Author Interview: Lisa Gardner on Love You More

Lisa Gardner, the New York Times bestselling suspense author of D.D.Warren Detective series, talks about her latest bestselling suspense novel of the series, Love You More in her interview with us.

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When did you begin your writing and who has been the biggest inspiration behind your writing?

I started my first novel when I was six. Needless to say, it wasn’t very good. But at eighteen I tried again, and ended up producing my first suspense novel involving a prostitute who witnesses a murder, and the handsome detective who must now keep her safe. I published it when I was twenty, and have been writing thrillers ever since.

What is your personal opinion on how far one can go to save his/ her beloved?

I think the biggest life change that has impacted me as a writer has been motherhood. For one thing, until you’re a parent, you have no idea how many things there are to fear! Suddenly, here is this tiny life that is vulnerable and needy in every way. How can you not go to the ends of the earth to care for and nurture your child?

I think love is inspiring. It brings out the best in us, makes us discover skills and determination we never knew we had. Certainly, motherly love is a force to be reckoned with in Love You More.

Tell us the basic concept of Love you More.

A state police officer has confessed to killing her own husband. Their six-year old daughter, however, is missing. Enter Detective D.D. Warren, who must both investigate the murder as well as race-against-the-clock to rescue a missing child. It’s a very intense novel, but it’s also cathartic. It’s really about how far you would go to save the one you love.

How do you develop your characters to contribute a major part in the plot development?

I only wish I had a master plan for developing my characters. When I start a novel, I purposefully don’t define my characters. I wait and see how they develop. Interestingly enough, at the beginning of my career I was a big planner—outlined character development, plot, everything—and I think those novels aren’t nearly as tight as my more recent novels which had no plan at all. My characters now are both good and bad, which makes the plots twists more logical, believable and exciting. At least I hope so!

How do you portray the character of D.D.Warren as one of the most convincing protagonist?

As a hard-working detective, as well as a person, D.D. Warren has evolved over the course of the series in interesting and compelling ways. She’s always been aggressive, determined and neurotic. Now, real life has caught up with her. Heaven help her, she fell in love. And, in the opening pages of Love You More, she’s facing another major life change—pregnancy. Can a successful career cop have a happy home life? This is what D.D. wonders, fears, desires. She’s becoming a fully-evolved human being and it’s good for her.

Does D.D.Warren identify with the inner turmoil of Tessa Leoni on a personal level?

Definitely one of the themes of Love You More is motherhood. Boston Detective D.D. Warren, who’s just discovered she’s pregnant, must investigate a fellow police officer accused of doing something terrible to her missing six-year old daughter. It forces D.D. to wonder about motherhood, love, the demands of the job. But Tessa, all along, continues to challenge D.D. as well. Would a mother really harm her own child? Or would she go to the ends of the earth to save her? That’s the central question in Love You More.

Who do you think is stronger- D.D.Warren or Tessa Leoni?

I think part of the suspense in Love You More is that they are both strong in their own way, leading to a battle of wits. Tessa is more street smart, not to mention desperate. But D.D. brings strategy and clear-eyed observations to the investigation. The book is off and running from there.

The “method of alternating chapters” weaves both stories of love and mystery in an amazing way- how far do you agree?

Love You More is my first experience writing the “unreliable narrator” novel. Basically the story, in alternating chapters, is told by two separate characters. One, my main character D.D. Warren who is investigating the case. The second, being Tessa Leoni, a state police officer who admits she killed her husband, but claims it was in self-defense. That’s all pretty straight forward. Except, where is Tessa’s six-year old daughter? From the very beginning, you know Tessa isn’t telling you everything. It’s the depths of her secrets combined with the poignancy of her memories of her husband that I hope keeps you riveted, page by page, chapter by chapter.

How do you sustain the suspense from the first page to the last one?

Research is a major influence for me. For Love You More, I interviewed state police officers, as well as went on patrol with a female officer. Understanding the day to day dynamics of the job helped me come up with many of the complications driving the suspense. I also spent quality time at the Body Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee, learning about cadaver recovery and establishing time of death of skeletal remains. Working with the forensic anthropologist there, I came up with the search scene in the woods, which I think is one of the most tense and shocking moments of the novel. As they say, real life is stranger than fiction, so I look to bring a lot of real life to my thrillers.

Who has been your favorite mystery author? And which are your favorite books?

I grew up reading Erle Stanley Gardner, of Perry Mason fame. I also love Stephen King and John Saul. Most recently, I follow Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen and Lee Child. Basically, I love anything that involves a dark and stormy night, a woman in distress, and a really great puzzle. Fortunately, that gives me lots of great books to read.

What message do you have for your readers?

Thank you for reading! Writing novels is my most favorite job in the world, and I feel so fortunate to have so many people out there who love to read the books almost as much as I love to write them. And D.D. has so many more great adventures ahead. Next, she must investigate a vigilante killer who is murdering sex offenders in the city of Boston. Complicating matters—the appearance of a girl claiming she will be murdered in four days and she’d like D.D. to handle her case. Can D.D. stop a murder in time? It will be fun to find out!

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