Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday at Darlene's Book Nook, where we feature authors and their books.
We will be joined today by husband and wife writing duo, J.J. Lamb and Bette Golden Lamb.
About the Lambs:
Bette Golden Lamb and J. J. Lamb are the co-authors of three crime novels. Most recently, SISTERS IN SILENCE, a medical thriller about a fertility counselor who has gone off the deep end; HEIR TODAY…, a fast-paced suspense/adventure featuring a husband-wife team “reminiscent of Nick & Nora Charles;” and BONE DRY, a high-tension medical thriller described as “not for the squeamish.”
They combine collaboration and cohabitation in an air of creative exchange in their Northern California home.
When not writing, either with J. J. or on her own, Bette, unmistakably from the Bronx, can be found in her studio playing with clay -- she is a professional ceramist, sculptor, and artist. (www.bettegoldenlamb.com) whose creations appear in regional, national, and international exhibitions. She’s also an RN, and a devoted gardener.
“As an RN, I wanted to write medical thrillers that put nurses smack in the center of a story,” she says. “Most such novels have MDs as the protagonist, when in reality doctors sort of breeze in and out of a hospital a couple of times a day, while nurses run and control the hospital environment.”
J. J. is a former newspaper reporter, Associated Press staff writer, trade press correspondent, and freelance journalist. His journalism career was interrupted early on by the U.S. Army, which provided him with a Top Secret clearance, locked room with table, chair, and typewriter, and time to write short stories.
The stories evolved into an original paperback series featuring Las Vegas-based PI Zachariah Tobias Rolfe III. Then came collaboration with Bette on their current series of books. He’s also a proud and skilled jack-of-all-trades, typical of a born-and-raised Hoosier (www.jjlamb.com).
Between them, the Lambs belong to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the same writers critique group for the past 19 years. In addition to the successful launch of their latest co-authored thriller, they are looking forward to the publication of new individual novels - an Urban Fantasy from Bette, and a new Zach Rolfe caper from J. J. And there is another medical thriller in the works.
Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, J.J. and Bette!
J.J. and Bette have written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to them!
J.J. and Bette have written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to them!
Guest Post by J.J. Lamb and Bette Golden Lamb:
One Too Many
Fertility counselor Zondra Vesey has had one too many disastrous love affairs, career disappointments, and bereft clients.
Yet, she looks like any average professional woman. In fact, she could be your next door neighbor. She smiles at the right moments, nods pleasantly as you jog by.
But in SISTERS IN SILENCE, our new medical thriller, this woman is not that seemingly uncomplicated person you wave at. Zondra Vesey is dedicated to a secret, noble mission. She will, she must, save her barren clients, her sisters from their suffering -- by killing them.
Our fertility counselor is a complex individual who has lost sight of normal medical boundaries. A series of personal disappointments, deep-seated psychological problems, and lost love have tilted her world on its axis, skewed her sense of reality.
As an RN and journalist, we’re always searching the media for a spark of an idea that can be turned into a tense, out-of-the-ordinary medical thriller.
SISTERS IN SILENCE grew from a series of radio commercials for fertility clinics. The ads coincided with what we were aware of happening to more and more patients at OB/Gyn clinics. The most common dilemma is the over-thirty-five woman who has chosen to pursue a long, satisfying career prior to having a baby, or sometimes it was the result of a couple wanting ‘to fully experience life’ before settling down.
No matter how often we read it, or want to believe it, the new forty really is not the new thirty when it comes to fertile eggs -- the older a woman’s eggs, the less chance there is of conception. Add to that all the abnormalities that can complicate conception and you’ve got two very unhappy people.
In one of those after-work/fixing-dinner/what’s-happening-in-the-world conversations, we decided the field of infertility treatment would provide good material for another medical thriller. In previous books, the protagonist was a nurse who discovers a deadly plot and risks both life and career to prove that someone is committing a deadly crime. This time we decided to take a somewhat different approach -- make the villain the central character in the story.
When we started delving into fertility treatments as a medical specialty, the statistics for success almost blew us away. With a solid background in OB/Gyn nursing, it seemed obvious just what kind of information would be found. After all, fertility clinics are everywhere. They have to deliver the goods to keep their doors open, right? Wrong. The rate of success ranges from about four percent for women older than 42, to a high of about 37 percent for women younger than 35.
We also discovered that infertility affects at least seven million people in the U.S., about equally divided between men and women. Or, one out of every six married couples. Then toss in treatment costs in the mid-five figures, combine that with low success rates, and there seemed to be more than enough ingredients to foment real distress and fear of one kind or another.
Our first major decision was, what kind of crime? Spouse killing spouse for being unable to create a baby was a little too Shakespearian -- only royalty does that. Wife and/or husband bumping off the doctor or other fertility clinic staff for not getting the deed done through Assisted Reproductive Technology was too obvious. Other potential scenarios seemed silly or simply fell short of being able to grab the kind of tension that we demand.
We decided to choose someone who had a stake in the game, real or imagined. It would, as we said, have to be the dominant character in the book -- the bad person. Of course, this being a thriller, there would be a pursuer, maybe more than one. Mostly, we wanted to show the reader the inner workings of a highly trained, professional woman who seemed normal but was a person who had lost her way.
We scoped out one of the fertility clinics that advertised heavily and made an appointment for a tour of the facility. They knew up front that we were doing research for a book. Then we attended an open fertility clinic-sponsored seminar aimed at couples having trouble conceiving a baby.
After the “hands on” visit, we knew who our evil protagonist was going to be -- a fertility counselor; a person professionally trained to help women get through the highly stressful infertility procedures; an empathetic counselor who was also trained to help ease the mental stress and suffering when all available techniques for overcoming infertility had failed.
The big twist: her own emotional baggage creates an unmovable barrier to dealing effectively and ethically with the pain of her childless clients.
As in any thriller, we needed someone to be in pursuit, someone to catch a whiff of what was going on and try to stop it before it happened, or happened again. Not surprisingly, we chose a nurse.
An underlying motivation for doing medical thrillers from our very first book (BONE DRY) was a desire to see a strong nurse protagonist rather than the usual doctor-as-hero approach. The nurse-as-handmaiden-to-a-doctor stereotype, often found in fiction - books, movies, TV - was not what we were looking for. We wanted the real thing -- more on the order of a “Nurse Jackie,” but without the nose candy. After all, nurses are the ones who spend the most time with patients, really know the inside scoop about what’s going on inside a clinic or a hospital.
Still, we didn’t want SISTERS IN SILENCE to be a flat-out amateur sleuth novel, so we gave our caring and savvy RN, Nicole Blum, a black, female, deputy sheriff roommate, Jace Michaels. She gets pulled into the investigation when Nicole becomes suspicious of the counselor. Jace is an abrasive, in-your-face kind of cop who has no patience for women who feel they are “incomplete” without a biological child. These two have strong contrasting personalities that sharply play off of each other.
Bottom line: the book has been described by various readers as “fast-paced” and “taut and scary,” with “characters that are genuine,” and an underlying basis of “good medical knowledge,” and “humor” to help break the tension.
This is our third co-authored book even after being warned by other writers that to collaborate and cohabitate was death on wheels. But we keep making it work. We’ve written together in any number of ways. The best to date: one of us - usually Bette - writes a complete first draft, with input on characters and plot development, and settings, coming from J. J., who then does a second draft. The final version comes from the two of us actually sitting side by side at the computer keyboard.
The strange part of our collaboration is that a book always morphs into a style that is neither of our individual writing voices. A separate third voice evolves that confounds friends who think they can tell who wrote which part of the book. They’re usually wrong. Even we can’t remember the origins of certain characters and scenes.
In this latest instance, the result is SISTERS IN SILENCE, the story of fertility counselor Zondra Vesey, who lives in a world of disappointment, lost love, unfulfilled expectations, mental pain, and a deadly desire to make things right through a series of “mercy” killings.
The Lambs make their home in Northern California, where they are busy at work, collaboratively and individually, writing more thrillers, PI capers, and other crime novels. Readers can keep up with their activities by going to www.twoblacksheep.us. SISTERS IN SILENCE is available online as a trade paperback or e-book.
Thank you so much for joining us today, J.J. and Bette! It was so interesting to read how you collaborate and learn more about how Sisters in Silence came about. It sounds absolutely fascinating, and I can't wait to read it!
If you would like to learn more about J.J. and Bette and their books, you can visit their website.
One lucky winner will win a paperback copy of Sisters in Silence.
This giveaway is limited to entries from Canada and the United States only (sorry, international folks).
A medical thriller about a fertility counselor who goes on a killing spree of barren women in the warped belief that this "act of mercy" will save them - her "sisters" - from a life of suffering. The serial killer, who hides her crimes by making them appear to be accidents or suicides, is uncovered by a suspicious and persistent clinic RN and her reluctant-but-efficient deputy sheriff roommate. In the process, the female nurse/deputy team also exposes unethical practices by the fertility clinic's MD founder-operator.
To enter the giveaway, you must complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.
This giveaway is limited to entrants from Canada and the United States, and it will end at 12:01 AM EST on November 12th.