Man, doesn’t it feel good to go galloping toward the woods? I love the wind cooling the sweat off my brow. Ah, the shade feels great. Hey, look, what is that? Check out all those green plants growing in that field. How pretty! Uh, oh. It looks like marijuana. How illegal!
Yikes. This place reminds me of Rachelle J. Christensen’s new suspense novel, Caller ID, where a girl from a privileged family is warned not to go into the woods, but does she listen? Of course not. (She doesn’t wear a red cape, either, and she encounters worse than a wolf among the trees.)
Here, let’s sit by this stream. Watch out for that pipe, there. Don’t trip on it. It’s a clever system for watering those plants, designed by desperate men who will do anything to keep their activities secret.
Hush! Do you hear that? Someone’s coming! What if it’s Ramiro? Trust me, you don’t want to meet Ramiro. Hide, hide! No, move over, part of me is still sticking out! Where’s a bigger tree? Ahhh, it’s too late!
Oh, it’s only Rachelle. Whew. Girl, you gave me a heart attack! You didn’t see Ramiro, did you?
RACHELLE: No, but I did see a squirrel with some pretty big buck teeth.
SHIRLEY: Well, you’ve got to watch your back when those are around. (Looks up.) Now I’m afraid that a squirrel might jump on my head and chew my hair off. Warn me if he shows up overhead. That reminds me, I’ve got to ask you a question. Embarrassingly enough, when I tried writing my first “suspense” novel, my sister laughed at the scary bad guy because all he did was yell threats at people. (Gotta rewrite that scene.) Your suspense is bruisingly believable. How do you write your suspense so that it grips the reader, yet doesn’t cross the line?
RACHELLE: I try to look at things from a different angle. I take a motivation and twist it. I ask, “What if someone did the unexpected?”
SHIRLEY: You tied such diverse threads into your story, such as relationships between parents and children, romantic interests, pets, subterfuge, and deadly confrontations. What’s your method for weaving so many varied elements together?
RACHELLE: Masters in underwater basket weaving. No, I think it’s because those are the types of books I like to read, and I want it to seem as realistic as possible so the reader gets lost in the book.
SHIRLEY: It looks like you got lost in the woods because you’ve got a leaf in your hair. No, you missed it. There. Okay, now it’s gone. How did you learn about growing marijuana? (Inquiring minds want to know!)
RACHELLE: I grew up in rural Idaho where they face some of the same problems as here in Utah—tons of illegal drugs growing on farmlands, in the desert, mountains, etc. There are tons of articles in the news on this and I interviewed FBI agents and police officers too.
SHIRLEY: What a great idea! Ask the experts! I read a lot, so I was pleasantly surprised by the twisty-turns at the end of Caller ID. It was like deer trails disappearing into a grove and coming out at a totally unexpected point. I did not see them coming! Do you run your ideas past other people, or do you boil them up in your own brain?
RACHELLE: I love brainstorming with my husband and my brother and his wife! They also helped me with the plot in Wrong Number. It’s awesome the way the plot solidifies when you have the opportunity to bounce several different angles off people to see if it holds solid.
SHIRLEY: Do you hear that? Sounds like a 4-wheeler coming. Were you expecting anyone?
RACHELLE: No. Were you? J
SHIRLEY: No. I wasn’t even expecting you. Maybe the good guys are coming to shut this operation down.
RACHELLE: Or maybe the bad guys are coming to harvest their crop.
SHIRLEY: We’d better get out of here. Hey. Where’s my horse? Great. It’s gone. Now what?
RACHELLE: (Pulls out key.) I’ve got a motorcycle parked on the other side of that stand of trees. Come on. We’ll ride home along the knife ridge between those two unbelievably steep canyons.
SHIRLEY: Like I said, Rachelle’s the master of suspense!
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