Frequently Asked Questions
Where do you get your ideas?
The ideas come from what happens to me and from what I see around me. I started working at CBS News right after I graduated from college and, over the years, I was privileged to have a job that exposed me to some pretty amazing things. That led to writing the 12 books in the KEY News media thriller series
Now, I am working on the new Wedding Cake Mystery series
. The idea for that came when I was watching a morning show segment on beautiful wedding cakes. Each cake was made for a various destination wedding…and I started to think...wouldn't it be fun to write about a young woman who gets involved with mystery and suspense as she makes wedding cakes for different brides and grooms, with different family and friends, with different circumstances in different locations? To Have and To Kill
is the first book in the Wedding Cake Mystery series.
The idea for the first book in the KEY News series, Do You Want to Know a Secret?
, came during the presidential national conventions in 1990. Tales of philandering by the presidential candidates led me to wonder what would happen if the candidate's wife was doing the wandering.
Do You Promise Not to Tell?
spun from covering the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis estate and Princess Diana dress sales at the famous Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses in New York.
Because I had produced many obituaries on the famous and infamous and because I loved the old Palisades Amusement Park, I wrote Let Me Whisper in Your Ear
, the third book in the KEY News series.
From there, I was sitting in the office of my friend, an on-air correspondent who was being stalked by a crazed fan, when the idea came for Close To You
Location inspired Nobody Knows
. I've spent many vacations in Sarasota, Florida and thought it would make a great place for a suspense story... and an approaching hurricane provided a good reason to have the KEY News crew go south to cover it.
When anthrax was discovered at all three network news headquarters in NYC during the fall of 2001, you guessed it, I got the idea for Nowhere to Run
. (By the way, at this writing, the authorities STILL haven't figured out who sent that anthrax.)
Hide Yourself Away
is my valentine to Rhode Island. I went to college there. It only stood to reason that I would want to write a story that took place in a setting that has blessed me with so many life long friends... and doing that research in Newport wasn't hard to take at all.
Setting, again, inspired Dancing in the Dark
. From the moment I first saw the tents with their brightly striped awnings reflecting in the summer sun, I was utterly enchanted with the New Jersey shore town of Ocean Grove. When my editor suggested the theme of "girls who cry wolf," things began to come together.
Lights Out Tonight
is about a series of murders at a summer theatre. I got the idea for that book when my daughter, Elizabeth, was selected as an apprentice at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
When Day Breaks
, It Only Takes A Moment
and Dying For Mercy
focus on four KEY News characters, led by anchorwoman Eliza Blake They call themselves the Sunrise Suspense Society. I wanted to follow the same characters in these books as they solve the murder of a television news host, the kidnapping of Eliza's daughter and a puzzle that threatens the peace and serenity in the exclusive enclave of Tuxedo Park, NY.
How did you pick the name "KEY News" for your network?
I wanted to have a name that could be spoken as a word, not as letters like A-B-C, C-B-S or N-B-C. Somehow, KEY News just sounded right.
Why did you decide to use recurring characters in your novels?
Although you'll spot some characters appearing again and again, KEY News is the real recurring character. I wanted to create a fictional television news world and populate it with various characters in various positions. Most people are very familiar with the people we see on the television screen, the reporters and anchors of the news broadcasts we favor. But there are so many interesting jobs that go on behind the scene and those can lead to mystery and suspense as well.
Under the auspices of KEY News, the characters can go out into the world, cover their stories and what they can get involved in pretty well knows no bounds. Just like their real life counterparts, the KEY News staff can go just about anywhere the story takes them.
Anchorwoman Eliza Blake has been the main character in five books: Do You Want to Know a Secret?
and Close To You When Day Breaks
, It Only Takes a Moment
and Dying for Mercy
The other books have had different main characters: Farrell Slater, an evening news producer, Laura Walsh, an obituary producer, Cassie Sheridan, a reporter, Annabelle Murphy, a morning show producer, and Grace Callahan, a summer intern. Dancing in the Dark
, published in July 2005, features Diane Mayfield, an evening magazine broadcast correspondent.
Do you have a routine that you follow when writing? How much time do you spend each day writing when you start a book? Does music help you concentrate or do you work better in silence?
Once I start the actual writing of a book, I basically sit at the computer all day. I take a shower, get dressed and even put on makeup, just as I would if I was going to work outside in the real world. Then I go to my office (a former bedroom in my house) and get busy.
I work in silence. Just as I couldn't study in high school and college with the stereo blasting, I can't concentrate with music playing now.
Do you have to read the books in order?
Preferred, but not necessary. All of the books stand on their own. Yet, I would suggest reading in order the five with Eliza Blake as the main character. That would mean reading Do You Want to Know a Secret?
before Close To You
... then When Day Breaks, It Only Takes a Moment
and Dying for Mercy
Do you still work in your news position?
I left CBS News in 2007. It was a hard decision but, after producing ten suspense novels while working there, I felt it was time to concentrate solely on writing books.
In your time at CBS News, did you see factual situations that were entirely too wild to even imagine as a story line?
Many times. Truth really can be stranger than fiction.
How long does it take from start to finish when the book is actually in bookstores of readers to buy?
About a year. I spend several months researching and planning before beginning to write. The actual writing takes me five or six months. Then there is the re-writing and editing and the publishing details that have to be attended to before the book is ready to hit the bookstore shelves.
Can you tell me about Fragile X syndrome?
Fragile X syndrome is the most common form of inherited mental impairment. I unknowingly carried the gene and passed it on to my son.
One of my biggest privileges has been to be able to work in a little information about Fragile X here and there. In Do You Want to Know a Secret?
, a young man with Fragile X holds the key to the mystery... and subsequent books have been dedicated to people with Fragile X and their families with great hopes and fervent prayers for a cure.
It has been heartwarming to see how people have responded…some with Fragile X in their families, some simply wanting to know more about the condition, most just good hearted folks who are touched.
Are you related to Mary Higgins Clark?
I was married to Mary's son.