NYT Bestselling author Lisa Unger is here chatting about dreams, sleep, Jungian psychology & so much more in her gorgeously written UNDER MY SKIN

By Leslie Lindsay

A twisty, captivating labyrinthine of grief, love, and murder in Lisa Unger’s newest psychological thriller, UNDER MY SKIN (Park Row, October 2). 

Under My Skin.jpg

She’s a New York Times and International bestselling, award-winning author. Her books have been published in twenty-six languages worldwide, have sold million of copies, and have been named “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, and the Sun-Sentinel, among others.

*Named one of The Best Mysteries & Thrillers to Read in Fall 2018 by PopSugar*

*Named a Best New Book by Booklist*

*Named one of The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2018 by CrimeReads*

*Named one of Fall 2018’s Most Exciting New Mysteries & Thrillers by Bookish*

*Named one of The Biggest, Most Anticipated Thrillers of the Season, Fall 2018 Best Mystery Book Pick and Editors’ Pick by BookBub*

*Library Journal 2018 Killer Thriller*

book book pages browse education
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It comes as no surprise when I say Lisa Unger has been a go-to thriller/psych suspense writer of mine for some time now. Her books always engage and keep me guessing; plus her creativity and imagination, as well as her psychologically astute observations draw me in effortlessly. 

In UNDER MY SKIN, Poppy Lang is grieving. It’s been over a year since her husband, Jack, was brutally murdered on his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. She was supposed to have joined him, but…

Poppy completely unraveled and ended up wearing a red dress she knew nothing of and in the hospital. Where was she during those lost days–and what happened to Jack? A year later and the case is still unsolved, but Poppy is ever the Nancy Drew. She’s haunted by his death, she’s sleep-deprived, she’s trying to move on but just *can’t.* She’s seeing a therapist, has a best friend, attempting to date, continuing to work, but when the nightmares–the microsleeps– start in earnest, Poppy isn’t sure what to believe. Plus, what’s up with that hooded man?

The mind is murky place. Is Poppy’s playing tricks on her? Is something else going on?

I found Unger’s prose utterly stunning with a dream-like lucidity. UNDER MY SKIN is a captivating, tense, complex, and thought-provoking read.

Please join me in welcoming Lisa Unger back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

I think this is book five for us and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have you again. UNDER MY SKIN is such a lucid examination of one woman’s grief. Can you talk a bit more about how this story presented itself to you? Was it a character, a setting, a question, a subject you wanted to explore?

*Lisa Unger*:

I always love our talks, Leslie! The germ for UNDER MY SKIN was actually a Jungian thought that had been kicking around my head for a few a while:

“Between the dreams of day and night, there is not so great a difference.”

It’s so layered if you think about it, and it had me pondering the difference between our waking and dreaming lives, the doorway between those places, the slippery nature of perception.  So, while I was researching these things, I started to hear the voice of Poppy Lang.  The fact that she was in the throes of grief and the aftermath of trauma caused me to dive deep into those areas of the psyche.  Our grip on reality is so fragile.  Even after a couple of nights of bad sleep – as any mom will tell you – the world starts to look like a very different place. So combine that with grief, trauma, addiction and things unravel pretty quickly. And so it was all these ideas, as well as Poppy’s journey toward wholeness that drove me through the narrative.

background blur bokeh bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I have to say—sleep! Dreams! Nightmares! They are such fascinating concepts. The mind is powerful. Sometimes we take information from our waking life and weave it into our dreams, sometimes our dreams reappear in our waking life. Do you remember your dreams? Do they ever inform your writing?

*Lisa Unger*:

That’s so true. The mind can be a magician, a powerful trickster. And we know more about outer space than we do about our brains. So, as I see it, there are more questions than answers about our dreams, our perceptions and memories, what’s real and what isn’t real. I do have a very vivid dream life. And often these dreams inform my fiction. Sometimes narrative problems resolve while I’m sleeping and wake me up at 3 AM!  And my best creative hours are from 5 AM to noon. I am happiest when I roll out of bed and go straight to my novel.  I still feel very connected to the dream brain during that time.  Once the waking mind takes over, it’s always looking for distractions! But the dream brain is always happy to keep telling its stories.

“UNDER MY SKIN is a perfectly dark and unsettling, spellbinding thriller. Told with both eloquence and urgency, Unger knows just how to hook her readers and reel them in. This book is not to be missed.”
Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL

Leslie Lindsay:

At one point you referred to UNDER MY SKIN as a ‘Tilt-a-Whirl of a novel.’ Aren’t they all? What’s your process like? Does it vary project to project? What piece(s) in this one kept you awake at night?

*Lisa Unger*:

So, there’s a germ, usually. A moment where I feel a little zap.  Then there’s usually an obsession and a deep dive into research, as I mentioned. And then a voice, or voices.  And I follow those voices through my narrative. I don’t have an outline. I don’t know who is going to show up day to day, or what they’re going to do. I certainly don’t know how the book is going to end. I write for the same reason that I read; I want to know what’s going to happen to the characters living in my head!

This one was a bit of a Tilt-A-Whirl, because like Poppy, I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t real for her. I wasn’t certain that I could I could trust her judgments and perceptions.  And I wasn’t clear on what really happened during the four days she was missing.  I was worried about Noah. I didn’t know what role he played in what happened to Jack, what was happening to Poppy. And I wasn’t sure I could trust him. There were lots of 3 AM wake ups with this one!

art blur bright chain
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

At the heart of UNDER MY SKIN is the lingering toll of grief, and how it is interwoven with love. Can you talk a little more about that please? And do tell me if you think I’ve gotten the theme wrong.

*Lisa Unger*:

That’s true. It did evolve as a big theme in the novel, flowing purely from character; it was Poppy’s journey and I followed her passage though that dark space. In doing so, I wound up exploring how we love each other, how we cling to the past, how it can be so hard to let go. Also, how time and loss can color our memories. It’s part of a larger theme on how our experiences change and shape our perceptions. Love, grief, addiction, trauma – all these states color how we see the world, making it difficult sometimes to know what’s real.

Leslie Lindsay:

Poppy was obsessed with finding her husband’s killer. What’s obsessing you? It doesn’t have to be literary.

*Lisa Unger*:

Oh, I have so many obsessions! I continue to be obsessed by perception, dreams, memories, identity, and all the secret abilities hidden within our very human brains.  I’m still exploring question of psychic ability – what’s normal and what’s “paranormal.” Halloween is coming up – so I’m obsessed about costumes, since that’s a big deal in our family! Let’s see: food, British television, yoga, politics, the environment, my next novel … I could go on and on!

candle creepy dark decoration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Lisa, it’s been a pleasure. What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

*Lisa Unger*:

As usual, Leslie, you’re pitch perfect! I can’t think of a thing you missed. Thank you for your thoughtful questions. I always love answering them.

For more information, to connect with the author via social  media, or to purchase a copy of UNDER MY SKIN, please visit: 

*Read the prologue

*Order Links:

Lisa Unger Author PhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling, award-winning author of sixteen novels. Her new release UNDER MY SKIN is named one of the most anticipated and top thrillers of fall 2018 by BookBub, Bookish, Library Journal, Booklist, PopSugar and CrimeReads! 

Her books are published in twenty-six languages worldwide, have sold millions of copies and have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, Indie Booksellers, Goodreads, and Sun-Sentinel to name a few. 

Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR and Travel+Leisure Magazine. Lisa Unger lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida with her husband, daughter and labradoodle.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:


#amreading #psychthriller #sleepanddreams #authorinterview #domesticsuspense 


[Cover and author image courtesy of Park Row and used with permission. Cover image on patio from L. Lindsay;s personal archives and can be accessed via Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1]




Wednesdays with Writers: Is there a difference between justice and revenge? New York Times bestselling author of psych thrillers Lisa Unger talks about this, but also dreams, reality, starting the next project, renovating homes, and so much more in THE RED HUNTER

By Leslie Lindsay 

Red Hunter cover

One house. Two very different women. A history of abuse. THE RED HUNTER discusses the differences between justice and revenge in a way only Lisa Unger can do.

I can always count on Lisa Unger’s books to propel me to the depths of the dark and twisted minds of…well, just about anyone. She has a knack for reaching into the tangled mess of one’s life and extracting the bits that make it dark and brittle. But be aware: if rape and violence are triggers for you, then select this book with caution.

Therein lies the crux of THE RED HUNTER. It’s deep psychological suspense at it’s best. Lisa’s characters are well-drawn, multifaceted, flawed, and oh-so-relatable. 

Claudia Bishop’s perfect life with hubby in NYC fell apart after she was brutally raped in her own home. She’s worked hard to rebuild that life, and is now looking for a fresh start at an old farmhouse in New Jersey, one that’s been in her family for some time.

Zoey Drake—young and hip–but carrying around a big burden from childhood—and is caring for her elderly uncle, a retired police officer.

Neither woman knows one another but the house factors into both of their lives. So, too does trauma.

So pull up a chair, a cup of coffee and eavesdrop on my conversation with Lisa.

“One of the best crime novels I’ve read in years. THE RED HUNTER is bold and gritty but with real heart. Unger writes as only the best do, with passion and authenticity.”
—Ace Atkins, NYT bestselling author of Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn and The Innocents

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, it’s so great to have you back. Thank you! I think this is the forth book of yours we’ve discussed. I’m afraid I’m running out of questions. But I always, always want to know what propels a writer to peel back the layers and start on a particular story. What was it for you, for THE RED HUNTER?

Lisa Unger: It’s always a pleasure to chat with you!I’m sure we’ll always have something new to talk about.

The idea for THE RED HUNTER started more than fifteen years ago.  I was in my late twenties, in a dark place, when I discovered the martial arts. I had just come through a brutal break up, my dreams of writing lay fallow. I was disconnected from myself in almost every way. The martial arts changed me, introducing me to a new version of myself, someone stronger than I thought I could ever be. I found myself, and my path forward.df1948898142fa4e9603a1bb1da2566d.jpg

After I had my daughter, I stopped practicing.  Motherhood kind of drained me of my will to fight, and I turned to yoga instead.  Recently, I took up kick boxing and some of that fighting spirit returned; and those days, how I felt then, came back to me.  That place and moment in my life was the germ for THE RED HUNTER, and for one of its main characters, Zoey Drake: a victim turned fighter, someone looking for revenge.

L.L.: Trauma certainly plays a major role in THE RED HUNTER.  So, too do the concepts of justice and revenge. What, in your opinion are the connecting dots?

Lisa Unger: After surviving a traumatic event, we have choices.  We can fold up and hide from the world, let the pain and anger over a horrific event crush us.  We can get angry, lash out and seek revenge, or justice.  Or we can allow ourselves to heal, then find a way forward, move toward forgiveness and wholeness again — whatever that means in our changed reality.

In our culture, the journey toward justice is a very important one; we depict it as the hero’s journey. And sometimes it can be that. Sometimes wrongs must be righted.  But when that journey becomes a way to hold on to pain, a way to stop moving forward, it’s just fear, a desire to control a thing that cannot be controlled.  And it keeps us from healing.

Zoey Drake and Claudia Bishop are taking two very different paths after trauma.  One seeks revenge, and the other is looking for her way back into the light, through healing and forgiveness. One path could be confused with strength, and the other might be confused with weakness. Both ways are fraught.  It might be up to the reader to decide which way is the right way. Or if there is a right way, at all.

L.L.: I have a thing with old houses. Well, houses of any kind. I’ve read somewhere that they represent story and also dreams. Things that happen in the basement, for example, have a lot to do with one’s subconscious. There are other rooms that equate to other parts of the psyche, too. Bedrooms, intimacy. Bathrooms, elimination. Kitchens, creation and family. I often have dreams of adding-on to a house and that, I’ve learned, has to do with ‘making space’ for creative pursuits. Can you give us a little more insight into how the house in THE RED HUNTER came to be for you?

Lisa Unger: That’s so interesting! I think you should follow your dreams, Leslie!  Make more room for those creative pursuits.1a352b345bf13976c4c2013af5ee62a3

A couple of years ago, my husband and I gutted and renovated our 1968 home.  Let’s be clear: we hired someone to do this work. (We’re not crazy!) But we lived in the house while it was under reconstruction. (Okay, we’re a little crazy.)  It was cathartic to watch our home, a place we’d loved for more than a decade, torn down to the studs, and recreated as something new and uniquely ours.  But it was also stressful, unpredictable, and incredibly challenging. It was not an experience I planned to write about; rather one I swore I wouldn’t repeat and tried to forget.   But then, three years later, as I started on THE RED HUNTER, another major voice in the book, Claudia Bishop, emerges.  Guess what? She’s renovating a ramshackle old farm house. And she’s blogging about it, a way of moving forward from the trauma of her past, and recreating her future.  

A house seems so solid — until you pick up a sledge hammer.  I love how something that seems as though it’s always been there can just fall away.  It makes me think that we can tear down, change, and rebuild just about anything we want in our lives — especially old ideas we have about ourselves. It takes some doing, some pain, a few mistakes here and there, but ultimately you have the power to create what you want in your life.  I love how destruction can lead to reconstruction, if you have the will and the right tools.

[You may enjoy this article in The Atlantic about Where You Live & Why it Means So Much. Also, the original source in which I *may* have read about homes/psyche HOUSE AS A MIRROR OF SELF: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home, but memory evades.]

L.L.: Each of your characters are strong, kick-ass type of women, but in different ways. Was one easier for you to write than the other? Do you have a ‘favorite?’

Lisa Unger: I felt connected to both of them.  I understood Zoey’s impulse to turn herself into a fighter and take revenge on people who had harmed her.  Even though Claudia’s philosophies are closer to mine, I still understood where Zoey was coming from.  It has something to do with her youth; it’s a young idea to think that the world is black and white, that there’s a clear right and wrong.  It’s also young to think that there’s any true justice, or payback, that a wrong thing can be made right by another wrong.  Claudia’s journey toward love and forgiveness, her impulse to claim her story, and rebuild herself and her life — those choices have a very different vibration.  I think Zoey’s impulse is more basic; Claudia’s more evolved.  I was more worried about Zoey than I was about Claudia.  But it was easy for me to 6dba74105c8b1cdfb4db7e2e4eeaae22connect with both ways of seeing the world.

L.L.: The narrative structure in THE RED HUNTER is unique in that it is not exactly linear. We volley between characters, time periods, but all from the POV of strong females. Can you talk a bit about how you made that decision, or was it really a decision? Do characters often ‘tell’ you their story?

Lisa Unger: I don’t make decisions like that.  A story evolves, tells itself though the voices it selects, in the way the way that it wants to be told.  The different voices, the time and perspective shifts — that’s just how the story came to me.  I’m not sure
it could have been told it any other way.  There was no other way for it to be told.

L.L.: I happen to be between projects now. Oh, I have ideas…but where to go with them? Do you have any tips or inspiration when starting out on the next book? Because this limbo-land is a yucky feeling. 

Lisa Unger: It’s such a personal thing.  For me, the idea for a novel can come from anywhere — a song, a news story, poetry, once even a piece of junk mail.  That spark of an idea might lead me to a fascination with a subject and a swath of research.  Then, the best I can explain it is, if that idea connects with something bigger going on with me, I start to hear a voice, or maybe a couple of voices. Then I know there’s a novel and I start writing.

The best advice I can give, Leslie, is to try not to do too much thinking.  Get out of that intellectual, analytical brain. And try to follow the ideas that fascinate you, listen for those voices, and don’t be afraid to just sit down and lose yourself in the writing. Let the story take you and don’t try to control the story.

L.L.: Any ‘Lisa Facts’ you can share with us? What’s on your mind these days?

Lisa Unger: These days I’m obsessed with addiction and dreams, perception and reality.  I’m really curious about the doorway between these two worlds we inhabit, the waking and the sleeping world and the Jungian idea that there’s not such a big difference.  I continue to be fascinated by Carl Jung and his ideas, the brain, the natural vs. the supernatural. And I’m still thinking about the main theme of THE RED HUNTER: What is the difference between justice and revenge?47720dcf954e638a97ddd2fbf6a5094f

L.L.: Lisa, as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure. All the best with THE RED HUNTER.

Lisa Unger: Always a pleasure, Leslie!  Thanks for connecting, and make time and space for that creative energy to flow!

For more information about THE RED HUNTER, to purchase, or to connect with Lisa via social media, please see:

Lisa Unger_Photograph by Jay Nolan.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Unger is an award-winning New York Times and internationally bestselling author. Her novels have sold more than two million copies and have been translated into twenty-six languages. She lives in Florida. Visit LisaUnger.com.

 You can reach me, Leslie Lindsay, via these social media sites:


[Cover and author image courtesy of Simon Schuster/Touchstone Books. Author photo credit: Jay Nolan. Image of Carl Jung/dreams as well as 1968 renovated home, woman performing martial arts, as well as typewriter/writing quote image retrieved from Pinterest/no source noted, all on 4.24.17

Wednesdays with Writers: Getting to “know” characters, Lisa Unger talks about the dichotomy of ordinary and extraordinary, how she ‘found’ the title to INK & BONE, how writing is a delicate union of observation & imagination, of intuition & creativity

By Leslie Lindsay 

From her stunning debut, BEAUTIFUL LIES, to last year’s critically-acclaimed CRAZY LOVE YOU, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger is a force to be reckoned with.Ink and Bone

Today, I’m super-excited to welcome Lisa for her third visit and book chat. Join us as we delve into the dark world of a reluctant, edgy young psychic, the granddaughter of Eloise Montgomery. If you’re an Unger fan, you’ll know exactly who Eloise Montgomery is—we’ve met her in THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS series as well as a token appearance in CRAZY LOVE YOU. And if you’re not yet familiar with the complex, fearless, and original mind of Lisa, then it’s time to get you acquainted.

Visited by apparitions and haunted by dreams since she was just a child, 20-year old Finley Montgomery has never been fully able to control the things that happen to her, from her personal life to other psychic-related events. She moves from Seattle, WA to the fictional town, The Hollows where she lives with her grandmother in hopes of understanding and harnessing her gifts.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, I can’t believe it’s been three years! Welcome back. I’ve loved all of your books and just find them so original and fascinating. And now, INK & BONE makes its way into world…what was it keeping you up at night that lead to the conception of INK & BONE?

Lisa Unger: Has it been three years?!  Thank you, Leslie, for your very kind words and for inviting me to your blog again.  It’s always a delight to “chat” with you.

Mainly it was Finley Montgomery, the wild child at the center of this book, that drew me into INK AND BONE. With her gleaming purple Harley and her tattoos, her hot pink hair and her strength of spirit and the ghosts she’s trying to outrun.  Then, of course, there’s my ongoing obsession with a fictional town called The Hollows. And, finally, it was Eloise Montgomery, Finley’s grandmother who I’ve been getting to know for a couple of years.  Last year, I had the opportunity to explore Eloise in the e-novella, The Whispering Hollows.  The novella, spanning thirty years, and weaving in between the novels in which she’s featured, allowed me to dive into her character in a way I hadn’t before.  She’s had a number of her own books, but INK AND BONE is really an important evolution in her journey.  The novella is also where I first started to get to know Finley.  She was so compelling, so different from Eloise, I knew she was going to need her own story.  And even though there are a number of powerful voices in the novel, I think INK AND BONE is really her book.

L.L.: But you don’t have to read THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS before enjoying INK & BONE, do you?

Lisa Unger: No, definitely not.  All my books are written to stand alone. And although the novels set in The Hollows are often chain linked by character, it’s not a series in the traditional sense.  You’ll see some of the same people, their stories may evolve, and certainly The Hollows is changing.  (Of course, as the author, I have a preferred order, and you can find it by visiting my website)   But each story is its own universe, and is an experience unto itself.  No one will feel lost entering at any point.

L.L.: I understand you worked closely with John Edward, a psychic medium (and book publicist!) who specializes communicating with the dead. Can you tell us what that experience was like?

Lisa Unger:  Actually, I worked on John Edward’s book, ONE LAST TIME as a book publicist.  He wasn’t a book publicist! I was an assistant on the project, so I didn’t work with him very closely. But he definitely had an impact on me.  onelasttimehardcover
Some of the readings he did for people I knew were nothing short of amazing. I have always been curious about the idea of psychic ability, and John Edwards is clearly tapped into some other plane of existence.  But he’s also this very kind, down-to-earth and normal guy.  It was that dichotomy, of the extraordinary and the ordinary dwelling side by side in the same person, that was the germ for Eloise.  It was many years after I worked with him that Eloise found her way on to the page.

L.L.: Twenty-year old college student Finely is covered with tattoos. In that regard, she reminded me a bit of the elusive character in NBC’s THE BLINDSPOT. And your descriptions of the tattoo-ing process is remarkable. Can you share with us a bit about how you decided to give Finley these tattoos, what it symbolizes, and the research you must have done to make it appear authentic on the page?

Lisa Unger: I haven’t watched BLINDSPOT, though it’s on my TBW list! Is it good? Nor do I have any tattoos of my own!  I suppose if I were really dedicated to my fiction, I’d have gotten one. But I’m too much of a chicken!

I often have a three-pronged approach to research.  Mostly, it starts online – the whole universe is at your fingertips these days, for better or worse. Then, if I need more in-depth information, I turn to books.  And if I’m still lacking information, I’ll generally find someone to interview.  For this one, my research was all online.  I read as much as I could about download (5)the process, and watched videos of people getting tattoos, as well as a number of episodes of “Miami Ink.”  Plus, my husband has a few tattoos, so he filled me in on some of the details, as well.  If it comes up again in another book, or if Rainer has a bigger role in the future, I’ll probably find a tattoo parlor to hang out in for a while, just to keep learning more of the finer points.  Research is ongoing, a part of my life.

For Finley, there’s a deep fissure between her inner life and outer life.  She’s struggling with that split, with her abilities, with understanding herself.  Eloise worries that the tattoos are a form of masochism.  And I think that might be part of it.  But more so, it is Finley’s way of aligning her inner world with the world outside.  It’s a way she has of grounding herself in her flesh, of reminding herself that she dwells in the real world, not in the world beyond, that’s she’s solid, and in charge of herself.  Hence the title, INK AND BONE.

L.L.: And then you have Finley studying psychology—specifically, Jung—who had a ‘thing’ for the paranormal, much unlike his counterpart, Freud. Can you speak to that, please?

Lisa Unger: Jungian themes run through my whole body of work.  But it was Finley that really required of me some deep research into his life and his fascination with the supernatural.  Carl Jung was a believer.  His mother was a psychic medium, he experienced a number of synchronistic events in his therapy with patients that he felt were evidence of another plane.  He had a vivid and affecting near death experience, where he felt he glimpsed the other side – and wasn’t too thrilled to come back.  And he had a spirit guide that he named Philemon, and with whom he consulted regularly.  Unlike his counterparts, Jung believed that psychic phenomenon should be explored even though its exploration often defied the traditional scientific method.  The anomalous event, the thing that is rare, unrepeatable, or “acausal” is dismissed by science.  But Jung’s idea was that so-called psychic abilities might just be an extension of normal human ability.  At least it was something to be explored.

So I approach Eloise and Finley, and Agatha, too, in that way.  They’re just normal people, with abnormal access to energies.  There’s a rush to categorize any book that takes on these kinds of topics as “paranormal” or “supernatural” and those words have a kind of charge.  But to me, Eloise and Finley aren’t any different than any of my other characters.  They just have this different thing going on that I love exploring.

L.L.: As a writer, I’m often intrigued with structural choices authors make (and there are so many!). How did you decide to structure INK & BONE in the manner you did; Finley’s story braided with the current child abductions in The Hollows, coupled with Eloise’s journey? In fact, it seems there are a least 4 different POVs…there were lots of voices that needed to be heard.

Lisa Unger: Weirdly enough, choice doesn’t play a big role in my process. It’s not like I have something I want to say and try to find a perspective from which to say it.  All my novels weave themselves through character voice.  Sometimes it’s just one voice, sometimes it’s a few.  I hear those voices, dwell in those perspectives and have faith that they are going to stitch themselves together into a novel.  Every story has multiple facets, in fiction as in life.  Sometimes I just have access to one person’s perspective, sometimes I get to see the story from multiple angles. That was the case in INK AND BONE. 

L.L.: In many ways, being a writer is akin to being a psychic. We have to intuit our characters, their motivations, ‘see’ them in our mind’s eye, while at the same time, be especially observant of the details of life. I’m thinking your ‘only gift’ is that of a writer, but do you ever feel as if you have any intuitive abilities of your own?images (3)

Lisa Unger: I do think of myself as intuitive, as well as empathetic. But probably first, I’m a careful observer.  I listen, watch, absorb detail – in other words, I pay close attention to people and the world around me.  You touch on something interesting here.  How writing is a delicate union of observation and imagination, of intuition and creativity.  We have to inhabit our characters with compassion and an open heart in order for them to tell their stories through us.  There is a deep connection, one that goes beyond the act of the writer “creating” character.   As I experience this process, it’s more like listening to the characters who are already living in my head, trying to tell a story.

L.L.: I love how you say, you love sitting down at your desk and finding such ‘magic and joy in what pours out, that there’s no way of knowing what amazing things you’ll find. Truth be told, that’s my favorite way of writing, too. But sometimes those ‘found literary surprises’ pucker your narrative. How can a writer reconcile that?

Lisa Unger: Hmm … interesting.  How do you react when surprises “pucker” your life?  You’re either broken by it, derailed, or you flow with it and allow it to take you into whatever phase comes next.  So with fiction. Either you’re writing from an organic, authentic place where you’re letting story flow through you.  Or you’ve come to the page with a rigid idea of what you’re going to put down.  If the latter, then you’re going to be annoyed and frustrated with new ideas, thoughts, and directions because they’re taking you away from what you planned. I am not sure that’s the best way to write or to live.  Even the writers I know who work from an outline are available for the magic, the unexpected.  Because that’s the whole point.  It’s not about you, the author, what you wanted or what you thought was going to happen.  It’s about the story and, like life, we don’t always control that. Sometimes we just have to go with it.

L.L.: Oh, I feel as if I could ask questions all day, but alas, we have books to read—and write! Thanks for popping by, Lisa and best of luck on your summer tour.

Lisa Unger: We do!  Thanks so much for having me, Leslie!  I always enjoy talking with you!

For more information, or to follow on social media:

  • Facebook: authorlisaunger
  • Twitter: @lisaunger
  • Instagram: @launger

Lisa Unger (credit Jeff Unger)LISA UNGER is an award-winning New York Times and internationally bestselling author.  Her novels have sold more than 2 million copies and been translated into twenty-six languages.  She has been selected as an International Thriller Writers “Best Novel” finalist, a Silver Medal winner in the Florida Book Awards, and a Prix Polar International Award finalist.  Most recently, In the Blood won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Crime Thriller and was also named a Best of 2014 suspense thriller by Suspense Magazine.  Unger lives in Clearwater Beach, Florida with her husband, daughter, and labradoodle.  Visit her at http://www.lisaunger.com.

[Author Photo credit: Jeff Unger. Cover image courtesy of Touchstone Books/Simon&Schuster. John Edward’s book image retrieved on 6.2.16 from his website, Miami Ink image retrieved on 6.2.16 from]


Write On, Wednesday: Bestselling Author Lisa Unger on CRAZY LOVE YOU

By Leslie Lindsay

Okay…I am crazy in love with this book. Having been a Lisa Unger fan for some years, I practically *devoured* this one. CRAZY LOVE YOU (Touchstone, 2015) is a delusional love story bringing out the dark, edgy side of the first male protagonist Unger has written to date: Ian Paine. And we’re lucky—so lucky—to have international bestselling author Lisa Unger here with us today.
L.L.: Immediately, I was taken with Ian’s character, his voice, and his insights. He’s dark, he’s edgy, he’s brilliantly talented when it comes to art and writing. Yet, there’s something darker still. I read another interview Lisa in which you say you woke up one day with ‘this male voice in your head’ (Ian’s) and felt like you were out of your element. Can you talk a little about how you were able to insinuate yourself into his psyche so well?
I am not sure I insinuated myself into Ian’s psyche as much as he insinuated himself into mine. His voice, his motivations, his ideas and struggles were very accessible to me, even though his experiences are far from my own. I treated him as I do all my characters – with compassion, empathy and an open heart. When you treat people that way, they reveal themselves to you. It’s not so different with character. He was unreliable in many ways, and his world was unfamiliar to me. But over time I got to know him pretty well.
I didn’t feel out of my element with Ian per se, but with the idea that he was a graphic novelist, a world I knew very little about. I did a lot of research for that element of the story.
L.L.: Ian hails from the fictional town The Hollows in upstate NY (first mentioned in Unger’s, FRAGILE). The town has a life–an agenda–of it’s own. I’ve always been fascinated with the complexities of land/environment as a story device. In your opinion, can the environment actually become a character all on its own?
We are all intimately connected to our environment. Where we live, why we live there, what we love and hate about it says a lot about us as people. If plot flows from character — and it does– so does setting. Where a story takes place is as important as any other facet of the novel. And everything – plot, character and setting– are so intricately connected as to be inseparable. The Hollows takes this concept to another level because, for me, it has become like the other characters I have met. You’re right; The Hollows does have a personality and an agenda. And it is revealing itself to me in the same way as my characters tend to. I never intended The Hollows to become it’s own entity, a place I would have to explore and discover over a series of books. It surprised me, as my characters often do. And it’s not done with me yet.
L.L.: I certainly don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but it is a gifted author who can combine so many elements–hauntings, psychological insights, family dysfunction, and psychics into the mix while still keeping her reader’s hooked and turning the pages. Hooks, are indeed one of those elusive tools author’s need in their toolbox. In fact, sometimes we need to show up with a tackle box! Lisa, do you start out with one hook and then continue to up the ante, or do you have many hooks floating around when you begin and carefully craft the whole? [In other words, are you a pantser or plotter?]
I never think of “hooks” when I’m writing. Whatever elements surface in the writing of a book flow from character. Ian certainly has a number of big issues he’s dealing with, and it would be impossible to get to know him without understanding trauma, addiction, family dysfunction, and the rift between fiction and reality. I don’t plot my stories. They evolve in the writing, and the subjects that wind up being addressed in the telling are organic to character.
L.L.: CRAZY LOVE YOU is a darn good psychological thriller but it’s also brimming with a rift of social issues: drugs/alcohol and addiction, post-partum depression/psychosis, child abuse, adult love, imaginary friends…and so it got me thinking about genre. Do you start out with an ‘umbrella’ genre of say, psych suspense and then develop a sort of microcosm of genres as you write? And in the end, does genre even matter?
Much like the concept of “hooks,” I don’t think the writer has any business thinking of “genre.” Those are marketing concepts and have no place in the creative headspace. My advice: write the story that is yours to tell; do it to the best of your ability; hone your craft; get better; do it again. Think about plot, character, prose, setting, atmosphere while you’re writing. But never try to fit your work into a mold created by others. My novels are always going to be dark. I hope they’re suspenseful enough to keep people turning the pages. There will be a deep dive into character, motivation, and relationships. But ultimately it’s up to publishers, booksellers, and readers to decide if they’re mysteries, or thrillers, or suspense, or crime fiction or whatever. I actually have no idea.
L.L.: So, I have to ask a bit about your background. In my “former life,” I was a psychiatric R.N.—I’m no stranger to family dysfunction, addiction, the darkness of depression and the turbulence of psychoses—but do you have a background in psychology, or have you always been ‘just’ a writer’ (1.8 million copies sold worldwide, by the way), or is your writing knowledge a combination of your various jobs and backgrounds?
I have always been a writer, since I was a kid. I have honestly never wanted to be anything else. I will say, though, if I weren’t a writer, I would probably be a psychiatrist. There is nothing more fascinating to me than the human psyche and all it’s various twists, turns and mysteries. So, to that end, I am constantly reading, learning, and researching the topics you mention. All my novels are a combination of my observations, knowledge, imagination, and research. And of course I rely on experts like you when I have questions, or want to spin out possible scenarios.
L.L.: I understand you write daily, you never take breaks (‘too many stories in your head’) and your ‘golden hours’ of productivity tend to be around 5a.m. to noon. And you’re the mom of a little girl. Whew–I’m exhausted just thinking about it! What’s your advice for maintaining balance?
LISA UNGER: Well, the balancing act requires daily adjustments! I used to think there was one perfect (ever elusive) formula for getting everything done every day. But parenthood, like creativity, is a kaleidoscope, changing and shifting with the light. You have to be willing to change with it. My daughter comes first; everything else has to wait until her needs are met. I don’t always get my golden hours, so I tend to think of her school week as my work week, stealing time on nights and weekends to work when need be, or inspiration has been asked to wait. And then I remind myself that it’s a blessing to have a life so full of wonderful things that I love – even when it’s chaotic!
L.L. Okay, I think I’ll stop there. Wait! One more: what happens to Ian’s father in the end?
Aw, come on, Leslie! Did you really think I was going to answer that?! The answer is in there. You have to go back and read it again! (Insert diabolical laughter here.)
L.L. Thanks so very much for popping by and chatting with us, Lisa! Couple of little plugs before we end~Lisa is working on her next book, due out in 2016 and toying with a new-to-her-genre: YA. Stay tuned!
Lisa Unger
New York Times bestselling author of
Lisa Unger is the bestselling author of 13 novels and several short stories. CRAZY LOVE YOU is her latest release. IN THE BLOOD, now in paperback, was a 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best Book, Amazon Best Book of the Month, Suspense Magazine Best Books of 2014, Sun Sentinel Best Mystery Novels of 2014 and Indie Next Pick


And the Winner is…

By Leslie Lindsay

Thanks to all of you who shared Lisa Unger’s interview via social media. By doing so, it entered you in the raffle for a copy of her newest release, IN THE BLOOD.

Congrats to MEGHAN S. of Chicagoland!!
Product Details

Stay tuned for more author interviews and book give-a-ways! We’ll have Elizabeth Heiter, debut author of HUNTED in mid-March.

[book images retrieved from Amazon on 2.24.14, winner image from thequeenofcreativity.blogspot.com on 2.24.14]

Write On, Wednesday: Bestselling Author LISA UNGER talks about books, writing, IN THE BLOOD & so much more!

By Leslie Lindsay

I am so very honored to have the amazing Lisa Unger with us today. Lisa is the NYT bestselling author of 12 suspenseful tales that range from crime, mystery, family saga, to the familiar psychological thriller; she’s a reader, wife, and mother (on a fun note, watch this interview with Lisa and her daughter, Ocean Rae discussing children’s books http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veY8wYhHweQ).

Lisa’s newest release is IN THE BLOOD (January 7th, Touchtone).  When my pre-order arrived in the mail, I hunkered down and didn’t stop till I finished.  It’s *that* good.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the interview for a…Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, thank you for being with us today.  Your books are crazy-good in a twisted, dark manner that keeps us turning the pages, yet they seem to straddle several genres. According to your website bio, “My novels center around strong women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and explore themes such as the power of a single choice, the corrosive nature of secrets and lies, dark family legacies, and the secrets we keep from each other and from ourselves.” That said, how can writers authentically combine these varied genre aspects into a complete whole? Is it “just” writer-ly magic? 
LISA UNGER: Thank you for having me, Leslie. And thank you for the very kind words. I suppose you’re right in that the novels do straddle different genres. 
But I think it’s important for writers to remember that “genres” are classifications designed by book publishers and booksellers to market novels more efficiently. Writers should not be thinking about genre when they write.  We should be thinking about character, setting, plot, prose and all the elements that unify to make a great book.  We should be honoring our inspiration, putting in the time, and working hard every day to dig deeper and get better at what we’re doing.
Which is not to say that genre is not important. But it’s important later, after the book is written.  In the process of writing, it is far more critical to write authentically from an organic place.  Every one of my novels begins and ends with character voice.  I follow that voice and listen to that story.  Most of my novels are dark, and all of them might be classified as mystery, or thriller, or crime fiction.  But I don’t sit down to write my next “thriller.”  I sit down to write my next novel, and I honor the character voices in my head.  It’s not intent, and it’s not magic.  It’s just being true to who I am as a writer.
Leslie Lindsay:  You’ve always wanted to write—but before you landed a book deal, you worked in publishing. In what ways do you feel your earlier work prepared you for the life as a career author? For example, I just told my critique partner, “I only wished I’d started writing seriously sooner [in my life].” 
LISA UNGER: My years in publishing taught me some important things.  I had always been a writer, but I lacked the confidence to pursue that dream. Working in publishing showed me that it was, in fact, possible to do what I wanted to do.
My years in publishing also taught me that it wouldn’t be easy.  Getting published is not an end to the journey; it’s the beginning. It’s a foot in the door, an invitation to roll up your sleeves and get to work.  It’s harder to succeed as a published writer than it is to get published in the first place.  Knowing that prepared me for the dizzying highs and crushing lows of life as a career writer.  I am grateful to have that background, that I knew the realities of the business before I finally went for it.
Leslie Lindsay: In those early days of writing, what do you think you did “right?”What could you have done better?
LISA UNGER: Hmm … that’s an interesting question.  I am not certain what I did right, or what I could have done better.  In fact, I’m not sure that we can look back at any part of our lives in regret or in self-congratulation, since we never know what the consequences of other choices might have been.
But I do know that I have always done my best.  I am certain that each of my novels represents the pinnacle of my abilities at the time of its writing.  And the only thing that has ever motivated me is the belief that every day I can be better at what I do than I was yesterday. I believe that each book I have written is better than the one that came before it.  So, to be honest, I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.
Leslie Lindsay: IN THE BLOOD—wow! It’s so well done. I knew you had me when we first meet a psychology student with a trust fund, a mess of lies, and a web of secrets. Each and every sentence is so carefully crafted with unique turns of phrase and dashing imagery. Can you give us a little kernel of how IN THE BLOOD came to be?
LISA UNGER: The germ for a novel can come from almost anything – a news story, a line of poetry, even a photograph.  In the Blood was inspired by an article I read in The New York Times Magazine about how certain doctors think they can see early signs of psychopathic behavior in children as young as five. This idea ignited my imagination and led me to do a great deal of research on the topic.  And while I was reading, I started to hear the voice of Lana Granger. The only thing I knew about her was that she was hiding something big.  But I didn’t know what.  I also knew I had to tell her story.
Like most of my novels, In the Blood is my delving into the question of what makes us who we are, and what power do we have to change ourselves.  My father used to recite this poem for me when I was a kid.  You cannot hide in snow/ no matter where you go/ you leave a trail behind/ that anyone can find.  It sounds a little creepy, doesn’t it?  He didn’t mean it to be; he’s just into the sound of words.  It stayed with me and comes back at weird moments.  And over the course of my life, its meaning has evolved as an allegory for the self.  You cannot hide from yourself.  The psyche won’t allow it. You must embrace everything, even the darkest and most unpleasant things within you. That’s the major theme of In the Blood.
Leslie Lindsay: What advice would you give writers who are at that submission stage, who have a completed manuscript, and really want to get published traditionally? How do you see the publishing world changing?
LISA UNGER: Just keep writing.  Don’t wait to see if that book publishes, even if you are at the submission stage. Just keep writing.  Dig deeper.  Try to get better.  Because that’s what will get you published in the end, being great at what you do.
The publishing world is changing all the time; it’s true.  And it’s changing so fast and unpredictably that you shouldn’t worry about it until you are actually published.  And not even then!  Just write the best book you can write.  Write organically, exactly the book that your heart wants to write.  You can’t hope to follow trends or write to sell, because those trends, too, change all the time. 
What doesn’t change is that everyone is still looking for a great story – agents, editor, and readers.  We will always look to story to escape from or understand life a little better.  We will always want a great story to lift us up, thrill us, excite us, and make us feel something.  Publishing may change.  But love of story is forever.  There will always be a place for a great book.
Leslie Lindsay:  Is there anything obsessing you right now? 
LISA UNGER: I am always obsessed with questions of identity, nature vs. nuture, family legacies, abnormal psychology, relationships, religion, the many facets of love, and the things that connect us and tear us apart.  I am most recently obsessed with psychic phenomenon, haunting, and addiction. I have a kaleidoscope of obsessions, always shifting, changing and building on each other. Thank goodness!
Leslie Lindsay: What’s next for you? Working on another book—I hope! 
LISA UNGER: My next novel, entitled CRAZY LOVE YOU will publish in April 2015.  I am currently at work on my first young adult book, and the 2016 adult title.   Stay turned for more on all of that!
Leslie Lindsay:  Thank you for being with us today, Lisa Such a thrill! Can you kindly direct readers to your website, social media? Also, an author photo and book cover image would be much appreciated.
LISA UNGER: Thank YOU, Leslie, for having me!  And of course readers can find out lots more about me on the web!
Facebook: authorlisaunger
Twitter: @lisaunger
And please do sign up for my newsletter here:  https://www.facebook.com/authorlisaunger/app_100265896690345
I am currently re-energizing the newsletter to include exclusive excerpts, giveaways, advice for writers and notes about what I’m reading, working on, obsessing about, listening to and watching.  So do sign up!  It’s going to be fun.
Lisa Unger….New York Times bestselling author of IN THE BLOOD (Jan 2014)
Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way
And now for the GIVE-A-WAY!!  Lisa has generously offered a complimentary copy of her new release, IN THE BLOOD to one lucky reader. All you have to do it SHARE* this interview via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc. and LET ME KNOW you shared by dropping me a line at leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com or leaving a comment in the comments section of this blog. If you don’t tell me you’ve shared, your name can’t be entered. GOOD LUCK!!
*The Fine Print: Give-a-way open to US residents only. Contest runs Wednesday, 2/19/14 thru Saturday 2/22/14 at 5pm. You will be contacted via email if you are the winner. Please check “junk” and “spam” folders for an email from me. If you are not the winner, you will not be notified. Respond promptly with your mailing address. Ms. Unger, or her representative, will send you the book. Your email will not be used for any other reasons.
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Unger and retrieved 2.18.14 from www.lisaunger.com
This interview was arranged by Leslie Lindsay