I found this book recently while scrolling through Amazon and downloaded it based on the reviews and comments. Turns out to have been a good move! Lisa weaves a suspense novel around a young, newly divorced detective and a woman kidnapped as a teenager who is still being controlled by her captor. Ironically, real-life headlines have been remarkably close to this story-line recently but it’s a testament to how well-written and believable this story is that you will not be able to put it down. And while the subject matter of abuse can be difficult, Lisa handles it with an empathy the reader can feel. If you get the chance, check out this powerful book.
Finding Claire Fletcher is not a straight-forward mystery exactly but there is an element of suspense as Claire grows stronger and Connor gets closer to finder her. How hard was it to create the “bond” between these characters when they had only spent one night together?
It was kind of a delicate thing. I wanted to make sure that readers saw a connection there without making that chapter painfully long. I mean for me, in my mind, Claire and Connor always had an instant connection. Not even in a romantic way or one based on physical attraction, although there is certainly an element of that. In my mind, there was just a spark there–two kind of kindred souls. I know instant connections are hard to find in real life, but they do exist and you never know when a small, seemingly insignificant encounter will set off an obsession for someone.
Kidnapped girls have been in the news lately and there is always the question of “why didn’t they escape”? You did an excellent job in helping me to understand Claire’s situation and the extensive damage her captor had done to her psyche. Did you have to do specific research to understand this phenomenon?
Well there wasn’t much research to be done when I wrote the book. At that time the only child who had been recovered was Stephen Stayner, and that story came out when I was very young. What I kept asking myself over and over again was: what would make a person who was forcibly torn away from everything they knew and loved and systematically tortured on a daily basis stay in that situation? What would make that same person unable to reach out for help when all they had to do was walk up to the nearest person and say ‘my name is so and so, I was kidnapped, I need the police’? I think people find this phenomenon so hard to wrap their minds around, and yet it happens to varying degrees all around us every day. Women stay with men who are physically and emotionally abusive. Children don’t breathe a word when a trusted adult is abusing them. Rapes go unreported every single day. I did a lot of research on these three issues–domestic violence, molestation and sexual assault. I think the key for me was the idea that if you torture someone on a daily basis–and I do consider repeated sexual assaults to be a form of torture–every moment of their lives becomes only about survival and nothing more. They are unable to think past that. I’ve always likened these children to prisoners of war, and I think that is a good comparison. Also, if you strip away every single thing down to the most basic dignities like using a toilet, the person becomes completely dependent on their captor. Where freedom should be their dream in life, something as simple as having a blanket instead becomes all that they strive for. When Shawn Hornbeck was recovered, I read an article that talked about how children in his situation are infantilized. That was exactly what I had written about without ever knowing there was a word for it. Finally this idea that their terror is so great that they cannot reach out for help even given the opportunity–first, what people forget is that usually captors will threaten the person’s family. From the outside it is easy to say, oh but if you just go to the police then he can’t hurt anyone else. But if you’re the person he is torturing, I think your thought process is more along the lines of, “He got me, didn’t he? He’s hurting me, isn’t he? If he can do this to me, he can do it to anyone.” The captor becomes all-powerful, and the captive is so beaten down in every sense that their fear is paralyzing. I think if you’re in it and you’re living it, your perspective is vastly different.
Claire’s sister is skeptical, sure that Claire is dead. Claire’s father also gave up and her parents ultimately divorced. Did you find this to be common among families who have suffered the loss of an abducted child? Is there a famous case that may have inspired your story?
I read a lot of books about children who were missing–and never found–and found that the strain it puts on the family is just unimaginable. From my reading, it seemed that many couples did not stay together. The case that really set off my obsession with missing children was Jacob Wetterling (Minnesota). His parents stayed together. But in the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard, her mother and stepfather who were together at the time and had a younger child together did not stay together. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors, but I think relationships are hard enough without adding something so traumatizing and life-altering.
Brianna resents Claire and tries to maintain her position in the “family.” Claire cannot understand why Brianna is there “by choice”. What does Brianna’s presence add to the story?
Brianna is really meant to represent all those people who look at these kids and say, “Why the hell didn’t they leave?” I think that question is always the elephant in the room, and Brianna gives voice to that.
Because the subject matter, pedophilia, is unpleasant and at times grisly, did you find these chapters difficult to write?
They were very hard to write. I often cried after writing many of the scenes. At the same time, I felt it was important to really bring some of the more traumatic events to the forefront to give people an understanding of just how badly kids in Claire’s situation have it. If you can understand how truly terrible something like this is on a visceral level, then maybe you can begin to understand why these children are unable to break free.
I think I read that you wrote Finding Claire Fletcher several years ago. How has the story evolved? Would you call your debut novel a labor of love?
Well it started out as 175,000 words which I cut down to 140,000 and then eventually to 105,000. Claire’s chapters have not changed very much over the years. Her words are almost exactly what they were in the first draft. The rest of the book has changed drastically over time to accommodate the large cuts I had to make in terms of word count. The plot is very different than what I started out with–originally it went forward much further in time. This book is definitely a labor of love for me. I feel a very special connection to this book. When I was writing it, it felt more like I was channeling the words than creating something. I don’t think anything that I have written before or since has meant as much to me as Finding Claire Fletcher does.
As an author, you chose to go with a small publishing house. This is becoming a popular trend in publishing. What can you tell other authors about the process?
Sapphire Star is really wonderful about working collaboratively with their authors to present not only the best product possible but something the author is happy with and can be proud of. In terms of the actual process–I wrote my synopses; I was able to make suggestions about cover art; both my books went through several rounds of intensive editing with several sets of eyes on them. Very grueling but worth it. ARCs go out to reviewers. A final read-through is done before the book is released into the world. Then marketing begins both on the publisher’s part and on mine. I was in a social media stupor for about a month after my release. Now I’m doing it all over again. SSP has been a great fit for me. They are really open to new ideas and are genuinely author-centered which is a huge blessing.
Tell us a little about your background. Did you always want to write? Do you hold another job while writing?
I always wanted to write. I’ve been writing books–whole books–since I was eleven years old. By the time I was 18 I had written 4 crappy young adult novels. In my twenties, I started a bunch of things that I didn’t finish. Then I wrote one book before Finding Claire Fletcher, which was terrible and is currently taking up residence on my hard drive. Writing is something I’ve just always done no matter what was going on in my life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Education. I’ve worked as a bookstore manager, karate instructor for children, Certified Nurse Assistant and now I’ve settled in as a paralegal, which I really enjoy. I work full time.
I’m paraphrasing but you’ve said on your blog that it’s hard to get everything done. Promoting your current novel, gearing up for the second, and writing the third must be challenging. How do you do it all? Do you have a strict schedule?
Actually, I’m not really sure how I do it all. It’s incredibly hard sometimes. I work full time. I have a five year old and a husband. In the last year we’ve dealt with some health issues within our family. Nothing life-threatening but something that requires daily vigilance. There really is no time at all for writing. When I’m working on first drafts, I just keep a small notebook in my purse and any chance I get, I whip it out and write a little–in line at the post office, waiting in the doctor’s office, etc. When I need to work on my laptop for revisions or editing, I usually have to forego sleep. I wait till everyone else in the house is asleep and I work during the night. (Or I do it while my husband is engrossed in something on the military channel.) I have to sacrifice sleep sometimes or nothing would ever get written. Now that our phones are able to access Facebook, email, twitter and all sorts of social media, that part of it has become so much easier for me–I do a lot of stuff from my phone whenever I can. Still, I often get the will-you-PLEASE-put-away-your-phone/computer? from my husband and daughter. I have to force myself to get out of the book and back into the real world sometimes! I don’t have a strict schedule, I just try to squeeze every last second out of each day that I possibly can.
Your second book, Aberration, is due out in June. Tell us what we have to look forward to and when we might expect your third book.
Aberration is a bit of a departure from Finding Claire Fletcher. It is a much more typical crime thriller but it’s got some twists in it that I hope readers will enjoy. It’s not as emotionally dense as FCF. I’m currently working on finalizing a draft of my third novel which is called Hold Still–again a much more traditional crime thriller. That features a single mom detective from Philadelphia who is hunting down a group of serial rapists. I haven’t sent this to my agent yet so I don’t know if I’ll be able to sell it at this point. I’ve also started writing my fourth book which will feature Claire and Connor again, only the story won’t center around them this time–they’ll be more like intrepid crime solvers.
In exciting news, Lisa just recently learned that Finding Claire Fletcher has been nominated for the eFestival of Words Best of Independent eBook Awards in three categories: Best Novel, Best Thriller and Best Hero/Heroine for Claire Fletcher. I say CONGRATULATIONS! It is well-deserved.
To Learn More about Lisa, you can visit her at:
Newly divorced and with his career in jeopardy, Detective Connor Parks takes solace in the arms of a beautiful woman he meets at a bar. The next morning, Claire Fletcher is gone, leaving nothing behind but an address and a decade-old mystery. The address leads to the Fletcher family home where Claire’s siblings inform Connor that their fifteen-year-old sister was abducted from a city street ten years ago and is presumed dead.
During those ten years, Claire endured the cruel torture and depravity of the man who abducted her. Paralyzed by fear and too ashamed to return to her family, Claire is resigned to her life as Lynn, the identity her abductor forced upon her. Every time she attempts escape or betrays him in the smallest way, someone dies. Even now, her clandestine run-in with Connor Parks may have put his life at risk, as well as the lives of her family.
Connor is convinced that not only is Claire Fletcher alive, but that she is also the woman he met at the bar. Driven to see her again, he begins his own investigation, off the clock and without the police department’s consent. He is determined to find her and unravel the mystery of her abduction and odd reemergence. But finding Claire Fletcher proves more dangerous than he anticipates. In fact, it may be deadly.
Thanks, Lisa, for visiting today!!