By L.J. Sellers
After her widely praised debut, CHAIN OF COMMAND, Colby Marshall is back with another hair-raising thriller. In THE TRADE, reporter McKenzie McClendon is on the trail of her next hot story, tracking a sadistic serial killer known as the Cradle Robber, who preys on pregnant women to steal their babies.
With a hook like that, it’s no wonder other authors, such as bestselling C.J. Lyons, say the story is “An intricate puzzle that will keep you guessing until the very end!”
Marshall’s full and artistic background—dancer, choreographer, actor, journalist, and novelist—leads her to create complex and compelling characters. In THE TRADE, five people are deeply affected by the killer’s actions, and their stories form the bones of this engaging novel.
Here’s more in the author’s own words:
Where did the idea for the plot come from? And how do you typically develop your stories?
The idea for this story as well as most of my ideas start with a seed planted from something I’ve seen in the news at some time and something watering that seed. Granted, it doesn’t have to be something new—sometimes it will stem from something that was planted in my brain years ago. I’m honestly not sure what got me to thinking about the black market baby trade, but for some reason, I was already thinking about its potential for a story plot. Then, something tickled at my memory about a news story from years ago where a woman was killed and the baby was stolen, I believe by a woman who badly wanted a baby. That sparked the idea for what if this happened, but it wasn’t a woman who wanted a baby, and rather, someone profiting on the fact that some women were desperate for children.
Your protagonist is a reporter. What made you chose that profession…rather than a more traditional law enforcement character?
I loved Nancy Drew as a child, and I think one thing that always struck me about her was that in a lot of ways, she was a snoop who broke rules. I love a lot of books with law enforcement protagonists in the genre, but I wanted a character whose ambition and knack for trouble—and desire for the truth—could drive her into the story to chase the bad guy rather than her chasing the bad guy because she has to. I can relate to her in a lot of ways because she is more from this side of the fence (not to make a bad reporter joke, of course!).
I love medical stories and research! How did you get the details right?
I love research, and it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. For this particular book, my consultations with a forensic psychiatrist helped to get all of the scenarios surround the killer and his behaviors to fit the criteria of his diagnosis, as well as those of others in the book who might be, erm, less than stable. From the traditional medicine side, I interviewed several doctors for the different aspects involved. One joked that if her husband died anytime soon, she would be the prime suspect based on her internet searches and things she’d looked up in journals for me in pursuit of one particular part of the plotline.
Who are the five people mentioned in the book description and how do they figure into the plot?
Isn’t that the million dollar question? It’s a hard one to answer without spoiling anything, but in short, they are five people whose lives have in some way been touched by this black market baby trade ring. A widower desperate to bring home his kidnapped son; a scrappy street rat turned surrogate who learns the couple adopting her child are anything but worthy; a rule-breaking nurse with too much understanding and everything to lose; a drug-addicted lawyer with a plan gone terribly wrong; a young wife who is the only victim of the Cradle Robber to survive. Little do they know they’re intricately tied to a black market baby ring operating in the city, and only the collision of their five lives can bring it down.
Do you have any concerns about readers reacting negatively to assaults on pregnant women as the basic crime in this story?
I’m really glad you asked this one. The short answer is yes. I have wondered if readers will shy away from the story for this reason. That said, the uncomfortable truth is that if someone is as sadistic of a killer as the person in this story, they don’t necessarily have lines they draw of whether or not people will be comfortable with who they kill. People like the sociopath in this story are scarily real as evidenced by frightening real-life headlines. The events in this story are entirely fictional, but do I think there’s a possibility that someone is out there capable of this? Unfortunately, yes I do.
I hope that readers will look at this from the standpoint that the reality is that evil doesn’t necessarily discriminate. It might make people more comfortable to pretend that pregnant women are safe from evil, but pretending won’t keep them so. So, I tell the story regardless of whether or not it violates a taboo. Which, incidentally, I was pregnant when I edited this story, so I am definitely sympathetic to those feelings and emotions stirred up by the concept. For me, putting a spotlight on things crawling around in a dark corner makes it easier to rid myself of them rather than turning the other way and hoping they do the same. I can promise this to readers: McKenzie will fight for those women. The worse the evil, the more good a good guy can be.
What do you want people to know about THE TRADE that they won’t find on the back cover?
I love that I get a chance to say this, because they aren’t on the back cover, but one of my favorite things about THE TRADE are the minor characters. I don’t even mean the five mentioned on the back cover, but two particular ones that appear in only one scene of the book a piece. One is Yancy, a jogger with an enthusiastic dachshund, who is a character that is one of the main characters of my new series. When I wrote the scene in THE TRADE featuring him, I didn’t plan to use him in another series. Surprise, surprise!
The other is the most important minor character of all to me: a little girl named Alaina. When I was writing the first draft of this book, a friend of mine had a young daughter diagnosed with leukemia. At the time, on a whim, I decided to name a minor character after Alaina, because in my superstitious little mind, I figured if character Alaina could be okay, so could real Alaina. Now, with novel’s release, I’ve decided to highlight Alaina’s presence in the novel as much as possible by teaming up with my publisher, Stairway Press and Alaina’s family to create TRADE THE DAY, a blog-a-thon where twenty-three guest authors including bestselling authors R.L. Stine, Steve Berry, and Hank Phillipi Ryan, as well as fellow ITW Debut Authors Jenny Milchman and Kay Kendall, will blog with me for the day in which all gross profits of THE TRADE sold on StairwayPress.com (my publisher’s website) will go directly to Team Alaina to benefit the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. It’s going to be a fantastic day on my website at colbymarshall.com and stairwaypress.com on August 23.
You seem busy and talented. Tell us which came first, dancing or writing?
Dancing. My mother put me in dance lessons when I was two, and to this day, she says that created a monster.
You’re published by Stairway Press: How is your experience with a small press?
I would do it again in a heartbeat. In this time of a changing publishing landscape, having the opportunity to have such a hands-on team of professionals to accompany me on this journey. While there are certain challenges that come with a small publishing house, the benefits are priceless. I will always be so appreciative for the opportunities Ken Coffman has given me to share this little book with the world, and the process also introduced to my life my fabulous editor Pat Shaw, who I can never thank enough for pulling my debut from the slush pile and saying, “Please take a chance on this book.”
Stairway is also a little company with a huge heart. In addition to pushing authors out of the nest into the world who might’ve slipped through the cracks, they’ve also given me the chance to do some things I might not have done otherwise, like taking a check for a thousand dollars to StairwayPress.com’s 10,000th book buyer who happened to purchase my book. That along with their partnership to support TRADE THE DAY is something I can’t even say how lucky I feel to be a part of.
What’s the most challenging thing about being a novelist?
The most challenging thing about being a novelist is probably learning to be both your biggest advocate and worst critic. You need to sell yourself and at the same time, pick your work apart. I have always thought all authors have to be a little crazy, because if you weren’t when you started, certainly you will be at some point!
What can readers expect next from you?
I have another series in the works that my agent is currently submitting to publishers. I mentioned this before, but one of the main characters in that series appears in THE TRADE as a one-scene only character. I didn’t plan on using him in another book, but I loved him (and his dog) so much that I couldn’t stop myself. I’ve also started the first draft of McKenzie’s next adventure, so hopefully in the future, that next chapter of this series will find its way into the world.
Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, ensuring that she is a workaholic. She is also a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer and occasionally takes the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her for crazy cat lady status.
To learn more about Colby, please visit her website.