For our final August interview...
Kimberly Derting, debut author of The Body Finder, answered some questions for FNC about creating a character's supernatural ability, her husband's influence on her writing, her guilty pleasure TV shows, and more!
About The Body Finder:
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world... and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer... and becoming his prey herself.
What was your creation process for The Body Finder? Meaning, what was the original nugget that inspired the books – the characters, the setting, a certain scene or line of dialogue, the plot? How did it develop/evolve from there?
My husband’s always throwing around ideas, and one day while we were driving he just looked at me and said: “What if there was a person who could find dead bodies.” Of course, he was imagining a middle grade boy, but for me it was always a sixteen-year-old girl. By the time we got home I was practically racing through the front door to start making notes. That was how my main character Violet’s creepy ability was born.
You’ve already completed the sequel to The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, which will be released by HarperCollins in 2011. When in the process did you realize there would be more than one book? How did you outline the series, and did that affect the plot of the first book?
The plot of the first book never changed because of consequent books. Technically, each book could be a stand-alone and read out of order even though they contain the same main characters. They’re sort of like companion novels in that regard. It made outlining book two easier since I could start fresh with a new plotline (for the most part).
What was your process like for drafting, revising, and completing your novel?
It’s not so much a process as it is just sitting down and writing. I’m not much of an outliner, so mostly I just open whatever document I’m working on and go for it. Despite the fact that I don’t have a hard outline, I do have a very distinct idea of where I’m headed with the story. I may have even written it down (in not-too-many words) I just don’t always know exactly how I’m going to get there. That’s what revisions are for, to clean up my first draft mess.
In The Body Finder, Violet realizes she’s fallen in love with her childhood best friend, Jay. Have you had a similar experience? What from the novel did you shamelessly steal from real life?
I didn’t fall in love with my childhood best friend, but my husband and I were friends before we actually dated. We worked together at a restaurant waiting tables and I used to lend him my car so he could go on dates with other girls. Funny that one day I just looked at him differently. Seems like yesterday, but it was over seventeen years ago.
Violet has the ability to sense the echoes of murder victims, including birds that her cat had killed. How did you decide on the parameters of her power? Did you change them at all while writing the book?
When I first “created” Violet’s ability, I sat down and created ground rules for them. There were things that Violet knew about her ability, like that she could only sense those who had been murdered, each “echo” would be unique and it would “imprint” itself on the one responsible for the death, and that once a body was laid to rest properly its echo would fade (although the imprint on the killer would not).
As the book evolved, the rules changed a little, but not much. I added rules that Violet doesn’t entirely understand yet. I keep those “in the vault,” to reveal in snippets as she discovers more about what she can do with her gift.
You mention on your blog that you’re a big TV fan. (FNC’s based in Philly, so we have to point out that you love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!) How do you think your TV watching habits have affected you as a writer? Do you watch any teen shows for inspiration (or because they’re so darn good)?
I watch a lot of shows on, ehem, Nickelodeon and Disney channels. I want to say that it’s because my eight-year-old makes me, but I’d probably be lying. (Between you and me, I think Sam on iCarly is hilarious!)
I think as a writer I’m influenced by everything, whether it’s intentional or not. Even when I’m watching something strictly for entertainment, I can’t help paying attention to dialogue and characterization, and to settings and moods. Sometimes in my head, I’ll even try to describe a scene. Actually, that last part just makes me sound crazy.
What do you see as your greatest strength and your greatest weakness as a writer?
This is tough. My greatest strength is probably my ability to revise well with my editor. My greatest weakness is my blackbelt in the art of procrastination!
The Body Finder won’t be released until March 2010. (Such a long wait!) What are you doing to generate buzz up until then, and what are your promotional plans afterwards?
Ah, yes, March 2010…aka “Forever.” For now, I’m doing all of the obvious things: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Goodreads. But I’ve also joined The Tenners, a brilliant online support/marketing group geared toward YA and MG authors who are all debuting in 2010. After my release, I have some tours scheduled and, hopefully, will attend some conferences this summer. Other than that, I just have to hope that word spreads, and that people tell their friends about my book. Honestly, word-of-mouth is the best form of promotion.
Which authors have inspired you the most?
It seems like I should say something really profound here, like Jane Austen or Harper Lee, both of whom I’ve loved. But I’ve gotta go with the obvious here and say: Stephen King. Mostly because when I was a teen, I was a voracious reader, but we didn’t have the YA variety of today, especially for horror and suspense, so I was forced into the adult market. Authors like King and John Saul and Dean Koontz became staples for me. I devoured them. Of course, that was the '80s, so there was also the obligatory Jackie Collins. I was a pretty well-rounded reader.
And here’s the really important question: If you were a chipmunk, would you want to date Alvin, Simon, or Theodore?
HAHA! As fun as I think Alvin is, he also seems a bit on the irresponsible side, so I’m going with the slightly nerdy Simon. Hey, nerds are lovable too!
Sure, you have to wait until March for The Body Finder, but if you want more Kim, check out her BLOG. Kim's a sweetheart who often replies to comments, and when she becomes a big hit I'm sure this'll be more difficult for her, so take advantage of it! Kim's WEBSITE has a nifty FAQ PAGE with great tidbits, such as how she chose her title, her writing history, and more!
Read Kim's post on "Getting THE CALL" HERE.
Check out another interview with her HERE.
PLUS, keep your eye out for our upcoming co-review of The Body Finder... and maybe even a chance to win our ARC!