1. Where do you get your ideas?
Most of my ideas come pretty spontaneously, and from various sources or experiences. They’re rather like flashes of inspiration or pictures in my mind, and if I mull over them, they develop into something more. I may glimpse an interesting landscape that sparks an idea, or have a conversation with someone that leads me to consider a topic I want to explore in a novel. I find the trick is being open to ideas. Rarely does inspiration come whole cloth; as a writer, you have to be willing to follow and nurture a concept to see where it leads.
For example, last year my husband participated in a triathlon in the Poconos. The swim took place in a lake at an old Pocono resort, a resort that has not been in use for some time. The abandoned buildings and lush, silent landscape spoke to me, and I found myself taking pictures and thinking about the haunting nature of such places. You’ll find this resort—or a facsimile of it, at least—in DYING BRAND. It’s been moved to Maine, but that resort in the Poconos was my inspiration for both the setting and the action that took place there.
2. Who is your favourite author?
It’s so hard to pick just one! I am a huge Stephen King fan, and he is quite prolific, so I suppose if I had to choose, I would say King. For mysteries, Elizabeth George. Her Inspector Lynley series has been an inspiration.
3. Do you have a favourite book?
Again, so hard to choose one. Perhaps THE STAND, by Stephen King. I also loved LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry.
4. Do you have a soundtrack to your book?
Not exactly. I write to music, though, and for each novel I find I have a very specific preference—perhaps that somehow carries over into the writing? When I wrote the second Campbell mystery, DEADLY ASSETS, I only wanted to hear Celtic music while I worked. For DYING BRAND, my desires were more eclectic—I listened to a mix of classical music (mostly Vivaldi), Sia and indie folk bands.
5. How do you handle writer’s block?
I return to where I started—freewriting. When I first have an idea for a novel, I free write in notebooks in order to let my mind wander and ultimately dig into the concept, fleshing out the idea for a story. I’m a fan of Natalie Goldberg and I recommend her book WRITING DOWN THE BONES to all inspiring authors. She talks about “wild mind”—connecting with your own imagination through the very visceral process of free writing. It works for me, and when I’m stuck while writing a novel, I hit the notebooks again, movingthat pen until the ideas are flowing.
Allison Campbell couldn’t think of anywhere else she’d rather be. Sitting in the Grand Ballroom at the Four Seasons next to her boyfriend, Jason, and her business manager, Vaughn, both of them dressed in evening garb and looking quite dashing, was the last place the image consultant expected to find herself on this early November evening. She’d been scheduled to present at a university ahead of her next book release. Nevertheless, when the invitation to be a guest of honor at Delvar’s award ceremony had arrived a month ago, she’d canceled her other plans and accepted without question.
Delvar’s was a success story of the very best kind.
Allison watched her mentee with maternal pride and the tiniest bit of professional told-you-so from her perch at the stage-side table. Not only was Delvar a sought after designer, but a role model to others. And that second reason was why they’d all gathered on a Saturday night to celebrate.
The gentleman on Allison’s left was engaged in a conversation with Delvar’s mother, and on Allison’s right, Jason was in the midst of a heated discussion with Vaughn. They were talking football, a topic Allison knew little about. Slightly giddy from Dom Perignon and a night away, Allison took advantage of her boyfriend’s distraction to check her email messages. It was then, with her small clutch open and her hand on the mobile device, that her phone rang. Allison answered quickly, without thinking, a move she would later regret.
The woman’s voice was one she recognized. The sound of it, rather like shattering glass or a fork scraped against a ceramic plate, made Allison shudder.
Her name was Leah Fairweather and she was a phantom of Allison’s past.
Allison rose from the table with her phone planted against her cheek and left the award ceremony without a word to her companions. The whimsical lights and excited voices of the Grand Ballroom receded to a dull blur of background noise.
“Are you listening?” Leah asked.
Allison swallowed. She was standing with her back up against the wall of the hotel lobby. She pictured Leah’s white-blond hair as it had been not that long ago: long, thick and curled on the ends. She saw Leah’s hooded grey eyes, that twisted little smile, part vixen, part intellectual snob. Allison knew these memories were colored by feelings of shame and remorse. Her mind had turned Leah Fairweather into a symbol of past regrets, both bigger and uglier than reality. Allison’s hand shook.
“I asked if you were listening.”
“I’m listening,” Allison said.
“Why? Of all the men, why him? You both promised. He said it was over, all of it. For God’s sake, why? And now, this—”
And now what? Allison blinked, confusion overriding other emotions. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Leah. Slow down.”
A baby cried in Leah’s background and the sound registered as another accusation. Allison watched as a man in a tuxedo left the ballroom with a fifty-something blond hanging on his arm. They headed toward the doors that led to Arch Street. Allison said, “I’m going to hang up now, Leah. You’re upset. Confused. I haven’t seen Scott in almost five years. Except for a brief encounter, but that was just happenstance—”
“I know you’ve been seeing him.”
“That’s not true.”
Allison closed her eyes, then opened them, fighting for control. From the corner of her eye, she saw Jason push open the ballroom doors. He looked around, searching for her.
“Good-bye, Leah,” Allison said.
“I need to go.”
Allison grabbed the wall. Her vision constricted, the heady lights becoming starbursts of ivory dancing in front of her face. Scott Fairweather, dead? But she had seen him, what, three weeks ago? He’d seemed fine. Perfectly fine.
“He’s dead, Allison.”
“I thought maybe you could tell me. What happened to my husband?”
Jason spotted her. He was walking toward her, looking concerned. Allison wanted to hang up. She also wanted to know—had a sudden, crushing need to know—what had happened to her former paramour.
“How would I know what happened to him?”
“You were supposed to have been together the day he died.”
“Together?” The vise on Allison’s skull tightened. She felt Jason’s touch on her elbow, registered his eyes, full of questions. Allison turned toward the wall. She had to get off the phone. With a steadier voice, she said, “That’s not true.”
“You’re in his appointment book.”
“It’s not true. I have to go now, but—”
“He was murdered, Allison. And I’m sure you know why.”