Lisa Gardner

FAQ

How did you start writing?
I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always loved to write. That geek in the back of Latin class who was working on a short story instead of listening to her teacher’s lecture-that was me! One summer, I decided to see if I could write a whole novel. I spent my days drafting a book and my nights working as a waitress. The results were one complete, albeit truly dreadful novel, plus shorter hair that I’d caught on fire twice serving an appetizer called flaming saganaki. Realizing my future in food service was limited, I focused on polishing my novel. The rest, as they say, is history.

Weren’t you still in college when you sold your first novel?
I had the good fortune to sell my first book (the one mentioned above) when I was 20. Granted, I worked on the book for three years and rewrote it four times, so it’s not quite an overnight success story. In publishing, however, it’s darn close.

How many books have you published so far?
CRASH & BURN will be my 30th novel.

In which order should I read your novels?
Each of my novels has a stand-alone plot, though I do have two series that each feature different recurring characters. To fully appreciate the character development, I recommend reading the series books in the following order:

FBI Profiler Series (featuring Rainie Conner, Pierce Quincy, and his daughter Kimberly)

Det. D.D. Warren Series

Will there be any more books featuring Quincy, Rainie & Kimberly?
They still have stories to tell, but as far as what comes next, you’ll have to stay tuned. I’ll fill you in as soon as Quincy, Rainie, and Kimberly let me know their plans!

Where do you get your ideas?
I suspect I was dropped on my head a lot as a child. I’m honestly not sure where the ideas come from. They simply come to me, particularly creepy, scary ones. I guess it’s a good thing I can turn ideas into novels, because being an ax murderer doesn’t pay nearly as well.

Why did you choose the suspense genre?
The suspense genre chose me. Growing up, I read Stephen King, John Saul, and V.C. Andrews. Basically, I’ve always loved anything that begins with a dark and stormy night and ends with a dead body.

Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule, editing and revision process, novel development, etc.? How long does it take you to write a story?
I like to write first thing in the morning, armed with a giant mug of coffee and a cat to warm my lap. I’m always trying to get a certain number of scenes done each week. Sometimes that means writing a few hours a day. Sometimes that means writing ten hours a day. It depends on how fast the hamster is turning the wheel in my brain. I start with a general outline of each novel. The major plot points, key scenes, research that needs to be incorporated into the story, etc. I change a lot as I write, however, so the end novel may bear little resemblance to my starting idea. Sometimes characters take over. Sometimes I come up with a better idea for a plot point or a plot twist, so I reorient the story to make the new and improved concept work. It usually takes me six months to draft a novel, then three months to polish it to a point where I decide it’s not horrible.

Do you let anyone read what you have written before you send it to your editor?
No, then I would have to kill them.

What do you find to be the hardest part of writing a book?
Everything. If writing were easy, everyone would be doing it.

How do you do your research?
Whenever possible, I try to interview professionals in the field. Personally, I don’t have a law enforcement background, so I generally start with a call to some poor detective who has the misfortune to pick up his phone. I’m honestly touched and amazed by the thorough assistance I’ve received. I’ve interviewed FBI agents, ATF agents, state police, local police, corrections officers, etc., and every single one of them has taken significant time out of his or her day to answer my questions. They are very nice people doing very tough jobs.

Do you ever base your characters on real people?
No, real people can sue. I wouldn’t like that much.

Do you use real events?
I am routinely inspired by true crime. The basis for THE OTHER DAUGHTER is the real life story of Ted Bundy, who fathered a child while on death row. That made me wonder what it would be like growing up as the child of a notorious serial killer. THE THIRD VICTIM, of course, is based on the string of school shootings we’ve had in the United States. That research was very sad for me, but I also needed to do it. Like most Americans, I wanted to understand what would drive kids to perform such heinous acts. Many of the answers surprised me.

Who are your role models? Which writers have influenced you the most?
I remember being twelve-years old and reading M.M. Kaye’s THE FAR PAVILIONS. I was completely enthralled by that novel. The way she made the setting, history, and characters come so richly alive. From the beautiful romance to the gritty battle scenes, I thought reading that book was one of the most intense experiences I’d ever had. Of course, I was twelve. I still love that novel, however. I reread it every few years, and every few years I’m enthralled all over again. I also enjoy Stephen King, John Sandford, Tami Hoag, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Amanda Quick, Susan Wiggs, and Iris Johansen.

What are you passionate about?
I’m really good at FreeCell. You know, the card game that comes with most computers. Every morning, I’d turn on my computer to write, and play roughly one hundred games of FreeCell instead. When I broke the five thousand mark, my husband deleted the game on my computer, plus all the back up copies. Have I mentioned that he’s a very smart man?

Have any of your books been made into movies?
A European producer optioned my first suspense novel, THE PERFECT HUSBAND. Last year, he turned it into the TV-movie, INSTINCT TO KILL starring Mark Dacascos. The movie originally came out in Germany, I believe, but my brother managed to hunt down a tape and gave it to me for Christmas. It was a lot of fun to watch. Europeans are much more liberal about nudity on TV. Needless to say, my husband has never found one of my stories to be so fascinating. My novel THE SURVIVORS CLUB was made into a CBS Movie of the Week starring Roma Downey. It aired in early 2004. An impressive cast with Jacqueline Bisset and Lauren Lee Smith. Friends and neighbors joined us to watch the airing with popcorn for everyone.  And in 2011 my novel HIDE was aired on TNT Television starring Carla Gugino, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kevin Alejandro, and Bridget Regan.  I was fortunate enough to be on the set for some scenes and loved seeing the process to transform my words into theater.

What job did you do before you took up writing seriously?
Believe it or not, I worked as a business consultant. I was a budding expert on process reengineering. Basically, I’d go into a company, tell them a better way of doing things I’d never done, then bill them for oodles of money. I also spent a lot of time reading Dilbert cartoons.

What has been your favorite question or comment by your fans?
I like it when fans tell me I’ve kept them awake all night, or made them forget to feed their kids dinner, or kept them from going into to work because they simply had to finish my book. It gives me a warm feeling inside. In all honesty, I’m really honored by how much people enjoy my novels and I love to hear from readers.

I’m an aspiring writer. Can you give me any advice on finding an agent or editor?
I recommend that any serious writer join a writers group. Three great organizations are Romance Writers of America, its suspense subchapter, Kiss of Death, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. These groups offer local chapters where you can meet other aspiring writers as well as published authors. They also sponsor local conferences where you learn about the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and pitch your book ideas directly to agents and editors. All in all, a lot of support and services in return for fairly modest yearly dues.

I’m a big fan of yours. Would you be willing to read part of my latest manuscript?
No.

My book club/writing group would love for you to come visit. Are you available?
It’s possible. My schedule is quite busy but I would like to make a point of visiting with book groups in person, by phone, or via Skype when I can. If you’d like to make a request, contact asklisa@lisagardner.com and we’ll see what we can do. Thanks!

Is there anything else you would like to share about your writing process?
I’d like to encourage all those aspiring writers out there to plant their butts in front of their computers and start writing. It’s not easy, it’s not glamorous, but if writing’s in your blood, it’s something you have to do. So go do it! Have fun!

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