The Destructiveness of Love: MysteryPeople Q&A with Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough comes to BookPeople this Saturday, February 18th, at 3 PM to speak and sign her new genre-bending tale of psychological suspense, Behind Her Eyesa novel already internationally renowned for its insane twist ending. Pinborough was kind enough to answer a few questions before the event. 

  • Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

“I think the main theme is the destructiveness of love. I wanted to write about how it’s not always the positive force we hope for and it can do as much harm as good if the wrong people fall in love.”

Molly Odintz:  You’ve worked in multiple genres, and without giving anything away, Behind Her Eyes is a genre-bender as well as a mind-bender of a read. What’s your most-preferred genre to work in, and what advice would you give writers interested in telling stories across genres?

Sarah Pinborough: I don’t really think of story in terms of genre, but I like writing stories that are puzzles, and most of my books have been mysteries of on sort or another. I like making the reader have to put a jigsaw together, whether that crime with sci-fi or horror or fantasy or straight thriller. As for advising writers who like to cross-genres, I’d probably say that the important thing – for me, at least – is to have a dominant genre. So, it might be crime with a hint of sci-fi, but it adheres to the rules of crime. Or horror with romance – then it would be primarily horror, but with gothic romance elements. I think where it is most likely to fail – not always, but most likely – is if it’s a 50/50 split between genres. I prefer just adding hints of other genres rather than over-loading. But that’s just me!

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New Releases in MysteryPeople: July 9th 2013

The Bat by Jo Nesbo

The first Harry Hole novel is finally available in America!

Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case.  Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case.  Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

The sixth installment of the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Edgar- and Macavity-nominated and Alex Award-winning series by Lisa Lutz, finds our intrepid heroine of the series, Isabel Spellman, PI, at a crossroads. Izzy is used to being followed, extorted, and questioned—all occupational hazards of working at her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Her little sister, Rae, once tailed Izzy for weeks on end to discover the identity of Izzy’s boyfriend. Her mother, Olivia, once blackmailed Izzy with photo­graphic evidence of Prom Night 1994. It seemed that Spellman vigilance would dis­sipate after Izzy was fired for breaching client confidentiality, but then Izzy avenged her dismissal by staging a hostile takeover of the company. She should have known better than to think she could put such she­nanigans behind her.

In The Last Word, Izzy’s troubles are just beginning. After her takeover of Spellman Investigations, her employees are the fur­thest thing from collegial…and Izzy finds herself struggling to pay the bills. But when she is accused of embezzling from a former client, the ridiculously wealthy Mr. Slayter, the stakes become immense. If Izzy gets indicted, she could lose her PI license and the Spellman family’s livelihood, not to mention her own freedom. Is this the end of Izzy Spellman, PI?

The Last Word is, hands down, the most powerful book in the bestselling, award-nominated Spellman series.

Nemesis by Bill Pronzini

Young, newly rich Verity Daniels claims to be receiving threatening demands for money from a mysterious caller. When Jake Runyon agrees to investigate, it seems a relatively simple matter to expose the extortionist by setting a trap for him.

The case, however, is nowhere near as clear-cut as it first appears.  And Verity Daniels is nowhere near the helpless victim she pretends to be. A series of surprise revelations culminates in Runyon being falsely accused of a crime that never happened, and he and his employers then become the targets of a vicious legal vendetta. A sudden act of violence turns the case upside down, leading to a much more serious charge against Jake.

With the help of partner Tamara Corbin, Nameless (known as Bill to his associates) puts aside the difficult personal issue that has kept him sidelined at home and works to clear both Runyon’s and the agency’s good names. The task requires untangling Verity Daniels’s bizarre past and present relationships, and before Bill succeeds, he must overcome a deadly threat to his own safety. Nemesis continues author Bill Pronzini’s acclaimed Nameless Detective Series.

The Fire Witness by Lars Kepler

Flora Hansen calls herself a medium and makes a living by pretending to commune with the dead. But after a gruesome murder at a rural home for wayward girls, Hansen begins to suffer visions that are all too real. She calls the police, claiming to have seen a ghost, but only one detective puts aside his skepticism long enough to listen: Joona Linna.

Linna has spent more time at the scene of the crime than any other detective would. The case seems obvious on the face of it: One of the girls at the home escaped in the middle of the night, leaving behind a bloody bed with a hammer under the pillow. But why does Hansen insist that the murder instrument was a stone, not a hammer? And what’s the story behind the dark red grain of sand, almost like a splinter from a ruby, stuck beneath the dead girl’s fingernail? As Linna refuses to accept easy answers, his search leads him into darker, more violent territory, and finally to a shocking confrontation with a figure from his past.

Just as Lars Kepler’s The Hypnotist and The Nightmare did, The Fire Witness has spent months at number one on the Swedish bestseller lists. As the newspaper Dagens Nyheter put it, you start the thriller “on the subway home, keep reading at the dinner table, and then don’t stop until well into the wee hours.” Kepler writes with the force of Stieg Larsson and the plotting of Jo Nesbø. The Fire Witness is an unflinching page-turner, sure to join the ranks of its predecessors as an international sensation.

The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom Piccirilli

In the follow-up to Tom Piccirilli’s acclaimed novel The Last Kind Words, prodigal thief Terrier Rand has come home to the family that has lawbreaking in its blood. With generations of Rands keeping secrets from the outside world—not to mention from one  another—Terry is sure of one thing: He owes it to the woman he loved and lost to make sure her husband stays alive.

Kimmy’s husband, Terry’s old friend Chub, hasn’t been seen since he supplied a getaway car for a heist that went wrong. When Terry investigates the ominous disappearance, he discovers that Chub was involved with a strange, violent gang of heavy hitters—guys who don’t take kindly to Terry asking questions. But before Terry can find his friend, a curvaceous divorcée takes him for a walk on the wild side, estranged relatives pull him into their horror movie empire, his sister Dale sets her sights on Hollywood after scoring a hit viral video, and his own uncle recruits Terry to rip off his partner.

In a world of larceny, grift, and fraud, no amount of loyalty—to friends, wives, or lovers—can compete with the Rand family drama. Terry just wants to bring Chub home to his wife and child. Instead, he’s dodging mobsters, moguls, and murderers . . . and the truth about one crime of his own.
The Last Whisper in the Dark takes readers on a wild, rollicking ride with an eclectic crowd of fascinating characters—from a well-mannered killer who drives needles into his victims’ brains to a young gangster struggling to live up to his father’s expectations. Bonds of honor, bonds of blood, and betrayals of both make this the most powerful read yet from the heralded Tom Piccirilli.

MP Guest Post: Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke, cr Deborah Copaken Kogan

Alafair Burke has made a name for herself with her mix of legal thriller and gritty suspense as well as with her new stand-alone novel, If You Were Here. In our guest blog she talks about names and what they mean to a writer.

What’s in a Name?

Thank you so much for the invitation to blog here today.  As supporters of an awesome indie bookstore in Texas, readers here might be interested in something related to another awesome indie bookstore in Texas.

Some mystery readers might recognize a familiar name in my new novel, IF YOU WERE HERE, about journalist McKenna Jordan’s search for a friend who disappeared without a trace a decade earlier.

Yep, that’s right.  McKenna Jordan.  Same name as the owner of Houston’s MURDER BY THE BOOK.

Why the same name?  The short answer is that McKenna’s a wonderful friend and a terrific supporter of the genre, and I’ve always loved both her and the name.  But there’s a much longer explanation.  Here it is, so I can refer people here whenever they ask, as they surely will because McKenna….knows….everyone!

I strive to make my books appear effortless.  For readers to lose themselves in a book, they should be able to believe that story, characters, and settings exist in a parallel world. The writer simply becomes the tunnel for pulling those thoughts onto the page.

For the most part, I’m a tunnel kind of writer.  I see and hear some characters as if I’ve known them for years.

My problem?  These little brats who come to me from the ether never stop and tell me their names!  Hey lady, what am I supposed to call you?

Not much of a whine, is it?  A name for a non-existent person seems pretty easy to conjure.  Absolutely.  In theory.

But here’s an exercise: Let’s say I tell you that a man is a thirty-eight year old lawyer in Chicago.  His name is Robert Simpson.

No, his name is Bob Simpson.

Wait, no, Bobby Simpson.

I don’t know about you, but I just pictured three slightly different people.

Now his name is River Simpson.  Whoa.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with a name like Alafair, but I believe (and my thirty minutes of Google research indicates) that we automatically draw inferences about people based only on their names.  So when it’s time for me to think of a name for a

fully formed person speaking to me from the ether, I really struggle.

When I started the Ellie Hatcher series, nothing seemed quite right for this woman I already saw as a friend.  Ellie grew up in Wichita, Kansas, the daughter of a police detective and bookkeeper.  She lost her father at a young age.  The Wichita Police Department labeled it suicide, but Ellie never accepted the determination.  I knew her route from the teen beauty pageant circuit in Kansas, to waiting tables in New York City, to John Jay College, to the NYPD.   I knew she kept a jar of Nutella and a spoon in her top desk drawer.  I knew she listened to the Clash and the Pixies.  I knew how she felt the first time she took a punch to the face.

But I didn’t know her name.

I looked at baby names from the year of my girl’s birth.  I expended enormous amounts of time looking at cast and crew names on IMDB, trying various combinations of short and last names that might just fit.  Nothing.

Her parents would have given her an old fashioned name, but as a kid, she would’ve altered it to something that still suits her well today.  There’d probably even be a story about what she hated about her given name.  I realized I was searching for something that sounded a little like my mother-in-law’s maiden name, Ellie Hatcher.  I needed to get on with writing the book, so I started using the name as a placeholder, with every intention of doing a search and replace once I figured out her real name.

By the time I finished the novel, there was no going back.  It would be like changing a kid’s name in the ninth grade.  Elsa Mae (Ellie) Hatcher had a name.  I even knew why and when she’d begun going by Ellie instead of Elsa.

In my new standalone, IF YOU WERE HERE, I really knew the two main characters before I started to write, because they are not so loosely based on my husband and me.  (Backstory to the backstory: The greatest compliment we may have ever received as a couple was from my sister, who wants us to go on The Amazing Race.  Unless she just wants to see me fall during some roof-scaling exercise, I think she’s referring to the fact that Sean and I have opposing but complementary strengths and personalities.  Since I can’t figure out how to get us on a TV show, I figured I could use us as the bones for two new characters with our basic skills and personalities, but who face tremendously puzzling and dangerous challenges.)

But what do I name a character based on myself?  Certainly not Alafair, because that’s the name of the author.  And Alafair Robicheaux.  And Alafair Tucker.  I tried Ally, but it sounds too much like Ellie.  And like Alice, the main character in my last standalone, LONG GONE

I had already named the husband Patrick Jordan by looking at my own husband and asking, “What should his name really be?”  Then it came to me.  This main character I knew so well had to be named McKenna.  McKenna (Wright) Jordan.

Fortunately, McKenna was game.  She tells me it was a little hard to get used to seeing her name being bandied about by some fictional character in a book.  I told her that, as a person named Alafair, I could identify.  And I hope that readers who recognize the game will smile to themselves at the insider reference, the way I smile when I see Kiz Rider and Maggie Griffin in Michael Connelly’s novels (both named for booksellers at the wonderful, though now closed, Partners & Crime in New York).

Thanks for the chance to share my little aside here today.

New in MysteryPeople: April 30th 2013

Here’s a little taste of the latest hardcover and paperback releases available now in MysteryPeople!

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Almost twenty-five years after the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—still the largest unsolved art theft in history—one of the stolen Degas paintings is delivered to the Boston studio of a young artist. Claire Roth has entered into a Faustian bargain with a powerful gallery owner by agreeing to forge the Degas in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But as she begins her work, she starts to suspect that this long-missing masterpiece—the very one that had been hanging at the Gardner for one hundred years—may itself be a forgery. The Art Forger is a thrilling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.

Phantom by Jo Nesbo (paperback)

When Harry left Oslo again for Hong Kong—fleeing the traumas of life as a cop—he thought he was there for good. But then the unthinkable happened. The son of the woman he loved, lost, and still loves is arrested for murder: Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn’t help deserting when he fled. Harry has come back to prove that Oleg is not a killer. Barred from rejoining the police force, he sets out on a solitary, increasingly dangerous investigation that takes him deep into the world of the most virulent drug to ever hit the streets of Oslo (and the careers of some of the city’s highest officials), and into the maze of his own past, where he will find the wrenching truth that finally matters to Oleg, and to himself.

Daddy’s Gone A Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark

In her latest novel Mary Higgins Clark, the beloved, bestselling “Queen of Suspense,” exposes a dark secret from a family’s past that threatens the lives of two sisters, Kate and Hannah Connelly, when the family-owned furniture firm in Long Island City, founded by their grandfather and famous for its fine reproductions of antiques, explodes into flames in the middle of the night, leveling the buildings to the ground, including the museum where priceless antiques have been on permanent display for years.

The ashes reveal a startling and grisly discovery, and provoke a host of suspicions and questions. Was the explosion deliberately set? What was Kate—tall, gorgeous, blond, a CPA for one of the biggest accounting firms in the country, and sister of a rising fashion designer—doing in the museum when it burst into flames? Why was Gus, a retired and disgruntled craftsman, with her at that time of night? What if someone isn’t who he claims to be?

Now Gus is dead, and Kate lies in the hospital badly injured and in a coma, so neither can tell what drew them there, or what the tragedy may have to do with the hunt for a young woman missing for many years, nor can they warn that somebody may be covering his tracks, willing to kill to save himself . . .