THE BETRAYED is New York Times-bestselling-author Heather Graham’s most recent book in her Krewe of Hunters series and the third in her latest Krewe trilogy, after THE CURSED and THE HEXED.
In THE BETRAYED, New York FBI agent Aiden Mahoney is a new member of the Krewe, the Bureau’s unit of paranormal investigators. One night, Aiden receives a visit in a dream from his old friend, Richard Highsmith, an up-and-coming politician whose future seems unlimited: mayor of New York City, governor, perhaps even President of the United States. The very next day, Aiden is dispatched to Sleepy Hollow, New York, the setting of Washington Irving’s classic story about the legendary Headless Horseman. During a campaign appearance in the town, Highsmith disappeared without a trace.
Maureen (“Mo”) Deauville lives in Sleepy Hollow and works with her dog, Rollo, to find missing people. To her horror, she and Rollo find Highsmith—or more precisely his head—stuck on one of the town’s many statues of the Headless Horseman.
Risking their own lives, Mo and Aiden explore both past and present events to figure out who killed Highsmith. As they work together, they discover that they share an unusual trait—the ability to communicate with the dead. They also share an attraction that’s as intense as it is unexpected. The problem is that they might not live long enough to enjoy it.
Heather Graham graciously agreed to answer some questions about her compelling new novel.
Please tell us about the Krewe of Hunters series.
I’ve worked with the Krewe of Hunters for a while now and we’ve reached that scary place where I want them to be real! Years ago, in a book called HAUNTED, I introduced a character named Adam Harrison. A very wealthy man, he was always kind and a philanthropist and also friendly with many important dignitaries. He began to find people like his son to investigate when strange things were happening. Eventually, he joined with the powers that be at the FBI to provide his people with training and all the modern tech needed. The Krewe come from different vocations, all adding something to their special talent—basically, the ability at times to see the dead.
THE BETRAYED takes place in the towns of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, New York, the site of Washington Irving’s LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. Setting plays a major role in the novel, almost functioning as a character. How did you become interested in writing about this location?
I’ve always been fascinated by Washington Irving and Sleepy Hollow. Last year, I was in upstate New York and someone told me I could be in Sleepy Hollow in a few hours. I leapt at the chance and headed down with my son and a friend and her son. I fell in love with the whole Hudson Valley—and definitely, the area of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.
To some, it might seem that writing supernatural mystery/thrillers would make it harder to create suspense (Why aren’t those who come from the other side all-knowing?). Yet, in your novel the presence of the supernatural heightens the suspense. How do you manage to make the supernatural seem so natural?
I’ve always assumed that if you are a ghost—or vampire, shape-shifter, any other-worldly creature—you’re still the same. If you were an ass—you’re still an ass. If you were decent, you’re still decent. But, you may not know any more than you know now. My ghosts are hanging around for justice, or just lingering because they aren’t ready to go. But if someone was knocked on the head from the back and didn’t see who did it, being dead wouldn’t suddenly give him all-seeing vision or mean that he would know more than he’d known before.
One of your protagonists is FBI Agent Aiden Mahoney, who denies, and even fears, his special gifts. How does Aiden’s fear shape his approached to law enforcement specifically and life in general?
I think I’ve based Aidan on some people I know—because they do believe in something, and most people of most religions do—they first look to the physical and to hard facts. Even friends who go by “The Peace River Ghost Trackers” go to a place and immediately look for what might physically be causing a bump or a noise or some kind of sighting. I think that Aiden is annoyed by people who go “What was that?” when it was the cameraman behind him or someone clearing her throat! He knows the law, he works hard to keep it, and never wants to forget all that’s important in an investigation.
The novel’s heroine, Maureen “Mo” Deauville also has special gifts, though she views them differently from Aiden. Why is Mo able to accept her abilities when Aiden can’t?
Mo found it easy to live with her abilities—she’s used her dogs as the trackers and so people leave her alone and don’t taunt her for being a medium. She was young when she saw the dead—and learned quickly that they could be very nice people!
Other than Aiden and Mo, who’s your favorite character in the BETRAYED?
Well, you said that Sleepy Hollow was like a character. I love Sleepy Hollow. I can’t wait to get a chance to go back!
THE BETRAYED is your fifteenth novel in your Krewe of Hunters series, and among the more than one hundred novels and novellas that you’ve written. How are you able to come up with so many fresh ideas and characters?
Life. No one you meet is the same as anyone else and no one has the same experiences. I think all of us are listening all the time, watching, and choosing what we’re going to steal from reality next.
You’ve written both series and standalone novels. What do you find gratifying about each approach? Are there downsides to either, and if so, what?
The downside to a series is keeping it fresh—and remembering who everyone is, what they look like, and what their specialties might be. The good is that you have some basic principles established and you can work with them. Stand alone novels are great, too—you worry about the book you’re working on and don’t have to double-check what you’ve said or done yourself.
Who are some of the authors who originally inspired you to become a writer?
A nice mix, I believe! Dickens, Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Jean Plaidy, Dorothy Eden, Mary Steward, Lovecraft, Michael Shaara, Steven King, Robert McCammon, Richard Matheson, Michael Crichton . . . I could keep going on and on! I was incredibly lucky—my parents were avid readers. They read everything. And I could mention a book and the next time presents came up, there was the book.
The clichéd piece of advice for aspiring writers is “write what you know.” In THE BETRAYED, you write about, among other things, the American Revolution, the supernatural, politics, and FBI forensics. Would you describe that as “writing what you know?” More generally, could you describe your writing process?
You’ll never know everything. Thanks to ITW’s ThrillerFest, I spend a day at the FBI NYC every year now—they’re wonderfully helpful. I’ve always been a huge history buff so looking up historical events and characters—and everyone leaving you alone or joining in while you do it!—is like icing on the cake. I can’t say I don’t make mistakes. And on what I think I know—in fact, the worst mistake I’ve made (that I know about!) was having a diver die in the Great Lakes—with salt water in his lungs. I am a diver. I shouldn’t have made diving mistakes. I’m just so accustomed to diving in the Caribbean or the Florida Straits that—well, hm. I even know the Great Lakes are fresh water! So, even with what you know, you have to watch yourself. Sometimes, you’re better when you’re being meticulous with research. I do say, though, that you should write what you love. If tech thrillers are what you love, research the tech and write tech thrillers. If you’re horror-thriller fan, go for it. Romantic suspense, yes. Always love the genre or subgenre you’re working with—the excitement comes out in your work.
Please tell us about your next project.
I have a few things going—next up will be AND THE DEAD PLAY ON, a Caffery and Quinn novel, and it’s about an incredible musician who serves his time in the military and comes home—only to die of a heroin overdose when he didn’t do drugs. Other musicians in the city suddenly start dying, and it just might be over a saxophone that supposedly makes everyone a brilliant player. Danni and Quinn realize the killer is convinced that the sax is special. Three more Krewe will be out in the summer, CONSPIRACY (yes, taking place in D.C. and the surrounding area,) CONVICTION (my own stomping grounds, Miami) and CONFESSION (taking place out in Boulder/Estes Park, Colorado.) I have a couple of other things going on—but they’re not done yet, so I’ll hold off!
Thanks so much for the interview. I had a great time following Washington Irving around the Hudson Valley!
Heather Graham is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over two hundred novels including suspense, paranormal, historical, and mainstream Christmas fare. She lives in Miami, Florida, her home, and an easy shot down to the Keys where she can indulge in her passion for diving. Travel, research, and ballroom dancing also help keep her sane; she is the mother of five, and also resides with two dogs and two cats. She is CEO of Slush Pile Productions, a recording company and production house for various charity events.
To learn more about Heather, please visit her website.