Lisa Unger https://lisaunger.com Author Sat, 16 Jun 2018 18:49:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 A Book and Its Cover https://lisaunger.com/2018/06/15/a-book-and-its-cover/ Fri, 15 Jun 2018 10:55:32 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=6594 We all know that we’re not meant to “judge a book by its cover.” But we often do. We’re judgement machines, aren’t we? Encounter a person, a place, or pick up a book and we’re immediately forming opinions. In the book publishing world—back in the olden days—the common wisdom is that we have seven seconds…

The post A Book and Its Cover appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
We all know that we’re not meant to “judge a book by its cover.” But we often do. We’re judgement machines, aren’t we? Encounter a person, a place, or pick up a book and we’re immediately forming opinions. In the book publishing world—back in the olden days—the common wisdom is that we have seven seconds to sell a book.  A reader connects with the image on the cover, picks up the book, looks at the back, and reads the copy on the inside flap. Does she take it up to the counter? Or does she put it back down and move onto the next book?

Of course, books are sold in all kinds of ways, places, and formats. And many people are reading electronically, so that experience of shopping or browsing for a book has changed. But one thing hasn’t changed. The all-important cover image.

UNDER MY SKIN is my sixteenth novel, so I’ve had the experience of seeing the cover image for the first time, well, sixteen times. It’s always exciting, the anticipation of how the art department has chosen to express the essence of the novel.  But it hasn’t always been pretty.  When the cover of The Darkness Gathers first arrived, it was splashed with bright neon colors. My editor took pains to let me know how happy they were with this departure, and how the book would really stand out on the shelf. I’ll say. Luckily, that cover changed before publication. So … you never know what to expect.

When I first saw the US cover for UNDER MY SKIN, I loved it immediately — edgy, atmospheric, with some bold colors popping in the dark, the shadow of a woman’s form.  I just assumed the UK would use the same image or some variation. But they had their own unique vision, and it’s equally stellar. Australia followed soon after, a gorgeous variation on the UK image.  I’m loving these glittery, ephemeral packages, the color, the lashes of a sleeping eye.

I’m excited to share them with you here:

Under My Skin - Lisa Unger - US Cover   Under My Skin - Lisa Unger - UK Cover

Even if you were to judge this book by its various gorgeous covers, I think we’ll be okay. Happy reading!

The post A Book and Its Cover appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Mary Kubica and Lisa Unger, in Conversation https://lisaunger.com/2018/04/23/mary-kubica-in-conversation/ Mon, 23 Apr 2018 14:13:35 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=6369 The delightful, talented and bestselling Mary Kubica was an overnight success with her stellar first novel The Good Girl … or was she? Mary agreed to be my pen pal and we discussed what it takes to get published, the highs and lows of the writing life, our upcoming new novels and more. Lots of…

The post Mary Kubica and Lisa Unger, in Conversation appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
The delightful, talented and bestselling Mary Kubica was an overnight success with her stellar first novel The Good Girl … or was she? Mary agreed to be my pen pal and we discussed what it takes to get published, the highs and lows of the writing life, our upcoming new novels and more. Lots of great stuff in this interview for both readers and aspiring writers. If there was a recurring theme to our chat, it would be “don’t ever give up!”

Mary Kubica and Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger: Often, when we hear successful, published authors speak – we don’t get the full picture. About how challenging it is to get published – and to stay published. I heard an interview where you talked about your journey from aspiring to published author. And it struck me how inspiring your story would be to a writer working on a first novel, wondering whether it’s good enough, whether the dream can come true. I think it’s important to remind aspiring authors that every working published writer, every award-winner and bestseller, was at one point someone, writing alone, not sure if his or her book would ever see the light of day. Can you talk a little bit about your own path? And what advice you would you give to your past self, knowing what you know today?

Mary Kubica: Since I was a little girl, Lisa, I loved writing. But it was a part of my life that I kept hidden from the rest of the world because I didn’t know if my work was any good, and I was too scared to find out. I pursued other passions of mine – becoming a high school teacher, starting my family – while writing privately on the side. When I began The Good Girl, I knew there was something special about it right away. I fell in love with the story and characters in a way that I never had before. Though it took five years to write, it was the first manuscript I ever completed. I felt a need to try and do something with this book, to see if it could be published. I’d never felt that urge before. Knowing no one in the publishing industry, I sent my manuscript out far and wide to just about any literary agent who represented my kind of work. Rejections ensued, and ultimately every agent I sent The Good Girl to passed on the project. I gave up hope of it ever being published – until two years later when one of these agents reached back out to me to see if it was still available. She’d been working as an assistant literary agent the first time the book landed on her desk. Though she loved it, she wasn’t in a position to take it on herself and others in her agency decided to pass. Two years later, she’d been promoted and remembered my little book for all that time. It was truly a dream come true. Within a few months, I had a two-book deal with a major publisher. My advice to aspiring authors? You only need one person to love your book as much as you do, and to be as passionate about it as you are. Keep looking until you find that person.

I’m about to publish my fifth book and am writing my sixth, all with the same publisher as I’ve had from the start. There’s a tremendous comfort in this. As my husband will tell you – based on any time a new TV remote control enters our home – I’m not good with change. You’ve recently joined the team at Park Row Books, and you and I now share the same amazing editor. I’m so happy to have you as part of our team! What is it like to make these changes at this point in your career?

Lisa Unger: I love that, and often tell aspiring writers that very same thing. It’s just like dating, but for your novel. You only need one person to fall in love with you! I also believe that tenacity makes up for almost any shortfall. A lot of people give up – they don’t finish the book. Or once they’ve had a few rejections, they just assume the work isn’t good enough. But that moment when an agent or editor falls in love with a manuscript, it’s as subjective as any love connection. So, aspiring writers, keep at it, keep writing and keep trying. Your story, Mary, is really a perfect illustration of how challenging the road can be even when you have a great book.

Under My Skin which will come out from Park Row in October will by my sixteenth novel. And though I would have loved to stay in the same place with the same editor for most of my career, that just didn’t happen. During the course of my career as an author, the publishing business has undergone major changes. In my case, editors have left, imprints have dissolved, creative differences have arisen. My wonderful agent of thirteen years was forced to retire due to health reasons. So, over the years – my first novel Angel Fire published in 2002 – I have navigated a great deal of shifting waters. The flip side of that is that I have worked with many wonderful people, learned so much, and have had such talented editors – each of whom taught me something. Though most people don’t welcome change, it often comes on us without warning. Learning to adapt is critical to survival.

I’m thrilled to have joined Park Row. From my first conversations with Erika Imranyi, the wonderful editor we both share, I sensed her passion, her dedication, and her talent. I am honored to be at a place where so many great writers are being so well published – like you, Pam Jenoff and Heather Gudenkauf to name just a few. Thank you for the warm welcome to the team!

I have also been writing since I was a young girl, and began my first novel when I was nineteen. But after college, I became a book publicist and worked at Penguin Putnam for many years. So, I had exposure to the business of publishing and learned certain truths early on. Many aspiring writers think that a book contract is a windfall, a happy ending to the story. In reality, it’s just an open door, a new beginning. I knew that there would be a lot of hard work ahead. And I wanted a long career, one where I could grow, change and become a better writer with each book. So, as with any career, that means you roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Was there anything that surprised you about the writing life when you published your first novel The Good Girl?

Mary Kubica: I love your enthusiasm toward change, Lisa. That’s something I need to work on – being more adaptable and open to new adventures! I have learned a great deal about writing and myself as a writer from working with Erika, and can imagine the wealth of knowledge and insight that comes from working with a variety of editors. What a wonderful experience!

I don’t come from a publishing background. Before I sold The Good Girl to Mira Books, I didn’t know a single person in the publishing industry. I went into this blind and have learned an infinite amount during the last handful of years. I had no idea how extensive the editorial process would be, or the great lag time that happens from the time I finish a manuscript until it publishes, or how absolutely vital good marketing and publicity is to the success of a book. That said, the part of publishing that surprised me most was how welcoming and supportive other authors can be. I had envisioned a much more competitive, self-seeking environment, but what I’ve found instead is a bounty of wonderful new friends who will bend over backwards to support me and my books. Writing can be a lonely task at times, but by connecting with authors both in the real world and in the world of social media, I’ve gained a network of people I can rely on for brainstorming, for emotional support, for accountability, for celebrating successes and lamenting the woes of book publishing. It’s been one of the highlights of my career!

Speaking of highlights – you mentioned that you are about the publish your sixteenth book, Under My Skin, which I’ve gotten a sneak peek of and absolutely loved. Not only is it a twisty, page-turner that I physically couldn’t put down, but your writing is beautiful and visceral, and your characters have a tendency to stay with me for a long time after I’ve finished your books. You have celebrated many successes during your publishing career, but I’d love to know if there’s one memorable moment that sticks out more than the rest.

Lisa Unger: That’s definitely one of the best things about the writing and publishing community. It’s a business of relationships. Over the years, your fellow writers, the people you work with, they become some of your closest friends. The suspense/mystery/thriller community especially is so warm, welcoming, and helpful. It’s been such a blessing to be a part of this wonderful world of people in love with story, so willing to show kindness and support to each other.

Thank you for your very kind words about Under My Skin. And thank you so much for reading. That early feedback from fellow writers means so much. We write alone, pour all of ourselves into our work. Then we send it out into the world to publish – a wonderful gift to be able to do so, but always (even 16 books in) so scary. Having early praise from writers I admire always helps so much. It makes me braver!

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to celebrate many successes – and strong enough to weather a few storms. I am very grateful. I’m also glad you asked about my most memorable moment. Because it’s probably not what you think. While I was working as a book publicist in the publishing industry, I was a closet writer; writing in the early or late hours, during my commute, whenever or however I could get my time in. At that same time, I was trying to get published in my local paper The Riverdale Press. I was literally stalking the editor – calling every week, sending him my work. Finally, I think he just felt sorry for me and gave me my first assignment. I covered the first Seder Dinner for a group of Russian Jewish immigrants at a local community center! A couple of days later my article wound up as the lead feature in the paper. I was on my way to work and I stopped at the local newsstand. There it was – my byline, in a real newspaper! On the road from an aspiring to published writer, you hear the word “no” so many times. This was my first real “Yes!” And that was the moment I knew that I could do what I had set out to do.

So, I’m right in the middle of Every Last Lie, which comes out in paperback in May. It’s a gripping, moving, and beautifully written novel; I was hooked on the first page. Even now, I have to hurry up and finish writing this question so that I can get back to it! For me, every book starts with a germ – it might be a news story, a poem, a photograph, in the case of Beautiful Lies it was a piece of junk mail. Then I start to hear a voice or voices that lead me through my narrative. Was there a germ for Every Last Lie? Or how does your process differ?

Mary Kubica: I adore the story about your first piece in The Riverdale Press, Lisa. Writing requires so much perseverance! The number of authors I’ve met who worked for years and endured much rejection before receiving that first Yes is huge; the number who found success after their first try is far more rare. It’s something for aspiring authors to always remember. But that initial struggle and rejection only makes it all the more worth it when you finally see your own name on a published piece, whether a book or a newspaper article. I’m so glad you never gave up!

Thank you for your wonderful words about Every Last Lie. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying it, and am so looking forward to the trade paperback release in May, which has had a cover makeover since the hardcover came out last year. I couldn’t be happier with the new design. The origins of Every Last Lie are a bit different than my other books, which usually begin with some concept my mind makes up that builds bit by bit on the page. But with this book, I was completely captivated by a newspaper headline I read, which said something to the effect of how a child’s dreams helped solve the mystery of her father’s death. I knew at once that I had to do something with it, and just like that, the story of Nick and Clara was born. I’m not a plotter, but prefer the spontaneity that comes from making my stories up as I go. There’s something very organic to me in writing this way; I need to get to know my characters before I can have a better understanding of where their story will go. This novel begins when Nick, a father of two, is killed in a car crash with his four-year-old daughter in the backseat. She’s remarkably fine, and the crash is simply ruled an accident, until four-year-old Maisie begins to have nightmares about a bad man in a car, following her father and her. Nick’s widow, Clara, sets off in search of his killer. It’s a whodunit as much as it is a story of grief, and coming to terms with how little we can ever know about those we’re closest to. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the rest of it!

Plotting or pantsing (aka flying by the seat of one’s pants) is a point of contention among authors. Some plot every detail out in advance, and others, like me, prefer to wing it. I’d love to know where you fall in this dichotomy, Lisa.

Lisa Unger: Story is life. I might be able to tell you what I plan to do with my day. But I can’t tell you what I did until after the sun has set. So it is with the writing of a novel. Each novel begins with a germ, then I’ll start to hear a character voice – or maybe multiple voices. And I follow those voices through my narrative. I don’t have an outline, just a nebulous sense of what the story is. I have no idea who will show up day to day, or what they will do. But I don’t think of it as “flying by the seat of my pants,” however. It’s more like – the story is there, and I just have to find it. It is utterly organic, with lots of ebbs and flows, but I’ve written every novel this way and can’t imagine doing it any other way. There’s no real debate here, of course, no right or wrong way (though some folks do seem intent on that type of thinking). Each writer has his or her own path into story; it’s a personal journey. It’s okay to do it your own way.

The germ for The Red Hunter, which comes out in paperback in May, settled in years ago. I was in my twenties and in a dark place in my life – I’d just come out of a terrible relationship, was in a job I didn’t love, and had let my dreams of being a writer lay fallow. During this time, I discovered the martial arts. I started studying Kung Fu, at a school in New York City. And over the course of a year, I was introduced to a whole new version of myself – someone stronger and more able than I would have believed myself to be.

Fast forward twenty years – I’m married to my wonderful husband, we have a beautiful child, I’ve published fourteen novels. I rediscover the martial arts (kickboxing this time) – and remember what it was like to be a fighter. That was the seed for Zoey, one of the women at the heart of The Red Hunter. She’s suffered a terrible trauma, and it’s the martial arts that introduces her to a stronger version of herself. She uses this new power to hunt down the people who wronged her. Meanwhile, Claudia is on a very different path after an event that shattered her perfect life. She’s a writer, a mother, struggling back to the light on a path of forgiveness. These two women, on two very different roads, find themselves in the same place – an isolated farmhouse, which has a dark past of its own. They’ll both have to face down their inner demons, and those banging down the door.

What a great chat, Mary! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom, your process, and your thoughts. I’m going back to reading Every Last Lie now, loving every page. I know readers are going to love hearing about your journey and your writing life. And it’s been such a pleasure for me to get to know you in this way, too!

Lisa Unger is the critically acclaimed and bestselling author of sixteen novels, including the forthcoming UNDER MY SKIN to be published by Park Row/HarperCollins in October 2018. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Travel + Leisure Magazine. Her novel IN THE BLOOD is now in development for television. Learn more about her at www.lisaunger.com.

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including THE GOOD GIRL, PRETTY BABY, DON’T YOU CRY and EVERY LAST LIE. A former high school history teacher, Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children, where she enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. For more about Mary, visit her at www.marykubica.com

The post Mary Kubica and Lisa Unger, in Conversation appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Sweet Sixteen – Cover Reveal for UNDER MY SKIN! https://lisaunger.com/2018/04/21/sweet-sixteen/ Sat, 21 Apr 2018 14:03:57 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=6357 I’m over the moon to share the gorgeous, spectacular cover for my new novel UNDER MY SKIN (Oct 2, 2018.) This feels like an auspicious year, as it marks my “sweet sixteen” as a novelist. Sixteen books published over the past sixteen years! In addition to the stellar cover, it’s always such a thrill when…

The post Sweet Sixteen – Cover Reveal for UNDER MY SKIN! appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
I’m over the moon to share the gorgeous, spectacular cover for my new novel UNDER MY SKIN (Oct 2, 2018.) This feels like an auspicious year, as it marks my “sweet sixteen” as a novelist. Sixteen books published over the past sixteen years!

Under My Skin

In addition to the stellar cover, it’s always such a thrill when writers I admire have kind words to say about my work. Here’s some early praise for UNDER MY SKIN:

“UNDER MY SKIN is a twisting labyrinth of a book where nothing is as it seems, dreams bleed into reality, and the past is the future. Lisa Unger is one of my favorite writers. And in this tilt-a-whirl of a psychological thriller, she’s at the top of her game.”
—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of LOOK FOR ME

“Lisa Unger’s deliciously intense and addictive thriller got under my skin. I picked it up, got drawn into this dark, tangled tale, and couldn’t pull away until it was done. Gripping suspense at it’s best, uniquely Unger.”
—Karin Slaughter, #1 Internationally bestselling author of THE GOOD DAUGHTER

“UNDER MY SKIN is a perfectly dark and unsettling, spellbinding thriller. Told with both eloquence and urgency, Unger knows just how to hook her readers and reel them in. This book is not to be missed.”
—Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL

Hmm…you may be saying to yourself: Don’t keep me in suspense! What’s the book about? To learn more and pre-order your copy today, CLICK HERE.  And stay tuned for more to come — including an excerpt, backstory, giveaways and tour dates.

I hope you are as excited about UNDER MY SKIN as I am. Thank you so much for your ongoing support and for reading! A writer is nothing without her readers.

The post Sweet Sixteen – Cover Reveal for UNDER MY SKIN! appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Sara Blaedel and Lisa Unger, in Conversation https://lisaunger.com/2018/02/06/sara-blaedel-in-conversation/ Tue, 06 Feb 2018 13:33:37 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5896 Sara Blaedel, Denmark’s Queen of Crime — sure. Super talented, internationally bestselling author of the crime series featuring the tough, smart, and all-too-human Louise Rick — yes! But more than any of that — she is a great spirit, a wonderful friend, and one of the people I am most happy to have in my…

The post Sara Blaedel and Lisa Unger, in Conversation appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Sara Blaedel, Denmark’s Queen of Crime — sure. Super talented, internationally bestselling author of the crime series featuring the tough, smart, and all-too-human Louise Rick — yes! But more than any of that — she is a great spirit, a wonderful friend, and one of the people I am most happy to have in my life. Let’s hang out with her a little while, shall we, and learn all about her latest spine-tingling novel, THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER.

Sara Blaedel and Lisa Unger, in Conversation

Lisa Unger: So, Ilka is living a modest, somewhat regimented life in Copenhagen when her orderly world is upended by some unexpected news. The father she never knew has died, and left her an inheritance. A funeral home. In Racine, Wisconsin, USA. Hmmm. For me, there’s almost always a germ, a moment when I get a little buzz of excitement — it might be something that I read or see, a line of poetry, even in one case, a piece of junk mail. If that seed finds fertile ground in my subconscious, I start hearing a voice, or voices and that is usually the beginning of a novel. Is that how it works for you? If so, what was the “germ” for THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER?

Sara Blaedel: Like yours, the seeds for my ideas, which grow and form and become the concepts for my books, are borne of everyday life. I hungrily read everything, and pay close, at times obsessive, attention to all aspects of the news, both local and international. Again, and again, I am struck by how much the truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes I am particularly captivated by a story that is ripped from the headlines; sometimes it’s a socio-political issue (like assisted suicide) that gets under my skin and consumes me. In the case of THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER, it was a family matter that took root in my mind, wouldn’t let go, and demanded to be brought to life.

It was after the deaths of my parents, one after the other tragically, that I first made contact and then connected with undertakers. I was a novice, and hadn’t the slightest understanding of what these heroic artisans and brilliant technicians really do. Whether preparing bodies for viewing and burials, helping loved ones to choose coffins and plan for the worst, most heart-wrenching days of their lives, or handling the arrangements for cremations, morticians carry heavy loads. Those who handled, with grace, sensitivity, and profound respect, my parents’ final send-off left me in awe and brimming with gratitude. I was moved and inspired, and it wasn’t long before I realized that undertakers would play a huge role in my next book. I was as surprised as my editor and publisher; I’d never seen this coming. It happened organically and with a great sense of urgency.

Have you founded any of your novels upon a deeply private and personal experience, and if so, did you find the writing process somehow different given your insular connection to the subject matter?

Lisa Unger: Ah, I’m so sorry, Sara. That must have been such a difficult time for you. I am always amazed by the people who stand on the portals of life — doctors, nurses, midwives, hospice workers, and undertakers. It’s so rarely discussed — but how important these people are, ushering us through the most difficult moments in our lives. Their work is so critical. I am glad that you found inspiration in the sad passing of your parents, even though it must have been so painful.

I completely understand, of course. I think that all of us who are writing authentically are drawing from the experiences of our lives. Even if it’s not an entire book, perhaps it’s a character, a scene, a setting. FRAGILE is probably my most personal novel, drawn from the dark inspiration that when I was 15 years old a girl I knew was abducted and murdered. This nightmare experience stayed with me but it was many, many years before I was ready to write about. It was as if I need to be a wife, a mother, a better writer to do the story justice. All my novels draw from an inner place; and there’s always a great sense of urgency, as you say. If I’m not connected to some element of the story — even if it’s just allegorically — I can’t write it.

I know your son is grown now. But how did motherhood affect your life as a writer? Do you feel like it made you a better writer? What where the challenges and how did you balance them early in your career?

Sara Blaedel: Oh my goodness, Lisa! What a nightmarish trauma for you to have lived through. All of the unthinkably dreadful things that happen, which permeate our news and both fictional and reality-based crime shows, they haunt and horrify us even as we don’t know the victims involved. It’s all so distressing and frightening, but sometimes it can seem surreal somehow; just too terrible to believe. I cannot imagine how terrorized you were- how unsafe you must have felt as a teen, when this person you knew vanished and was killed.

Your question is provocative and so insightful. Of course, when we write crime stories, which include so much loss and suffering and heinous and degraded acts committed, it is impossible not to personalize them. We live with these characters for so long (they reside in our heads and get under our skin). These are the children and friends and lovers of other characters; they are loved and matter, and when they are lost, they are missed and grieved for. As I wrote The Running Girl, my darkest fear became ever-present- losing Adam, my little boy. I tried to work through this anxiety, but returning to my writing each day made that a great challenge.

It was often difficult for me to leave the story behind after a day of working on it. Adam frequently asked me if I had killed anyone that day, and I knew the question was sparked by my moods. That he could sense I was affected or unable to shake things off. In general, when I execute a first draft, I tend to become so consumed that I am distracted from other, oftentimes important, things going on in my life. I am not proud to admit that I’ve forgotten things like appointments of events at school with Adam. Lisa, you are such a devoted and inspired mother; I cannot imagine you missing anything with your daughter.

That said, I do firmly believe that being a mother has made me a better writer. During this wonderful and enlightening journey of having a son, I have discovered new and deeper elements within myself- a greater capacity to love, and far more intense compassion and connectivity. All of which have informed the material I choose, and the way I explore and dive into it.

As a mother, are there subjects and details you won’t touch because they’re too sensitive, perhaps, or hit too close to home? Is there anything that you strictly relegate to an off-limits position because they’d cause panic within you, or a debilitating pain?

Lisa Unger: I know that you, too, are a wonderful and devoted mother. Your close relationship with your grown-up Adam is a testament to that. Of course, as a writer and a mother, there is always conflict within. Because the life of the writer and the life of the parent are both all-consuming creative enterprises. But I agree completely that motherhood can only make us more compassionate, more connected to the human condition, with a greater capacity to love. This must in turn take us to deeper places on the page.

Yours is such an interesting question, and it’s such an interesting time to be asking it. As the mother of a young girl, I must have so many conversations with her about dark and terrifying possibilities from which we’d all rather turn away. Maybe especially because of the things I experienced as a teenager, and what is happening in our culture right now, it’s important to me to have a dialogue with her. Teaching her how to protect her body, mind, and spirit from predators, from people who might wish to use or abuse her, is a painful but necessary thing. And I am a firm believer in open communication with our girls, in giving them the resources to defend and speak out, or yell and fight if necessary, to keep themselves safe. Monsters survive and thrive in the dark. It’s our duty as women to shine the light.

I used to think that there were places that I wouldn’t or couldn’t go with my fiction. But as I tend to write about the things that terrify me or confound me, things I’m trying to understand, I have found myself on some dark paths. The temptation is always to pull away – because some things, as you say, are too horrible to imagine. There’s been chatter online about an award The Guardian wants to give to crime fiction novels that don’t feature violence against women. And on the one hand, I understand this impulse; it’s a positive one. But on the other hand, I think: We’ll stop writing about these things when they stop happening. We’ll stop writing about violence, when we’re no longer terrified for ourselves and our girls. Fiction is where we metabolize the world, where we order chaos, where we dive into emotional truth. I’m not sure that silencing voices was ever the way to solve a problem. So, I suppose I’ll continue to follow my characters down dark paths, but always with the intention of bringing light there.

So, just like Ilka in THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER, you, too, have made a move to the US. Not to Racine, Wisconsin but to New York City. I know you are loving your new home away from home! What are the most striking differences between American and Danish culture? What do you miss most about home when you are here? And what do you miss about the US when you’re back in Denmark?

Sara Blaedel: I absolutely do love living in Manhattan, which is such an exciting, diverse, energetic, and fascinating city. It’s never dull here; that’s for sure. The idea that anything goes here just speaks to me. I’m drinking it all in, thrilling to every second of it. There are endless opportunities and varieties of nearly everything – fabulous museum exhibits, gallery showings, author readings and events, concerts, political demonstrations, women’s marches, shopping… This list goes on, but let’s not forget one that’s dear to my heart: the incredible food. I’m an eater, and an adventurous one at that. In New York City, right along with the fancy, highly reviewed, three, four, and five-star restaurants, are more modest-seeming places that serve up some of the most delectable ethnic dishes I’ve ever tasted. Then, of course, there are the scrumptious food trucks, where you can get lobster rolls on one corner, and empanadas on the next. I’ve only just begun testing my way through the treats here, but already have a few favorites: Asian-fusion and juicy, saucy chicken wings. Their counterparts in Denmark are small and dry.

I do miss my Danish favorites, most especially stegt flaesk, which is positively succulent roasted pork belly and potatoes, cooked in a creamy parsley sauce. Thinking about Danish smorrebred, an open sandwich on dark rye bread, makes my mouth water and leaves me ravenous. The very best dinner I’ve had in NYC so far was at the 2-star Michelin restaurant, Atera, which is the baby of Danish chef, Ronny Emborg. That tasty and satisfying meal transported me home.

I love living in the heart of publishing, which allows me to meet with my amazing team of superstars at Grand Central, as well as my incredible literary agent. I am overjoyed and profoundly grateful for the warm reception I’ve received from the crime fiction community. I find Americans to be more open and welcoming in general. In Denmark, people are more reserved at first, until they get to know you. Then, of course, they’re wonderful. But no one I’ve met on the street or in a shop in Denmark has ever called me “sweetheart,” “darling,” or “honey.” I love that! It’s so affectionate and intimate. It puts you at ease and brings a smile to your face.

On a socio-political note, the healthcare in Denmark is more protective and secure. People there don’t worry about the financial burdens of getting sick or medical emergencies. As I’ve dug into research for The Undertaker’s Daughter, which is set in Wisconsin, I’ve been intrigued by the vast differences in how the deceased are handled. In Denmark, there are no wakes or shivas; there are no ceremonies that are packed with mourners; no viewings of the late loved ones. I love how the Americans approach this aspect of death, which feels more sensitive and reverent for the grief-stricken survivors.

I miss my friends in Denmark, though it hasn’t been too difficult to convince them to come here to NYC to visit me. I do long for the quiet time spent in my Danish summer place, a beach house on the north coast. It is wonderful and lushly beautiful. I am crazy about my long walks along the shore. Walking up there, my very favorite place to start a new book, is what I miss the most about my homeland. So, as I dig in to begin writing now, that yearning is particularly intense.

When I am in Denmark, I miss the energy in New York City, and how everything is within walking distance. Whether you need dinner in a hurry, a late-night snack, or headache pills in the middle of the night, they’re all just around the corner. Everything has a close sensibility; I love that!

Lisa Unger: Wow — you just managed to make me hungry and homesick all at once! We’ve had a number of fabulous food experiences together, haven’t we? But my favorite with you has to be the jazz brunch at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans! Gumbo, fried oysters, bloody marys! Yes! This must be why we’re such great friends – we love to talk, and eat, and talk about eating!

Time to do it again, I think. I’m going to book a flight and come up to visit. Get ready!

Thank you, Sara, for sharing yourself with me. I’m reading your fabulous book right now. Lucky readers, it goes on sale today. Rush to your favorite bookseller and grab your copy. And for more about Sara, visit SaraBlaedel.com.

The post Sara Blaedel and Lisa Unger, in Conversation appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Hellbent https://lisaunger.com/2018/01/30/hellbent/ Tue, 30 Jan 2018 18:27:49 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5855 Lucky readers! HELLBENT by my bestie, New York Times bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz, is out today! Run, don’t walk to get your copy from your favorite bookseller. Gregg delivers an amazing thrill ride every single time he sits down and puts pen to paper. He’s one of the best! If you haven’t yet discovered his…

The post Hellbent appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Lucky readers! HELLBENT by my bestie, New York Times bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz, is out today! Run, don’t walk to get your copy from your favorite bookseller. Gregg delivers an amazing thrill ride every single time he sits down and puts pen to paper. He’s one of the best! If you haven’t yet discovered his bestselling Orphan X novels, you’re missing out.

Gregg Hurwitz Hellbent

The publication of HELLBENT is the perfect time for me to repost the conversation Gregg and I had for Keir Graff (Executive Editor of Booklist.) It’s definitely one of my favorites! Especially since we were supposed to argue, but we couldn’t find ANY topic on which we disagreed! So, Booklist let us do it our way. Instead of “You’re Doing It Wrong” our chat became “You’re Doing It Right.” Enjoy! And happy pub day, Greg!

The post Hellbent appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Alafair Burke and Lisa Unger, in Conversation https://lisaunger.com/2018/01/22/alafair-burke-conversation/ Mon, 22 Jan 2018 21:49:27 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5816 It’s probably true in all industries, but publishing seems especially a business of relationships. Even though authors don’t all work together in the same place, we do gather quite a bit at conferences and speaking engagements. And when you do this work for long enough, some of those authors with whom you share a stage…

The post Alafair Burke and Lisa Unger, in Conversation appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
It’s probably true in all industries, but publishing seems especially a business of relationships. Even though authors don’t all work together in the same place, we do gather quite a bit at conferences and speaking engagements. And when you do this work for long enough, some of those authors with whom you share a stage or a drink at the bar, become your friends.

So it is with New York Times bestselling and Edgar award-nominated author Alafair Burke. We met at a conference in Florida about ten years ago and we’ve been besties ever since. She’s an amazingly accomplished woman – a lawyer, a professor, a fantastic writer in her own right, and a co-author with the legendary Mary Higgins Clark. Above all, she’s a great friend.

In this installment of my world-famous (not really) pen pal series, Alafair and I chat a bit about her fantastic (really) new book THE WIFE.

Alafair Burke and Lisa Unger in Conversation

Lisa Unger: One of the elements I love about your books is how they always have this extraordinarily current feel, very present, modern, in touch with what’s happening in our world. And THE WIFE is really spot on with a cultural moment we’re experiencing. Knowing how far ahead of that curve this book was written — because we’re all usually done with a manuscript about a year before it hits the shelves — were you surprised by the extraordinary timing? This happened with your Edgar nominated THE EX, too, didn’t it?

Alafair Burke: Yeah, it’s a little weird how many times my books have collided with real events. Instead of ripped from the headlines, I wonder if the headlines follow me. With THE EX, a mass shooting served as a backdrop to the novel. Given the shocking rate of mass shootings in our country, I suppose it was inevitable that another one would occur around the time of the book’s release. But when I wrote THE WIFE, one of my concerns was that the entire topic— a beloved public figure, father, and husband accused of sexual misconduct—would be too unsavory, too icky at a basic level, for most readers. But it was the book I wanted to write, so I said screw it and wrote it. Now we’re all living in this moment of #MeToo — a so-called reckoning. It’s too soon to tell whether the world is really changing in front of us, or whether this will prove to be a cultural bubble that pops and floats away. But at this very moment at time, we seem at least willing to recognize that otherwise affable, even noble, men have a dark side that is unleashed behind closed doors. Now part of me is worried that people will think they know where the book’s going to take them based on all the stories in the news right now. But THE WIFE is a piece of fiction, about one fictional man and a wife who doesn’t know whom to believe when its his word against other women—women she’d be inclined to believe if they were accusing anyone other than her husband. I think people will be surprised where that story leads.

I don’t want to give away spoilers from either my books or yours, but there’s a shared element between both THE WIFE and THE RED HUNTER that involves living with the long-term consequences of rape. Did you wonder while you were writing whether your readers would be able to handle the subject material?

Lisa Unger: Well, if we think the headlines are following you, then we should probably make some adjustments. Maybe your next book should be about amazing women who broker world peace, or maybe Oprah becomes president!

You’re right. It’s too soon to tell whether this #MeToo moment is powerful enough to create any real change. The fact remains that as far as we have come, the world is still a dangerous place for women. And it’s a theme that comes up again and again in my work; it’s something with which all of us writing crime fiction are grappling, isn’t it? So, I didn’t really stop to think whether or not my readers could handle the subject matter in THE RED HUNTER. I tend to write from a very immediate place, asking and answering questions I have about people, about life, about the world, on the page. I follow character voice primarily; there’s no idea initially that I can accept or reject. I used to feel like certain things were off-limits, and that there were places I wouldn’t follow my characters. But now I feel like if it’s happening in the world, and it’s on my mind enough that my characters are dealing with it, I have a right to explore it on the page. I think it’s a big part of why we write about crime, and why people read about it — because we’re trying to understand. We’re trying to order the chaos we perceive around us. There’s a particular note of fear that the idea of rape strikes in us; and the long term consequences can be enormous. But maybe that means we need to write about it authentically, including all the layers, rather than turn away from it.

I love the multiple perspectives in THE WIFE, how we see Angela’s story, and Jason’s story, unfold through Angela’s eyes, through her mother’s, through Corinne’s. They each have an important perspective on how things unfold. All these women are very different, each struggling with her particular place in life, fighting certain battles, each strong in her own way. Was it your intent to reveal these different women and to say something about the various struggles they face? Or was it just a natural consequence of exploring character, of telling the story through different sets of eyes?

Alafair Burke: We’ve spoken before about process, and I know we both tend to find plot by exploring character. I know generally that some thing happens and then I try to think about the people affected by that. What do their lives look like in the weeks, months, and sometimes years after? What in the past brought them to that moment? By trying to look at each character’s world—past, present, and future—from that person’s perspective, somehow I manage to find a beginning, middle, and end to the story.

Sometimes I’m surprised by some of the themes that emerge without any conscious plan on my part. I knew that I wanted Angela Powell to be very aware of station. She still thinks of herself as the daughter of a handyman and housekeeper, keenly aware of the distinction between the locals on the east end of Long Island and the summer visitors who descend upon the Hamptons in the summer. In her mind, she’s still an outsider to the world occupied by Jason, her more educated and pampered husband. But the book allows the reader to see Angela for who she currently is, through the eyes of others. As introspective and self-aware as Angela perceives herself to be, I think most readers will be left with the impression that Angela — like many of us — has created and preserved a persona for herself that may not match the reality. So, as much as I think I learn about characters by trying to occupy their shoes, I learned a lot about Angela by looking at her from the perspective of other characters, especially Corrine’s when she’s investigating the claims against Angela’s husband.

I know how strongly you are led by your characters. Can you talk about a time when you learned something surprising about a character by looking at him or her from someone else’s eyes?

Lisa Unger: There’s certainly a lot more to Angela than meets the eye. We see fragments of her through various characters, even through the distorted lens of her own perspective, but we don’t truly know her until the very end of the book.

I have had that journey a number of times, especially since so many of my characters have skewed perspectives on reality and themselves because of trauma, addiction, and mental illness. I probably learned the most about Jones Cooper from his wife Maggie in FRAGILE. He presented as one thing when I first started hearing his voice, but evolved into someone totally different by the end. I think I learned the most about Lana Granger in IN THE BLOOD by virtue of another perspective which I can’t reveal without spoiling. I can say the same about my fictional town The Hollows, which feels more like a character than a place to me. It has been revealed to me in pieces over years and novels and short stories by the characters who live there and experience its many facets based on their perspectives and abilities. It’s different to everyone who knows it, much in the way people are to a certain extent; we extract different qualities and flaws from each other by the nature of our own qualities and flaws. As it is with The Hollows. For some it’s an idyllic getaway, to others a hometown they can’t quite escape, to still others, well, it’s a hell mouth.

THE WIFE is truly a rollercoaster ride of changing perspectives, and new information that alters the book from one page to the next. Beyond being totally gripping and twisty, I think you perfectly captured some of the questions, layers, fears, and risks about women coming forward after sexual assault. You brilliantly show all the reasons why women might (and do) stay silent, gloss over — even internally — violent encounters, or even find themselves apologizing and blaming themselves. But there’s another layer here, too: an awareness that there’s always more to people, marriages, and sexual encounters than might be immediately apparent, that in some cases the concept of consent is slippery and personal. (Which is not to say that there’s any question that rape is a crime, and no means no.) I like the question you pose at the beginning of Chapter 30: What does it mean to really know something? I see this as a major theme of the book. What do we really know about events inside and outside our lives, our most intimate relationships, and even ourselves? What did you want readers to take away from the way the story unfolds?

Alafair Burke: I think the book certainly plays with subjectivity. It’s so easy to say “he said-she said,” but what does that really mean? It’s not necessarily a swearing match. Even if you were in the room, different people can perceive and experience events in different ways. And one person’s own characterization of and reflection on a single event can change over time. There’s so much more I want to say, but it’s always tricky to find a way to talk about a book without spoiling it. I dream of an online book club among author friends and their readers, and no one tunes in until the book is read. I’m game for any ideas you have about how to make that work. Anyone reading this: Would you join in that venture? What’s the best way to make it work?

Lisa Unger: I think that’s a great idea! I’ll have to give that some thought. A website maybe, where there was an online chat every week and people could log in to the discussions? Maybe there could be a real world component, too – readers could sign up online, but occasionally when an author was on the road, local book groups could meet at The Poisoned Pen in Arizona, or Mysterious Bookshop in NYC. Maybe our readers will have an idea about how to do that.

I’m looking forward to continuing this chat at Inkwood Books in Tampa on Saturday, February 10 at 7 PM. I hope our local pals will all come out for a lively discussion, some treats, and a little bit of wine.  THE WIFE is on sale January 23, so get your book from Stefani at Inkwood Books now – so that we can really get in deep at the event!

The post Alafair Burke and Lisa Unger, in Conversation appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
IN THE BLOOD in Development as a TV Series! https://lisaunger.com/2018/01/08/in-the-blood-tv-series/ Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:38:06 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5789 IN THE BLOOD has been optioned by ITV Studios America and is being developed as a TV series adaptation by the stellar team of director Gary Fleder (Homefront, Runaway Jury, Kiss the Girls), writers Adam Targum (Banshee, The Dead Zone) and Chris Silber (NCIS: New Orleans), along with co-executive producer Mary Beth Basile (Life Unexpected)…

The post IN THE BLOOD in Development as a TV Series! appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
IN THE BLOOD has been optioned by ITV Studios America and is being developed as a TV series adaptation by the stellar team of director Gary Fleder (Homefront, Runaway Jury, Kiss the Girls), writers Adam Targum (Banshee, The Dead Zone) and Chris Silber (NCIS: New Orleans), along with co-executive producer Mary Beth Basile (Life Unexpected) — all incredibly talented. I am very excited and will keep you posted!

In the Blood in Development as a TV Series

The post IN THE BLOOD in Development as a TV Series! appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Two Sentence Horror Story https://lisaunger.com/2017/10/16/two-sentence-horror-story/ Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:09:09 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5741 I chase her over the crackling frozen lake and into the black winter forest, heart revving with effort, frigid air biting my skin. When I reach her, my hand closing over her pale dead wrist, the wind blowing her hair around her like dull fire, she slowly turns and the face I see is my…

The post Two Sentence Horror Story appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
I chase her over the crackling frozen lake and into the black winter forest, heart revving with effort, frigid air biting my skin. When I reach her, my hand closing over her pale dead wrist, the wind blowing her hair around her like dull fire, she slowly turns and the face I see is my own.

Two Sentence Horror Story on Goodreads

A very short story by Lisa Unger for #HorrorWeek on Goodreads.

The post Two Sentence Horror Story appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Hurricane Relief – Top Thriller Writers Contribute a Flurry of Books! https://lisaunger.com/2017/09/26/hurricane-relief-thriller-authors/ https://lisaunger.com/2017/09/26/hurricane-relief-thriller-authors/#comments Tue, 26 Sep 2017 18:02:05 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5695 Hurricane Relief – Top Thriller Writers Contribute a Flurry of Books! It’s no joke, of course. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have done deadly damage in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. We in the Tampa Bay area were braced for a direct hit when the storm shifted and we were spared the worst of it.…

The post Hurricane Relief – Top Thriller Writers Contribute a Flurry of Books! appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
Hurricane Relief – Top Thriller Writers Contribute a Flurry of Books!

It’s no joke, of course. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have done deadly damage in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. We in the Tampa Bay area were braced for a direct hit when the storm shifted and we were spared the worst of it. My family and I evacuated, we were without power for a few days, but otherwise very lucky. Knowing that others were not so fortunate, I started thinking about what I might do to help.

So I reached out to a bunch of my author pals!  I have had the pleasure of getting to know these wonderful authors over the years, so I knew that each and every one of them would help. And they did. Because of their generosity, I have amassed an amazing library of books from some of today’s top thriller writers. This is truly a stellar collection of signed hardcovers from Lisa Gardner, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Karin Slaughter, Alafair Burke, Gregg Hurwitz, Ace Atkins, Harlan Coben, Sara Blaedel, Kate White, Heather Gudenkauf, Mary Kubica, Lori Roy, Wendy Walker, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Craig Pittman. Wow!

Reader pal, I KNOW you want this INSANE collection because you are a crazed book lover like me. Not just a reader, but a lover of gorgeous, signed hardcover books on your shelf — minimalism be damned! Oh, they are shiny, colorful, beautiful and they have that wonderful new book smell. What a prize!

Hurricane Relief - Top Thriller Authors. Lisa Unger, Karin Slaughter, Gregg Hurwitz, Lisa Gardner, Heather Gudenkauf, Mary Kubica, Ace Atkins, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Tess Gerritsen, Alafair Burke, Sara Blaedel, Kate White, Lori Roy, Wendy Walker and Craig Pittman

For your chance to win this entire collection:

1) Donate at least $10 to one of these organizations:

Feeding South Florida
Houston Food Bank
Unidos por Puerto Rico

2) Send your online receipt to lisa@lisaunger.com

3) That’s it! You’re entered to win! If you donate to one, you’ll be entered once. If two, twice. If three, well, thrice!

I’ll be running this giveaway for a full week, starting today. And I’ll announce the lucky winner of the drawing on Tuesday, October 3rd.

The good news is that even if you don’t WIN, you STILL WIN. Your donation will help someone who is struggling. Because the thing about storms like these is that it’s a huge news event before — all big red graphics and media generated panic. And then everyone not affected goes on with their lives. But people lose their homes, their jobs in disasters like these. Those with the most tenuous holds on their lives can fall really far behind. These organizations help folks get back on their feet.

So please give what you can! And good luck!

Thanks for reading,
Lisa Unger

The post Hurricane Relief – Top Thriller Writers Contribute a Flurry of Books! appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
https://lisaunger.com/2017/09/26/hurricane-relief-thriller-authors/feed/ 1
Big Cypress – The Heart of Swampness https://lisaunger.com/2017/08/26/big-cypress-heart-of-swampness/ Sat, 26 Aug 2017 17:58:03 +0000 https://lisaunger.com/?p=5679 How an art gallery trip turned into an unexpected walk through real Florida—magical, wild, peaceful Big Cypress—and changed a writer forever “Moonrise” by Clyde Butcher In 2004, hurricanes savaged the Gulf Coast. Charley, Frances and Ivan cut deadly swaths across Florida. Though the roof of our 1968 house on the Intracoastal had been mauled and…

The post Big Cypress – The Heart of Swampness appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>
How an art gallery trip turned into an unexpected walk through real Florida—magical, wild, peaceful Big Cypress—and changed a writer forever

"Moonrise" by Clyde Butcher

“Moonrise” by Clyde Butcher

In 2004, hurricanes savaged the Gulf Coast. Charley, Frances and Ivan cut deadly swaths across Florida. Though the roof of our 1968 house on the Intracoastal had been mauled and we were evacuated from our home twice that year, our community in Clearwater Beach was mainly safe. My husband Jeff and I were relatively new to the area, Northerners transplanted respectively from Detroit and New York City. We’d both had our ideas of what Florida was when we moved here—sundrenched, awash in margaritas, set to a Jimmy Buffett soundtrack. But I remember that season as the year the real Florida introduced itself, awing us with the raw power and force of storms that bent trees, lifted houses and left gigantic highway signs crumpled on the side of the road like discarded tissue.

Later that same year, Jeff and I spent a weekend in South Beach—eating, dancing, lazing on the beach. We were headed home on Old Tamiami Trail when we remembered our friend Jeff Klinkenberg, iconic Florida writer, telling us about Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery, nestled in the heart of the Everglades. We’d long been fans of Butcher’s stunning black-and-white images, so we were eager to drop by—our only intention was to buy some art and maybe meet the artist, who was often there. We were somewhat foggy-headed from our debauched weekend, which might account for what happened next.

The only things you expect to find in the shoulder of Old Tamiami Trail are alligators sunning themselves. So, we were surprised to find the area around Butcher’s isolated property lined with parked cars. The day was blue and hot, and towering cumulus clouds piled in the sky like mountains. We parked in the shoulder and walked the distance to the gallery.

My memory of how things unfolded is spotty, as is often true with extreme experiences. We’d stopped at a gallery to buy art, a very civilized and in-character thing for me to do. I suspect it was my husband, adrenaline junkie and adventure traveler, who steered the experience. The next thing I knew, we were signing up to take a “swamp tour”—Clyde Butcher’s Swamp Walk, a two-hour trek through a “rare dwarf cypress prairie and exotic cypress strand.” Just weeks earlier, I’d watched Adaptation—where Meryl Streep’s character wades through the Fakahatchee Strand looking for the rare and elusive Ghost Orchid—and now I thought, what kind of a stupid maniac walks through the Everglades?

But there I was, locking my keys and cell phone in a locker provided by the staff “so nothing got wet.” Why would anything get
wet on a trail? Are there trails? An airboat? I wondered, as the guide began wading into the swamp water and we all followed.

A group of Swamp Walkers getting enlightened in the Big Cypress National Preserve; Photography by Niki Butcher

A group of Swamp Walkers getting enlightened in the Big Cypress National Preserve; photography by Niki Butcher

I was wearing a pair of Nike athletic pants and sneakers, in case you are curious. No waders, or rubber boots. My husband was wearing shorts and sandals. The phrase “wildly unprepared” comes to mind. Yes, there was a moment of panic: “Oh my goodness! What are we doing?” But as we moved into the crystal-clear water of what Marjory Stoneman Douglas called “a river of grass,” a deep sense of peace and awe settled me. The stunning blue of the sky, the feel of the moss bed beneath my feet, the towering cypresses, and the hush of an ancient and sacred place washed over me.

“What about alligators? Snakes?” one timid spirit in our group asked our knowledgeable guide. “Honestly,” he said, “it’s so quiet here normally that when the crowds descend, everything mainly scatters. But watch out for those alligator flags.” He pointed to a gathering of broad green leaves that did indeed peek up from the water like flags. “That’s a nest where the gators sleep. You don’t want to step on that.”

Clyde Butcher is a passionate environmentalist; his photographs of Florida’s wild places speak to his fierce love for the delicate and endangered environment of this often-misunderstood place. His swamp walks are intended to share his magical home, so that others might be inspired to respect and preserve it as well. Certainly, because I did a thing I would never have imagined, I came to know the Everglades in a way I never had before.

Water, which I always imagine as dark and thick, was as clear and clean there as anything that might come from a tap. The Everglades truly is a river, whose water is filtered by the fast-growing sawgrass. A place I’d always thought of as frightening and dangerous was one of the most peaceful and inspiring I’d visited. A two-million-acre wetland ecosystem that reaches south, from central Florida to the Florida Bay, the Everglades is home to the endangered Florida panther, more than 350 species of birds, a great diversity of plants and trees—including cypress, mangrove, pine, hardwoods and orchids, among others—and yes, American alligators and crocodiles. In Everglades National Park alone, there are over 27 species of snakes. Surrounded by Florida’s burgeoning developed areas, the Park is the wild, beating heart of our state.

After two hours that felt like minutes, I returned to dry land with a changed idea about Florida and about the Everglades, more respectful than ever of its feral beauty. We did make it to the gallery and bought a photograph entitled “Moonrise” from Butcher’s Everglades collection of Big Cypress National Preserve—one of our most treasured art pieces. We met Clyde Butcher, and he signed our photo. Every time I look at it, I think back on that day when, bathed in silence, wading through cool water, staring up at the cypress trees and those piles of clouds, I understood Florida for the very  first time.

I don’t remember which fabulous South Beach restaurants or hot dance clubs we visited, or which opulent hotel we stayed at that weekend. (No, it wasn’t that debauched!) Those details are lost in a blur of many other weekends just like that.

But the two hours in the Everglades stay with me: the tranquility, the sound of my breath, the cool water. It was an experience unlike any other, in a place unlike any other. Prior to that day, the word “swamp” suggested a dark and murky place, something filled with dangers. I know the swamp now as something mystical, possessing an almost sacred beauty, a place to be cherished and protected.

I come from a place where humans rule, industry dominates, and nature gets beaten back as skyscrapers reach for the clouds. A city is awe-inspiring to be sure, a testament to what people can do. But Big Cypress, like the hurricanes that ravaged Florida that year, reminds us that although the things we make will crumble and fall, this wild place will remain.

*Original article appeared in the July 2017 issue of Flamingo Magazine.

The post Big Cypress – The Heart of Swampness appeared first on Lisa Unger.

]]>