Time for your questions and (hopefully!) answers!  

Linda wrote:  You probably addressed this in a BOM for DSLN before I came along, but did you observe the embalming process in your research? Or just read about it/interview morticians? It’s fascinating. (Although I’m sure some folks with non-medical backgrounds are a bit grossed out by it!) Believe it or not, I had always wondered about getting the clothes on; that was an “aha” moment in the first book! 

Unfortunately, with the advent of all the new privacy laws (Hippa, anyone?), I was unable to observe an embalming–and believe me, I was ready and willing.  So most of my research came from books, photographs, and interviews (and once you announce that you’re working on funeral homes, morticians seem to come out of the woodwork!) 

And it just so happens that one of my Tyndale editors grew up in a funeral home.  She has been a great asset–she gave me the idea for the funny flower arrangements and the funeral singers, plus I had written a scene in book three where Jen and Gerald sit down to eat a steak in the prep room.  My editor said that didn’t feel right.  “Too weird?” I asked.  “No,” she said. “There’s always an odor in that room . . . not very appetizing.”  

Ah.  That’s the sort of thing you can’t always get from a book.  :-/  

I certainly hope the embalming stuff didn’t gross anyone out, and I tried to ease my readers into it just as Jen is herself “eased” into it.  Book one–the barest trace, book two, a complete description of an arterial embalming, book three, the cavity embalming.  And frankly, that’s as far as I want to take it.  Any more would be gross for grossness’s sake.  

Susan asked:  did you and your editors disagree over how much of the body preparation process was acceptable to include? I ask because I find all that sort of thing fascinating, and I think that I would include far more than most people would care to read, initially. 

Actually, the embalming you see is the embalming I put in.  🙂  After 20 years in this work, I think I’ve developed a pretty good instinct for knowing how much is too much.  And you can be descriptive in a way that is clinical rather than gross (” She searched for the carotid artery” as opposed to “her stomach clenched as her gloved  fingers eased into the warm opening and she tried not to think of fish guts”).    So actually, none of my editors ever remarked on the level of detail . . . and none of my readers have complained.  Yet.  🙂 

Linda asked:  So you were really on Live with Regis and Kelly? How cool is that! Do you have a clip on your blog somewhere? 

Yes, and of course! You can watch the actual clip here and read the story behind it here.  

And Linda asked:  How do you decide on a title and how much attention in the book that situation gets? It took a while to get to Levina, and it was a pretty subtle thing. One sentence in the midst of preparing her body, and the timing of her death was as Jen was struggling with the racial issues. In some books, like The Note, the title is obviously a theme throughout, and others seem to be something plucked out of the book. Or am I missing something huge here?!

And was there a particular reason you chose Percy for his “special” role as opposed to Tyler or Toby? 

Regarding titles:  most of mine are more thematic and obvious (The Note, The Elevator), but my editors and I titled the Fairlawn series at the outset, so the books would have a “connected” feel.  We tried to find titles that worked in one way with the dearly departed, but yet also applied to Jennifer’s life.  I’m not sure Jen always wore red, but the first and last title apply as much to her life as to the obvious story.  🙂 

And as for Percy–yes, I wanted to use him so Jen could have a direct encounter with Percy’s people.  And if you’ve read the book, that’ll make sense.  

Holly asked:  When you begin to write something new, how does it feel in your spirit? Are you eager, tormented, passionate, completely distracted by it or another feeling?Also, what part of writing do you NOT enjoy? 

When I begin a new book (like I’m doing now), I usually feel . . . distracted.  The story’s not “together” enough to hold my interest, and first drafting is hard work. Literally like creating something out of nothing.  It’s hard to stay in the chair and get my 5,000 words per day slapped onto the screen.  But even harder than the first draft is the proposal, because that requires talking about the book as if you know how it’s going to turn out. I usually have an inkling, but that’s about it.  After all, the “unexpected” often happens in my stories! 

But I’m happy to say that I’m now 10,000 words into my newest book.  🙂

Thanks for coming along for another BOM!  



  1. sara

    Got your book, She Always Wore Red, in the mail yesterday!!!! Can’t wait to dive into it!!

  2. Mocha with Linda

    This was so much fun! Thanks for the inside scoop! It really is so neat to get a glimpse of your process!

    Oh, and I just assumed either Tyler and/or Toby were “like” Percy, which is why I asked that. I thought there might have been a personality trait in addition to the skin.

    Thanks for putting on the clip from Live with….! Wow, that dog is huge!

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and commenting on my review! Funny how things come to you in the night: I realized I forgot to put the picture on there, so I added it this morning! I’ve already gotten several interested commenters! 🙂

    I see from my CFBA emails that Nangie U is next week. My 2 favorites! Too bad you don’t have anything to do!

  3. Angela

    Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act of 2005. It’s the law that says you can’t know anything about anyone else’s health–so when you go to the drug store to pick up your meds, you have to stand ten feet away from the counter, lest you over hear something. 🙂 At the drs office, you can’t step out into the hall without a nurse escort, lest you over hear . . . and you certainly can’t watch someone else’s embalming.


  4. Christina Berry

    Five thousand a day? Wowsers, Angie. I started a new manuscript today and felt good putting down 1,000. Maybe I’ll take the laptop to bed and see how many more I can get. 🙂

  5. Christina Berry

    Did I mention that I always write the same thing twice? It’s great for my word count.

    Did I mention … 🙂


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