Thanks, Kim! I’m a huge fan of both therapy and chocolate, so I’m definitely you’re happiest guest!
I understand you have a new release out called Riptide. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?
Riptide is the second of two back-to-back thrillers being released this fall from Avon. The first is called A Dark Love, which was published in September and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly (7/13/09 issue). But I’m getting off track……
Riptide tells the story of a Hamptons socialite whose marriage and life are in a downward spiral. She checks herself into rehab, where she receives the shocking news that her husband has been found floating facedown in the deep end of the swimming pool of their oceanfront estate (talk about a bad therapy session). She goes home to plan his funeral and seeks solace in the arms of her bad-boy lover, Daniel Cunningham, only to realize a lot of people – her in-laws included – believe she and Dan had
something to do with her husband’s death.
The story takes place in East Hampton, New York’s fabled beach community, within a tight three-day timeframe.
Riptide is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?
The title Riptide came to me quite late in the process. I was nearing the end of the first draft last summer, staying with family out on eastern Long Island. It was a bad year for drowning. All along the Island’s south shore, people were getting caught up in a series of really strong riptide currents. When I was a kid swimming at those beaches, you just didn’t hear of riptides very often. But now, probably because of global warming and its effect on the gulfstream, Long Island has had a spate of deadly riptides.
So the daily newspaper out there – Newsday – was full of stories about riptides and drowning victims. I’d always planned to have my novel take place against a backdrop of stormy weather with a deadly current (it was always meant to be a metaphor for my main character, Christina Cardiff, and her struggles with alcoholism and love addiction), so one day it just came to me. Duh.
Would you describe your book as a cozy, mystery, suspense, or thriller?
I would describe Riptide as very much suspense, very much a thriller.
What made you decide to write in this genre?
My characters told me it was time to make the change from romantic comedies (I have two chick-lit style romances, The Write Match and The True Match, published by Avalon).
I kept trying to write feel-good love scenes with HEAs and had a really tough time! For my option book with Avalon, the only way I could give the characters in The True Match a Happy Ever After was to write a quick sketch (that nobody ever saw) pretending my hero was dying of cancer and only had two months to live. Once I knew my happy couple was doomed, I was able to give them the small pleasure of falling in love. The suggestion, btw, came from my therapist (told you I love therapy) and she was right. I was able to finish the book.
But I knew it was time to move on. I need to put my characters in danger.
Where did you get your idea for this particular book?
The newspaper, I guess, if you count all those stories last summer about swimmers being dragged out to sea.
Do you have all the key suspense/mystery elements thought out before you begin writing?
I wish! I usually have a ‘big picture’ idea of something that poses a threat to someone, and a rough idea of the denouement. But that’s about it. For me it’s a very scary process, like skiing with a blindfold on.
Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?
I did need to find out about crime scenes, drowning deaths, police interrogation of witnesses in a potential murder investigation. I spoke with friends in law enforcement and I’m very blessed to have some doctor friends and relatives who put up with me.
I also spent some time in East Hampton, driving along those beautiful oceanfront lanes, stopping to take in the view and imprint my mind with visuals that my main characters would have as they acted out their drama.
Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?
Definitely my main character, Christina Cardiff. She’s flawed and trying to work through it. She’s a wife and mother, and wants love and security in her life more than anything. I can really relate to that. She just went about getting things the wrong way. She wants to fix things, make her life as good as she can, and I can relate to that, too.
From there, it was pretty easy to give her a juicy plot to work with. All I had to do, once I set out her priorities, was let Christina’s recent past – the one she is working so hard to put right – come back to haunt her.
Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?
I do make lots and lots of notes on characters. Nothing so organized as sheets, I’m afraid! I scribble notes in longhand for page after page, then staple batches together as they relate to each character. As the story fleshes out, I scribble more notes, sometimes on new notepads and sometimes on sticky notes that I stick to the original notes.
It winds up being a series of messy piles all over my office floor. The dog walks all over them and sometimes kids run through, which really ticks me off.
But I never really refer to those notes again. They’re just there till I’m done, like a security blanket. So I can look back if I need to. But I usually don’t sort through the piles again, I just keep adding stuff and vacuuming the dust bunnies around them.
Do you have any authors that inspired you?
Oh, any and all! Going all the way back to the Bobbsey Twins in the Land of Cotton, which was my first big-girl novel that I remember reading on my own.
More recently, I’ve gained so much inspiration from the RWA loops. When I read about an author whose daily output is two or three or even five times my current top number, it helps me open my mind to the possibility of writing more better faster.
I’m a perfectionist whose instinct is to go over and over and over the pages from the day before. The problem with that – for me – is I don’t move the story forward that way. I’ll edit and re-edit and have fun with it, spend hours turning a phrase, and then look up and it’s time to pick up my kid from school and I’m done for the day. That’s no way to put out a book a year.
So I like to hear about other writers and their writing routines.
What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?
I pitched in with my local media. I knew most of them from volunteering on the marketing committee at my daugthter’s school, so it was a natural move for me. I sent out ARCs to regional media with a handwritten note and did my own followup. I think if you live in a small town like I do, that’s probably your best bet.
I did a lot of advance legwork for my hometown booksigning at my local Borders for my debut thriller, A Dark Love. I printed up 200 invites and hand-delivered them and advised all my local media myself. It was a great event – it went so well they invited me back (woohoo!), so I’ll be signing copies of Riptide at Borders in beautiful downtown Grosse Pointe, Michigan, from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, October 4th.
What do we have to look forward to next?
I’m working on another thriller with romantic elements, set once more in NYC and the Hamptons, about a young woman who unwittingly gets caught up in her boyfriend’s Ponzi scheme and its links to a terror cell that deals in weapons sales to the Mideast.
Watch for it…
To celebrate her book release, Margaret Carroll is offering a free book of Riptide to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see who won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)
She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...
Check out author’s website at www.margaretcarroll.com