All the way back in 2013, I posted one of my favorite interviews with one of my favorite authors, Lisa Regan. (You can read that interview HERE). At the time, she was already an award-winning debut author with the spellbinding novel, FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER. Since then, we’ve stayed in touch on an occasional basis. I truly admire not only her books but also her dedication to writing really great characters and telling great stories. Fortunately, Lisa has published several books since that 2013 interview and there are more on the way! And in even more exciting news for fans and readers, Claire Fletcher is back in the thriller LOSING LEAH HOLLOWAY. This second in the series is as good as the first–compelling and chock full of complex characters. So today, I’m happy to be catching up with Lisa and sharing more about LOSING LEAH HOLLOWAY as well as her new series from Bookouture!
Its’ been five years since you first released FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER. Many readers—including me—loved that book and we found ourselves rooting for Claire and Connor. What made you decide to make their story a series and what kind of challenges did you face?
Honestly, I had no intention of ever writing another book with these characters but my readers kept asking me for a sequel. It was a question that never went away: When are you going to write a sequel to Finding Claire Fletcher? People really wanted to know what happened to Claire and Connor. When I say they really wanted to know, it wasn’t something readers asked me about when the book first came out and then never again, it was something that readers asked me about for years after the book came out. I was getting messages, emails, et cetera a few times a month on this subject, so that made me think, “Maybe I should revisit these characters.” The challenge, of course, is telling a new story using these characters. I really felt that their story had already been told, and I didn’t want to revisit them in a way that would bore the hell out of readers. So I thought I would do what a lot of other authors do which was take these two fan-favorite characters and get them swept up into someone else’s story. Then readers would have a brand new mystery and they would get to know what happened to Claire and Connor. So in a lot of ways, Losing Leah Holloway is my love letter to my wonderful fans.
Leah Holloway is a complicated woman and I love how we learn about her in bits and pieces. However, having her drive her car into the river with five children inside is a tough read for any mother. How hard was this to write and how hard was it to like her as you were writing her?
I wrote that opening scene without knowing anything at all about Leah or why she was going into the river. All I knew was that I had this seemingly perfect mother who was doing the unthinkable, the unspeakable. It was very difficult to write because what she was doing goes against every instinct I have as a mother. I think the only reason I was able to get through that scene was because I knew Claire was going to swim out there and save the kids. Later, I sat down to try to figure out what would make a mother who loved her kids do something so horrific? I wrote all of Leah’s scenes in a few weeks before I wrote anymore of the book and then I placed them throughout the book. It was really tough to like her at first or be sympathetic or understanding but the more I delved into her story and her background, I just started to feel kind of sorry for her–before she went into the river, that is. I think that on many levels she is a relatable character. In terms of her being overwhelmed trying to juggle all her responsibilities; trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and friend; trying to stay on top of her career; getting little help from her husband–I think a lot of women experience the feeling of just being overwhelmed and anxious and even angry. For many women, everything falls on them. They’re responsible for everything in their lives and the lives of everyone they love and sometimes it can be a lot. So in that sense, I think that Leah is a character that readers can understand. In that sense, I felt she was likeable and sympathetic. I found myself wanting to yell and scream at her while I was writing, “You don’t have to do this!” but of course, she had to drive into the river or there would be no book.
Claire was a victim for ten years before she was free again. While she still has some issues, she appears to be rebuilding her life. Was her recovery modeled after any other survivors?
I’ve known and spoken with many survivors of sexual and physical abuse–some who endured a single assault and some whose abuse was sustained, like Claire’s. Every survivor deals with their trauma differently so I didn’t model her recovery after a specific person. After I wrote the first book, a lot of survivors contacted me directly to tell me that I had “got it right” or “nailed it” and so in this book, I wanted to be respectful of the idea that these types of traumas will effect these survivors for the rest of their lives, but that deep down, these women, children, and even men who have endured unspeakable violence are strong and brave at their core. They are worthy of our awe and respect. I wanted Claire to be a hopeful figure–someone who acknowledges and is realistic about her trauma but also someone who works tirelessly to rebuild and reclaim her life.
When I read that the serial killings were called the Soccer Mom Murders, it sounded like it could have been ripped from the headlines. You’ve written about serial killers and psychopaths before. Did you do any new research for this book?
I reread some of John Douglas’s books about profiling and serial killers. I had also taken an online course that went over criminal profiling. I read a textbook on Victimology. I also have a lovely friend I went to grade school with who is a Sergeant with a police department in Pennsylvania and he helped tremendously with a lot of procedural things.
Readers may not realize that you slipped in a character from another book. Kassidy Bishop, the FBI profiler, was a protagonist in your novel KILL FOR YOU. It was fun to see her again. When can we expect to see her next?
I have a couple of readers who ask about Kassidy from time to time. I would love to do a few more books where she’s solving complex serial killer crimes. Right now, those plans are on hold. You may see her from time to time making cameos in other books.
Parental DNA testing is an interesting twist in this novel. I find the idea that “violent traits and characteristics” might be partly nature and not just nurture to be a fascinating subject. This assumption—regardless of whether or not there is any truth in it—comes into play late in the book. How did it help you in the development of the characters and their actions?
Well I think the question of how much of a propensity for violence is built in to our DNA and how much of it is a result of external factors is a fascinating question with no easy answer. You’ll see at the end of this book that the killer had one very devoted parent and one parent who was not really present or interested in being a parent and the question I think the book raises is: did that one disinterested parent influence this person or would he have turned out to be a killer no matter what? But I think using the idea of violence in relation to genetics really helped drive the narrative. Certainly some important characters made life-altering decisions that were driven by this idea. I think using the idea certainly helped drive the plot more forcefully.
Although it’s a series, both FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER and LOSING LEAH HOLLWAY can be read as standalone novels. How hard was it to give the reader the background without distracting them from the current story? Is there any possibility that there will be a third in the series?
It was hard because it’s impossible not to give away some spoilers when you’re writing the second book. You can leave a lot of things vague but some things you have no choice but to address. Still, the mysteries at the heart of each book are completely unrelated. The first book is the mystery of Claire’s disappearance and the mystery of the second book is why Leah drove herself and a bunch of kids into a river. I tried hard to keep as much of the first book out of the second as possible and have the characters motivations, actions, and inner lives still make sense. Although I have no plans for a third book right now, I never say never. I mean, I never intended to write a sequel and here we are!
You have a new series coming out in 2018 with another publisher. Can you tell us about that?
I’m really excited about this new series from Bookouture. It’s about a Detective named Josie Quinn who lives in a small fictional city in rural Pennsylvania. It was really fun to write because the setting is made up so the sky was the limit in terms of where to take the story and how to use the setting. Josie is a lot of fun to write because she’s very complex. She has a lot of demons and each book will give you more of a glimpse into her past and what happened to her as a child to make her the strong, spunky, but damaged woman she is when we meet her in Book 1. The first book is called Vanishing Girls and it finds Josie out on suspension for an allegation of excessive force. While she is suspended a teenage girl goes missing. Josie does some poking around on her own, expressly against her Chief’s orders, and begins to unravel several of the town’s deepest, darkest secrets. In the second book which is now titled The Girl With No Name, a baby and Josie’s fiance go missing around the same time and the only clue police have is a woman with no memory found at one of the crime scenes. The first book comes out on January 17, 2018 and then Book 2 and 3 come out in April and August of 2018.
Thanks so much to Lisa. I’m truly grateful she was able to stop by!
Be sure to check out her newest book, LOSING LEAH HOLLOWAY, and her new series coming in 2018 from Bookouture.