Please welcome our featured author for February: Debut novelist Patry Francis with her first title, Liar's Diary!
Synopsis and Review:
The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis
Publisher: Dutton Adult ISBN-10: 0525949909
Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader
When the new music teacher Ali Mather begins working at the local high school, school secretary Jeanne Cross immediately senses a connection with the woman who couldn't be more different than her. Ali, in her mid-forties, is unique and beguiling, attracting gossip just as much as she seems to attract every man who crosses her path, her life and music uninhibited and creative. Whereas Jeanne, who considers herself plain and simple, lives out her sedate and suburban life with her husband the respected doctor and her overweight teenaged son. But when shortly after the two become friends and Ali becomes the target of a stalker, the carefully constructed façade of Jeanne's well-ordered life begins to unravel when she begins to suspect that someone quite close to her is the culprit. And as each woman's secrets slowly begin to reveal themselves, the truths will bring tragedy and death, forever changing everything.
In her debut novel, Patry Francis steps into the ring with power and force, her merciless candor in revealing what hides behind the pretty suburban home pulling no punches. Providing the reader with a dark and often tragic look at what lies at the end of the road called self-denial, her honest appraisal is both disturbing and poignantly real. And with every shocking secret revealed, each more shattering than the one before, the reader is only drawn deeper into this all too familiar tale. And while often not an easy book to read, its unrelenting suspense and unqualified sincerity make it more than worthwhile. This is one writer to watch, and we eagerly await her next.
NMR: Why don't we begin with a brief sketch of your background in writing.
PF: I was one of those kids who was scribbling poetry in my notebook when I should have been paying attention in math class; and by the time I was fifteen, I’d filled a dozen journals with my typical adolescent angst. In other words, I always wrote--if only for myself.
In my twenties and thirties, I more actively tried to “become a writer.” I published lots of poetry and many short stories in literary journals, and even won a few grants and awards. But it wasn’t until my children were older that I had a chance to take on the challenge of a novel.
NMR: You must be thrilled to have your first novel published, was it a long and weary road?
PF: A long road, yes, but if you love the process of writing as I do, it’s not really a weary one. I wrote my first novel about ten years ago, a massive 800 page tome, that I was sure would change the world. Though the plot outline was strong enough to convince sixty agents to read it, no one took it on. At the time, I was devastated, but now I realize it was a blessing--and that writing a failed novel is often the only way we learn to write a successful one.
NMR: What did you find most unexpected about the whole process of getting published- before, during and after?
PF: I’ve been most surprised by how wonderful and generous other writers have been--especially Tess Gerritsen and Jacquelyn Mitchard. Though I had no personal connection to either of them, they both agreed to read the book, and offer a blurb. But their support went much further than that. Both have sent me numerous encouraging e-mails, which will never be deleted. I was also thrilled to learn that Tess Gerritsen has written a terrific review of the book for the International Thriller Writers Newsletter.
NMR: Many authors these days seem to be going the route of a continuous series, do you have any plans in this direction, or do you plan to stick with the ''stand-alone'' type novel?
PF: I can certainly understand the appeal of a series--both for writers and readers. I have gotten so attached to certain characters that it is very hard to let them go. In The Liar’s Diary, it was George.
And now that you mention it, George would make a terrific detective in a series. At this point, however, I’m only working on stand-alone projects.
NMR: Now let's talk a bit about your first novel, which is amazing by the way! "Liar's Diary" seems to be much more than the everyday thriller currently being offered; had you always intended for it to fall into the mystery/suspense genre, or were you aiming more for the general fiction category?
PF: First, thank you for all your kind words. And secondly, that is a very interesting question! I began the novel as a mainstream, psychological character study. But as I wrote it, I asked a few family members and friends to read along. They not only provided invaluable feedback, they taught me what my novel was meant to be. As they responded most strongly to the suspense elements in the story, I changed direction and wrote for my “readers”--even though there were only five of them at the time!
NMR: Your portrayal of what hides behind the sedate façade of suburbia is a bit bleak and disturbing, why did you choose this particular focus for your first novel?
PF: I had become intrigued by a particular murder story in the news involving a popular teenager from a well-respected, “perfect” family, who had committed a particularly heinous crime. The novel I wrote is not his story at all,but it originated from the questions the case raised for me: How can parents fail to know that their child is so disturbed? How had they fooled so many people? And then--what else might they be hiding?
NMR: I know that many of truths revealed in your story made me squirm; was there any point in your writing where you considered ''lightening up'' to appeal more positively to the masses?
PF: Another good question! Most of my writing, especially on my personal blog (www.simplywait.blogspot.com) is infused with lots of humor, enthusiasm and hope. I’m now hoping that some of my readers who have pre-ordered the book won’t be shocked by such a dark tale. However, I had to be true to the story as it came to me. At the same time, I believe there is lots of light in the story. There are characters who behave with incredible courage and compassion; and in the end, no one, not even the most monstrous characters, are denied the possibility of redemption.
NMR: What was the impact on you during the telling of this tale? Where you able to walk away from it at the end of the day, or did it follow you?
PF: As I was writing the novel, I felt all the emotions in the story--fear and anger,and outrage. I cried for the murder victim not only when I wrote the story, but with every revision (which were many.) But in the end, I also felt hope. Every character in the novel had grown and changed by the time they reached the epilogue--and I had, too.
NRM: What advice would you give to a writer trying to get published?
PF: Recently, a blog reader sent me her favorite writing quote. It came from Joyce Carol Oates: “Write your heart out.” . That’s what I did. I not only kept going when the first novel turned out to be a disaster, but I poured everything I know and everything I fear and everything I believe into my work. I truly wrote my heart out. If a writer does that, and if they’re tenacious, I believe they will succeed.
NMR: And, of course, we must ask what books might be found on your nightstand?
PF: Two books: The first is “Secret Smile”, a psychological suspense novel by Nicci French, that is so good I can’t wait to go to bed tonight so I can finish it! And the second is a self-help book called “Life is a Series of Presentations” by Tony Jeary, because this week as my novel launches, this shy writer will be going into the world to present herself. Ready or not!
NMR: And finally, we're eager for your next title; anything you can share with us at this time?
PF: In the midst of my launch excitement, I’m also finishing up my new novel. It’s also a psychological suspense novel, this time set on my native Cape Cod. I hope that readers will love the characters as much as I do!
Thanks for taking this time to share your thoughts with us, Ms. Francis; we look forward to your next title, and only hope it's coming soon!
My stories in and poems have appeared more than fifty journals. I am a
The blog: www.simplywait.blogspot.com