April 21, 2015

Murder Most Cloned: an interview with Liana Brooks, author of "The Day Before"

About The Day Before: A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is: 

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property? 

Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There's a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it's not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.

I had the chance to ask The Day Before's author, Liana Brooks, a few questions about her new novel. Enjoy!

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for The Day Before?

Liana: Ooo! Let's see if I can answer this without spoiling the ending. The original idea came after seeing THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON which is about a young girl realizing she's the missing child. Obviously, the original idea was a different sort of book, but there's echoes there. I like books where the character has to define their own identity because I feel that's probably the most human we ever are. Some of us wake up and redefine ourselves every day. Some of us only need to look in the mirror once and decide at that very moment who they are. For me, that moment is very exciting. Even if the definition changes tomorrow, deciding who you are is an epic moment.

Gef: What tends to spring into your mind first when crafting a story? Is it a "what if," a character, a specific scene?

Liana: Usually a scene or piece of dialog. For THE DAY BEFORE it was the image of Sam looking at Jane Doe for the first time in the field. I was fascinated by the energy of that image, the idea that the investigator and the victim are isolated from each other, together in this endeavor to find the killer but still alone. I don't know how much of that original idea made it to the final draft, but that's where it started.

Gef: What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from the previous titles?

Liana: I finished it!

Okay, that’s only a little bit of a joke. THE DAY BEFORE isn't my first finished novel, it's the first novel I finished, edited, polished, and queried. Several other novels lie in the manuscript graveyard under my bed. They just weren't good enough.

The process of getting a story to finished book is harder than you might imagine reading your favorite book. I danced into publishing as a starry eyed ingénue who thought she could write one draft and have a perfect novel because I only wrote one draft of my papers for school! Feel free to laugh at my naiveté.

I don't feel I wasted my time on the other novels. They taught me how to structure a plot, how to set up my villains, and how to edit. THE DAY BEFORE is a culmination of all at learning. Hopefully my readers will feel it's a debut novel worthy of them.

Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Liana: I have a love affair with Google maps. When I started writing THE DAY BEFORE I think I was still living in Alabama, north of Eufaula (for any of those who ever travel in the South). Most of the imagery was picked up from driving to see friends and getting lost on the back country roads where 435 ends and you turn left for a mile on 531 and then turn right again on 435. But when I got to a certain scene that needed a lake I wound up stalking Google maps. It's a wonderful tool for writers who can't always travel to where they're setting a book.

I've also made use of the extensive network of well-educated authors out there who have diverse backgrounds. One person works in a hospital, there's a mortician who answers questions online, there are all these people willing to answer questions for authors. All you have to do is ask and you'll be able to find the police officer who will happily tell you about the four-pound hooker chasing the cops for taking her drugs. Alas, there was no way to fit that scene in this book. Maybe next time?

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of science fiction?

Liana: Science fiction is the future. Every major invention you enjoy, from your computer to advanced medicines, showed up in fiction first. All these wonderful things start with some crazy person thinking, "You know what would be really cool? What if we had a handheld computer? Or a talking wristwatch. That would be so neat!"

They scribble it down in a book or a graphic novel or a screen play and then some engineer watching Star Trek or reading Dick Tracy goes, "I could do that. Yeah, dude, I could totally make that!" And they do.

Look how influential Uhura in Star Trek became. The first interracial kiss on television. The first POC woman to be seen as an equal to white men in many American homes. You can't overstate how important that piece of science fiction history is.

Look at the origins of science fiction, go back to FRANKENSTEIN or the original masked superhero THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, both were written by women. Both explored something beautiful and devastating in society, and both spawned legions of copy cats. Mary Shelley invented the idea of genetic manipulation. She asked, "Can we put this piece of one body with this piece of someone else's body and create something new?"

Baroness Orczy is the foremother of every masked hero: Zorro, Batman, DC, Marvel... she led the way for all of them and I think that foundation is the biggest strength in science fiction.

At its core, science fiction is about equality and building a better future. Good science fiction will always show humanity what it can do better. Even the dystopian fiction, the ones where the narrative is about the worst possible scenario, teach us something about how to respect other people and how to look to the future.

You can't help but love science fiction, because it loves you. This is a genre for everyone. Come as you are, we have a place for you.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Liana: It's a tossup between "Writing is really hard and it's impossible to get into publishing, so you should quit wasting your time and do something else." and "Write what you know."

One, everything worth doing is hard when you start. Walking was hard the first time you stood on your wobbly baby legs. Writing is hard when you first learn to hold a pencil and write your name. Just because something is hard doesn't mean it isn't worth it.

I knew a runner once who had a marathon shirt that read, "Trample the weak, hurdle the dead." That's good advice for a writer. Millions of people say they are going to write a book every day. Millions of people have quit writing their books and will tell you it is too hard. They will try to drag you down and make you quit too. Don't. Keep writing. Always keep writing.

Two, I'm not a police officer. I've never tried to solve any crime. My background isn't in law or forensics or even writing. Who cares? That's why you have an imagination. Write crazy. Write free. Write anything that comes to your head. If you need to have science for it, go get educated. Read books, audit a class, ask professionals for advice... all the answers you need to write whatever you want are out there. Go get 'em.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Liana: I really like explosions. Witty one liners, explosions, and scenes that make me laugh get me every time. I wind up reading a lot of urban fantasy and watching a lot of crime shows from the point of view of the criminals. Thieves and conmen always look like they're having such a fun time.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future?

Liana: THE DAY BEFORE is book one in the Jane Doe series. Book 2 is tentatively titled JANE'S SHADOW and releases in November, so that's my number one priority at the moment. If you like super villains you'll be happy to know I'm working on Book 4 of the Heroes and Villains series.

In case you need to catch up and have a free evening to read a novella, book 1 is EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE. And then there's always a bunch of pot boilers; the Scottish UF and some military SF with undercover operatives, and I have one book where the main character was voted most likely to start an interstellar incident... and then she does.  

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