Thursday, May 3, 2012


This suspense novel, KILLING CARLA, was written in a white, hot heat during a period of my life when I needed my novel writing to support the family. My husband was looking for a job and having trouble finding one in the small lake town we had recently moved to. We had two children under 12 years old who not only needed feeding, housing, and baseball uniforms for school, but we had all the other bills families rack up to stay afloat. I had published three novels at this time and had a great agent and publishers interested in my novels, but I didn't have a novel. I was running a small used and new bookstore in the front of the house and we lived in the rooms in the back. The bookstore was making ten or twenty dollars a day on a lucky day. Things were in a dire condition and heading toward catastrophic. Until this point in our lives we always had an income. My novel writing and advances were windfalls, gifts, but the money I made wasn't necessary to pay the bills. This time it was.

I decided I needed to write a book--FAST--and sell it--FAST. I pinned a calendar on the wall near my desk where I wrote and where I sat watching over the bookstore. I turned on the computer and began to write. I had no outline, no characters, no idea what I was going to do. I had been writing about serial killers in my previous novels. They were my field of expertise because I'd spent years researching and reading about them. I came at them from different directions, in various books, exploring the aberrant mind of this particular type of killer.

When I began KILLING CARLA (originally titled SLICE by the publisher, Pocket Books), I thought this: the killer kills a man's wife and gets away with it. His case is thrown out of court. He walks free. What happens then? The husband of the victim is not a macho man. He isn't a gun expert or a hunter. He isn't a coward, not at all, and he adored his wife, but up against a seasoned veteran of murder, he was totally unprepared. What if the victim's younger sister is the tough one, the one ready and willing to take on getting revenge for her beloved sister's murder?

So the book pages began to roll out. The file grew. I worked on the book every single minute I could find between handling sales in the bookstore, washing clothes, cooking meals, and caring for my family. I wrote at night when everyone was sleeping and the house was quiet. I wrote out of desperation and from a feeling of peril. I was not the characters in the book dealing with the loss of a loved one through murder, but I was on the brink of bankruptcy and being on the street. Never before had my family needed me so badly to come through for them.

The book rolled on. The characters came alive for me and I knew them as well as I knew all the people in my real world. Sully was a man devastated by the loss of his wife. Carla was in a fury of wanting revenge against the cold-hearted killer who had waltzed into her life and stolen away her sister. And Martin Lansing, the killer, was changing...

You see sometimes books write themselves and sometimes characters take on a life that is not what you, the writer, planned. I thought Lansing had been in one foster home after another and he had been horribly abused by these people. It had chilled his heart and turned it to stone. He killed out of this terrible past that weighed on him and that had ruined the innocent child within him.

But no. Wait. As I wrote, the night flying past, the dark outside the windows my companion, the house quiet with my sleeping children and husband, all the books sitting silent on the bookshelves in the I wrote...Lansing told me his story and it was not about abuse at the hands of foster parents. That wasn't it at all! When the revelation of the true reason behind this man's murderous sprees was revealed to me, the words pouring out fast and furious, I lifted my hands from the keyboard, sat back in my desk chair, and just stared dumbfounded at the monitor screen. What? What? I couldn't believe it. For the first time ever what I thought about a character was not right, was not true. For the first time a character took on Such Real Life that he wrote himself and explained himself and made me see him in his own truth.

Amazing, I thought. That's just amazing. And it makes perfect sense. It's a twist and I didn't see it coming, but I knew it was absolutely perfect.

I won't tell you what it was about Lansing that makes him who he is in KILLING CARLA. That would ruin the story. But I can tell you it is a true character, perhaps the truest fictional character I've ever written about and I think that's what makes the book special and worth reading.

I have the book up for free through KDP on Kindle for 3 days. I hope a lot of people find it and give it a read. I hope they will be as surprised as I was when writing it and yet it makes perfect sense and Lansing is exactly as he should have been, exactly as he wrote himself.

Did the book save our family's finances? Yes, there's a happy ending in the real world now and then and this was one of them. I wrote the novel in 23 days over a 2 month period (there were days I could not get to the computer to write no matter how I tried--real life intervened). It was the fastest book I ever wrote in my life. As soon as I mailed it to my agent and he had it in his hands, he sold it to Pocket Books, the paperback division of Simon and Schuster. It brought in an advance that floated us and paid our bills until my husband found a job.

That's what this book did for me and I'm grateful to it for that. It was the one book that saved this writer from disaster. I hope you will give it a read and I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it through those 23 days and nights of desperation and darkness. Here is a link for your free copy May 3-5.



  1. Very cool insights there, Billie. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Mark. It's one of those true stories that many writers have faced and had to deal with. KILLING CARLA was inspired by desperation and turned out to be a fine little book, I hope.

  2. What an amazing story of perseverance and determination! I love it. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. You're welcome. At the time it was just what had to be done and cross my fingers it would work. :)