R.H. Herron is the author of the new novel Stolen Things. Her other books include The Ones Who Matter Most and Splinters of Light. She teaches writing extension workshops at Stanford and UC Berkeley.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Stolen Things, and for your characters Laurie and Jojo?
A: Great question! I was a 911 dispatcher for 17 years, so I'd always wanted to write a book about one. When I finally got the chance to do so, a scandal was happening at a local police department, in which a dispatcher's daughter was in grave danger, put there by the police officers themselves. I couldn't let go of the idea, so I fictionalized Laurie and Jojo in order to give them a better ending.
Q: Do you usually know how your novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way? What was the case with this book?
A: Oh, I wish I knew how they would end! I know a lot about my books before I start, but I never know the ending! I always envy writers who do know. For this one, I had to get really close to the ending a few times, then I'd shy away and do some more revision, before I finally got the guts to finish it. This is quite often my process with books.
Q: In addition to this thriller, you've written mainstream fiction, romance, memoirs, and nonfiction. Do you have a preference, and does your writing process differ depending on what you're writing?
A: I love thriller and memoir best! Luckily, my life isn't anything like a thriller, so at least they don't overlap (thank goodness). Thriller I write faster and revise more. Memoir is slower and more methodical.
Q: Did you need to do any research to write Stolen Things?
A: Nope! 17 years of research of working within emergency services was all the research I needed. I did have sensitivity readers, though. One of my characters (Jojo) was Iranian-American, and one (Kevin) was black. I'm white, so I needed help in making sure I didn't accidentally place any of my own unconscious bias in the book (or at least, as little as possible). That was a lovely, eye-opening experience, and I'm glad I hired them to help.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A new thriller, AND a new memoir! I like to keep busy.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I'm also completely obsessed by sewing right now - I've always been a maker, primarily a knitter, but sewing has taken over my brain and my Instagram feed! I'm pretty sure that the passion will work its way into a book sooner rather than later....
--Interview with Deborah Kalb