Talking Thrillers with Author Lisa Regan: Find Her Alive

meet lisa regan
Author biography: Lisa Regan is the USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Detective Josie Quinn series as well as several other crime fiction titles. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Education degree from Bloomsburg University. 


She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and Boston Terrier named Mr. Phillip.

TFx: Your latest release is called Find Her Alive. It debuted at number 9 on the USA Today bestseller list and number 1 on the Wall Street Journal Fiction Ebook bestseller list. What can you tell us about the plot and where did you get the idea for it?

Lisa: FIND HER ALIVE is the eighth book in my Detective Josie Quinn series. I am absolutely thrilled and astounded by its success and the reception it is getting from readers, especially for a book so late in the series. I am so grateful to all of the readers who have supported it; read it; reviewed it; and spread the word about it. I truly do have the best readers in the world. I’m still pinching myself!

 

I do want to say to potential new readers though that FIND HER ALIVE can be read as a standalone. It will probably mean more if you’ve read the other books in the series but the central mystery of the book requires no prior reading. By way of introduction, Josie Quinn is an investigator for a small fictional city in Central Pennsylvania, and she’s had her fair share of scandalous cases.

She works with her beloved team, Detective Gretchen Palmer, Lieutenant Noah Fraley, and Detective Finn Mettner. Rather than try to explain the convoluted plot, I’ll just insert the official description here from my publisher which I think is quite good:


Detective Josie Quinn hasn’t heard from her sister since Trinity stormed out of the house in the heat of an argument three weeks ago. So, when human remains are found at the remote hunting cabin where Trinity was last seen, Josie can only assume the worst.

Gathering her team, Josie feels a surge of relief when the dental records match a different body – that of a missing single mother from a neighboring town. But now Josie’s is not the only broken family desperate for answers.

Dusting the crime scene for prints, a name smudged into the side of a nearby car is the first in a trail of clues Trinity left for Josie. In need of a big story to save her journalism career, it seems Josie’s sister was attempting to make contact with a dangerous serial killer known for creating sculptures with his victim’s bones. And Trinity won’t stop until she’s found him, even if it means becoming his next masterpiece…

Josie is certain there’s a critical clue in the ivory hair comb delivered to Trinity just days before she went missing. But as more bones surface, each set more likely to be Trinity’s than the last, time is running out to find her alive. Can Josie’s team trust her instincts in a case that is so deeply personal? Can she find her sister without putting other innocent lives in danger?

As the eighth book in the series, I was really looking at what Josie hadn’t been tasked with yet. My editor also wanted to take more of a personal approach by making the case closer to Josie. Book 4, HER FINAL CONFESSION, was about Detective Gretchen Palmer, another detective on Josie’s team.

Book 5, THE BONES SHE BURIED, was about Josie’s love interest, Lieutenant Noah Fraley; Book 6, HER SILENT CRY was about a missing girl; and Book 7, COLD HEART CREEK was about a double murder. So we wanted to return the series to a case much, much more personal to Josie. Also, for a long time, readers have wanted to know more about Josie’s sister and Josie’s biological family so FIND HER ALIVE was a way to do that. Then I just had to create a serial killer.

My editor and I discussed serial killer tropes at some point, and I wanted to do something a little different and perhaps creepier. I thought, “What if I wrote about a killer who doesn’t actually think he’s a killer?” In FIND HER ALIVE, Josie is up against a killer who thinks of himself as an artist. He also thinks he’s supremely intelligent. For her to solve the murders and find her sister, it’s a real battle of wits. I like to give Josie very obscure clues to work with and see where she goes with them. 

TFx: How did you choose the setting?

Lisa: All of my Josie Quinn books are set in the fictional city of Denton, Pennsylvania. It’s somewhere in Central Pennsylvania. It’s about the size of the actual city of York, Pennsylvania. I chose a fictional setting because I found that there was so much more that could be done with it.

I am kind of creating the setting as I go from book to book. Also, I like having it set in the mountains of Central PA because I still get to use the remote settings of the wild for some books and focus on more urban settings in other books. I find the fictional setting is just more fun. I’ve had so many readers message me and say, “I live in Catawissa, Lewisburg, Bloomsburg, Danville, Wilkes Barre, etc” and then ask if that is the basis for the setting.

In fact, Denton is a mish-mash of many, many places I lived and worked and traveled in Central PA during my twenties. I lived in Bloomsburg and Danville. I worked and therefore traveled as far south as Shenandoah and as far north as Towanda. It’s fun to have readers from Pennsylvania recognize certain things or identify with them. 

TFx: What are you reading now and what good books have you read lately?

Lisa: Right now I’m reading Under A Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day. I’m not very far into it but so far it’s fantastic. I just finished The Goode Fight in Leslie Marshman’s series about Texas Ranger, Samantha Goode which was excellent. Before that I had read an advanced copy of Taken From Home by B.R. Spangler, which was a very twisty page-turner.

I also recently read Three Fifths by John Vercher, which is a must-read not just for thriller readers but for anyone, really. Also, Jennifer Hillier’s Little Secrets just came out and that is an absolute masterpiece.

TFx: What’s next for the series?

Lisa: I’ve just finished a draft of Book 9. No title yet. I’m certain there will be many changes during editing, but what I can tell you is that massive flooding has hit Denton after weeks of heavy rain. Most of the city proper is underwater. Josie and her team have joined the Emergency Services Association of their county to assist in any way they can. During a flash flood rescue, Josie discovers a dead body . . . adventure ensues!

TFx: Readers really connect to Josie. How did you go about developing her as a character?

Lisa: I’m absolutely thrilled with the way that readers have come to love Josie. It’s truly amazing. When my editor and I were first developing this series, we set out to create a character who was a little bit rogue, didn’t always follow the rules, was flawed and bit damaged, but also had a strong sense of justice. 

Josie is a little intentionally thorny and out of control in that first book, VANISHING GIRLS, because I wanted her to grow and change throughout the series. I personally love when I read a series or watch a television series and see characters grow and change over time.

I love the way Will Trent has transformed over time (and stayed the same in some ways, too) in that Karin Slaughter series. I used to watch Grey's Anatomy religiously until the season that ended with the plane crash (too much and not necessary and also, Lexie!!!) and it felt so gratifying to see Meredith change and grow over time as a character.

Right now, my husband and I watch Seal Team which is on its 3rd season and my favorite character is Ray because of his personal growth throughout the show. So in my own work I wanted to do a little of this. If you're going to go on this insane journey with Josie, you ought to get to see her transform in some ways, especially in ways that are difficult.

When I was planning out the first three books, I had no idea that the series would take off the way it has and so those first three books are a pretty complete arc. She starts off kind of rogue and a little obnoxious and I wanted her to become a little more patient and more self-aware and then finally confront the largest parts of her past in book 3.

Since then, I do a little bit of planning with each book in terms of asking myself, "What can I throw at her this time that's going to test her and how will she respond?" Then I let the writing happen and see where it goes. So now it has become a book by book sort of thing. I'm often surprised by her which is kind of cool. It makes it fun. But I don't want to stop testing her and I'd like her to keep growing as a character as long as I'm able to write the series.

TFx: What do you want readers to get from your books? Is there anything you would like to share with us about your books?

Lisa: I think the number one thing I want readers to get from my books is a few hours of entertainment where the rest of the world and hopefully their worries and concerns drop away and they're swept up in the story. In 2016, my daughter was diagnosed with a rare condition affecting the skull called craniosynostosis.

She had to have skull reconstruction. The months leading up to the surgery were some of the most stressful of my life as well as the long recovery. I remember I read Anne Frasier's The Body Reader and for the length of time it took me to read that, for those precious hours, I was transported to another time and place and I wasn't consumed by anxiety. It was such a sweet relief. I always think that if I can do that for a reader, then that's the most important thing I can do. Ultimately, my books are meant to entertain.

The only thing I can think of to share about my books is that I do try to listen to readers. If I have enough readers asking for a particular thing, like the return of a specific character, then I'll do my very best to make that happen. I've had a lot of readers ask for a book centered on Mettner and we're going to try to do that sometime around Book 11 I believe.

I love hearing from readers so much--the good and the bad! Sometimes it takes me a long time to respond to messages, especially if I'm on a deadline but I try to get to every single one and I love engaging with readers and hearing their thoughts.

Get Lisa's latest release, Find Her Alive, out now on Amazon.

find her alive

Josie treads gently, careful not to disturb the pile of perfect white bones laid out in the grass by her feet. Her voice is little more than a whisper.

“No! Not my sister…”

Detective Josie Quinn hasn’t heard from her sister since Trinity stormed out of the house in the heat of an argument three weeks ago. So, when human remains are found at the remote hunting cabin where Trinity was last seen, Josie can only assume the worst.

Gathering her team, Josie feels a surge of relief when the dental records match a different body – that of a missing single mother from a neighboring town. But now Josie’s is not the only broken family desperate for answers.

Dusting the crime scene for prints, a name smudged into the side of a nearby car is the first in a trail of clues Trinity left for Josie. In need of a big story to save her journalism career, it seems Josie’s sister was attempting to make contact with a dangerous serial killer known for creating sculptures with his victim’s bones. And Trinity won’t stop until she’s found him, even if it means becoming his next masterpiece…

Josie is certain there’s a critical clue in the ivory hair comb delivered to Trinity just days before she went missing. But as more bones surface, each set more likely to be Trinity’s than the last, time is running out to find her alive. Can Josie’s team trust her instincts in a case that is so deeply personal? Can she find her sister without putting other innocent lives in danger?

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