Lisa Gardner, the thriller writer who loves historical romance

I know some authors say they can’t read novels when working alone, but I’m not one of them. I read anything at any time. While researching a novel, I can read more non-fiction on various topics, including true crime (I love Ann Rule and Gregg Olsen). Otherwise, my only real quirk is that I like to switch genres. For example, after reading a bunch of thrillers in a row, I might then read historical or women’s fiction titles, then maybe fantasy or YA To me, books are like ice cream and you always want to ice cream, it’s just a matter of which flavor you’re craving right now.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in a book recently?

Jon Billman’s “The Cold Vanish,” which looks at the approximately 1,600 people missing on national public lands and the lack of dedicated resources to find them, shocked and terrified me. I’m an avid hiker so the real life stories of everything that can and has gone wrong hit close to home. Things that scare me end up in my novels. Hence my January thriller, “One Step Too Far,” which features missing persons expert Frankie Elkin heading to a remote wilderness as part of a search party. Bad things happen from there. I think of the book as “And Then There Were None” hikes. Thank you Jon Billman and Agatha Christie.

What touches you the most in a literary work?

I read for character, character and character. I seek to see the world through someone else’s eyes and, in doing so, open my own eyes to new experiences, problems and ideas. So the what, the where and the when are not as important to me as the who when it comes to choosing novels.

Who is your favorite fictional detective? And the best villain?

I love the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas, where the famous detective Sherlock Holmes is actually a front for the very feminine and very brilliant Charlotte Holmes, who must solve crimes while fighting against the sexist mores of late England. ‘Victorian. The best villain for me will always be Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter. I’m not sure anyone can top that, although Anne Rice’s Lestat would be my second choice. I feel like we’re going through this phase of trying to make the villains relatable by explaining their actions through a terribly tragic story. Let’s just say that Lecter and Lestat are not trying to make themselves understood. They pride themselves on their violent nature. To me, that’s what makes them compelling, because a small part of each of us wishes we could just let go and be who we really are. Not that we’re all secretly vicious killers, but you know what I mean. There’s a certain triumph in being shamelessly yourself, and Lecter and Lestat are shamelessly themselves. That’s why, I think, decades later, readers remain fascinated by them.

What makes a good thriller?

The best thrillers excel at combining compelling characters with a breakneck pace. You’re heavily invested in the main characters while ditching all chores, missing your subway stop, and staying up far too late as you race from chapter to chapter to find out what happens next. When readers tell me they ignored their kids and showed up late for work just to finish one of my novels, I feel good about myself.

How do you organize your books?

By author. Is it boring? Although I guess that applies to books in my library. Like any good reader, I have heaps of TBRs all around my house. These are organized in the order I plan to read them. Except, of course, new books keep appearing, which means no matter how much I read, the piles never get shorter. I consider this a good problem to have.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I love historical novels. Witty dialogue, great characters, hot sex. What’s not to like? Favorite authors include Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Tessa Dare, Amanda Quick, and Lisa Kleypas. I think it’s wonderful that Shonda Rhimes has brought the brilliant escapism that is the “Bridgerton” series to the world’s attention, and I hope many more adaptations will follow.

Comments are closed.