Sandra Brown is the best.
Not only is she one of the authors I most look forward to reading each year, but she’s also one of my favorite writers to interview too.
Though I’m a tad late in providing coverage, Brown’s latest masterpiece, Thick as Thieves, is some of her best work to date, which is really saying something when you consider her body of work. She is, after all, one of the most recognizable authors on the planet—with over 80 million copies of her books in print.
Her latest offering follows Arden Maxwell, whose father was part of a four-man team made famous for pulling off a heist twenty years ago. In fact, Arden’s father is believed to be the only one to actually get away with everything, including the money. The rest—one was killed, one was arrested, and one ended up in the hospital—didn’t fare nearly as well. Neither Arden or her sister, Lisa, have seen their father since, both assuming he vanished with the money he stole to evade being caught.
Now, in the present day, Arden returns to her hometown of Penton, Texas, and it doesn’t take long for the past to come calling . . .
Earlier this week I finally caught up with Brown about her must-read new book (which, by the way, has a great twist towards the end) and asked her about everything for how she came up with the story idea for this one to how she’s spending her time in quarantine.
See the full Q&A below, then make sure to pick up your copy of Thick as Thieves, now available wherever books are sold.
TRBS: So, I’m a little late reading this one, but I just finished THICK AS THIEVES and absolutely loved this book! How did you come up with the story idea?
Brown: Thank you, Ryan, both for the interview and for the compliment on Thick As Thieves. Knowing how many books you read in this genre, your opinion means a lot! As for the idea…this will sound completely schizophrenic, and I suppose it is. But I “heard” someone say, “Talking about it is the surefire way to get caught.” That grabbed my attention. I took a look around and found myself in the prologue scene with the four thieves. I began writing down what I saw and heard. At the end of seven pages, I had what I believed to be a compelling prologue. I sent it to my editor to ask what he thought. He came back with, “I love it. I can’t wait to see what happens next.” I told him, “Then that makes two of us!” At that point in time, I didn’t even know the identities of the four thieves or what their relationships were to each other. But I had 450 more pages to FIO. I started with that scene in the ditch and went from there.
TRBS: What is your writing process like? Do you outline your stories ahead of time, or can you just sit and crank them out?
Brown: I outline to some extent, but I also let the story unfold as I write it. Once I have a general idea, I play with plot shifts, move characters around, ask a lot of “what if”s. But before beginning, the critical thing I must have is the “ah-ha”! I define that as the one thing I know that the reader doesn’t. It’s the invisible thread that runs throughout the story, always there, but not revealed until the end. Once I get that, I know where I’m going, I just don’t know precisely how I’m going to get there. The characters lead me as much, and often more than I lead them. Sometimes they’re well ahead of me.
TRBS: How have you been filling time in quarantine this year?
Brown: I’ve read a LOT, which has been such a luxury. Even in quarantine, there was pre-publication work to be done. The meetings were virtual this year, but even more important than in previous years. The challenges that COVID presented had to be addressed and met by the best possible means.
TRBS: When you’re not busy writing, who are some of your favorite authors, and what’s the last really great book that you read?
Brown: I read all over the map, truly. Thrillers from gory to tame, romances from sweet to spice, historical novels, non-fiction. I recently read Eric Larson’s book on Churchill, and I’m presently reading Ken Follett’s The Evening and the Morning. I’m easily entertained. I nimbly jump genres. As long as the story is good, I’m in!
TRBS: Lastly, now that this book is already out, what’s next for you?
Brown: I’m almost 100 pages into a new book. The idea has been cleared by my editor. It will be something a bit different, and I’m excited about switching gears. I’m not yet ready to discuss what it’s about, but I will say what it’s NOT about: a pandemic!
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.