Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK CUTS LIKE A KNIFE?
As a kid I read the Hardy Boys and Chip Hilton books. I have always loved character driven fiction. That continued in my adult life. Even though I have studied theology and business and a full range of non-fiction topics, I have always returned to fiction for my pleasure reading – especially character driven suspense and mystery. So this is my tribute to the authors and characters who have given me so much pleasure.
Let me add one other note on inspiration. One of the mystery writers I admire the most is Tony Hillerman. He created wonderful stories set on the Navaho Reservation featuring his hero Jim Chee. Chee is very reflective of his faith (not Christian) but the Hillerman books have never been considered religious. This inspired me to write what I hope is a fabulous mystery-thriller that is not religious – but allows the lead character to be reflective on her Christian faith. I’ve been told I succeeded and hope that is the case.
Q: ALTHOUGH YOUR BOOK IS FICTION – WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF SOME ELEMENTS IN THE BOOK THAT CAME FROM REAL LIFE?
I am embarrassed to admit that the first thing that jumped into my mind is the restaurants that show up in Cuts Like a Knife. Yes, all are fixtures in Chicagoland and I have been to all of them.
The most obvious real life insertion into the book is that I have three daughters and a lot of dialog is between Kristen Conner and her two sisters. My editor asked how I could write women’s dialog so well. As a father and husband I’ve experienced enough drama and dialog to write as many books as my publisher wants.
On the scarier side I did a lot of research into the psychopathic personality to create my serial killer. He is so true to form that even though he is mostly “understated” he is still incredibly creepy.
I really admire the organization Alcoholics Anonymous. So I both enjoyed and felt a little bad making it one of the key locations that the serial killer sought out his victims. It did allow me to highlight what a great organization AA is.
Q: FACT VS. FICTION – WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME EXAMPLES IN YOUR NOVEL WHERE YOU TOOK SOME LIBERTIES WITH THE FACTS?
The story is not based on a real case – so I didn’t have to worry too much about facts getting in the way of the storyline – though I referenced some historical serial killers. One of the elements I added to the FBI’s portfolio is a Homeland Security sponsored software program that connects the dots on isolated crimes across local, state, and federal agency lines. That was completely made up – but I did draw from “best practices” concepts found in the business world to describe it.
I added a lot of real details about Chicago area neighborhoods but didn’t sweat roads or drive times – or else Kristen would never have got to a crime scene on time. Two of my kids live in Chicago and the traffic is awful!
Q: WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?
I want them to fall in love with Detective Kristen Conner like I have fallen in love with some of my favorite literary characters. (And yes, even though I am author, I really like Kristen a lot.) I want them to enjoy and appreciate her worldview as a person of cynicism but a stronger simple faith, a tough young lady in a tough profession, a “graceful mess” who seems to fight with everyone but has a true heart of gold. She’ll drive you crazy but will always have your back.
Q: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
I started with the mystery thriller genre, which is my favorite for pleasure reading. I think sketched out a female character. I have three sons as well as three daughters – but I thought the female lead would give me more opportunity to dramatically showcase a true grit spirit of toughness. I lived in Chicago years ago and travel there often so that became the location. I had a general idea for a storyline but never wrote an outline. Once I started typing Kristen and the serial killer wrote the story for me through the force of their personalities.