Welcome Lisa Jackson to Romance Author Buzz.
Lisa, I’ve heard WITHOUT MERCY is different than your other novels? In what ways?
I like to think all of my books are different, but I know what you’re saying— WITHOUT MERCY is only the third of my contemporary thrillers to be set in the Pacific Northwest and, since that’s actually home, people have been a bit surprised. WITHOUT MERCY is also about teens, so there’s a lot of adolescent issues to deal with. It should appeal to readers just out of their teens. Also, I’ve loved writing about Reuben Montoya, Rick Bentz, Kristy Bentz and the other New Orleans characters and they’ve kept me hopping. Stories just keep springing up around them. I think another “difference” is the introduction of new protagonists, Jules Farentino, her sister Shaylee Stillman and Cooper Trent. Except for the Montana set LEFT TO DIE and CHOSEN TO DIE with Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli, they’re my first new protagonists in a few years.
So, why did you set this book close to home?
I wanted somewhere rugged to set Blue Rock Academy. It’s an elite boarding school for troubled teens. It needed to be a place that was hard to get to and hard to leave. That would also be a way to provide the isolation I wanted for the characters at a pivotal point when a blizzard hits. I love the mountains. I knew they’d be a perfect setting and then I thought of the gorgeious Siskiyou Mountains on the Oregon-California border.
How does Blue Rock Academy fit into WITHOUT MERCY?
Blue Rock and the many acres that make up the school are the setting for almost the entire book. In some ways it plays as important a role as a character in that it reflects much of what happens in the book. There’s a spiritual side. Physically, the weather in the Siskiyous is so varied it could reflect calm or turmoil in the plot. There are some rather daunting hallways and off-limits rooms, and parts of it are very spread out. It’s definitely a place where secrets can be hidden. In some ways locations at Blue Rock ended up reflecting people in the book to some extent. For example, the stables are the domain of a volatile, unforgiving character and much of what takes place there reflects that.
What else can you tell us about the story?
The story begins with Jules Farantino finding out her half-sister, Shaylee, is being sent to the school—it’s there or juvenile detention. A student at Blue Rock has already gone missing and her disappearance has never been solved. Jules, already concerned, becomes more so when Shaylee starts sharing rumors and reporting a student’s death—murder or suicide. Jules freaks and goes “undercover” as a teacher, determined to find out what is really happening. She doesn’t know what to expect but it isn’t to find former lover, Trent Cooper, on staff, another student missing, and an extremely lukewarm reception from others on the staff.
Your novels don’t pull any punches in sharing the violence with which you killers murder their victims. And at any point one of your “heroes” may have to kill to save his or her life. How about you? Do you think you could kill if you had to?
Back awhile, I was in Alaska for Bouchercon on a panel called “Hot Seat.” That was the first question. I thought “no way—are you crazy?” Even in a fight or flight situation, I’d choose flight first every time. Then I changed my mind. I thought about my kids. Then I knew—I had absolutely no doubt that I would kill to protect them if should they ever be threatened.
Why do you think readers come back again and again to your thrillers—to stories of serial killers and pursuit of them in general?
I think readers who enjoy suspense and “serial killer thrillers” choose the type of book for many reasons, but I think the books and authors they read based on what makes all fiction distinctive—the writer’s voice, the way characters are developed (or not), settings they are attracted to, and the complexity of the plot and sub-plots for example. Essentially, I think the readers who come back to my books enjoy the edginess of the plot, the level of suspense, many of the characters I’ve created and how the lives of those characters are explored as the pursuit of the killer unfolds.
Thanks for asking. This August will see the release of RUNNING SCARED in mass market. It’s a major reworking of my book WISHES, published in 1999 with a lot of suspense added. Early next year we have the mass market reprint of WITHOUT MERCY, and the paperback original WICKED LIES, the second collaborative effort between me and my sister Nancy Bush following the national bestseller WICKED GAME. This time next year my next hardcover, DEVIOUS will come out and it’s going to take us back to New Orleans!
On a personal note, last October I had the priviledge of hearing Lisa speak at the Emerald City Writer's Conference here in Seattle. Talk about a talented lady, so much fun, entertaining and the most amazing personality!
To find out about Lisa's latest release Without Mercy, more here.
Ever since her father was stabbed to death in a home invasion, Julia “Jules” Farentino has been plagued by nightmares. Her half-sister, Shaylee, now seventeen, has had her own difficulties since the tragedy, earning a rap sheet for drug use, theft, and vandalism. Still, when Jules learns of her mother’s decision to send Shay to an elite boarding school in Oregon, she’s skeptical. Blue Rock Academy has a reputation for turning wayward kids around — but one of its students went missing a few months earlier and her body has never been found.
On impulse, Jules applies for a teaching job at the Academy. Shortly before Jules arrives, a student is found hanged, another near death, and a hysterical Shay believes it’s murder. Then another girl is found dead. There’s no doubt something sinister is at hand. And Jules has become the next target of a blood thirsty killer without limits, without remorse, without mercy…
For a chance to win Without Mercy, become a fan on Lisa'a Facebook Page, come back here and post your email address and let me know you're a fan. Contest ends April 30th.
Lisa was recently interviewed by a local TV station in her area. Here's the interview.