an interview with… our own Allison Brennan

by Toni McGee Causey

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the very best things about being a part of this group is that I occasionally get to interview other authors. Sometimes, it’s a guest interview and sometimes, like today, it’s a chance to get to know one of our own a little better. And even though Allison and I have been close friends for over five years now (wow! five? wow, the time has flown)… I still learn something new from her nearly every day. She’s one of the most giving people I know, and has not only been a terrific friend, but a fabulous mentor… which is why, when I knew she had a new book in a new series which featured one of my favorite characters (Lucy Kincaid), I sort of begged (annoyed, badgered, whined) in order to get a galley. It is, hands down, her best book yet. It’s fantastic–I literally started it when I was swamped and just did not have time to read and I couldn’t put it down, people. I know fans of thrillers will love this book; it comes out this Tuesday, December 28th. So to celebrate–here’s an interview with Allison, a little more about Lucy, and a contest.

…the interview…

Which is more difficult to deal with in life: the apologetic repeat-offender petty criminal or the unrepentant morally ambiguous liar?

Absolutely, hands down, the unrepentant liar. Petty criminals garner pity and sometimes empathy depending on their circumstances. If they’re apologetic, they know that they are doing something wrong, but they can’t seem to “help” themselves, and continue to make bad choices that over time land them in prison or lose them their family.

But unrepentant liars? They are sociopaths. They may or may not know that their actions are wrong, they justify their lies because they are inherently selfish and have no comprehension (or don’t care) whether their lies hurt someone. They may not be criminals, but they destroy lives with their lies. Many of these pathological liars do turn to crime—they may not be killers, but they may become con artists who prey on the elderly, or thieves, or steal the identity of thousands of people.

 

Which would be the more interesting character to write about, and why?

Both are interesting in their own way. However, the petty criminal would make a better secondary character (perhaps a catalyst of sorts or a character who pops up throughout the book and has a pivotal role in the climax) while the liar would make a better villain that I could explore more fully how he (or she) impacts the lives of others.

 

What are the sights/sounds/tastes of your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is just after I turned two. I am sitting in the passenger seat of my grandpa’s big truck, in my pajamas, and I turn to look out the drivers window as he walks from the house and waves to me. It’s a snapshot in time that I’ll never forget. I didn’t remember until my mom told me later that on Saturday mornings my grandpa use to take me with him to the barber, then out to breakfast. He died when I was two-and-a-half.

 

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life?

Quitting my job before my first book came out. I didn’t know whether the book would be successful, and everything I’d heard was don’t quit your day job! So when I got the advance, I put it in my savings account and didn’t buy anything frivolous, I “paid” myself a salary and I pulled the little kids from day care (that’s another story! I couldn’t write with them around! Who said being a stay-at-home-mom was easy? They must have been smoking something.) I cut expenses right and left, and it was still tight. But I knew that I couldn’t work full-time and write, so I took a leap of faith. I knew that if my books didn’t do well, I’d be crawling back to my old boss begging for my job back. I REALLY didn’t want to do that.

 

What was that one fork in the road you wish you’d taken, just to see what it would have been like (and if you wish, you magically can still end up where you are, if you’re happy)?

I rarely, if ever, dwell on past choices. Once a decision is made (which may take me awhile!) I know that my life is on a different path, and regrets lead to unhappiness and discontentment.

There have been several pivotal choices I’ve made in my life that I know had I made the other choice, I would be in a completely different place. For example, for college I was accepted into the Johnston Program at the University of Redlands. It was a public policy think tank program and only accepted (if I remember correctly!) 40 students a year. You lived in a house on campus and had an independent study type program. I decided instead to go to UC Santa Cruz in order to stay closer to my boyfriend. We broke up a year later and I dropped out of college a year after that and moved to Sacramento.

I don’t know what I would be doing today if I went to Redlands. I doubt I would have dropped out of college. I also doubt I’d be a published fiction author. I have no doubt, however, that in whatever I did I would be a writer of some sort.

But I also wouldn’t have met my husband and had my kids. I can’t possibly comprehend what my life would have been like, or that my different choice would have led to the non-existence of five people. It actually kind of creeps me out to think about it! 

 

What one trait do you value the most in your friends that you don’t think you have (or have enough of)?

Empathy. When someone close to a friend dies, I never know what to say, and I kind of freak out. Some of my friends ALWAYS know what to say or do. They send flowers or cards and have just the right words. They think of something original and kind to do. Or, when someone has cancer and the school gets together to make meals I never participate, though I want to—I don’t know what to say to the person or the family. Maybe I just don’t do well around death and dying, or maybe I fear that the same thing can happen to me. I’ve lost people close to me, and I just want to hide alone for a couple weeks. I guess I don’t respond well to sadness, even though I’ve experienced it.

 

What five words (alone, or as a sentence), describe you best?

Procrastination. Lazy. Helpful. Generous. Forgiving.

 

What makes you cry?

Disney movies.

 

What makes you feel outraged, wanting to rant?

We’re not allowed to talk politics on this blog, so I’ll remain silent.

 

What is your favorite curse word?

Shit. I know, boring. I also like “Damn, damn, damn!”

 

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done in the pursuit of research?

I’ve been so lucky with my research field trips! I’ve been to Quantico, Folsom State Prison, FBI Headquarters, the morgue, and participated in the FBI Citizens Academy. But the most interesting was the FBI training sessions. I’ve done it twice, and I can’t wait until they ask again.

The training sessions are put on by the FBI for local law enforcement. The first one was set up with eight stations, and the cops could pick four to practice. One, for example, was pulling over vehicles. They’d run the exercise multiple ways, to illustrate different levels of danger, but the cops didn’t know what they’d be facing. One exercise was that the driver was wanted but complied; the other that the driver was wanted and didn’t comply; and the other was there was a man hiding in the backseat. Traffic stops are the most dangerous for cops, and they all took these training exercises seriously.

I was part of the warrant exercise. I was married to a known sex offender who was wanted by police. One time I let them in because they had a warrant. The other time they didn’t have a warrant, and were practicing gaining admittance through talking me into letting them in. I was supposed to make them work at it, and they were being judged on how they handled a hesitant spouse. Another time I would be belligerent. It was my first time in cuffs. Then, the officers go in and search the place. They also ran the exercise where they had a warrant to arrest a friend of my husband’s staying with us because he had an underage prostitute. Another time I hid and they had to search and find me. I’d then be debriefed about how and when the officers searched me, etc. They were supposed to take it seriously, but one cop didn’t handcuff or search me (the wife of the offender) and she was taken to task for that.

But the MOST fun and scary was when I was a victim in a school shooting scenario. Fun, because I was carried out by SWAT. Scary, because it seemed damn realistic. After the exercise, the FBI trainers would walk the SWAT team through step by step and ask why they did this, what they did that, etc. This particular exercise was to train SWAT on triage in a live-shooter situation. That SWAT is damn good at their job, but they wanted more training in assessing medical needs and whether it was safe to move victims while there was still a shooter in the building. I learned so much, and have great admiration and respect for SWAT after watching them perform.

What was the worst thing you had to endure in the pursuit of research?

I honestly can’t think of anything! Except, it really is no fun being handcuffed.

 

Where would you like to travel, and why? What would you like to see there?

Australia, Ireland, Italy. Nothing in particular, just beautiful countries.

 

What would you change about yourself?

I would be more diligent and procrastinate less. I would also be on time. I’d also like to lose 30 pounds!

 

What would you keep the same?

Hmm, I can’t think of anything. There’s room for improvement across the board.

 

And now… LOVE ME TO DEATH — the first in a new series for for Allison.

Here’s a little about the story:

Six years ago, Lucy Kincaid was attacked and nearly killed by an online predator. She survived. Her attacker did not. Now Lucy’s goal is to join the FBI and fight cyber-crime, but in the meantime, she’s volunteering with a victim’s rights group, surfing the Web undercover to lure sex offenders into the hands of the law. But when the predators she hunts start turning up as murder victims, the FBI takes a whole new interest in Lucy.

With her future and possibly even her freedom suddenly in jeopardy, Lucy discovers she’s a pawn in someone’s twisted plot to mete out vigilante justice. She joins forces with security expert and daredevil Sean Rogan, and together they track their elusive quarry from anonymous online chat rooms onto the mean streets of Washington, D.C. But someone else is shadowing them: A merciless stalker has his savage eye on Lucy. The only way for her to escape his brutality may be another fight to the death.

 

Here’s the Publisher’s Weekly rave review:

Grabbing the reader by the throat from almost the first page, this pulse-ratcheting romantic suspense from Brennan (Original Sin) delivers intense action, multifaceted characters, and a truly creepy bad guy. FBI hopeful Lucy Kincaid is trying to heal from a brutal attack six years earlier. She volunteers at a program dedicated to luring and rearresting repeat sex offenders via the Internet, but then discovers a horrifying connection between her work and the execution-style murders of the parolees. PI Sean Rogan, a friend of Lucy’s brothers, becomes focused on protecting her at any cost, and their mutual passion flares. As Lucy draws closer to the truth, effective red herrings litter the way and throw her deeper into confusion.

And Lee Child said: “World-class nail-biter . . . Brennan is in the groove with this one.”

 

So here a the end of the year, tell us, ‘Rati, what would you change about yourself? What would you keep the same? And is there a road not taken you sort of wish you’d tried, just out of curiosity?

 

Meanwhile, while y’all are answering those… here’s the CONTEST

I’m going to be running a contest, starting Tuesday, which will be announced in my newsletter and on my blog, but ‘Rati readers get a headstart. Anyone who does the following between now and Monday night (midnight, CST) will get two chances at the e-reader (see below) instead of just one chance. All you have to do is follow instructions and tweet the sentence below before Tuesday, and you’ll be entered twice. Everyone posting on Tuesday and afterward will still be entered the one time.

 

…here’s the contest:

A chance to win a FREE E-READER—EITHER A KINDLE OR A NOOK COLOR…

Here are the rules:

If you’re on Twitter, this one’s for you. Contest starts on December 28th and continues through midnight, January 3rd, central standard time. All you have to do is tweet this exact tweet:

Can’t wait to read #thenewAllisonBrennanthriller, Love Me To Death: http://tinyurl.com/2wel7a5 @ToniMcGeeCausey @Allison_Brennan

One entry per twitter name makes you eligible to win either a Kindle or a Nook Color—whichever one you choose (see the links for the specific model) if your name is drawn in the random drawing. Plus, the winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to the ebook store their reader came from in order to help get a jump start on purchasing books for their new ereader!

If there are more than 1,000 entries (remember, one entry per person)—there will be TWO prizes given away, so spread the word, but let them know they have to tweet that exact tweet, okay?

Contest void where prohibited. Any winner who happens to be outside of the US may opt for the cash equivalent (via Paypal) of the Kindle ($189 USD) + the $50 cash (also via Paypal—for a total of $239 USD) if they cannot use the Kindle or the Nook in their country.

Winner(s) will be announced on my Facebook page, as well as on my blog on Monday, January 10th, by 5 p.m. (CST) and on Twitter—so follow me there if you want to see it there. (I’ll post it to Twitter first.)

 

21 thoughts on “an interview with… our own Allison Brennan

  1. billie

    Great interview, fun contest – thanks for both!

    Not sure about changes and roads not taken… I think I will be focusing on balance in 2011, which is an ongoing challenge for me. I have so many things I want to do, and a lot of the time I feel like I'm responding to the one thing that presents itself in front of me instead of creating some balance so that my days hit all the high notes I want to hit.

    I have an idea of instituting "office hours" for writing and "barn hours" for riding – with the thought that I can't plug anything else into those times. We'll see. Meanwhile, we have 5 inches of snow on the ground and it is still falling fast. For now, it's gorgeous!!

    Reply
  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    Great post!
    Change: weight but I've enjoyed getting here. Same: pursuit of knowledge
    Road not taken: oh there are many going back to 9th grade. Wish I'd taken debate instead of home ec with my friends. Shoulda gone to law school and not worried about cost and living in a different town. But of course, things would be different in ways I wouldn't want so you can't regret. Most recently: I shoulda started my newsletter in 2009 when I was unemployed but my state of emotions in that situation wasn't conducive to creativity.
    I'm looking forward to 2011 though it's weird to say 2011. Seems like we just changed to 2000 not long ago.

    Reply
  3. Qwill

    Wonderful interview! Changes – I'd become more efficient. I used to be highly efficient, but I don't know when I started becoming so inefficient. I really wouldn't change anything. I'm pretty comfortable in my skin. I was just thinking about a job that was offered to me in the mid 80s and wondering what would have been had I taken it. I do know that a while after that I was offered and took my dream job so I think I made out ok on road picking. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  4. Debbie

    Happy Boxing Day eh! That interview was so much fun.

    In answer to your question about who we were, are, and are becoming…. I joined fb two months ago. I found it easier on fb to be positive and supportive, and would like to venture out face to face, connecting in non judgemental, positive and supportive ways as well. It was never intended to be self serving, but the rewards seem to return ten fold! Thanks to everybody here for a fantastic blog, the support of community, and uplifting my spirits and that of others when they were low. You are all great, Rati and commenters alike. Thanks.

    Reply
  5. pari noskin taichert

    Allison and Toni,
    What a wonderful interview. Thank you for the great read.

    The road not taken? I wonder what would've happened if I'd gone to Swarthmore rather than Beloit College? I ended up transferring to the U of M which probably wouldn't have happened otherwise and A2 and U of M were incredibly important in my life. Or . . . what would've happened if I'd stayed in Hong Kong like I'd intended? Hmmmm.

    Reply
  6. WL Conley

    CHANGE – my weight about 50 pounds less of me.
    SAME – My kids
    ROAD NOT TAKEN – to have been a little bit promiscuous instead of little miss goodie two shoes (which got me no where)!!

    Reply
  7. Lynnette

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Well, weight is a pretty common change but I really want to do something about it and have started doing that this month (Zumba classes are sooooo much fun!). I also want to be better at cleaning. We have two kids and keeping up on things like laundry is a full-time battle.

    It's the same old song… I love my kids. They drive me crazy and astound me everyday. They are so smart, and funny and beautiful that my heart squeezes everytime I see them.

    The road not taken? I'm usually pretty good about making a decision and not complaining about the results. I do wish sometimes that I had participated in the semester abroad when I was in college. I could have gone to England and since that is on my list of places I want to see, I sometimes regret I didn't go. However, I was already with my boyfriend (later my hubby) and this path has led to my degree, my job, my kids and I don't regret them at all.

    Reply
  8. TerriMolina

    Loved the interview, great questions and answers! I don't do Twitter anymore, my account got screwed up so I closed it and just haven't reopened it. I never quite developed the needed fixation for it anyway.

    As for the questions:
    What would you change about yourself?
    –How much time do you have? There's just too much to list. =)

    What would you keep the same?
    –hmmm…I don't know. My sense of humor? Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

    And is there a road not taken you sort of wish you'd tried, just out of curiosity?
    –I'd always wanted to be an actress and attempted it back in my twenties when I lived in NY. But, my insecurities got the better of me. (one of those many things I need to change about me) Still, the little training I had comes in handy with my writing.

    Happy Holidays Everyone!

    Reply
  9. Tammie

    UMMMM changes… I say, change my weight to alot less. And I would love to be more organized. What I wouldn't change is my relationship with my hubby. A road I sometimes wish I had tried or taken would be the road to college.

    Reply
  10. Mariah Stewart

    Great interview, Toni & Allison! And great questions as well.

    Change? I just did – I am no longer blond (which begs the question: will I no longer have blond moments…?).
    Stay the same? Humor, I suppose. And still loving the writing.
    The road not taken? Too involved to go into here…

    I would like to second Toni's comments re. Allison's new book – I was lucky enough to read a galley, and it's wonderful. Just wonderful – and I totally agree: A's best work yet!

    Reply
  11. Kim C

    Just pre-ordered LOVE ME TO DEATH. Can't wait!

    I'd like to be more of a morning person. I've always have been a late night person and have attempted on numerous occasions to alter my disposition to no avail. I'd love to be able to get up in the morning, go for a run, relax and fully wake-up before I have to head into the office. As it is, I snooze through my alarm numerous times, roll out of bed as late as possible, suck down some coffee and push myself out the door usually about 5 minutes later than I really should have.

    I hopped, skipped and jumped through four universities. I've always wondered where I would have ended up had I stayed at any of the first three. No real regrets for where I did end up, I've just always wondered.

    Reply
  12. KDJames

    Another great interview, Toni! Love your talent for asking non-standard questions. And interesting answers, Allison. Except I find it very difficult to imagine that you procrastinate about anything, with all you've got going on. Except maybe sleep. Can't wait to read this book!

    I've never made resolutions at the New Year — usually too busy with other things to even think about it. It's more of an ongoing, every day kind of thing. Like Sisyphus. πŸ˜‰

    We got about six inches of snow here overnight (pics on my blog if anyone doesn't have enough of their own to look at). Very unusual for this to happen here in December. But beautiful!

    Off to tweet as directed and prove I can follow simple instructions. On occasion.

    Reply
  13. Marley Delarose

    I really CAN'T wait to read Luci's story.

    I always wanted to be a pilot, actually, a fighter pilot, so sometimes there are pilots in my stories. Occasionally I wonder what would have happened if I'd joined the service as planned. I probably would have seen the world. Something I still hope to do. (yeah, put that below after finding the job.)

    What I'd like to do differently. Get worse at procrastination, better at exercise, submit some projects in January and February, make a plan and STICK to IT. Find a job to support my habit, lol.

    Reply

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