I read Nearly Gone last month and absolutely loved it. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, but in the meantime, enjoy the interview!
Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end.Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.
1. Hey! I'm so excited to have you on the blog today! Let's break the ice a little by talking about your characters. I absolutely love how none of your characters are black and white. Which was your favorite character to write?
When I was a teenager, I was lucky to have a few wise souls in my life. They challenged me to think in different ways, and were always a little cryptic with their advice, never telling me directly how to solve a problem, but rather arming me with just enough information to figure it out for myself. I wanted Nearly to have someone in her life like this. Hard core criminal Lonny Johnson is that character for me. He’s a wise, old soul in a young man’s body. He’s street smart and full of sage advice, but you would never assume that by the look of him (or his rap sheet), which I love because it makes him surprising to both Nearly and the reader.
2. The way you incorporated mathematical elements into your story was fantastic. How did that come to be? Did you know this was going to be a numbers mystery from the very beginning?
Actually, I had no idea. I knew I wanted my character to be flawed in a lot of the same ways I remember being flawed as a teen, but I also wanted her to be heroic, strong and capable in ways I had never been. Growing up, I dreamed of becoming a scientist, but I had always been terrible at math. Even through college, I failed basic math classes over and over again. Numbers just didn’t speak to me in a language I could understand. When I sat down to imagine her character – to make a list of all these traits I wanted her to have—the ones I found most admirable and heroic were intelligence and empathy, so I gave her both. The mathematic elements really lent themselves to the mystery. In many ways, math is really about solving puzzles. And so it seemed natural to me that I could challenge my character to apply this skill to solve a murder.
3. What was the most difficult part of writing Nearly Gone and Nearly Found?
Plotting a mystery is HARD! Breadcrumbs, red herrings, twists, and the timing of reveals… They all take a lot of careful planning and thoughtful revision to execute in a way that will keep readers guessing until the very end of the story. I revised these books more times than I care to count. But the hard work pays off when a reader tells me that the ending surprised them or they “should have seen it coming, but didn’t”.
4. Can you tell us a little bit about your next novel, Holding Smoke? We're dying for any information we can get our hands on!
YES! I am so excited about this book! HOLDING SMOKE has been described as The Shawshank Redemption meets If I Stay. It’s the story about a boy serving time for a murder he didn't commit. After a near-death experience, he finds himself gifted with astral projection, the ability to separate his soul from his body, which enables him to “travel” outside the prison walls in a quest to find the real killer and clear his name. What I love about this book is that it juxtaposes freedom of thought over prisons of the body, exploring the power of the mind over the ghosts inside. It’s a powerful, suspenseful, tangled and creepy book! HOLDING SMOKE will release on May 3 from Disney*Hyperion, but a few precious ARCs are already out in the wild.
5. I know you've had to do a lot of research for your novels. I'm always interested to know the research that goes on behind the story. What's the strangest or most interesting piece of research you've come across for any of your books?
I’d be very surprised if my Google search history hasn’t already put me on some government watch list. A few examples? How to make a cyanoacrylate fuming chamber out of a coffee can (for finding latent fingerprints), how to escape a GPS ankle tracking device, how to transport lethally toxic chemicals into public places without detection, how to make explosives and poisonous gas from items found in your garage, the decomposition rates of bodies buried in expeditious graves, and the process for collecting evidence from a corpse. But the subject I’ve always found most surprising is a phenomenon called “The CSI Effect.” The general public learns a lot about forensic investigation from TV shows and fictional media. These exaggerated portrayals of forensic science have influenced public perception, to the point where readers, viewers, and even jurors are having a harder time separating fact from fiction. On TV, identification of human remains and fingerprint IDs happen instantaneously with the help of sophisticated computer programs. On TV, DNA evidence is collected from every crime scene and processed almost overnight. In reality, these assumptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most forensic investigation is still a manual process, subject to manpower, human error, and budget constraints. Glamorizing and expediting these processes is a necessary evil in television, where we only have an hour to move the viewer through a high stakes plot. And yet, these kinds of assumptions have become our societal perception of the truth, which I find both disturbing and fascinating.
6. I asked this question in Creeptastic Reads interviews last year and I enjoyed reading the answers, so if your book characters were thrown into a slasher movie, who would probably die first and who would you be rooting for until the very end?
I love this question. I’d be rooting for all of them, because I love them all to death. But I think Jeremy would be first to die, because he’d be too busy taking pictures to run. (Anh would be a close second… she’s terrified of blood.) If I had to guess which character would survive the longest, I’d have to go with Oleksa. He’s pretty bad ass.
7. What fall books can you recommend for us?
Fall is my favorite time of year, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I just loaded my Nook with some fun, fall scary reads, like Blood and Salt and The Dead House, and I’m looking forward to hiding under my blankets while I read. My favorite creepy books feature ghosts (and bonus points if they have strong romantic elements). A few I recommend? A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, and of course, HOLDING SMOKE, which you might be surprised to learn has a few creepy ghosts of its own.
Thank you Elle for being part of Creeptastic Reads!
About the Author
Elle Cosimano is the daughter of a prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rides a Harley. She majored in Psychology at St Mary’s College, Maryland, and set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing, She lives with her husband and two young sons in the Washington DC area.