Gardiner… proves herself wickedly adept with plot twists and turns... Plot twists and mounting suspense get people to race from the start of a book to the end, and complex characterizations and dynamic situations keep them coming back. Thanks to Meg Gardiner’s skill at both, her readers will be anxiously waiting, eager to devour whatever this talented writer comes up with next.
Why do you write thrillers? Because you have a twisted imagination?
Because thrillers — and mysteries, suspense novels, all of crime fiction — get to the heart of the human condition. They’re about people facing severe danger, or confronting an evil that has invaded their world.
Writing thrillers is also fun. I get to slingshot readers into situations they would hate to face in real life. A kid in danger? Bring it on. Sadistic killers? Here, have another helping. My book gave you nightmares? Thank you, that’s wonderful.
Any other reasons?
Yes. When I was younger I tried writing romance and science fiction, and those stories sucked. Sucked so hard, they created a vacuum on the opposite side of the planet.
In Phantom Instinct, Detective Aiden Garrison suffers from Fregoli syndrome following a traumatic brain injury. Does such a condition exist in real life?
Fregoli syndrome causes the mistaken belief that the person you’re looking at is actually someone else in disguise. It’s a delusional misidentification syndrome, and it’s very real. For a cop, who thinks he sees the same enemy everywhere he looks, it’s a nightmare.
Harper Flynn, the heroine of Phantom Instinct, is a former thief. What kind of research did you carry out to make sure her skills are realistic?
I read about lock picking and evasive driving. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
In The Shadow Tracer, Sarah Keller tracks down people who have gone on the run, and goes on the run herself. These days is it actually possible to disappear?
Disappearing in the age of Facebook and NSA surveillance takes smarts, luck, and discipline. It is possible, but can be nailbiting. And in Sarah’s case, it’s dangerous.
Ransom River is about a juror trapped in a courtroom hostage crisis — have you ever been a juror?
No. And I’ve never held anyone hostage. But I have been an attorney, and I know how people can feel when they’re summoned to jury duty: caged.
The Nightmare Thief features both Jo Beckett and Evan Delaney. Why did you bring your two series leads together?
The story pits Jo and Evan against a gang of kidnappers who are out for more than ransom. It takes two of them to go up against all the bad guys. Plus I wanted to put them together, like matter and antimatter, to see what explodes.
Jo is a forensic psychiatrist. Does such a job actually exist?
Yes. Forensic psychiatrists actually perform psychological autopsies in cases of equivocal death, to determine whether a victim’s death is natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide.
The Dirty Secrets Club makes San Francisco sound beautiful. But should visitors worry about earthquakes?
San Francisco is a magical city. Go. Enjoy. But also look up “San Andreas Fault.”
Jo is a rock climber. Are you?
Hardly. I’ve competed in cross-country, rafted the Zambezi river, won Jeopardy three times, and had three kids. Rock climbing is harder than any of those things.
Is Evan Delaney based on you?
No. We’re both from Santa Barbara, but Evan is more courageous and prone to trouble than I am. Unlike her, I’ve never chased a killer down the street while dressed as Diana Ross. Or stolen a Sidewinder missile. Or found an FBI agent hogtied to my bed, stark naked.
But Evan is a former attorney, just like you.
The proper term is “escaped attorney.”
Are your other characters based on real people?
Nope. Not the lethal hooker in the Catholic school uniform, or the lovelorn fighter pilot. Not Evan’s brave, sarcastic and wounded lover. Friends, neighbors, husband: they’re not you. Seriously.
Is China Lake an actual location?
Yes. A history of the place is titled Secret City. Drive west from Las Vegas, skirt Area 51, cross Death Valley, and stop when the Marines shoot at your car. Eat at Denny’s.
In Crosscut, Evan’s high school reunion goes hideously awry. Did you model the story on your own reunion?
Down to the smallest detail. Except that at my reunion, no cheerleaders were butchered. And of course, no characters in Crosscut are based on real people.
Jericho Point features crime among rock stars and reality show contestants. Are you a musician?
No. Married to one. Daughter of two. Mother to three. The book was written as self defense.
Mission Canyon is about a hit-and-run killing; how did you fit in a subplot about a bridal shower and bad lingerie?
Mission Canyon is about revenge. The bad lingerie is a bonus.
Speaking of weddings, is Evan ever going to marry Jesse Blackburn?
You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?
Is Santa Barbara as beautiful as is sounds? And as crazy as Evan makes it seem?
Santa Barbara is paradise. Here are a few of the things that prove it:
- Hiking in Rattlesnake Canyon
- Fourth of July fireworks at the harbor
- Midnight Mass at the Old Mission
- Friday night high school football games (Go Dos Pueblos!)
- Eating out: at Joe’s Cafe, The Cajun Kitchen, Rudy’s, The Beachside…
I have an idea for a book, but I’m not a writer. Do you accept story ideas from other people?
I don’t. I need to come up with my own stories.
So where do your ideas come from?
I start vicious rumors about my relatives, then sit back and watch the fur fly. After that, the books write themselves.
You’re starting to annoy me.
Oh, all right. Headlines. The human heart. My deepest fears. The inner voice that says: if it scares you, it’ll scare readers too.
I have written a book. Will you read my manuscript?
Sorry, no. On the advice of legal counsel, I won’t read unsolicited, unpublished works. Doing so only leads to grief.
You’re no help at all. Can you at least recommend some books on writing?
Here are three excellent ones:
- Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
- Story, Robert McKee
- Stein on Writing, Sol Stein
Can you sum up your crime series in 100 words?
No – for that I defer to Nancy Freund Fraser of Gobreau Press:
“A bold, brash, slightly-too-much-gumption-for-her-own-good kind of girl. Harpoon guns, GPS tracking devices, rabid coyotes, airplane crash mementoes, the FBI, homemade bombs, explosive Redi-Whip, imposter nuclear warheads, navy fighter pilots, flirtatious fighter pilots, ladies’ lingerie, small dogs, religious megalomaniacs, fires, imprisonment, alcoholic in-laws, has-been rock stars, never-were rock stars, smashed pumpkins, AIDS, broken glass, burning cowboy boots in trash cans – still attached to the feet that wear them – kidnappings to Las Vegas, NCAA swim meets, men in swimsuits, men in wheelchairs, men in Mustangs, margaritas, murder by guitar chord, and efforts (failed efforts, often) at redemption from every angle known to man.”
101. But I’ll take it.