KNOWING has more of a high-octane thriller edge to it than the other books in the Jane Perry series. Why did you chose to go that direction for the fourth book in the JP series?
The story really demanded it. From the first chapter, the chase begins and it doesn’t end until the last few pages. The “dark” element in the main story is always hovering close by, making life tenuous for Jane. So, yes, this book definitely has a constant undercurrent of tension and malevolence in it. But the core of the book is about the heart—the physical, emotional and spiritual heart—so I think that balances out the fast-paced story elements.
You’ve said that this book was tough to write at times. Why was that?
Again, it was the story I chose to write. The plotline deals with a former Interstate truck driver, Harlan Kipple, who is framed for the gruesome murder of a prostitute in a motel room. Kipple’s past is unusual because he received a life-saving heart transplant nineteen months prior to the murder set-up. Ever since his transplant, he hasn’t been the same. Kipple believes he is taking on the memories and lifestyle choices of his donor. And some of those memories are shockingly brutal. I don’t want to give too much away but as the story unfolds, Jane begins to uncover extremely troubling information regarding a certain powerful group and their connection to Kipple. It was that part of the book that was difficult to both research and write. So, I set the book aside, got some much needed perspective, and came back to it with a different outlook that retained the same grittiness but was much more forgiving.
As gritty as it is, this book is definitely very spiritual on many levels and involves a plot point three-quarters of the way into the story that you certainly don’t see in other thriller/mystery novels. Without giving away the big moment, how did you decide to go with that story angle?
Knowing is about the heart and the mind and how they intertwine. Do you listen to your heart or your head when you need to make a major decision? Does your heart rule or does your head? Is it possible to find a balance and integrate the two? Then the question becomes, who is really in charge of your thoughts? Are you or your beliefs being controlled by another faction that you don’t even know exists? These are the themes I explored and I did so because I wanted readers to really stop and ask themselves if their beliefs belong to them or if they are filtered to them through other sources who might not have their best interests in mind.
This is an extremely spiritual book but it’s not religious. I’m personally more interested in the bigger questions: destiny, free will, the mind’s full potential, death and transformation. And this story has every single one of those elements in it. As for the big moment in the book where all the clues come together, I hope it makes people really think and observe this world with a keener eye. There are symbols around us that we maybe aren’t aware of that have deeper meaning and might be pointing us toward a different perspective. I also hope after reading the book, that readers do their own research and delve into the “mental frontier” that is at the center of Knowing.
Where did you get the idea to have a character that feels as if his donor’s heart is speaking to him?
It’s actually based on true-life cases where heart transplant patients report “strange” changes in their likes and dislikes after surgery. It’s not talked about freely but it’s a verified “side effect” for some people who undergo a heart transplant. I just took that reality and magnified it into a fictional story.
How’d you come up with the name ‘Harlan Kipple’?
I needed to name this guy and I literally was down to the wire to start the book and had no name picked out that fit him. Then my husband and I took a road trip to Denver and while driving west on I-70, we passed two highway signs. The first one was Harlan and the second one after that was Kipling. I just shortened Kipling to Kipple and finally had my character named before we got to the next exit.
Did you talk to heart transplant doctors and/or patients as part of your research?
Yes, absolutely. I wanted to get a sense of the whole procedure from when the donor is brought into the hospital and their heart is removed to what transpires between then and the patient receiving the heart. I needed to know about the cardiac therapy post-surgery and how soon a heart transplant patient is able to get back to a new life. I was blown away, for example, how quickly the new heart affects the patient. Basically, when they awake from the surgery, their color improves drastically and their attitude is usually “renewed,” as one doctor told me. They literally are granted a new lease on life.
Since this is a book about the heart on all levels, would you say it’s a book about love?
I’d say it’s more about making mental and “heart-centered” connections with other people. I think a lot of my stories have to do with that unseen yet palpable connection that a lot of us share with one another. In Knowing, Jane becomes attached emotionally to Harlan Kipple as she does everything possible to help him. But her attachment takes on truly mystical dimensions that even Jane cannot understand in the beginning. And through that, Jane is forced to see where her heart is shut down. So, it all comes full circle.
Can readers expect a visit from Hank in this book?
Yes! I can’t tell you how many readers emailed me and literally begged me to include Hank in the next book after they read Revelations. He was always going to be in Knowing but I will admit that I gave him a little extra “page time” because of the reader response to his character.
He is a good character and the perfect foil for Jane.
Well, aside from Sergeant Weyler, Hank is essentially the only person who isn’t afraid of Jane. He understands her but doesn’t let her control him, no matter how much she tries. When I meet readers and they gush about Hank, I ask them what they like about him. “He’s solid,” a lot of them say. “He’s not afraid of Jane’s intelligence,” one woman told me, “and that is so sexy.”
It’s really kind of interesting because when I introduced him into the series in Revelations, I wasn’t sure how to paint his character on the page. I struggled with it because I didn’t want to make him weak…since Jane Perry would never be with a weak man. But I couldn’t make him tough and brutal because Jane’s had enough of those guys in her life and I wanted to lift her out of her tragic past and give her some light to look forward to. That light is Hank. The problem with Jane is whether she’s strong enough to allow that light to stay in her life.
So it sounds like Jane Perry is struggling with the theme of whether she should listen to her heart or her mind?
You bet. And it’s a struggle she takes to the last page of the book, if not the very last line.