Please welcome Laura Lippman, bestselling author of the long-running Tess Monaghan series as well as several exciting stand-alone novels of stunning suspense, including the new blockbuster hit, What the Dead Know!
Synopsis and Review:
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
It was 30 years ago that two sisters disappeared during a trip to the local mall, an event that left the parents of the girls shattered and the city shaken and horrified. But now a woman accused of a hit and run is claiming that she's in fact Heather Bethany, the younger missing sister, a claim that is met with both shock and disbelief. And as the detectives attempt to distinguish the truth from the lies, they will have to go deep into the past to unravel a twisted trail of secrets and half-truths where nothing is as it seems and maybe never was.
Lippman returns to Baltimore with another stand-alone that will easily please fans of her long running series and new readers alike. Adeptly switching between the past and the present, she keeps the reader guessing as to what the actual truth might be, a challenging puzzle that keeps the pages turning right up until the shocking denouement. Well drawn characters, insightful glimpses into a more innocent time, and a dramatic portrayal of a family torn, this latest has all that's needed to keep readers entranced from beginning to end.
NMR: Congratulations on the publication of your new title, What the Dead Know, another thrilling stand-alone title!
How are you feeling right about now with yet another successful book under your belt? Is it a moment of relief and completion, or are you like some authors that always feel like taking it back for one more revision?
LL: Iím already a third into the next book, which I find a great comfort. I do feel relieved when I finished a book, and I have perhaps three weeks of feeling incredibly light-hearted and unburdened. Then I start to write again. Yes, thereís a temptation to go back, to try and make it perfect. But almost nothing in this world is perfect.
NMR: It must be gratifying that your stand-alone titles receive the same sort of welcome and acclaim as your series featuring Tess Monaghan, was this initially a concern for you and your publisher?
LL: If my publisher was concerned, they hid it very, very well. That said, most writers who try to vary a series with a stand-alone find that one is so much stronger than the other, commercially, that itís hard for one not to pull focus. I think my readers are as varied as I am, when it comes to fiction, and want more than one thing from an author.
NMR: Your new title is one that incorporates both the past and the present; what did you find most difficult and most enjoyable about writing a novel that switches back and forth in time as opposed to one placed entirely in the present?
LL: The difficult part, in writing, was the switching. In order to understand my own material, I had to write in strict chronological order, then re-arrange the sections. The enjoyable part was revisiting some years Ė and places, such as Texas and Mexico Ė of which I have particularly vivid memories. I also enjoyed the research. I steeped myself in 1975 for a while there, reading newspapers and magazines from the time.
NMR: Why did you choose 1975, why not 1966 or 1978, or any other year?
LL: This is very much a story of the 70s, inspired by some of the parents I met while babysitting. Those parents, just a little younger than my own, had a sense of wistfulness about them, as if they might be missing out on a grand party. The world really did change a lot, in a very short period of time, between the early Ď60s and the early 70s. 1974 was the year that Nixon resigned and 1976 makes people think of the Bicentennial. (Besides, my friend George Pelecanos wrote a definitive í76 novel, so I didnít want to go there.) 1975 just seemed right.
NMR: Baltimore, always with the Baltimore (grin)! Stand-alone or series, Baltimore is the one common thread throughout your novels, almost a character within itself, so what is it about this city that has you repeatedly coming back for more?
LL: I know Baltimore pretty well, itís almost a kind of vernacular for me. And yet, itís a love that does demand to be justified at times; the city is far from perfect. All I know is that it seized my imagination when I was very young; I wanted to know everything about it. I worked very hard to get a job there, move back, and I donít think any other city will ever be as dear to me.
NMR: What are the biggest differences in your tempo, approach, and sense of creative challenges when writing a Tess Monagham title as compared to a stand-alone; for instance, does the familiarity with your series make the writing easier but more restrictive, or do you find the opportunity to further cultivate your re-occurring character to be just as challenging as that of creating someone new?
LL: As a person with a mania for routine, bordering on the mildly pathological, there is a great joy in returning to the Tess series. I know her world, I know her. Yet thereís also the challenge to make it new, make it fresh, not to repeat myself, which gets harder with every book.
I love the stand-alones because I can try different things, different voices.
NMR: Does Tess ever knock at the door begging to be let in when she's not in the story?
LL: Tess is very happy to take time off. She pops back into my head when Iím on the verge of finishing the work-in-progress. One could say sheís my own personal groundhog.
NMR: Now a bit about your writing process and background. Can you share with us a bit about the first story you ever put down on paper?
LL: It was picture book written in ďcavemanĒ language and I banged it out on my fatherís manual typewriter when I was five years old. Then there was a long fallow period. I started writing in earnest again when I was 12. I got serious about fiction in my 20s and I finished my first novel in my 30s.
NMR: You must have millions of story ideas, how do you ever settle on the one that will become your next novel?
LL: I wish I had a million ideas. I usually have about a half dozen, very vague, rattling about. Itís sort of like going to the pantry and trying to decide what to make for supper, based on the ingredients at hand.
NMR: Who was your hero/heroine when you were seven?
LL: We had one of those local kiddie shows, with cartoons, and I doted on the host, who sang a song about exercising called ďChicken Fat.Ē
NMR: And finally, what's next?
LL: Tess Monaghan collides, literally, with a television show in production in Baltimore.
Laura Lippman was a newspaper reporter for 15 years, the last six as a feature writer at the Baltimore Sun. Her Tess Monaghan books: By a Spiderís Thread, The Last Place, The Sugar House, Baltimore Blues, Charm City, Butchers Hill, No Good Deeds, and In Big Trouble have won every major mystery prize, including the Edgar, Shamus, Agatha, Anthony, and Nero Wolfe awards, and her novel In a Strange City was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She is also the author of two stand-alone novels, To the Power of Three and Every Secret Thing. A recent recipient of the first Mayorís Prize and the 2003 Maryland Author Award, she lives in Baltimore, MD.