Today we have the pleasure of having B.J. Daniels on the blog and she was nice enough to do a Q & A with us.
1.) Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming release, Mercy?
I’ve never done a serial killer book because I like murders that are more personal. When I began writing MERCY (I write by the seat of my pants without any idea where the story is going until the characters tell me) I saw the opening and thought, “What is this about?”
The next thing I knew, I was on the trail of a possible serial killer with my rogue U.S. marshal Rourke Kincaid. I loved his perseverance (something writers know well.)
He took me for quite a ride before the book was finished. I ended up in the hospital at 3 a.m., 20 degrees below zero outside, with my first migraine. MERCY, the 5th book in the Beartooth, Montana series, became the book that almost killed me – and my first serial killer book.
2.) How did you come up with the title?
At the end of the first chapter, my killer is telling her victim to “Beg for mercy.” But to me the title is more about having been given mercy (compassion, love, understanding) at some point in our lives and how that makes us the people we are.
When I was doing research on serial killers, I became fascinated by how one person in the same type of family situation becomes a killer and the other person doesn’t.
3.) The cover illustration overlooks a small town. Can you tell us how this cover sets the tone for the book?
I write about small towns because that’s what I know. The Beartooth series takes place in and around a small Montana town where everyone knows everyone else – and their business. But there are always secrets. Also, things work differently in places where everyone knows each other, so I have more leeway when it comes to even how law enforcement operates.
4.) You said that the books that you struggle with the most are the ones that you end up loving the most. Can you talk about the writing process for Mercy?
You mean the book that tried to kill me? I do love this book though because of it. It was hard to write, but they say write what you know. I often write about characters from dysfunctional families. I grew up in one though I later realized there were families a whole lot worse than mine. Instead of becoming a serial killer, I became a writer. We both live in fantasy worlds where we settle scores, get revenge, make those in the wrong get what they have coming to them (at least what we think they have coming to them.)
Where I struggled with MERCY was giving the reader enough information and yet not giving away who the killer really was. I didn’t want any of them to be the killers at one point. I cared too much about them and what they’d been through. I kept telling myself that I was wrong about who I suspected. There had to be someone else who did the killings. Talk about denial.
Also this book took a twist I wasn’t expecting. I think all authors draw on their own life experiences. A lot of me and my life ends up in my books. I grew up with a mother who was…somewhat psychic. It scared her. I often wondered how that ability (who knows how strong it was since she fought it) would shape a person’s life – or torture that person.
So it was bound to end up in one of my books.
5.) Was there a scene in this book that was harder to write than others?
I often struggle with the action scene during the climax. I just feel as if every fight scene has been done. It’s easier to figure out how the good guys get the upper hand than the choreography of the fight.
6.) What was your favorite part of the book to write?
I loved creating all of the characters. I felt I knew them by the end. That’s why I didn’t want any of them to be guilty of the murders. They all wanted to be good people, but they were flawed and struggling with the hand they’d been dealt. We all know it isn’t fair to blame your childhood once you’re an adult, but that childhood is what shaped you and some people fight and fight to overcome it and just can’t.
7.) Can you tell us a bit more about the town of Beartooth, MT and the people who live there?
They are mostly rural people who appreciate where they live and don’t want it to change. They are often suspicious of newcomers. I know when I moved to a very small Montana town eight years ago, people kept asking me why I’d done such a thing. There are always those who dream of going to a bigger city. They are usually the ones who never leave though. So Beartooth and the community around it are people who know each other, who depend on each other and take care of their own.
8.) How do the dual locations of Seattle, WA and Beartooth, MT add to the story?
It’s interesting but when people leave Montana for the big city it is often Seattle. It is surprising how many Montanans end up there because of better paying jobs.
But in this story you have a marshal who is like a fish out of water in a small town like Beartooth. Of the two women in the story, most people go to a big city to disappear but Cassie came to a small Montana town. Laura is a prime example of someone leaving Montana for greener grasses.
9.) How much research went into portraying a serial killer?
I can laugh about it now but a year ago the first week of September I took a whole stack of research books on serial killers and headed for the mountains. I was off the grid for a week and did nothing but read about serial killers. I swear between the grizzly bears that wandered through camp and the serial killer true stories, I had nightmares.
10.) Did things get too real when writing this book?
They did get too real in this book. I remember interviewing Tim Cahill years ago when I worked for the newspaper. He was writing Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer, the story of John Wayne Gacy. I remember him telling me that his wife hated it when he came home after interviewing Gacy. He said it was impossible not to bring it home with him and that thoughts of it lasted for years.
11.) Did you base the character of Callie Westfield on anyone?
I base my characters on no one and everyone. I’ve known people who did well in life and others who didn’t. I’ve always been curious about what made them the way they were.
Callie had a classic serial killer background. One characteristic of a serial killer that I found very telling in my research was the person’s relationship with his/her mother. The mother seemed the key.
12.) Can you tell us a little bit about Rourke Kincaid’s internal struggle?
If you have ever loved someone you shouldn’t, then you know what Rourke is going through. Love picks us sometimes, not the other way around. It is hard to go into something like that with rational thinking. You know you shouldn’t for so many reasons and yet when you see that person, all rational thought goes out the window.
Also don’t most of us think love can conquer all? Even as we are getting in deeper, we make excuses. We tell ourselves that we’re fine, that we can get out at any time. Or worse, that the other person will change.
If this wasn’t true, then there wouldn’t be so many bad relationships where the warning signs were apparent before the couple went into it – and yet they couldn’t seem to help themselves.
13.) Who would play Callie and Rourke in a movie?
I would love Amy Smart for Cassie and Alanna Uvbach for Laura. For Rourke…Paul Walker!
14.) What is the best advice you received when writing Mercy?
To not give up. It is hard sometimes. I would go home after work and tell my husband that this could be the book that never gets finished. He always says, “Oh, you’ll be fine. You always finish them.” He’s not helpful.
15.) What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I hope they enjoy the mystery and the romance and it takes them away for however many hours it takes them to read it. I don’t kid myself. I write escape fiction. It’s okay too if I scare them a little. Mercy intrigued and scared me. Ultimately, there are some people who can’t be saved – or let loose on the rest of society.
16.) What is your next project?
The Beartooth, Montana series continues with the six-book series: The Montana Hamiltons. The first book, WILD HORSES, will be out in March, followed by LONE RIDER, in July. It is the stories of the six Hamilton sisters. Their father, Senator Buckmaster Hamilton, is running for president of the United States. But as each of his daughters find romance – and trouble – it threatens his candidacy. The future of the country hangs in the balance by the sixth book because Buckmaster has a mystery of his own.
The hunt for a killer leads to a battle between justice and desire
For U.S. marshal Rourke Kincaid, there’s the law…and then there’s his law. When the two don’t agree, he always trusts his instincts. A killing spree has gripped the Northwest, showing a strange connection that only he sees, and now the old rules of justice no longer apply. Forced to turn rogue, he goes deep undercover to track his mysterious female suspect to a quiet, unassuming café in the wild, isolated mountains of Beartooth, Montana.
But encountering Callie Westfield complicates his mission in ways he never expected. As suspicious as she seems, her fragile beauty and sexy charm get to Rourke. Then the gory crimes begin anew. With his heart suddenly at war with his instincts, he has only two options. Either turn Callie over to the law, or put everything—including his badge and his life—on the line to protect her.
The story was wild with some creepiness to keep you turning the pages. U.S. Marshall Rourke Kincaid is torn between trusting his gut and following the advice of his one time partner Laura. A good romantic suspense that keeps you guessing until the very end.