One of our most popular guests is back for The Story Behind the Story.
MJ LaBeff writes terrific thrillers and I’m a big fan of her work. If you missed her previous visits, check them out HERE.
Hi Allan! Thank you for inviting me back as a guest on the Scribbler. It’s always fun to share what I’m working on- even if a release date isn’t anywhere in sight!
***It’s always a pleasure to have you as a guest, MJ. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your newest work.
Bio: MJ LaBeff is an American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. MJ grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona where she lives with her husband and two dogs. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society.
Working Title: Murdered Last Summer (book 6 of the Last Cold Case series)
Someone is killing Snug Harbor, Ohio’s most vulnerable residents. A serial killer prowls the streets in search of drug addicts. There are three victims in one week—a drug addiction specialist, a down-on-her-luck former teacher, a recovering drug addict. Unlike the overdoses plaguing the city, this time the killer removes the victims’ eyes. Does the signature have meaning? That’s what homicide detective Rachel Hood, a psychic empath and FBI agent Nick Draven, an occult crimes specialist need to find out before more people die.
The killer sends a string of messages. An envelope addressed HOOD contains a photo of two boys. An undercover detective goes silent. Another woman is murdered.
But you don’t see me…
This victim haunts homicide detective Rachel Hood. The woman’s spirit seeks forgiveness but all she conveys to Rachel are these two words: see me. Rachel suffers through this unidentified woman’s pain putting her through the rigors of the addict’s hell on earth.
The story behind the story:
There are two that inspired this story. The first one came from a friend many years ago about a child who had brought drug paraphernalia to school for show and tell, and the second from a news story I caught one morning about a child who had gone to school and told a teacher about the parents drug use.
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about how irresponsible the parents were and the tragic conditions they were raising their children. However, I also started to think about the possibility that these parents’ could’ve been decent, hard-working people who fell victims to drugs, maybe through no fault of their own.
Next came the: what ifs? What if a child brought drugs to school and confided in a teacher for help. What if that teacher had drug problems? What if the teacher became the parent’s newest customer? What if the parent’s weren’t as decent as I imagined? What if there was a toddler in the home that died as a result of living in a place where drugs were carelessly left out? What if the children felt let down by the teacher and the police? After all, these were people they had counted on for help. How would that affect them in later years?
Before I knew it a story began to develop about two boys who relied on each other but as young adults were on very different paths.
This common theme arose: what happens when the people you think you can trust the most are the ones you learn to trust the least. I thought about the people I was told to trust as a kid if I needed help or was in trouble. What if all of them had failed me in my eyes?
As I started writing about halfway through I started to think about the boy’s mom. What was she like? What did she do? Did she care for her children? What happened to their father? That was easy. I incarcerated him. A death in the home led to his conviction and sentence. I don’t want to spoil the surprise so that’s all I’ll say about it.
Now, you might be thinking you know who the serial killer is, but do you? Nope. You wanna know why? I haven’t even decided who has gone on this killing spree. There are so many wonderful characters with so many reasons to commit murder, and if you’ve read any of my other books you know how much I love to create clouds of suspicion around everyone being investigated.
What is your most favorite part and least favorite part about publishing?
MJ: My favorite part about self-publishing is the control I maintain when it comes to deadlines and release dates. My least favorite part about self-publishing is the control I maintain, LOL! Seriously, the one thing about self-publishing that I don’t enjoy is that I’m responsible for setting several deadlines, assembling a team responsible for editing, formatting, and designing cover art and then I’m the one releasing the book via Draft2Digital and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Now, I’m the one driving the schedule. I’ve always taken my writing seriously so meeting deadlines has never been an issue I’m highly self-motivated and full of determination. The writing is the fun part. I do miss having a publisher who set the deadlines and provided the team of professionals. At my core, I’m a writer and if I’m being honest I don’t have any interest in learning how to format a manuscript, and I’m definitely not an artist so designing a book cover is a hard no. When it comes to editing I find it much harder to edit my own writing so I’ll trust that to someone else, too. For what it’s worth, my manuscripts are pretty clean but as writing goes there’s always something!
Thanks again, Allan, I always have so much fun chatting it up with you on Scribbler! I’m also a fan of your books and especially enjoy the Jo Naylor detective series and your short story collections. You’ve inspired me to give writing a short story a try, but I don’t have the time just yet.
***Your kind words and support is very much appreciated. Wishing you continued success with your writing. When you get around to the short story, I know it will be good! Thanks again for being here.
Do you, my wonderful readers, like thrillers? What is your favorite genre?