Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Books UNSPEAKABLE by Kevin O' Brien

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 
  Kevin O'Brien has produced six more best-selling thrillers--published in a dozen 
  different languages.  His latest nail-biter is UNSPEAKABLE, released last month.
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 
( 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:


Child 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 book starts. 

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 next book!

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 support group.

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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