Jennifer’s new neighbour, Lenise Jameson, is a liar. Lenise claims to have witnessed a disturbing incident involving Jennifer’s husband, Hank, but as far as Jennifer is concerned, the forty-something single mother is a vindictive backstabber out to make trouble.
But Jennifer soon discovers this is no sick joke. Hank has a dark side she knew nothing about.
As Jennifer’s life spirals out of control she has no one to turn to, apart from Lenise, who appears only too willing to help. But just who is Lenise? What does she want from Jennifer? And how far is she willing to go to get it?
A tale about secrets and obsession, and what can happen when you forget to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Do you know, I can’t remember how I stumbled across debut thriller The Devil’s Wire and its author Deborah Rogers – but I’m so very glad I did. Published by Lawson Publishing in November 2015, available in paperback and for kindle, it really should be on the reading list of everyone who enjoys an unusual and really gripping thriller, with one of the most complex and fascinating characters I’ve come across in some time in Lenise.
My review follows below, but first I’m delighted to welcome author Deborah Rogers to Being Anne.
Welcome to Being Anne, Deborah – my first guest to visit from New Zealand, I think! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Thanks for inviting me along, Anne. It’s awesome to be here. I’m a New Zealand based writer of contemporary crime fiction. Over the years, I’ve written poetry, literary fiction and screenplays but my true love is writing novels. I have a strange fascination for the darker side of life, and this tends to make its way into my stories in various guises. Quality is important to me so my work tends to take a bit longer. I love to travel and have been all around the world. I recently went on a trip to Europe with my sister and had a ball. My favorite place was London. I adored it and I want to do a massive trip around the UK and a food tour in France (maybe when I sell my millionth book!)
I’ve just finished reading The Devil’s Wire – and found it totally unputdownable (I’m a bit bleary eyed today, I just had to finish it last night!), a quite wonderful story of obsession. Tell me what inspired the story…
Coming from a big reader like yourself, Anne, that means a lot. Thank you. I adore British crime drama mini-series (like Cracker, Prime Suspect, The Sculptress etc), and drew heavily on that type of concept for inspiration for The Devil’s Wire. I love the way the stories in UK mini-series unfold a little at a time, and often involve interesting characters finding themselves in over their heads. In keeping with that, The Devil’s Wire raises several interesting character dilemmas. What happens when you have a secret and another person knows about it? What kind of bind does that put you in? How far are you willing to go to protect yourself and your own interests? I also wanted to create a female-centered story where the lead characters were women. For this, I drew inspiration from the films Single White Female, and Thelma and Louise (I’m showing my age now).
For a first novel, it’s an incredibly accomplished psychological thriller. Was it as uncomfortable to write as it was to read (and I do mean that as a compliment…)?
Some of the content of The Devil’s Wire is certainly fairly unsettling, and yes it was difficult to write at times. Generally, anything really bad I tend to keep off the page. I think there’s a fine line between revealing enough detail and being gratuitous, and I’m always weighing the pros and cons of what to keep in and what to keep out. It such a strange thing that the terrible things that happen in crime fiction happen to people in real life yet we still want to read about them for our own entertainment. I’ve yet to figure out the psychology behind it all and probably never will!
I’m not always a fan of present tense writing – but for a book like this it really worked so well. Was it difficult to do?
To tell you the truth, I knew the present tense thing was a bit of a gamble and wasn’t sure how it would be received. Initially, I wrote the book in past tense but it just felt too stale to me. I’ve also done a bit of scriptwriting and I’m quite a visual thinker, so I think going with present tense not only makes it easier for me to write, the story feels more immediate. More and more these days, I am finding past tense books harder to get into as a reader. I’m not sure why. Thankfully, there some great stories out there written in present tense like the fabulous Elizabeth is Missing, and Girl on a Train.
Why the US setting? Don’t things like this happen in New Zealand?
Two years ago I took a hard look at what I was writing. I realized that if I wanted to have any sort of readership, I needed to find the sweet spot between creating quality fiction and creating books readers wanted to read. Setting is a critical component of that. Given the United States has an awful lot of readers of crime fiction, I made the decision to set my books there. While it is true that some local New Zealand crime fiction authors, like Paul Cleave, have had great success despite their stories being set in New Zealand, I think that’s the exception.
It’s also a challenge to write in a setting that’s different from your own and I like that – I suppose it’s like being a British actor playing an American and having to put on an American accent. As for your question about my quaint little country, yes, innocent ol’ New Zealand most certainly has had some horrific crimes over the years. I’m in the process of setting up a blog with the intention of sharing the occasional snippet about a New Zealand crime or two. If readers want to know more they can follow me on Goodreads.
I was intrigued by your plea at the end of the book, hoping to get 1000 5-star reviews on Amazon (and I will add mine, promise…). Why was that so important to you?
Ah, yes, 1000 reviews! Originally my request was for 100 but that didn’t seem ambitious enough. So I thought why not make it 1000? It’s a bit of an experiment, really – ‘ask and ye shall receive’ type of thing. Given The Devil’s Wire is my first psychological thriller, I would have been happy with any reviews at all. I check out each and every rating and review, and get a real kick out of them. Good or bad. I’m quite thick-skinned so I’m not personally wounded by criticism. I’m in the long game here and if there’s any way I can improve my books in the future I’m interested in hearing about it from readers.
Planning, writing, editing, getting ready for launch, promotion now it’s out there – what’s been your favourite part of the whole process? And the most difficult?
For me, the most difficult thing is the time everything takes (patience is not my strong suit). I can never seem to write fast enough. I wish there was a magic book of short cuts, and I could write a novel every couple of months. The other thing I have trouble with is the promotional aspect. I’m a genuine introvert at heart, and don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I want readers to find my books so I have to do it. The upside is I really do enjoy making connections with readers and bloggers. It makes me feel part of a little community.
My favorite aspect of the entire process is the sense of quiet I get from the concentrated effort of writing, which is especially potent when I’m fresh from sleep so early in the morning. I don’t want to get woo-woo but it’s almost like a spiritual practice or type of meditation. Also, once my writing session is done, I’m able to face the day knowing I have made some progress toward completing another novel which gives me a sense of accomplishment.
I know you’ve previously written some very successful short fiction, which looks very different from The Devil’s Wire – was this the story with which you’d always planned to start your novel writing career?
The Devil’s Wire is my third psychological suspense novel, but the first to be published. Previous to that I wrote Confessions of Madness about an elderly bed-bound woman who torments her poor husband (actually inspired by a couple I used to clean for), and Kingfisher Rock, a story about an intellectually handicapped man accused of a terrible crime. I may yet dust them off and take another look at them – but realistically they were probably practice novels. The short fiction you mention are all literary pieces. But to tell you the truth, I love writing the dark crime stuff much better than the literary work, and that’s what I intend to continue with.
Had you always wanted to be a writer?
I have always loved stories – whether they be on the big or small screen, or in a book. I think writing is my way of hanging on to that reader or viewer experience. Also, writing is a vehicle for all the ideas I have. Sometimes my mind seems like a tap that I can’t shut off, and I’m forever thinking Oh, that would make a good story, and so would that, and that, too! Writing is a way to bring order to that chaos.
And how do you write – are you writing full time, or fitting it round a busy life? What does a writing day look like?
Actually, I have just been made redundant from my day job so at the moment I’ve got all the writing time I can handle! In the past though I’ve followed a fairly predictable routine of rising at 5am, having a coffee in bed until 5.30am, then getting up and going to my study to write until 7.00am, before heading to the day job. I also write for half a day on Sunday. I prefer following this sort of system rather than tearing my hair out trying to achieve a word count goal. My philosophy is a little bit, done regularly, adds up to big things.
And what writers do you admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you really like them to mention?
I’m a big fan of Neil Cross – a British born, NZ based writer. I love his clean, spare style. After reading his work, I finally understood that you didn’t need fancy phrases or pretentious words to be a good writer and that, in actual fact, those ‘literary’ things can get in the way of a good story. As a teen, I cut my teeth of Jonathan Kellerman’s early books in the Alex Delaware series. I’m also a fan of Patricia Cornwell’s earlier works, too. One recently discovered debut writer that I admire a lot is Jessica Knoll (Luckiest Girl Alive). I nearly gave up after the first couple of pages, but am so glad I didn’t. She’s really a terrific writer, with a strong voice, and her work is nicely structured and very readable.
And what’s next? Are you writing again – or is book #2 already done?
I’m in the process of creating a new mystery/suspense series. The first book in the series should be out in the middle of the year. If people are interested, they can go to my website and sign up to the Deborah Rogers Readers Club, and I’ll send them the first book as a thank you when it’s ready.
Deborah, thank you – it’s been really lovely meeting you, and I wish you every success with The Devil’s Wire and the new series. So, what did I think of The Devil’s Wire?
There are so many excellent thrillers on the market, it must be incredibly difficult to do something so different that yours stands out from the crowd. But I’m delighted to report that Deborah Rogers really has achieved that with The Devil’s Wire – I really enjoyed this one, and it was totally unlike anything I’ve read before.
Jennifer lives a pretty ordinary life – working as an optometrist, mother of a 12 year old, slightly shaky home life but nothing serious – until a moment’s inattention on her drive home finds her running down a dog who runs out of the darkness. The dog belongs to Lenise – recently moved into a house opposite – and the incident brings her into Jennifer’s life in a way that turns everything upside down. And that’s a real understatement – this book does that really clever thing of feeling “that could really happen” with twists and turns that take your breath away as Jennifer’s life takes a dark turn that she could never have expected, and certainly never wanted.
Lenise is totally mesmerising – something of a victim herself, undoubtedly lonely, down on her luck, a little obsessed by Jennifer’s “perfect” family, looking for a friend but taking that friendship way beyond accepted boundaries. Dark and gruesome at times – although the humour’s there too, as the twists of the story become increasingly extreme – the writing is extremely clever.
I’ve most certainly mentioned in other reviews that I’m not the world’s greatest fan of present tense writing, but for this one it’s the quite perfect choice – it gives the story an immediacy and urgency that’s tremendously unsettling. I’ve said “unputdownable” before too – but it’s the perfect description of this book, as I really had to read to the end in one glorious sitting once I passed the halfway mark. The “obsessive friend” might have been done before, but rarely in such an uncomfortable or original way.
This is a thriller that might not be in everyone’s must read list – but it really should be. It’s certainly one I won’t forget in a hurry.
About the Author
Deborah Rogers is a writer and fan of all good suspense, mystery and true crime books. She has a Graduate Diploma in Scriptwriting, and graduated cum laude from the Hagley Writers’ Institute. When she’s not writing American psychological thrillers, she likes to take her chocolate Labrador for walks on the beach and make decadent desserts.
Follow Deborah on Goodreads, or do take a look at her website and sign up to her Readers Club – I’m already in the queue for her next one!