Today we’re talking to Elle Cosimano, whose thriller NEARLY GONE comes out today from Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin BFYR.
Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end.
Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother’s job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone’s skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn’t trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.
Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn’t figure it all out soon—she’ll be next.
1. We love a bad boy with a past. What was the process of coming up with Reece?
Here’s an interesting tidbit about Reece. In the first version of the story, Reece was a cop. Not a narc. My agent and I worried that his age might invite objections from publishers, so we made the decision to age him down. But it just wasn’t realistic that a seventeen-year old could be employed as an undercover cop. We knew Reece had to be a student, and making him a confidential informant (narc) seemed like the best solution. CI’s typically become informants for two reasons: 1) they need money, and 2) they need to get out of trouble. Which meant Reece needed a pretty complicated, and criminal, backstory, so I set to work re-imagining him in order to re-write the book.
I built Reece’s character around Nearly’s, at first. I knew I needed him to be very different from her – someone she would never choose to spend time with, or even be attracted to, if circumstances weren’t pushing them together. Where she was very rigid and cautious, I needed him to be fluid and reckless. Where she tried to be unseen, Reece needed to draw attention. I knew he wore tattoos and piercings, and I knew his name. When I searched out the perfect tattoo for his character, I fell in love with the story of the thistle, and his backstory evolved from that symbolism.
2. What experience at the Writers’ Police Academy did you find most helpful in your writing, and why?
I did a four-hour ride along with a deputy sheriff. He let me ask all kinds of pointed and intrusive questions, and he was patient with all my procedural ones. During the course of the ride-along, he told me his favorite part of police work had been during a previous role, working with Confidential Informants. He shared some great insights that confirmed most of my thoughts about Reece – who he was and what motivated him to do what he did, and what kind of relationship he might have had with the police officers and detectives he interacted with. That night, we also served an arrest warrant to a woman living in a trailer park. After, the deputy drove me through the neighborhood, which bore a striking resemblance to Nearly’s trailer park in the book. We talked about the demographics of the community, the types of crimes that frequently happened there, and the challenges it posed for law enforcement. It was as if Sunny View Drive and all of Nearly’s neighbors had stepped off the page.
3. What are you afraid of? What are you not afraid of?
I am terrified of spiders. I’m not afraid of failing.
4. Have you always known you wanted to write thrillers? Are there any other genres you’d like to explore?
Haha! I always thought I would write romance. But every time I put pen to paper, somebody ended up dead. As it turns out, I love writing a great argument, a tense action sequence, and somehow, there always seems to be a mystery in my books. Sure, kissing is awesome. But kissing to the beat of a ticking clock, perched on the edge of something terrifying and dark… well that’s just a whole lot more fun, I think.
5. Were there any particular issues you wanted to address in writing NEARLY GONE?
No. My books aren’t so much issue-driven so much as character-driven. In real life, we all have backstories. We all have demons or are fighting some kind of battle, many of which we don’t share or other people can’t see. My characters are people too. Some of them come from abusive homes or troubled relationships. Some of them have lost parents to suicide or loved ones to violence. Some of them do things they wish they didn’t have to, to keep food on their plates and a roof over their head. I don’t see this as addressing issues, so much as building multi-dimensional relatable characters whose challenges reflect their environment and circumstances. And if readers connect deeply enough with a character to want to learn more about that character’s struggle, then I’ve done something right.
6. Action scenes – was learning self defense part of your preparation to write the novel?
Not formally, but I got to practice a few basic self-defense maneuvers at the Writers’ Police Academy. Also, there’s a great link to a video on my Extras page at my Nearly Gone website that demonstrates a few techniques Nearly probably would have learned from Butch, the bouncer at her mother’s club.
7. Where do you blog and with whom do you hang?
Most recently, you can find me at The Hanging Garden — a Tumblr blog, where eight YA authors write short stories inspired by GIFs.
I don’t blog with my partners in crime… errr… I mean my crit partners, Megan Miranda and Ashley Elston, but they are the cog in my creative machine, and I owe much of my success (and sanity) to working with them.
|Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she gave up her job as a lawyer to finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day and it was easier than moving to Spain. UNDER A PAINTED SKY is her first novel, coming Winter 2015 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. To learn more, visit www.staceyhlee.com or follow her on Twitter.|