With “Evidence of Murder,” Cape Coral author Lisa Black leaps to the forefront of contemporary mystery novelists. Her protagonist, Cleveland forensic specialist Theresa MacLean, introduced in last year’s “Takeover,” is a new star in the firmament of crime solvers.
When Ms. MacLean’s cousin, Detective Frank Patrick, asks her to help him investigate what seems to be a missing persons case, Ms. MacLean complains that she has “a building full of dead people” to examine. Soon enough, however, the missing Jillian Perry turns up dead. Though preliminary findings suggest suicide, other factors cast suspicion on that hypothesis.
To read the rest of this review as it appears in the September 3-9, 2009 edition of the Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Lisa Black
Bonus material: The following capsule biography and interview where prepared for newspaper publication but not used. You get it here exclusively on Phil Jason’s Web Site. See also: Elizabeth Becka and Ft.Myers magazine – Lisa Black
About Lisa Black
Clevelander Lisa Black started writing fiction in grade school, and she kept on writing longer and more complex stories through high school and college. Shortly after graduating from John Carroll University in 1985, with a B.A. in Political Science, she completed her first full length novel. After too many years as a secretary for a gerontological institute, Black sought a change. She returned to college and earned a B.S. in Biology from Cleveland State University in 1993. After an internship at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office, she was hired full time in December of 1995.
Several years later, having become an experienced forensic scientist, Black moved to Cape Coral when her husband persuaded her to escape the Cleveland weather. She began working for the Cape Coral Police Department in 2000, and she also became more and more occupied with her writing, which now drew on the material she had learned as a forensic specialist. As Elizabeth Becka, she published two novels: “Trace Evidence” in 2005 and “Unknown Means” in 2008.
The vagaries of the publishing business led this well-reviewed writer to change her publisher and her writing name. Lisa Black brought out the hostage thriller “Takeover” late last year, and now we have “Evidence of Murder,” officially released on September 8.
PKJ: Do you outline?
LB: I don’t outline formally, but I’ll jot down a sequence of events. I have to know what’s going to happen from the beginning to the end, with all major plot points. And once I start, I keep myself to some sort of word count schedule, with time off only for vacations and major holidays. I have a fear that if I stop, I won’t be able to start again.
PKJ: Do you stop to polish sentences, paragraphs, chapters? Or do you push through an entire draft and then revise the whole thing?
LB: I’ll stop to polish something if I notice it, or go back and add or change something if it’s vitally important, but otherwise I like to go from start to finish and then revise the whole draft, usually twice.
PKJ: Do you do journal work? Character studies? Any kind of practice or warm-ups?
LB: No, I’m terrible! I should do all of that and I don’t. I’m trying to make myself do more prep work to make my characters deeper and more real, and to reduce rewriting (which I loathe).
PKJ: What parts of the writing process do you enjoy the most? — or find just plain hard work?
LB: I enjoy plotting it all out in my head beforehand. I’ll have this and that, but I still need a reason for this to happen…and you think and you go to work and you exercise and buy groceries and think some more and eventually it comes to you. Rewriting is plain hard work, which is why I loathe it. It’s also stressful because I find it impossible to know if my changes are making the book better or worse.
PKJ: Aside from forensic matters, which you already know plenty about and must keep up with on the job, what kinds of research have been necessary in your writing?
LB: I try to go to the places in Cleveland where my scenes take place, and I read books. I read a few books on hostage negotiation for Takeover, on the history of video games for Evidence of Murder, and on America during the Depression for the upcoming Past Crimes.
PKJ: You’ve been living, working, writing in Cape Coral for quite a while now. Any chance readers will see this town, or SW Florida, show up in a Lisa Black novel?
LB: It would be fun to bring her here on vacation. The differences in the climate alone would give me plenty to write about.
PKJ: Any hobbies or causes that you’d like to share with readers?
BL: Write to the troops with www.anysoldier.com! Otherwise my only hobbies are working out, reading, and going to Cleveland to visit my 90 year old mother. I’m very boring, I guess.
PKJ: What started you on the path to joining the mystery writer fraternity/sorority?
LB: I think it’s genetic. My grandfather was a juvenile probation officer. My grandmother read mysteries, my father read and tried to write them, and they’re all I’ve read for as long as I can remember.
PKJ: Most readers read for fun; many writers read to learn from other writers. What have you learned from the work of others?
LB: I learned from Jeffrey Deaver to stick to the story. I learned from Tami Hoag to have lots of emotion. I learned from Patricia Cornwell to have conflict from every facet of the character’s life. I don’t remotely succeed in putting these lessons to use in my writing, yet, but I’m working on it.
PKJ: How do you get into the heads of your villains?
LB: The villain is simply someone who wants something really, really bad, and isn’t going to stop at anything or anyone to get it. While the hero has all sorts of rules and conventions and other duties to deal with as they’re trying to solve the situation, and the villain doesn’t. So I look at things from their narrowly focused point of view, because their narrow point of view is what makes them scary.
PKJ: What’s worked for you regarding networking with other writers?
LB: A subgroup of Sisters in Crime called the Guppies (Great UnPublished). We have an email digest where we support each other and discuss questions about writing. That’s how I found critique partners, who were (and still are) invaluable.
PKJ: What are you working on now?
LB: A novel based on a true story about a serial killer who preyed on Clevelanders during the Great Depression.