Given the success of your first novel, The Life We Bury, why did you choose to move to a different protagonist in your new book?
The Life We Bury has, as its protagonist, a college student named Joe Talbert. I didn't want to have Joe as the protagonist again, at least not right away. I want to wait until the time is right and his involvement in another murder makes sense. The life of a college student doesn't lend itself to stumbling over dead bodies. Joe does have another story to be told, but that will come down the road, after he's out of college.
I also feel that it's vital that a protagonist confront personal demons as part of the overall story. For that reason, I've chosen to branch out and tell stories of secondary characters that were introduced in
The Life We Bury.
The Guise of Another, for example, is the first book in a three-book arc for Max Rupert, the homicide detective from
The Life We Bury. I also plan, some day, to do a storyline for Boady Sanden (the law professor from
The Life We Bury) and maybe others. I like the idea of moving among a handful of characters within a community, telling their stories and having old friends who the reader will recognize from other novels make appearances.
What was the inspiration for The Guise of Another?
In my law practice I have had cases that required me to investigate the lives of people who had died. In doing that type of research on one case, I found a person who had a rather mysterious past. I'm always open to plot ideas, and it occurred to me that such an investigation would be a great premise for a novel. So I wrote
The Guise of Another, which begins with a car accident and the discovery that a man killed in that crash was living under a false identity. The case is investigated by Frauds Unit Detective Alexander Rupert (Max Rupert's brother). Almost immediately, the stirrings of that investigation awaken an evil from which the dead man was hiding.
I'm drawn to stories where secrets from the past are brought to light in the present. I explored that theme in
The Life We Bury, and I return to it in
The Guise of Another. It intrigues me to think that, as I pass through a crowded airport, I am surrounded by people with secrets, and some of those secrets are dark enough that I would be frightened to be there if I knew the truth.
Do you hear from your readers? What kinds of things do they say?
I've received a great deal of email from readers who enjoyed
The Life We Bury. It has been both informative and uplifting. I've learned how very important it is to write characters that readers can relate to. People connected with different characters from
The Life We Bury, and for different reasons. The more they related to a particular character, the more they experienced the emotions of that character. Whether it was the relationship between Joe and his autistic brother, or Carl Iverson's ghosts from Vietnam, or the stress of dealing with a dysfunctional mother, the characters were the heart of the story, and the plot was merely the vehicle through which the characters were brought to life. The emails I've received from readers have reinforced how important those connections can be.
I look forward to reading emails and letters from readers about
The Guise of Another. It will be interesting to compare the reactions I receive between the two books.
Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I am a firm believer in outlining. One of the comments I've heard repeatedly regarding T
he Life We Bury is that the layers and the complexity of the characters and storyline kept the reader engaged. I'm one of those authors who likes to heap as many problems on to my characters as I can. And when I think they can't take any more, I add another hurdle. To do that well, I need to spend a few months developing the plots and characters with an outline.
What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on my third novel. It will be the second book in the three-book arc for Max Rupert. Max and Boady Sanden are friends in
The Life We Bury, but I pit them against each other in this novel. Max is investigating the death of a woman, and he is convinced that her husband killed her. Boady is equally certain that the husband (Boady's friend and former law partner) is innocent. Both men will struggle with personal demons as they throw themselves into the fight. In the end, the questions raised in this book will go far beyond whether or not the man killed his wife.