When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t remember a time before I defined myself as a writer. Making a living as a writer is the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life. So I’m very grateful. It’s a dream come true.
How many books have you written, and in what order should I read them?
I have published 11 novels. Here they are in reverse chronological order:
HEARTBROKEN (2012) – Standalone
DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND (2011) – The Hollows #2
FRAGILE (2010) – The Hollows #1
DIE FOR YOU (2009) – Standalone
BLACK OUT (2008) – Standalone
SLIVER OF TRUTH (2007) – Ridley Jones #2
BEAUTIFUL LIES (2006) – Ridley Jones #1
Writing as Lisa Miscione
SMOKE (2005, reissued 2012) – Lydia Strong #4
TWICE (2004, reissued 2012) – Lydia Strong #3
THE DARKNESS GATHERS (2003, reissued 2011) – Lydia Strong #2
ANGEL FIRE (2002, reissued 2011) – Lydia Strong #1
All of my books can be read independently of the others. However, I think you will have a richer experience if you read the series books in order. You should buy one right now!
What is your next project and can you tell us anything about it?
I have some on-going obsessions. The themes of memory, identity, faith, family secrets and domestic danger continue to loom large. My next novel, IN THE BLOOD, will release on January 7, 2014, but I can’t talk about it yet. So, stay tuned!
Why did you change your name from Lisa Miscione to Lisa Unger?
St. Martin’s Minotaur purchased my first book, ANGEL FIRE, before I was married. I published three more Lydia Strong novels with them, under my maiden name of Lisa Miscione, before moving to Random House in 2005. When I made that move, it seemed like a natural time to start writing under my married name, Lisa Unger. BEAUTIFUL LIES was also very different than anything I written before and it felt like a real leap forward for me as writer. The choice was easy. And I just emailed the five people who’d read my series and told them to look out for the new name on my covers!
Where do you get your ideas?
It could be anything really—a line from a poem, a news story, even a photograph—that is the seed for a new novel. And if that seed finds fertile ground in my subconscious, I start hearing voices. It’s always a character voice that pulls me into (and through) a novel. Plot flows from the characters, who they are, what’s going on in their lives and how they’re dealing with it.
In fact, I’m getting an idea right now! I should go.
Do you outline or know the ending before you write?
I don’t outline. When I sit down to write, I have no idea what’s going to happen, who’s going to show up or what they’re going to do day to day. And I certainly have no idea how things will end. It’s kind of a crazy way to write a book, but I’ve never done it any other way. I write for the same reason that I read, because I want to know what’s going to happen.
What type of research do you do?
I spend quite a bit of time on research. I love the Internet for its immediacy and wealth of information. But if I really need a deeper understanding and knowledge of something, I turn to books.
But there’s nothing like anecdotal research, talking to people, hearing their stories and observing. I have a couple of people who I really rely on for the nuts and bolts of crime and police work.
I also travel and read a lot of non-fiction because I’m an experience and knowledge junkie, just taking it all in, never knowing what I’ll use later.
Do you have a favorite time of day or place to write?
My golden creative hours are from about 5 AM to noon. However, I have a six year old daughter, who comes before everything else … and she also likes to get up between 5 and 6 AM. Luckily, my husband is on board to help, but I like to be with her first thing, make her breakfast and see her off to kindergarten … so the early hours are hit or miss. I write when she’s in school. If I haven’t met my goals by the time she comes home, I work again after she goes to bed. The writer/mother thing can be a difficult balance, and sometimes I need support in the afternoons. But mainly it works. And I feel lucky to do what I love and still be present every day for my little girl … who’s getting bigger every minute.
How long does it take you to complete a novel?
It generally takes about ten months to a year for me to complete the first draft of my novel. Then, after I turn it in, there’s nearly another year before it finds its way to the bookshelf. During that year, there will be several more rounds of editing – content editing, line editing, copy editing. So from idea to published novel is about two years.
Do you base any of your characters on real people or places?
Everything in fiction is autobiographical and nothing is at the same time. My characters come to me as fully formed people outside of myself and they reveal themselves to me along the way. That said, I believe that good writers are also good observers and have the ability to store away many details. Perhaps those details get mixed up in the subconscience and come back out again in some new combination. I wrote a couple of blogs that go into my feelings on this subject in greater detail. Read more.
Have any of your books been made into movies?
Several novels have been optioned over the years, but nothing has been “green lit” yet. I’ll be keeping everyone updated on Facebook and Twitter.
What do you like to read?
Most writers will tell you that their first love was reading. And I have been an avid reader since I could read. I inherited this love from my mother, who always had a pile of books and worked at a library for many years. I have always been a literary omnivore and have been influenced as heavily by popular fiction as by classic literature. I don’t discriminate! I have loved Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jane Austen, Patricia Highsmith, The Bronte sisters. But I have also loved Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, Joy Fielding.
I have read widely across genre. I love a great story and I think that can be found in every area of fiction. One of my first and favorite thrillers was Rebecca by Daphne DuMurier. I really loved that idea of the ordinary girl caught in extraordinary circumstances. And it is a theme that has run through my work.
Some of my favorite contemporary writers: Laura Lippman, John Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke, Gregg Hurwitz, Kate Atkinson, Dennis Lehane, Tess Gerritsen, Harlan Coben, Lisa Gardner … I could go on and on.
What is your ultimate goal as a writer?
Every day, I sit down at my keyboard and try to be a better writer today than I was yesterday. In my years in the industry, I have learned that the author controls very little. The only place I have any say at all is at the keyboard. Here I can choose to dig deeper, work harder, write better. And so that’s where I put most of my effort.
Which of the books that you have written is your favorite?
Each book represents the pinnacle of my abilities at the time of its writing. Each one comes from a very personal place, and I feel deeply connected to each of my characters. So, it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite. It’s a little like asking a mother to choose her favorite child.
What is the best comment you have ever received from a fan?
The house is a mess, and I fed my kids fast food last night. I called in sick to work today! Damn you, Lisa Unger!
What is your advice for writers?
The best advice I can give aspiring writers is to write every day. Dig deeper every day. Be true to yourself. Think of publishing as an incidental element to the act of striving to be the best writer you can be, secondary to getting better every day for your experiences and dedication to the craft.
And read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Study the people who are doing it best and learn from them. Learn more.
How can I get my book published?
I wish there was a magic formula that I could share with you. The best advice I can give you is to focus on your writing. And in the pursuit of becoming published, it takes talent, luck, and sheer “never say die” tenacity. I did write a blog in which I share some nuts & bolts tips to help you get started in the right direction. Read more.
How can I get an autographed copy of your books.
Check my appearance schedule for an event in your area, then come out and say “Hello”. Or you can always order a signed book from my local independent, Inkwood Books
What is the best way to contact you?
Facebook and Twitter are the best places to communicate with me these days.