My obsession with murder and my experience working at Court TV and on the Nancy Grace show were the catalysts for my writing journey. My debut crime thriller Premonition was meant in large part to be a tribute to all the murder victims I covered during the course of my nearly twenty-year journalism career. I included more than twenty true cases in the narrative to give the book a touch of realism. I tried to show the effect covering gruesome murders has on the producers, day in and day out. As I wrote my first crime thriller novel, I reflected on the toll murder takes on the family and friends of the victims as well. Making the decision to write a book that would take all of the above into account was indeed a daunting task.
So where to begin? My initial instinct was to write a non-fiction book about the legal system or a particular case that I had become obsessed with. But then something unexpected happened. I woke up in the middle of the night one evening and realized I could do everything I wanted to do but make it fiction. I stayed up until 5 a.m. writing and continued for the next four months until the first rough draft was completed. That, however, is just the beginning of the story.
Writing and publishing a book is a continuous work in progress. From the first draft through the process of getting an agent, a publisher, an editor, and finally promoting and marketing the final product, there is an ongoing learning curve for a first time author. But throughout this process, I never lost sight of why I wrote my debut crime thriller to begin with. Above all else I wanted people to understand what it felt like to be murdered. Having covered so many awful murder cases it always seemed like the victim got lost and mostly forgotten in the courtroom. It fell to their loved ones to keep their memory alive. More often than not, justice for those who deserved it the most was an elusive concept. What punishment could ever make up for having your life stolen away from you, so violently, no less?
When I finished writing Premonition, I knew there had to be a sequel. The story needed to be continued and resolved. Retribution picks up where the first novel left off, with the same cast of characters and some new additions. It is written from the killer’s point of view and has enough twists and turns to delight any crime enthusiast. I again included references to real cases, strategically, to move the story along. Therefore, it would appeal to fans of the thriller genre as well as true crime junkies.
In interview after interview I’ve been asked how I went from comedy to crime, as I worked for Lily Tomlin and George Carlin before deciding to go to law school. My answer is always the same: we used black humor at Court TV to offset the terrible things we saw every day so it wasn’t such a stretch. We used to joke at the beginning of a trial that if you made it this far, you’re guilty. But we always gave each and every case the objectivity and attention it warranted. We made sure that the victims and their families were treated with the utmost respect and care.
Writing is hard. But when you know why you’re doing it and what you want to accomplish with your words it becomes a whole lot easier. I look forward to sharing Retribution with the world and hope readers everywhere will enjoy it.
What about you, readers? What makes your writing harder, or easier?
Through her decades-long work as an executive, producer, and on-air reporter for Court TV and the Nancy Grace show on HLN, Wendy Whitman has become an expert on the subject of murder in America.