Mystery Thriller Week is a celebration of the genre and its authors and readers that runs from February 12 – 22. If you’re keeping score, yes, that’s a bit longer than one calendar week. With so many genres-within-the-genre, authors, and readers, seven days just didn’t seem enough time. For more information about the event, pop over to mysterythrillerweek.com.
In conjunction with the event, I’ll be sharing Q&As with mystery and thriller authors every Monday and Wednesday through February 22.
This week, I’m happy to welcome D. M. Barr, author of Expired Listings: Revenge Begins at Home.
About the book
What if people were dying around you and you weren’t absolutely sure you weren’t their murderer? Someone is ‘deactivating’ the Realtors in Rock Canyon and almost no one seems to care. Not the surviving brokers, who consider the serial killings a competitive boon. Not the town’s residents, who see the murders as a public service. In fact, the only person who’s even somewhat alarmed is Dana Black, a kinky, sharp-witted yet emotionally skittish Realtor who has no alibi for the crimes because during each, she believes she was using her empty listings for games like Bondage Bingo with her sadistic lover, Dare. And yet, mysteriously, all clues are pointing her way.
Kink, Suspense and Satire—Expired Listings masterfully combines all three while exploring the universal need for validation and the toxic nature of revenge.
What would you like readers to know about your book beyond what’s in the blurb?
What Expired Listings is really about is the search for self-respect and self-validation. People who stop reading because of the (extremely tasteful) BDSM scenes are missing the point–look at what Dana, the main character, is putting herself through to belong and establish real connections with people. Every relationship in the woman’s life is tinged with tragedy. The irony is that she looks at a ‘vanilla’ relationship that might involve real intimacy, as the risky one, whereas most people would look at S&M that way. This is in no way a book of erotica but the erotic elements are there to establish character.
Do you start writing at the beginning of a story or to reach a future point you see in your imagination?
I know some people hop around and write whatever scenes are in their mind. I can only write in order and then come back and revise and revise and revise. I rewrote this book five times before I got it where I wanted it to be.
What are your protagonist’s best and worst qualities?
She makes really bad puns. I’m not sure if that’s a best or worst character trait. On the plus side, she’s incredibly resilient. On the negative side, she makes somewhat poor decisions in her desire to belong.
What’s the most surprising or unexpected thing that happened to your characters as you were writing the story?
I started writing this book as a warning to fellow Realtors to be careful since we are in an incredibly dangerous profession. But I was going to incorporate all that within a parody. I never foresaw the relationship between Dana and Aidan until I wrote him entering her life and noticed how attracted she was to him (who knew!). I also never realized the subtext of the book being about validation and the pull between sterile stability and risky intimacy until my editor, God love him, pointed it out.
What’s the first book you can remember loving? What’s the last great book you read?
I loved a Honey Bunch book where she was separated from her parents during a trip to NYC and ended up in an orphanage. They take all the orphans out to an amusement park where they have full run of the park (long before amusement parks started having those all-access passes), and she ate Belgium waffles. This is at least how I remember the book. I have never been able to find it again. Last great book: I loved Gone Girl and was thrilled when I got to meet Gillian Flynn this past summer. Oh, and Terminal by Marshall Karp because he cast me as a sexy blond police detective. I’m reading a lot o non-fiction now in preparation for my next book.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard or been given?
Don’t edit as you go along. Just vomit out the whole book so you know what you’re working with. Then you can edit. Otherwise, you might hit a patch you can’t fix and then you’ll be blocked. Also, write the book you want to write and believe in your work. Tons of agents and publishers told me my book wouldn’t work because it combined a psychological thriller with satire and erotic/romantic elements. That seems to be what reviewers like the best!
What did you wish I’d asked, and why?
Would you be open to Chris Pine or Kevin Kline asking you out? The answer is yes and believe me, my husband would understand.
How can readers find out more about you and your work?
More Mystery Thriller Week Q&As: