THE OTHER GIRL Written by Erica Spindler
AUGUST 22, 2017; 352 Pages (St. Martin’s Press)
Genre: suspense, mystery, southern, police, murder, standalone
(I received an ARC from the PUBLISHER via NETGALLEY)
Officer Miranda Rader of the Hammond PD in Louisiana is trying hard to run away from her past. Everyone, including her own mother and brothers, saw her as heading for trouble and washed their hands of her fourteen years ago. Growing up she had everything to prove to the world – that she is one of the best detectives on the force and has honour. Everything is going well for Miranda until she is named the lead on the brutal murder of a beloved professor, Richard Stark. Stark’sr father is the president of the college and wants the murder solved soon, without any scandal. Then Miranda finds a clue at the crime scene that is a tie to her own past and the worst time in her life. As she tries to uncover the truth of the victim, Miranda stirs up things that might be turned against her. The “beloved professor” might in fact be a dark predator. And, when another body turns up, of a police officer, Miranda is suspected. She has to find the killer before she is arrested.
I have been a fan of Erica Spindler’s writing since I picked up her first book, as I love the suspense she creates. I enjoyed this book, but it was not the suspense thriller I was expecting. I expecting a grittier novel. This one was more of a simple mystery – meaning that you are interested in knowing what is going to happen, but you aren’t enthralled at the edge of your seat. I liked Miranda as a character and the lead, but at times the secondary characters were a bit one sided. I think this was because the author was trying to create more than one suspect in readers’ mind. The killer (and ending) is a bit predictable but I still enjoyed this novel. Miranda is interesting and I am hoping we will see more of her and the town.
Q&A with Erica Spindler:
Q: Start by telling us a little about The Other Girl and what inspired the story?
A: In THE OTHER GIRL, the grisly murder of a popular college professor, forces Detective
Miranda Rader to face the traumatic past she thought she’d buried. It leads her on a quest for justice that may cost her everything—even her life. A real life event close to home inspired THE OTHER GIRL. I live in a family-oriented, bedroom community of New Orleans. One afternoon the news exploded with the account of an attempted abduction of a young girl walking home from her bus stop. The girl managed to escape and the
perp got away. As you can imagine, the story was everywhere and on everyone’s lips for days. She’s interviewed, her parents are on TV. But no arrests are made, and the case goes silent. Until—the sheriff appears on TV and announces the girl made up the whole thing. I was shocked. The girl’s identity is known—so now everyone thinks she’s a liar. All her friends, teachers, family, neighbors. Everybody. What if she really was telling the truth? How would that impact her life now—and in the future? Would she bury the past? Would she long for justice? And what if she wasn’t the only girl? What about justice for them? These questions are at the heart of both this story and my main character, Miranda.
Q: Can you give us a look into the character development process, more specifically how you developed protagonist Miranda Rader?
A: I started with the “What if no one believed you question” and built my character from there, by asking more questions, defining who she is at the time of the incident—and how do I make it believable no one backs her up. Then I tackled all the ways that might have changed her life. For example, I decided she would have felt powerless against the system, so she would choose to become part of it as an adult—and what’s more empowering than a badge and a gun? This really is a psychologically driven thriller, and my end goal was justice and healing, so every decision I made had to pass the test: Will this take me a step closer to that goal.
Q: How would you describe your writing process, including getting started, conducting research, and knowing when a work is complete?
A: Beginning always starts with what I call my “Dark Gift” moment. It a goosebumps reaction to something that happens to me personally, or in my personal sphere. And it starts the worst-case-scenario, what-if snowball rolling. I usually brainstorm on paper a lot. Jotting ideas, plot points, bits of dialogue, character characteristics, or whatever. The good stuff keeps coming back, the other just falls away. I do whatever research I need to start the book, then research as I go. (I don’t love research.) I’ve recently discovered a screenwriting book titled Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and have started incorporating his notecard, three act process and have found it very helpful. When I think I have enough of a direction, I open a document on the computer and begin. There are days writing is the hardest job ever, and other days when it’s heaven on earth—and lots of
days in between. For me, I know it’s done when all the threads are tied up and I get this euphoric feeling of satisfaction—not for having finished, but for my characters. It their happy ending, after all.
Q: Tell us about your influences, from all-time favorite authors to most inspirational works. Additionally, are there any recent titles you’d recommend?
A: Down here in south Louisiana, we’re known for our gumbo. It started with the cajuns, who would throw whatever they had in an abundance into the pot to make a rich, flavorful stew. That’s the way I think of my influences—horror like Stephen King and Peter Straub; Glitz and Glamour like Judith Krantz and Sidney Sheldon; childhood influences like the Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew mysteries; the Gothic Suspense from my teens years, like Phyllis Whitney and Mary Stewart; and the Contemporary Romance like Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown they all come together in my stories to create this complex and, hopefully, tasty mix.
Q: What would you say is the greatest writing tip you have for aspiring writers?
A: How about three instead? Believe in yourself, learn from your mistakes, and keep your butt inthe chair!
Q: When did you know being a writer was what you wanted to do? What was the moment like when you realized it was becoming a reality? Was the path to publication a linear one?
A: I always thought I wanted to be a visual artist, which is what I’m trained for. I’d completed my MFA and lined up a University teaching job for the fall. Then I caught the writing bug. A cashier dropped a free Nora Roberts novel into my shopping bag; I read it and was hooked. Although a big reader all my life, I’d never read romance. After a months-long reading frenzy, I decided I had to try to write one. The minute I put pen to paper, I knew I had found my true calling. I never looked back. As for a linear path to publication—if that includes rejections, rewrites, rejections, rewrites, yes it was linear. My very first novel, rewritten several times, is still in a drawer. I’ve nicknamed it Fatally Flawed, because I made every mistake a beginning writer can make. It’s my learning
curve, I’m proud of that fact, and it will never to see the light of publication. Promise!
Q: What would you say makes The Other Girl stand out amongst other popular thrillers from the last few years?
A: There have been so many awesome thrillers published in the last few years! What I hope stands out about THE OTHER GIRL is it’s main character’s authentic journey as she relives past trauma and fights for justice. I think readers will really like her and be rooting for her.
Q: Do you have any creative rituals for when you sit down to write?
A: Coffee. More coffee. And chocolate. Seriously dark chocolate.
Q: When you’re writing a suspense novel such as The Other Girl, how do you go about mapping out the plot? Did you know the ending ahead of time, or did you let the story unfold as you wrote?
A: In writing circles, you’re either a plotter or a pantser (as in the seat of your pants.) I’m
actually a bit of both. Some things I know. How it begins, who the hero is—and who the villain is. I also start out knowing what the hero desires—or thinks she desires.
I know the crime, or crimes, that make the plot move, and also what the hero has to learn from this journey. Everything else is the magic that happens as I’m writing—the story and characters take on a life of their own and things happen that I never could have planned beforehand.
Q: Are there any pieces of you in any characters in The Other Girl?
A: Yes, definitely. In all my books, there’re are bits and pieces of me scattered about. (Sounds like crime scene!) And my heroic characters are always colored with my world view.
Q: Are you a fan of Law and Order: SVU?
A: Nope, I don’t watch. I don’t want to be influenced by some cool plot twist or crime scenedetail they come up with. I do sometimes watch true crime and things like forensic files.
Q: What’s your favorite psychological thriller?
A: One of my all time favorite novels is Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Another is Along Came a Spider by James Patterson, and The Shining by Stephen King. The list goes on!
Catching a summer cold changed Erica Spindler’s life forever.
Up until that fateful malady, Erica planned on being an artist. She had studied for that profession, earning both a BFA and MFA in the visual arts. Then in June of 1982, she stopped at a local drugstore to pick up cold tablets and tissues; the cashier dropped a free romance novel into her bag. She hadn’t read a romance in years but once home, with nothing to do but sniffle and watch daytime TV, she picked that romance up — and was immediately hooked. For the next six months she read every romance she could get her hands on. Sometime during those months, she decided to try to write one herself.
The moment she put pen to paper, Erica knew she had found her true calling. Since that day, Erica has published more than twenty novels. Her titles have been published all over the world and Red was turned into both a wildly popular graphic novel and daytime drama in Japan. Critics have dubbed her stories as “thrill-packed, page turners, white knuckle rides, and edge-of-your- seat whodunits.”
Erica is a USA TODAY, New York Times and Amazon.com bestseller. In 2002, her novel Bone Cold won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence. An RWA honor roll member, she received a Kiss of Death award for her novel Forbidden Fruit and is a three-time RITA award finalist. In 1999 Publishers Weekly awarded the audio version of her novel Shocking Pink a Listen-Up award, naming it one of the best audio mystery books of 1998.
Erica and her husband — a man she describes as funny, handsome and way too sassy — met in art school and have been together ever since. They have two sons, born nine and a half years apart. Erica makes her home in the New Orleans area, although she originally hailed from Illinois.
Erica came to her present home in much the same way she came to writing — fate intervened. She and her husband, then college students, traveled to New Orleans to see the King Tut exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Without advance tickets, they had a choice: wait in line all day or spend the day sightseeing. They chose the latter and fell head-over-heels in love with the city.
Erica is currently at work on her next thriller for St. Martin’s Press.