Today, for the 30th instalment in the 9mm series, Crime Watch is featuring Florida-based New York Times bestselling crime writer Lisa Unger. The award-winning Unger started out in New York publishing - she eventually became an associate director of publicity for Penguin Putnam, before leaving NYC and moving with her husband to Clearwater, Florida, to become a full-time writer. Unger began writing thrillers under the name Lisa Miscione, and her debut, ANGEL FIRE, was published in 2002. This book introduced her initial recurring hero, true crime writer and intuitive investigative consultant Lydia Strong, and sparked a four-book series. Since the publication of ANGEL FIRE, Unger/Miscione has published a book a year; first three further 'Strong' thrillers under the name Lisa Miscione, and then five more thrillers under her married name Unger.
You can read more about Lisa Unger and her books at my Crime Fiction Alphabet post here, and at the author's own website here. But for now, Lisa Unger stares down the barrel of 9mm.
Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?Hands down: Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. I love all of Lehane’s books for their rich character development, gorgeous prose, and deep emotional insight. But the Patrick and Angie series are some of my favorite books, maybe ever.
What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I have been such an avid reader for so long, that I couldn’t begin to recall the first book I loved. But I do recall my first thriller. I read Rebecca when I was a teenager and was swept away by the powerful voice, the gut wrenching suspense and the dark, twisted love story at its center. I was hooked, transported into the narrator’s gothic world, could visualize each room of the house, and see the awful Mrs. Danvers lurking in dim hallways of Manderley. There was something gripping about a very ordinary girl being drawn into a nightmare (a theme I find again and again in my own work.) I’ve been addicted to thrillers ever since.
Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote four books for St. Martin’s Minotaur under my maiden name Lisa Miscione before I started writing under my married name Lisa Unger. These books were small, based on idea I had when I was nineteen years old (in fact, that’s when I started the first one). They are still out there, floating around in the used book ether. They hold a special place in my heart -- the characters and the stories. I consider those books the place where I cut my teeth and became a better writer. I am fortunate to have published every novel I’ve written.
Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I live in Florida with my husband and daughter, so boating and kayaking are among our favorite activities. But I am also an avid reader and film buff. My husband and I both love to cook and entertain. And we’re total travel addicts. Luckily, our little one is an intrepid traveler herself. She’ll turn five this December and she’s already been on four continents!
What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn't initially consider?Well, it’s a tourist town; so most people come for the beaches, the jet skis, party boats. But kayaking through the mangroves, where it feels like you have gone back in time, is one of my favorite things to do. It takes a bit of time and strength to make it out to the nature preserve on your kayak, so most tourists don’t do it. But it is so beautiful and peaceful. I highly recommend it.
If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
I have no idea! Have your readers send me a comment at http://www.blogger.com/www.facebook.com/authorlisaunger with their thoughts on this matter, and I’ll send a signed copy of FRAGILE to the person who gives the best answer!
Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite. Each book is unique to who I was and what I was dealing with in my life at the time. I have always written from my center, to the best of my ability. So I feel that every book I have written was the very best I could do at that point in my life. I just turned in my tenth, and hopefully my best novel. But I love it no more than I do my first novel.
What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller's shelf?Really, it was my life’s dream come true. I had really never wanted to do or be anything else. So when I got the call from my agent, telling me that she’d brokered a two-book deal, the moment was surreal. I was alone; my husband was at work. I hung up the phone and just sat stunned for a few minutes. After I’d made my shrieking phone calls to my husband and my mother, I called my grandparents. My grandfather said, "Lis! You did it!"
After having let the dream lay fallow, ignoring it, neglecting it and then finally giving it my all, I really felt those words. I did it. It was an amazing moment. And I relive it every time I see my books on the shelf. It never gets old.
What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
So much weird stuff happens at signings and conferences, it’s honestly hard to choose. But the first thing that pops into my mind is probably the funniest – or saddest depending on your sense of humor. We were at Bouchercon in Las Vegas – likely the biggest and most popular mystery convention in the US. My husband Jeff and I were at the bar (which is where all the real business of any book conferences is done, of course!) It was the end of the evening, and people had really been having a really good time. All of a sudden, a woman just toppled from her bar stool and fell right at my feet. She hadn’t passed out exactly, but she lacked the ability to pick herself back up. The group she was with said they had no idea who she was. So, Jeff and I helped her up and finally got her to tell us her room number. We had to drag her, literally – she had one arm around Jeff and one arm around me -- across the crowded casino floor while people stared and laughed. We never did find out who she was exactly. Of course, even if I had, I’d never tell!
Thank you Lisa Unger. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with Crime Watch.
So what do you think of this 9mm interview? Have you read any of Unger (or Miscione)'s crime novels? What do you think? Which actress do you think could play Unger (make sure you also go to www.facebook.com/authorlisaunger with your thoughts on that, to go into the draw for a book)? I'd love to read your comments. Please share your thoughts.