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Tuesday 7 February 2017

ℚ♫ Child's Play: Elle Harrison Thrillers [3] - Merry Jones

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Child's Play (, Oceanview Publishing, 307 pages), a Suspense Thriller, book three of the Elle Harrison Thrillers series.

"Surprising, dark, and even disturbing. A fragile and vulnerable young teacher faces a terrifying first day of school--and that is just the riveting beginning. Timely, provocative and sinister, this twisty story of family and friendship is not for the faint of heart."
~ Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of Say No More

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Merry Jones; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

To begin, we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in Child's Play, or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"Not a playlist, just: Every Breath You TakeSting and the Police"
What was the inspiration for Child's Play?
"Wow. Hard to say, because plots and characters evolve and, looking back, it’s hard to remember where they started or why.

But I do have one “inspiration.” In CHILD’S PLAY, the protagonist, Elle Harrison, is selling her house because it’s too full of memories of her dead husband. After two years of missing him, she realizes that she needs to move away and start fresh.

I wrote CHILD’S PLAY while my husband and I were selling our home of 27 years, the place where we raised our children. The house was full of memories. Everywhere I looked, I saw my kids as youngsters, and my husband and I as young parents. Like Elle, I had mixed feelings about leaving. But I knew it was time to move away and start fresh. So, although it’s not the focus of the plot, the sale of our old house, in part, inspired the book."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"So many of the details in the book are personal. One of my friends goes to circus school and does trapeze. A cousin goes, as well. I marvel at their achievements, so I had Elle and her friends attend.

Elle’s friends Becky and Susan bear some slight resemblance to two of my own friends. The nature of the female friendships in the book reflects my fascination with the influence women and girls have on each other, our mutual reliance, our power to connect and to affect each other for better or worse.

Elle’s dissociative disorder was caused by my interest in the mind and my belief that each of us has a different take on, and way of dealing with “reality.”

The book is set in Philadelphia, where I live. Restaurants like La Buca are real.

But most pertinent of all is a memory from first grade. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Hall, as thick, towering presence with gray curly hair and flowered dresses. Whenever a student angered her, which was often, she called him/her up to the front of the class and shook him/her by the shoulders until his/her teeth chattered. The principal in Elle’s school is based on the memory of her. My terror of Mrs. Hall lasted all year, although I was shaken only once—for the crime of beginning an assignment before she told the class to start. Today, being shaken so violently would be considered child abuse. But back then, no one intervened. Maybe no adults knew that Mrs. Hall was shaking her first graders. But that memory made me think about how easy it is for people in authority to mistreat children, and for others to miss the signs of mistreatment."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for Child's Play - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"I love the cover of CHILD’S PLAY. And I love how Oceanview, the publisher, works to create covers. Publisher, editors, author, publicist, marketing director and designer meet to discuss concepts. Their designer (in this case, Christian Fuenfhausen) then creates and revises it based on feedback. It’s a team effort.

In the case of CHILD’S PLAY, the designer did a phenomenal job. The cover captures the paradox of innocence (in the primitive letters of the title) and threat (in the slash of the knife). The child’s subtle silhouette in a dark charcoal shadow is nothing less than chilling."
Why should we read Child's Play and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"CHILD’S PLAY is a suspense novel about murderers and victims, but it’s much more than that.

Protagonist and second grade teacher Elle Harrison struggles with events from her past, still mourns her husband who was murdered two years ago. She also has a mild dissociative disorder, which makes her mind wander when she’s under stress, and makes her an unusual and unreliable narrator. CHILD’S PLAY shows readers what it’s like to live with this disorder.

Beyond that, this book—like all my suspense novels—presents timely social issues. Broken families, alcoholism, child abuse. The role of teachers in the lives of children who are victims of these. The quality of the juvenile justice system and the atmosphere of juvenile detention facilities. The nature of trust, innocenc, and female friendships.

The book is rich with suspense, but also with characters whose lives are layered with complex issues."
Can you tell us something quirky about Child's Play, its story and characters?
"Hahaha. Yes. When I was eleven years old, my brother was in college. I had a heart throbbing crush on his roommate, who worked one summer as an ice cream man. The ice cream man in CHILD’S PLAY is named for him.

Also, Elle’s fear of heights is actually my own. I just wrote it into her character. I actually felt queasy writing about her experience at circus school."
Who would you recommend Child's Play to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Well, it’s fiction. No characters or events are actual.

And readers should be mature because of violence and occasional cursing.

CHILD’S PLAY is aimed at anyone interested in unexpected crime. Or any of the following: real estate, teaching, education, children, child abuse, adolescence, juvenile detention, family dysfunction, sociopaths, stalkers, female friendships, or fast paced novels of page-turning suspense. Whew."
There is definitely a lot there!

If you could / wished to turn Child's Play and the Elle Harrison Thrillers series into a movie, who would be your dream team?

"I love this question, but it’s terrible awful bad luck to discuss any of my books becoming a movie, let alone to cast them. But it’s also terrible awful fun. So here goes.

Emma Stone for Elle.
Kerry Washington for her friend Susan.
Viola Davis for the school principal.
Alec Baldwin for the realtor, Jerry.
Colin Hanks for Ty Evans.
Idris Elba for Stanley—just because I’d have to put Idris Elba SOMEWHERE. LOVE HIM.
Matt Damon for director, not for any reason other than that he’s Matt Damon."

What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I’ve written non-fiction (women’s issues) books and humor, but mostly I like to write about unexpected, unpredictable events that turn lives upside down and wreak havoc on individuals and relationships.

My protagonists aren’t cops or detectives. They are “regular” people who suddenly confront the unimaginable. A murder. A betrayal. Violence. Despite their frailties and flaws, these characters face their fears, take on danger, endure major threats, and overcome odds. In the process, they encounter people who oppose them and events that are out of their control. They fight like the dickens to survive. I like to think that readers will identify with them and vicariously win their own battle.

Also, I like to write from the viewpoint of people who are a little off the norm. Elle, for example, has her dissociative disorder. Another of my protagonists (Harper Jennings) has PTSD from combat in Iraq. A third (Zoe Hayes) has relationship and self-esteem issues. "
What is your writing process?
"I start with a conflict—Maybe a crime, maybe a social issue. If I’m working on a series, I already know my characters, so I place them in/around that conflict or social issue. Then I work on developing them so they’ll stay interesting. I’ll make them older than they were in the previous book, possibly in a new setting or life phase.

Then I write an outline, so I’ll always have an idea of where the scenes fit in the overall story. Sometimes I deviate from the outline, of course. Plots can change along the way. Characters can rebel. But the outline is there like a map to fall back on.

I do a LOT of research. For CHILD’S PLAY, I did research on second graders and child development. On the juvenile justice system and juvenile detention. On real estate procedures.

Overall, I try to write every day, but often life interrupts and I have to skip a day or two. Or a week. Mornings are best. I start by reading the end of what I wrote the day before, to get the mood and the rhythm. I write for two to five hours at a time. Less? I get nowhere. More? I start messing up and have to do repairs the next day."
What is in store next?
"CHILD’S PLAY is the third Elle Harrison novel, after THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE and ELECTIVE PROCEDURES.

I haven’t decided where to take Elle next. But while I’m thinking, I’m completing a stand-alone novel, contemporary women’s fiction, about the domino effect of a single bad decision."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"One thing I love is sculling. I row on the Schuylkill River, belong to the Vesper Boat Club here in Philadelphia. Weather permitting, I’m out on the water four or five times a week. I don’t race much anymore, but whenever my husband and I travel to a location near a river, we try to connect with a boat club and row, so we’re rowed on the Connecticut, Chicago, Mississippi, Christina, Potomac—I won’t bore you listing them all. But rowing is a passion, almost as big as writing."
Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!
"Thank you!"

Child's Play
Available NOW!

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CMash said...

Great post!! Since I read this book, and loved it, I enjoyed this interview!

Merry Jones said...

Thanks for the interview! Great, fun, thought provoking questions!