Publishing on August 1st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer, this book has been taken under the wing of the lovely Katie representing Little Bird Publicity, for marketing and publicity purposes, with the great team at NetGalley sorting out the downloads for people.
After a brief outline of the story, I’ll be passing the post over to author Vivian Barz, as she introduces herself and chats a little about the book!
FORGOTTEN BONES – (Dead Remaining Book #1)
When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.
Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.
Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?
I grew up on a farm in Wilton, a small town in Northern California. With a population then of a mere 3,000 and with plenty of fresh air and space to let my imagination run wild, I began penning stories from a very young age, with mixed reviews from my friends and class mates!
I earned two bachelor’s degrees in film and media studies, and English, from The University of California, Irvine and whilst I have kept on writing into my adult life, I have also held down an impressive array of careers in unrelated industries as diverse as marketing and field archaeology.
My work has seen me travel across the United States and Canada and on to Scotland and England, where I lived for a few years in London. I now live in Southern California, where I still enjoy travelling, watching films and cooking.
I also write thrillers, mysteries and contemporary fiction, under the pen name of Sloan Archer.
Keep up with all the latest news at my website
Connect with me on Instagram
“I really don’t have a plan when I sit down to write—other than having a basic outline. The best way I can describe it is that I just start typing and let the story go where it needs to”
IN CONVERSATION … with author VIVIAN BARZ
Q: Forgotten Bones introduces readers to a couple great characters. Susan is intelligent and intuitive, and she won’t take no for an answer when she knows there’s something she can do to help. Eric is likeable and funny, but he can get worked up quickly, especially when dealing with his ex-wife. What is your process for developing such vivid and well-rounded characters?
A: The process for creating Eric—and the storyline as a whole—was completely happenstance. A very close friend of mine has schizophrenia, and one day she mentioned that she was sick of the media representing those with the disease as being murdering psychopaths. She said she wished someone would create a story just once where the person with schizophrenia was the hero. What she wanted more than anything, she said, was for the disease to be demystified to the masses. That got me thinking.
Of course, if you know anything about me, you’ll understand that I tend to lean towards the macabre. If I was going to bring this character to life, he or she would not be set in a sunshine and lollipops-type world; people were probably going to have to die and very bad things would need to happen. That’s just how my brain works. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to create a likeable character with schizophrenia who also maybe had antihero tendencies—or, at the very least, I wanted to create a deeply-flawed character who’d gone through some things that readers, regardless of their backgrounds and experiences, could still relate to. More than anything, though, I wanted to show that, at the core, a person with schizophrenia is really no different than the average person.
Because Eric could be a little out there at times, I wanted Susan to be super down to earth. She has some character traits that aren’t perfect—she can be obsessive, stubborn, and acerbic—but that’s what makes her human. When it comes to law enforcement, her intentions are pure—meaning, she’s not self-serving or only looking to bolster her career—but the absolute last thing I wanted was to create a goody two-shoes, because there’s nothing worse than that!
Susan isn’t afraid to break a few rules, but it’s usually for the greater good—or, at least, what she considers to be the greater good. She just gets on with things without a lot of fuss, which is what I like most about her. In real life, I could see myself meeting up with her for a drink. Eric, too. I guess that would be the test of any character I’m trying to make likeable—do I want to sit down and have a beer with them?
Q: The scenes where Eric is having visions are particularly chilling, as what he is seeing—or thinks he is seeing—is so realistic and disturbing. How difficult was it for you to work these moments into the novel, and what kinds of research did you conduct to help make them feel so real?
A: I know a lot of writers of the genre probably say this, but there really isn’t much that scares me. Meaning, I’m not too afraid of ghosts, killer clowns, aliens, or anything like that. Honestly, the only thing that really, really scares me are people, because they are so unpredictable and can be dangerous. However, I know that I may be alone in this thinking, so when writing disturbing scenes, I try to focus on things that are universally frightening.
The fear of isolation—of being in trouble and not having anyone to turn to for help or even share the emotional burden of being afraid—is a big one. This applies to Eric, especially, because he is both literally and figuratively alone: he is alone in a new town after a bitter separation from an unfaithful wife, and he is alone in his schizophrenia, which is a terribly isolating disease even when you’re not hallucinating ghostly figures. His despair is visceral and unrelenting, and I imagine a lot of readers would be scared to be in his situation.
Another thing I think scares most people is being caught off-guard; we, silly humans that we are, like to tell ourselves that we’re in control the majority of the time. But there’s one thing we can’t control, no matter how much we might try, and that’s how vulnerable we are when we’re asleep. This is why I set many of the scarier scenes in the bedroom; I can imagine few things worse than waking up in the middle of the night, confused, and finding a monster lurking near the foot of the bed.
Q: The book builds over the first few hundred pages, and all of a sudden reaches a thrilling conclusion for all of the characters. What are some strategies you use to build suspense when writing a novel like this? Does it practically write itself, or do you go through lots of revision to not give too much away too early?
A: I don’t employ a “strategy” per se, and the book definitely doesn’t write itself—that’d be cool if it did, though, because I’d take a lot more vacations! I’ll let you in on a little secret: I really don’t have a plan when I sit down to write—other than having a basic outline. The best way I can describe it is that I just start typing and let the story go where it needs to. In the novel Misery, Stephen King describes the act of writing as something like—and I’m paraphrasing here—falling into a hole on the page. I’ve always liked that, because that’s pretty much how it feels. And never, ever, have I typed “THE END,” and then I’m done. I cannot tell you how many times Forgotten Bones was revised. Seriously, I’ve lost count.
That said, I also had a wonderful editor, Jessica Tribble at Thomas & Mercer, working with me on the novel. What I love is that she doesn’t mince words, and we have the sort of relationship where she can say things like, “You’re laying it on too thick and this is getting a little Scooby-Doo here,” and I know exactly what she means and nobody gets bent out of shape about it. It’s great working with an editorial team because occasionally I’ll think that I’ve been subtle and brilliant with the clues, but then an editor can let me know if I’ve been successful. Sometimes, it’s good to have an outsider check you on your own ideas!
Q: In addition to being a riveting thriller, Forgotten Bones is also an eerie ghost story. What attracted you to writing “ghost stories” like this one, and why did you want to make that an element of this book?
A: I’ve always loved ghost stories, even as a kid—I blame Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for first getting me hooked! I also grew up during the horror explosion of the ’80s, which was a great time to be alive if you loved stories based in the supernatural, like I did and still do.
For Forgotten Bones, adding a ghostly element seemed like the natural thing to do, given Eric’s mental state. I liked the idea of having him “haunted” by nearly every aspect of his life—haunted by his illness, his past . . . actual ghosts. Because Eric himself questioned what he was seeing, I wanted readers to also be uncertain. I wanted him to be the ultimate unreliable narrator, which I think he is. Ghosts, I think, epitomize the unreliable, since there is no way to prove their existence.
Q: Susan is a woman working in the often male-dominated field of police work. When the FBI gets involved in the case, she feels like her boss, Ed, is doubting the capabilities of the Perrick police department. Do you think part of Susan wonders if Ed is doubting her abilities? How important was it for you to showcase a woman fighting her way through this kind of adversity?
A: If anything, I was hoping to normalize Susan being a police officer who also happened to be female. Why? Because, I think the more women are conspicuously recognized for working in male-dominated industries, the more abnormal it makes them seem for being there. I don’t care for the term “female cop”—or any other term that marks a woman’s gender before her job title, like female scientist or female private eye—because this is never done to men. When is the last time you heard a protagonist described as a “male cop” in a police procedural? Honestly, I think the best way to include females in this type of setting is to present them as human beings rather than going out of the way to portray them in the extreme, as either beautiful, flawless role models or persecuted in some way.
I also didn’t want to seem as if I was overcompensating for Susan’s femininity by using a bunch of embarrassing clichés or turn her employment into some kind of crusade; it wouldn’t feel right for her character and, frankly, it would cheapen the plotline. She’s just a cop doing a job under a boss who has grown complacent in his duties. The displeasure she feels is targeted more at Ed’s ineptitude, I think. Ed, on the brink of retirement, is simply collecting a paycheck—“retired on duty”—whereas Susan is still fairly fresh to the job and looking to make a difference. She works hard, so it frustrates her that her boss is handing over the “real” work to the FBI.
Q: Forgotten Bones is the first book in your new Dead Remaining series. Will Book 2 continue to follow Susan and Eric, or will we meet some new characters? Is there anything else you can tease readers about what you’re working on next?
A: The second book in the Dead Remaining series, Hidden Bones, will continue to focus on Eric and Susan, but new characters will be introduced as well. Jake and Denton Howell will also have larger roles. The book will focus on an entirely new mystery, while also continuing the plotline from Book 1. I don’t want to give too much away, but it will be set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and there will be FBI, as well as DEA, involvement. I think readers are going to enjoy it