Guest Post by Allison Brennan and Giveaway

Hello, everyone, Heather here again with another TLC Book Tour Stop. Please help me welcome New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan, author of Love Me To Death(My review here), her first Lucy Kincaid series book which was just released on December 28, 2010. Allison is also the author of thirteen novels and three short stories.

Allison Brennan (Webpage, Facebook, Twitter)

Now on to Allison’s guest post on Bewitched Bookworms for the release of Love Me To Death (Amazon).

Thank you to Bewitched Bookworms for hosting me today, the first stop in my book tour!

My readers ask a lot of fun and interesting questions, but the most common is where do I get my ideas.

The short answer? Everywhere and nowhere.

Everywhere, because I’m pulling in information all around me, from who I meet to what I see to what I read in the news. I don’t consciously think when I see a news story that I want to write about it, but I absorb it and when a variety of different snippets of information merge together in my head, a story idea pops out—often without me consciously thinking about it.

Ideas are like grains of sand caught in an oyster. The layers that build the pearl are placed over time, until that small, common irritant is formed into a natural pearl. One idea needs time to grow and develop, adding layers into the initial spark. It’s why you can give a hundred authors the exact same premise and have a hundred completely different and unique stories.

I also play the “What if” game all the time. For example, several years ago I read about the tragic story of Taylor Behl, a seventeen-year-old college freshman who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Taylor had a sexy blog called tiatliaj (jailbait backwards) and her ex-boyfriend (if I dare call him that) was a photographer twice her age. He joined the search for Taylor, passed out flyers, and claimed he knew nothing about her disappearance. After her body was found he pled no contest to her murder.

Taylor’s story haunted me. Perhaps because at the time, my two oldest were pre-teens asking for MySpace accounts and email addresses. I realized how the Internet, while wonderful on so many levels, also made it easier for predators to find their victims. Often, young people don’t realize how vulnerable they are when they expose their most intimate secrets to strangers—or people they think they know—over the Internet. Or, they don’t comprehend that one naked or sexy picture can be replicated a million times and never removed from cyberspace.

Perhaps this is why many of my books focus on the theme of cybercrime. Taylor story was the seed that grew into my book SPEAK NO EVIL, where a college student had an anonymous sexually explicit website, but someone found out her identity. Her much-older boyfriend was the primary suspect, and his brother—a cop—set out to prove his innocence, butting heads with the detective who was certain the man was guilty. The only similarity to Taylor’s real story was the blog and older ex-boyfriend. All the other ideas came from my head and a variety of other snippets I’ve heard about over the years. (If you want to read more about the Taylor Behl tragedy, the best history I’ve read is at http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/taylor_behl/index.html)
The heroine of SPEAK NO EVIL is Detective Carina Kincaid, and Lucy Kincaid—who launches her own series with LOVE ME TO DEATH–had a small walk-in part. Then, she was a happy-go-lucky high school senior waiting to hear about college acceptances. Now, she’s a resolute graduate waiting to hear if she’s been accepted into the FBI Academy at Quantico, haunted by the events in FEAR NO EVIL—where she was kidnapped right before her high school graduation.

Lucy Kincaid, though a secondary character in FEAR NO EVIL, has been a favorite of mine since she first walked on the page. I have wanted to write a series around her, and was thrilled when my publisher agreed to let Lucy have a series. So many series begin with an established detective or FBI Agent in the middle of their career; with Lucy, I start at the beginning, before she’s in the FBI Academy. She’s weeks away from her 25th birthday when LOVE ME TO DEATH begins.

This book started with the character—I knew I was writing Lucy’s story. I also knew that while I wanted it to tie into her past, I also needed to make sure that the story stood on its own. I could have gone in a love of directions, but I focused on who Lucy is and what she might be doing now that would lend itself to a fast-paced, suspenseful storyline.

I wondered what Lucy would be doing now, six years after she was raped and almost killed by an online predator. She went onto college, but instead of studying international relations, she studied computers and psychology. She was so diligent, she also got her masters in Criminal Psychology. She decided she wanted to be an FBI agent, and because they require three years of full-time employment, she worked as a paid intern—first for the Senate Judiciary Committee, then for the Arlington County Sheriff’s Department, and now as an assistant pathologist in the DC Medical Examiners Office. All the while, she volunteered for a victim rights group where she spends hours every week stopping online sexual predators.

It’s this volunteer job that lands her in serious trouble at the beginning of LOVE ME TO DEATH when she learns that the predators she thinks she’s helping send to prison are ending up dead.

As a full-time writer, I do a lot of research. A few years ago, I participated in the FBI Citizens Academy in Sacramento. The 8-week course has been one of the highlights of my many research excursions. Every week we had new speakers, from our ninth district U.S. Attorney to FBI SWAT to experts across all FBI squads.

One of the most interesting–and depressing–presentations was from the Supervisory Special Agent in charge of battling child pornography. And it is a battle. The Internet has made child pornography so widespread and virtually unstoppable. If every cop in the country—local, state, and federal—spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week pursuing on-line predators for a full year, they wouldn’t be able to stop even ten percent of these horrid crimes. And this only includes crimes against children under 14.

The SSA told us that no one lured in by Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” program, at that point in 2008, had been arrested or convicted as a result of being “caught” on the show.

And I wondered, what if? What if Lucy found herself in a “catch a predator” type plan . . . but the predators ended up dead? What would she do? I began to think about vigilantism in general, and motivation in particular. The idea opened up more research into average sentences for sex offenders, recidivism rates, and statistic on early release programs. No one thing gave me the story—it was a variety of threads I spun together in what I hope is a unique, exciting, and provocative story.

My research for LOVE ME TO DEATH was extensive, and I’m still researching for the series. I traveled to Georgetown and D.C. with my FBI Citizens Academy, toured Quantico, and talked with experts on cybercrime. For the second book in the series, KISS ME, KILL ME, I interviewed a photojournalist in New York City about abandoned warehouses and underground parties. And now, for book three in the series, I’m researching closed mines in upstate New York. While I can’t travel to the Adirondacks before the book is due to my publisher, I’ve made contact with the owner of a mine here in California to help me with some of the details.

Research lets me live vicariously through others, while also developing a healthy respect and appreciation for people across the country in a wide variety of occupations. I try to get things right—especially for the plot critical points–but in the end, it’s all about the story.

Tomorrow, I’ll be touring famous Los Angeles crime scenes led by none other than the amazing and talented James Ellroy! I don’t know what, if anything, will give me that grain of sand I can digest into a story, but I’ll be keeping all my senses open.

I’ll be popping in throughout the day if anyone has any questions! Thank you again for letting me spend the day with you all.


Thank you, Allison for the great post giving us insight into your process. I’ve visited Quantico myself for work and it is quite interesting and a very different environment. A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting the Bewitched Bookworms kick off Allison’s blog tour for Love Me To Death.

And as an added bonus, we are giving away a copy of Love Me To Death. Contest is open to US/Canada residents only. To enter, just leave a comment with your email address on this post by midnight central time, January 17, 2011. A winner will be picked at random and the winner will be notified in an email and a blog post right here on Bewitched Bookworms. Good luck and good reading.

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melydia 1/3/2011
Kristen 1/3/2011

This looks like a great book!! Thanks!

kristen_babygurl@hotmail.com

Kristen

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Darkfallen 1/3/2011

Sounds great! Can't wait to read it.
Kaycee_Robert@charter.net

Kaycee

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christina 1/3/2011

Looks like a great read!!
neenamacci@yahoo.com

thanks!

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Annette 1/3/2011

I not often interested in a lot of author interviews – I don't usually care about the "fluffy" stuff that they are asked. This article was great. I found it really interesting to read about her writing, and would love to read her books. Thanks!

annettesspot@gmail.com
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Victoria Zumbrum 1/3/2011

I would love to read this book. Sounds really good. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

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Linda Henderson 1/3/2011

I enjoyed the interview very much and would love to read the book. Thank you for the great giveaway.

seriousreader at live dot com

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Ammy Belle 1/3/2011

This is a very insightful interview – I think the inspiration part was the best I read (and your pearl analogy is now my FB status). Thank you!

apereiraorama @ gmail.com

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Lisa Munley 1/3/2011

What an exciting life she's leading!! Talking with experts on cybercrime, interviewing photojournalists, touring crime scenes- it sounds like CSI stuff!!

Thanks for a great interview, and for being on the tour!

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Lisa Munley 1/3/2011

I have a question for Allison- does your research ever contradict something you wanted to write about in your books? Meaning, you have an idea for a plot line, but the research makes it implausible. What do you do?
My recent post Meg Waite Clayton- author of The Four Ms Bradwells- on tour March-April 2011

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Allison Brennan 1/3/2011

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for commenting, and I'm glad you enjoyed the article! I love talking about research–it's a perk to my job. I'm an extrovert in an introverted job (writing–can't do it with anyone else!) So when I get to go out and talk to others as part of the writing process, I'm thrilled :) And if you have any questions, I'll be popping in and out today.

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DannyBookworm 1/3/2011

What a great post!!! Thanks so much for giving us an inside look into your research.

How hard is it anyway to raise 5 kids and be a full time writer? It seems like a dream to so many people being able to write full time, but do you have enough quiet time to write?

I'm looking forward reading your book, I learned that I always have to trust Heather ;))
My recent post Review- Bright Young Thingsby Anna Godbersen

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Justpeachy36 1/3/2011

Please enter me in the giveaway. This looks like a great book.

justpeachy36@yahoo.com

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Allison Brennan 1/3/2011

Hi Danny!

Before I was a full-time writer, I worked in the California State Legislature as a consultant. I had to get up early, get the kids ready for school, take them, commute downtown (30-40 minute drive in traffic) and not pick them up until nearly 6 at night — after a 45-60 minute commute! (Always more traffic at night, never figured out why.) Before I sold my first book, i wrote early in the mornings or late at night after they went to bed. I gave up television for three years to make the time to write.

Now, I write when they are at school and after they go to bed and when I'm on deadline, I'll write after dinner and kick them out of my office :) But I also have a lot more flexibility to go on field trips or pick them up at 3 when school gets out. So I work odd hours (there are times I don't go to bed until 3 am, and I'm up at 7 every morning.) It's not easy, but it's never truly easy for working moms, right? No matter what career we have. I love writing, and to be able to write and support my family and still have time to do family stuff like go to their games or nag them about homework :)

BTW, I just bought my daughter BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. That's the author of the Luxe series, right? My daughter Kelly reviews for RT Book Reviews and loved the Luxe series, so I got her BYT for Christmas (I rarely buy her books now because she likes to pick out her own.) Off to read your review!
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Allison Brennan 1/3/2011

Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
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donnas 1/3/2011

Really looking forward to this one. Loved her other books. Thanks for the chance!

bacchus76 at myself dot com

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Heather 1/3/2011

Thank you so much for answering questions posted here. It's a real treat when an author pops into our blog. I have a few questions. Since some of us are aspiring authors, at what age did you start seriously writing? How long did it take to find an agent and see you first book in print? Thanks again!

Heather

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onepushyfox 1/3/2011

Thank you so much, Allison for such a great guest post and for stopping by to answer our questions!!

I was wondering if you ever had a story idea come up that you weren't interested in following up on because the topic made you uncomfortable. The idea of having to do all that research into child pornography just sent a shudder through me (yup, I'm a mom of three). While I really enjoy writing I'm not sure I could handle doing the research involved in such a topic. Do you ever feel that way? Or when you get that uncomfortable feeling about a topic, is it a sign for you that you've hit on something that will challenge you as a storyteller?

Thanks again for stopping by!!!
My recent post Review- Bright Young Thingsby Anna Godbersen

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Vivien 1/3/2011

Sounds fabulous! Thanks again.

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

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Allison Brennan 1/4/2011

Hi Lisa! Great question. Sorry for the delay, my Internet is down and I'm on my iPad which is harder to respond :)

I was writing Tempting Evil and that was my first contact with the Sacramento FBI. I had specific questions about fugitive apprehension. The thing is, the rough draft was done, I was just filling in some details. I had my agent pursuing a fugitive from Sacramento to Idaho then Montana. This was important because he was the hero of the next book, and the events in TE set up the events in Playing Dead. My contact told me that agents don't pursue fugitives outside their jurisdiction, that they would contact the local office with new information that the fugitive was in their state, and send the intel to them. Argh! That blew my entire story up. So I asked a lot of questions, and ultimately, asked, if my agent was so determined to catch this guy and broke protocol and pursued the fugitive himself, what would happen? My contact said, anything from a slap on the wrist to an official reprimand to suspension to termination. Yes! Breaking protocols was actually in my heroes character, and having him defy a direct order was even better for the third book, so I could have him pulled from the case and on sort of probation.

There is usually a way to get around things. Since I don't plot, I find myself in this situation on occasion.

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Allison Brennan 1/3/2011

Hi Heather:

I think like most writers, I've always written, but I didn't get serious until march of 2002, nearly a year after the birth of my son, Brennan #3. I was 32, I no longer liked my job, but I had to work. I had always wanted to write books, but family and career interfered. I needed to make writing the priority. So I gave up television for three years, wrote every night after the kids went to bed (still working full-time during the day) and finished 5 books in 2 years. I found an agent in February of 2004 with my fifth book (I had another agent with my second book, but she wasn't the right agent for me and the book was mediocre.) we sold my debut in early March of 2004 … Exactly two years after I committed to writing.

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Allison Brennan 1/4/2011

Wow, tough question!

I think I compartmentalize well. I realized that when I viewed an autopsy. I could observe and ask questions and separate the human being from the forensic science. I have read true crime since reading Helter Skelter when I was 14. I have several homicide/investigation text books with photos and while not pretty, when I'm in research mode I focus on research.

Some of the research is hard, especially when it deals with kids. The hardest research I did was on human trafficking. That has haunted me for a long time. But I also don't want to be ignorant of the horrors out there because as human beings, we need to know how other people are being brutalized and , when we can, do something to stop it. I'm not a cop, but I can share what I know. In y acknowledgements in Fatal Secrets I put in statistics about human trafficking that were shocking, but I felt important to share. I don't write to preach, but my characters do tend to have my views about criminal justice.

Anyway, I don't have to view child pornography to know how horrific it is. I have heard enough stories from cops about what they've seen, that I don't want to see it.

I do think that when a writer is uncomfortable, that's the time to write and explore the subject. It'll make the emotions more real for the characters, and the story more authentic.

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uhyesplease 1/4/2011

Wow! Great interview and great questions and answers! Thanks, Allison for stopping by and taking the time to answer even more questions!

I'm adding the book to my cue, NOW!

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misskallie2000 1/4/2011

I really enjoyed your interview Allison. So much research but that is what makes a great book. I am looking forward to reading Love Me To Death and your other releases. I love mystery and suspense with romance in the mix and of course I do love HEA. I grew up on fairy tales and Cinderella is still my fav..I even looked for Prince Charming before I married but did not find him. lol. Instead I found The Devil in Disguise (I love this song sung by Elvis). Thank you for stopping by to answer our questions. The ones I was going to ask were asked by others and you answered them. Have added your books to my wish list. Would love to win Love Me To Death. Please don't stop writing as I love your books.

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Jessicandesigns 1/4/2011

Who doesn't want a new book?!
Thanks!
jessicandesigns@gmail.com
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Joni G. 1/5/2011

I'd like to enter!
jguldy@yahoo.com

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carolee888 1/9/2011

I would love to read this exciting book.

CarolNWong@aol.com

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Carol M 1/9/2011

This sounds good! Please enter me! Thank you!
mittens0831 at aol dot com

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Marjorie 1/12/2011

This book sounds so good, I would love to read it.
Nothing like a great mystery.

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Meredith Miller 1/13/2011

I find it interesting that Dateline ran those programs and law enforcement hasn't charged anyone that was caught on the show? That's a shame. How much more proof do they need? I'd love to read your book!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

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Crystal F 1/13/2011

I love Allison's books and I'm looking forward to this new series.

crystalfulcher(at)ec.rr.com
My recent post New Years Reading Resolutions Giveaway Winner

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Vidisha 1/14/2011

Great giveaway!!!

vidishamun@gmail.com

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Lisa Munley 1/14/2011

That's perfect!! I can only imagine, though, how frustrating it must have been to get that info and then to have to re-think the whole thing, ugh!! but I guess ultimately you have to trust the process because it all seemed to work out great and maybe even better because of it!
My recent post Lisa Napoli- author of Radio Shangri-La- on tour February-March 2011

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Kathy 1/17/2011

Would love to read this book! :D

dothetwist(at)live(dot)ca

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Caumblannie 12/22/2011

look at high-end wallets for gift for more

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