Karen. M Davis is a former NSW police officer. During her 20-year career, she worked as a uniform officer, a detective and an undercover cop, and she’s got the scars to prove it. Karen’s debut novel, Sinister Intent (reviewed here), introducing Lexie Rogers, was published by Simon and Schuster Australia in 2013. Deadly Obsession is her second novel. Find out more at her website.
Monique: Your second book, Deadly Obsession, is about to be released. It’s on my to-review shelf. Tell me what to expect?
Karen: Detective Lexie Rogers, who was introduced in Sinister Intent, and her partner Brad Sommers, are investigating the murder of a young nurse whose body is found on an eastern suburbs beach one wintry morning. With a puncture wound on her neck, prescription medication in her pocket and clutching a red rose; it initially appears to be a staged suicide. When Lexie discovers links to other women who have died under almost identical circumstances, and that the dead nurse was a friend of the woman who destroyed her marriage, the case becomes personal. Lexie and her colleagues set up an elaborate operation to trap their suspect. But catching this killer is no easy task and while doing so Lexie discovers that things are not always as they seem. And that the past can come back to bite you at any time.
Monique: Deadly Obsession explores the dangerous trend towards illegal prescription drug use and supply. What made you decide to explore this?
Karen: This initial idea for Deadly Obsession came from a friend telling me about a real situation where someone working within the medical profession had become drug dependant and I thought, there’s a story in that. We all know that anyone can get addicted to drugs both illegal and prescription; professionals, movie stars, normal people. So I added some of my own experiences, weaved them through the story and it went from there.
Monique: What sort of research did you have to do?
Karen: I spoke to a very experienced doctor friend and researched the effects and antidotes for opiates. Oxycontin is the drug I use in Deadly Obsession because that is what drug addicts presently use in place of heroin. When I first started in the police they used Rohypnol (labelled the date-rape drug) which is no longer available in Australia. I also witnessed many users being brought back from near death by Narcan, a drug that reverses the effect of most opiates. So I suppose I mixed my own experiences with some professional research to make sure my information was correct.
Monique: What do you like most about Deadly Obsession?
Karen: I like the storyline. I like the sexual tension and romantic dramas. I like most of the characters and the ones I don’t like I love to hate, which makes for fun writing. I felt more comfortable writing my second book. I think I learnt a lot from the mistakes I made with Sinister Intent as well as the editing process. This gave me more confidence and stopped me second guessing everything I did.
Monique: In 2013, you published Sinister Intent. What was the feedback like for your debut? How did you feel, releasing your debut book?
Karen: I had great feedback for Sinister Intent. I was lucky enough to get pretty good reviews and I received many lovely emails from people who had read it, telling me how much they had enjoyed it, which amazed and thrilled me at the same time. It was exciting releasing my debut book but also scary not knowing what to expect; being open to judgement. Worrying whether people will like it or not.
Monique: In what way/s is your recurring character, Lexie Rogers, similar to you?
Karen: We are not identical but I suppose Lexie is very similar to a younger, more glamorous version of me. I’ve thrown many of my real life experiences at Lexie and she thinks the same way as I do, has the same values, work ethic. She also struggles with PTSD as I have done. My friends tell me when they read my books it’s like I’m talking to them. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing?
Monique: About your struggle with PTSD, which came about as a result of your police career … how does writing help you?
Karen: Writing is not for everyone but I can certainly say it has helped me. Not that it’s easy to write about some of the more traumatic experiences I’d tried hard to forget; i.e. attending cot deaths, fatal car accidents, suicides, drug overdoses etc. But what I found, was although it was hard to re-live those events, once I had made myself do that and put my memories on paper, I felt better. I’m not sure why. I had been suppressing emotions for a long time so maybe by documenting the traumatic events, it helped me to deal with them and enabled me to put them behind me. I’ll never forget some of the things I’ve witnessed but they are now a memory, not a constant slide-show of gruesome images in my head.
Monique: You wake in the middle of the night with a brilliant book-ish idea. What do you do?
Karen: That doesn’t happen that often but when it does I jot ideas and notes down on a note pad I keep next to my bed. Probably like most people, if I don’t document whatever pops into my head during the night it will be gone in the morning.
Monique: Are you a plotter or a pantser (fly by the seat of your pants)?
Karen: I’m a bit of both. I plot, then I change things, see where the story takes me, then plot some more. It’s a bit of a circle sometimes. I find towards the end of a manuscript I have to plot and make notes to make sure all loose ends are tied up, that nothing is left out. And so I don’t confuse myself too much.
Monique: One (or more) of your characters is not behaving, or does something unexpected. How do you handle this?
Karen: I usually have a rough idea of what I want to happen in a scene, so if I – or one of the characters – go off on a tangent and start to head in another direction, I usually let it go and see what happens. Sometimes ideas come out of nowhere so I figure its best to see how it works. When I revise what I’ve written I decide if it works better that way or the way I had planned it. Sometimes the unexpected works, other times it doesn’t and I start again.
Monique: Are you an emotive writer? Have you ever cried while writing an emotive scene? Or, do you get unsettled by some of the more disturbing scenes?
Karen: I don’t get emotional while writing but sometimes revising it I do. I think that’s because when I’m writing, I’m concentrating so hard on getting down what’s in my head, I’m not thinking deeply about the emotional side of what might be happening. When I read over what I’ve written it sinks in more. The last chapter in Sinister Intent always makes me teary because some of it is sad. I don’t get unsettled when writing disturbing scenes anymore, but once I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it, especially writing about the morgue scenes. I don’t have very good memories of that place.
Monique: Where do you write? Do you need complete silence or can you cope with noise? How do you get into the “zone”?
Karen: I mostly write in my study and although I don’t have to have complete silence, I can’t concentrate with people talking or TVs blaring either. If the house if full (since I have four teenage girls and their friends coming and going at times), it can be loud. So I’ll wear ear-plugs. I’m wearing them right now. Sometimes, on weekends I’ll lock myself outside on the back deck and use the lap-top to write. It’s a good excuse for some peace and quiet.
Monique: You’re having trouble writing. What do you do?
Karen: Scream… no. Well, sometimes. I have to take time out and just walk away for a while some days. Especially towards the end of the book when I begin to confuse myself trying to piece it all together and tie up all lose ends. A bit of space gives a new perspective – most of the time.
Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?
Karen: Putting everything else aside to keep writing. This includes housework, making dinner etc. When I’m on a roll I don’t want to stop but unfortunately life gets in the way and I have to make myself stop writing some days. If I think I might forget something I’ll make notes to remind myself of whatever my last thoughts might have been. Another weakness is working from home — it is too easy to go to the fridge to get a snack…
Thanks for answering my questions, Karen.