From the moment Nancy Bush sold her first novel to Silhouette Books, she was hooked on writing. The Oregon author and sister of thriller writer Lisa Jackson subsequently penned more than thirty novels, then landed a gig as a breakdown writer. Working in New York, she developed a storyline into daily scripts for the soap opera All My Children. After selling three Jane Kelly mysteries to Kensington Publishing, Nancy collaborated with her sister on a book that was a mega-New York Times bestseller. Nancy's first solo thriller, Unseen, debuts in April 2009. Below Nancy discusses the transition from writing Jane Kelly mysteries that feature a pugnacious pug sidekick to penning chilling thrillers.
Unseen is a dark, powerful thriller and quite a departure from your Jane Kelly mysteries. Does it herald a change in the kind of books we should expect from you?
Well, yes and no. The Jane Kelly mysteries are still absolutely my favorites. But romantic-suspense thrillers are right up there as books I love to read and write. I'm contracted to write three thrillers, of which Unseen is the first. I'm writing the second one now and having a blast, but I hope to get to Pink Cadillac, the working title for my next Jane Kelly, ASAP!
Where did the seed of the idea for this book come? Is it based on any personal fears or phobias?
Unseen has a lot of kinda strange stuff in it. I've always liked lifting a rock to see what's underneath, even if it gives you the heebie-jeebies. Unseen a little like that. As the basis for the plot developed in my mind, I started thinking of how to reveal certain key pieces of information and I think it just got better and better. When Will twigs to what's really going on, toward the end of the book, I actually got a little Aha! shiver down my back, even though I knew what was coming. Love that Aha moment!
Gemma LaPorte is a bundle of contradictions and secrets. How did she spring to life?
I love complicated characters, and Gemma's definitely one of them. I know a number of people who've been injured in automobile accidents who cannot remember what happened before the accident. They've lost hours, days, even weeks. Gemma has a strange past that haunts her for various reasons, a past she's either repressing or can't remember. This is central to the book, because Gemma's story isn't really about amnesia; it's about facing who you are. She knows her name and has enough pieces of her past to worry about whether she's capable of murder or not. The question she keeps asking herself is: Can a good person do really bad things? Does she even want to explore that in herself?
Detective Will Tanninger is both Gemma’s foil and love interest. Given the shadowy past experiences that Gemma juggles, not to mention her messy present, how did that influence the kind of man you needed Tanninger to be?
I love Will Tanninger. Just love him. He's the still-waters-run-deep kind of guy who's going to do the right thing no matter what. But he's also got a sense of humor, which serves him well when everything around him starts turning to chaos. He had to be really, really sane and solid to counteract Gemma's instability and her strange, shifting world.
What do you like best about Unseen? What was the most difficult aspect of the book to resolve?
I like the fact that Unseen is a thriller with a mystery core. It's a race to the end, but it's also a who-, or what-done-it. The most difficult aspect of the book to resolve was who died, who lived, and why. The final, final ending for my characters.
What was your theory in crafting the book’s ultimate bad guy?
I've read a lot of thrillers, and the ones I like best are written like my sister, Lisa Jackson's. They have a villain, or villains, with a strong purpose, who are damned near unstoppable. There may be other subplots that traverse the main plot, but this villain(s) is relentless. He keeps coming after the main characters. And coming after them. Although I love a clue-filled mystery, in suspense I really want the villain to get what he deserves at the hands of his would-be victims or by some method of his own making! I almost don't care what his reasons are. Just get him! I needed that kind of villain relentlessly heading toward my characters in Unseen so that we could have a bang-up ending.
This year, you co-wrote a New York Times bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, with your sister, author Lisa Jackson. Did you carry over anything from that collaboration to this book?
In Wicked Games, my sister and I introduced a group of cultish people who live in a large lodge along the Oregon coast. The ties to that odd and gifted group continue with some of the characters in Unseen, and with characters in my sister's and my next collaboration, working title Wicked Lies, and also with my next thriller, which I'm writing right now.
Will we be seeing Gemma or Will again? What’s next on your publishing schedule?
Oh, I kinda think Gemma and Will are going to be in and out of some future stories. Currently I'm writing my second thriller, which is still searching for a title and will be published April 2010.