At the outset, the first book in Kylie Brant’s new series—DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD—may seem an easy read, but it soon becomes apparent that it is a complex thriller with multifaceted characters.
The story begins in a small town with Deputy US Marshal Cady Maddix running an operation to apprehend a suspect in connection with a kidnapping—but the novel is about so much more. While trying to do her job serving others, Cady also begins to question her view of the world when she discovers secrets from her own past—loyalty and individual freedom compete with her need to keep her loved ones safe.
Brant skillfully intertwines the main plot and sub stories—not surprising, given that she’s penned 40 novels to date.
Brant’s interest in writing began in 1990 for a variety of reasons. She’d just made the decision not to pursue a doctorate degree, had five young children, taught full time, and her favorite authors couldn’t write fast enough to satisfy her need for reading material.
In 1992 the second novel she’d written—McLain’s Law—was picked up, and within a few months, the publisher also chose to acquire her first manuscript. Brant has won the Daphne du Maurier award for excellence in mystery and suspense writing twice—in 2004 and 2009—and during her long career, there have been five Romantic Times nominations and three RITA nominations.
Brant attributes her success to “perseverance,” adding that she, like most authors, has had her share of adversity. However, “writing through it always pays off in the long run,” she says.
She provides further insight into her career with this exclusive The Big Thrill interview:
I know you get your ideas from everywhere but what was the inspiration for DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD?
I like to use kids occasionally in my stories because of the automatic reader engagement and the accompanying high stakes. Secrets are also a frequent element in mysteries and thrillers. So I started to wonder what would happen if it were a child with a secret, maybe one he isn’t mature enough to interpret correctly. Next came the setting. Where better to begin the intrigue than a dark woods near midnight? And so the premise of the story was born—two young boys go into the woods at night. Only one of them leaves alive…
Have you fostered contacts in law enforcement over the years that you have on speed dial, or at this point in your career, do you “know it all”?
At this point in my career, I forget more than I know! But once I establish an expert contact, they’re at my mercy until they tell me to get lost. Happily, that doesn’t happen much. I have one expert on forensic cellular data retrieval who I seem to turn to for every book. Others I reach out to again and again, as the need arises. And with each novel it seems like I have to search for new contacts to help with a different area of expertise. For DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD I communicated with the unit commander and chief pilot of the NC State Highway Patrol Aircraft Operations when I needed information on aerial assistance in fugitive operations. Fortunately, people are extremely generous with their time. I’m always amazed at how willing most are to help.
When you started writing your books, how did you develop contacts that would aid you in making your novels authentic?
I started writing before the internet was widely available, so at the beginning I bought a lot of research books and pestered my friends and acquaintances for any expertise they had. I hate talking on the phone, but had to rely on phone contacts with experts. Now it’s much easier. I’ve become very adept at finding people online to contact for help. It used to be that maybe one out of four would respond. Now nearly all of them do. People like to talk about what they do. And most are intrigued when contacted by a writer.
Was there anything special about the research you did for DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD?
DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD is Book 2 in the Cady Maddix series. The trilogy is based near Asheville, NC, and Cady is a US Deputy Marshal. So I researched how the USMS districts are divided in the state and where the offices are. I contacted a marshal and he invited me down for a tour and put me in touch with a colleague in Asheville. I traveled there and interviewed the marshal. He took me on a tour of the federal courthouse, let me sit in their holding cell, and we observed a federal trial in progress. He continues to answer specific plot-related questions as the need arises. I also traveled all over western NC, because part of the series takes place there. There’s nothing like visiting the setting of a book before writing it. I find it really grounds me in the story and makes descriptions much easier.
Do you have a favorite adventure that occurred while conducting research?
Well, there was the time I was crawling through caves in the Willamette Forest, looking for the perfect place for my villain to hide his victims’ skeletons. I was on about the fourth one when I remembered that bats live in caves. I hate bats! My sister offered to have one of her friends come over to tell me about a cave he once found on the face of Castle Rock, which was perfect for my story. While he spoke, I reached the conclusion he’d make the ideal villain and ended up modeling the character after him.
What writing decision are you most proud of?
I was tired of what I was writing for my first publisher and just took a break to write a book in a new genre. At the time, I’d published over 20 novels. I ended up looking for a new home for the novel and my first agent at the same time. I actually had the book sold before I signed with the agent.
During your “free time” when you’re not “reading, flower gardening… or dreaming up ways to kill and maim your characters” do you help other writers? If so, how?
I try to. Last year I did a week-long online class on researching the novel. I serve on the board of a mystery and suspense writing chapter, and my job is to line up authors and experts a few times a year to interact with our online authors. I judge unpublished writing contests and try to engage with new writers on Twitter.
What is one pitfall you would advise aspiring authors to guard against?
I know a lot of aspiring authors who jump around from project to project until they have a bunch of unfinished works. My advice is to stick to one and finish it. There’s so much to learn by completing an entire book. You can’t develop your writing process until you’ve written after the excitement of the new idea wears off, clear through the what-the-hell-comes-next, to the end.
Kylie Brant has penned over 40 award-winning suspense and romantic suspense novels. She’s a three-time Rita nominee, has been nominated for five Romantic Times awards, and is an RT Career Achievement award winner. She’s twice been awarded the overall Daphne du Maurier award for best mystery and suspense novel.
Kylie’s books have been published in 34 countries and translated into 18 languages.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.