and then one day, I had an inspiration of Camille, the tortured nun, and then the priest and her sister came to mind. One thing led to another, and the story started to take shape.

BRC: After leading a wild life, Camille “Cammie” Renard enters a convent to become a nun, but before she can profess her vows, she is killed in a bizarre fashion. The details about the manner of her death are creative and chilling. How do you research murders and serial killers to get inside the heads of these killers?

LJ: Well, of course the killers are fictitious, and I work hard to give them a motive. I just start playing with my characters, including the killer and suspects, and try to make a bizarre death and psychotic killer seem plausible. The killer’s motivation has to work for me before I can write the book, so yeah, being in his or her head is essential.

BRC: Some of the locations for your stories include San Francisco, Montana, Savannah, the West Coast and New Orleans. Why did you choose New Orleans as the setting for DEVIOUS?

LJ: First of all, I love New Orleans. The feel of the city is like none other I have ever been to. There’s beauty, history, culture and a darker side as well, with talk of voodoo and ghosts and past sins. It just has the right feel, and it doesn’t hurt that two of my favorite characters, Detectives Montoya and Bentz, reside there. Catholicism is strongly rooted in New Orleans, so the city was a natural.

BRC: We assume you went to New Orleans to do some research on DEVIOUS. Any favorite haunts there that you would recommend to readers?

LJ: I’ve been to New Orleans quite a few times. I love Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Café du Monde and the Garden District. The campuses of Loyola and Tulane are unique. I love being near the Mississippi River and the cemeteries with their graves above ground. Or how about the swampland? Great! On my most recent trip, I was introduced to Drago’s and enjoyed their barbequed oysters. Before that, I wasn’t a fan of oysters at all! Maybe because New Orleans is so different from my home in the Pacific Northwest, I find it fascinating.

BRC: And while we are thinking NOLA, was there any plotline that originated while you were there?

LJ: Yes, of course, several plotlines, some of which have yet to be written. It’s just the feel of the city I find so incredible.

BRC: In addition to being a spellbinding thriller, DEVIOUS includes the timeless themes of jealousy, redemption and revenge. Beyond being entertained, what message do you hope readers will take away after reading the book?

LJ: Oh, gee, a theme, huh? I just write a story that comes to me, and I don’t really try to teach anyone anything. I guess most of my books are about the triumph of the human spirit, that good really does conquer evil.

BRC: You write suspense novels about serial killers. How do you unwind after writing about such dark subjects and evil characters?

LJ: I love to hang with family and friends and, yes, sometimes a scene is so intense, I have to shut the computer down and go for a walk, work a crossword puzzle, watch something like “Modern Family” or “Glee,” or go out for a meal with normal friends. Once in a while, a drink doesn’t hurt, either!

BRC: You and your sister, Nancy Bush, co-write books in the Wicked series. How does the collaboration process work?

LJ: So far we haven’t killed each other, but I remind her, there’s still time. Actually we get along really well and enjoy a lot of the same things. We trust each other and have edited each other’s work for years. I wouldn’t say it’s been totally a breeze, but, for the most part, a lot of fun. There was one tense time where we started to argue, so we shut down the computer and hit the bar. Fortunately through two books, we’ve only had to do that once.

BRC: How has having a website, a blog, and being on Twitter impacted the way you interact with your readers?

LJ: The funny thing is, I think I have coffee with my Facebook and Twitter fans every morning. I’m getting to know people all over the world. It’s fun, but it can be addictive.

BRC: What is the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

LJ: Three things, and I pass them along all the time:

  • Finish the book --- all of it.
  • KISS --- Keep It Simple, Stupid.
  • Don’t quit your day job.

BRC: What can you tell us about the wonderful charities with which you are involved?

LJ: I give to a lot of wonderful charities. The ones listed on my website are only a fraction of the great organizations I support, which include animal rescue, fighting spousal abuse, and saving the wildlife. Recently I was introduced to Molly Bears, an organization that makes teddy-like bears upon request for families who have suffered infant loss. Each bear is created specifically to the weight of the lost child.  My family suffered this pain, so I know how wonderful it is that empty arms are filled by this organization, run totally by donations.

BRC: What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about what’s next for Bentz and Montoya?

LJ: In the next few months, two new books will be available. AFRAID TO DIE is the next installment in the Montana series featuring Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli, and deals with a serial killer who abducts his victims before putting them on bizarre display throughout the small town of Grizzly Falls, Montana. I also have a brand new stand-alone, YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW, available in August.  YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW is a novel about Ava Garrison, a mother who thinks she might be losing her mind as she keeps seeing her lost child, a small boy who disappeared two years earlier and whom everyone else thinks is dead. In her quest to find him as well as her own sanity, she can trust no one on the small island that has become more prison than home to her. I’m working on the next Bentz/Montoya novel set in New Orleans and involving a 200-year old mystery as well as a current bout of killings, but it’s looking like a 2014 release.