I came to write That Darkness because I was writing another book and then stopped and wrote this one. Then I went back and wrote the other one.
I never said I was efficient.
I had been writing along in the Theresa MacLean series, in which Theresa is a single fortyish mother and forensic scientist at the medical examiner’s office in Cleveland. I was about twenty thousand words into a story about how Theresa goes to the office after a routine, middle-of-the-night crime scene to find that of the only two staff on duty, one is missing and one has bled out after a violent struggle. Being alone in a dark building full of dead bodies does not concern her—that’s just another day at work—even though the most recent corpse is someone she had known for years. The idea that there may be a killer lurking among the microscopes and powered-down computers, however, is quite new. But this is her home, the missing and possibly injured deskman is her co-worker, and she is not going to let him bleed while she waits for the police to arrive. So she goes looking, alone.
My agent said it wasn’t suspenseful enough.
I said, “She’s creeping around a dark empty building full of dead bodies in the middle of the night where someone who just beat her co-worker to death may still be lurking. I can’t make it more suspenseful than that!” Then in disgust I (via cyberspace) threw it aside and started writing something totally different, a scene that had been floating around in my head for years.
What if, I thought, a man—Jack—takes the worst criminals from the street, wines and dines them, lets them talk about themselves, and then, when they are as comfortable and happy as he could possibly make them, executes them as quickly and painlessly as possible? He doesn’t enjoy killing them, and he doesn’t hate or despise them. Jack feels sorry for them, for he can see how their backgrounds made them what they are. To him it is exactly the same as putting down a rabid dog—one feels very sorry for the dog, acknowledges that its situation is entirely beyond its control, yet it would not be responsible to let it continue to run around loose.
I think I wrote three pages and sent to my agent. She loved it.
Now my problem became how to figure out what happens after the first three pages. That took a while. I had a new female foil for Jack, another Cleveland area forensic scientist but working for the police department this time. Maggie is younger than Theresa. She has never been married or had children and is a little bit of a loner, a little bit of a workaholic, and a little bit of a wanderer in her own life. Her parents died relatively young so she is extra-close to her only sibling, Alex, a musician who travels the country with his wife and two children.
I started out with only one real plan for the book—that eventually Jack and Maggie encounter each other. And then what would happen?
In the meantime the publisher currently putting out the Theresa MacLean stories had asked for another, so I finished the one that takes place inside the medical examiner’s office, having finally made it ‘suspenseful enough’ for my agent, and it became Close to the Bone. The other one will be That Darkness, the start of a new series with Kensington.
Not efficient, no. But so worth it.
Lisa Black has spent over 20 years in forensic science, first at the coroner’s office in Cleveland Ohio and now as a certified latent print examiner and CSI at a Florida police dept. Her books have been translated into 6 languages, one reached the NYT Bestseller’s List and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.