Episode 42: A Time to Thrill – Conversation with Aime Austin – featuring Sara E Johnson

December 01, 2023 01:30:54
Episode 42: A Time to Thrill – Conversation with Aime Austin – featuring Sara E Johnson
A Time to Thrill - Conversation with Aime Austin Crime Fiction Author
Episode 42: A Time to Thrill – Conversation with Aime Austin – featuring Sara E Johnson

Dec 01 2023 | 01:30:54

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Hosted By

Aime Austin

Show Notes

Retired educator and author Sara E. Johnson is this month's guest. A long-time Durham, North Carolina resident, Johnson took a year off to live and travel in New Zealand. It inspired her Alexa Glock series. She published her first book at sixty and with six books slated in the series, her forensic odontologist protagonist is still going strong. Let's chat. I have *so* many questions. You can find Sara: Instagram: @sarajohnsonwrites Facebook: Sarah Johnson, author Website: sarajohnsonauthor.com Show Notes: book, writers and experts we discuss: Podcasts: In the Dark Books & Writings: The Bones Remember by Sara E Johnson "The Snowshoe Hare," Mary Oliver, poet C.J. Box Elly Griffiths Jaws by Peter Benchley I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb The Shipping News by Annie Proulx Kathy Reichs (Temperance Brennen series) Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch series) Johnathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware series) Heidi Eldridge, Director of Crime Scene Investigations, George Washington University Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Hi, and welcome to a time to Thrill. It's me, your host, amy Austin. It is December and I have the best chat for you today. On this episode, I am interviewing crime and mystery author Sarah E. Johnson. What is so fascinating about this is that even with the proliferation of television shows about forensics CSI anyone? There haven't been a lot of books that sort of delve into the forensic realm. I mean, there's Kathy Reichs and Bones and that whole thing. So I'm not saying none, but it's not as popular as say, police procedurals or illegal thrillers or cozy mysteries or many different people who solve crimes. And so this Alexa Glock is the first protagonist I have ever read who is a forensic audentologist. And let me tell you how many times I had to practice saying that. Try saying it ten times. It's really, really hard. I'm standing in my kitchen for hours going forensic audiologist so I don't mess it up. But it's something I've encountered watching crime shows. Mainly. Actually, the only crime show I really watch consistently is Law and Order SVU. And so when a body gets past the point of easy identification, teeth are one of the go to methods of possible identification of remains. And so it's fascinating because, well, so many reasons you really gotta tune into this interview. First of all, Sarah, I started writing later in life. I mean, I know writers from all ends of the gambit, but I do own a lot of writers who started writing in their twenty s and thirty s. And so by the time they reach my age, have written, I don't know, 5100 books and have been in the game for a long time. So Sarah started writing, you'll hear this rather not started writing, published her first book at 60. And that's fascinating. So this is like a full on second career. The other thing that is so interesting about this interview is that she spent a year, as you all hear, in New Zealand, and the series that she's writing takes place in New Zealand. And the pandemic is a problem because I've always wanted to visit New Zealand and Australia, and I was going to in 2020, when I was going to do all these other things like everybody did, and I was actually going to do it earlier this year and I just couldn't. I overdid it. I'm going to be honest. In 2022, I overdid it. I'm in Panama, I'm in Iceland, I'm in Germany, I'm like here and there and all these places. I was probably like in ten countries. And as much as I like to travel, it was a little exhausting. I mean, I really overdid it. And I actually overdid it this year. Like, at some point I was in Glasgow and I was like, I'm literally tired. It's not that I enjoy going to Scotland, it's been so many years. Or enjoyed spending time in Belgium or wherever. It's just that after sitting still for so long, I was like, God, I go everywhere. I'm only getting older, my bucket list is not getting any shorter, and I need to travel. So that said, who knows what I'll do in 2024. That's around the corner and we'll see. Right now I got a plane ticket back to La from Hungary, and that's as far as I've gotten plane ticket wise. No. Oh, I take it back. I'm supposed to be in Machu Picchu. After that, we'll see. Okay. Too much so. I don't know when australia and New Zealand, maybe 2025. Maybe that'll be my spring break 2025 plan. I think I'm going to do that. That said, she spent a year in New Zealand. And what I have found from spending a long period of time somewhere is that you learn so many things about a culture that you wouldn't otherwise pick up in a week or two of like a regular vacation. And it is fascinating. And one of the things I wish I talked to her about but came up in an interview with author Tamara Gill, who lives there, is I find the accent fascinating, first of all. But in another sense, my son and I talk about this. They use words that we would consider old fashioned, but they still use all the time. And I have so many thoughts about how English language changes or begins to differentiate even in the few hundred years that since colonization. So anyway, that's to me, fascinating. Anyway, it's such a great interview, such a great conversation. We talk about forensics, writing process, so many things travel, and I can't wait to share it with you. So without further ado, crime author Sarah E. Johnson. Hi, and welcome to a time to Thrill. This is me, your host, Amy Austin. This month I am interviewing author Sarah Johnson. Hello, Sarah. [00:05:58] Speaker B: Hi, Amy. [00:05:59] Speaker A: How are you? [00:06:00] Speaker B: I'm great here in North Carolina. Hope you're doing well. Oh, our weather is wonderful. It's finally the heat is gone and it's between 60 and 70 degrees. [00:06:14] Speaker A: That sounds delightful. I will say this. Well, I'm sure you have noticed that, because you would notice this. It's like being in California, but the number of people who have moved there in the last, I don't know, ten years seems to me so high. Yeah. [00:06:32] Speaker B: We're having, I think, a big suck from the super cities coming, smaller towns. Like, I wouldn't say Durham is small, but it's certainly a more affordable place to live than New York City or San Francisco and a cool place to live. It's great. [00:06:50] Speaker A: I don't know, maybe I didn't see it coming. So I have a friend who lives there, but she moved there. She used to work for IBM, and so she bought a house, got married, stayed. So she was the one. I mean, we went to school together. Not there. She was the one. But then every so often somebody's like, I'm moving, I'm moving, I'm moving. And I know two writers who've moved even in the last year. And then I looked up the population, I was like, oh my God. It's just, it was it was surprising for me. I don't didn't I didn't see it coming because that's not what people crazy. [00:07:32] Speaker B: Number of big apartments in downtown Durham. And they're expensive, we looked into them and they're small and very expensive, but they're filling up. [00:07:42] Speaker A: I know, and I saw that. That's what I saw. I saw it somewhere and I was like, somebody sent me a picture and I was like, am I seeing what I think I'm seeing? Or indeed, that's not my experience. The last time I was North Carolina, I woke oh my God, I was probably ten. So that's never good. It's a great place, but that was my grandparents. But it's just that it's so different, the growth patterns. It's not all Colorado or Texas. People are really moving there, but what do I know? So how long have you lived there? [00:08:21] Speaker B: I have been in the south since I was 13. [00:08:25] Speaker A: Oh, okay. Where are you from? [00:08:27] Speaker B: New Jersey originally. [00:08:29] Speaker A: Oh my gosh. Wait, so you moved at 13? So how do you have an accent? [00:08:34] Speaker B: Oh, do I. [00:08:38] Speaker A: Know an author? I have an author friend from New Jersey who lives in Oklahoma. She met me, but when I talked to her the first time I was like, oh, you're from New Jersey. [00:08:49] Speaker B: I get know, when we moved when I was a kid, everybody's like, where's your Jersey accent? We were from South Jersey, so my accent wasn't as strong enough as people wanted it to be. [00:09:03] Speaker A: That's hilarious. I'm born and raised in New York City and I don't have an accent. [00:09:06] Speaker B: That I don't it's very neutral. It's lovely and neutral. [00:09:11] Speaker A: My parents had very strong feelings about that. It's just random. So I got the book that not the book, the book that you sent, I had a chance to read. And so I want to ask why New Zealand? It's a fascinating place. I was going to go in the spring, but I just couldn't get it together. And maybe like in a year or two, I'll go to visit friends that I haven't seen since the but, and they usually fly here because people from down there tend to fly out a lot more. But what possessed you? Why New Zealand? [00:09:53] Speaker B: Yeah, so when my husband retired and I was still working as a middle school reading specialist, I was kind of grumpy driving off to work every day, and he had retired, and after about a year of this, he said, how would you like to take a year off and go live in New Zealand? And my youngest child was a sophomore in college and I'm like, twist my arm. So somehow we made it happen. We rented our house out and we rented a house in Christchurch, New Zealand. And immediately we're all big readers, and immediately we subscribed to a newspaper. And the first day this is hilarious, Amy, the first day, there was this big ass storm and like 70 miles per hour winds, and we're like, is this normal New Zealand weather or is this something unusual? And the headlines the next day, true, straight from the headlines were By Crikey. It was windy, and I'm like, okay, I got to love a place that has By Crikey in the headline. But next day the headline was gripping. It was. Chances of finding tourists alive? Very remote. And this young Canadian couple had rented a camper van. And during that storm, they were driving over one of the southern ELP passes in New Zealand. And this is really jagged, remote sections, and they disappeared. The chassis of their van was found draped over a boulder in a river gorge 80 meters down. Her body was found a week later, and his femur was found three years later. And it just planted I mean, it was a really sad story, but it planted this seed in my mind that people can disappear in New Zealand, they can up, and my books are very driven by setting, and it just seemed like everywhere we went were perfect places to kill someone. I didn't start writing the books till we got home, but I started collecting information and I started paying real close attention to what was happening around me and the way people were disappearing in these remote, beautiful areas. So that was the idea for a series set in New Zealand. [00:12:26] Speaker A: So I have a question because okay, how can I say this? I have a 13 year old son who loves geography, loves it, and there's a show we watch, which I will spare you the details about that. Basically, people play tag across various parts of the world, and last year's season was New Zealand. And well, obviously I know very little. I mean, I have one friend who lives in New Zealand, but I obviously know very little about it. And I did not even know about the ferry from the North Island to the South Island. I don't know how I thought people got from one to the other, but I don't think I ever thought about it. [00:13:06] Speaker B: I mean, I don't think I even knew there were two islands know I was going to go live there, right? [00:13:12] Speaker A: But what I didn't know until I started reading a book was that there was like a third island. Well, obviously I just never thought about it. And it sounds so okay. I'm never going shark diving, and I'm not that interested in hunting or camping in really remote areas. However, there are many humans who enjoy that. But have you been to that? Oh, my God, that southern island. [00:13:43] Speaker B: Yes. The name of that southern island is we lived a life in New Zealand. We joined a gym. We both had volunteer jobs went to a know. So we lived a life, but we did a lot of traveling. And one day my husband says we were planning a trip to Stewart Island and he said, well, would you like to go shark cage diving while we're there? And I'm like, what shark cage diving? And it just turns out that Stewart island is a mecca for great white sharks. They migrate there, they're there about six months of the year. And there was this shark caging industry that had popped up recently and it was really causing tension in the town. It's a large island, but one thing I love about it is there's only like 16 miles of road in this whole island. I know, don't you just love that? And the rest of it is a national park and there's 200 people that live there year round. And these outsiders came in and started these shark cage diving industries and attracting a lot of tourists, making a lot of money. Some of the locals, of course, benefited with restaurants and hotels, but a lot of the locals are fishermen. Yeah, they were saying they were seeing great white sharks in places they had never seen them before. They were coming closer to shore and they weren't letting their children swim though. Amy I don't know why anybody would swim because the water is freezing, but the Kiwis are such a hardy bunch. So anyway, they didn't let their kids go swimming or out in small boats anymore. And so there was this real tension going on while we were there between the locals that were against shark cage diving and the shark cage divers. So I thought, oh wow, that's just ripe for a plot, for a book. So that was really fun. By the way, when my husband found out how much shark cage diving costs, we went birding instead. I know it would have been fine, I would have done it. It's not that I didn't want to do it because I was scared something would happen to me. It's actually more dangerous for the sharks who not often, but sometimes get caught hurt ramming their heads into the bars trying to get the dangling fish or the chum. But I just kind of felt like that was their world and I should stay out of it, was my feeling. [00:16:31] Speaker A: Yeah. I will say this well, I'm sure you're aware of like the submarine, I don't want to call it, what did they call it, submersible tragedy that happened some months ago. And previous to that, I have done a submarine thing when I was in Hawaii, not as deep as the Titanic, it was just to get to the bottom of the ocean. I'm going to tell you, it made me kind of nauseous. It wasn't the most enjoyable experience, but it was fascinating because I've never seen the bottom of the ocean beyond like a few feet from the beach or in the Caribbean where you can see slightly farther out because the water is clear and warm. But I always have mixed feelings about well, I don't want to call it adventure tourism, as it were. [00:17:19] Speaker B: Exactly. [00:17:19] Speaker A: Because 50% is like, oh, my God, this is so amazing. I have to go see it. And I will say this. I mean, I went to Iceland and I went in the glaciers, which I still have mixed feelings about, but I wanted to see it greater than I felt. I was inflicting too much on the country. But it's that tension. I don't know. And I have feelings about it, especially in both like Iceland and Cuba, where yeah, it's just especially in Iceland, I think they have like 300,000 local residents. They have like a million visitors a year. [00:17:53] Speaker B: Right. [00:17:54] Speaker A: And you're like, is that really a good idea? But also it was the most amazing not the most, but like one of the most amazing places I've ever seen. And I do strongly believe in people having travel and experiencing all sorts of other things in the world other than your backyard. But then there's always going to be that intention because you're I don't see impinging or infringing upon people's regular everyday livelihood. [00:18:23] Speaker B: That's right. And on nature itself. I have not done a glacier tour, and the book I'm writing now, book six in the Alexa Glock series, starts where a glacier is retreating in New Zealand and bones are found, and I'm like, oh, I wish I had taken a helicopter and gone on a glacier. But then you realize how bad that is for the environment. But the glaciers aren't going to be there much longer, and I really want to see them. So there's this tug of war that you play with yourself that I think is going to become even a bigger tug of war as climate change progresses. [00:19:04] Speaker A: Yeah, no, it was huge. I know that in my lifetime, it's possible there will be no glaciers. So I really wanted to see it, but of course, me seeing the glacier hastens the demise of glaciers, but I don't was and the same for a friend of mine. We had this conversation because she went to Alaska at about the same time, and we were discussing it, but we really wanted to see it. But also it's so hard. [00:19:32] Speaker B: Yeah. And then you think of your son and you want him to be able to see these things, and it's tricky. We're all grappling with it. [00:19:40] Speaker A: Yeah, it really is. As I was reading the book okay, so the shark cage diving notwithstanding, what do you think? Okay, so when you went birding, how far in did you go in the book? They're like, in the bush. I'm just like, yeah, this is never going to go well. [00:20:01] Speaker B: But as a reader yeah, no, the birding was pretty tame. We weren't going to get lost or anything. But I will say that the birding was on an island off of Stewart Island so we had to take a boat to get there. It's called Olva Island and they're working to make it predator free from the introduced species that are decimating their birds. And we were with a lady who know just crazy about birds and it was infectious. And New Zealand has this is so interesting if some of the listeners don't know this about New Zealand but there are no indigenous land mammals in New Zealand. [00:20:44] Speaker A: Yes, amazing. I think about so my son and I talk about that because Iceland has a similar not exactly the same, but a similar sort of thing. So it was sort of interesting being there. I was there maybe like a little less than a year ago. God, the time flies. And it was OD because there were so few mammals. I mean, because obviously where it is, but also so few birds. And I guess the birds are summer things. And I was there, I wanted to see the Northern lights, which I did. [00:21:14] Speaker B: Not see too bad. [00:21:17] Speaker A: But it's weird to be some okay. Most places on Earth when I go, they're like 95% similar to where I am. And 5% oh, this is oh, my God, this but though, that idea without that, I think is fascinating. And I often wonder not that I wonder, I mean, I've looked it up, how things like that happen and then with the introduction, then you have the other problem. So, like, even in Los Angeles, there's an island called Catalina where they introduced wild boars and among other things and then they just proliferate because they have no natural predators. [00:21:57] Speaker B: Right. [00:21:57] Speaker A: And then they become the problem in New Zealand. [00:22:01] Speaker B: Exactly. A lot of their birds develop because there was no mammals that were feeding on them. They develop wingless. They can't fly away. So now that they have introduced animals like stoats and rats and possums it's just decimating their special birds. Not just special birds, but all their birds, but especially the ones that can't fly like the kiwi that everybody knows about. [00:22:25] Speaker A: No, but it reminds me also of Hawaii which is similar in the way I mean, that volcanic sort of thing where they rise up and then things develop but not in the way that the huge land masses like North America or South America, Europe develop. And it's actually quite fascinating. And it always feels to me like that makes the places more foreign in the sense that they just have a whole different thing going. I have known other authors who have done this. I know one who lived in Northern California rented out her house and traveled around the world for a year with small children which I don't know if I would have done that. [00:23:07] Speaker B: Oh, man. [00:23:08] Speaker A: But she's not the only one. I mean, I know more than one person who's done it. And the children, I think, at the end of the day, are better for it. Because it becomes this fascinating sort of look into all these places that you would normally spend, let's say a week at a time. [00:23:22] Speaker B: Right. Such an education for them. [00:23:25] Speaker A: Right. But spending months so having spent a year there, do you think you got a good sense of the culture? [00:23:35] Speaker B: Oh, sure. I really do. We made friends as we were there. The Kiwis are just such a hearty bunch. One of the things that really stuck with me is like, there was no Halloween celebration and at Christmas maybe a few people had lights up. It was not as over the top as America is. And that was refreshing. I found that really refreshing. Everything was more low key, everything is more modest. I did not see any McMansions and it was just a more modest kind of reminds me of American the 50s or something. No, that was a lot of fun. [00:24:22] Speaker A: It's actually fascinating. So you don't need all this information. But I've been taking a break from writing because I think I'm burned out after 28 books finally hit me. That was burned out for that. And I also do not take in a lot of pop culture, which I'm struggling with as a writer, because I realize that my references are pretty dated and I'm trying to I'm not saying. [00:24:47] Speaker B: Right, that I agree with that, but I know what you're talking about. I have to go to my grandkids for that. [00:24:53] Speaker A: Yeah, trust me. I mentioned Stalin and I had asked three people would they get a Stalin esque reference? And then I was talking to somebody yesterday and I always make references to The Wizard of Oz. And I thought, oh, I think I may need to retire those. But I've been watching HGTV because people have been telling me for years I should watch these House Hunter shows because I do love to look for a house. And what is fascinating to me and I'm trying to figure it out because most people don't move all the time. So I don't talk to people about houses very often, but I'm watching these shows and people are like, I can't live without four bathrooms or 5000. I'm thinking, oh my God, I totally didn't grow up like this. And then in Europe the spaces are basically eight people living in seven or 800 sqft with children. And I think yes. So I just don't know how I have so many questions as to how we as a society, at least in America, have this belief that we need so much space or so much stuff or whatever it is. When I travel, people are living with so much less stuff and space. And even a friend of mine, we had breakfast a few weeks ago and she spent a year speaking of which, she took a year off and went to Bali with her family. And she was like, I don't understand why I have all this stuff in La. Because we lived for a year, really happily, without all the stuff. [00:26:22] Speaker B: Isn't that interesting? And I think if you don't have the experience of traveling, you can't see that. [00:26:31] Speaker A: Yes, I think, yes, because you need to get outside of it for a period of time to see it. It's one of the things it's actually like the thing in my brain I can't sort out, because when I'm not in La. I don't have all of my stuff. Well, I have some stuff, but not all of this stuff, and I don't think about it. And then the minute I come back, I'm like, on Amazon Prime ordering, I'm like, who is like, I don't understand how I can go months without it, without a thought. And then I come back and I'm like, oh, you know what I need. [00:27:01] Speaker B: No, I know exactly what you mean. I was just reading I'm rereading some Mary Oliver poems, and one of the poems that I read this morning was I don't know, she was out. Maybe it was called the Snow Hair or something like that. And the beauty of the river and the rocks. And then, you know, the last two lines know, why do we need so many things? Why do we need power and why do we need things? And I think people can get away from it if they can get out in nature, even without traveling. [00:27:29] Speaker A: I do think that's true. [00:27:30] Speaker B: That's important for us. [00:27:32] Speaker A: I do. I think that's so true. Yeah, I think about it often, but I obviously have too much time to think. So all that said, what made you decide to sit down and write these books? Because it's such a specific okay, well, I'd have to ask a couple of other questions, but well, it's such a specific genre niche. It's not as if you're like, I'm going to write the great American novel about coming of age, or I don't know, those kinds of very general, broad things. And a lot of writers, I know, sort of start broad and get narrow. But I feel like you started narrow, which, by the way, career wise, great idea. [00:28:15] Speaker B: Well, I thought I had, like you say, a niche. I thought people were interested in New Zealand, and then I thought Alexa specialty Forensic odontology was fascinating. So I thought both of those things would attract readers, and it turned out they did. But I was 60 years old when my first book came out, and like you, I have always been a huge reader. And when we got back from New Zealand, I did not go back to work full time. I went back to work part time. I was a journalism major in college, and I had written for some magazines and newspapers, but it was just the right time, always huge. Maybe 50% of what I read was mystery, and it was just the time in my life where the forces came together and I sat down and did it. And I never said to myself, oh, you can't do that. I just did it. And maybe you do the same thing. But the thing that helped me the most with my writing was joining a writer's group where I was accountable for ten pages each week and listening to other writers pages, and I just did it. And it took me a year to write the book. It took me a year to find an agent and a couple of months after that before it was bought. But I just did it. [00:29:40] Speaker A: Yeah. No, joining a writer's group is how I finished my first book, and it took me a lot longer than a year. I just couldn't. Thing is, I've read so many books, but putting together a book is sort of like, to me, like putting together a puzzle, at least in my brain. And I was like, I'm not getting the pieces. I'm missing the edges or whatever. And joining the writers group just gave me the discipline. I mean, every week it was good to show up, and I was like, okay, well, if I don't it was called Finish the Damn Book. The group, it was great. We had all started, but not finished. Let's just say that. And so I will be forever grateful because I finished the damn book, because it felt daunting, but it got done, and life moves on. Okay, so I have two questions. Let me start with the first one. Okay. What did you read growing up or, like, all the years before you started writing? [00:30:42] Speaker B: Everything. I'm like you. I read everything. I just read everything. What I do is I try to balance a book that has more meat, maybe like, demon copperhead, with something fun, like a CJ box or Ellie Griffith's book, and maybe I'll read Pass by Isabella Wilkerson, and then the next book I read is, I don't know, a book. So, you know, there's nothing I don't like to read. [00:31:10] Speaker A: That's fascinating. Okay. There are things. [00:31:13] Speaker B: I got my mother's, Nancy Drew's, and I don't know how old I was, maybe 910 years old. They were the old blue coat. I remember we were driving somewhere, and I was in the backseat, and I was reading about Nancy Drew crossing a lake in a storm, and it was so gripping. And that scene has always stayed with me, but I will say that I outgrew Nancy Drew really quickly. I mean, there's, like, 50 Nancy Drew books, and she doesn't really have a character arc. I, even as a kid, could see that very quickly. They became formulaic. [00:31:54] Speaker A: Yeah. I want to say I remember the covers because at my son's elementary school, there were too many books for the library because parents love to donate books, but in the back room, I don't know, one day she rotates them in and out because kids have different interests and waves and all sorts of things. And one day, the. Nancy Drew books popped up, and I was like, oh my God, I remember these little blue hardcovers. So I'm going to be honest, they were not purchased for me, so maybe they were my mother's. I don't know. I never thought about I have to ask now, but I read maybe ten or eleven, but it was the same and I'm younger than you, but it was the same as like, Sweet Valley High. So there were two kinds of series, and I have a preference as an adult, there were the series that were focused on, let's just say, the proceduralness of it. So this romance, this high school, this mystery without character, main character development, and the series I think I enjoy more now are those with development. Although I'm finding with some series I've read for many years, there are some limitations because the people are getting very old and the seven year old cop is not a thing. Yes. Was that too obvious? He had a cane in the know. And I was like, oh, you're getting too old for this game. [00:33:18] Speaker B: But I think it's great. I mean, he aged his cop in real life, and that's a decision you have to make. I don't know how you did it in your books. How do you age your character? [00:33:29] Speaker A: They started off much younger, and I write in the past. I think the first book I wrote was probably contemporaneous to the time that it occurred. I'd have to really think about that. I don't know. This is like 20 years ago. But what happens is that they occur sequentially. So she started out, let's say, in the main series as 33 or something. I don't have to think about it. And now she's 38 or 39. But it's also well, I know the books, I finished it. But it's also 2010. It makes it easier for me. I don't have to deal with the modernization so much. And also it's very sequential. And also I know exactly what happened during that time in that place because they all take place in Cleveland. So in Cleveland, 1996, it was this in Cleveland. In 2006, it was this in Cleveland. And so right now, they're in the midst of it doesn't matter. In Cleveland, there was a huge scandal where let's say like 50 to 70 people were indicted and sent to prison for a corruption and county government. And I lived there when there was the corruption and county government, and I was looking around going, nobody noticed this. And then everybody got it arrested and indicted. And I was like, okay. So clearly I wasn't crazy, but I felt gas. So I'm writing about that era because for me and maybe for my readers, you'd have to ask them. It encapsulates what it's like not only dealing with the justice system, but going up against a structure that is so fundamentally corrupt from the top down. And so I keep it within that era, but then also it makes the aging a little bit easier. So it's been six or seven years in book time, and I think it's been 14 books. [00:35:18] Speaker B: She's aging half life. Alexa is, too. Alexa is aging a couple of months between books instead of a couple of years, like but I didn't think that out ahead of time. And it's funny. That's just something if you're going to write a series, you might want to. [00:35:38] Speaker A: Think about ahead of time. I was planning to write a book, so I can't speak on that. But it's the same with the Alex Delaware. I don't know if you've read those, but that's a know, Alex Delaware and Mila Sturgis, I'm like, you know, at this like, I remember them driving in La. With Smog, and it's a whole different kettle of fish right now. [00:35:56] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:35:59] Speaker A: But I do think about that. So do you have favorite books that books that really, I don't know, captivated your imagination when you were like, I don't know, let's say ten to 15? Because I feel like that's a formative reading period. [00:36:17] Speaker B: This will age me, but boy, the first one that I couldn't put down and this is when I was in high school, was Peter Benchley's Jaws. I mean, like, everybody was going around the high school. Maybe that influenced me with the bones remembered, but I real quickly went on to just reading adult books, and I have a hard time remembering exactly what I was reading back then. I can barely remember what I've started keeping book journals, and it's really nice. I write about every book that I read, so now at least I can read about what I read six years ago. [00:36:58] Speaker A: Yeah. Do you know I started keeping a book journal maybe ten years ago, and the main reason was and this is like a family joke our library has, like, a giveaway pile every I don't know, a month. I don't know. It doesn't matter. For six months, I don't know. And I kept bringing the same book home, and I had three copies, never read it. But there was something about the COVID that clearly compelled me, and on the third copy, they were like, Come on, now. [00:37:25] Speaker B: That'S really funny. It might even have been different cover. [00:37:28] Speaker A: I know, but it was something about it that was compelling. I gave them all away. [00:37:34] Speaker B: Two books that really stick out for me that I've read maybe 2030 years ago were Wally Lamb's This Much I Know is True and Annie Cruz, The Shipping News. But those would not have been when I was a kid. They would have been probably maybe when I was in my 40s, but they are books that I will occasionally reread. [00:37:55] Speaker A: Oh, you reread? [00:37:57] Speaker B: I don't, not often. [00:38:00] Speaker A: What do you think it is about those stories that sort of I don't want to say hooked you in that. [00:38:07] Speaker B: You found know, one of the things about The Shipping news was the setting the setting was not Nova Scotia, one of the Canadian islands. It'll come to me in a minute. And the wind was so fierce that these people had to chain their houses to rock oh, my God. So they wouldn't blow away. And the other thing was the character, this character Coyle, he just really touched my heart. He had this really long chin and so he would go around stroking his chin to kind of hold it, and he was awkward. And that's just always stuck with me and with Wally Lamb, I think it was the exploration of schizophrenia of identical twins. One had it and one didn't, and what it would be like to be the one who didn't, and how he felt for his brother. So those are some characters and plots and settings that stuck out. [00:39:09] Speaker A: That is fascinating. Yeah, that's fascinating. Okay, so I'm going to ask this because I spent all day yesterday practicing this. What was it about forensic audiology that got you? So I said to my son, he was like, what are you reading? Because, whatever, I'm always reading like, ten things. [00:39:29] Speaker B: And I was like, but he liked it. You were reading about sharks. [00:39:32] Speaker A: No, he liked the forensic he had never heard of forensic forensic audiology. And I looked at him and I was like, you haven't? But he's 13. I'm not saying he should have. And so I explained to him ideaing bodies when you didn't have other information. I was like, well, in my experience, it's often burned victims or what do I want to call it? Decomposition. [00:39:54] Speaker B: That's right. [00:39:55] Speaker A: And he was like, really? And I was like, well, you know how you've gone to the Orthodontist and you've had X rays? So those records I said, but not everybody's gone to the dentist. We went on to a long detour about good. [00:40:07] Speaker B: I'm glad I sparked such a great discussion between you and your yeah, no, it was fascinating. [00:40:13] Speaker A: Although this morning we discussed the sociopath next door, which is maybe a different. [00:40:16] Speaker B: Conversation, but that's kind of a scary thought. [00:40:20] Speaker A: Well, I'm reading that as well. [00:40:23] Speaker B: That's a book. That's not literal. [00:40:24] Speaker A: No, it's a book from Lake. No, it's because I write about crime and I don't think so. People commit crimes, I think, for two reasons. One, because they have no morals, or two, because there's something to be gained. And I'm really exploring more of the people who have no morals less than the people who have something to be gained. Yes, gosh. But that's sort of where I am in my writing journey. So I was reading that. Anyway, we talked about the forensic ontology when I explained it to him, so he'd never heard of it. And I was like, well, here you go. And they even had a unit last year in forensics at school. I guess it didn't come. [00:41:07] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:41:08] Speaker A: What made you pick that? Because, you know well, I'm sure you're aware with CSI and all of that era of show forensics was featured more than it ever had been, at least in my right. Right. [00:41:26] Speaker B: What sparked me was how much I loved Kathy Reich's books. What is she? Forensic archaeologist, I believe is she is. And she spends her times in the book between Charlote, North Carolina and Quebec. And I just loved all the forensics in that book. And of course, her books were turned into the Bones series, which I don't care for as much as the know. I'm not sure there's not a lot of forensic mysteries being written. [00:42:01] Speaker A: That's true. I think it's a television thing. [00:42:04] Speaker B: Yeah, it's more television. So I just got on the Internet, and I knew I wanted to have her be a forensic specialist, but I didn't know what. And I just kind of got on there and I explored. And when I saw Odontology, I'm like, oh, yeah, Alexa will take a bite out of prime. Her motto is, lips may lie, but teeth never do. And it has just been so much fun to explore. And of course, I was a reading specialist and a little bit of a newspaper writer. I have no background in forensics, so the number one thing I had to do was make connections and find people. They all turned out to be women that would read over what I write to make sure I get it right. And these women are phenomenal, and they are so giving of their time, and they're so funny, and they're complete geeks. They love what they do. They love what they do. So my forensic consultant is Dr. Heidi Eldridge, and she's currently she was here in Durham, but she has moved. She's now director of crime scene investigations at George Washington University. She's a just she is so geeky about the type of fingerprints she has. And she's totally, totally into my books. So she will read over something I've written in the book that comes out after the Bones. Remember the bone track? Alexa's gone on a hiking trip with her brother, and of course, there's a murder along the way, and she is asked to examine the body, and rigor mortise has set in. And you can't fingerprint somebody if rigor mortise has set in. So I did all this research about how is Alexa going to break rigor mortise so she can take this dead woman's fingerprints. And I was so excited. I came across the hand boiling method where she would dip the woman's hand in a cup of hot water. And I was like, yes. And when Heidi read that over, she's like, oh, my gosh, I can't believe you discovered the hand boiling method. It's recognition. It's really cool. But then she said that said you're not using it in the right way. And so I had to rewrite the scene, and there's only two ways to break rigor mortise. And Heidi told them to. [00:44:35] Speaker A: Okay, wait, I have a question, though. I thought that okay, my knowledge of dead bodies is zero, but I thought that people had rigor mortise, and I can't remember the reason why, but I thought the body relaxed after three, four, some number of days. [00:44:51] Speaker B: Yes, the body would totally relax after, say, twelve or 24 hours, the body would have relaxed. [00:45:04] Speaker A: Okay. I don't know why I'm in the weeds on this. Well, see, now, that's the book yeah. [00:45:11] Speaker B: What was urgency to identify the woman right away. That book is sort of like a closed room mystery and number of suspects, and they don't want people to leave. And so time is of the essence to identify who this woman is. [00:45:28] Speaker A: Fair enough. Because I was thinking like, well, okay, so I live in a big city, and there's not always urgency, and so by the time the body gets to be examined, it's well, 95% of the time, it's well past that window, even. [00:45:49] Speaker B: Sure. Yeah. The fun thing about I want to get all my facts right, but I can also, in the fourth book, Alexa uses this forensic not machine device that uses vaporized gold blown into a mist that can land on fabric and show whether there's fingerprints or a palm print on the fabric. Just fascinating. And Heidi said, oh, yeah, man, that scene you wrote, that's just great. But she said, by the way, those machines are really expensive, and there are only two of them in the whole United States. And here I have one in a forensic lab in a little town in so I do, I do make wait. [00:46:39] Speaker A: So then I have this question for oh, this is pre pandemic. Maybe six or seven years ago, I listened to a podcast that I don't listen to true crime podcasts generally because it's too grim, I think, even though I write about grimness. But that's not true. So one of the things that they talked about so the podcast started with the idea that they were going to solve this mystery, and they solved it in, like, the first episode after 20 years. And I thought, now what? But what they did with the subsequent episodes, like Minnesota Public Radio, what they did with the subsequent episodes is they talked about the level of how do I want to say this? Investigative knowledge is not even so. Let's say in large cities, like where I am of 4 million people, or where I'm from with 8 million people, they have a lot of crime and they have a lot of specialized people who can suss out forensics and all of that. But in smaller towns or towns where they don't have police, where it's just county or state police, not only do they not necessarily have the equipment, like the state lab in the Capitol may have that stuff, but also people are not the on the ground police are not necessarily aware of what you can do. [00:48:03] Speaker B: No, you're spot on. There. It's very uneven and money has a lot to do with it and where you are. So you're totally right. And not only that, a lot of times the forensic is wrong and sends innocent people to prison, which I explore in my fifth book that will come out this coming June. Oh, it's terrible. There's a lot of bias. There's a lot of false analysis. I will never, and I probably did in my earlier books, maybe in the one you just read, I'll Never Say Anything is 100% match ever again. You should not use the word match. Maybe with DNA, but not with fingerprints. I'm learning a lot as I continue to write the series. [00:48:57] Speaker A: Yeah, so I read the interview on your website about that and I had not well, no, okay, look, I write about police bias, so I'm not going to say I don't know that. But I hadn't thought about it in forensics because actually, the book I just finished, I talk a lot about the Innocence Project and the use of forensics to exonerate people. But I had not thought until I read this interview, to be honest, about the use of forensics to convict people and the forensics being wrong. So we've always known them let me not say this, but when I was younger, there was just like blood tests and it's like, are you o AB? It was pretty kind of rudimentary or witness identification. And that is flawed for 1000 reasons. [00:49:44] Speaker B: Exactly. [00:49:45] Speaker A: So that I've always known my perception of forensics now, and not as a lawyer, practicing lawyer, because people don't use forensics as often as you would think because it is expensive and they can convict people without it. So that said, my idea of forensics was like, oh, here's finally a way to level the playing field. And so if your DNA or whatever, fingerprints, it doesn't matter, hairs, fibers, whatever are not there or somebody else's are or whatever, then we have a way to prevent innocent people from going to jail, at least in a case where they try and they have experts. I mean, there's a lot of other issues within the criminal justice system, but when I was reading your interview, I was like, oh, I hadn't thought of the introduction of bias in that. Like, during the forensic process. [00:50:43] Speaker B: I hadn't either. And some of my earlier books, Alexa's, looking at fingerprints side by side, and that is not the right thing to do because you tend to look for similarities and overlook things that aren't similar. [00:50:58] Speaker A: Confirmation bias, probably. [00:50:59] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly. So it's a mess. It's a mess. There's a lot of people in prison that shouldn't be. [00:51:08] Speaker A: So I'm going to ask you to say, actually, honestly, since I didn't think about it before, like a week ago, what do you think is the solution for that? Because when there is forensic evidence that is involved in a conviction, people feel well, people feel the perception is that it's more sure. So if you're just like arresting Joe on the street and Joe's, like, drunk and doesn't remember, therefore he's in jail, that is one situation where, you're know, this can go nine ways, but in the other situation, it was like, well, Joe's fingerprints were there or these fibers were there or whatever, then it seems like a much more short situation, and then. [00:51:51] Speaker B: It'S not. Well, one of the things they need to do is divorce any police station with a lab. A lab should not be connected to a police station. And they are all over the country, and somebody comes and brings you this and might say, I think this is our guy. Can you check the forensics? The bias is there. Again, you want to please this person. So some of the things are already in place, and that is to always have another analyst check results, not knowing what your results were. Blind tests separating crime labs from police stations. If you're ever on a jury and you have not a witness, an expert up there saying, this is 100% match, well, that's BS. There aren't 100% matches unless it's DNA. DNA truly doesn't lie. But fingerprints you want to ask about error rates? What are your error rates? Who confirmed this? What is your background? [00:53:01] Speaker A: This is fascinating because what I have found in my practice, and I haven't practiced a long time, is that and maybe it's cheaper now, but okay, nothing is free, and everybody has a budget. And so DNA was more expensive. And so if you could get a fingerprint match or some other evidence that was less expensive, then that's what people would do. It wasn't like, let's all hop to DNA. [00:53:33] Speaker B: That's right. Well, I think more often we need to hop to DNA or at least get the fingerprint comparison blindly analyzed by someone else and see if they're confirmed. [00:53:48] Speaker A: Do you think that there would be a movement? I can't see a reason. I can't see police letting go of the grip of that because they have a job and a goal, and their goal is not what it was, a defense attorney, what my goal would have been. And so the only thing, and I don't know if this is never going to change, maybe, is that the only thing that worked is that if my client had more money and could hire their own expert or whatever to refute it, then that went a much longer way than just cross examination. [00:54:23] Speaker B: It's an unfair just system. And what you've just said is one of the roots of that money. [00:54:33] Speaker A: I talk about it all the time in my books because we don't talk about it. It's known. But it's such a large factor. [00:54:43] Speaker B: That's right. And time, DNA tests take so long, and even a fingerprint analysis can take a long time. [00:54:51] Speaker A: Yeah. And it's hard, at least for clients of mine. So either it's hard and I discounted this when I was younger, and I think as I get older, I could see it. I think we discount the stress. So even if you're out of jail and therefore the speedy trial time is slower, the stress of being under indictment is not zero. And I had never considered that. So people often want to rush. Well, this is like delayed gratification, and I'm not saying this is wrong, but they want the certainty of conviction or pleaing or whatever that is, separate and apart from, like, if we wait nine months and two days and we can get a much better result. And nine months and two days is a long time to live with an indictment over your head and not know what's going to happen. [00:55:40] Speaker B: It threatens your job, your livelihood. People look at you with suspicion. It's a tough don't. [00:55:48] Speaker A: I have so many thoughts. So, okay, let's back to New Zealand, the criminal justice system I could talk about all day, which I don't know how I feel about that. Have you been back since the year. [00:55:58] Speaker B: Yes, we just got back this past February. We stayed four weeks. And it was wonderful. It was right after they had had a cyclone. So some of the activities we had wanted to do, some of the hikes we weren't able to do because of damage. And we both got COVID while we oh, my God. I'm so sorry. But very light cases. So instead of doing some of the fun things we wanted to do, we were isolated, isolating ourselves in a beautiful I know, isn't it fascinating? Oh, my gosh. You will not believe what you can find out from a tooth. So from a tooth and Lexa, this is in book five from a single tooth. I could tell Amy. No, I can't, because I'm not an Odontologist. But an Odontologist chemist can tell where you grew up. [00:56:59] Speaker A: Oh, because of the water. [00:57:03] Speaker B: Exactly. Strontium isotopes go through the food chain, end up in the food and the water you drink. And when your molars were erupting, they will be in your molars. And of course, teeth don't regenerate themselves like your bone. You know, I could tell where you grew up. And so Alexa is using that to her advantage, to trying to identify a skeleton. It's just more okay. [00:57:35] Speaker A: That is more interesting to me because when my son and I were talking, I was talking about the X rays, which is like the base level, and I was saying that not everybody's had X rays. Dental care doesn't have insurance for a lot of people, and so it gets left by the wayside. And that's a whole different conversation. But I hadn't thought about the second part, about what you can tell, because that's true. Our conversation sort of digressed, and I talked about my knowledge of, like, well, people who have broken bones. I mean, there's other things that happen to people, which are I don't want to say fairly unique, but the way your bones knit is fairly unique. And not everybody has like, a broken wrist or a broken arm or a broken femur or whatever it is. So I thought that was interesting. But you're right about the other tooth part. It's not so much like this pattern of teeth in this mouth belongs to John or whatever, but also the other things you can find because the teeth don't regenerate and we do get quite stuck with them. So I think it's really important to take care of them. [00:58:41] Speaker B: They're just amazing. [00:58:43] Speaker A: They do. [00:58:44] Speaker B: They last their whole yes, I know. Don't regenerate. Oh, my God. They can last our whole lives. And another really cool thing, she is just so in the book I'm writing now, there's a burn victim, and all that's left is ashes and a tooth fragment. And in that tooth fragment is some dental work. And the fillers in your mouth are actually all unique. So you could analyze that little tiny piece of a filling and narrow it down to what dentists use that type of filling. I have heard I'm just finding out so much cool stuff about teeth and odontology. [00:59:29] Speaker A: I've heard that because I've never had a cavity, so I've never had a filling. [00:59:33] Speaker B: Good for you. [00:59:34] Speaker A: But I heard that and I've always thought about that because okay, so when I was a kid, people had the silver. I mean, I know that they don't use any of that stuff anymore, and some people I know have replaced it, but not everyone. I have no idea the percentages on that. But I do find some of that fascinating because well, I'm sure you've gone to the dentist your whole life. And I was at the dentist I don't know, I go twice a year, so August maybe. And I was really sort of fascinated. I was talking to the oh, my God, I was talking to the dentist about the change because she was my age. So when I went to the dentist in the it's far different than it is now, and technology has changed. And it's actually the same with the eye doctor because I was just there getting my prescription redone. And it's fascinating to me. A, it's so much faster, just like, oh my God, this is amazing. They did not have all of these machines and all of this technology when I was a kid, and it's fascinating to me what has changed. But do you know and maybe I'll ask you, do you know whether or not it has become more homogenized, I guess, is what I want to say. [01:00:40] Speaker B: Well, these fillers are not homogenized at all. [01:00:43] Speaker A: Still even wow. [01:00:46] Speaker B: Even now. That's right. If you have a tooth colored filling in your mouth, your dentist might use a different chemical composition than a dentist here in North Carolina. So it's just fascinating. [01:01:04] Speaker A: In my head, when I was thinking about how it's much more similar dentist experiences than even, like, eye doctor experiences than when I was a kid. I was wondering if that had changed. So on my way driving my son to school, we were driving by a mall, and we were talking about the history of malls and how when I grew up, they didn't have malls, and then they had malls, and now malls are dying, which is a whole arc. [01:01:28] Speaker B: It is an arc. It's a character arc of malls. [01:01:31] Speaker A: And it was sort of interesting because I was explaining to him, like, how big box stores proliferated. But when I was growing up, that was not a thing that existed. So if you had Bloomingdale's, they had something else. It was regional, and there were so many differences. But now, I don't know. You can well, no bed Bath went bankrupt, but you can go to, I guess Target would be an example everywhere, and it's fairly similar. Or you can go to, I think now even Macy's, and it's fairly similar. And so in my head, when I was reading, I was thinking to myself, I would assume that now everybody uses this amalgam, because we've all decided this is the best amalgam, and there's only one amalgam provider in the US. [01:02:13] Speaker B: Yeah, apparently not. So apparently amalgams. Everybody's trying to sell them, and everybody has a different chemical makeup that can be traced. [01:02:25] Speaker A: Okay, can I ask you this question? There was an article oh, my God, let me think. I want to say it's either New York Times or Washington Post, and if it's some third thing, who knows? But I skim those in the morning. But there was a fascinating article, and it's something I've noticed when my little reality TV like, dip in the last six months, that okay. When I was younger, everybody's teeth looked different. And so my La dentist did a remodel, and in the remodel he has now, these big screens up and they flash. Like, basically it's La. So celebrities he's worked on, and they have the before and after teeth. Some of the people I'm like, I see why you fixed it. But some of the people I'm like, there was literally nothing wrong with your teeth, and now they look really homogenized. But there was this article in the Washington Post that talked about how this is so bizarre, how with people getting caps or whatever, people's teeth are becoming a much more uniform look. So if you're watching TV, everybody's teeth are fairly similar. [01:03:39] Speaker B: That's really fascinating. [01:03:40] Speaker A: Of a certain generation, Alexa is going. [01:03:44] Speaker B: To have to investigate. [01:03:45] Speaker A: Well, no, because I do wonder, because my teeth are not problematic. But I remember maybe like 20 years ago, people were getting them, and I was like, but they filed down your teeth. And I was like, So how long do they last? And people are like, 15 to 20 years. And I'm thinking, right, so in 15 to 20 years, when you're older and less people of healing. As it were. I'm finding out now. [01:04:11] Speaker B: Then, one of the fascinating things I've discovered about teeth is we have more crowding and crooked teeth than there were over 100 years ago and much further back. And the reason for that is our jaws are getting smaller because we don't have to chew food that's as hard. And the evolution our teeth have adapted, our jaws have become smaller, and that's why we have more people going to the orthodontist than in the past. I thought that was fascinating. [01:04:50] Speaker A: Oh, my God. But then I wonder what the future is. So then I spend a lot of time thinking about that, because dental, because of the we're not sharks. And so anything you do is permanent or not impermanent, and creates like an ongoing care need when you may not be able to care for that later. So, I mean, let's say I meet people in their twenty s and they're like, I'm going to get caps. And you're like, okay, but let's say at 40 and you're on strike as an actor and the money is not coming in, but you have to redo them. Then what happens? Literally, this has plagued me over the last couple of weeks. I'm like, but then what happens? [01:05:34] Speaker B: Yeah, I hope a dentist is given the long view as well as the short view, but people lots of times don't even want to consider the long view. [01:05:45] Speaker A: I don't live in a long view town right now. I have a lot of thoughts about that. Let me say this. I don't like to do research when writing. I'll research anything else, but not the thing I'm doing. What level of research do you have to do when writing these books? [01:06:07] Speaker B: Oh my gosh. Yesterday I had to pay for an article, Amy, and it was okay. Glacial effects on a body. So we're having more as the glaciers recede, people that have lost their lives mountain climbing, maybe 20, 30, 40 years ago are being spit out. [01:06:27] Speaker A: Oh, my God. I read about this yesterday in South America. [01:06:34] Speaker B: Where was I going with this? Okay, I wanted to know. Okay, so Alexa finds a skeleton. Well, what condition is the skeleton going to be in? So that rabbit hole was a $50. I had to pay $50 for this article, but I wasn't about to pay $50 for this article. I could rent it for 24 hours. Who ever heard of that? So yesterday, I think after the podcast is over, I might still have an hour or two left and I'm go back and check all my notes. But it's fascinating what a glacier does to the body. It can actually preserve soft tissue, or it can cleave a body apart, you name it. But now I've got the research to back what electrical. [01:07:21] Speaker A: So yesterday, when I should have been perhaps editing, I may have dived into so apparently there was some glacier receding in oh, my God. I want to say it was Chile, but I may not get that right, because I was reading this National Geographic article from 97 and then one from 2007 where they were comparing bodies that they had found with glacier receding. So not only were there like, how am I going to say this nicely new bodies, like something from the last, like, 20 to 50 years where people just had an unfortunate accident, but there were also people from, like, four let's see, it was one, four hundreds. So 600 years ago. [01:08:00] Speaker B: It is hard to tell the difference. [01:08:02] Speaker A: They're talking about the level of preservation. Oh, my God. This is yesterday, the level of preservation. And I was literally I grew up in an era, like, where people talked about cryogenics, and we can discuss whether or not it works. I think they can unfreeze you, but you can't be dead. So when I was a kid, people were frozen after death. And I don't know if they're going to be able to be know who I was. I was reading the article because I was fascinated by the preservation aspect of things like hair and nails. Like the things that well, no hair lasts a long time. [01:08:39] Speaker B: Alexa can't believe there's hair on this. Yeah. [01:08:44] Speaker A: And I am fascinated by a because I just found a body in a book I wrote. But the hair, she was wearing a wig. And so that was the thing that people threw people off initially. [01:08:54] Speaker B: Great idea, by the way. I might have to feel it. [01:08:57] Speaker A: Well, no, it was because I was like anyway, because people were like, Why is her hair? And it was like, oh, it's a wig. She was found in Cleveland, so freeze thaw. Freeze thaw. Freeze thaw. [01:09:06] Speaker B: But she was in a she was in a bag. [01:09:09] Speaker A: So we became like, this tension between the normal decomposition because of bugs. But when you introduce a plastic bag, you eliminate some of those aspects. And so it was a tension between different kinds of decomposition, like you're in a bag. So that's its own problem with heating and thawing. [01:09:27] Speaker B: Oh, that is great. You are right up my alley. Here's something that I just found out yesterday, too. That an unfrozen body decomposes from the inside out, but a frozen body decomposes from the outside. I'm like, is that not the most fascinating thing you have ever heard? [01:09:45] Speaker A: See, now this is I'm not going to get anything done the rest of the day because now I'll be back to deep body decomposition. [01:09:51] Speaker B: That's pretty cool. [01:09:52] Speaker A: I just find it interesting. Well, I'll ask you this because the reason I've sort of gone down the forensics road, it's not my first thing. Mostly I've written a lot of books without anybody dying. And then lately, I've introduced death because I think the criminal justice system is fascinating enough without needing to produce a body. But I've sort of changed the way I'm writing, but that's neither here. Nor there. But I'm sort of fascinated by the idea of forensics, because up until I read the thing on your website, I'm fascinated with the idea of having better answers. And actually, one of the things I deal with in this book is bullets and that unique fingerprint with the gun and the bullet itself. But I like the idea of more absolute answers rather than the wishy washy when I went to court. So, look, I'm going to say 90% of the time it was fairly straightforward. You knew who had maybe been accused of doing the thing, and you knew the circumstances around it, and it was a little more nuanced, like, were they too drunk? Or it wasn't like a mystery. But I think with forensics, there's so much appeal in the absolute eliminating uncertainty. [01:11:15] Speaker B: That's right. I agree. It's often what jurors want to hear, where's the forensics? Bring me the forensics. [01:11:23] Speaker A: Especially now, I remember one of my first trials. This is not great. So the prosecutor came. I can't remember his name. I can see his face, though. He would stack up all these paper bags labeled Evidence on his table, on a prosecution table, and it gave the illusion that a lot had happened. And what I learned about the money back then in cross examination so my client was found not guilty. What I learned was that they didn't test the evidence. So it was just like the illusion of forensics. And then when they would put the person on the stand, it doesn't matter what kind of person it was to testify, I'd be like, well, did you test the DNA? Did you test this? Did you test the saliva? Whatever, all the stuff? And they're like, no. So it just became I think my closing argument was about the illusion of evidence. He has bags but nothing inside, or something like that. I don't know. [01:12:21] Speaker B: Yeah. Oh, good. Right. [01:12:24] Speaker A: But it was just. [01:12:27] Speaker B: Yeah. [01:12:30] Speaker A: The certainty feels good. But I think that maybe and what I'm getting from talking to you is that maybe we shouldn't put all our eggs in this the certainty forensic basket. [01:12:42] Speaker B: That's right. Or at least ask for how has this been verified? What are your qualifications? What do the blind studies say? Ask questions like that of an expert witness. [01:12:56] Speaker A: Okay, so I'm going to ask you a couple of questions about writing. Okay? How did you just sit down and write a book? You're not the only person that's done that. But there's like two sort of different sort of stories. There's people who had a lot of uncertainty. I know a lot of people who started and didn't finish, like, five to seven books before they got to the one they finished. You know what I mean? But what gave you the certainty, confidence, not saying you shouldn't have had it, to sit down and like, I'm going to write a book and then do. [01:13:34] Speaker B: I don't I don't know where that came from Amy. I can't answer. Just I just knew I could do it. I'm like, OK, all my favorite Nevada Bar did it, and Donna Leone did it, and Elizabeth George did it, and why can't I do it? So I just did didn't with my first book. I didn't know who the killer was till like, two thirds through. I had to write my way to who did it, and I felt like, oh, I must be doing it wrong. Yeah. No. And every time I sit down and write a book, I'm like, oh, I'm an imposter. I don't know if I can do that. And I have to work through that each time. I just felt like it was kind of also because, let's see, I was writing that book, I was 57, 58 years old. I'm like, if you're ever going to do it, it's time to do it. Not that I couldn't have done it ten years later, I think where the crawl dad's woman was 70 when her first book was published. You can still do it at any age. But I'm like, okay, let's get serious about it. Let's do it. [01:14:38] Speaker A: Oh, I have so many questions. Okay, after I wrote my first book, I had some thoughts about the process, and it took me three books to figure out what my particular process was, and I haven't changed it since because it's working. Did your process change between book one and the subsequent. [01:14:58] Speaker B: Because I wasn't much of a plotter, I felt like I had to be a plotter. And so I think with book three, I must have spent three or four. And then I got a contract. So I'm under a contract for six books, and I have a year to write these books. And that's a lot of pressure. It's a wonderful pressure. I'm not complaining, but it's a lot of pressure. And I spent of that year, I spent maybe three or four months elaborately plotting so that when I got around to writing the book, it would be so much easier. Well, hello, I'm not a plotter. So I guess I was like, okay, I used the first 60 pages of that well outlined book, but then I veered off course. So now I just sort of generally outline and I do know who did it, and I work harder on motive, but my process continues to evolve, let's put it that way. It sounds like maybe you have. I haven't found exactly what works. What I have done recently that's really helping is I'm being more deliberate about my word count. Used to be I'd say I'll write two pages a day. Well, two pages if you start a new chapter and there's a lot of dialogue, you aren't writing a lot of words. So now I'm shooting for my 1000 words a day, and most days I get 800. And when I do that, I'm like, good. And I feel more in control now that I'm keeping better account of my word count. [01:16:35] Speaker A: Yes. So I do have a specific word count, and I do do that yours is higher than 1600, but it's not. You say that, but I know people who can write like two, three, 4000, and I thought, I don't even know if I could sit still that long. I used to walk the dog to do this, but I need to walk away and I need to take a walk and I need to fiddle around and I need to move. So I bike and I exercise. I do, I need to move. So for me, the moving can I just tell you biking. When I'm biking, all the ideas come to me and also in the shower places where you cannot write them down and are driving on a six lane freeway. And I'm like, I have the best idea right now, but I also need to be able to cross six lanes and get off the freeway. [01:17:22] Speaker B: But you generally remember them, right when it's time 50%. It's not great. [01:17:30] Speaker A: But I will say this. What I have found is that this is actually fascinating. I think it's something about the human brain. I have found that when I'm editing, sometimes that the same idea comes to me. So I write in a linear fashion and I also edit in a linear fashion, and sometimes I will add something while I'm editing. In two paragraphs later, I will have already written. That a similar thought. And so I don't worry about it anymore because I think that my brain has a certain route that it travels down and eventually all of the information may not be in the same order, but it's never like, more than a few paragraphs apart. All the information is there. And I just trust that I've let go of, oh, I'm going to let go. All the things like people sent me plotting. So I have these friends that plot and are very successful. And so I'm like, I have an entire computer folder full of plotting materials that I will never use. [01:18:27] Speaker B: No, I'm right with you, but I like the okay. [01:18:31] Speaker A: I'm an orderly person in my life. Like, everything's neat and you pay my bills on time and my closet's completely organized and everything's folded like Marie Kondo style. So I love the idea of order, but when it comes to writing, I think my brain is chaos. [01:18:49] Speaker B: I think that's why I'm doing my little spreadsheet now with my word count. That's my order. And it's really psychologically been positive for me. [01:18:59] Speaker A: Yeah. I have an app called it's called word count dashboard. It's on a mac. It's like it cost me, like, $5. It's really rudimentary. Just as a picture of your word count, a picture of like, you get a gold star if you make your word count. [01:19:13] Speaker B: I'm going to look at that as soon as we hang up. [01:19:15] Speaker A: So you get a gold it's like gold, silver, bronze star. And then you know your word, count the date it's due and where your progress, and it gives you a percentage that's literally all that's involved. And it's always open because I like, but I'm a kid. I grew up in the era of getting a gold star on your test. [01:19:30] Speaker B: And I love that. I'm like, Where's my gold star? I don't get a gold star on my spreadsheet. [01:19:37] Speaker A: I have to. [01:19:38] Speaker B: It's so much easier for me to edit than to write forward. And that's my happy spot. I love to start by going back what I wrote, going over what I wrote the day before, and I could just stay there forever. And I'm like, no, you got to push forward. [01:19:53] Speaker A: Yeah. So that's actually my method. So I only write dialogue. I'm not going to get into that because I can't do the other part. I find it that other parts of job, the dialogue is fun. So I write the dialogue, and then I write the 1600 words, and then the next day I go back and I edit that, and then I write the new words. It's not like 3200 words of thinking a day. It's not quite that because I don't quite go back that far. But I do find it well. Also, I can't believe I say this, because one day to the next, I don't know why I can't remember where I left off, but I do find it helpful in, okay, this is where I left off. Let me just keep going. [01:20:31] Speaker B: That's right. [01:20:33] Speaker A: It's not perfect. And I don't like I'll ask you this because the first 20,000 words, love it. If every book is 20,000 words, my life would be a delight. [01:20:46] Speaker B: It's with you. [01:20:47] Speaker A: Look at the joy. There's a new story. But after the first 20,000 words, I'm like shooting dagger, everything. I'm like, this is a job. This is a slog. I can't believe I took on this thing again. I'm never going to finish. I don't know if I can write and whatever. And then the end is like it feels like a race downhill. Because then not only do I know what's going to happen, I need to get it out of my head rapidly because I'm carrying so much information in my head. [01:21:17] Speaker B: Yes, you got to ramp up. But no, that halfway mark to the two thirds mark, it's horrible. [01:21:29] Speaker A: And I haven't found it. So I'm saying I'm going to be up. Got no remedy for that. [01:21:36] Speaker B: No, except to keep at it. Yeah, like you say, your website, but in the seat, you got to keep pushing forward. [01:21:44] Speaker A: Yes. And so I'm not a write when inspired person. I write more when inspired. But I did find this is so sad. I did find that when I reread the books and I know which part was harder to write versus which part was easy to write, they read no differently. So it's clearly some mental thing as far as psychological, that I'm not unweaving it. This is not my great life's work. But I do know that there's no appreciable difference between the hard words and the easy words, which is right. [01:22:13] Speaker B: That's a sign of a good writer when you look back and can't see. [01:22:16] Speaker A: Yeah, but it makes me sad because I want the Easter. I don't know why it makes me sad. It makes no sense. [01:22:23] Speaker B: But it is pretty cool when you get into the zone and you've written three pages and time has passed and you're so focused, and that's really sweet when that happens. [01:22:34] Speaker A: Yeah, I've burned a lot of food that way. I did it the other day. I'm like, I'm just going to sit down and just look at this, and I'm like, Why is there smoke in the house? And the thing is, I used to sit in the kitchen at the breakfast bar. I'm looking at it now, and I still would burn food, and I'm literally like 2ft from the stove. I don't feel like I'm in the zone, but I know it because I burn the food. [01:22:59] Speaker B: That's right. [01:23:00] Speaker A: Okay, I'll ask you this. Do you think that how can I say this? Is there any other kind of story that you think you want to tell since you haven't switched genres and hopped around and done a lot of things a lot of us have done, yes. [01:23:18] Speaker B: I have a middle grade mystery that I wrote and I loved and my agent wasn't able to sell it, and I'd like to get back and write that again. And then I have a wonderful women's fiction story that is just bursting through me and wants to be written. It's basically maybe an 80 year old woman and her 53 year old daughter and the tension between them as the 80 year old who lives in a retirement community is starting to date while the 52 year old is going through a divorce and dogs are involved. [01:23:54] Speaker A: Oh, my God, you've hit in my sweet spot. I love dogs. [01:23:56] Speaker B: And it's fiction. [01:24:00] Speaker A: No other daughter. [01:24:05] Speaker B: So what I'm going to do is my contract runs out after the book that I wrote now. And so, first of all, will they renew my contract or not? That yet to be determined, and if they do, fine. But I'm going to ask for more time in between book six and book seven and write this book. I think I had a name for it, but I can't remember what because I have started it. But if the contract isn't renewed, I'm just going to throw my whole self into this book. Please do away. Thank you. Because it's a great plot, and I can't wait. [01:24:43] Speaker A: Women's fiction is the genre I love the most. I can't read the same thing. I can't read the same genre over and over again. I do really switch back and forth because my brain can't tolerate it. But it's my favorite. It has everything. It has, like, a little bit of romance and family tension and other things. And something about it seems to be like the whole experience that I want in a book. [01:25:10] Speaker B: Well, I agree. Anyway, that's what I will write when I'm not writing my Alexa Glock. But she's a lot of fun. I do. [01:25:21] Speaker A: For me, she's a lot of fun because she's got a lot going on. Okay, my last question for you is what are you reading right now? [01:25:31] Speaker B: Oh, right now. Oh my gosh, it's so good, Amy. I don't want it to end. And it's just a tiny little gem of a book. It's called small things like these by Claire Keegan, an Irish writer. And I can't recommend it enough. She does not waste a single word. She explores the mother child, the mother baby, ireland, when the girls got sent off to have their babies and the babies were taken from them. But it's through a 40 year old man's point of view, and it is won all kinds of awards, but it is just a little gem. [01:26:15] Speaker A: I have not heard this. And now I've added it to my list because I love Irish writers. I really do. Oh my God. Well, I'm not going to ask you I see you've read ton of French. [01:26:25] Speaker B: I love her. Oh, the searcher. [01:26:27] Speaker A: What a good it's my favorite book from, like, two years still. I don't dislike the Dublin murders mystery series, but that one well, the relationship was the thing for me, not so much. The. [01:26:44] Speaker B: Was a good that was a really good book. And, boy, can she do atmosphere and know and dialogue and everything. [01:26:52] Speaker A: She's really yeah, I really like that. But did you read, like, Maeve Finchy back in the day? [01:26:59] Speaker B: I think it was just a little too romance oriented. [01:27:05] Speaker A: Well, she wrote different, unfortunately. Okay, let me say this. They were marketed more similar than they are. I think that's but it's the same with that Elizabeth George with the one book that I think is her best book. It's different than the rest, but they sort of try to package them because I understand what it takes to sell a book, so I get it. [01:27:32] Speaker B: What are you reading right now other. [01:27:34] Speaker A: Than the sociopath next to I need to let that go. [01:27:45] Speaker B: Okay. I have to write this. [01:27:47] Speaker A: No, I actually did start a book. I want to say it's called A million small things, but I'm not going to get it right. Which is ironically Irish. No, it's the 100 years of Lenny and Margot. [01:28:02] Speaker B: Oh, wow. That's an interesting title. [01:28:05] Speaker A: Well, I don't know. I hate spoilers, but it's about the main character is dying, but it's really I don't know how to it's interesting. It's just different. It's not romance. It's not Sci-Fi, it's not fantasy. You know what I mean? So it's just straight fiction. And I'm really enjoying it because she starts off talking about how they no longer talk about death and she's in her disease. They call it life limiting as opposed to terminal. And I thought that was fascinating and I was like, that is an interesting twist of terminology and I'm going to have to look that up later. But that's the one I'm reading now. That and the sociopath next. The Sociopath next. I'm trying to read for writing. Like, I really want to explore the psychology of immoral or lack of morality, I guess more. And then the other one is just pleasure because I got to read something at night. So I want to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Now I'm going to go look up this book because I'm like, now this is how I'm going to spend my afternoon. [01:29:15] Speaker B: I could edit or oh, my gosh, her short stories are just a force of nature. But thank you, Amy, for having me. This has been so much fun. I'm so glad we're friends. [01:29:27] Speaker A: Yes, I really appreciate it. Now I have to go. Okay. Keep writing. That's actually what all I want to say is keep doing the thing because it's a joy. Thank you so much. [01:29:41] Speaker B: Thank you. [01:29:46] Speaker A: This has been a time to thrill with me. Your host, Amy Austin. If you enjoyed today's episode, I hope you'll share, rate and review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. It will help others to find and enjoy my conversations with brilliant women creators. Also, please hit the subscribe button on your podcast app. In addition to hosting this podcast, I am also the author of the Nicole Long series of legal thrillers. The first three books in the Nicole Long series are now live. You can download outcry, Witness, Major Crimes, and without consent to your e reader right now. The fourth book in the new series, The Murders Began, is available for pre order wherever you get your books. I am also the author of the Casey Quit series of legal thrillers. These titles are available wherever books are sold, your local library, and also an audiobook. You can also find this podcast on Facebook at A Time to Thrill. Thanks for listening and I'll be back with you soon with more great conversations.

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