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No One Heard Her Scream
Q & A

How did you get started with your debut novel—No One Heard Her Scream?

I sacrificed a body part for this novel—literally. How many authors can say that...or would want to admit it?

With the complexity of a dual plot in this project, I spent time pondering the two story arcs and considered how I might blend them. Thanks in no small measure to my plot partner and husband John, I formulated an overall plan and knew I was prepared to write. So while I was home recuperating from major surgery—taking leave from my day job—I finally wrote the novel in six weeks.

I write the types of books I like to read and I believe in the cross genre story. It makes sense in today's competitive publishing marketplace to create a novel with crossover appeal. I'm a fairly eclectic reader, but I gravitate toward mystery, suspense and thriller genres. And the emotional depth of romance also influences me. So my book has threads of these elements and a dose of my humor.

Then I had to set this story in San Antonio Texas, my hometown growing up. As an author, you become more of an observer and a listener. And after listening to others' thoughts on the city, I was swayed into seeing my hometown with fresh eyes.

As further inspiration, a friend once revealed what it was like to experience the murder of her sister. For her, the horrific experience defined the rest of your life. Her words always stuck with me. So with SCREAM, I depicted a woman detective who carries an emotional hardship that hinders her job performance and touches the way she looks at the world.

And the Natalee Holloway investigation in Aruba shaped the story. I watched the drama played out in the media and witnessed the parents' pain through this ongoing nightmare. I had also visited Aruba during the 1980s and knew something of the layout and terrain. And in my book research, I found many Internet sites that theorize a human trafficking angle to this very compelling case. Human trafficking and the trauma of such an ordeal became a facet to the plot.

The book has two parallel cases—a current day suspense plot involving human trafficking and an old murder mystery of bones buried in a wall. How difficult was it to blend the two story lines?

The bones buried in the wall served as the mystery element to this story. And I'm a fan of forensics and police procedurals, so the murder of Isabel Marquez (the bones) satisfied my interests.

SCREAM starts with the abduction of Detective Becca Montgomery's younger sister Dani on a summer field trip with high school friends and chaperones—the initial suspense driver. And since my detective becomes barred from her sister's case months later, she is forced to take another investigation involving the skeletal remains buried in the wall of an old burned down historical theatre.

The first part of the book builds the foundation for the mystery with the bones. And because my detective's emotional wounds impair her judgement, she taints her own case with faulty suppositions. Becca sees a connection between the two cases, for right or for wrong, and comes under the scrutiny of the men behind the human trafficking ring. The second half of the book ramps up the suspense.

The difficulty came in blending the two cases, weaving dual plot threads through in a smooth and consistent manner. But as an author, I like a good challenge.

What themes do you like to write about?

I'm a fan of anti-heroes and the depiction of characters that aren't clearly black and white, good or bad. I like to bend a reader's traditional sense of morality by creating primary and/or secondary characters not easily defined by their pliable ethics.

I also showcase characters in varying degrees of redemption. Some deserve sympathy or forgiveness while others may be a total waste of skin. And good men handicapped by their own personality flaws intrigue me. A fine line separates them from the villains in my books. In SCREAM, ambition and ego plague my FBI agent, Mike Draper.

As in life, not everything is black or white. I like my stories and my characters to reflect the gray in between.

What research did you do for this novel?

I have a small resource library of forensics books, among other materials. To date, my favorite crime science books are the ones recommended by an online instructor I had in 2005, Robert Genna, Director of the Suffolk Crime Laboratory in New York. The books: Crime Science—Methods of Forensics Detection by Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer and Introduction to Forensic Sciences (Second Edition), edited by William G. Eckert.

For police procedure in the state of Texas, I consulted a former Houston Homicide Detective. Even with his deadlines, the man responded to my questions with patience and a gracious southern charm.

I also researched police interrogation techniques. It's not as simple as asking—Did you do it? Detectives must be highly skilled students of human behavior. The best interrogators read body language and other signs, remaining especially attuned to their own natural instincts at uncovering the truth. The interrogation process fascinates me.

Because of my detective's emotional frailty, I had to show a woman caught between good judgement and her undeniable bias when it came to anything that reminds Becca of her dead sister Dani. Her professional objectivity is hard to maintain during the interview process. To understand how a police detective questions a person of interest or a potential witness, I had to thoroughly think through the interrogation scenes and add layers of complexity. Becca's emotional handicap interferes with her police training and slants her impartiality. Once she realizes her flawed logic, she goes over everything again, seeing her case with a new set of eyes. Her humanity and vulnerability come through most in these scenes.

I also read through countless Internet articles on human trafficking and personal testimonials from victims of this heinous crime. These were hard to comprehend and many too graphic to explore in this novel, but I wanted to draw attention to the difficulty in prosecuting this crime. It typically encompasses several jurisdictions and can cross international borders. And the victims in these atrocities are the young, weak and powerless.

And finally, on a lighter note, I interviewed my parents on San Antonio. They have lived in this beautiful city for most of their lives and my father played a role in developing the downtown Riverwalk. He sent me a large box of reference materials on the city and its history. I read through them like an enthralled child, seeing my hometown for the first time.