ROBERTA: Today JRW welcomes Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of six novels including her latest, DOUBLEBACK, featuring PI Georgia Davis. Libby also edited a collection of short stories called CHICAGO BLUES, has written many short stories, and served as the president of Sisters in Crime. Welcome Libby! Please start by telling us where the idea for DB came from.
LIBBY: People who know me well know I’m a little neurotic. (Stop laughing, Roberta). Some of my primal fears are flying, bees, and being trapped in a stalled elevator. So I imagined 6 people in an office building elevator that lurches to a stop. The lights go out, the car sways, and panic ensues – people cry, curse, pray and yell. They think they’re going to die. Suddenly the elevator resumes operating and descends to the lobby as if nothing has happened. The people spill out, and the last man out looks at his watch and says, “Right on schedule.”
That’s the first chapter of DOUBLEBACK. Now all I needed was the rest of the book.
At the time I started writing, Blackwater was all over the news. Eric Prince was saying his mercenaries weren’t exactly military, so they shouldn’t be accountable to military law. Then he said they weren’t really civilians either, so they shouldn’t be accountable to civilian law. It was a Catch-22 and it infuriated me. So I decided to incorporate that into the story. What if mercenaries, who are up to the highest bidder anyway, changed sides? What would happen? How would you detect it? How would you fight it? Those are some of the questions I explore in DOUBLEBACK.
LIBBY: I knew from the start that I would be pairing my series protagonists in DOUBLEBACK. My first series features Ellie Foreman, a single mother, video producer, and amateur sleuth. I have always written her in first person, mostly because Ellie wants you to know who she is and how she feels. Georgia, who made her debut in one of the Ellie books, but came into her own in EASY INNOCENCE, has always come to me in third person. That’s because she’s cautious, guarded, and prefers to keep people at a distance. I did try to write Ellie in third person, for consistency’s sake, but it didn’t work. She lost some of her fire. So I bit the bullet and wrote them the way they wanted to be written. I think their voices are distinct enough that readers won’t be confused. At least I hope so.
ROBERTA: Are you going to continue with the dual protagonists?
LIBBY: I don’t know. The next Georgia book looks like it will feature her as the protagonist. However, Ellie will make an appearance. I haven’t started it yet, but in my third Ellie book, AN IMAGE OF DEATH, which, coincidentally, was the book that introduced Georgia, one of the bad guys gets away, and I’m thinking of bringing him back in number 7. So we’ll see how heavily Ellie is involved.
ROBERTA: Will Georgia ever find true love?
LIBBY: Georgia has had a hard time in her relationships, and she’s due for a break. And yes, I know who I’m bringing in to be her love interest. Once again, he’s a character from an Ellie book, but I can’t tell you who or which book-- I’d have to kill you. Or maybe Georgia would.
ROBERTA: Where did your love of suspense come from?
LIBBY: Before I ever thought about writing books, I read thrillers. These were in the salad days of Ludlum, LeCarre, Deighton, Follett, etc.(They were all men back then…) I loved the the sheer inability to put a book down until it’s finished, even though you’re up half the night. Once I started writing, I knew suspense would be a hallmark of my work, and at this point I can’t imagine not building in suspense. I’m just grateful that so many women have broken into the subgenre. More, more!
Libby's on tour with Doubleback right now. You can read more about her books and her tour stops at her website.