Friday, September 16, 2011

Interview with Kerrie Droban

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Kerrie Droban. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called In the Company of Darkness. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

My new book release, In the Company of Darkness, is a taut suspense thriller inspired by true events but definitely fiction! The book chronicles the story of prosecutor, Sidney Michaelson’s, investigation into the brutal murder of a wealthy heiress found decomposing in her own refrigerator. But Michaelson’s tenacity makes her the killer’s next target. She knows too much information and not even homicide detective, Cole Vladik, can stop the predator’s ruthless game of spider versus fly. Soon, Michaelson’s quest for the truth is no longer a matter of justice; it is her only hope of survival.

In the Company of Darkness is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

The title derives from a true life experience I had when I moved into my first home. I was alone during a raging monsoon in my new home. The electricity had blown out and I had little furniture. I lay down on my sofa and lit up the room with a flashlight only to discover my worst nightmare—above me a web had formed from one corner of the wall to the other and in the center, a large black widow hung. As I gathered my wits about me and kept the flashlight fixated on the spider I followed the threads to the corner and realized the wall was moving. I have never been more frightened or more alone in my life. The book began with the title, “Alone in the Company of Darkness”. I knew my heroine would have to confront her worst fear: spiders.

Would you describe your book as a cozy, mystery, suspense, or thriller?

My book is definitely a suspense thriller.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

This genre chose me. I had just started my career as a prosecutor working in the criminal trial bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and my case load involved everything from aggravated assaults to drug offenses. My first experience as an attorney inspired this novel. I was seated in a courtroom observing a trial when a chain of incarcerated inmates was paraded behind the prosecutor’s table. The deputies planned to escort these characters from the courtroom. But just as one inmate passed behind the prosecutor, his hands rose above his head and came down on the prosecutor’s neck. Before I could process what had happened, pandemonium broke out in the courtroom. The lights shut off, pepper spray filled the air and I could barely breathe. We were all ushered out of the courtroom and down the stairwell. All elevators were stopped. Amidst screams and emergency alarms I followed closely behind a pair of shoes in front of me with my eyes just tearing. I later learned that the inmate had gashed the prosecutor in the neck. That episode changed the way inmates were brought into and out of the courtroom. They no longer parade behind the prosecutor’s table but rather are funneled in front. That prosecutor recovered, however, I’m not certain he continued to be a litigator. Shortly after this experience I began to write the scene and In the Company of Darkness formed.

Do you have all the key suspense/mystery elements thought out before you begin writing?

I’m what people refer to as a “writer in the mist”. I have nothing but an image formed in my head and the characters follow. I usually have no idea who my villain is or how my plot will develop but I do have my heroine and hero well formed. My background is poetry, therefore most of my writing is borne of dark imagery that shapes and informs the story.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

I did not have to do much research for this book because obviously I was a prosecutor and had intimate knowledge of the court system, witness preparation and investigation. What I did research was black widow venom and the likelihood of someone dying from multiple spider bites. I also researched the cryonics lab in Scottsdale to learn about frozen heads and body parts and took a tour of the facility. I love researching themes and places for my books. The locations in my novel are real including the factory depicted in the last scene which actually is an old sugar facility in Glendale that has been in disrepair for years. My research is internet based as well as hands on.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I enjoyed writing Cole Vladik the most because I identified with him and modeled him after someone close to me although I took liberties with his personality and shaped him into a hero!

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?

When I develop my characters I think about dialogue first and get a feel for how they speak to one another. I’m fascinated by flawed people and believe that even heroes and heroines need to have some tick in order for them to be real. I study people a lot not only in my work but also in daily life and encourage everyone to attend social gatherings, cocktail parties any event that provides a wealth of information about people and the way they interact. My heroine in this novel for instance has control issues and she’s constantly being placed in situations where she either has no control or cannot control the outcome. The situations force her to confront and overcome her worst fears. The other “technique” that I enjoy doing with my characters is analogizing them to a particular animal. The villain in this story of course closely resembles a spider. His eyes are described as “oily” and “black”, his body “wiry” his personality “quiet and calculated.” By comparing my characters to a particular animal it forces me to be consistent with them. If Cole, for instance is described as a “wolf” he cannot also be extremely extroverted and gregarious.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

My favorite author and really the one who inspired me to start writing novels is Tami Hoag. I fell in love with her voice and her characters and I identified with her narrative. I was vacationing in Napa Valley with my husband (pre kids) and I brought her book, The Thin Red Line, with me. I read it cover to cover (it’s fat) in one sitting (missed several wine tasting events much to my husband’s chagrin) and had a life-altering moment. I put the book down, felt completely charged and thought….I can do this.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

The most effective promotional “tool” has been public speaking, finding venues that allow me to speak about topics and/or themes highlighted in my novel. I have branded myself as a criminal defense attorney who writes gritty, graphic realism. This platform affords me a way to talk about other fascinating elements of my work in conjunction with my writing. I strongly recommend that every author find her “brand” and use that platform to launch her books. Positioning yourself as an “expert” in a particular field offers multiple opportunities to speak and develop rapport with readers. It also bridges that awkward gap that most of us have experienced at booksignings where readers don’t quite know how to approach authors and authors don’t feel comfortable “selling” their books. If you’ve given a speech about a fascinating topic, readers have every motivation to approach you, ask further questions and of course buy your book. I do not recommend wasting valuable resources on promotional trinkets that can be “given away” at booksignings because they’re not memorable, they don’t connect the reader to the author and usually, sadly, they’re tossed.

What do we have to look forward next?

My next novel is called The Watchman’s Circle, another suspense thriller about rogue cops who have formed a secretive club that pushes the limits of law of order. It won the Daphne Du Maurier Award for excellence in suspense writing and is just as dark as In the Company of Darkness.

Thanks, Kerrie!

To celebrate her book release, Kerrie is offering a “Two In the Company of Darkness, Couple’s Night Out” at the movies! Two tickets and popcorn to one lucky commenter on today’s blog. 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 Kerrie Droban’s website at


Rebekah E. said...

Congrats on your new release. I just love suspense thrillers and this one sounds amazing. Thanks for the great interview.

catslady said...

I've always been tempted to the dark side (in my reading lol). I want to be surprised and intrigued and even a little scared. And that it is based on some fact always makes it even more compelling. Great title.

Maureen said...

I do like heroes and heroines who are not perfect and have their flaws. The scene of the prosecuter being attacked by a prisoner must have been shocking to actually witness.
mce1011 AT aold DOT com

Kerrie said...

Thanks, Rebekah and Catslady! I enjoyed doing the interview here at MCTT.

Maureen, yes it was shocking. I still remember it very vividly.

LilMissMolly said...

I have bought books after hearing someone give a speech or talk. It's always nice to "know" the person. :) Good luck with the new release and all the ones to follow! :)
lvsgund at