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Finding Lisa Gardner

Written by Ayo Onatade

Lisa Gardner is the best selling author of three different series and a number of standalone novels.  Her latest book is Find Her.  She kindly agreed to do a telephone interview whilst in the middle of her US book tour. The Neighbor the third book in her DD Warren series won the International Thriller Writers' Award in 2010,


I wanted to first of all ask you about Find Her, which is the 8th in the series and what are your thoughts on writing a book series? One knows that as a series continues that the range of the options for the main character narrows. Do you cautiously think about how your main protagonist will develop?


I never intended to write the Detective D D Warren series and she even started as a walk on part in the scene and the first book Alone. Subreme needed a boss and a detective for the jurisdiction for a certain scene.  But DD did take on a life of her own and readers responded so positively and they really liked how Bernash is aggressive and she is one of those characters who will say all those things you and I are much too polite to say. But I do think that one of the challenges in to keep bringing her back and to show some growth and change in her life and one of the things that I liked about Find Her is you see how DD is becoming more human, maybe even in spite of herself. She has had an injury on the job, has changed some of her role at work but at the same time she is now coming home to a loving husband, a four-year old kid, she is making dinosaur shaped pancakes who even knew she had that in her. And I think that it does make her interesting.  She was always a workaholic but now we are starting to see her start how to realise how much it means to her to be a wife and mother as well.


Did you actually learn anything from writing the new book because it is quite a rather stressful situation writing about a kidnapping and looking back on what happened?


You are asking because the book was so dark if it was stressful to write?




No, I feel as an author my job is to be Flora and while Flora is trapped and frustrated and clearly traumatised she’s also a problem solver.  In all of those chapters she is already thinking “not that I’m stuck but how do I get out of here” and that perspective is really empowering and kind of fun.  You kind of think that if you were trapped in a garage and you had nothing but garbage how would you fight off your attacker?  If you are running through a deserted house and you find a plastic straw how could you use that for self-defence?  There is like a MacGyver streak (you remember that TV show from the 80s) in Flora and that was a lot of fun for me and I didn’t know all these answers.  I had to do all this research, I had to consult with other people and that is one of my favourite things of my job is to learn some of these kind of cool tricks on behalf of my characters and I like tease my family now. My husband and my daughter are actually really good shots with a gun.  They do target shooting and I am careful with a handgun but now I like to argue with them that I can always get my hands on a plastic straw.


Was there anything you found the hardest when writing this book?


I had to change my detective.  When I first started the novel I really saw Flora as a victim. You know a girl who had gone through this terrible ordeal and one of the things that came out of talking to the victim specialists from the FBI.  The real life people that inspired Samuel Keynes’s role is that you can’t treat someone like Flora like a victim, she is a survivor, she is strong enough.  She does have the coping skills; she did do everything she had to do to endure the first experience.  Her issue is seeing that strength in herself and giving herself credit for what she had already accomplished and I did not know that until I started talking to the experts and it fundamentally changed the direction I went with the novel verses what I had originally planned.


What made you decide to write it from two different points of view and was it difficult to do soespecially from Flora’s.


It actually made it easier for me.  Flora was so immediate.  Flora definitely came to me as a voice in my head and she is present tense as well as being first person because there is an urgency to her.  She is so in the moment and to have her voice to be very distinct from DD Warren’s made it easier for me to get into Flora’s mind set for those chapters.


Can I ask you about DD Warren?  Quite a lot of us have been reading the series for quite sometime, but what do you think it is about DD that makes her so special?


I think she is unapologetically a workaholic. She loves her job.  She is not the jaded burnt out homicide detective.  She’s intrigued by the puzzle and she will go to the ends of the world to figure out who did it.  She loves her squad.  I mean her unit is her family and that is a little refreshing in the genre. Often our detectives our loners and have a tendency to be rather cynical. D’s at the top of her game, there’s nothing that she would rather do and I do think that is a fun perspective and refreshing in the genre.


What does it mean to have someone like Sharon Bolton whose praising your writing and saying that you are an absolute master of psychological suspense?


It is a huge honour and it is incredibly nerve wracking when you are an author and you have a book about to be released. To this day I am somewhat convinced that my mom has a lot of copies of this novel.  It is anxiety enough to know that readers are going to be reading these characters for the first time. But then to know authors such as Sharon Bolton who I just love and admire her work so much also mentioning the novel you definitely get all pins and needles to get another author say they like the book means the world.


How do you come to write a story? Do you observe all the time like a reporter? Or does something just click and there is something you would just like to write about?


I spend a fair amount of time reading true crime cases, maybe surfing the Internet for strange stories and in the case of Find Her I ended up reading an article on this FBI relatively new unit The Office for Victim Assistance and this was a role I had never even heard about. But to read the kind of cases the victim specialists are brought in for.  You have major trauma where it is one of these huge crimes from major headlines in the news where the family certainly needs a guide and the victim’s as well were very intriguing to me.  It was a side of the justice system and law enforcement that I had never seen so I knew immediately that I wanted to write about someone like the Victim Specialist.  Then I had to go through channels to try and get the interviews and I came up with an effective plot by reading other real life cases after talking to experts about what would be the proper police procedure? What is the forensics that would be used in my fictional time?  Then I am ready to sit down and write. There is a lot I don’t know.  I never know who did it.


How do you know if you have got the story right? Does it hit you the first time or are you quite critical as you go along?


I am not sure I ever know the story is quite right. There are definitely the days of staring at the blank computer screen and it is very intimidating.  I think one advantage of writing for twenty-five years is you have a sense when you are on the right track but I am not the world’s most efficient writer. I will go down one road and realise that I am wrong and have to throw out scenes and backtrack and I do a lot of revision work to make the story the best possible.


I often wonder if authors are encouraged by good reviews or discouraged by bad ones?  How do you feel about it?


I actually try not to read the reviews. I know that is a bit of a trite answer. But my job is to work with two editors, and I have two brilliant editors, one in the US and Vicky Mellor from Headline.  That is already two very strong opinions.  Even if you read a good review they say this is something you are doing really well, well immediately as an author you feel that you should be doing it all the time but that might not be right for the next book.  So I try to keep myself focused on my editors and have a lot of faith when they say the book is good that they are ready to go.


If you were at a party and someone asked what you do and you tell them that you are a writer.  How would you introduce DD to them?


I would introduce her as my cop friend who is somewhat brash and definitely a little bit dangerous and don’t confess to any crimes anytime soon.


What would we find in DD’s refrigerator if we were to look in to it today?


Well because she has a child now she would most certainly have milk, orange juice and cheese sticks and funny flavours of yoghurt.  Kids really like funny flavours of yoghurt.


DD herself is known for her fast food appetite so there is probably left over pizza. Maybe some takeout Chinese, that kind of thing for the adult fare and a bottle of wine.


Last question, what are you working on at the moment?


So we did a Facebook poll of readers last year asking this question - “I need to start the next book what characters would you like to see because I do have three series – Detective DD Warren, Tessa Leoni and there is the FBI profilers which are the original suspense novels that I wrote.  And interestingly enough by a pretty significant margin people wanted to read more about the FBI profilers.  So I have actually spent the Fall re-reading my own books. It has been eight years and I don’t remember everything about them.  So I am brining back the FBI profilers following your very first question if you are bringing back a returning character how can I complicate their lives, I gave my FBI profilers a very troubled thirteen year old foster daughter and much mayhem ensues.



Find Her by Lisa Gardner (Headline Hbk £16.99)



My name is Flora Dane and I was kidnapped from a beach on spring break. I spent 472 days with my captor before I was found.



I spent the last five years trying to reacquaint myself with the rhythms of my life. But everything is different. I've had to learn how to protect myself in this dangerous new world.



There are other predators out there and I'll do anything to stop them. Am I a victim or a vigilante? Detective D. D. Warren doesn't know. Sometimes neither do I.  When another girl disappears, I know I have to FIND HER, whatever it takes, even if it means putting myself in danger...


Escaped kidnap victim Flora Dane has once again disappeared. Has the self-proclaimed vigilante become a victim? Or is something far more sinister at play? D.D. will have to race against the clock if she is going to Find Her.


You can find more information about Lisa Gardner and her books on her website.  You can also follow her on Twitter @LisaGardnerBks and find her on Facebook.


Interview: March 2016


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