Interview with mystery author Deborah Coonts

My special author
guest today is mystery writer Deborah
and we’re chatting about her new thriller, After Me, along with a few other things.
Deborah Coonts swears she was switched at birth. Coming from a family of
homebodies, Deborah is the odd women out, happiest with a passport, a
high-limit credit card, her computer, and changing scenery outside her window.
Goaded by an insatiable curiosity, she flies airplanes, rides motorcycles,
travels the world, and pretends to be more of a badass than she probably is.
Deborah is the author of the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series, a romantic
mystery romp through Sin City. Wanna Get Lucky?, the first in the
series, was a New York Times Notable Crime Novel and a double RITA ™ Award
Finalist. Her contemporary romance inclinations found wing in The Heart of Napa
series, set amid the bucolic vineyards of Napa. For thrills and dark mystery,
she penned, After Me, an iBooks Best Of and a Nook First choice. And to
further flex her writing abilities, Deborah penned the Sam Donovan series, a
romance suspense series highlighting her love of flight. Right now, Deborah
calls San Francisco home, but, since it’s her we’re talking about, this too can
change. But, for sure you can find Deborah at
Welcome, Deborah. Please tell us about your current
After Me, is a mystery/suspense
thriller—yes, it fits in all those genres. Here is a short description that
describes it best:
million in diamonds missing.
Sawyer, a cop in witness protection, holds the key.
If she could only remember.
Alzheimer’s clouds the past. Stem cell therapy is working to clear it.
time is running out for Kate.
night Kate finds a dead man in her bathtub with a note stuck in his pocket.
I know what you’ve done.
cover blown, Kate runs, the clock is ticking. People close to her are being
killed. Shadowy memories tease her. Some she recognizes. Others don’t seem
familiar at all.
from people she can’t remember, dogged by a past lost in the haze, Kate
discovers no one is who they appear to be, perhaps not even herself.
What inspired you to write this book?
After Me actually arose from
one of those “what if” writer type moments. I’ve always loved medicine, and cutting
edge medicine even more. So, a few years back, I got totally enthralled with
the hope stems cells offer for a multitude of horrible diseases and injuries. Most
of us have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia in our family
members, so that disease is of particular import to me. About the same time I
ran across some information about a Columbian family that has the genetic
defect that almost ensures the family members with the defect will get
Alzheimer’s before the age of 50, with the first signs showing up much earlier.
In fact, 60 Minutes just aired a
segment on this same family a few weeks ago. And then I found some interesting research on how our bodies stories
memories—yes, our BODIES—in fact traumatic events can actually alter our DNA. Crazy,
cool stuff! So, then came the what if. What if a person, suffering from genetic
early-onset Alzheimer’s, is receiving stem therapy to mitigate the symptoms
(the stems cells could not be her own as they would contain the genetic defect)
and she comes home one day to find a dead man in her bathtub with a note stuck
in her pocket that reads; I know what
you’ve done.
Excerpt from After
The body dumped in my
bathtub was a warning; that much I got. Dropped by a pro and left where I
couldn’t miss him. Not a speck of blood on the tile floor. No careless
footprint. No thumb whorl on a chrome fixture. A slip of paper stuck out of the
guy’s breast pocket, in case I’d missed the larger message. I used a pair of
tweezers to ease the note loose and laid it on the counter.
I know what you did.
The shiver of a memory, a
whispered sin—a moment of a life left behind. How had they found me? My trail
had been rubbed clean behind me.
The dead man, eyes bulging,
open and sightless, skin the white of old snow, begged to differ.
Questions bolted through my
brain, brief illuminations that flared only to deepen the returning darkness. Who?
Why? Why now? What had I done? All
good questions, but I had no answers.
It was hell to lose one’s
memory and not lose one’s mind.
I’m known as Kate Sawyer. Some
days that name rolled off my tongue with a comfortable familiarity, as if it
really was my own. Other days it sounded like a random stab in the phone book.
Surprised by my practiced
efficiency, I finished checking out the man in my tub. Five foot eleven,
probably 190. Gray hair. Brown eyes. Fifty or a hard-worn forty. One stab wound
under his ribs and a gash downward to his belly. No murder weapon. I made a
quick inventory of the knives in my kitchen—all accounted for. According to the
items listed in my phone, the only other one I owned was a serrated hunting
knife hidden under my mattress, but the killer hadn’t used it. The perforation
in the dead guy’s chest was too narrow, the edges clean.
I didn’t do this.
He wore a white shirt with a
tattered collar, yellow stains circling under the arms, a red stain over his
chest. Brown slacks with a suit jacket that didn’t quite match. No tags in any
of it. No jewelry, no watch, two extra holes punched crudely in his belt which
gathered tucks of cloth at his waist, old shoes with mismatched laces, and an
uneven wear pattern on the soles.
Not much to go on. I used my
iPhone to snap a few photos from different angles.
A 9mm SIG Sauer nestled in
his shoulder holster. With a finger through the trigger guard I lifted it, then
cradled it in a towel. A sniff of the barrel. Hadn’t been fired recently. After
protecting the note in a plastic bag, I secured both it and the gun with my
getaway stash, under the false bottom of the lowest dresser drawer in my
bedroom. The notes in my phone reminded me of its location. I took a few
minutes wondering if I’d missed anything then called 911 from my cell.
Back at the tub, I sat on my
haunches, hands on my thighs, the weight of a forgotten past on my shoulders. My
eyes roamed over the body searching for clues to something I didn’t remember.
Who are you?
I silently implored.
The corpse remained mute,
his eyes unseeing.
What exciting story are you working on next?

up: I have a romantic suspense, Deep
, featuring a female helicopter pilot, a male Coast Guard Commander,
and a very unique deep water oil property in the Gulf of Mexico, up for
pre-order now. Here’s a description if you want to use it anywhere:
Oil—the currency of
global economic power. Alter the supply a country controls; alter the power
they wield.

Patrick Donovan, Texas
wildcatter, sitting on a deep-water well, has tapped into a reservoir so vast
it could totally alter the balance of economic power.

A software scatter-bomb
planted in the trading software at the New York Mercantile Exchange. A software
security engineer is killed.

And the price of oil is
dropping like a stone.

Donovan goes missing, and
an influential senior Senator from Texas is presumed dead.

Sam Donovan, Patrick’s
daughter, finds herself in the bullseye of a world scramble to gain control of
her father’s well. A helicopter pilot operating between the rigs in the Gulf of
Mexico, Sam knows how the game is played.

But this time, the
stakes are life and death.

As a hurricane bears
down on the Gulf of Mexico, a man with everything to lose sets in motion sets
in motion a disaster that will bring down the global oil market.

The price of oil will

Sam, with help from
Commander Kellen Wilder of the U.S. Coast Guard, must avert disaster before
global economic stability is forever altered.

I’m WRITING now is, Lucky Ride, the
eighth book in my Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure Series AND the sequel to After Me, working title of Try Me. And it has some even way more
cool medical science in it. I think, truly, I’m trying to have a career like
Michael Crichton. If only…

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m not sure even now I fully accept that I’m a writer—there’s always so
much more to learn, so many more tools to put in the toolbox. With each story I
try to be a better writer, tell a better story, refine my craft—so, I’m a
writer in progress. Yes, I’ve reached the point that NY will buy my books as
will readers (for which I am stunned an profoundly grateful) but I never want
to think of myself as a writer—as finite, finished product. But, I think I
accepted that writing was what I was going to do until I died in the seventh
grade when I wrote a poem that I had to read before the entire school. Yes, the
ENTIRE school. Right then and there I proved the old adage that what doesn’t
kill you, makes you stronger.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
Yes, I write full-time and count myself so lucky to be able to. I used
to be a tax lawyer so you can imagine how lucky I feel to not be talking with
the IRS on a daily basis!! My work day: spent mostly in my pajamas, which is
the upside. I hit email and business stuff early while I’m still mainlining
caffeine (the writer’s drug of choice…well, before noon anyway) then I segue
into my word count—yes, 1500-2000 decent words a day, EVERY day. I don’t always
make the every day thing, but close enough. If there is any time left, and any
energy left, I’ll do social media things, etc. I put in twelve to fourteen hour
days, six to seven days a week, which can be the not-so-up side. But, I LOVE
what I do, so it is a privilege and a true blessing—and it’s a lot like
playing. Really, I make stuff up for a living! If someone had told me
daydreaming was a viable career path, boy, would my life have been different!! Truly,
being a writer is the best job ever!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I listen to music while I write—okay, not so quirky. But
I also sing along.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be me and have adventures. Yes, I was a handful, or so my
mother tells me. And boy am I having fun adventures now! And, I’m still me, so
it all worked out.
Anything additional you want to share with the
A big heartfelt thank you!!! Without readers I wouldn’t get to spend my
days churning out my deathless prose, smiling all the time…well, most of the
Buy Links:
Thanks for being here
today, Deborah. All the best with your writing.
praise for After Me:
firecracker of a thriller—with an ingenious premise, non-stop suspense and
terrific writing. But it’s the heroine who makes this such a winner—a
heart-breakingly damaged loner who’s got ‘soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture’
written all over her.
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Anthony, Agatha,
and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author of SAY NO MORE
who loves Deborah Coonts’s Lucky series knows that she is a master of the
humorous mystery; now everyone will watch Coonts make her mark in the darker
world of suspense. After Me hooked me from page one. After Me is
the hallmark of a great thriller: strong voice, twisting mystery, and a
compelling heroine.”
Allison Brennan, NYT bestselling writer
and author of The Lost Girls
paced, AFTER ME is the compelling quest of a woman’s inspiring quest to survive
… and a haunting reminder of the great truth: we are what we remember. It’s
Coonts’s most gripping book yet. 
—Vicki Pettersson, NYT and USA Today
Bestselling author of Swerve
Coonts’ AFTER ME is the perfect thriller: a protagonist is being chased by
those driven to make her pay with her life for a dead she may or may not have
done, and truly cannot remember. Coonts’s masterly use of memory flashback
gives her heroine, Kate Sawyer, just enough revelatory insights into her own
private hell to draw her readers into this purgatory with her. The premise is
harrowing. The reveal is explosive. And the ending is redemptive. In other
words, this is not just a satisfying novel; you’ll find it a memorable read.”
Josie Brown, THE CANDIDATE, and THE
Coonts has given us an incredibly original story. Enjoy,
Catherine Coulter, NYT #1 bestselling
author of Insidious

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