Thursday, August 1, 2013

Get to know Lisa Regan and why I loved 'Aberration'

I am so honored to have Lisa Regan be here today. I fell in love with her book 'Finding Claire Fletcher' several months ago. (Read my review here.) I was honored when she asked me to review her latest novel 'Aberration,' and also excited when I had the opportunity to interview her for this blog tour. Find out more about her and this latest novel, plus why I loved 'Aberration' as much as, if not more than 'Finding Claire Fletcher.'

What was the inspiration behind 'Aberration'?

When I was in college I lived in this little apartment where certain personal items of mine began disappearing without any explanation. I could never find them. Being a crime writer, I immediately wondered if I had some kind of stalker. Of course, I could never find any evidence of that, but the whole strange thing got my creative juices flowing. I thought what if I created a character who had a benign stalker? That wasn’t very entertaining so I thought what if this stalker started out with good intentions but turned evil? I had been reading a lot of FBI-type books at the time so I decided to make my protagonist an FBI profiler.

How much do you have in common with Kassidy, the main character?

Well I like to think I have her sense of justice. I definitely have anxiety in common with her! She is tough on the exterior but on the inside she has anxiety and fears just like anyone. I hoped that would make her more relatable.

What is it about Kassidy that draws men, both crazy and semi-normal, to her?

I never thought about this before. I really believe that it is her intelligence and her innate sense of fairness combined with her grittiness. While she has fears and anxiety just like any person, she is not afraid to fight when she believes it is necessary. She’s not afraid to go up against a fiercer opponent if it means standing up for someone weaker. Obviously this is the quality that draws the crazy man to her. In a world filled with people who simply look away when something bad is happening he sees her as a shining beacon of justice and courage. The semi-normal men? Again, I think it is her intelligence and courage.

Kassidy had a twin sister, Lexie. Twins always have a strong connection, which manifests at different points through the book. How would the story change if they weren't twins?

Someone actually suggested to me that I take Lexie out at one point. I thought hard about it and talked it over with a trusted beta reader and decided that it was necessary for the story. The whole point of the Lexie factor is to show just how much Kassidy has lost in her life and just how deeply it has affected her. I could have made Lexie just a younger or older sister but I chose to make her a twin because in a kind of symbolic way, a piece of Kassidy is irrevocably lost when Lexie dies—that mirror image is changed forever. If they weren’t twins I don’t believe that this would have come across quite as well.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

I read a whole lot of books! Mostly John Douglas books as well as books by Robert K. Ressler and Katherine Ramsland. I bought the Crime Classification Manual. I just read as much as I could possibly read about FBI procedure and profiling.

Which scene was your favorite?

I can’t say too much without totally confusing people but it’s the scene after the midway point of the book where she and Isaac are at her parents’ house and it’s the middle of the night and they’re talking about how to survive the loss of a loved one basically. I love that scene.

Many FBI thrillers become parts of a series. Do you have plans for any sequels or spinoffs?

I really did not have any plans for a sequel. I have an idea for a spin-off involving Talia Crossen but it’s been on the back burner for years now. However, the response to this book has been so great that recently when my agent suggested writing a sequel, I thought, “Hmmm . . . that might be interesting.” So we’ll see. I won’t say no.

On what other projects are you currently working?

Right now I’m working on finalizing a draft of my third novel which is called Hold Still. It’s another stand-alone featuring a gritty, single mom, police detective from Philadelphia who is hunting down a group of serial rapists. I hope to have a blurb and cover sometime soon that will give readers a little more of an idea what it will entail. I’ve also started a sequel to Finding Claire Fletcher which I’m pretty excited about. It won’t be about Claire and Connor per se but rather they will get caught up in a mystery that quite literally crashes into their lives.

'Finding Claire Fletcher' and 'Aberration' both are filled with suspense, keeping you glued to the Kindle and on the edge of your seat. What is it about writing in this genre that appeals to you?

Well I originally started writing in this genre because I wanted to explore how people dealt with loss and grief. I was trying to understand how people survived violent crimes, how they recovered and went on with their lives. I wrote a lot of stuff before these two books that explored those themes but they were just very dark and sad and not at all entertaining. So I decided that if I expected people to actually read my stuff, I better give them something worth reading. I read tons of books in the genre to figure out what things would add the most suspense and entertainment (i.e. pacing, plot twists, etc.). I like to be completely gripped by a story and for me, that only happens if there are real, thought-provoking human themes there. In this genre those themes are definitely there. So I still get to explore the things that keep me up at night while still (hopefully) providing readers with a riveting experience.

Other than getting rave reviews from bloggers, how do you make yourself stand out in this competitive genre?

It’s very hard. I don’t have a real strategy other than blog tours and the occasional ad. So many of my readers heard about me by word of mouth. That’s still the best way to find new readers whether it’s via Facebook or a book club or your neighbor.

'Finding Claire Fletcher' is a finalist for some awards. Congratulations! How does it feel to be honored in this way?

Thank you. It’s so incredible! It is now a finalist in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards for 2013 in two categories: Best Novel and Best Heroine. I’m just totally floored. I’ve believed in this book from the moment I finished the first draft, but it took me six and a half years to get it into the hands of readers. So many agents and publishers passed on it. No became a second language to me. I mean it just got to the point where I looked like a stark, raving lunatic for continuing to try to get this book published. If I saw another writer hanging on for as long and as desperately as I did, I might have told them to put the book under their bed and move on. It took forever to find people in the industry who believed in it and were willing to take a chance on it. So for my peers to recognize it and honor it in this way, it is gratifying beyond belief. Finally, all those years of struggle have been validated! I’m just so grateful.

You have had many jobs in your past. Other than writing, which one was your favorite? Would you ever return to any of them?

I loved teaching children Karate. That was so wonderful. I’d love to return to it, but I’m rusty now and not as spry as I used to be!

What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t like chicken! People always look at me like I have 3 heads when I say that. I just don’t like it. I’ve had so many bad chicken experiences that the sight of it sometimes makes me ill.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Well this is a bit of Blatant Self Promotion, I suppose, but as I said, Finding Claire Fletcher is up for awards and voting for those awards is actually open to the public until August 23rd. So I’d ask people to vote for the book in Best Novel and Best Heroine. I put instructions on how to vote on my blog here:

I’d really appreciate it! Thanks so much for having me and for all your support!
Lisa Regan is a suspense novelist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University. She is a member of Sisters In Crime and Pennwriters. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Her first novel, Finding Claire Fletcher was recently nominated for the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards in three categories: Best Novel, Best Thriller and Best Heroine for Claire Fletcher.


FBI analyst Kassidy Bishop is assigned to the “For You” Killer’s Task Force after a series of sadistic murders bearing the same signature arise in different parts of the country, but when the investigation leads directly back to her, she is forced to delve into her own past. To find the killer, Kassidy must confront the painful memories of her twin sister's mysterious death or risk losing everything to a ruthless madman—including her own life.

FBI analyst Kassidy Bishop is assigned to the “For You” killer’s task force after a series of sadistic murders bearing the same signature arise in different parts of the country.

The homicides are both calculated and savage, occurring in different states, but bearing the same signature: the words “for you” scribbled at each crime scene. The case chills Kassidy, bringing back memories of her own encounter with a violent criminal five years earlier.
Kassidy’s mentor, legendary agent Talia “The Confessor” Crossen knows the task force assignment is Kassidy’s chance to prove to her colleagues that she belongs in the Behavior Analysis Unit. For five years, other FBI agents and profilers scoffed at Kassidy’s appointment to the BAU, believing she was only offered the position in exchange for her silence about the brutal assault that almost killed her.
The stakes rise when the task force links the killer’s signature to Kassidy. As more and more bodies turn up, Kassidy must delve into her past and the mysterious death of her twin sister, which holds the key to uncovering the killer’s identity.
The closer Kassidy comes to finding the killer, the closer she comes to a deadly confrontation that could cost her everything—including her own life.

Read an excerpt:


It was a blitz attack. Cowardly. He hit me over the head with the baseball bat I kept next to my bedroom door. I was asleep. I never even heard him. The next thing I knew, I was tied to a chair in my dimly lit dining room. I woke suddenly to a high-pitched keening. He was shooting me up with something. My left forearm pricked and burned. My head felt heavy, achy. My eyelids weighed a ton each, but I lifted them and looked at him.
He smiled. A cranked-out, toothy smile, his wide lips peeling back from his teeth. He held up an empty syringe.
Crank, bitch,” he sneered.
I thought, where was that needle before tonight? That was my first thought. Whether or not he just infected me with HIV or hepatitis. I didn’t wonder how he got in, if I had a concussion, how long I’d been unconscious, or if he had raped me while I was out.
I wiggled in my seat, but there was not much give. My hands were bound to the armrests of the chair. My feet were tied in the same fashion to the front legs of the chair. I glanced at my dining room table and saw a knife, a ball of twine and my standard issue Glock nine millimeter.
He paced back and forth in front of me. He was waiting for the crank to kick in. Waiting for me to become fully awake. He wanted me to be fully cognizant during the torture he was about to inflict. My head lolled. I don’t know how long it was before he got impatient and slapped me hard across the face. White hot pain streaked through my jaw.
Wake the fuck up,” he growled.
I swallowed. “I’m awake.”
He picked up the knife, flipped it open and used the tip of it beneath my chin to hold my head up. I looked into his eyes. Wild eyes. Green and brown. I’d seen them before.
You thought you had me, didn’t you?” he said.
He needled the knife until I felt a small puncture. A drop of blood slid down, pooling in the hollow of my throat. As I became more alert, the blurred edges of the room turned sharp one by one. My heart thumped furiously in my chest, rattling my rib cage. Soon I’d be fully awake, conscious of every last detail of my death.
It wasn’t how I thought I’d go. I thought—okay, I’d hoped—I’d be shot in the line of duty or killed in a car wreck. Maybe even cancer or simple old age. Too much to hope for.
It had to be this. Torture, rape, death and probably dismemberment at the hands of a violent criminal. I knew I was going to die. It was just a matter of how fast or how slow.
I thought of my parents. Well, mostly I thought of my dad. This would kill him. He’d always been so worried about this sort of thing. I always assured him that these things never happened. Never. They only happened in books, movies or on TV. Real life wasn’t like this. Real FBI agents didn’t have to worry about collars coming after them.
He pulled the knife away with a sound of disgust. He continued to pace. My head felt full. The crank made my spine ramrod straight. I held my head up and looked at him. He wore khakis, loafers and a muted green shirt. The sleeves were rolled up, revealing muscular forearms. His greasy black hair was in disarray. Even so, he didn’t look like a killer.
They never do, Kass.
That’s what my SAC at the Baltimore field office said when I closed my first string of homicides. The FBI didn’t normally handle homicides, but several state and city police departments had asked for our help tracking a particularly malicious serial killer whose work spanned three states. Again, I thought of Ted Bundy. He had been handsome and a charmer from all I heard.
The man before me was a charmer, but he had the blackened heart of a demon. As if sensing my thoughts, he looked right at me. A sneer slithered across his face. I wondered if this was how he’d looked to his previous eighteen victims.
Remember me, bitch?”
Nico Sala,” I said. “I wish I didn’t remember you.”
For that, I caught a wild punch to the face. His fist landed close to my left eye. Again I felt sharp pain. This time it seared across my forehead. I could practically hear my eye swelling.
I told you, you stupid bitch. I told you I’d find you. I’m gonna gut you alive.”
I believed him. I’d talked to lots of victims of violent crime during my career, and many of them said the same thing: there comes a point where you know your attacker is going to kill you.
Well, here I was. Nico Sala had broken into my home. He’d shot me up, bound me to a chair, hit me. Fear crept along my body with thin, icy fingertips. I moved my arms and legs, trying to figure out how much room I had to work with to free a hand or foot. There wasn’t any.
Don’t bother,” Nico said. “You’re not going anywhere.”
I rested and watched him with my good eye. I tried to tamp down the fear bubbling up inside, making my already thundering heart race faster. My ears filled with the sound of it, like a train roaring down the tracks. My whole body vibrated. I wondered fleetingly if it was possible for my heart to actually burst right out of my chest. It felt like it might. I drew a deep breath.
He gave me a few more slaps for good measure, grunting as he did so.
Stay calm. The fear will only escalate his violent tendencies.
It was the FBI agent in me, a ridiculously calm voice in my head. I tried to hold onto that part of me. In that moment I wanted to be the clinical behavioral analyst, not the terrified woman I was in reality.
Aren’t you gonna scream?” he asked.
It wouldn’t do any good, I realized, tears gathering behind my eyes. People in this neighborhood screamed all the time. Everyone heard, but nobody listened.
Calm, the voice urged again. Your life depends on it. I managed to force some bravado. “What?” I said. “And forego hours of torture? Nah.”
Nico grinned and pulled a chair out from the dining room table. He faced it toward him, straddling it so he could fold his arms over its back. “I’m not going to kill you fast,” he said.
Oh great.
I hate bitches like you. You think you’re so superior. So much better than me.”
There it was—inadequacy. The hallmark of violent criminals.
Well, I’m not a raping murderer, if that’s what you mean,” I said.
The chair flew. His fists rained down on me. He struck me everywhere with thirty-five years of pent-up rage. I tucked my chin against my chest to avoid more blows to my face. Reflexively, my hands tried to fly upward to block his attack.
Finally he pulled away, breathing heavily. Sweating. “You’re trying to make me do it fast,” he said. “But I won’t.”
Nico picked up the chair and resumed his seat. I recovered from his flying fists as best I could. My head and chest stung. I pushed my feet against the floor to see if there was any slack.
What’s the point of this again?” I asked, trying to make my tone casual. If I was going down, acting as scared as I felt wouldn’t change that. Blood trickled out of the side of my mouth. I felt like I just got back from the dentist. The left side of my mouth was huge and numb. Soon the slobbering would start.
The point is you’re a stupid cunt,” he said, the petulance in his voice incongruous with his maniacal appearance.
I just don’t see the point in killing me,” I said. “You got off.”
He grinned then, his pearly whites as big as the moon. He rubbed his crotch, raised an eyebrow. “Yeah,” he drawled. “I sure did.”
I ignored him. If he had in fact raped me, I was glad I didn’t remember it. Though I doubted he had. Nico Sala had made his criminal career as a serial rapist in two states. He had started out in Wilmington, Delaware preying on single women between eighteen and fifty. Neither their age nor their features were particularly important to Sala. Fat, short, tall, thin, brunette, blonde, black, white, Asian—it didn’t matter. He just looked for women who lived alone in first-floor apartments. In Wilmington, he had raped seven women. Then he moved on to Baltimore. He raped eleven women there.
Since local police in both Baltimore and Wilmington believed they were dealing with the same rapist, they had asked for FBI assistance, which my field office gladly lent. I came onto the case after the fifth Baltimore victim. Eventually, I was put undercover, living in a shitty first-floor apartment for almost a month before Sala broke in with the intention of raping me, only to be swarmed and arrested by most of the task force assigned to catch him.
I’d worked the case, seen the files, talked to the victims. Nico Sala was what investigators referred to as a sadistic rapist. He couldn’t get it up unless his victims were visibly overcome by fear. Fear that made their eyes wide, their cries strangled. Fear forming a beaded tiara across their foreheads. He liked them fully conscious and very afraid.
My reckoning would come when I was wide awake. “They let you go,” I said.
After months of investigative work and a hard-won arrest, Nico was set free on a legal technicality. The night of the arrest, two of my Bureau coworkers had been on scene, as well as two Baltimore sex crimes detectives and four uniformed Baltimore PD officers. Somehow, in spite of all that law enforcement, no one had read Sala his rights. No one had Mirandized him, which meant that the arrest was illegal. There was nothing the district attorney could do. We had to watch him go free and try to pick up the pieces while our superiors passed blame around like an office memo no one wanted to read. That was two months ago.
Nico spit on the floor. “Yeah, that’s right. They let me go so I could come find you.”
I shook off a fresh wave of pain. My whole body felt like an angry, throbbing vein. “Why?” I asked, my voice the sound of a creaking chair. I had to keep him talking. The more talking he did, the less hitting or possibly stabbing would occur. He obviously had quite a few complaints to lodge against me.
Because you fucked me,” he said, his face screwing up in twisted lines of indignation.
Hardly,” I said.
He threw the knife at me. I turned my head and tucked my chin. My amber hair fell across my neck, my only meager defense. The blade punctured the skin just above my right breast but not with enough force to stick. It clattered to the floor. The noise seemed to reverberate through the entire house. It must have been the crank. Again, tears stung my eyes. I blinked them back and swallowed hard, willing my composure to remain intact.
Yeah, well I’ll fuck you tonight before I gut you, bitch.”
You’ve never killed anyone before, Nico,” I pointed out.
You don’t know I never killed anyone before,” Nico challenged.
With the patience a mother shows her child I said, “Yes, Nico, I do know.”
He was already on his feet again.
I profiled you, jerk-off. You’re just an angry little boy whose mother was too overbearing”—he drew closer—“you just want to be in control. You get off on making women feel afraid, on overpowering them, humiliating them.”
My jaw broke with a loud crack. Another fist followed. “Shut the fuck up,” he screamed.
Another punch. Skin cracking skin. Lips splitting against teeth. Eyes watering, nose crumpling. His voice was unnaturally high. “You thought you were so clever, you worthless whore. Moving into my territory, leaving your window open. Waiting for me. Yeah, well I got off.”
The room tipped, descending out of sight like two halves of a broken ship sliding into the ocean.
You fucked me,” he said. “Now I’m gonna fuck you.”
I tried to speak, but my jaw didn’t work. I couldn’t see him anymore. I felt his hands close around my throat. I tried to tuck my chin, but I was too late. The darkness came from the inside out.
I don’t know how long it was. Each time I went out, I thought it was the last time. But I kept floating back up to consciousness. It was always dark. Both my eyes swelled shut. I don’t remember much of it. He tore at my hair, stabbed me in the thighs, struck me again and again. Then he groped me, licked me, tried to kiss my broken mouth.
The pain was a dull undercurrent. I had gone to another place. A stone fortress in my head. My twin sister, Lexie, was there, hand outstretched, ten years younger as she had been at the time of her death. She smiled at me. A mirror image.
I reached out to take her hand, but I never made it. There was a chime, a familiar ding-dong that brought me back. My doorbell. Silence. I must have been alone then. I felt my hands come loose. They were heavy and weakened by hours of restraint.
I thought I was hallucinating. Maybe this was it. Death. Precious death. I wanted to go to it, rise up to it, and I did, legs suddenly free. I staggered, sinking back onto the chair. Death had a male voice. “You have to stand,” it said. I could feel death’s hushed breath on my ear as it pulled me up.
My gun was in my hands then, as familiar as a hot bath. Death lifted my arms. They trembled with the weight of the firearm. “There’s a round in the chamber,” death whispered. I stumbled backward until my skin touched the chair for feeble support.
He’s coming,” death said. “You have to do this. Listen for him.”
And I did.
Death was gone. When Nico Sala came back for me, I brought the gun up level with my shoulders and aimed straight in front of me. I fired. I heard three footfalls, the crash of wood against wood. I squeezed off two more shots before I heard the thud of his body on the floor.
I sank with him, until the back of my head rested against the chair. I breathed.
In the movies, after the villain is destroyed and the heroine lies battered and spent, the sirens are already sounding in the distance. It doesn’t work that way in real life. The sirens come later, much later.
They told me that a pizza boy called the police. He’d been sent to the wrong address. He rang my doorbell and Nico Sala answered, wild-eyed, looking pretty frightening covered in my blood. Nico told the kid in no uncertain terms to get lost.
My face, before it underwent reconstructive surgery to repair the damage Nico Sala had done, was splashed all over the media. I was interviewed and interrogated. I met the President. I received a special commendation from the Bureau. After my recovery, I was offered a position as a Criminal Investigative Analyst in the Behavior Analysis Unit at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, which I accepted.
I know what they told me. I know what I remember from that night. I know that someone saved my life that night.
But it wasn’t me.

**My thoughts**
I was asked to review this book, because I liked 'Finding Claire Fletcher' so much. I loved this book even more.
The first chapter opens with a bang. (You can read it above.) Immediately you are sucked into Kassidy's terror, yet note her extreme strength as she endures it all. When the story moves into the present day, you still see that strength in her, though some of it is masked by memory loss and residual fear from her torture. She is determined to not let anyone get the best of her ever again.

She is thrust into some big life changes, thanks to some of her relationships, all in the middle of a baffling case. Her work as an FBI profiler is still strong, though, despite everything she has gone through. As the reader, you know that her profile of the UNSUB is dead-on accurate, because you have the privilege of getting inside the killer's mind. Sometimes, it is maddening to know so much, because you just want to scream at her, wondering why she and the team can't make some of the connections. Yet all of those connections that you think you know may not actually be the truth. So many plot twists and turns, a few of which you may see coming, distort your idea of truth and fiction within the case. People you think you can trust, you can't; those you shouldn't trust actually get a smidgen of sympathy. I found myself exclaiming certain expletives here and there when certain incidents happened.

Wyatt is a creepy character. He is the perfect bad guy, slipping through the cracks after each incident and stealthily stalking his prey. As he descends deeper into a form of madness, he becomes even more frightening, even to himself. You wonder what causes someone to turn out this way, and are given snippets of insight throughout the journey, only to have more twists and answers revealed along the way. I want to go back to reread the book, to see if I can find more of the clues that lead up to the resolution.

Despite the length of this book (just over 400 pages), I read it all in one day. I started while sitting outside at breakfast. I kept sneaking peeks throughout the day while I was working. I stayed up all night, glued to the Kindle. Coffee, wine, and snacks sustained me the entire time. It was frustrating to have to put it down to simply deal with life's necessities. With each chapter a new layer was stripped away from the mystery, or another one added just to shock you. I was reminded of Alex Kava, who is one of my favorite FBI thriller writers, whose books are also prone to being devoured in just one day. I am officially a full-blown Lisa Regan fan and can't wait until the next book comes out!

Buy it on Amazon

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