My special author guest today is mystery writer Deborah Coonts and we’re chatting about her new thriller, After Me, along with a few other things.
Deborah Coonts swears she was switched at birth. Coming from a family of homebodies, Deborah is the odd women out, happiest with a passport, a high-limit credit card, her computer, and changing scenery outside her window. Goaded by an insatiable curiosity, she flies airplanes, rides motorcycles, travels the world, and pretends to be more of a badass than she probably is. Deborah is the author of the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series, a romantic mystery romp through Sin City. Wanna Get Lucky?, the first in the series, was a New York Times Notable Crime Novel and a double RITA ™ Award Finalist. Her contemporary romance inclinations found wing in The Heart of Napa series, set amid the bucolic vineyards of Napa. For thrills and dark mystery, she penned, After Me, an iBooks Best Of and a Nook First choice. And to further flex her writing abilities, Deborah penned the Sam Donovan series, a romance suspense series highlighting her love of flight. Right now, Deborah calls San Francisco home, but, since it’s her we’re talking about, this too can change. But, for sure you can find Deborah at www.deborahcoonts.com.
Welcome, Deborah. Please tell us about your current release.
After Me, is a mystery/suspense thriller—yes, it fits in all those genres. Here is a short description that describes it best:
Twenty million in diamonds missing.
Kate Sawyer, a cop in witness protection, holds the key.
If she could only remember.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s clouds the past. Stem cell therapy is working to clear it.
But time is running out for Kate.
One night Kate finds a dead man in her bathtub with a note stuck in his pocket.
I know what you’ve done.
Her cover blown, Kate runs, the clock is ticking. People close to her are being killed. Shadowy memories tease her. Some she recognizes. Others don’t seem familiar at all.
Running from people she can’t remember, dogged by a past lost in the haze, Kate discovers no one is who they appear to be, perhaps not even herself.
What inspired you to write this book?
After Me actually arose from one of those “what if” writer type moments. I’ve always loved medicine, and cutting edge medicine even more. So, a few years back, I got totally enthralled with the hope stems cells offer for a multitude of horrible diseases and injuries. Most of us have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia in our family members, so that disease is of particular import to me. About the same time I ran across some information about a Columbian family that has the genetic defect that almost ensures the family members with the defect will get Alzheimer’s before the age of 50, with the first signs showing up much earlier. In fact, 60 Minutes just aired a segment on this same family a few weeks ago. And then I found some interesting research on how our bodies stories memories—yes, our BODIES—in fact traumatic events can actually alter our DNA. Crazy, cool stuff! So, then came the what if. What if a person, suffering from genetic early-onset Alzheimer’s, is receiving stem therapy to mitigate the symptoms (the stems cells could not be her own as they would contain the genetic defect) and she comes home one day to find a dead man in her bathtub with a note stuck in her pocket that reads; I know what you’ve done.
Excerpt from After Me:
The body dumped in my bathtub was a warning; that much I got. Dropped by a pro and left where I couldn’t miss him. Not a speck of blood on the tile floor. No careless footprint. No thumb whorl on a chrome fixture. A slip of paper stuck out of the guy’s breast pocket, in case I’d missed the larger message. I used a pair of tweezers to ease the note loose and laid it on the counter.
I know what you did.
The shiver of a memory, a whispered sin—a moment of a life left behind. How had they found me? My trail had been rubbed clean behind me.
The dead man, eyes bulging, open and sightless, skin the white of old snow, begged to differ.
Questions bolted through my brain, brief illuminations that flared only to deepen the returning darkness. Who? Why? Why now? What had I done? All good questions, but I had no answers.
It was hell to lose one’s memory and not lose one’s mind.
I’m known as Kate Sawyer. Some days that name rolled off my tongue with a comfortable familiarity, as if it really was my own. Other days it sounded like a random stab in the phone book.
Surprised by my practiced efficiency, I finished checking out the man in my tub. Five foot eleven, probably 190. Gray hair. Brown eyes. Fifty or a hard-worn forty. One stab wound under his ribs and a gash downward to his belly. No murder weapon. I made a quick inventory of the knives in my kitchen—all accounted for. According to the items listed in my phone, the only other one I owned was a serrated hunting knife hidden under my mattress, but the killer hadn’t used it. The perforation in the dead guy’s chest was too narrow, the edges clean.
I didn’t do this.
He wore a white shirt with a tattered collar, yellow stains circling under the arms, a red stain over his chest. Brown slacks with a suit jacket that didn’t quite match. No tags in any of it. No jewelry, no watch, two extra holes punched crudely in his belt which gathered tucks of cloth at his waist, old shoes with mismatched laces, and an uneven wear pattern on the soles.
Not much to go on. I used my iPhone to snap a few photos from different angles.
A 9mm SIG Sauer nestled in his shoulder holster. With a finger through the trigger guard I lifted it, then cradled it in a towel. A sniff of the barrel. Hadn’t been fired recently. After protecting the note in a plastic bag, I secured both it and the gun with my getaway stash, under the false bottom of the lowest dresser drawer in my bedroom. The notes in my phone reminded me of its location. I took a few minutes wondering if I’d missed anything then called 911 from my cell.
Back at the tub, I sat on my haunches, hands on my thighs, the weight of a forgotten past on my shoulders. My eyes roamed over the body searching for clues to something I didn’t remember.
Who are you? I silently implored.
The corpse remained mute, his eyes unseeing.
What exciting story are you working on next?Next up: I have a romantic suspense, Deep Water, featuring a female helicopter pilot, a male Coast Guard Commander, and a very unique deep water oil property in the Gulf of Mexico, up for pre-order now. Here’s a description if you want to use it anywhere: Oil—the currency of global economic power. Alter the supply a country controls; alter the power they wield.
Patrick Donovan, Texas wildcatter, sitting on a deep-water well, has tapped into a reservoir so vast it could totally alter the balance of economic power.
A software scatter-bomb planted in the trading software at the New York Mercantile Exchange. A software security engineer is killed.
And the price of oil is dropping like a stone.
Donovan goes missing, and an influential senior Senator from Texas is presumed dead.
Sam Donovan, Patrick’s daughter, finds herself in the bullseye of a world scramble to gain control of her father’s well. A helicopter pilot operating between the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, Sam knows how the game is played.
But this time, the stakes are life and death.
As a hurricane bears down on the Gulf of Mexico, a man with everything to lose sets in motion sets in motion a disaster that will bring down the global oil market.
The price of oil will skyrocket.
Sam, with help from Commander Kellen Wilder of the U.S. Coast Guard, must avert disaster before global economic stability is forever altered.
What I’m WRITING now is, Lucky Ride, the eighth book in my Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure Series AND the sequel to After Me, working title of Try Me. And it has some even way more cool medical science in it. I think, truly, I’m trying to have a career like Michael Crichton. If only…
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not sure even now I fully accept that I’m a writer—there’s always so much more to learn, so many more tools to put in the toolbox. With each story I try to be a better writer, tell a better story, refine my craft—so, I’m a writer in progress. Yes, I’ve reached the point that NY will buy my books as will readers (for which I am stunned an profoundly grateful) but I never want to think of myself as a writer—as finite, finished product. But, I think I accepted that writing was what I was going to do until I died in the seventh grade when I wrote a poem that I had to read before the entire school. Yes, the ENTIRE school. Right then and there I proved the old adage that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes, I write full-time and count myself so lucky to be able to. I used to be a tax lawyer so you can imagine how lucky I feel to not be talking with the IRS on a daily basis!! My work day: spent mostly in my pajamas, which is the upside. I hit email and business stuff early while I’m still mainlining caffeine (the writer’s drug of choice…well, before noon anyway) then I segue into my word count—yes, 1500-2000 decent words a day, EVERY day. I don’t always make the every day thing, but close enough. If there is any time left, and any energy left, I’ll do social media things, etc. I put in twelve to fourteen hour days, six to seven days a week, which can be the not-so-up side. But, I LOVE what I do, so it is a privilege and a true blessing—and it’s a lot like playing. Really, I make stuff up for a living! If someone had told me daydreaming was a viable career path, boy, would my life have been different!! Truly, being a writer is the best job ever!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I listen to music while I write—okay, not so quirky. But I also sing along.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be me and have adventures. Yes, I was a handful, or so my mother tells me. And boy am I having fun adventures now! And, I’m still me, so it all worked out.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
A big heartfelt thank you!!! Without readers I wouldn’t get to spend my days churning out my deathless prose, smiling all the time…well, most of the time.
Thanks for being here today, Deborah. All the best with your writing.
Some praise for After Me:
A firecracker of a thriller—with an ingenious premise, non-stop suspense and terrific writing. But it’s the heroine who makes this such a winner—a heart-breakingly damaged loner who’s got ‘soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture’ written all over her.
—Hank Phillippi Ryan, Anthony, Agatha, and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of SAY NO MORE
"Everyone who loves Deborah Coonts's Lucky series knows that she is a master of the humorous mystery; now everyone will watch Coonts make her mark in the darker world of suspense. After Me hooked me from page one. After Me is the hallmark of a great thriller: strong voice, twisting mystery, and a compelling heroine."
—Allison Brennan, NYT bestselling writer and author of The Lost Girls
Relentlessly paced, AFTER ME is the compelling quest of a woman’s inspiring quest to survive … and a haunting reminder of the great truth: we are what we remember. It’s Coonts’s most gripping book yet.
—Vicki Pettersson, NYT and USA Today Bestselling author of Swerve
Deborah Coonts’ AFTER ME is the perfect thriller: a protagonist is being chased by those driven to make her pay with her life for a dead she may or may not have done, and truly cannot remember. Coonts’s masterly use of memory flashback gives her heroine, Kate Sawyer, just enough revelatory insights into her own private hell to draw her readers into this purgatory with her. The premise is harrowing. The reveal is explosive. And the ending is redemptive. In other words, this is not just a satisfying novel; you’ll find it a memorable read.”
—Josie Brown, THE CANDIDATE, and THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN series
Deborah Coonts has given us an incredibly original story. Enjoy,
—Catherine Coulter, NYT #1 bestselling author of Insidious