Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Interview with debut thriller novelist Merit Clark

Today’s guest is debut thriller author Merit Clark. She’s here to introduce herself and tell us a bit about Killing Streak.

Thanks for having me here today, Lisa!

Oh, it's my pleasure, Merit. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a native New Yorker but now write from the Rocky Mountains.

Writing was my first love but several other careers—plus that pesky need to earn a living—got in the way. I’ve been a software developer, and a contractor with the Department of Defense and Los Alamos National Lab. I was also a partner in a startup in the 1990s in the mechanical services industry.

I’m kind of a late bloomer where writing is concerned, and my dream is to be able to finally quit my day job and write full time!

Please tell us about your current release.
Killing Streak is the first in a series featuring Denver homicide Detective Jack Fariel.

In this thriller, Evan Markham is a successful entrepreneur with a dark past. He’s got it all—money, status, a beautiful wife—until someone kills a man in Evan’s guest house and everything starts to unravel.

Evan’s wife, Corie, calls 911 when she finds her friend murdered, not realizing that she’s putting her husband at risk. Everyone has a past, and no one is what they seem. Detective Jack Fariel has a past, too . . . with Corie Markham. Plus, Jack has just returned from medical leave and is fighting cancer.

One reviewer on Amazon wrote that “the reader will end up sympathizing with the hunter as well as the hunted.” I think that’s true. No one’s motives are simple or pure—not even the detective’s.

Killing Streak is a dark, psychological thriller that shows both the destructive and redemptive aspects of love.

Here's a recent review from Publishers Weekly Review:

Evan Markham has it all -- beautiful wife, a new house in a “neighborhood of million-dollar homes,” and a successful consulting business. Or is he a Jekyll and Hyde figure who, as his wife, Corie, may come to find out, is into deadly “sex games.” The first crack in Evan’s carefully crafted and controlled life comes with the murder of Brice Shaughnessy, one of Corie's friends. From here, the author crafts a suspenseful thriller that begins with homicide Detective Jack Fariel’s investigation into Brice’s murder, which leads him to Corie -- his former high school crush. As Jack gets closer to finding the answers needed to solve the case, he also becomes aware of unsolved murders that coincided with Evan’s constant travel, revealing that he was not focused solely on business while on the road. A web of deceit, murder, lost love, and regret, coupled with more than a few surprising twists, and sprinkled with a psycho killer or two, make for a better than average serial-killer thriller.

What inspired you to write this book?
I get this question a lot—what made you want to write mysteries? But the truth is there wasn’t one specific moment when I knew. I’ve always written but it was more along the lines of technical documentation for work, and when I wrote fiction, plays and short stories. My fiction interests were literary, not genre.

I first had the idea for Killing Streak about fifteen years ago when I was living in this small town south of Denver called Palmer Lake. In the original drafts the story was from Corie’s perspective, but that was kind of boring to me—it was all about things happening to her, and her responses. Very passive. I set the book aside for a few years and when I started working on it again I found it much more fun to write from the perspective of the detective. Jack does stuff!

I was intimidated because I had no law enforcement background or experience. But once I started writing from Jack Fariel’s POV I was really energized and inspired. Corie is still a major character in the book and several chapters are from her POV. I tried hard to make her less passive and less of a victim.


Evan put the truck into gear and drove through the makeshift gate. Behind them the other man replaced the chain. He noticed she was shaking. Good. Evan hadn’t been here in a long time but he knew the road well and navigated confidently, avoiding ruts and boulders. In the dusty yellow glow of the headlights, the road deteriorated even further and became increasingly steep.

“Not that much further.” Evan spoke as if to himself and, for once, she didn’t answer.

The old pickup had no shocks, and when Vangie put out a hand to brace herself, the glint of a chunky gold bracelet caught his eye. She must have snatched the jewelry from the hotel. He’d have to make sure he got all of it back.

When Evan ground to a stop in front of an old building, Vangie took in the weathered siding, the sagging front porch, the rusting propane tank, and practically sobbed with disappointment.

“Where are we?”

Evan stared at the cabin, lost in thought. “It’s a place I use to get away.”

“Why did we come here? Why couldn’t we stay at the hotel? The hotel was much nicer.”

It was as if she was insulting an old friend. Evan snapped out of his reverie. “God, I am sick of your whining.” The truck door squealed as he jerked it open.

Uneven, weathered floorboards creaked under his weight as he strode to the front door. He didn’t really care if she followed or not. A wave of sadness washed over him as he pulled on the metal hasp of the padlock securing the front door.

“Evan, I’m scared.”

The unmistakable cabin smell hit him: mustiness, cedar, mothballs.

Her voice rose to a high-pitched, childish whine. “I can’t shoot Bambi. I can’t.”

He turned and looked at her. She clung to the newel post at the bottom of the front porch steps, standing on her tiptoes, as if she didn’t trust the ground to support her. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I know you came up here to go hunting.”

Evan gave a bark of laughter.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on book two in the Jack Fariel series. It involves some pretty twisted individuals as well as something that seems to be a theme with me: evil women and what made them that way. The new book centers on solving the mystery of an old kidnapping, touches on the tragedy of human trafficking, and of course there are a couple of murders and a little sex thrown in!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It feels like I have always written. Writing is what helped me make sense of what was happening to me, and how I felt about things.

One specific moment I remember is that when I was ten years old my Aunt Marie gave me a diary. You know, one of those cheesy vinyl books we all had with the little flap that folded over the edge so you could lock it with a tiny key. I started writing every day and in my case, more often than not wrote about how I felt about what was happening, rather than recording the who-what-where. It seems that I have never stopped writing, even though a lot of life events and other careers got in the way.

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?
Oh, how I wish I could write full-time! It’s a constant challenge finding time to write. I’m not one of those incredibly disciplined individuals who write at the same time every day. I do find I like to write in the afternoons, though, so many days I will write from 5-7, although that’s not a hard and fast rule.

My husband and I have a signal so that he knows when I’m writing and not to disturb me. I have an actual alligator head from a trip to Louisiana years ago. I will put that on the table outside my office door. It’s really funny because if someone calls on the phone he’ll say, ‘sorry, she’s got the alligator out.’  (oh, my, that's great!)

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m actually a really squeamish person ‘in real life.’ But as a mystery writer, if I have a chance to go to a crime scene or visit the medical examiner, I’m really excited. I have never actually watched an autopsy live, so to speak, and I wonder if I could deal with it, although I have watched presentations (over dinner) that included autopsy photos.

There’s also an excitement I feel about crime that’s really misplaced. I’ve talked to a lot of other mystery writers and they say the same thing. One writer I know was going to interview a detective when they were called to a murder. She asked if she could tag along and they let her. She was really excited and giddy and had to keep reminding herself that someone had died. When she told me that story I was jealous! We’re a strange bunch.  (you're so right, Merit)

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. Although, for someone who always knew what she wanted to do, I sure let a lot of other stuff get in the way. It’s one of the major frustrations of my life. That’s why I’m so motivated to find ways to write now.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
That it’s never too late. If you have a dream or goal you’ve put on hold go for it, no matter how old you are.

There’s so much emphasis on youthful accomplishment in our culture—all of those ‘thirty under thirty’ type contests and articles. I think there should be more celebration of older people finally following their delayed dreams. It’s terrific to do great things when you’re thirty, but I think it’s even more of an accomplishment when you’re fifty or sixty or seventy!

Along with my website, readers can find me on Twitter and Facebook. I'd love to connect.

Thanks for visiting, Merit! I really love the alligator as a writer-is-working Do Not Disturb sign. That's priceless - and incredibly creative!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great interview and fantastic book!
This is one that leaves the reader wondering if they might be a bit twisted. You start feeling for the bad guy. And then you are snapped back to reality. There are more twists and turns than can be counted in this thriller. Can't wait for the next one!