Why is The Coroner set in a small town? What can we expect to see in the second of the series? How does TV inaccurately portray coroners? Answers to these questions and more… in this month’s Author Q&A!
1. Obviously being the daughter of a medical examiner had a big influence on you. Did you ever want to follow in your father’s footsteps?
As a teenager, I was rather grossed out and embarrassed about what my father’s job at M.E. These were the days before CSI and Forensic Files made death investigation exciting and cool. When my friends found out my dad did this, they took great interest, so that lessened the embarrassment on my part. And while I do love the sciences, I always knew my calling was to be on the storytelling side of crime solving.
2. You’re also the author of an inspirational novel and feature film about an Army widow, and a nonfiction book about the science of forensic investigation and crime dramas. How did writing a mystery differ?
Storytelling is storytelling no matter the genre. All genres follow the same story rules and arcs. I find it takes the same amount of time, effort, thought, energy, and research to develop a story whether its for book or screen. Creating a screenplay requires the same amount of story work as it does for a novel. The only difference is that I can write a screenplay in a fraction of the time it takes me to write a novel because most of the backstory and ground work never shows up as words on the page. Non-fiction is a whole different ball game. It requires a lot less emotional energy. And in that sense, it feels less exhaustive. I love the challenge and results of all of them.
3. Did you plan out the mystery before you started or did you see where you writing took you?
I’m a plotter. That comes from my screenwriting training. When I start a new mystery I pretend I’m the investigator and I create a case file for my “case.” From there I create a rough skeleton outline of the mystery plot. After that I flesh out the character’s arcs and emotional journeys, and B, C, and D stories surrounding the case. Then, I create a treatment. Workshop it. Then, a first draft. More workshopping. I’m a collaborative writer. It’s more fun, makes the project stronger, and gets the project done faster.
4. What is something that you frequently see the media portraying incorrectly in regards to forensics?
I have my top ten and they all have pet names. One of my favorites is what I call, “Sex Appeal.” You see this a lot on television. The good-looking, well-dressed investigators show up in heels, skirts, or suit to a crime scene investigation. Their hair and make-up are perfectly done. They are fresh and well-rested. A lot of times they aren’t wearing any proper protective gear. It’s not a criticism. I understand it why they do this. Shows want to portray a certain sex appeal from their actors. But it’s not a reflection of how real life investigators show up to crime scenes.
5. Why did you decided to set most of the book in a small town?
The Coroner harkens to my experiences growing up in a small town and seeing how death investigation works in a rural area. I like to expose the reality that resources in rural areas are often limited and different than they are in big cities. I’m not saying they are not professional. They are. But the elements of staffing, equipment, education, experience, and budget all factor in and vary vastly from county to county. Secondly, I think it’s interesting to explore how small communities react when one of their own is taken from them. No one remains anonymous in small towns. Everyone plays a role. Everyone is affected. Everyone has an opinion and a stake.
6. The cliffhanger leads me to think we’ll be seeing more of these characters – can you tell us anything about their futures?
We’ll be continuing the journey of Dr. Emily Hartford as Coroner. Her love life becomes more complicated as she struggles with calling off her engagement, tests the dating waters, and explores any remaining sparks with Nick. And she will be have to solve a brutal cold case murder… much darker than the first book… with Nick as a key suspect.