On the surface, Kendall is your typical all-American teenage girl. She plays soccer with her friends, hangs out with her boyfriend and helps her parents plow their potato farm in rural Montana. More than anything, she just wants to be like everyone else, but she’s constantly plagued by obsessive compulsive thoughts of being stalked by a deranged killer. And when a fellow classmate disappears, her OCD-riddled mind goes into hyper-drive. Her paranoia intensifies when Jacien – a mysterious new boy who always seems to be watching her – moves in next door.
Unable to resist the urge to count, check off and categorize everything in her one-room schoolhouse every morning, Kendall doubts her sanity on a daily basis. And when cryptic messages screaming “Help Me. Save Me!” appear on the missing student’s now-empty desk, she fears she’s losing her grip on reality. Things really get weird when she finds her boyfriend – the only boy she will ever truly love – sitting at the desk in a trancelike state. And when he goes missing, she knows she must decode the desk’s messages and uncover the town’s secrets before she, too, vanishes.
Well known for her New York Times best-selling “Wake” series, this fabulous author (with great hair, I might add!) has mastered the art of creepy, edge-of-your-seat storytelling. One scene in particular raised the little hairs on the back of my neck, a sensation I haven’t felt since reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot! She was kind enough to chat with Chick Lit Café about her fieldwork at a potato farm, the fine art of character development and what’s up next!
Welcome Lisa! First and foremost, I have to tell you that Cryer’s Cross is downright creepy! Did you scare yourself at times while writing this book?
Yes I did, actually! That part near the end totally freaked me out when I was writing it.
How did you come up with the idea of a 50-year-old desk that delivers messages from beyond the grave?
I got the idea for the desk from a dream. The messages were in part inspired by a true story about a reform school that existed 50 years ago.
What was it like researching potato farms in Montana? Did you get to drive tractors and meet with farmers?
I know a Montana potato farmer personally so I got a lot of info from him and his wife (who grew up in this small farming community). I didn’t get to drive tractors, but I did get a tour of the potato bins and the processing plant. Pretty cool!
You have a real knack for creating multi-faceted characters. Kendell, Jacian and Hector seemed so real! What is the best piece of advice you could give aspiring authors about character development?
It’s really important to know who your characters were before the story starts. Write a short bio of each before you start writing (or early on in the process) so you know how they will react to things. Even if their backstories never come out in the book, YOU need to know what life was like for them leading up to this moment.
Kendall’s struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder really gave me more insight into what life must me like for people who suffer from this illness. Do you hope Kendall’s story will help your teen readers with OCD feel less isolated?
That is indeed what I hope. It’s such a private disorder because kids with OCD know that others might look at them as being strange, so they don’t tell anybody about it. I’d like people to know that the disorder exists and that people can still be normal – and maybe even stronger – because of it.
Could you give me a sneak peek into your upcoming dystopian fantasy series?
THE UNWANTEDS (Book 1) is about a society where strength and intelligence is valued (Wanteds) and creativity is feared – creative kids are Unwanted and sent to their deaths. The story follows twins, Aaron and Alex Stowe. One is Wanted, the other Unwanted. I’ll have more info when I do my live video Ustream chat on Wednesday, March 16, 2011, here.