by Clea Simon
This economy can be murder. Combine it with the devastation wreaked by multiple hurricanes and unethical practices along the Gulf Coast, a star-crossed romance, and long-buried secrets, and you’ve got In the Shadow of Evil, Robin Caroll’s new romantic suspense from Broadman & Holman. Caroll – the pen name of Robin Miller – is the author of 12 novels and has placed/finaled in such contests as Bookseller’s Best, Book of the Year, and Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is the past-president of ACFW and now gives back to the organization by serving as its conference director. She can be reached at www.robincaroll.com and agreed to chat with us about her latest Deep South romantic suspense.
Tell us how you started writing romantic suspense?
My mother will tell everyone that I began reading early. I discovered Trixie Belden series when I was eight or nine…I was hooked on mystery/suspense for good. I graduated up to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys before I began reading Mary Higgins Clark, then Dee Henderson and Colleen Coble and Terri Blackstock.
Was there any one spark that gave you the idea for Shadow of Evil? If so, tell us about it?
I was on a trip to Dallas and knew I needed to come up with a story idea for the last book in the trilogy. I had no distractions and needed to brainstorm. No ideas came to mind, so I called my friend and fellow writer, Pam Hillman. She picked up magazines she had lying around and flipped through the pages and began telling me headlines. There was one about the south’s building rebound following hurricanes and tropical storms, shortcuts taken, and the end results. Pam and I spent about three hours on the phone, but when I hung up, I had my basic plot.
How important are place and atmosphere to your books?
I think setting is vital to a story. I try to make my settings almost a character itself…where the story couldn’t happen anywhere but where I’ve set the stage.
You touch on a lot of contemporary issues in The Shadow of Evil, can you tell us about any real-life involvement with rebuilding/post-Hurricane/post-recession rebuilding?
Before I wrote In The Shadow of Evil, I really didn’t have any personal experience. Several of my family members live in south Louisiana, so after the storms, I saw how they were affected. I “borrowed” some of their emotions and experiences.
How do you work such real issues into your fiction?
My story ideas are born from real-life issues. I can see a news special on a subject that grabs me until I research and come up with a plot (Deliver Us From Evil), meet someone with a very interesting past and build a plot around that (Fear No Evil), or get an idea from news stories (In the Shadow of Evil). I like to read books that touch on “ripped from the headlines” topics, so I guess that’s why I try to write them.
How do you research your books?
I interview, use the Internet, read on the subjects…any and everything I can think of.
Any interesting research stories?
Let’s see…I’ve interviewed former gang members, had a retired ME [medical examiner] walk me through an autopsy, sat in the galley of too many days in court to count, and had my husband drive me around my neighborhood while I was in the trunk. LOL!
How have your books changed over time?
One of the biggest changes is the difference in publishers and book length from series to trade size. Being able to basically double my word count means I can weave in stronger and more complicated subplots.
What have you learned about writing?
That I’m such a work in progress!
What advice would you give a thriller writer just starting out?
Read, read, READ in the genre you’re writing. Read craft books. Go to writers’ conferences. Get connected with writing groups and other writers.
Who inspired you when you were just starting? Did anyone help you or give you advice?
My family is such a HUGE support. I can’t imagine writing without their encouragement, support, and love. I was blessed to meet Colleen Coble when I was just starting out, and she became my mentor. So many other authors followed: Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, Ronie Kendig, Dineen Miller, Rachel Hauck, Cheryl Wyatt, Tosca Lee, James Rubart….so, so many fellow writers who encourage and advise.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve actually been on deadline so the only books I’ve read in the past week or so has been upcoming releases: The Chair (James Rubart), Wolfsbane (Ronie Kendig), Isbariot (Tosca Lee), and Soul Saver (Dineen Miller).
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us – especially on deadline, Robin!
Clea Simon is the author of eight mysteries, including the upcoming Dogs Don’t Lie (Poisoned Pen Press, April) and Grey Zone (Severn House, April). She can be reached at http://www.cleasimon.com