I’m very excited to have bestselling thriller writer Diane Capri visiting today! Diane writes nasty villains and strong female characters, and she’s just launched her first novel in the Jess Kimball series, FATAL DISTRACTION.
Diane, thanks so much for stopping by today. Your novel, FATAL DISTRACTION, is getting some amazing reviews and climbing the charts. It’s the first in your new Jess Kimball series–can you tell us what inspired the novel?
Let me say first, Stacy, thank you for having me here. I enjoy chatting with authors and readers, so this is fun for me.
FATAL DISTRACTION introduces Jess Kimball and I hope she’ll become a series if enough readers are interested in her. So far, as you were kind enough to mention, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Fingers crossed on the series thing!
Inspiration for FATAL DISTRACTION came from several sources. But to start, I knew I wanted a very strong female protagonist and I knew the best way to make sure Jess Kimball was strong enough was to give her a supremely evil villain to overcome. I don’t write graphic violence because I don’t want to live in that world. It gives me nightmares! Evil villains must have realistic traits in my books. So I began by asking myself to describe the basic character of the most despicable person. We don’t normally ask ourselves questions like this, so the answers can be surprising. Ultimately, to me, the most evil person is one who preys on those weaker than himself simply for personal satisfaction. In short, a true psychopath who is without conscience and victimizes the defenseless who cannot fight back.
Once that idea jelled, lots of inspiration followed. I love how that happens!
Who is your favorite character in FATAL DISTRACTION, and why?
Oh, boy. That’s sort of like asking a parent which of his children are his favorite, isn’t it? *laughs* Obviously, I like all the good ones, but the bad ones are harder to love. *laughs*
Is there a message in FATAL DISTRACTION you’d like your readers to grasp?
Yes. My books have themes and this one is no exception. In a very quick, shorthand way, the message here is “Grow or Die.” Sounds overly ominous, doesn’t it? *laughs*
How does your background as a lawyer play into your writing?
Someone said once that after you go to law school and learn to think like a lawyer, you can never think like anything else. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing, but I am sure it’s true. I use what I’ve learned as a lawyer in everything I write. All of my books have some sort of connection to the law. I’m not sure how I’d write crime fiction without it. *laughs*
My Judge Willa Carson series always contains a subplot about what’s going on in her courtroom. My Hunt for Reacher series features two FBI Special Agents and the lead agent is Kim Otto, who has a joint law degree and accounting background. Annabelle’s Attack features a stolen cure for a fatal disease and the legal wrangling Jenny Lane must do to retrieve it. And Fatal Distraction is set in the world of Florida’s Governor Helen Sullivan, a lawyer, and Jess Kimball’s fight against the legal system to protect victim’s rights.
The main goal I have when I write about the legal system and the lawyers who work within it is to be authentic. So many stories about lawyers are simply wrong, and it bugs me! (Okay, so maybe I’m a little defensive about all those lawyer jokes after all. Sue me.)
You discussed psychopaths in a recent interview. How do you approach writing villainous characters? Do you draw from experience or rely heavily on research? Do you have a favorite bad guy?
All of the above. *laughs* I write realistic fiction rather than, for example, the fantasy genre, so my villains are usually loosely based on the evil that men actually do. I am also a big researcher and do my very best to get the facts right — and readers let me know about it when I miss the mark.
Favorite bad guy? Um, no. Bad guys are bad. I try to kill them off. Makes the world a better place, as far as I’m concerned.
On the topic of publishing, what’s one thing you wish you’d known before you published your first book?
That someday I’d have thousands of readers and to focus on writing stories my readers would want to read. When I was learning story craft, teachers focused on how to write the best book I can every time. But it was much later that I figured out the secret: always create a great reader experience, too. Believe me, the two things are not at all the same. Some of the most beautiful prose in the world is darn dull. Who knew?
Why did you choose to write series as opposed to stand alones?
Because as a reader, if I love the characters, I never want to let them go at “the end.” As a writer, once I’ve made friends of my story people and become involved in their lives, it’s so much worse if I lose one!
When did you realize you first wanted to be a writer?
Maybe about the age of 10. That’s when I really fell in love with reading and thought I’d like to be able to write fiction some day.
Do you hear from readers much? Is there a particular comment from a reader that really resonated with you?
Yes, I do get reader mail every day. And I love it. There’s nothing better than hearing that someone enjoyed one of my stories. It always feels good when readers “get me.” (When they don’t like something, they rarely write to me — they post it on the internet!) What we see and how we see it is a recurring theme in my work. Recently, a woman wrote to me about my short story, Darla’s Deceit. She said my story had come to her in a very roundabout way and she wanted to let me know how much it touched her. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which is the condition Darla has in the story. This reader said my story helped her and her family because it made them realize how vision and eyesight are not the same thing, and how lucky her daughter truly is to have hope.
Like most of us, I assume your characters are always talking to you. What do you do to escape their voices and relax?
I love to read, everything, all the time. I love to write, which is what I do whenever I’m not doing something else. I’m a huge film fan. Travel and cooking are relaxing for me — when they go well. I really enjoy gourmet food in great restaurants with amazing red wine!
There are many places in the world I’ve yet to visit, but my dream vacation usually includes relaxation and quiet in gorgeous surroundings with exceptional service and a few spa treatments thrown in. I’d love to live in Judge Willa Carson’s home above George’s gourmet restaurant. But since I don’t, and gourmet dinner in my house is usually red wine and microwave popcorn, I guess visiting the Carsons would be my dream vacation!
One food you can’t live without?
Red wine and chocolate. Yes, I know that’s two.
FATAL DISTRACTION just released, and you’re busy with promo, but what’s your next project?
I’m working hard on the next book in the Hunt for Reacher series. The title is Get Jack Back. Lots of fun!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Diane!
Truly, the pleasure was entirely mine!
FATAL DISTRACTION: Relentless victims’ rights advocate Jess Kimball and Jack Reacher both deliver justice when the legal system fails. Reacher waits until trouble finds him and then he does whatever it takes. But Jess pursues legal justice and draws lines she will not cross. How can she win against killers who refuse to follow the rules?
Three years ago, beloved Florida Governor Helen Sullivan’s world shattered when her only son died in a senseless car crash, killing his best friend, too. Helen quickly discovered Eric’s crash was no accident and lured the killer to her son’s funeral to be caught. When the shooting ceased in the small country church, Helen believed her nightmare was over. Instead, she’d unwittingly escalated her duel with a cunning and patient assassin.
Now, investigative journalist Jess Kimball is driven to find the horrifying truth. Is the Central Florida Child Killer guilty? Or is the real killer still out there?
Helen and Jess together face the determined killer in a pitched battle of wit and nerve. Who will survive?