Frequently Asked Questions

How did you start writing?

I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always loved to write. That geek in the back of Latin class who was working on a short story instead of listening to her teacher’s lecture-that was me! One summer, I decided to see if I could write a whole novel. I spent my days drafting a book and my nights working as a waitress. The results were one complete, albeit truly dreadful novel, plus shorter hair that I’d caught on fire twice serving an appetizer called flaming saganaki. Realizing my future in food service was limited, I focused on polishing my novel. The rest, as they say, is history.

Weren’t you still in college when you sold your first novel?

I had the good fortune to sell my first book (the one mentioned above) when I was 20. Granted, I worked on the book for three years and rewrote it four times, so it’s not quite an overnight success story. In publishing, however, it’s darn close.

In which order should I read your novels?

Each of my novels has a stand-alone plot, though I do have three series that each feature different recurring characters. To fully appreciate character development, I recommend reading the series books in the following order:

FBI Profiler Series (featuring Rainie Conner, Pierce Quincy, and his daughter Kimberly)

  • GONE
  • THE 4TH MAN (eShort)

Det. D.D. Warren Series

  • HIDE
  • THE 7TH MONTH (eShort)
  • TOUCH & GO
  • 3 TRUTHS AND A LIE (eShort)
  • THE 4TH MAN (eShort)

Tessa Leoni Series

  • TOUCH & GO

Frankie Elkin Series

I've noticed that some of your characters cross over into other series. How can I track that?

Here’s a handy family tree showing where my characters cross over!

Lisa Gardner - Character Family Tree

Will there be any more books featuring Quincy, Rainie & Kimberly?

Yes!  RIGHT BEHIND YOU brings Quincy and Rainie back to the pages of my novel. Also, FBI Agent Kimberly Quincy assists Detective D.D. Warren in FIND HER, NEVER TELL and WHEN YOU SEE ME.

Where do you get your ideas?

I suspect I was dropped on my head a lot as a child. I’m honestly not sure where the ideas come from. They simply come to me, particularly creepy, scary ones. I guess it’s a good thing I can turn ideas into novels, because being an ax murderer doesn’t pay nearly as well.

Why did you choose the suspense genre?

The suspense genre chose me. Growing up, I read Stephen King, John Saul, and V.C. Andrews. Basically, I’ve always loved anything that begins with a dark and stormy night and ends with a dead body.

Can you tell us a little about your writing schedule, editing and revision process, novel development, etc.? How long does it take you to write a story?

I like to write first thing in the morning, armed with a giant mug of coffee and a dog to warm my feet. I’m always trying to get a certain number of scenes done each week. Sometimes that means writing a few hours a day. Sometimes that means writing ten hours a day. It depends on how fast the hamster is turning the wheel in my brain. I start with a general outline of each novel. The major plot points, key scenes, research that needs to be incorporated into the story, etc. I change a lot as I write, however, so the end novel may bear little resemblance to my starting idea. Sometimes characters take over. Sometimes I come up with a better idea for a plot point or a plot twist, so I reorient the story to make the new and improved concept work. It usually takes me six months to draft a novel, then three months to polish it to a point where I decide it’s not horrible.

Do you let anyone read what you have written before you send it to your editor?

No, then I would have to kill them.

What do you find to be the hardest part of writing a book?

Everything. If writing were easy, everyone would be doing it.

How do you do your research?

Whenever possible, I try to interview professionals in the field. Personally, I don’t have a law enforcement background, so I generally start with a call to some poor detective who has the misfortune to pick up his phone. I’m honestly touched and amazed by the thorough assistance I’ve received. I’ve interviewed FBI agents, ATF agents, state police, local police, corrections officers, etc., and every single one of them has taken significant time out of his or her day to answer my questions. They are very nice people doing very tough jobs.

Do you ever base your characters on real people?

No, real people can sue. I wouldn’t like that much.

Do you use real events?

I am routinely inspired by true crime. The basis for THE OTHER DAUGHTER is the real life story of Ted Bundy, who fathered a child while on death row. That made me wonder what it would be like growing up as the child of a notorious serial killer. THE THIRD VICTIM, of course, is based on the string of school shootings we’ve had in the United States. That research was very sad for me, but I also needed to do it. Like most Americans, I wanted to understand what would drive kids to perform such heinous acts. Many of the answers surprised me.

Who are your role models? Which writers have influenced you the most?

I remember being twelve-years old and reading M.M. Kaye’s THE FAR PAVILIONS. I was completely enthralled by that novel. The way she made the setting, history, and characters come so richly alive. From the beautiful romance to the gritty battle scenes, I thought reading that book was one of the most intense experiences I’d ever had. Of course, I was twelve. I still love that novel, however. I reread it every few years, and every few years I’m enthralled all over again. As you can imagine, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. Also, love any and all thrillers by Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Connelly and John Sandford.

What are you passionate about?

I’m really good at FreeCell. You know, the card game that comes with most computers. I also enjoy hiking, cribbage and quality time with my dogs.

Have any of your books been made into movies?

My first thriller, THE PERFECT HUSBAND, was turned into a TV-movie, INSTINCT TO KILL, starring Mark Dacascos, who is amazing. Then, in 2004, THE SURVIVORS CLUB was made into a CBS movie starring Roma Downey. In 2011 my novel HIDE aired on TNT, featuring Carla Gugino, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kevin Alejandro, and Bridget Regan. And in exciting future news, BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED has been optioned with Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank set to put her spin on Frankie Elkin!

What job did you do before you took up writing seriously?

Believe it or not, I worked as a business consultant. I was a budding expert on process reengineering. Basically, I’d go into a company, tell them a better way of doing things I’d never done, then bill them for oodles of money.

What has been your favorite question or comment by your fans?

I like it when fans tell me I’ve kept them awake all night, or made them forget to feed their kids dinner, or kept them from going into to work because they simply had to finish my book. It gives me a warm feeling inside. In all honesty, I’m really honored by how much people enjoy my novels and I love to hear from readers.

I’m an aspiring writer. Can you give me any advice on finding an agent or editor?

I recommend that any serious writer join a writers group. I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. These groups offer many online resources for members. They also host yearly conferences where you learn about the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and pitch your book ideas directly to agents and editors. All in all, a lot of support and services in return for fairly modest yearly dues.

I’m a big fan of yours. Would you be willing to read part of my latest manuscript?


Is there anything else you would like to share about your writing process?

I’d like to encourage all those aspiring writers out there to plant their butts in front of their computers and start writing. It’s not easy, it’s not glamorous, but if writing’s in your blood, it’s something you have to do. So go do it! Have fun!

Lisa Gardner - #1 New York Times bestselling author of suspense
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