Friday, September 12, 2014

Christina Dodd, Culture Shock, and VIRTUE FALLS

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Delighted to introduce Christina Dodd, New York Times-bestselling author of the newly released VIRTUE FALLS, her—get this—fiftieth novel! 
Here's the description:

Twenty-three years ago, in the isolated coastal town of Virtue Falls, Washington, four year old Elizabeth Banner witnessed her mother’s brutal murder. Elizabeth’s father was convicted of killing Misty and sentenced to prison. Elizabeth was sent to live with relatives, and grew from a solitary child to a beautiful woman with a cool scientific mind and an instinctive distrust of love. Now Elizabeth is back in Virtue Falls, a geologist like her father, living cautiously, her life guided by logic and facts. But nothing can help her through the emotional chaos that follows the return of her ex-husband, Garik Jacobsen, an FBI agent on probation and tortured by the guilt of his past deeds. Nor can it help her deal with her father, now stricken with Alzheimer’s and haunted by Misty’s ghost. When a massive earthquake reveals long-concealed secrets, Elizabeth soon discovers her father is innocent. Is the killer still at large, stalking ever closer to the one witness to Misty’s murder? To Elizabeth herself? Elizabeth and Garik investigate, stirring old dark and deadly resentments that could provoke another bloody murder— Elizabeth’s own.

Happy (50th) pub week, Christina!

CHRISTINA DODD: Ten years ago, my husband and I moved from Houston, Texas — conservative, cosmopolitan, friendly, high temperatures — to a small town in NW Washington state — liberal, wild and wooded, peopled with eccentrics. And there's this white stuff … it falls from the sky … it's cold…

We have five and a half acres on a mountain side. Our view includes the town, a lake, a mountain range and, if we walk to the end of the road, the Pacific Ocean. I literally can see Canada from my front door. We're surrounded by forest, fight herds of deer for the right to let our roses bloom, and our dogs treed a bobcat in the backyard. From the very top of the bookshelves in my office, I have a view of a volcano. (We built me a spot up there to write. Yes, I am spoiled.)

I love Houston, but it is so flat you can stand on a box in the middle of downtown and see for fifty miles in any direction. Here, in this corner of Western Washington, the mountains leap out of Puget Sound and everywhere you look, it is beyond belief gorgeous.

You get it, right? Those two parts of the US could not be more different, and moving here involved some culture shock.

But when you're a writer, dealing with culture shock consists of saying to yourself, "What is going on here, and how can I use this in a book?" It took a challenge from my editor before I could put it together.

She said, "Create a town that is in itself a character."

I said, "I'll build Virtue Falls, a small town on the isolated Olympic Peninsula where the investigation of an old unsolved murder raises the specter of a serial killer!"

She said, "Great idea!"

And I said, "I'll start the book with an earthquake!"

To say my editor was dismayed is an understatement. She was horrified.

But the first thing my husband and I realized when we moved to Washington was that the scale of possible disasters changed. Not that Houston doesn't have disasters. In the twenty-one years we lived there, we survived a hurricane, a tornado and far too many tropical storms. 

But in Washington, what lurks the breathtaking beauty is the seething possible of major disaster. In 1980, Mt. St. Helens blew its top. In 2001, the largest earthquake in Washington history registered 6.8 on the Richter Scale. When you drive the coastal highway, low areas have tsunami warning signs. We watched with fascination the footage of the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami (think deer in the headlights.) I have actually said to my husband, "If I'm ever in Pike Place Market (in Seattle) and an earthquake occurs, I'm running uphill as fast as I can."

It sounds dramatic, but the Washington population (and on the whole west coast) live with the knowledge earthquakes could happen at any time, tsunamis could quickly follow, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time could be fatal. We don't brood about it (at least, I don't), but we're aware.

After I presented my ideas for the town of Virtue Falls, peopled with eccentrics, tourists and long-buried secrets, my editor agreed an earthquake and tsunami could work, plot-wise, as long as I didn't get too technical. Which is a good thing, because I'm at best an armchair geologist.

You're probably wondering how, after ten years in Washington, we're fitting into this land of grand landscapes where proud eccentrics live off the grid? Turns out we fit in here pretty well. One day about six years ago I looked out our bedroom window at our side yard and suggested we build a stone circle. And…

CHRISTINA DODD: I was born and raised in California. I've lived in Idaho, Oregon, Minnesota (for a summer), Texas and now Washington. Reds and readers, where have you lived?


Christina_Dodd_FavoriteSmReaders become writers, and Christina Dodd has always been a reader. She reads everything, but because she loves humor, she likes romance best.
A woman wants things like world peace, a clean house, and a deep and meaningful relationship based on mutual understanding and love. A man wants things like a Craftsman router with attachments, undisputed control of the TV remote, and a red Corvette which will miraculously make his bald spot disappear. So when Christina’s first daughter was born, she told her husband she was going to quit work and write a book. It was a good time to start a new career, because how much trouble could one little infant be?
Ha! It took ten years, two children and three completed manuscripts before her first novel, CANDLE IN THE WINDOW, was published. In the twenty-two years since, her novels have been translated into 25 languages, won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA Awards and been called the year’s best by Library Journal. Christina Dodd herself has been a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle (11/18/05, # 13 Down: Romance Novelist named Christina.) With more than 15 million of her books in print, Publishers Weekly praises her style that ‘showcases Dodd’s easy, addictive charm and steamy storytelling.’
LadyinBlack6 copyChristina’s most recent releases in e-book include four full-length romantic suspenses, the Lost Hearts series:
— CLOSE TO YOU Enhancedand a stand-alone romantic suspense,
In July, Christina and her publisher, St. Martins Press, launched her all-new suspense series, Virtue Falls, with an e-short story, THE LISTENER. On September 9, a full-length novel, VIRTUE FALLS follows. In September 2015, a second full-length Virtue Falls novel will continue the story of this small tourist town on the wild Washington coast.
Christina is currently working on Caitlin MacLean’s story, a full-length original historical which will be a new book in her beloved series, The Governess Brides, coming late 2014.  Please join her free mailing list for book sales, book news, and entertainment brought right to your inbox! Simply fill out the form in the upper right corner with your name and email (Christina pledges to keep your information private), and you’ll always know about the best in romance and suspense. Join now!
Christina Dodd is married to a man with all his hair and no Corvette, but many Craftsman tools.


Joan Emerson said...

Fiftieth book? Congratulations! "Virtue Falls" sounds like my kind of book.

We've not lived in Washington, but we certainly had our share of earthquakes when we lived in California. Then it was tornadoes in Alabama and now that we are home in New Jersey [where I grew up], we're back in the land of hurricanes and superstorms. I guess Mother Nature rules no matter where you live . . . .

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Wow Christina, 50 books--we're in awe! I love this story about your move and how you were able to use your feelings and reactions in your setting.

Would love to hear about how you made the decision to make this big move?

Mary Sutton said...

Fifty books? Wow. Now that's an accomplishment.

I've been fairly boring in the living department. Grew up in Buffalo, NY now living in Pittsburgh. That's it (unless you count those six months in Puerto Rico and St. Croix as living somewhere).

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Mary, I grew up in Buffalo, too!

Deb Romano said...

Gee, Christina, I could spend the next few months reading nothing but your books! I'd better get started!

I've lived in CT all my life. But I've moved around 9 times in total in my lifetime. When I lived in my home town, I lived at various different addresses within that city. I've lived in a couple of other cities, too, and have been at my current address for 25 years.

Hallie Ephron said...

So happy to see you on Jungle Red, Christina! I thought I was doing well working on my 17th book...Any insider tips on how to be so prolific (aside from the obvious: apply fanny to chair and fingers to keyboard and stay off the Internet)?

I grew up in Southern California and we had earthquake drills in school. The worst quake knocked some glasses off shelves. After I moved away to go to college, they had a much more serious one. Now, whenever I'm there and driving the freeway, those images of heaving pavement float to mind. At least with tornadoes there's a weather report to warn you.

Mary Sutton said...

Talk about a small world, Susan. At least the only natural disaster we had to worry about was massive snow fall. =)

Triss said...

What a wonderful essay about a place...and how it feels.

I grew up in a small city in the dairy farm country of upstate NY. Yes, farms in NY. (People forget there's a big state there north of Westchester.) Unlike Christina, we could not see Canada from the front yard, but it was only about 25 miles away. I twas a good place to grow up but I always thought a big city was in my future.(I had many relatives in New York, the city).So here I am with my whole adultl life in Boston for a few years and then New York. Most of has been in Brooklyn, which changes faster than I can keep up. A perfect place for sparking fiction ideas, IMHO.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I must admit I stopped in my tracks at 50 books too! Are amazing… And wonderful. And I am so impressed by that crossword!
I grew up in rural Indiana, and my self-appointed duty as a little girl was to watch out for tornadoes. My Family never knew I was protecting them!

Christina Dodd said...

Thank you, Reds and Red Readers, for giving me the chance to talk about the inspiration for VIRTUE FALLS! It's so great to visit with so many talented folks. As you can see, we built our own stone circle in Washington. You can read more about it at
Christina Dodd

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Growing up in Montana, I have not experienced a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or really any disaster. It tropical stormed when we were in Hawaii and that's about it. However, being 100 miles (give or take) from Yellowstone National Park, we do joke that if Yellowstone's caldera blew, we'd be done in seconds. Though Yellowstone reportedly has many earthquakes, I've not felt any. I'm a little disappointed.

Mark Baker said...

I'm a CA native. Never lived anywhere else, although obviously I've left the state on vacation. And you are right, we live with the knowledge that earthquakes could happen, but everywhere has their natural disasters.

And congrats on book #50!

Christina Dodd said...

Joan Emerson, yes, growing up in CA, I don't remember a time when I didn't understand about earthquakes. It's just part of the culture!

Ladyhawkmb Heyer said...

Love Christina, no matter which series it is, she always puts out a great story and wonderful unforgettable characters.

Rhys Bowen said...

Wow, Christina. As a Celt I love your stone circle. And I too have to have hills and water and dramatic landscape. That's what I missed when we lived in Houston too.
Here in California earthquakes are part of life (but only 6 in 40 years) whereas in Houston we got awful storms often, poisonous snakes, horrid bugs etc.

Kim said...

Thank you for taking me back to my home state, Christina. I was born and raised all over Washington - my family raced down the 5 when Mt. St. Helen's blew so we could get home before they closed the bridge - then we stood on our lawn watching it explode! I'm eager to read your new book - the story sounds terrific, and I'm looking forward to reading about your fictional Washington town.

Lisa Alber said...

Hello Christina -- I loved (for my debut novel) creating a town that's a character. It's so fun, isn't it? Does this mean you'll be returning to Virtue Falls in future books?

I've lived in some great places: Mill Valley; Berkeley; Quito, Ecuador; San Paulo, Brazil; New York City; Portland, OR

Also, Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica but I don't count them because they were each only for a few months (working/volunteering).

I feel like I've always got a foot out the door, ready to move again, yet I've lived in Portland for 20 years now.

Now most of my travel consists of research trips to Ireland, writing conferences, and writing retreats!

Christina Dodd said...

Lucy Burdette, We lived in TX for 21 years, raised our kids there, and when they went to college, we decided we wanted to get closer to our families in Idaho … but not too close. ;) So we looked around the PNW and found this place which is gorgeous!

Christina Dodd said...

50 books happened … we'll not talk about the 2 lousy books I wrote before I was published. Everyone has to learn somewhere!

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

I don't know about you guys, but now I want my own stone circle/fire pit....

Lisa Alber said...

Me too!

Christina Dodd said...

Thank you, Ladyhawkmb Heyer!

Christina Dodd said...

Hallie Ephron, congrats on 17 books! You're in for the long haul. You said it on the books. Just keep writing until suddenly you look around and you're at 50. I figure I have to write another 50 or it'll just look lopsided…

Christina Dodd said...

Hank, I know. The crossword puzzle is possibly my greatest honor as a writer. Either that or the three-armed cover. It's a toss-up.

Christina Dodd said...

Thank you, Rhys Bowen. The stone circle is something we love so much. My husband says we're not odd, we're eccentric.

That's our story and we're sticking to it. :)

Christina Dodd said...

Kim, cool about Mt. St. Helens! We lived in Idaho at the time. There was a dusting of ash, even there.

Yep, natural disasters. They imprint themselves on you.

Kathy Reel said...

50 books! That is truly amazing and something of which to be proud. Virtue Falls sounds like a book I would love.

I've had an uneventful life in the places I've lived department. I was born and raised in northeastern Kentucky and have lived in western Kentucky for the last 38 years. I love the changing seasons, and my favorite, fall, is starting soon.