Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on suspense author Iris Johansen.
Iris, thanks so much for being with us here today. Many people are already familiar with your name, but could you please tell us briefly about yourself and your writing?
I started later than most in my writing career. I was looking at an empty nest when my children, Roy and Tamara, were finishing school and preparing to make their own ways in the world. I’d always been a voracious reader, and it had long been a dream of mine to actually write novels. So I gave it a shot! Fortunately, Bantam books liked what I wrote and my new career took off from there. I wrote romance novels for the first ten years, then I moved to suspense. It was a natural progression, since my earlier books always had a lot of action and mystery. It’s been a wonderful ride.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Yes, of course! If Annie’s Book Stop isn’t nearby, my books can be found pretty much everywhere books are sold: airports, drug stores, supermarkets, you name it.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
I have an extremely active Facebook page, where readers can get all the latest news, enter contests, and participate in discussions. It’s a lot of fun. It’s at Facebook.com/OfficialIrisJohansen
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Survivor?
I write contemporary suspense, which is a broad category. I typically like strong, extremely intelligent heroines (and heroes!) who find themselves in tense, pulse-pounding adventures. My most popular character is probably Eve Duncan, a forensic sculptor, but over the years I’ve added a menagerie of characters who have teamed up in different combinations. My new thriller, The Survivor, features Eve Duncan and archaeologist Riley Smith. They worked together in A Face to Die For to find the tomb of Helen of Troy, and their new adventure takes them on another exciting quest in the Himalayas.
What was the inspiration for The Survivor? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
I don’t want to give away too much, but I wanted to take an idea that might seem fantastical and ground it in the real world. That started me wondering about where certain myths and legends began and what would happen if we discovered something that we thought existed only in the realm of make-believe. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? My job was to make that seem as realistic as possible, and I think it ended up being one of The Survivor’s greatest pleasures.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I think I enjoy writing all the characters who populate my books, whether they’re heroes I admire or villains I despise. I enjoy writing my long-running characters because it’s like spending time with old friends, catching up with them and their lives. I miss them when I go a few years without featuring them in my books. As for the villains, I enjoy the challenge of writing characters I wouldn’t like if I met them in real life. As the saying goes, everyone is the hero of their own story. I try to give even the most evil characters a level of complexity and a self-justification for doing the things they do. But I still enjoy making them pay in the end!
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
For me, a good story is one that brings the reader through a variety of emotions. That’s why I enjoy the suspense genre so much. If I’m doing my job well, I can take my readers on an emotional roller coaster of fear, tension, romance, hope, and maybe even a bit of exhilaration they can bring back to their everyday lives. I can’t think of anything more satisfying.
While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
Always music! I have a massive music library on tap, and I have my device provide a playlist for whatever mood I’m in that day. When I’m in a mellow mood, I might listen to Josh Groban, but if I’m writing an action or suspense scene, I might turn to classical music.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
Until recently, I had a sweet dog named Dougie who insisted on sleeping at my feet (sometimes ON my feet) during my writing day. Sadly, Dougie passed away last year. But I now have two rambunctious puppies who I can’t let anywhere near my workspace, at least not until they grow up a bit more. They’d definitely be a distraction!
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
My son Roy and I have collaborated on almost a dozen books featuring Kendra Michaels, a formerly blind investigator who assists the FBI and police departments on their investigations. We’re working on a new one now called Flashback. It’ll be out next year. I have a new idea for Eve Duncan as well, so readers can look forward to that. I know I am!
Iris, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer our questions!