On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today Chris Patchell joins us to celebrate the launch of her novel, IN THE DARK, a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press.
Marissa Rooney stands in her daughter’s empty dorm room, a half-used vial of insulin clutched in her trembling hand. Brooke has been missing for days. Her roommate hasn’t seen her since that night in the bar. And if Marissa has Brooke’s insulin, it means that Brooke does not.
But Marissa isn’t alone in her terror. A phantom from her past is lurking in the shadows, waiting in the night, and holding her family captive…
In the dark.
- What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily?
The thought of your child going missing is absolutely terrifying, and as a parent, it’s hard to go to those places. I spent a lot of time (and drafts) digging deeply into the emotions of the main characters for IN THE DARK and trying to bring them across on the page. I knew I'd finally nailed it the day I read one of the final scenes to my critique group and saw them passing around the box of tissues. Writing fast-paced scenes came easily to me. In fact, my editor is always telling me to slow down. But I can’t; I love writing fast, complex plots that keep my readers turning pages late into the night.
- Tell us about your main characters and what drives them.
Marissa Rooney is a single mother who is struggling to hold everything together. With one daughter in college (Brooke) and the other in high school (Kelly), she's struggling financially to keep the family afloat. When Brooke goes missing she risks everything to find her girls, because they're the most important thing--the only thing that matters in her life. Seattle Detective, Seth Crawford, is married to his job. After his wife's tragic death, he buried himself in work as a way to deaden the pain of his loss. Marissa’s dilemma speaks to him on a deep level, and he vows to find Brooke and bring her home, no matter what. True to his word, Seth risks everything to pursue the case—find Brooke, and bring her home.
- Can you describe your journey to publication: the torment and elation, the times none of it made any sense, the moments when it all came together?
As a shy kid, I loved to write. Escaping into the worlds of the characters I created in my mind was my very favorite thing to do. But then, like most people, real life took hold—college, career, and family. Eventually I missed having something creative to work on—something that was mine, so seven years ago I started writing again. When my first book DEADLY LIES was rejected by agents, I chalked it up as a learning experience and let the book sit idle on my hard drive. Rejection was hard, but I wasn’t surprised by their reaction. I knew the story was written from a risky point of view—a female antihero who follows a dark path to revenge. During those years, as the first book gathered dust, I worked on other stories. Time marched on, and the publishing world changed. After many late-night conversations and an ocean of dirty martinis later, my husband and a friend finally convinced me to publish the first book. It was a good story, they said. It deserved to be read, they said. So I got to work. Even now with so many tools in place to help, there are a lot of steps involved in publishing a book. It took me six months to pull all of the pieces together and launch it out into the world. I released DEADLY LIES in December 2013, and quite frankly the thought of having other people read it terrified me. Would they love it? Would they hate it? I didn’t know what to expect. Writing was always something I’d done on the side and now I was putting my work out there. It was scary. Months later, much to my amazement and delight, I started getting great reviews. People liked it! I still remember my first five star review from someone I didn’t know, and how gratifying it was to hear how someone else connected with the story. I also remember my first two-star review. After selling a couple of hundred books, I knew I needed help, so last summer at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference, lightning struck when I met a gal who specialized in book marketing (Rebecca Berus from 2MarketBooks, which is part of the Andrea Hurst Agency). We met the week after the conference and put together a marketing plan for DEADLY LIES, and immediately things started to happen (more reviews, more sales, etc.). Meanwhile, I was hard at work finishing the next book, IN THE DARK. Rebecca asked me what I was planning to do with IN THE DARK. "Aw, I dunno," I mumbled. I'd met some agents at the PNWA conference. DEADLY LIES was starting to do well. I was torn about whether I should try running the gauntlet of trying to get an agent and a traditional publishing deal or sticking with the Indie publishing path, when she suggested another option. What about Kindle Scout? I checked out the program, weighed the pros and cons of each of path, and decided to give Scout a whirl. Partway through the campaign, I signed with Literary Agent, Andrea Hurst. DEADLY LIES won an Indie book award. The Scout campaign ended, and I was offered a publishing deal. It was like all of my publishing dreams came true in the span of a few weeks! I felt like an overnight success, seven years in the making. IN THE DARK is set to release on August 4th and I'm excited for whatever comes next!
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher / author / artist / scientist / celebrity you've always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
I'll be honest, I don't spend much time contemplating the "beyond". There are a few modern-day celebrities though I find very inspiring. I've always been a football fan. As far back as I can remember I watched football with my family. So, shortly after moving to Seattle in 2000, I started to follow the Seahawks and now, I don't miss a game. As a writer, I'm inspired by Russell Wilson's work ethic. An undersized underdog, a lot of people thought he could never make it as a quarterback in the NFL, but he didn't let that stop him. I don't have an MFA, I'm just a gal in tech who likes to write stories, but like Russell Wilson, I believe in hard work and getting better every day. I'm also a big fan of Richard Sherman's. He’s the kind of guy you either love or hate, but I see him as another hard working player who is looking beyond football to build the framework for his future career, whatever that may be. As a writer, you need to take a long view on your career and build the skills you’ll need now in order to prepare yourself for the kind of career you want in the future.
- Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
I'm busily writing a sequel to IN THE DARK. In this book the team at the Holt Foundation (Marissa, Seth, and others) are investigating the disappearance of a pregnant young woman from a mall parking lot. The plot takes a fun Michael Crichton-like twist into the controversial world of stem-cell research. I've also been tinkering with a Whidbey Island Mystery about a womanizing narcissist who is forced to face his past, heal his fractured relationship with his mother, and solve the mystery behind his brother's death to clear his name and get back to his real life in New York. Writing this character is a blast. He's smart, funny, and flawed. Writing humor is a welcome break from the dark, gritty suspense I usually write. It’s like eating candy.
A tech worker by day and an author by night, Chris Patchell writes gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest that are guaranteed to keep you up reading late, turning pages well past dark. Her debut novel, DEADLY LIES, won a 2015 Indie Reader Discovery Award for best fiction. Her latest novel, IN THE DARK is set to release on August 4, 2015.
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