Most people don’t know this but the first book I started writing was a romantic suspense though I didn’t finish it, thanks to Judith McNaught’s WHITNEY MY LOVE. We all know where I went from there. I do plan to write more historicals, but after a long hiatus from writing, I think I was ready to go back to the kind of story that compelled me to write in the first place. Writing romantic suspense gave me the opportunity to delve into the contemporary issues we all face every day—but with an edge.
In SPEAK NO EVIL, while the suspense is definitely front and center in the story, the real story is the healing of an estranged family. SPEAK NO EVIL really allowed me to explore the dysfunctions of family life—I mean really delve into it. We’re all human, with human foibles, but I believe it’s what we do with those foibles that defines who we are. I also believe that good people don’t always do the right thing and that bad people don’t always do the wrong thing, so there will be times you’ll want to just shake Caroline Aldridge.
Caroline’s relationship with her mother and the self-perceptions it has left her with are completely responsible for how she’s dealt with the love of her life, Jack. She can’t be happy with Jack until she works through the issues with mom—the problem is that mom is dead and her death, like their lives, isn’t what it seems. And Jack may be the only person who can save her.
For me, the seeds of a story come from anything and everything—a newspaper headline, a dream, something my husband said. For Speak No Evil, it started with the idea that every event in a person’s life is connected … every small decision we make leads to a cascade of events we can’t predict–like falling dominos: A moment of indiscretion may plant the seed for villainy, an inattentive moment on the beach may lead to a never-ending search for a missing child. The state of our lives, at any given time, is the sum total of everything we have done and everywhere we have been … and our next decision determines, not merely where our lives end, but who we become along the way.
SPEAK NO EVIL is also just the second of my books to be set in Charleston, S.C. I grew up there and very much love the city. I still have family there and visit often. I felt Charleston was the perfect place to set this story–the story of a perfect family (at least on the surface) living in an idyllic setting. But Charleston also has its creepy factor. It’s full of alleys, old buildings, ruins, swamps and old cemeteries. It has a very genteel image that serves as a wonderful juxtaposition for a darker story.
Plus, while in Charleston, I grew up in the shadow of one our nation’s most prolific serial killers and it’s amazing to me that few people even know his name. Until I really delved into his story, I had the idea that serial killers fit neatly into a profile. They really don’t. Donald “PeeWee” Gaskins had NO true M.O. In fact, he had different reasons for killing: He killed for money; he killed for revenge; some of his killings were racially motivated; and he also killed to “quiet the voices in his head.” I actually recall when they discovered the mass grave in his backyard. And I spoke to an officer, William Tisdale, who knew him fairly well, and who also worked the case as the forensics expert. He described the guy as “harmless” with a limp, and said people didn’t believe Gaskins even when he bragged in his local bar about buying a Hearse to cart around his victims. They laughed over beers with him. Yikes!
I wouldn’t say SPEAK NO EVIL is reminiscent of any of the suspense I read. But I really love Tami Hoag, Lisa Jackson and Mary Burton. And though she’s not straight-up suspense, I love Karen White’s lyrical prose. These writers write a great mystery, but they also focus on the humanity of their characters. I love that. Because I really believe a good story is all about the characters. Who they are determines exactly what happens when that first domino goes down.
I’m so excited by this book and I hope you love SPEAK NO EVIL and Caroline’s story as much as I do! Drop me a note after you’re read it! I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime, happy reading!
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