Channeling My Inner Nancy Drew by Jane Haseldine
Author Jane Haseldine explains how she used her experience as a newspaper reporter to shape the protagonist in her new novel.
When I was a newspaper reporter, there were a lot of days when I felt like I was trying to solve a mystery, sort of like a grown up Nancy Drew (okay, at least Nancy Drew in my mind, because how cool would that be?).
In my first suspense novel, The Last Time She Saw Him, I pulled from my experiences covering the crime beat as inspiration. My main character, Julia Gooden, is a crime reporter in Detroit (but besides both of us being women with two young boys, that’s where the similarities end. Julia can be one tough cookie, and I’m pretty sure she could beat me in a fight). Her investigative skills kick into overdrive when her son is abducted on the 30th anniversary of her brother’s disappearance, leaving her just 24 hours to figure out whether reminders of her brother are clues, leading to her son’s abductor, or merely coincidence.
I relied on the same principles I used in reporting in creating Julia’s launch into her son’s case.
- There are the established facts: Julia knows her son was abducted on the anniversary of her brother’s disappearance, and in both cases, an Indian arrowhead is found underneath both their beds.
- Then there are the rumors: Julia has to confront an incarcerated former reverend who claims he received anonymous letters from her son’s abductor to try and deduce whether his claims are true or bogus.
- And don’t forget about working your sources: With the clock ticking down and the police having no suspects, Julia has to talk to as many people as possible, hitting up a cast of characters who may be telling her the truth, a loose-version of it, or a well-constructed lie in order to cover their ass.
When I was thinking about the core of Julia when it came to her job, I thought about what kind of journalist I strived to be. Julia is driven, knows she has a job to do, and never wants to get beat on a story. But it was important to make her humane, never crossing the line or turning into a jaded viper that would do anything to get a story.
I never covered a child abduction case. But I’ve had to interview parents whose children were killed. I always knew I had a job to do, and there’s definitely an adrenaline buzz when you’re trying to nail a breaking story. At the same time, there was always an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach when I had to insert myself into someone else’s agony. I began to think about it as giving people the opportunity to tell others about their child or loved one, and in turn, memorialize who they really were. That was the same type of balance I tried to bring to Julia’s character.
Being a newspaper reporter was undoubtedly one of the coolest jobs I ever had. It’s been great fun to get back on the crime beat with Julia Gooden.
Jane Haseldine is a journalist, former crime reporter, columnist, newspaper editor, magazine writer, and deputy director of communications for a governor. Jane’s debut suspense novel, THE LAST TIME SHE SAW HIM, is available now. The second book in the series, DUPLICITY, will be published by Kensington in April 2017. Jane currently resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons. You can find her at www.janehaseldine.com.
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