You have over a hundred books published by traditional publishers, besides re-releasing your backlist, what made you decide to self-publish your new series?
The Faces of Evil series is one I've wanted to do for a while now and there just wasn't time and the traditional publishers who looked at the original concept weren't interested. So, I set it aside and moved on. I found myself worrying about trends and what the publishers were looking for instead of being true to myself in terms of where I know my strongest creative assets are. After going through a life-altering tragedy last year and losing my momentum in the traditional business, I decided I was going to write what I wanted to write and publish it on my own. My focus became the stories rather than whether or not the series would be sellable to a publisher. Due to the permanent damage done to my right arm and hand I was forced to start this venture with a new method for writing -- DragonSpeak. It was difficult at first and I felt certain I couldn't use it for my Colby series since there would inevitably be changes in voice and tone. After a period of trial and error, I finally found my footing. Self-publishing versus sending the project out gave me full control over the cover and the content. I knew what I wanted and where I wanted to go with this series.
Do you recommend this to newbie authors, not published with traditional publishers? Why?
Publishing, whether with a traditional publisher or on your own, is a complex and very unique journey. I wouldn't recommend anyone do something just because it worked for me or someone else because the creative process is too personal. But I am thoroughly enjoying the journey and I would highly recommend that all authors explore their options. That's the great thing about this, ebooks have opened up a vast and wondrous opportunity! But that doesn't mean that traditional publishing is going away, in my opinion. It means we have a new avenue to explore and that there are far more opportunities to be published without waiting for a traditional publisher to decide your work is what they want. Whether pursuing traditional publication or self-publication, I would urge all to make sure the work is the absolute best it can be first! Also, if the self-publication route is chosen, invest in a professional looking cover. Finally, if you've never been published before focus on the work, get as many reads as possible and make sure you're writing to your strengths and not to trends. I've toyed with romantic comedy and paranormal in an attempt to follow trends, but that's not where my strengths lie so I'm sticking with romantic suspense/thrillers.
Tell us a little about the first book in your Faces of Evil series and how many you plan to publish in the series.The series deals with the idea of "What does evil look like?" and the various levels of evil and the way that evil can invade your life. Obsession, book one, introduces the main protagonists, Jess Harris and Dan Burnett, along with the members of an ensemble cast who will populate all twelve of the Faces of Evil. Each book will focus on the relationships between the characters and how the cases they face impact their lives. I absolutely love these characters and cannot wait to dive into the next story. Beginning with book three, I will be focusing more on the unexpected villains like the ones in Obsession.
How is this series different than the one you write for Harlequin Intrigue, The Colby Agency series?
With a bigger book I can explore the characters more deeply and develop subject matters with grittier elements. But the lives and the feeling of "family" among the characters is similar to the Colbys. I hope folks will enjoy these characters as much as they have the Colby family.
Give us a short scene that defines your heroine.“Gentlemen,” Jess said, “and Detective Wells,” she added with a quick nod to the one female member on this task force besides herself. “I’ve provided my preliminary profile for your review. It’s on the table.” She gestured to the neat stack of stapled documents in the center of the conference table.
Each coversheet carried the BPD logo, not the Bureau’s. Made sense. Jess was here in an unofficial capacity. Dan wondered how her husband felt about her rushing to the aid of her former lover. The wedding band she wore was simple, not a piece of jewelry that would draw the eye. Yet, he had spotted that delicate gold band the instant he saw her standing in his waiting room.
The stack was passed around, the final copy of her profile landing in his hands. He flipped over the cover sheet and stopped. Turned another page and then another. Each was the same. “The pages are blank.” What the devil was she doing?
Patterson, Griggs, and the two detectives, like Dan, stared from the unmarked white pages to the woman standing before them.
She waited, hands on hips, until the muttered remarks had ceased. Then she gestured to the packets they held and announced, “This is the profile I developed based on the findings you’ve provided.”
Dan opened his mouth to demand an explanation but she silenced him with an uplifted palm.
“If you,” she sent an accusing look at him, “called me down here to do your job for you, then you’ve vastly overestimated your charm and my patience.”
“What in blazes is the meaning of this?” Griggs demanded.
Roy Griggs had done police work too long to be yanked around by anyone, Quantico’s hotshot profiler included. Dan couldn’t believe Jess would pull a stunt like this without some point she felt genuinely compelled to make. There had to be a point. And it better be good.
Jess acknowledged the senior cop, in terms of service, with a nod. “If you’ll give me about two minutes, I’ll gladly tell you.”
Dan relaxed. His lips twitched with the urge to smile. There wasn’t a damned thing humorous about this case. It was her. He’d almost forgotten how she loved to get under the skin of authority—any authority. More than two decades in the northeast hadn’t changed her much. Her manner of dress was more sophisticated but beneath that stylish veneer she was still the same old Jess, he would wager. When the lady had a point to make, she intended for the room to listen. Didn’t matter who was in the room.
“There are two potential explanations for the disappearance of these young women.” She directed everyone’s attention to the photos on the board. “One is,” she crossed her arms over her chest and stared straight at her attentive, however annoyed, audience, “that they left of their own accord and they don’t want to be found. They’re certainly all of the legal age to make that decision and the only cause to consider vulnerability in these disappearances is the statements of the families who say the actions are out of character. Frankly, their statements are of little consequence, in my opinion. After all, what parent is going to say otherwise?”
“Not possible,” Chief Patterson objected. “We’ve been through that scenario already and it’s off the table, Agent Harris.” He sent a livid glare in Dan’s direction. “I don’t know why you’re behind the curve here, but I know the Parsons family nearly as well as I know my own.”
“Macy and Callie are honor students,” Griggs added his two cents. “They’re good, smart girls. They wouldn’t do this to themselves or to their families.”
“I suppose you also know those families nearly as well as you know your own,” Jess suggested. “Like Chief Patterson knows the Parsons.”
The tension thickened, forcing the air out of the room. Any inkling of humor he’d felt at her tactics evaporated. Sweat lined Dan’s brow. Jess needed to get to the point. If her intention was to piss off everyone at the table first, she was well on her way.
“Damn straight I do,” Griggs mouthed off.
“Burnett?” Patterson demanded. “What kind of dog-and-pony show is this?”
Her hand went up to silence Dan a second time. “All right then,” she said calmly. “Let’s explore the other possibility.”
Dan gritted his teeth to keep his mouth shut. Her pointed censure had signed him up for that same PO’d club his colleagues had already joined. She was the only one still calm and wherever she was going with this presentation remained frustratingly unclear. These people—he—needed help. Not a block of instruction in identifying intent or motive.
“It appears we all agree that there is only one feasible explanation. These girls,” she indicated the photos again, “were taken against their will by someone who means them harm since there has been no ransom demand. We could be looking at a human trafficking ring, a sexual predator, or just a plain old psychopath.”
A quiet, heavy with agony, coagulated in the air, making a decent breath impossible.
“If that is, indeed, the case,” Jess continued, “you,” she pointed to Griggs, “you,” then Patterson, “and you,” her attention rested finally on Dan, “are missing relevant details in your investigations.”
Disgruntled glances were exchanged but no one argued. She was right. It was difficult to argue with that. Guilt added another layer to the burden already straddling Dan’s shoulders and knotting in his gut.
“Every single one of you has been in this game long enough to understand the one fact that makes all the difference in this case and all others.” She paused, made eye contact with each member of the task force. “When a person commits an act against another person, violent or otherwise, that act is always driven by motive. Always. Whether the act was impulse or calculated, a motive exists. There are no exceptions. Whoever took these girls, whether one unknown subject or four, had a motive.”
Jess moved to the table and leaned down to flatten her palms on the shiny, manufactured wood surface. “We have to find that motive. Otherwise we won’t be looking for four young women.” She pointed to the photos on the board. “We’ll be looking for four bodies.”
That heavy silence continued to reign for one, two, three more beats.
“Did you come all this way just to tell us what we don’t know, Special Agent Harris?” Griggs spoke up, breaking the spell she had cast. “Or are we going to talk about what we do know?”
Jess straightened, eyed him with blatant skepticism. “I read the interviews with family and friends. I studied the photos of the homes and the places where the girls were last seen. Pardon my frankness, Sheriff Griggs, but what you do know is irrelevant to this case, as far as I can see. It’s all that you don’t know that makes the difference.”
When this series is complete, what do you plan to do next?
My goodness, I'm not sure. I'm way too deep in the Faces of Evil!
Now a for-fun question, you’re starring in a movie about your new series, playing the part of the heroine, Jess Harris, who is the actor playing Dan Burnett and why?
My husband! Because he's my hero!
Check out all of Debra's Books, and especially the following.
Obession: Faces of Evil
Impulse: Faces of Evil
Decoded (Colby Agency)