Merry Jones is the author of suspense novels, non-fiction books (including ‘Birthmothers: Women Who Relinquished Babies For Adoption Tell Their Stories’) and humor books (including ‘I Love Him, But…’).
Her novels include the Harper Jennings series (Summer Session, Behind The Walls, Winter Break and in summer, 2013, Outside Eden) and the Zoe Hayes mysteries (The Nanny Murders, The River Killings, The Deadly Neighbors, The Borrowed And Blue Murders).
Her most recent series (latest book Winter Break) focuses on Harper Jennings, a female Iraq war vet who, despite suffering war wounds and PTSD, has married and gone to graduate school at Cornell, studying archeology. She stumbles upon, among other things, clinical drug trials gone awry, international artifact smugglers, sociopathic fraternity boys, and the followers of a twisted charismatic preacher.
Her latest book is The Trouble With Charlie. Elle Harrison, a professional woman with a mild dissociative disorder, is accused of murdering her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Charlie, who is reluctant to stay dead. In trying to clear her name, Elle gets to know Charlie as she never did in life—especially as she uncovers his disturbing, dangerous secrets.
Merry has been inspired by agents, editors, publishers, colleagues, family, friends and feedback from readers. The mother of two lives and writes outside Philadelphia, where she is an avid sculler and Corgi owner.
And now from the author herself:
I’m sitting here, beginning a new suspense novel, considering its bad guys. Feeling some unease. I know that the book needs these guys—it can’t exist without them. But I’m bracing myself because, for me, getting to know them is one of the toughest parts of writing.
Consider this. For the Zoe Hayes mysteries, I had not just to meet, but to hang out with a serial killer who dismembered nannies, a cartel of merciless human traffickers, the organizers of murderous dogfights, and a cannibalistic psychopath.
The Harper Jennings thrillers required that I become closely acquainted with deadly drug developers, murderous artifact smugglers, knife-wielding honor killers, sociopathic fraternity members, and righteous religious fanatics.
These are not the sorts of people I would normally seek out.
But in the course of writing, I spend more time with them than with my actual breathing friends. Untold hours pass as I research their personalities, relationships, behavior patterns, mindsets, mental states and motivations. Relatively few of these details actually surface in the plot, but I still have to know the characters’ histories. I become aware of their hobbies, favorite music and foods. I delve into their dark appetites, drives, and compulsions; follow them on their twisted paths; observe their lacks of conscience until, eventually, I become afraid.
The fear, of course, isn’t of the bad guys; it’s of myself, their creator. It’s of my ability to see things through their eyes. I become afraid when their actions and appetites begin to make sense to me. I might begin to consider murder calmly, as a matter of pragmatics. Or to feel the killer’s mounting excitement as he closes in on his prey. The experiences vary, but, from each character’s disturbing point of view, they always make sense.
No matter how twisted he is, though, I have to find a way to relate to each villain–to find common ground and assure that he isn’t simply the embodiment of Bad or a manipulative plot element. A convincing villain is like other well-developed characters: three-dimensional, complete with vulnerabilities and contradictions that make him or her human—sometimes even appealing. The best villain is not plain flat out evil, but is someone with redeeming qualities and internal conflicts who suffers and dreams like everyone else.
So, I sit here, contemplating new bad guys. I’m nervous–not because I’m about to meet people who are simply cruel, without conscience. Not because they’ll murder or maim, kidnap and kill. No, I’m nervous because their behavior is soon to become familiar to me. No matter how deplorable their crimes or distorted their perceptions, I will have to understand them.
Even the darkest villain is human, after all. And when I recognize that, when I dig into that unsettling but familiar darkness within my own human psyche, I become afraid.
That’s when I know I’m ready to write.
I love that. Thank you, Merry. You can find more about Merry and her writing via…
- Her website: http://merryjones.com
- Winter Break: Amazon.com
- The Trouble with Charlie paperback: Amazon.com
- and Charlie Kindle: Amazon.com
Winter Break is a “nonstop tale (that) pays off in spades.” – Kirkus Review
The Trouble With Charlie is “a …rocket-paced read that keeps readers awake until the end. Like eating popcorn, I couldn’t stop at a scene break until I gobbled up every word.” – Bookreporter.com
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with children’s author Dr Cherrye Vasquez – the six hundred and twenty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my Books (including my debut novel, which is being serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).
The full details of the new online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, are:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.