Friday, October 21, 2011

Interview with C.C. Harrison

I’d like to welcome our guest today, C. C. HARRISON. 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 PICTURE OF LIES. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

It’s the story of investigative reporter Keegan Thomas who travels to Monument Valley on the Navajo Indian Reservation seeking the whereabouts of people posing in an old photograph with her deceased grandfather. Some of the Indians do not welcome this nosy stranger carrying a picture of their loved ones, some of them dead, but she learns that one of the children in the picture was kidnapped by missionaries and never returned. Her search for this child and other people in the photo uncovers a web of deception that stretches back two generations, and the truth she learns about her own family is the most shocking betrayal of all.

PICTURE OF LIES is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

You know, I have the worst trouble with titles, but this one was so obvious, I couldn’t pass it up.

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

Some reviewers are calling it romantic suspense, though it doesn’t have all the fundamentals of romantic suspense in the way we usually think of it or expect. My books are suspense, but there is always some romance in the story, because, well, that’s life, isn’t it?

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I write what I read. I have always loved reading mysteries beginning with Nancy Drew, and then the terrific gothic novels written by Phyllis Whitney, Nora Lofts, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and all the great mystery writers of today.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

PICTURE OF LIES was inspired by true events in history, and by some contemporary events. I think everyone knows that, historically, children were sometimes taken from their Indian families and sent to white schools in an attempt to neutralize the Indian culture. I lived in Monument Valley on the Navajo Indian Reservation as a VISTA volunteer, and while there it was discovered that a man who was kidnapped by missionaries as a child was living in Farmington, New Mexico. Now an adult, he was reunited with his Navajo family in Monument Valley which was cause for huge celebration. It was very moving.

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

Oh yes! In real life, I don’t go anywhere without a map, and if I’m traveling more than 100 miles, I need a TripTik!

When writing, I have to know all my key plot points in advance. Then I make a list of the events I want to occur in the story, and then I pretty much write the book in my head so I have a general idea of how it will unfold. After that, I jot down the key elements of the story, maybe some scene details or bits of dialogue on index cards. When I finish that, I lay all the cards out on my dining room table, then pick them up in the order I think they should happen in the story. So, yes, I always know where I’m going in the story, but I don’t always know how to get there, and that’s where the angst comes in.

That’s also where the creativity comes in. Sometimes an idea will come to me in the writing and my story will veer off in a direction I hadn’t planned, but it turns out to be better than what I had planned. I’ve learned to trust the process and it will all work out.

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

Research is a big part of my writing. People say write what you know? I say write what you can research.

I don’t have any favorite research sources, for me the research is on-going. I do some generalized research in the planning stage, then whatever I need during the writing I search for. I try to incorporate some information in my story that my readers might not know about. In PICTURE OF LIES, it was information about ancient solstice markers, and missionary schools, and how the National Archives works. In RUNNING FROM STRANGERS, it was information about money laundering, and problems within the child welfare system. In THE CHARMSTONE, it was antiquity theft.

But having said that, I don’t sacrifice the story for the research. I write fiction, after all, and I will fudge a bit for the sake of the story, though I do try to get the guns and explosives right. I’ve gone on several police department ride-alongs, and have taken citizen’s police academy training. Excellent opportunities to get story questions answered. That’s how I know how much space a million dollars in used bills takes up. (Fills a pillow case.)

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

I fall in love with all my characters, and can’t bear to let them go when the book is finished.

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?

My characters come to me naturally once I have the story idea. Next, I need character names. I can’t make myself move forward with the story until I have names for my people. Then, I’ll write some brief character sketches, a few paragraphs at most, but no detailed, 40-page biographies like some writers like to do.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Too many to name.

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

I wish I knew! I do lots of writer seminars and book signings at libraries and book stores (boo-hoo for Borders - sob), and I order a ton of bookmarks that I pass out by the handful. I like having a page in Romance Sells. I skipped the RT ad this time, which, of course, meant no RT review, but I’m please with the reviews coming in anyway. I’m doing a blog tour for the first time. No Facebook or Twitter. I don’t do any social media, it’s too time consuming. I’d rather be writing.

What do we have to look forward next?

I just finished a book called CEMETERY TREES. It’s a Michigan mystery about a woman, long estranged from her family, who drags herself back home only to find that nothing and no one, is what she thought when she ran away as a teenager. My current work in progress is THE MISSING GIRL, a follow up to my new book. I continue the story with some of the same characters and answer some of the questions presented in PICTURE OF LIES. See? I told you I fall in love with my characters and can’t let them go.

Thanks, C. C.

To celebrate her book release, C. C. Harrison is offering a free book of PICTURE OF LIES to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you 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...

Author C. C. Harrison has won national recognition with her suspense novels. THE CHARMSTONE was voted 2008 Golden Quill's Best Romantic Suspense and Best First Book, and was a Colorado Award of Excellence finalist. Tony Hillerman called it "a valuable book." Her award winning mystery RUNNING FROM STRANGERS was a 2009 National Readers Choice finalist. SAGE CANE'S HOUSE OF GRACE AND FAVOR (written as Christy Hubbard) was honored at Aspen Institute's Summer Words Literary Festival as a 2010 Colorado Book Award finalist. Praise for her new book, PICTURE OF LIES, includes this from Kirkus Reviews: “Similar in feeling to Harrison’s romantic suspense mystery The Charmstone (2007), also set in Monument Valley, this one ... offers a nice combination of action, romance and Navajo lore.”

Check out author’s website at

Back Cover Blurb:

Investigative journalist Keegan Thomas is living a nightmare of guilt and grief since her little girl, Daisy, was kidnapped practically in front of her eyes. When the police investigation stalled, she turned her grief to anger and buried herself in her work searching for missing children, her own included. The result was an award-winning series of articles on unsolved child abductions. Then came the inevitable burnout.

On what is supposed to be a working vacation, Keegan travels to Monument Valley on the Navajo Indian Reservation seeking the whereabouts of people in an old photograph found in her grandfather's belongings after his death.

But the Indians do not welcome this nosy stranger carrying a picture of their old people, some of them dead. While navigating the mysterious ways of the Navajo, Keegan is told one of the children in the photograph was kidnapped by missionaries and taken to a boarding school.

Keegan’s search for the child leads to a web of deception that stretches back two generations, and the truth Keegan learns about her own family is the most shocking betrayal of all. Nothing can prepare her for the danger she encounters when she becomes the target of a powerful U.S. senator who will do anything to stop her from telling what she knows about the PICTURE OF LIES.


Kim Watters said...

Good morning C.C. THanks for joining us today. Le me break out some Halloween candy and we'll get started. I hope you're not allergic to nuts. Picture of Lies sounds intriguing. The Navajo culture and people has always fascinated me and so does that part of Arizona. How fascinating you lived there for a while. What was the most challenging part of writing this book? And what does your typical writing day look like? Enjoy your day.

Rebekah E. said...

Thanks for the great interview. Your book sounds like a really great story.

C.C. Harrison said...

Good morning. I'm a little late today because I have out of town company, but happy to be here. Yes, Kim, living on the reservation as a VISTA volunteer was life changing for me, and a real education. As Michigan born and bred, I knew nothing about the Southwestern Native American culture until I lived there, and I learned more about American history while there than I did in school.

My typical daily routine begins at the computer with a cup of coffee, while I'm still in my nightgown. I catch up on the news, then immediately get busy on my WIP. This could be writing or researching or editing or reading my finished pages. To a non-writer that probably does not sound like very much fun, but I am living exactly the kind of life I wanted for myself.

I eat breakfast and lunch at my desk, and usually don't take a break until around 3:00 when I go for my hour workout at the gym. Then dinner, and reading the rest of the evening.

I watch very little TV, just my favorites - The Good Wife, Justified, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and now American Horror Story.

I'm always interested in the writing process of other authors, so please share with me as I'm very curious how other writers do it.

catslady said...

I too started out reading all the same authors as you that gave me my love of mystery and suspense. Finding new authors is one of the best things about blogs like this. I always find it interesting to hear the author's perspective on their writing and find it fascinating. I appreciate all the research that goes into a good story and with you living on reservations your insights would be invaluable. I enjoy hearing about Native Americans and so look forward to your story and falling in love with your characters. Thanks for a great interview.

Estella said...

This sounds like an excellent story!

Na said...

I really enjoy mystery and suspense books because they always seem so engaging. As a reader I feel like I am literally in the situation as opposed to a bystander watching events unfold. Some authors are really good at making the atmosphere part of the story.

C.C. Harrison said...

I also like stories that take me to places I haven't been. Most of my books will take place in the Southwest because that's where I live, and love and know the best. But my next book will be set in Switzerland. I may need to go there.

Connie Flynn said...

Hi C.C. I know I'm a day late in responding but I so enjoyed Running From Strangers and wanted to let you know. I so agree with you about plotting. I never leave home without one (so to speak). The line about knowing where you want to go and feeling the angst because you aren't always sure how to get there resonated strongly with me. Good interview. Thanks.

C.C. Harrison said...

Hi Connie. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks, too, for the kind words. I told you that you were sitting right there with me when I wrote RUNNING FROM STRANGERS. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I wrote that book right after I took Connie's writing course and used the techniques she discussed to pull it together.

Author Kathryne Kennedy said...

Your book sounds wonderful, CC! Thank you for sharing!