In the next month or so, many families will be sending a young person off to college for the first time. Part of this process will involve packing up his or her belongings and shopping for the oh-so-perfect accessories for the dorm room. Amid the goodbye tears, the thought of newfound freedom sends these college freshmen along their way. Yet oftentimes, parents neglect to inform their children of the dangers associated with college life such as date rape. Just a five minute talk could make all the difference in the world.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Julia Heaberlin addresses this very topic in her latest release, Lie Still. It’s the story of Emily Page, a victim of college date rape. Now as an adult, she is happily married and expecting her first child. When she and her husband relocate to Clairmont, Texas, Emily is hopeful for a fresh start. However, when the queen bee of the Texan socialites is reported missing, it brings back haunting memories of a past Emily thought she had left behind.
As part of this interview, Random House Publishing has generously donated five copies for you, my readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. Good luck! Be sure to keep up-to-date by visiting my website www.jennifervido.com, follow me on Facebook jennifervido.com, Twitter @JenniferVido, and Pinterest Jennifer Vido. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your summer reading adventure.
Jen: As the acclaimed author of Playing Dead, you are known for writing intense thrillers. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.
Julia: I graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism, um, a while ago. My first job was as a copy editor/reporter at a paper in South Dakota where I worked night shifts and nearly died in various blizzards. It was hell for a Texas girl. I lived in a basement apartment managed by a very nosy 82-year-old, and grass grew out of the carpet in my bathroom. The line at work was: “Julie’s going home to mow her bathroom.” In those two years, I paid a lot of painful dues—after that I managed lifestyle and entertainment coverage at the Rochester Times-Union, The Detroit News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I also did a stint at The Dallas Morning News. Eight years ago, I quit editing and decided to pursue my dream of writing novels. But I can’t completely let go of journalism and still free-lance pieces here and there on people who particularly fascinate me.
Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as an author.
Julia: There really wasn’t one. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I had a profound story to tell. In my case, I needed life experience—writing, editing and peering into people’s crazy souls. Journalism taught me that good writing is not always about pretty sentences. It’s primarily about point of view and interesting content—the ability to listen and to tell a story simply and powerfully. I hired a talented writer whose unusual newspaper writing style was a prime example of this. In the job interview, he told me that his parents worked in the coal mines of Virginia and that he grew up around adults with eighth-grade educations who didn’t read much more than the daily newspaper. He thought these smart, hard-working people shouldn’t be cheated out of emotional, literary experiences and deserved stories that didn’t talk down to them. It was one of the best answers I ever got to an interview question.
Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long does it take for you to write a novel? And, what is the most challenging part of the writing process?
Julia: About eight months. And then at least three more months fiddling and rewriting after my editor, husband and agent bluntly point out what parts they don’t like. The most challenging aspect of writing for me is applying my butt to the chair every day whether I feel like it or not. That, and limiting my Dr. Pepper consumption.
Jen: Lie Still is a truly engrossing psychological thriller depicting the emotional journey of Emily Page, a woman with dark secrets to hide. How did you arrive at the premise?
I wrote this book while my first novel, Playing Dead, was being pounded by rejection after rejection from New York’s major publishing houses. So I was in a bit of a dark place. At my agent’s urging to start a second book anyway, I sat down to write with nothing but a vague concept of a club of Southern women with black hearts. I was frankly surprised when my protagonist’s first words were about a date rape in college. But I rolled with it because Emily had a lot to say on the topic. I’m not one of those writers who follow an organized outline (and readers who have dipped into my books know this well!). I let the characters discover the story. I try to weave many threads so that readers are unsure of what is coming, but not so confused that they are irritated by the end of the book! I love a mystery that I can’t figure out. So that’s always a primary goal.
Jen: In terms of Emily’s husband Mike, how has their recent relocation to Clairmont, Texas affected their relationship?
Julia: Emily arrives in Clairmont vulnerable in all kinds of ways: She’s pregnant after a number of miscarriages. She’s lugging around a heavy load of secrets. She’s experiencing loss of identity after quitting a high-powered job in New York and moving to a small town in Texas. She thinks a stalker from her past has returned. And she’s been transplanted to a strange and very hot planet. She wants to rely on Mike, but there are so many reasons why she feels that she can’t.
Jen: Like any new transplant, Emily is in search of her niche among the local social circles. When Caroline, the queen bee among the wealthy Texan socialites, invites her to a cozy gathering, how does Emily’s presence cause tension among the group?
Julia: Well, she’s from New York! Many Southern girls will admit that’s an intimidation factor all on its own. Why we feel this way has to go back to the Civil War or something. But the glittery, snake-eyed women in the book are always looking out for themselves. Any intruder they consider competition—smart, pretty, sure of herself—would get the same kind of treatment.
Jen: The cast of quirky socialites brings rich drama and flair to the story. Three in particular stand out. Letty, the former beauty queen turned frumpy housewife, vehemently questions Emily’s past. What is the root of her disdain?
Julia: Isn’t jealousy and insecurity the root of most disdain? A desire to make yourself feel better, in control, when inside you are shrinking away? I don’t know a person like Letty in real life: a slightly racist ex-pageant queen on a hot dog and banana diet who carries an assault rifle in the trunk of her car. But I would like to know her and get to the root of her problems. She makes me laugh. The reasons for her insane behavior, how she redeems herself, are complicated and somewhat beyond me.
Jen: Misty leads a colorful life with an uber rich husband who is never around. Why does Emily seek out her friendship?
Julia: There is an immediate, intangible connection. A sense that something dark lives inside both of them. And Misty feels like an outsider in this town as well.
Jen: When Caroline mysteriously disappears, her trusting maid Maria confides in Emily. What sparks this peculiar pairing?
Julia: Well, Emily is at heart a nice person, who would rather hang out with the Marias of the world than the Carolines. And the worried, revengeful Maria badly needs help. I think it’s that simple.
Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Julia: Besides the basic facts about my books, career and appearances, I offer links to a few personal essays and stories I’ve written (on the Who I Am page). There is also a Book Club Primer page for those interested in reading and discussing Playing Dead or Lie Still.
Jen: Are you present in social media? And, what is the best way for your readers to keep abreast of the latest news.
Julia: My Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julia-Heaberlin/122462674521360) is where I post the most recent news and go back and forth with readers. I also update my website (www.juliaheaberlin.com) regularly. I don’t blog. I tweet occasionally. If I’ve realized anything, it’s that The Book Is The Thing. I have a finite amount of creativity in me every day and a finite amount of interesting things to spout off about. If I don’t deliver a good book every single time, no one is going to want to hear what I have to say anyway.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what may you share with us?
Julia: Yes! My third novel for Random House is a psychological/forensic thriller called Black-Eyed Susans. It’s the story of a woman found at 16, barely alive, with a skittish memory, dumped with a pile of unidentified bones and a dead girl in a field of Texas wildflowers. The book travels back and forth in time, from the angry teen-age girl trying to regain her memory to the woman she becomes, still seeking answers. Last year, I profiled one of the world’s best forensic scientists, Rhonda Roby, an Oklahoma girl, who worked intensely and compassionately on identifying victims out of the dust at 9-11. She’s agreed to consult with me for Lie Still on the DNA science and the ugly, frustrating world of missing people. But at its heart, this will be an emotional novel full of my usual: an eccentric cast of characters with a boatload of secrets.
Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. I absolutely loved Lie Still. I highly recommend it to my Jen’s Jewels readers. Bravo! Best of luck in all of your future projects, and happy summer!
Julia: Thank you for those kind words and for providing this forum! One last thing: If readers take anything of substance away from Lie Still, I hope it’s that they get their daughters to take at least a rudimentary self-defense class before going to college. Date rape is definitely not a thing of the past. There is still so much shame and confusion involved, and often no game plan when bad situations inevitably arise. We need to give our girls a game plan, and hope they never have to use it.
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Julia Heaberlin. Please stop by your favorite bookstore, online retailer, or library branch and pick up a copy of Lie Still today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead? Okay, be one of the first five readers to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win!
What are the names of Emily’s two friends in Lie Still?
In August, I will be bringing you my interview with Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye. You won’t want to miss it. Until next time…happy summer!