This book would not have been written without your constant emails asking for “More Lucy, please!” or shouting out, “We love Lucy!” As always, I am most grateful that you have fallen for Lucy, a character who unlike so many thriller heroes is “just” a normal mom juggling work and family, trying to do it all as best she can.
I must warn you that in KILL ZONE the stakes have never been higher–and neither has the body count. When I came up with the idea of a cartel invading Pittsburgh I thought I’d have to work hard to make it seem possible.
Boy, was I wrong! As I researched, not only did I find that there already was cartel activity in Pittsburgh (and many other US cities) but that I would have to lower the level of violence by at least 90% in order for readers to accept it as realistic.
How often do you hear a thriller writer saying they had to portray LESS violence so the audience would believe a story? The more I read about the cartels in Central America and traffickers in the Middle East, the more horrified I was…especially as I realized that my scenario could actually happen.
The majority of details included in KILL ZONE, even the cartel’s favorite method of body disposal, are all true. I actually did view the covert DEA video mentioned and still have nightmares about it.
African Painted Dogs:
- Catch El Chapo
- Police and DEA Seize Mexican Drugs
- Crime, Drugs, and Politics in Guadalajara, Mexico
- The Mexico drug war: Bodies for billions – CNN.com
- In small-town USA, business as usual for Mexican cartels – CNN.com
- US Cities with Cartel Activity
- A Vacation Goes South
- Dog Company Marines bite down on insurgency with Afghan forces during Operation Sangin United Horizons
- DEA FAST Team
- Fight Isn’t Over for Soldiers in Remote Afghanistan – NYTimes.com
- Taliban Burn Schools
- Undercover with Afghanistan’s drug-trafficking border police
- Afghan Drug Lords Look West with New Routes
- Burning Man
My thanks to the retired and active law enforcement officers and FBI agents who assisted in the creation of Lucy and Jenna’s characters as well as the members of the Crimescene Writers’ Group including Wally Lind, Steve Brown, Lee Lofland, and Robin Burcell. I’d also like to thank the wonderful folks at the FBI’s Washington Field Office, their training academy at Quantico, and the inspectors at the US Postal Service’s Washington Office for allowing me to tour their facilities, shoot their guns, and ask tons of questions.
While I tried to keep Lucy and Jenna as “real” as possible, obviously this is a work of fiction and my job is to entertain, so any deviation from actual police procedure is my doing, not the fault of my advisors.
The crimes depicted here are based on actual events where the perpetrators did continue to prey on women for years, despite victims reporting them to the authorities. As a victim’s advocate, I can only imagine the courage these women possessed to survive their captivity and dare to come forward–only to be dismissed by law enforcement or have their cases inadequately investigated. My hope is that by bringing attention to the short-comings of our current evidence analysis systems that the public will support their local law enforcement efforts to clear DNA backlogs and to receive the training necessary to investigate these kinds of cases.
As always, although the crimes are based on real cases, all characters are totally fictional and solely the invention of a thriller writer’s mind warped by seventeen years of working in the ER and with victims of abuse and violent crimes.
Thanks for reading!
- Killer Truckers
- David Parker Ray: The Toy Box Killer
- Gary Heidnik
- John T. Jamelske
- Mike DeBardeleben
Q: Why did you create the character of Lucy Guardino?
CJ: I was tired of reading thrillers featuring female FBI agents who were driven by angst, fleeing demons, fighting addiction, stalked by serial killers, or with dark, forbidden secrets, etc–all things that would never allow them to do their job effectively in the real world.
As a woman who has always worked in a male dominated field (Emergency Medicine), I wanted to create a main character I could relate to. Someone facing the same kind of struggles balancing work and family and who was “real.”
So, I thought, why not go as real as it gets? How about a Pittsburgh soccer mom, who has a loving and supportive family? No angst, no dark past, no addictions or demons…Just the very real need to do her job the best she can while also giving her family as much love and attention as possible.
Of course, I can’t go too easy on her, so I give her the worst possible job, tracking pedophiles and sex offenders. The fact that she happens to be good at it only makes her life more complicated because she fights a constant battle of protecting her family from her work.
Q: She seems to have a reckless attraction to confronting her fears, right?
CJ: Wow, great question! I never thought of it that way, but yes, she is most definitely someone who always confronts her fears, refuses to let them just lie there sabotaging her life.
Part of that comes from me–my entire life has been about facing down fears, both physical ones like flying in helicopters to go get patients or facing off with drunk gang-bangers in the ER, but also emotional fears like finding the courage to make a leap of faith and leave medicine to write full time.
The rest comes from my deep-seated belief that heroes really are born everyday…and re-born with every obstacle and fear that we face. That’s what all of my Thrillers with Heart are about: finding the courage to change the world, one person at a time.
Q: How did you do the research for the novels?
CJ: I was lucky enough to meet a FBI Supervisory Special Agent who was teaching at Quantico and invited me to stay with her family as well as visit the FBI training academy. The academy was a blast (I even got to teach part of a class on interview techniques!) but the best part of the visit was meeting her very normal, very nice husband and kids and watching her do her job while living a life without the melodrama of “demons chasing her” like the usual thriller FBI character.
Then I interviewed several more FBI agents, both male and female, who worked crimes against children–which was one of my specialties as a Pediatric ER doc. Just like me, they fought to keep their cases and their feelings for their victims compartmentalized so they didn’t spill over onto their families. But they also realized the importance of doing this work–a job no one wants to do because it does hit so very close to home with each and every victim.
Those experiences, combined with my own seventeen years practicing medicine, gave me a good start on the world of Lucy. The rest was just filling in details of her cases, but luckily there are enough real life cases to inspire my fictional crimes.