Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fatal Distraction by Diane Capri: Interview & Excerpt

Relentless victims' rights advocate Jess Kimball and Jack Reacher both deliver justice when the legal system fails. Reacher waits until trouble finds him and then he does whatever it takes. But Jess pursues legal justice and draws lines she will not cross. How can she win against killers who refuse to follow the rules?

Three years ago, beloved Florida Governor Helen Sullivan’s world shattered when her only son died in a senseless car crash, killing his best friend, too. Helen quickly discovered Eric’s crash was no accident and lured the killer to her son’s funeral to be caught. When the shooting ceased in the small country church, Helen believed her nightmare was over. Instead, she’d unwittingly escalated her duel with a cunning and patient assassin.

Now, investigative journalist Jess Kimball is driven to find the horrifying truth. Is the Central Florida Child Killer guilty? Or is the real killer still out there?

Helen and Jess together face the determined killer in a pitched battle of wit and nerve. Who will survive?

Kindle  |  Goodreads  |  Nook

Q:  Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.

A:  Being a writer is risky business. We stick our necks out when we release our work to the world, not knowing whether anyone will read and if they do, whether they will enjoy the story. Readers take chances on us when they devote hours of their lives to reading what we’ve written, and if they do, whether they’ll feel their time with us was well spent. There are few things more rewarding to any author than discussing our work with readers - especially those who love our tales.

I love to hear from readers and I answer every letter I get! Maybe someday, if I’m very lucky, I’ll start receiving too many reader letters and just the right person will need to help me sort through them. But for now, when a reader takes the time to write, I take that chance to get to know them better.

Sometimes, readers ask questions or give me information I hadn’t considered. Sometimes, they simply say they loved the book. (If they didn’t like the book, they usually don’t write to me -- they tell the entire world online instead. Sigh.)

Which might be why the BEST fan letter I ever received wasn’t sent to me but instead was shared with the entire world. It was a review of my book Don’t Know Jack posted on Amazon and Goodreads and several other places. I loved it so much, I sent it on to my friend Lee Child. He loved it so much, he included it in his Reacher Report newsletter. We even included portions of that reader review into the paperback.

We sent our cherished reader a glowing note of appreciation and when Fatal Distraction was published, crossed all digits that she’d like our “female Reacher only nicer,” Jess Kimball and Helen Sullivan, too. So I waited. And worried. And waited some more. Hoping she’d find, read, and love the book. .... We knew we had a winner when she posted her 5-Star review online, letting everyone know how she felt. Whew!

Q:  Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself?

A:  Well, I’d love to claim that I modeled Helen Sullivan after me, but anyone who knows me would say that’s a lie. Helen’s a lot taller than I am! :-) I usually create characters I’d like to be my friends. So I guess it tells you something about me when you read that they’re lawyers, or foodies, drink copious amounts of black coffee and red wine, like to travel and love dogs, hmmm?

Q:  Tell us about your favorite restaurant.

A:  I love restaurants and I’ve been to some very nice ones. But the one I love the best is George’s Place. It’s the restaurant on the main floor of the home on Plant Key where my characters Judge Wilhelmina Carson and her husband, George, live. It’s pure fantasy, of course. But whenever Willa gets hungry, she just calls downstairs and has something amazing sent up! The place is so real to me that readers often ask whether they can make a reservation! Would that we could....

Q:  What is the house specialty at George’s Place? I’m guessing it’s your favorite meal, right?

A:  Exactly! *Laughs* Thomas Jefferson Roast Beef, with Madeira mushroom sauce, roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes, and gorgonzola pear salad. Yum. It’s making me hungry just to think about it!

Q:  What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

A:  On two separate occasions we entertained the Commandant of the Marine Corps, his wife, and the Admiral of the Pacific fleet in our modest home. I’m sure you can guess what we served. :-) Dinner turned out pretty good both times. Whew!

Q:  You just won a huge lottery - what is the first thing you'll buy?

A:  For many, many years, I commuted 30 miles to work and back from the burbs into the city of Detroit. Countless hours on the freeways allowed plenty of thinking time and led to an unshakable decision on this very question. No doubt about it, I’d buy a helicopter. And a pilot to go with it.  I imagine I could go anywhere I want and never get stuck in traffic again. How cool would that be?

Q:  Do you have a favorite quote, quip, or saying? What is it?

A:  *Laughs* Several, actually. But one of my favorites is, “You never see the bullet that gets you.” We prepare for every possible contingency in life, and even try to prepare for our loved ones after our deaths. But somehow, something always comes along that we didn’t foresee and upsets our apple carts. The quip reminds us that we need to lighten up and go with the flow because we can’t control everything -- and some things that come along are better than we could have created ourselves.

Q:  Is there one passage in Fatal Distraction that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it? If so, can you share it?

A:  Of course, I love the whole book or I wouldn’t have stuck my neck out to release it. :-) I’m willing to take a risk, but I’m not that big a gambler! Readers tell me they love my characters, settings, and plots. So it’s hard to choose just one thing. But the heart of Fatal Distraction is the loving relationship between Florida Governor Helen Sullivan and her cattle rancher husband, Oliver, over the course of their lengthy marriage. Like all long-married couples, they’ve endured tragedies and enjoyed triumphs. Love has kept them together. Fatal Distraction opens immediately after the worst tragedy of their lives. The very first passage of the book sets the stage and makes us wonder whether the Sullivans will survive or succumb. But later, this passage shows the very heart of the matter:

Oliver was born in this ranch house, in the bedroom where he still slept. His father was born here, and his grandfather before him.
Things were different then, of course. But the land had always been a part of him and he wanted to return to it. He expected to be buried in the cemetery on the property where his parents were buried. Where his son was buried.
Oliver often wondered how his life and Helen’s would have been different if Eric had lived. Eric would be nineteen now, off to college. Maybe he’d have a girlfriend already.
After all, Oliver had loved Helen when he was nineteen.
If Eric had lived, would Helen have been different? Less ambitious? More?
He didn’t know. And it didn’t matter anymore. Eric was dead. He, Oliver, would be dead soon. One way or another. If he couldn’t muster the courage to kill himself, another stroke would take him.
Oliver picked up his pen and wrote a few more lines in the journal he’d kept every day of his life since long before he’d met Helen. God, he’d been young then. Only fifteen. But he knew right from the beginning that Helen was the girl for him, even though she was only thirteen herself.
To this day, he remembered with perfect clarity the moment he’d first seen his wife to be.
A cool March morning, and he’d rushed out of the house as usual, eager to feed Maggie, his filly. Oliver had fancied himself a young cowboy, like a hero from a Louis L’Amour novel. He knew cowboys didn’t make much money, but someday he figured he’d write stories like L’Amour himself, earn enough money to support his father’s struggling ranch to keep his dad from selling to developers.
Several weeks ago, Oliver told Ben Fleming about that morning, the one that changed his life forever.
“I rode Maggie down to the creek behind Todd’s cabin. I slipped off Maggie’s back, threw her reins over a branch, and moved to the rock I sat on every morning to watch the sunrise.”
Ben was one of the people who could understand Oliver’s tortured speech. Oliver liked talking to him, partly because no repetition was necessary.
“Then what did you do?” Ben asked.
Oliver brandished his lopsided grin. “What I did every day. I took out my pad and my pencil and refined the fictional world that I thought would save the ranch and make me famous.”
Ben didn’t laugh at him. Ben always listened seriously, accepting Oliver’s words as if they were gifts.
Back then, the day he met Helen, Oliver breathed in the heavy sweet scent of jasmine and wondered how L’Amour would describe it. He remembered trying to find the right words.
“I heard a sound. I looked up and saw a girl, maybe younger than me, maybe older. She was tall, so it was hard to tell. She wore jeans and a blue denim jacket, and her brown hair was gathered in a single braid that fell to the middle of her back. When she turned toward me, the rosy glow of early sunrise bathed her plain, freckled face, softening the edges of her jaw and caressing her cheek. The sight of her literally took my breath away. She heard me gasp. She turned and faced me . . . .” Oliver stopped there, remembering the moment he realized he knew her.
“Helen,” Ben said.
Oliver laughed again, a little self-conscious. “Yeah. Just Helen Carter. The kid who lived with her uncle on the next ranch over.”
He’d known her all her life. Yet until that day he’d never truly seen her.
On that morning she had been transformed, and he would forever associate his beautiful Helen with the fresh, clean scent of jasmine.
“Love at first sight, then?” Ben asked. “She stole your heart back then, and in all these years, you’ve never wanted to be with anyone else?”
Oliver knew it sounded dumb. Men didn’t feel like that about women these days. Men were worldly now, more experienced. But here Oliver was, at the end of his life, and he still wanted only Helen; loved only her, desired exclusively his wife of twenty-five years.
“What kind of a sap does that make me?” Oliver had laughed out loud for the first time in several months.
The sound of it surprised them both, and Ben laughed with him.
As he sat at his desk tonight, thinking about leaving Helen forever, their first meeting and laughing with Ben about his enduring love for his wife washed over him anew.
He remained lost in his memories until something jarred him back to the present.
He shook his head and tried to make sense of whatever it was that had roused him.
That’s when Oliver heard the cries, not human, but animal. They came from outside. The horses in the barn.
What could have stirred them so? Normally they were quiet at night.
She cleared her throat and gave in to her need to know. “How much farther?”
“Ten miles out,” Frank replied, then whistled low and long. “Off to port.”
Helen looked out the left window. The blaze lit up the night sky. The sight ramped up her heartbeat and quickened her breath. They were still too far away to see the chaos of experts putting their lives on the line to stop the fire before it became a raging inferno that threatened their own homes and families.
Under normal circumstances, they’d have landed in the ranch house’s backyard helipad in less than ten minutes. But she realized the fire was too intense.
The pilot spoke on the intercom: “We’re going to set down on the asphalt, ma’am, if that’s all right.” It wasn’t a question.
“Of course.”
He landed the bird safely on the road, half a mile away from the burning barn.
Before the blades stopped turning, Helen slipped off her helmet, unbuckled her harness, jumped out and ran toward the ranch house, gown, high heels, and all, Frank Temple jogging alongside her. “Go ahead, Frank. I’ll catch up.”
He sprinted ahead of her.
Helen's logic said the fire was too far along and the horses were dead. Jake was dead. The love of Eric’s life. Gone. Her breath caught in her throat as she acknowledged the truth. She patted her flat right side, seeking the inhaler she normally kept in her pocket, but the evening gown had no pockets, no inhaler. She kept running.
She had to find Oliver. He had to be okay. Had to. She couldn’t survive if he died and left her here alone. She knew it.
She reached the porch outside the house, gasping for air, noticing the front door stood open. Frank was inside, going from room to room, yelling “Oliver! Oliver!”
Oh my god. It hit her: Frank didn’t know where Oliver was.
Of course Oliver wasn’t inside. He would have tried to get to Jake in the barn. Chest constricted, breaths shallow, she called out, too. “Oliver! Oliver!”
The noise of the fire added to the cacophony of the rescue workers and law enforcement was deafening. Her cries were lost in the noise.
She bent over with pain in her side and closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them, she saw the drag marks left by Oliver’s cane in the dusty driveway.
“Oliver!” she shouted as she followed the drag marks toward the fire.
As she approached the barn, the fire’s heat felt like an inferno in the chill. Smoke pierced her eyes as if it had sharp edges. She was blinded. She wiped her eyes on the slinky sleeves of the evening gown just as an explosion showered her with splintered glass. She felt the small cuts on her face, her forearms, her chest. Her arm blocked the glass from slicing her eyeballs.
She breathed hard, gulping air, when she saw Oliver’s cane on the ground. She bent over to retrieve it.
Saline streamed down her face, stinging while cooling her over-heated eyes. She could see where he’d fallen and lain in the dirt. But where was he now?
Helen put her head down and kept moving, wiping her eyes with the scratchy material that smeared the tears, blood, and soot on her face. She followed the trail as the marks Oliver’s body made in the dirt slid off the driveway and into the underbrush where the blackness enveloped her.
“Oliver! Oliver!” Helen couldn’t hear her own screaming.
She tripped and fell flat, scraping her hands and knees on the gravel. Her body lay over a large object in her path. She struggled to rise and realized she’d fallen over Oliver’s body lying prone on the ground.
Helen was already crying, gasping, and furiously trying to clear her vision. Her tears came faster, and she was astonished to hear herself sobbing.
Thank god. She thought she could feel a faint pulse. She barely had the breath to call out. “Frank! Over here. Oliver’s hurt!”
She bent down to Oliver’s face, invisible under the shadows of the trees, and kissed him full on the mouth. His lips were already cooling.
“You can’t die, Oliver. You can’t. Hang on. Please, hang on.”
He didn’t respond.

#1 Amazon Bestselling Author Diane Capri’s work is what the #1 worldwide publishing phenomenon Lee Child calls “Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too.” Margaret Maron, Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Award-winning MWA Past President, says: “Expertise shines on every page.” And Library Journal raves: “….offers tense legal drama with courtroom overtones, twisty plots, and loads of atmosphere. Recommended.”

Diane’s new Jess Kimball series kicked off with Fatal Distraction, opening as the #3 Bestselling Legal Thriller, behind John Grisham. Diane’s new Hunt for Jack Reacher series began with Don’t Know Jack, which garnered #1 Bestseller spots on Mystery, Hard-boiled Mystery, Police Procedural, Women Sleuths, and Legal Thriller lists both in the U.S. and U.K. Don’t Know Jack was followed by two bestselling short stories in the Hunt for Jack Reacher series, Jack in a Box and Jack and Kill. Diane’s Judge Wilhelmina Carson mysteries were praised by Romantic Times and garnered the coveted “Top Pick.” Diane’s savvy, spunky character, attorney Jennifer Lane, stars in her own romantic suspense series, which kicks off with Annabelle’s Attack.

Diane is the past Executive Vice President of International Thriller Writers, past member of the Board of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and active in Sisters in Crime and other writing organizations. She comes to writing after a successful legal career and is married to her college sweetheart. She loves her nomadic snowbird existence preferring perpetual summer migrating from Florida to Michigan each year.

Diane says she writes mystery and suspense for the same reason she reads: to find out what happens, why people do what they do, and how to bring justice to an unjust world. Her books are translated in twenty territories. Diane loves to hear from readers. Contact her at: to receive notice of new releases, subscribe to Diane’s blog, or simply connect with her.  

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Christine said...

Great interview with a lovely lady who shares her wisdom with others.

I already have Fatal Distraction in my TBR pile and can't wait to treat myself.

shannon esposito said...

What great interview questions! Very entertaining. And I loved your quote, Diane, about the bullet that gets you. So true, but darn we writers are good at making up worst case scenarios in every situation, aren't we? lol

Diane Capri said...

Thanks, CC and Shannon! Glad you enjoyed the post. Laurie does have great questions, doesn't she? I'm thinking maybe she's done this once or twice before, hmmmm? :-)

Autumn said...

I love thriller books! And coming on your blog to find new authors I have never heard about! Thank you for the great interview, and for a new book to put in my TBR pile.