Please welcome Kevin O'Brien, our September featured author!
Review and Synopsis of LEFT FOR DEAD:
Left For Dead by Kevin O’Brien
Publisher: Pinnacle Books ISBN: 0786016612
When Claire Shaw awakens in the hospital she is terrified and confused when she realizes she doesn’t even know her own name, much less how she got there. All she knows is that she’s the latest victim of the serial killer known as “Rembrandt”, and the only victim to make it out alive. But as her memory slowly begins to return, a new and unnamed fear tickles at her brain. Her friends and family surround her, yet she feels an unexplained discomfort and an ever increasing fear. Soon, nagging questions begin to assault her mind, such as why is everyone she knows acting so strange, and where is her 17 year old young son, and why is she having flashes of violent memory that are unrelated to her supposed attack from Rembrandt?
Upon returning home to Deception Island near Seattle, slowly recovered memories become even stranger, and she begins to realize that those she trusts are hiding something. With Rembrandt on her trail, and terrible secrets being held by those she cares for, Claire realizes she will never be safe until she uncovers the final truth.
O’Brien’s latest thriller offers up a relentless dose of suspense and chills that is sure to please fans of psychological suspense. There are just the right amounts of twists and turns in this wild ride through terror, and the final denouement will leave readers gasping. O’Brien knows how to tell a story and how to use escalating threat to its fullest potential, making this guessing game of horrors addictive and satisfying. Highly recommended, check this one out, and then read his previous novels of suspense, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Your books feature some pretty macabre (albeit, fun) themes, what inspires you to write this type of book as opposed to say poetry or happy ever-after type books?
I've always been fascinated by scary stories. As a kid
in the 60's, I loved monster movies and TALES OF THE CRYPT type of comic books.
You couldn't tear me away from the TV when ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THRILLER,
ONE STEP BEYOND, and THE TWILIGHT ZONE were on. As a result, I was a nervous
wreck most of the time, constantly having nightmares, and sleeping with a bat by
my bed. Yet I gobbled up these spooky stories and TV shows! You go figure. I
remember how I was just dying to see Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, because it was
supposed to be so scary, and for years, my tough-as-nails oldest sister was
nervous about taking a shower because of that movie. I was so excited when
PSYCHO was supposed to have its TV premiere on CBS 'Friday Night at the Movies.'
I would finally have a chance to see this scary movie I'd heard so much about.
But just a week before the movie was to air, the daughter of our state senator,
Charles Percy, was brutally murdered in her bedroom. CBS canceled their PSYCHO
premiere. It was just as well, I was terrified by reports of Valerie Percy's
murder--in a Chicago suburb not far where my family lived. This was in 1966,
the same year Richard Speck killed eight student nurses--also in Chicago. I was
both fascinated and horrified by these tragic murders--practically in my back
yard. I lived with my parents, my brother and four older sisters in a huge
house with big windows. It was surrounded by bushes and had a furnace room in
the basement that was right out of a horror movie. I was convinced The Chicago
Tribune would one morning feature a diagram of that house, showing where each
one of our bodies were found. 1966 was a very nervous year for me. I think
Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD came out that year too.
2. Your last book had some great twists and turns in it, and one's got to wonder, is this all planned ahead, or does sudden inspiration strike throughout?
It's more perspiration than inspiration coming up with
plot twists. But often, certain twists, plot devices, or turns of events will
hit me while doing the dishes or going for a walk. It's kind of like that
moment in THE HOURS (I'm talking about the movie; I haven't read Michael
Cunningham's book yet), when Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf is sitting on a
park bench, thinking about MRS. DALLOWAY, and she whispers, "She will kill
3. You did a great job with your main character, especially with her being female. How do you get that female perspective down so well?
It helps that I have four older sisters. Plus a dear friend of mine named Cate (we've known each other since college) has read early drafts of all my books. Cate hates bimbos and wimpy women. She's always gloriously blunt whenever a female character does something that doesn't ring true to her, and I'll fix it for the final draft. So my pal, Cate deserves a lot of credit if my female characters come across as real and likable. All my agents--so far--have been women too, and nothing gets past them.
4. Your characters all seem like pretty ordinary folks, at least until evil strikes. Where do they come from, are they gleaned from those you know, or just another facet of your wild imagination?
I once had an argument with my agent. She wanted me to
have a leading character who was an expert at something--criminology, forensics,
or whatever, because those types of thrillers sell like hotcakes. But I'm not
very interested in that type of character. I like the 'ordinary' man or woman
who has to rise to the occasion when "evil strikes." When I wrote LEFT FOR
DEAD, I needed the hero to be a cop. But instead of making him Joe Expert-Cop,
I made him a cop who has been behind a desk most of the time, working far more
passionately at night on a comic strip that has a small cult following. He
doesn't fit in with the other cops. His heart isn't in the job--until he's
really put to the test. I was an inspector with the railroads while I wrote my
first three books, so I could relate to this character.
5. What's your favorite part about writing such chilling stories? Your worst?
It kind of goes back to what I said about my childhood. I really like scaring myself. When I'm writing at the computer, and I come up with something really creepy, it's so gratifying. I love it when I write something that makes the hair stand up on my arms. And I think, "Oh, this will really creep people out!" That's the best part. The worst part is reading and editing the same thing a day later, and half the time, it's not at all scary. Another great part about what I do is hearing from people who enjoy my work. It's extra nice when they say they can relate to my characters.
6. What do you like to read in your spare time?
I'm all over the place as far as what I read. For example, I'm now reading Harlan Coben's TELL NO ONE. Before that, I was wrapped up in PEYTON PLACE (Grace Metalious); and THREE JUNES (Julia Glass) before that. When I'm done with TELL NO ONE, Erik Larson's DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is waiting in the wings--as is DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY & DENIM by David Sedaris. I usually go by what people recommend to me.
7. What, or who, convinced you to take the plunge and finally put your wild imagination to paper?
As I mentioned, I was a huge fan of Hitchcock's PSYCHO,
and a lot of the creative writing assignments I did for school were murder
stories. In college (at Marquette University in Milwaukee), on a lark, I took a
creative writing class. The teacher, Anne Powers, was a writer, and she'd been
in a writers group with Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel, PSYCHO (loosely based
on the notorious Ed Gein case--also in Wisconsin). Anyway, Anne was a wonderful
teacher, very encouraging. It was very motivating to have this writing pal of
Robert Bloch taking me under her wing. Anne focused on a lot of the practical
stuff about writing--editing and polishing, how to contact agents or publishers,
how to write a good query letter, etc. She never told a student how to write.
While I was in Anne's class, I made a goal for myself--to publish a book or
story by the time I was thirty.
8. It seems that almost every mystery/suspense book out there these days is part of a series, do you have any plans in that direction?
Not right now. I think that goes back to the argument I had with my agent. In order for a series to work, there has to be a detective, priest, psychiatrist, doctor, forensics expert--or someone who is Joe or Josie Expert--as a continuing character. I like the ordinary hero or heroine. And I like creating new people each time I come up to bat with a new book idea. But never say never. If I came up with a terrific idea for a series--and a character that would sustain it--I might jump on it.
9. And finally what can your fans expect next?
I'm way behind schedule on my new thriller, STROKE OF MADNESS. Here's hoping I can make my deadline, and it will be in bookstores next summer. It's about a divorced mother of two, who gets involved in her twin brother's campaign for state senator. She has a dark secret from her past, and now that she's thrust in the local limelight, old friends start turning up dead. I better not say any more. I don't want to give too much away.
Kevin is also author of "ONLY SON"