Dead Center

Dead Center - Danielle Girard

As a rule, I don't refresh my memory on a book's teaser before reading it. I don't read other reviews nor do I reread the brief description on Goodreads or Amazon. I like jumping into the book with no preconceived notions whatsoever. 

So when I started Dead Center, I was a little confused. The scenes jump around quite quickly at first and I couldn't figure out who's eyes I was looking through at various times. And while this made for a rocky start to the book, what kept me going was the author's strong dialogue and impressive way with words. 

After a few chapters, I was able to pick out which characters were being referenced and I grew accustomed to the way the book jumped perspectives. Then I was really able to focus on the plot.

I was trying to piece the entire puzzle together instead of realizing that there might be a couple different smaller puzzles in the mix. But again, the quick pace of the plot and the author's enjoyable writing style made it easy for me to simply sit back and let the plot take me where it would. 

Overall I highly enjoyed this crime thriller and would recommend it. I look forward to reading more by this author. 


Some Bio Information

Almost two decades ago, Danielle decided she wanted to try to write a book. She set out to write something sweet, maybe even romantic, but on page 5, someone got shot and it's been that way ever since. The Barry-award winning author lives with her husband, who is careful never to lurk in dark corners, and their two children. They split their time between San Francisco and the northern Rockies.


Q&A

1.    When did you know you wanted to be an author? 

I wrote a little in college, but “writing” was not an acceptable career choice in my house. My parents were doctors and business people, so “art” was not a vocation. It was a hobby. For that reason, the interest in writing was always pushed to the side by “important” things like organic chemistry and calculus II. After college, I worked in finance where met a woman who wrote romance novels. She inspired me to sit down and just start something. I had no idea what it would turn out to be until (on page five) someone got shot. I was 24 and I’ve been writing suspense ever since.  

2.    Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

Nothing can replace the time in the chair. If you don’t sit there, even just to stare out the window, you don’t get it done. I try to write a certain number of words every day when I’m in a book (usually 1000) but I fall off that wagon regularly. (Today, for instance.) Sometimes I think it’s my brain’s way of recognizing that I haven’t solved an issue that has to be dealt with before I can keep going. But, I’m also pretty good and getting back up, dusting off and getting back in the chair. And I do give myself time between books to recharge. Usually the next book starts talking to me and I know it’s time to sit down and start again. 

3.    Who is your favorite character in Dead Center? 

I have a real soft spot for broken characters. I guess this comes from my belief that we are all damaged in some way. Some of us do better at hiding it, but it’s these little cracks in our plaster, these little breaks that make us interesting and also real. Jamie Vail, protagonist of Dead Center and lead member of the Rookie Club, is like this. She’s quite angry and a little self-destructive, but when push comes to shove, she’s also fiercely loyal and protective. I love that she is a series of contradictions (like of all of us) so she feels real to me. 

4.    What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

The toughest part of any book is the beginning. I don’t know my character yet, so I have to let her talk to me, tell me who she is and show me how she handles things. For that reason, the beginning takes the longest. I feel like the first 10% (40 pages-ish) has to really hold together before the story can take off. I usually spend a month or more on the beginning. After that, the rest of the book is usually written, edited, and prepared for publication in another 4-6 months. The end is always the easiest because it’s been teasing itself out in the back of my brain for so long. 

5.    Who is your favorite author?

Wow. That is such a hard question. As a person, John Connolly is one of my favorite authors. I think he’s brilliant and kind and his books are magic. I’m lucky to have a lot of authors who I consider friends. Elizabeth Strout, Lisa Gardner, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, Jonathon King, Jeff Abbott. They are both wonderful people and wonderful writers. While most of the readers I know are suspense authors, I read all over the board, so I also love Jeffrey Eugenides, Colum McCann, Sue Mott Kidd, John Green, Jodi Piccoult, Junot Diaz….did you say one favorite?     

6.    Describe your favorite place. 

I love to travel. Love love love it. So my favorite places include the tiny hill towns in Italy, Macchu Picchu, Peru and a tiny island in Thailand called Koh Tao where I was once, twenty years ago. I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Montana and I am in love with the mountains and the snow (even when it comes in July). But, if I had to choose just a single place, it would be my office. I’ve got big windows that look out into the yard and the mountains. It’s such a peaceful view. The room, on the other hand, is an absolute mess. I have a sign that says, “Genius is a messy process.” I swear it’s a quote I found somewhere, but my husband is convinced I made it up to explain my office. I don’t like to admit that he might be right.

Despite the mess, the office is also a beautiful space. The walls are painted a light sea green, the wall behind my chair a little bolder. My husband and kids have framed all my covers, so they hang on the walls along with art done by my brothers (who are both artists) as well as some pieces done by my kids and a few photographs. On one wall is a case with all my taekwondo belts in it, from the white one all the way through to my second degree black belt. These remind me that good things take a lot of time and effort. Not to mention sweat and blood and a fair number of tears. 

7.    What’s your ultimate writing goal? 

Ultimately, I want to write a compelling story that is engrossing, draws you in and makes it hard to let go. At the same time, the characters in a story are, to me, the most important part. I want the protagonist’s struggle to be real. Sharing those struggles through genuine characters is a way to help all of us be better and stronger, even in the toughest of times. That’s what I hope to accomplish in my books.