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The Big Thrill Discusses PARALLEL SECRETS with ML Barrs

Book Cover: PARALLEL SECRETSAfter a young girl goes missing, former TV crime reporter Vicky Robeson joins the search with the help of her attractive new love interest. They take his RV to a tiny town in rural Missouri that’s filled with odd characters and darker secrets.

But Vicky has secrets of her own. She believes this kidnapped girl may be linked to a case she reported on nine years ago, when a mystery child was found walking on levee, bloody and unable to speak. Back then, Vicky failed to follow up clues only she knew. Now, she has a chance to redeem herself.

As she uncovers secrets, it becomes clear someone will kill to keep them hidden.

ML Barrs Author Photo

ML Barrs

ML Barrs recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her debut mystery, PARALLEL SECRETS.

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

I’ve wanted to write ever since I was a child, and my career involved a great deal of writing (television news). But once I started writing fiction, I felt like I’d found my calling. I love my protagonist, Vicky, who has many of the same thoughts and opinions as I do. PARALLEL SECRETS is a fun way for me to call on my experience and share many of those observations.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

TV journalist Vicky Robeson has lived in my mind for years, but the idea for this particular story was sparked by breakfast in a small-town Arizona diner. Our server was a beautiful young woman who moved with such grace and efficiency I couldn’t stop watching her. When we got back in the car, I told my husband she would make a great character in a novel. I spent the next hundred miles of so talking about what role she could play. When we got home, I sat down and began writing. In PARALLEL SECRETS, she is cafe owner Sam DuMain, who survived terrible trauma as a child, and plays a key role in solving the mystery in her tiny town.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

Many of the female protagonists in the mysteries I love are either cops, private detectives, or ex-FBI agents who are gorgeous, incredibly fit, have eidetic memories and access to law enforcement resources. Many also have drinking problems or suffer from a major life trauma. I wanted to create a character who is more average physically (though still attractive!), who solves crimes primarily by talking and more importantly, listening, then putting the puzzle together. However, Vicky did become more interesting once I developed her past more fully. Her trauma is what motivates her to save a child.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

The Avett Brothers album, True Sadness, was the soundtrack of my first draft. A line from one song, “Smithsonian,” resonated with me: “I made a discovery, life ain’t forever and lunch isn’t free… Turns out we don’t get to know everything.” There is always more to the story!

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

That good local journalism is a crucial to a healthy community.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

Parallel Lies, the sequel to PARALLEL SECRETS.


Maria Lynn Barrs is one of thirteen children—the first girl, with three older brothers—a birth order she believes shaped her essence by the time she was eight. A girl’s gotta be a bit pugnacious to get along in that environment. Amid the chaos of 14 people living in a mobile home (not a double-wide), she turned 15, dropped out of school, and ran away from home. Being homeless, then working minimum wage jobs quickly grew old. She earned a GED, then went to college, where she met her husband, the father of their two wonderful now-grown children. She started in television news as a reporter, eventually working her way up to news director and general manager before deciding what she really wanted to do is write mysteries.

PARALLEL SECRETS is her debut novel, and she is hard at work on the second in the Parallel Mystery series.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.


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