For seventeen years, before his thrillers landed him on The New York Times Bestseller list, Kevin O'Brien made his living as a railroad inspector and did all his writing at night. His second novel, ONLY SON (1996), was optioned for film rights, thanks to interest from David Seltzer (THE OMEN)and Tom Hanks. It was also chosen by Readers Digest for its Select Editions--along with John Grisham's THE PARTNER. "Seeing my photo on the back cover--alongside John Grisham--really made me feel as if I'd 'arrived' as an author," Kevin admits.Kevin has been writing full time ever since. But he hasn't forgotten his railroad "ties." So--if on occassion, you find a scene in a Kevin O'Brien thriller in which a dead body is discovered in a railroad yard, well, now you know why.THE NEXT TO DIE (2001), his first thriller, was a USA Today Bestseller. More bestsellers followed with MAKE THEM CRY, WATCH THEM DIE and LEFT FOR DEAD. His 2005 spellbinder, THE LAST VICTIM won the Spotted Owl Award for Best Pacific Northwest Mystery/Thriller, and became a New York Times Bestseller. Kevin O'Brien continued his New York Times Bestseller streak with KILLING SPREE, ONE LAST SCREAM and FINAL BREATH.
Kevin lives in Seattle, where he's involved with the Seattle 7 Writers, along with Garth Stein, Jennie Shortridge, Erica Baeumeister, Carol Cassella and several other award-winning, bestselling authors (www.seattle7writers.org). Among the S7W projects is THE HOTEL ANGELINE: A NOVEL IN 36 VOICES, a collaborative book with 36 authors--including Erik Larson, Jamie Ford, Elizabeth George, Robert Dugoni, Susan Wiggs and several others. In Kevin's chapter, someone meets a violent end...naturally. Library Lady, Nancy Pearl, furnishes the Introduction. All sales for this forthcoming ebook will go to promote literacy and writing in schools. Kevin loves Hitchcock movies, and is hard at work on a new thriller.You can visit his website: www.kevinobrienbooks.comUNSPEAKABLEChild star, Collin Cox, is washed up at sixteen. When his train-wreck of a mother is brutally slain, he moves in with his grandparents on the Kitsap Peninsula. Under a different name, he starts at a new high school where no one knows him. But one night, when two friends hypnotize him, Collin begins to talk in a different voice and he takes on a strange, new persona—that of a serial killer who has been dead since 1962. As people around him start dying, Collin turns for help to Olivia Barker, a Seattle hypnotherapist, recovering from a horrible tragedy and a collapsed marriage. Is Collin responsible for these recent deaths? Has someone from the past taken control of him? Olivia and Collin delve deep into the unsolved murders from fifty years before. But the truth may be the last thing they ever know….
1 – To me, UNSPEAKABLE is your most
unique and exciting novel. You
introduced me to characters I don’t often see in crime fiction. For instance, your protagonist is
a hypnotherapist who: a.) worries she might not be up to the job; b.) wonders
if she should be trying to help overweight people and smokers when she is
struggling with nine pounds she needs to lose and still smokes half a pack of
Virginia Slims a day. Olivia
Barker is one of your finest creations.
How did she come about?
When I realized my
young hero, Collin would need help from a hypnotherapist, the first thing I did
was look up Hypnotists in the Yellow Pages. Nearly all the hypnotists listed were to help people quit
smoking or lose weight. So right
then, my twisted thinking was that my hypnotherapist-heroine will be a closet
smoker struggling to lose a few pounds.
Her marriage recently went kaput, and she has moved in with her widower
dad. She’s back in her old
bedroom, which is exactly as she’d left it after college—with a Titanic movie poster above her bed, and
walls full of photos of friends with whom she has long since lost touch. So it’s like Olivia is in limbo when the
2 – The same can be said for the
twentyish young man who calls himself Russ Leander, but is really Collin
Cox. His Granddaddy may be Anthony
Perkins in “Psycho,” but you make him entirely unique. Did you research both hypnosis and
psychology for making his background believable?
Thank you, Ed, and
yes! My neighbor across the street
is a psychologist, and he’s always so helpful when I’m trying to figure out the
motivations and behavior patterns for my warped villains. In this case, he gave me several
printouts on hypnosis and multiple personality disorder. Plus I did my own research about the
Bridey Murphy “reincarnation” case in the 1950’s, which heavily influenced the
plot in UNSPEAKABLE.
3 – Child stars such as Lindsey Lohan
and Amanda Bynes are constantly in the news. Do you have them in mind when you created him?
Yes, I was thinking
about the child stars in The Sixth Sense,
The Shining and Poltergeist. Like
them, Collin is known for his role in a hit horror movie, and he had a line
that everyone remembers (like “I see dead
people,” or “Redrum, redrum!” or “They’re here!”). Collin’s oft-quoted line in “The Night
Whisperer” is: “The killing’s about to start!” What I’ve read
about Lindsey Lohan’s mother (and other stage mothers) helped influence the
creation of Collin’s screwed up mom.
I had a fun time creating Collin and his back-story.
4 – How long did you work on
UNSPEAKABLE before you were satisfied with it?
One of the
advantages—and disadvantages—to putting out a book a year (it’s in my contract
with the publisher to deliver one every year) is that I don’t have a lot of
time to tinker and tweak my writing.
There’s always a deadline looming—or I’m running way behind
schedule. After my book outline is
accepted, I usually have about six to seven months to get a book written and
polished. I’m never totally
satisfied with it. But then, even
if I had six or seven years for each book, I probably wouldn’t be totally
satisfied with it either. So I do
my best with the limited time I have.
5 – How do you feel when you finish a
novel? I know some who exult and
others who sulk, thinking they’ve just completed a bad one. How do you feel when you finish?
Can I answer “All of
the above?” I have such mixed
emotions of relief and exhaustion and postpartum depression. Plus I’m both optimistic and
pessimistic about how it will go over with my editor and early readers. So—I’m always a bit of a mess for a couple
of weeks after I finish a book.
But at the same time, it feels great catching up on stuff I’ve neglected. There’s only a brief period of feeling
aimless—then my editor starts tapping his foot, waiting for the outline for my
6 – Do you have people other than your
editor read and comment on your manuscript?
My dear friend since
college, Cate Goethals (who is a writer, journalist and professor), has read at
least the first 100 pages of each one of my books before I’ve handed it
in. She has little patience for
phony or silly women. So it’s
great to have her sizing up my heroines.
Her approval on those first few chapters has become a good luck charm
for each book. Cate is also in my
writers group, which includes authors, David Massengill and Garth Stein (I told
him not to write a “dog book,” good thing he didn’t listen to me). They see early versions of several
chapters and give me wonderful feedback.
I’m a big advocate for writers joining writers groups. It’s a lonely profession—and you need a
7 – What’s your next novel about?
My next thriller,
TELL ME YOU’RE SORRY, is a little bit of Black
Widow and a little bit of The
Stepfather. A woman pilot and
a teenage boy team up after their respective families are murdered. They begin to see a pattern in which
several widowers—recently remarried—are killed along with their families and
new spouses. That’s all I’ll say
about it for now. I don’t want to
give any more of it away!
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