The Making of Silenced Cry

Marilyn is asking author Marta Stephens about her newest book.

Tell me about your latest book.

Silenced Cry is the story of a young narcotics detective, Sam Harper. He and his partner, Gillies, are on surveillance of a drug supplier who had eluded capture. It quickly becomes evident that Gillies is intentionally muddying up the facts. Key points don’t add up and makes Harper believe Gillies is involved in illegal activities. His partner is shot and killed during the surveillance. When questions surrounding his partner’s death go unanswered, Harper suspects a cover up.

Harper is transferred into homicide and given a new partner, Dave Mann. Their first case takes them to the Harbor View Apartments, a building marked for demolition, where workers discover the skeletal remains of an infant entombed in one of the walls. The investigation into the infant’s murder opens the floodgates of questions when the suspects in the Baby Doe case all tie back to Gillies. Evidence mounds as quickly as the bodies in the morgue and the truth leads Harper to the person he least suspects.

Silenced Cry is a layered, multi-plot story about the events, disappointments, and successes that transform the character, Sam Harper, into the man who emerges in the final pages of Silenced Cry.

Where can we buy it?

Silenced Cry, ISBN: 978-1-905202-72-0, is a 248 page paperback available on several online bookstores including all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, ABEBooks, and Powells to name a few. It is being distributed by booksellers both here in the States and in Europe so most independent bookstore owners have access to the book and can make it available to their customers. My publisher, BeWrite Books (UK) makes both the paperback and the e-book version of Silenced Cry available on their website, http://www.bewrite.net/merchant2/4.00/merchant.mv. For additional locations, please visit my website, http://www.martastephens-author.com/.

What gave you the idea to write Silenced Cry?

Silenced Cry was actually the third book I wrote in the series. I wanted the set to include at least four stand-alone stories. But once the first two books were drafted and I was ready to draft out the third, I decided that instead of moving forward in time, I needed to show the beginning and therefore, needed to delve deeper into Harper’s makeup, his drive. I quickly learned that there was a great deal more to the Sam Harper character than catching criminals. It was important that he become personally affected by the crimes and once I understood Harper’s motivations and the depths of his emotions, I set out to create criminals who were so vial and their crimes so vicious that it would push Harper to the brink of potentially crossing the legal line.

In short, Silenced Cry, is a story about Homicide Detective Sam Harper. He isn’t a flawless hero. He doesn't always get things right, the evidence doesn't always fall neatly into place, and doors don't always open to reveal the answer. His short-comings are what makes him human. Even though there are a multitude of crimes, criminals, interrogation scenes and visits to the city morgue in Silenced Cry, at its core, this is a story about the events, disappointments, and successes that transform Sam Harper into the man who emerges in the final pages of Silenced Cry.

How much of yourself or your experiences are in the book?

I’ve never dealt in drugs, never killed anyone, I was never arrested or raped, and I’ve never worked in law enforcement. Still, I can’t imagine a writer not bleeding a little bit into their books with what I’d call human experiences; grief, anger, joy, fear, resentment, worry, suspicion—everyone can relate to those feelings. I dug deep into my own emotions in order to understand how and why these characters acted and reacted the way they did. At times, it took some doing to step into the antagonists’ skin and to look at the world from their perspective. There’s something to be said about the writer’s belief system too and how it affects the plot and the characters’ behaviors. As much as I tried to step back away from my own viewpoint, I think a part of me snuck in between the lines.

What would you like to see happen with Silenced Cry?

Sam Harper is the new detective on the beat; Silenced Cry is his calling card.

The book introduces Harper and a host of characters to mystery lovers around the world. It’s a layered story with multiple subplots that pulls the reader from one twist and turn into another. While reviewers have repeatedly dubbed Silenced Cry a pager turner (visit http://www.martastephens-author.com/ for a complete list of reviews), one reader wrote, “Silenced Cry held my interest from the first gunshot, past the first, second, and third plot twist into the clubhouse turn and on to an ending I hadn’t anticipated.”

My first goal was to create a character readers could connect with and love. The second was to develop a story line that would draw and hold the reader through a battery of crimes and a maze of clues. As a first-time author, the challenge has been to create an awareness. We geared the promotional campaign to draw interest to the book. However, sales aside, I’ve found that in spite of all our marketing efforts, word of mouth is still the best sure-fire way to sell books. People pay attention to testimonials from those they trust. Nothing thrills me more than to hear that a reader has passed the book on to friends and family members and they in turn have passed it on to others as a must read.

Nearly all who have read Silenced Cry have asked about the next book in the series. This tells me that Silenced Cry is doing exactly what I hoped it would do; it has grabbed the mystery lover’s attention (and even a few non-mystery fans) and started a following for the series. To those who have read Silenced Cry, thank you! I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Sam Harper will be around for a long time. In fact, he’s already working on his next case.

What are your writing habits?

Time is precious. I squeeze it out of my evenings after work and on weekends to write. Still, I average three to four hours of writing every day—quite a bit more on weekends.

The first thing I do when I begin a project is to briefly outline the storyline. My outline, however, is never written in stone. It is extremely flexible and only used as a guideline that changes as the story develops. When I began to write Silenced Cry, it was a linear plot line; one case, one murderer, one solution. But then I started to wonder what could possibly happen next? That’s when a whole string of possibilities emerged.

I find it helpful to write bios and back-stories for each of the main characters. Real people don’t live in a vacuum. They have deep-rooted reasons for their behaviors, and have trigger points that have made them behave as they do. Back-stories tell me some amazing things that help me to create three-dimensional characters.

Once I understand where the story is going, I do extensive research on police procedures (including consultations with professionals in the field), forensics and anything else I need to understand. Research, however, is on-going.

After I’ve briefly outlined the plot line, have written character bios and back-stories, and researched my subject, I clear my desk and start typing. Some chapters come very quickly for me, but writing is a process that doesn’t always follow a logical path. I’ve written chapters and chapter sections out of sequence only because they came to me at the most unexpected moments and I had to put my thoughts to writing.

An important lesson I’ve learned is to not to fall in love with my writing. I’ve cut entire chapters from my manuscripts more than once. Some I’ve really liked. One in particular was a provocative and fast-paced chapter. It had great dialogue and tense action, but no matter how much I wanted it to add to the plot, I couldn’t justify it. It’s in a special file in my hard drive waiting for the day when it will be resurrected. I never know if and when I might be able to use deleted sections again so I keep a good majority of them. The second book in the series is a perfect example of how important it is to sacrifice words for the sake of the plot. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the book a couple of years ago. When it was time to revisit it, I didn’t have to read past the first chapter or two to know I had to start over. After cutting out around 45,000 words, the only thing that remains of the original story is its essence, but this is a story that Sam Harper fans will enjoy.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of the edits on my second book in the series. The reader will find a few familiar characters in it. When bodies start washing ashore no one, including Harper, suspects their murderer or his motives.
He is up against a cunning killer whose purpose and tactics would have escaped detection had it not been for a personality flaw—over confidence. This is a classic murder mystery with an added splash of the supernatural, a power-hungry drug dealer, a religious fanatic, and a hint of romance just to make things interesting.

Thank you so much, Marta, for answering my questions.

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