In mystery novels, investigative journalists are often heroic detectives. But in Wanda L. Dyson‘s new thriller Judgment Day, the reporter is the victim framed for murder and on the run from a killer.
The star of the novel, Suzanne Kidwell, is also the star of Judgment Day, a popular investigative news TV show. Her mission is to expose the darkest secrets of the rich and famous. And that’s what gets her in trouble! While the reader comes to care about Kidwell’s fate, Author Dyson shows us the darker side of her character’s world. Dyson says she thinks there’s a fine line between reporting that informs us and the sensationalism reporting that is just looking to titillate. The danger comes when the truth doesn’t matter – ratings do.
“I got the idea for this book after watching a cable news reporter decide to take the law into her own hands and “interrogate” someone she felt was guilty–something that was clearly the police’s job, not hers,” Dyson says. “The woman she “interrogated” was so distraught, she went home and committed suicide. In typical writer fashion, I couldn’t help asking myself, “what if,” and Suzanne Kidwell and her show Judgment Day were born.”
This book lets the reader decide if Suzanne Kidwell is a hero. Dyson describes her protagonist is one of those wounded souls who can’t admit they’re wounded. She thinks fame and fortune are the means to acceptance, validation, and love, although it doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to.
“Readers may like her, but I doubt they will love her through the first half of the book,” Dyson says. “But as she begins to see, as well as accept, the truth about herself and tries to make some positive changes in her life, I would hope the reader will begin to care about her the way they would about the misguided people in their own lives.”
Dyson also says that Kidwell may not be a hero, but she does heroic things, even if at first it is merely to get a sensational story that would give her ratings.
Dyson is the author of numerous critically acclaimed suspense novels. Her fans love the fact that there is so much action in her books that it forces them to keep turning the pages, but it takes more than that to make a good suspense novel, according to Dyson.
“The suspense elements are layered through more than just the action,” she says. “It’s the interpersonal relationships, the growth, struggles, and failures, and it’s the ultimate battle of the everyday man going up against unexpected bad things in his life and finding a way to win even when the odds are stacked against him.”
Dyson is also one of the few authors who find success in both fiction and nonfiction work. Her nonfiction title, Why I Jumped, was picked up for an exclusive release on Oprah. She says it’s not harder to write nonfiction, but it can be very restricting.
“With fiction, I can make things up to go the way I want them to,” Dyson says. “With non-fiction, I have to look at the facts and find a way to present them in a way that is as fascinating and page-turning as fiction. I’d say the biggest difference is that when I create a character like Suzanne, I can force her to play by my rules. When I’m dealing with a real person who lived through something, I can only play the hand I’m given and make it the best hand at the table.”
Character interaction is what makes a novel, and in Judgment Day Dyson gets a lot of mileage out of the dynamics between Suzanne and two investigators – Marcus Crisp who Suzanne was once engaged to and then betrayed, and Alexandria Hawthorne-Fisher, the woman Marcus now loves.
“Marcus is willing to let bygones be bygones,” Dyson says, “but Alex struggles with her lack of trust in Suzanne, her resentment of the way Suzanne once hurt Marcus, and her love for Marcus making her fear that Suzanne might try to win Marcus back. It was a lot of fun creating all that angst.”
Right now Judgment Day is a stand-alone novel, but if history means anything, we might see Suzanne, Marcus, and Alex again.
“When I wrote Abduction, it was meant to be a stand-alone novel and everyone loved JJ and Zoe so much the publisher came back and had me write two more novels (Obsession and Intimidation), so anything is possible.”
By the time you reach the breathless conclusion of Judgment Day you are sure to be hoping history will repeat itself.