Jill Orr is the author of the new mystery novel The Bad Break, the second in her Riley Ellison series, which began with The Good Byline. She lives in Columbia, Missouri.
Q: How did you decide what Riley Ellison's second adventure would be?
A: I'm not much of a plotter, so I really let Riley's character development guide the story and shape the plot.
I knew she was going to go to work for the newspaper (that decision was made at the end of the first book), and I knew whatever mystery she got involved with would be something she'd have to work on her own.
I wanted the main challenge in this book to be Riley learning to trust herself and her instincts and so the plot just grew out of that.
Q: How do you think Riley has changed over the course of the two books?
A: I hope she's becoming more confident, more driven to go after the things she wants out of life. When the series began, Riley was allowing life to happen to her in a very passive sort of way.
I like to believe that when her childhood best friend Jordan died in the first book, it awoke something in Riley that said, "Life is short. Live it with your whole heart."
She's definitely still figuring out what she wants from life and what she's willing to do to get it, but with each passing challenge, I think she's getting closer to answering those big life questions.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Riley's ongoing correspondence with Click.com and Bestmilleniallife.com?
A: This is one of those questions for which I wish I had a better answer. The truth is I have no idea how I came up with the idea for Click.com - that one just popped into my head with Regina H fully formed.
It ended up becoming a real fan favorite and provided a nice comic relief from the narrative, so I knew I wanted to do something similar in the second book. And of course I knew that Click.com would never miss an opportunity to take people's money!
So I came up with the idea that they'd have a sister company, bestmillenniallife.com, and give Riley a free trial with a lovable, well-meaning, if a little ditzy, Personal Success Concierge.
I found humor in the idea that a life coach would still be figuring out her own life. I also love reading epistolary novels and the email exchanges gave me the opportunity to play around with that form. Plus, it's always fun as a writer to get to be flat-out silly.
Q: What do you think your books say about the world of journalism today?
A: I hope they add to the message that journalism is more important today than ever before.
I went to journalism school myself and am a firm believer that a free and independent press is one of the most valuable things in our democracy. It sets us apart from other systems of government and provides checks and balances for those in power.
I've known many a good journalist, and good journalists fight to discover the truth. I wanted Riley to be guided by that principle as she begins her new career as a reporter.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm hard at work on Riley #3, which is provisionally titled The Ugly Truth.
There's been a shocking double murder in Tuttle Corner, Virginia, that involves some high-profile movers and shakers from Washington, D.C. This brings national attention to Riley's small part of the world-- and along with it, a lot of big city reporters competing for the story.
Holman and Riley are stunned when they discover that their friend Rosalee, the owner of Tuttle's beloved tavern, is the prime suspect in the violent crimes. But Rosalee insists she's being set up and that her life is in danger because she knows the identity of the killer.
In exchange for protection, Rosalee gives Holman and Riley exclusive information incriminating a very powerful person who she says is the real murderer. But the pair eventually begins to question if Rosalee is helping them expose a killer or using them to cover up her own crimes.
Unfortunately, they disagree on the answer. Riley and Holman end up going down separate investigative paths until one of them finds the truth... and one of them finds the killer.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Not a thing! You now know it all!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jill Orr.