Master storyteller and best-selling author, Gerry Schmitt, is here visiting the playground. She's spilling her deepest darkest secrets, about her new thriller, Little Girl Gone, and her double life writing three cozy mysteries series under her pen name, Laura Childs.
First a little bit about the book...
On a frozen night in an affluent Minneapolis neighborhood, a baby is abducted from her home and her teenage babysitter violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second. Enter Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the MPD who pulls together random clues and sniffs out a sinister woman who creates “reborn” dolls!
And now, the interview...
What inspired you to write this book?
After I sold my marketing firm, I immediately got caught up in writing cozy mysteries. As luck would have it, they started hitting the New York Times bestseller list right away. When that kind of notoriety happens, you really want to keep the momentum going – even though I still wanted to write thrillers. Last year, after re-reading a bunch of books by my favorite thriller authors (John Sandford, Lee Child, James Patterson) I finally carved out enough time to write Little Girl Gone. It’s scary, fast-paced, and has a terrifying female protagonist. I had so much fun writing this book – it’s been percolating inside my brain for years!
You’ve written thirty-five traditional mysteries under the name Laura Childs. This book is dramatically different from your previous novels. How was your approach to writing this book different? Did it take longer to write than your other novels?
My actual work approach wasn’t all that different. I created my initial outline on a large sheet of paper, then sketched out my characters, shocker kickoff chapter, key scenes, and big ending. Once it all gelled for me, I transferred everything to my computer and took the outline up to about ninety pages. Then I went back to chapter one and wrote the whole thing straight through, which took me about five months. The major difference between my cozy mysteries and this thriller came in the tone of my writing and cast of characters. In Little Girl Gone, the voice is much tougher and meaner and the stakes are huge (a kidnapped baby!) There’s also non-stop action, which I love to write. I’m talking kidnapping, murder, shoot-outs, chase scenes, a house fire, and a drowning. There are multiple layers of action that all work together to really engage and entertain the reader!
This book is set in Minnesota. Why did you pick this location? How does it inform the story?
For one thing, I live in Minnesota so this was kind of a no-brainer. And because the action in Little Girl Gone takes place in winter, I used our notorious Minnesota winter almost as another character. Just imagine raging snowstorms, below zero wind chills, crumbling rural farmhouses where gangsters once hid out, woodlots for dumping bodies, cabin fever, semi-frozen rivers that swallow snowmobiles, frozen beer caves, and winter days that don’t see sunlight until eight o’clock and turn dark again at four. All these elements helped to build suspense and compound the terror.
Do you plan to write more thrillers? Is there an Afton Tangler sequel in the works?
More thrillers are definitely on the horizon and the second book in the Afton Tangler series is already half-written. But I’m still writing my Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Mysteries, too. I’ll never give those up. I love to write and I love to keep busy!
Here's more about Gerry...
Gerry Schmitt is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty-six mysteries, including the Scrapbooking Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries written under her pen name Laura Childs. Under her own name, she has written Little Girl Gone, the first book in the Afton Tangler Thriller series. Gerry is the former CEO of her own marketing firm, has won dozens of TV and radio awards, and produced two reality TV shows. She and her professor husband enjoy travel and their two Shar-Pei dogs.