Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Conversation with Thriller Writer Elizabeth Heiter

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Elizabeth Heiter

We are delighted to welcome author Elizabeth Heiter to Omnimystery News today.

Elizabeth's third thriller in The Profiler Series, Seized (Harlequin MIRA; December 2015 mass market paperback and ebook formats), is published this week and we had a chance to catch up with her to talk a little more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about the lead character of The Profiler Series. What is it about her that appeals to you as a writer?

Elizabeth Heiter
Photo provided courtesy of
Elizabeth Heiter

Elizabeth Heiter: The heroine of my Profiler series is Evelyn Baine, a dedicated FBI agent who decided she was going to be a profiler when she was twelve years old and her best friend went missing, a victim of the Nursery Rhyme Killer, and was never found. Seventeen years later, Evelyn learned that her best friend's abductor left a note claiming he took her, too. Early in her career, Evelyn doesn't know why her best friend Cassie was a victim and she was spared. But she's spent most of her life chasing a job that would help her find Cassie — or help find justice for other victims like Cassie.

Evelyn appeals to me as a character because she's got such single-minded focus for her job, and she's a very talented profiler, but in social interactions, she's totally lost. With every case she tackles — a serial killer who buries his victims up to their necks deep in the woods in Hunted and the return of the Nursery Rhyme Killer eighteen years later in Vanished and now a survivalist cult that may actually be a terrorist group in Seized — Evelyn grows and changes, and I love going on that journey with her.

OMN: Seized is the third book in this series. How has Evelyn changed since she was introduced in Hunted?

EH: Like any real person, I want the characters in my series to change over time. At her core, Evelyn is the same person she was in Hunted, but in Seized, she's less isolated, a little less socially awkward, and even in a (secret) relationship with a fellow FBI agent. When I initially developed Evelyn, I purposely created her with room to grow, because I wanted her to change throughout the series, but still retain that talent for profiling that drives the mysteries in each story.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of Seized?

EH: A routine investigation lands an FBI profiler on the wrong side of a hostage situation, and in the middle of an emerging terrorist threat.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

EH: My writing process begins with that spark — that one idea I can't stop thinking about that will become the core of the story. Usually it's something that keeps me up at night, wondering, What if? For the Profiler series, that spark came when I began reading about the process of profiling. I thought, there's a character in this. But the more real-life cases I read, the more gruesome crime scene details I reviewed, the more I realized: my character needed to have a strong motivation to stay in this job. For Evelyn, it was the disappearance of her best friend that started it all.

For each new book, I write a bullet-point outline. It contains the key turning points for the story, as well as the major turning points for the characters. I create biographies for my characters, focusing on their backstory, because it tells me where they came from and helps me develop where they're going. A lot of that never shows up in the story, but it informs the way I create the characters and helps me keep them consistent. Along the way, though, inevitably some of the plot and characters will shift as the writing begins.

Each book is an adventure, and I love a good adventure!

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

EH: I love to research. Usually, I'm plotting one book, writing another, and researching the next one. For me, research comes in many forms. I read a lot, particularly books from people who have actually done the jobs I'm portraying, and books on the topics I'm covering. Seized required research into cults, survivalists and terrorism, and with every Profiler book I write, I brush up on my core FBI knowledge.

My favorite kind of research, though, is hands-on. In the process of writing this series, I've spoken with current and former FBI agents, cops, and forensics experts. I've visited FBI field offices, forensic laboratories, and the FBI Academy.

I think my most challenging topic to research has been the specifics of profilers — they're actually behavioral analysts and despite popular belief, they work out of an unmarked office building in Aquia, Virginia, and not Quantico. The most exciting? Honestly, I think that was the FBI Academy research — when I visited, they let me shoot every weapon used by federal agents (including the tactical agents!). Talk about some hands-on research!

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a thriller writer and thus I am also …".

EH: I am a thriller writer and thus I am also a dangerous person to piss off! When I have book signings, inevitably one of the questions I get is: "You look so sweet and normal. What made you write such dark crime stories?" I like to joke that "sweet and normal" is just a façade.

Kidding aside, I have a mug at home that reads "Don't annoy the writer or she may put you in a book and kill you." I haven't ever written in a real person as a victim, but there's always the next book!

OMN: Tell us more about the cover of Seized.

EH: I love the cover for Seized! It's an evolution of the series look, and it's my favorite cover yet. Normally, authors (unless they are self-published, of course) don't have much say in the cover, but I was lucky enough to see a mock-up for Seized early in the process. I had a few suggestions, and my publisher adjusted the final cover. In both Hunted and Vanished, the image was inside the title, and for Seized, the image has moved outside the letters, but it still has the same feel — this one is Evelyn standing in front of a mountainside. In the distance, I like to imagine, is the cult where she'll be taken hostage!

OMN: What's next for you?

EH: I love writing novels, and I'm lucky enough to be writing two series in two different genres (my Profiler series, which are psychological suspense, and my Lawmen series, which are romantic suspense). Next up, I'll be working on revisions to Stalked, my fourth Profiler story, and writing books four through six of my Lawmen stories.

And of course, right now, I'm busy with events for Seized! If you're in Michigan, Illinois, California, or Arizona, please check the News page on my website — I'll be having book signings in those locations. And wherever you are, please check out Avenged. It's a free short story that takes place between Vanished and Seized — you can get all the details on my Books page.

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Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy's shooting range. Elizabeth graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English literature.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at ElizabethHeiter.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Seized by Elizabeth Heiter

Seized by Elizabeth Heiter

The Profiler Series

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Danger is all around her … The next terrorist threat is right beside her …

What should have been a routine investigation for FBI profiler Evelyn Baine turns ominous when she's kidnapped by a dangerous cult of survivalists. As her worst nightmares become a reality, she begins to question what she's seeing. Because the longer she's inside their compound, the more she realizes this group is not what it seems to be.

As the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team closes in, Evelyn suspects she's stumbled onto an emerging terrorist threat — and a cult leader who has a score to settle with the FBI. If Hostage Rescue breaches the compound, Evelyn's dead for sure. If they don't, the cult may unleash a surprise attack that could leave the whole country shattered.

Seized by Elizabeth Heiter

2 comments:

  1. I'm with you, Elizabeth! Evelyn is a engaging character and I love that we readers get to go along on the ride! Thanks for giving us a glimpse at your process, as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Nichole! So nice to see you here - and you know I love your Jamie Sinclair series, too! We should compare notes! :)

      Delete

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