Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and One Breath Away, called it: "A fast-paced and gripping exploration of a mother's love. A powerful affecting novel."
And Long and Short Reviews wrote: "Almost impossible to put down. ... What a Mother Knows is an intense and emotional rollercoaster ride."
Can you tell us the basic premise of your new book?
A woman who recovers from a fatal car accident and is accused of murder risks everything to find her missing daughter, the only one who might know the truth of what happened that day. People are calling it contemporary drama or literary suspense, but for me it’s a love story.What's one scene from this story you loved writing and why did it excite you? I loved writing the scene in Key West because it’s such a vivid place. My aunt has a bed and breakfast there called the Curry Mansion, and if it didn’t exist, I would have to make it up. There’s a picture of it on the map on my website. It’s a historic landmark full of antiques and there’s a piano player on the veranda at cocktail hour every afternoon. The sights and sounds of the main tourist drag and the excitement on the boardwalk at sunset are so colorful. The setting really adds flavor to the twists and turns in this chapter when Michelle, the main character, searches for her daughter. And it has a big ending. Bam!
Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role? If you check out the playlist on my website, you’ll se that most of the songs are from the Doors, who are considered the quintessential LA band. Jim Morrison, the singer/songwriter was this gorgeous poet who epitomized the sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll attitude of the sixties. He died before I’d ever heard of him, but you’d recognize the haunting music – it’s on every ‘best of ‘ list. I don’t want to ruin the story, but there is a young musician in it. So the music adds another dimension to the drama, one that embodies the worst fears of any mother.
Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing big news about your first novel? My mother. While visiting, I was roller blading with my daughters in the park across from her condo. My mom called me in to get the phone and came out to watch the girls. She had a funny expression on her face as I clomped past her and didn’t even tell me to take off the rollerblades. Joe deSalvo, from the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society, said that my novel won a prize and he invited me to New Orleans, all expenses paid, to get it. At first I thought it was a friend playing a practical joke, but they flew me in and put me up in a Penthouse with a fruit basket and everything. Then there was a hurricane, so everyone fled the city and I didn’t get my award. But they sent the manuscript to an agent, and by the time I came back the next year, she was there along with my new editor from Random House. It still seems like a dream - makes me smile just thinking about it.
What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? All of the above! Isn’t fantasy what writers are all about?
What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? I didn’t know any writers, but I used to play a tape of this old reggae soundtrack called The Harder They Come just hear the Jimmy Cliff sing, You Can Get It If You Really Want. Just imagine “If at first you don’t succeed, you gotta try try try again” with a reggae beat. It helped me stay motivated when I was broke and splurging on stamps to mail query letters. My dad always told me. “You can’t fail until you quit.” I couldn’t quit.
What's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why? Michelle, the main character, becomes a kickass mom. She won’t let anything get in her way. She’s like Sally Field in that old movie, Not Without My Daughter, but even better. All the moms in this story are like that, but they all go about it indifferent ways….
Did you go on any special trips to research the setting? I used places that I’d already been. I did go back to Hawaii and Key West on vacations, and New York for business, so I kept my eyes open. Then I followed up with research online to keep things current.
What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you? I'm a terrible typist.
Any favorite movies you've seen? Ones you've watched over and over again? I’m a sucker for romantic comedies. While You Were Sleeping is my comfort food. My daughter and I love Romy & Michelle. We can also quote every line from Legally Blonde – it’s fun to watch it together.
Thank you so much, Leslie! (And you know I share your love of "While You Were Sleeping" -- one of my all-time faves! ;-)
Also, if you are part of a book club and would like to have her visit via Skype, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org (and there are fun features plus book club ideas on her website, too).
Finally, for all moms who are reading this, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!!! Are you doing anything special to celebrate this weekend?!