Q: You weren’t planning on writing the Jane Perry story as a series. What changed your mind?
A: After I finished the first Jane Perry novel, PROTECTOR, I was pretty emotionally drained. It had taken me well over a year to write PROTECTOR and about a year to research the book. I wanted to put Jane Perry to bed and move onto other books and new characters. But my agent informed me that I’d created a compelling character and the audience would want to read more of her story.
Q: How did you come up with the storyline in REDEMPTION?
A: As usual, my stories take shape with a character. I build a life for that character and then I build a story around that character. That’s how I wrote PROTECTOR. It was simply a vehicle for Jane Perry to operate within. For REDEMPTION, I needed a suitable “guest character” for Jane to play off of and so I created Kit Clark. Once I figured out who she was and her backstory and what she needed from Jane, the story gradually fell into place.
I also knew I wanted the story to be less dark than PROTECTOR and I knew I had to show some evolvement of Jane’s character as far as her addictions were concerned. But the more I talked to recovering alcoholics during research for the sequel, the more I understood that Jane couldn’t just “stop drinking” and not have repercussions. The struggle and the fact that she still wasn’t facing certain demons had to be acknowledged.
Q: The scene in the AA meeting is very real and extremely emotional as it talks about “spiritual awakenings.” How did you get such a realistic feel for that scene?
A: I talked to a lot of recovering alcoholics and those who are still drinking and who fight the fight every day. I also attended an AA meeting and listened to the stories that particular day from people who had experienced many horrific life experiences but who had finally found the strength to climb out of the hole and find their true purpose. The scene in the book is completely made up because I would never breach the trust of anyone I talked to or use their stories verbatim in any book because their stories are so personal and powerful and only THEY have the right to repeat them if they wish. But the theme in that scene of “spiritual awakenings” is a common thread in many of the stories I heard.
Q: The main theme in REDEMPTION of the perpetrator being the victim and vice versa is controversial. How did you walk that tightrope without making readers feel too sorry for the villain in this book?
A: It wasn’t easy because I came to the characters in the book with my own built in dislikes but I forced myself to see the world from their perspective. It’s kind of schizophrenic in a way, because as a writer, you have to jump in and out of other people’s skin and feel their pain, their prejudice and their sickness. If you can do that, you can often begin to see the world from their point of view and understand why they do what they do
Dr. John Bartosh, for example, is someone I couldn’t spend five minutes with in the same room. However, I didn’t want to shade him as the typical Hollywood version of the tyrannical preacher. I realized that some of what the Fundamentalist Christian movement speaks about is valid on a general basis. For example, raging against children being sexualized in today’s culture is a truly valid concern, in my opinion. Jane finds it very difficult to disagree with Dr. Bartosh on many of this points because those points have merit. It’s the way he goes about enacting his beliefs and, therefore, stifling the lives of those around him and not being able to see the forest for the trees that is his downfall.
Q: Another interlocking theme in REDEMPTION is the idea of understanding the difference between judgment and discernment.
A: This is a big one and something I have dealt with throughout my adult life. I was always very good at discernment of a situation or a person but when I would express my feelings based on that to others, I’d be accused of “judging.” The lesson came when I wouldn’t follow my instincts and go along with the crowd because I didn’t want them to think I was judging. Usually, my discernment was correct and I had to experience a lot of unnecessary problems because I didn’t listen to what my discernment was telling me. The whole issue between discernment and judgment is paramount in the New Age movement, with ironically, routinely judges people who use discernment! Of course, judgment is also rampant in many religious groups. Thus, the juxtaposition between the two was a perfect playground for the story in REDEMPTION.
Q: It seems that in REDEMPTION, you are moving toward subject matter for the series that is both mystical and also somewhat controversial. Was that intended when you outlined the story?
A: I didn’t set out to write a controversial book and I think the only controversy will come from readers who are locked into a dogma and aren’t willing to step outside of it. In the story, I take jabs at both sides—religious fanatics and New Age followers. I’ve been exposed in my life to a lot of esoteric philosophy, some of which the New Age community has embraced. Obviously, I use a fair amount of mystical storytelling in the Jane Perry books but it’s always grounded in Jane’s awareness at that time which doesn’t allow it to become too off the chart.
Q: Do you see the Jane Perry series becoming more mystical or more controversial in the subject matter?
A: That’s hard to say. I’m working on the third book in the series right now, titled REVELATIONS and it certainly is the most mystical of the three because the subject matter is extremely esoteric. However, I’ve worked hard to delineate it using a story that everyone can relate to: family secrets. The guest character in the book is certainly controversial, probably more so than any character I’ve ever written. But it’s fun to write because I can go in directions I’ve never gone before.
I think more than ever, as the series progresses, my goal is to get readers to think more deeply about whatever subject matter I set forth and see whether it plays out in their own lives. So often, we go about our lives in a very unconscious manner while aspects that affect us continue to revolve around us and operate without us even knowing it. If something I write about can shed light on those hidden aspects and allow people to explore them and not fall victim to them, I think I would be extremely proud of accomplishing that.
I’m not out to change the world with my books. But I am out to empower the individual to look beyond their existence and re-think their beliefs and consider that there’s a lot more to this world than meets the eye. All it takes is a change in perspective to bring it into view.