Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma In The Night, The Night Before and Don't Look For Me. Her novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages, topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad and have been optioned for television and film.
Her latest novel, What Remains, is now available in your favorite format. Keep reading for our recent interview with Wendy to talk about this explosive new addition to her catalog.
TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?
What Remains is about cold case detective Elise Sutton, who stumbles upon a shooter in a department store. She makes a gut-wrenching decision, taking his life to save that of another man. This sets off a game of cat-and-mouse when the man is not who claims to be, and becomes obsessed with Elise – threatening her and her family.
This plot came from a question. I was watching a news segment about a public act of violence which included several clips from witnesses. There was a young college student, a mother of three, a grandfather, among others. They came from different walks of life, and yet they had all just lived through the same moment of terror.
I was left wondering what would happen next for each of them. How would this trauma impact their lives, and what role would their emotional histories play in the aftermath? Because I can’t resist deep diving into trauma psychology, I decided to develop a character who was not just a witness, but further impacted by playing a crucial role in the event. As the story unfolds, Elise must grapple with trauma, guilt, and a man who has studied her forensic methods only to use them against her!
TFx: How much research went into the writing of this book?
Walker: I did a lot of research for What Remains – probably more than any of my other thrillers! In addition to learning about the stages of trauma recovery, I relied on a cold case detective for the details about the job and the specific evidentiary moments that are woven into the plot.
I was absolutely fascinated by the way cold cases are approached, investigated and sometimes solved. For example, many of the cases are still in boxes in evidence rooms, with nothing entered into the databases that could help match DNA, or other aspects of the crime.
Police departments often don’t have the funding or staff to do this work, leaving these cases unsolved – the loved ones of the victims without any closure or justice. When these files are pulled from their boxes, the detectives utilize everything at their disposal to track down witnesses and possible suspects, pulling DNA from dumpsters, sifting through social media, and scrutinizing behavior over the course of years, or even decades. I loved writing about all of this in the book.
TFx: How much plotting went into the book before you started writing?
Walker: For the first time EVER, I tried writing without a full plot outline. I began with the moment that changed Elise Sutton’s life, and I became so engrossed in the details of that moment that I went on and on … and on. Four chapters later, we were still in the department store! I try to make all of my books a combination of character psychology, emotion, plot disclosures, and forward action.
For me, this has always required a fairly detailed outline. Oddly, having the constraints of the outline gives me the freedom to explore the characters because I know that I’m staying on track with the other important elements of the thriller. This time, I thought I would try something new! The result was having to start from scratch.
I made my outline, then moved those chapters to a separate document, pulling pieces of them back into the book where they would enhance the story and not slow it down. Every writer has a process, and this experience taught me to stick to the one that works best for me!
TFx: Tell us something fun about you that readers might be surprised to know?
Walker: When I was a young girl, I trained for competitive figure skating. This experience shaped me in more ways than I could have imagined. It began with group lessons when I was nine. Next, came private lessons, daily practice sessions, and competitions. By the time I was eleven, I was skating fifteen hours a week at rinks over an hour away.
At thirteen, I was accepted into a rigorous program in Colorado with a world renowned Olympic coach. For three years, I lived in a dormitory with skaters from around the globe, thousands of miles from my home and family. At sixteen, it was all over. My strengths in the sport were in areas that were fading, and it became clear to me that I needed to find a new dream.
I went on to attend any Ivy League college, work on Wall Street, become a lawyer, a mother and now a writer. Whatever resilience and endurance I have, surely goes back to these formative years.
However, living away from home at such a young age, and in such a ruthless environment, also gave me an education in psychology! My fascination with people and the way we are shaped by our experiences, especially in childhood, began with a pair of rental skates in the fourth grade.
Get Wendy Walker’s latest release, What Remains, out now on Amazon
She saved his life. Now he‘ll never let her go.
Detective Elise Sutton is drawn to cold cases. Each crime is a puzzle to solve, pulled from the past. Elise looks for cracks in the surface and has become an expert on how murderers slip up and give themselves away. She has dedicated her life to creating a sense of order, at work with her ex-marine partner; at home with her husband and two young daughters; and within, battling her own demons. Elise has everything under control, until one afternoon, when she walks into a department store and is forced to make a terrible choice: to save one life, she will have to take another.
Elise is hailed as a hero, but she doesn’t feel like one. Steeped in guilt, and on a leave of absence from work, she’s numb, even to her husband and daughters, until she connects with Wade Austin, the tall man whose life she saved. But Elise soon realizes that he isn’t who he says he is. In fact, Wade Austin isn’t even his real name. The tall man is a ghost, one who will set off a terrifying game of cat and mouse, threatening Elise and the people she loves most.
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