"The contemporary mix of politics and thrilling action will grab teens, not just environmentalists, as Ellie must decide how to save her parents and save the earth. Romance adds to the conflict as she falls in love with gorgeous MED member Coyote, who is both an activist and an ardent pacifist. Both the MEDs and the FBI have good guys and bad guys, and this suspenseful story will spark discussion about what it means to fight
for right “by any means necessary.”
Kirkus says: "The thrills and action will keep readers interested as she navigates her way between terrorists and self-centered Feds."
Congratulations on TORCHED! The cover is striking. What is the story?
When Ellie's parents are busted for growing marijuana, the FBI gives her a choice: infiltrate the Mother Earth Defenders (MED), a radical environmental group, or her parents will go to jail. At first Ellie is more than willing to entrap the MEDics, but the more time she spends undercover-particularly with Coyote, the green-eyed MEDic that she can't stop thinking about-the more she starts to believe in their cause. When talk turns to murder, Coyote backs out, but Ellie is willing to risk everything to save her family-even if it means losing Coyote and putting her own life on the line.
Where did you get the idea?
Earth Liberation Front has long been active in the Northwest. The FBI considers them domestic terrorists. I was driving to work one morning, listening to the news, and the broadcaster said, “The FBI says they have been unable to infiltrate ELF.” And I thought, what else are they going to say? "Yeah, we have someone undercover who has joined the group - don't tell"? And then I started thinking that most Elves are young, and FBI agents have to be at least 23, and they might need to rely on an informant. I was also drawn by the idea of writing about betrayal. In some ways, Ellie is betrayed by or betrays everyone close to her.
This isn't a debut novel for you. Can you tell us about your other novels?
I published four mysteries in the Claire Montrose series: Circles of Confusion, Square in the Face, Heart-Shaped Box, and Buried Diamonds. Claire was a lot like me - a smart klutz who luckily could also laugh at herself. I did give her red hair, which I have always loved. (Interestingly, the one red-haired writer I know always has heroines who are brunettes.) Even though she was an amateur sleuth, I still ended up having to do a lot of research for those books. I also wrote a stand-alone thriller called Learning to Fly about a young woman who doesn't like her life and is mistakenly declared dead. And in 2006 I had another YA thriller come out called Shock Point. It also featured a 16-year-old girl. She gets sent to a boot camp after she figures out her step father is fudging medical research. In a few weeks, Face of Betrayal, will come out. It's the first in a four-book adult mystery series I'm co-writing with Lis Wiehl. It's about three friends - a TV reporter, an FBI agent, and a federal prosecutor - who team up to solve crimes. Lis has been two of those things, and I attended the FBI's Citizens Academy.
What are you working on now?
Edits for the second book with Lis. It's called Hand of Fate, and it's about a talk show host who is murdered in his studio. I'm also working on edits for a YA thriller that will also come out in 2010, Shadows Walking Backward, which is about a blind girl who is kidnapped. And Lis and I are starting work on our third book. Oh, and I'm working on another YA thriller about a kidnapped pizza delivery girl called The Girl in the Mini Cooper.
Do you write full time? How much time do you put in daily to writing?
I finally got to quit my day job at the beginning of 2008. That was before the stock market went into free fall, so I hope I can keep it up. I put in three to five hours writing, and an hour or two on business-type stuff. I don't normally take weekends off.
How do you research your books? Do you outline?
When I first started writing in the early 1990s, there was no Internet, at least not one I was aware of. So I spent a lot of time at the library and research librarians were my best friends. Now I do most of my research on line. I have one active and another retired FBI agent who are great about answering questions about all kinds of things. And I'm on a listserv where a bunch of cops, ex-FBI agents, CSIs, firefighters, and private investigators are willing to answer questions.
I usually have a rough outline when I begin. Sometimes it's only in my head. Sometimes I write by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I have a 20-page outline. It all seems to work.
What is your workspace like? (Tidy, a mess, you write in the bathtub...)
I have a variety of workspaces. An office, our couch with my laptop, the library with my laptop, even a couch at the gym with my laptop. The most important thing in my office, besides the computer, is a file cabinet drawer full of what I call "fodder" - newspaper and magazine articles I might use someday.
If you were a Muppet which Muppet would you be?
Cookie Monster. The old one, before he started singing about healthy foods.
If you had to pick just one of your characters from one of your books to live on a desert island with, who would you choose?
Dante from the Claire Montrose series. I made him an impossibly handsome, passionate, intelligent, creative Italian guy. Oh wait, I'm married to someone like that.
How can your fans contact you? (blog, myspace etc.)
I blog on Live Journal every day. I know it's pathetic, but I work alone. I'm also on Facebook and Myspace.
Thanks for coming on April. Torched sounds absolutely amazing. I can't wait to read it!