No One Left to Tell, by Karen Rose
American author Karen Rose’s breath-taking thrillers have rocked the international best-seller lists for years. Her newest thriller No One Left to Tell, published 5th January, certainly lives up to expectations. With its heart-stopping action, wonderful characters, and intricately orchestrated plot, No One Left to Tellgrabs the reader from the very first page and does not let go until the very last word.
No One Left to Tell is a story of massive cover-ups, thrilling romance and gritty police procedure. Ramon Munoz has spent five years in prison for a crime his wife and mother are convinced he did not commit. When his wife uncovers new evidence and is killed for her troubles, PI Paige Holden cannot refuse the Munoz family’s request for help. Uncovering a plot that reaches the very highest levels of the police and legal systems in Baltimore, Paige is determined to prove Ramon was set up. As she uncovers more and more, she risks not only her job but her friends and her very life as there is little the killer will not do to ensure that, in the end, there is no one left alive to tell.
The many plot-twists, parallel plot-lines, new characters and numerous back-story elements are quite a lot to process in the beginning of the book. However, once the novel gets into its swing, the plot-line enthralls and captivates. With a steamy romantic side-plot, the novel is balanced between treading the darkness of the aftermath of brutal murders and maintaining characterisation that will have you cheering for and sympathising with the main characters. The plot keeps you on your toes, twisting and turning in unanticipated directions. Rose hints and leaves you guessing at who the killer is and then turns right around and makes you doubt your conclusion. The ending is unanticipated and proves entirely satisfying.
Rose’s thirteenth novel continues her trend of satisfying thrillers. She delivers high-wire, heart-stopping suspense that will keep readers riveted to the page, holding on for a twisting and turning ride all the way through to the end.
The Upcoming caught up with Karen Rose to talk about writing No One Left to Tell, and other fun authors’ things:
Engineer to internationally best-selling author is quite a change of pace! Why did you choose to take such a leap in careers?
Well, first of all, it was never anything that I planned. It was never anything that I dreamed of. When I went to college, it was because I wanted to get a stable job that was responsible so I could feed my family because that’s what people did. I knew people were writers, obviously because the library was full of books. But I never really thought about how they got there. I was about 29 when I started writing. After my first daughter was born, I had a new job and I had to fly. I was very stressed about flying. I ended up reading books on the airlines, to keep myself being all panicked. I had forgotten how I liked to read. I was reading everything – I stumbled onto romances and thrillers. I started taking the international flights and there just wasn’t enough room for books. If there had been e-Readers in the 90s, I probably wouldn’t have become a writer. I ran out of books so I began writing my own stories. I figured if I wrote them down, they’d go away but they didn’t. It was a hobby. That was one of the things that made it easier for me when I finally decided go for it as a profession. I had honed some of my skills while it was still a hobby. It was my guilty pleasure. My husband knew, and he was the one to tell me to go to a local writers’ group. That was when I realised that I had found a second home. The engineering was a job, and I enjoyed it, but it was never really a passion. I found the facets of the job that made me happy, but I never really fit the mold. I didn’t even know what passion was. There’s a lot of logic in writing, that kind of meshes engineering with writing. I find that I still use flowcharts. I still use logic. To me it was a very gradual move between careers.
No One Left to Tell is your thirteenth crime novel. As you move along in your writing career, do you find it difficult to come up with new ideas and characters?
I find it hard to find the time to write all the ones I want to write. I already know the one book I’m working on now; I know what the next book is going to be. I know where I want to go next. The ideas come, and they come from the characters. I have so many that I want to write about, I just don’t have the time to write them all. The ideas are always there. All I have to do is watch the news or watch people and go back to that quiet place; tone out the rest of the noise of life and the ideas will come.
No One Left to Tell has so many elements involving the law and criminal investigations. What kind of research was involved in writing such a believable novel?
For the cop stuff, I have a friend who’s a cop that I met through a workshop that was done by my local chapter of the romance writers’ group. If I have questions, he is always there to answer them. At times he’s even helped to pull plot points together that I wasn’t aware of. For a lot of the legal stuff, I figured out what I wanted the scenario to be and then figured out what they would be allowed to do. I would research similar cases. I do know people who are attorneys, and they’ll point me to the right cases or the right book.
The novel shifts throughout to many different characters’ point of view. Was it difficult to keep each individual character’s voice and thoughts clear in your head while writing? And why did you choose to write the book in this style?
They never get confused, because they’re all very distinct in my mind. One of the things that I like to do is bring in the real-life aspect of the characters’ lives into the plot. Very rarely are cases solved in a straight line. Very rarely does one person go from A to B and nothing else comes in. The parallel plot-line and events are logical and realistic.
Paige, one of the main characters in No One Left to Tell, made a cameo appearance in Silent Scream (2010). Why did you decide to give her her own book?
I liked her a lot. But mostly, Paige is a character that was written for a friend of mine, Sunny. We’ve been friends since 2006, and one day she was saying that she wanted to be in a book. I told Sunny that I would kind of, sort of make her into a character. So I made her into Paige. I told her that Paige knows karate and teaches self-defence to women, but that’s where the similarity stops. I am so proud of Sunny, and in writing Paige, I think some of that pride probably shows. I’m very proud of Paige in the book, as a person.
There’s an epilogue to Silent Scream where Paige meets Clay, which sets into motion the events for the next book. I planned that in advance; I had always planned for Paige to move.
What is your general process in terms of creating characters?
I start with an outline. My outline always starts with bullet points: hero, heroine. Who’s their family, where are they from, why are they in the place where they are? For the major friends, I ask myself, how did they meet? What’s important? Planning out how two friends meet can say a lot about the friendship. I think about who their friends are, what their passions are. I always think about what their moral compass is and ask, what’s that one line that they will not cross? To me, that is important in creating a character. And that is where the story comes from.
While writing No One Left to Tell, did you ever suffer from that most dreaded bane of writers, writer’s block?
Of course. There are two points that I always struggle with. The first part is always the hardest for me. There are so many choices and I’m always afraid that if I pick the wrong one, I’ll go the wrong direction and have to come back. The only thing that fixes that is just to start writing. The other point is about two-thirds of the way through. I can see the ending, but I don’t know how to get to that point from here. That’s when the reverse flow-charting comes through. I write what needs to happen on sticky notes, and then as I get to each plot point I throw the sticky into the garbage.
How much of yourself goes into your books? Do you relate to any specific characters in particular? Do you put a piece of yourself into each character?
I think there is a piece of me in all of them. There are probably pieces of me in many of the characters, even in the bad ones. I just think, if I were bad, what would I do? For a villain to be successful, he has to be logical. I’m invested, I love my characters.
I know that sometimes authors have certain books or characters that are their favourite to write. Do you?
Yeah, I do. I think my favourite heroine is Mia Mitchell. There was a series of books when I was a kid called the Trixie Belden series. Mia’s background is completely different than Trixie’s, but in my mind she was kind of a grown-up Trixie Belden. I think there’s probably more of me in Mia than any of the other characters. She can’t cook, she’s gruff, but she’s got a really tender heart. Mia is in book three, four, a little bit in five, six and a little bit in book ten. Book six is her story. I had a lot of fun writing that book. I had an outline but I didn’t really follow it. All of these characters kept popping up. Mia starts out with a cupboard full of Pop-Tarts, and ends up adopting a child, adopting a cat, and then finally getting a husband. The book was also special because my friend Christy wrote the poetry in the book. She brought out things in my characters that I didn’t even know was there through her poetry. So much happened in that book that I never anticipated. It was very organic. I loved that book.
With the different new technologies out there, many books have gone electronic. How do you feel about the Kindle and e-Books in general?
It’s definitely changing the industry. From a convenience standpoint, I think people will read more. I think it’s a wonderful thing because I think people will read more. It also allows people to access authors’ backlists. All of their published books are available at the click of a button. It’s like a goldmine. The delivery system isn’t important. It’s what’s inside. It’s the people, the characters, and the story that is what makes it so important.
Finally, do you have anything new and exciting planned for the future, in terms of new releases or anything else?
My next book is called Did You Miss Me? It will come out in the UK next January. At this point, I’m enjoying writing and I’m just going to keep on keepin’ on.
Keep your eyes peeled and your Kindles at the ready for Did You Miss Me?, to be released in January 2013. In the meantime, satisfy your inner thrill seeker with No One Left to Tell, in stores now.
No One Left to Tell is published by Penguin Random House on 5th January 2013. For further information visit Karen Rose’s website here.