Q&A: Sara Blaedel, Author of HER FATHER’S SECRET
Denmark’s Queen of Crime is back! This past week, Sara Blaedel’s newest book released in the U.S., and I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome her to Crime by the Book today to give us the inside scoop on it! HER FATHER’S SECRET is Book Two in the author’s Family Secrets trilogy - a series that takes a Danish protagonist and brings her out of her native Copenhagen and into the U.S. for a compelling tale of intrigue and interpersonal suspense. Blaedel’s Family Secrets trilogy is a new direction for the author best known for her procedural series featuring Copenhagen-based detective Louise Rick, but it features the author’s trademark endearing characters and research-based writing - a winning combination that has earned Blaedel’s new trilogy fans around the world.
In HER FATHER’S SECRET, protagonist Ilka has found herself in an impossible situation: her deceased father’s business is in deep debt, and it’s up to Ilka to save it. At the same time, as she sorts through her father’s possessions, she discovers ominous notes indicating that her father was being blackmailed at the time of his passing. And when a local woman with ties to her father is killed in a shocking act of gun violence, Ilka begins to wonder if the threat against her father is still active - and if she might be in danger, too.
I’m thrilled to welcome Sara Blaedel to CBTB today to discuss her newest release, HER FATHER’S SECRET! Huge thanks to Sara for taking the time to answer my questions, and to her publisher for facilitating this Q&A. Read on for more information on HER FATHER’S SECRET, and for my Q&A with Sara!
This post includes Amazon Affiliate links. This in no way affects my opinion of the book discussed in this post.
HER FATHER’S SECRET by Sara Blaedel
A woman's murder is only the beginning as a daughter races to unravel the maze of secrets her father left behind--before she becomes the next victim--in the latest emotionally gripping novel from Sara Blaedel, #1 internationally bestselling author with over 3 million copies sold worldwide.
After suddenly inheriting a funeral home from her father--who she hadn't heard from in decades--Ilka Jensen has impulsively abandoned her quiet life in Denmark to visit the small town in rural Wisconsin where her father lived. There, she's devastated to discover her father's second family: a stepmother and two half sisters she never knew existed. And who aren't the least bit welcoming, despite Ilka's efforts to reach out.
Then a local woman is killed, seemingly the unfortunate victim of a home invasion turned violent. But when Ilka learns that the woman knew her father, it becomes increasingly clear that she may not have been a completely random victim after all.
The more Ilka digs into her father's past, the more deeply entangled she becomes in a family drama that has spanned decades and claimed more than one life--and she may be the next victim...
Praise for the Work of Sara Blaedel:
"One of the best I've come across."―Michael Connelly
"Compelling and unique, THE DAUGHTER delves into a dark and fascinating world rarely explored in suspense fiction. Sara Blaedel knows how to reel in her readers and keep them utterly transfixed."―Tess Gerritsen on The Daughter
"lka is a complex and interesting character...The writing and Blaedel's ability to paint a vivid picture of the funeral homebusiness is a definite strength of this novel."―RT Book Reviews on The Daughter
"This series debut has a lighter, cozier touch than the author's award-winning Louise Rick procedural series, set in Denmark; fortunately, Blaedel's astute storytelling also works outside the Nordic gloom."―Booklist on The Daughter
"[A] solid murder mystery...the pacing is calm and thoughtful, and the dead in this story feel like a silent audience to the dramas of the living."―The Austin Chronicle on The Daughter
"A great start for mystery lovers looking to dip a toe into international intrigue."―Library Journal on The Daughter
"Well researched and beautifully depicted the author brings the smells, tastes, and sounds of Racine, Wisconsin to life...I picked up the story one minute and all too soon found myself at the ending cliffhanger."―Killer Nashville on The Daughter
Author Q&A: Sara Blaedel
HER FATHER’S SECRET
Crime by the Book: First things first, thank you so much for stopping by CBTB today to tell us about your brand-new book, HER FATHER’S SECRET, Book 2 in your Family Secrets trilogy. For readers new to this series, could you give us a quick overview of what this series is about?
Sara Blaedel: It is lovely to visit with you. Thank you so much for having me.
So, Ilka Jensen had been leading a quiet and uneventful life in her native Denmark until the death of her estranged father brought her to the States, where she settled in Racine, Wisconsin, and took over the running of his funeral home. She’s still uncovering her late father’s numerous secrets and trying to bond with the second family (stepmother and sisters) she’d known nothing about. When a local woman is murdered, Ilka discovers the victim was connected to her father and that she is likely in danger.
CBTB: The Family Secrets trilogy is quite a different kind of series from your Louise Rick books! What inspired you to take this series in a new direction? Do you anticipate returning to Louise Rick in the future?
SB: Louise Rick has a special place in my heart and I will absolutely return to her and keep telling her stories. There were many factors involved in my inspiration and decision to explore Ilka’s life. I wanted to try something new and different, and loved the idea of a new setting (the USA), where I keep a home.
CBTB: HER FATHER’S SECRET centers around a Danish woman named Ilka, who is now living in Racine, Wisconsin. How would you describe Ilka to someone meeting her for the first time?
SB: Ilka is strikingly different from Louise, even as the women do share some similar traits. Both are fighters, as I suppose all women are. Both are stronger than they realize, but also, vulnerable. While Louise takes risks and is fiercely independent, when we meet Ilka she is leading a very unassuming and boring, routine life. She’s a widow and working as a school photographer, with no plans to change things up or step outside of her comfort zone. When she learns her long-estranged father has died and is beckoned to the States to sign some papers, she is certain she’ll be gone for only a week and then back home to her mundane, predictable lifestyle. Ilka is more open than Louise. Though she deals with pain and disappointment from her childhood, she’s hungry to connect with the father who abandoned her; she doesn’t have a defensive wall around her like Louise.
CBTB: I’m sure you get this question all the time, but I’m so curious - how much of yourself do you see in Ilka?
SB: I do get asked this question frequently, but I’m sure all fiction authors do. When I’m creating new characters, building them from scratch, I imagine them as their own people and then dig into their histories, their personalities and characteristics, and everything from their physicalities to their deepest secrets and feelings and fears and desires. The women in my books are not me; they are their own people. That doesn’t mean that they don’t sometimes share certain aspects of me. They are my brain children.
CBTB: HER FATHER’S SECRET is a very character-driven series. Was there ever a moment during your writing where one (or more!) of your characters surprised you, or pulled the story in a new direction?
SB: Yes, absolutely! I do my very best to allow my characters to break free from the page; to come to life and breathe air, and to possess individuality as we all do. As I develop them, they take shape. When their voices take root, I can hear them; they speak to me. I try always to remain open, with my characters and plotting, to going where and doing what feels natural and realistic, given their situations and who they are. That absolutely translates into going in directions I wasn’t expecting. Which makes it all the more exciting and fun to write.
CBTB: In HER FATHER’S SECRET, Ilka finds herself trying to figure out what to do with the business she has inherited from her estranged father - a funeral home! I’m so curious, why did you decide to give Ilka’s father this profession? And what kind of research did you do to learn about this industry?
SB: While dealing with the deaths of my parents, an incredibly heartbreaking and difficult time, I was so fortunate to meet and be in the hands of truly wonderful undertakers who were handling the funeral arrangements. They were women, which surprised me, and they were amazingly compassionate and professional at the same time. I was blown away by how they ran their business and cared for their clients. I was inspired and hooked; I knew I would use that world dramatically.
Research is a hugely important and positively necessary part of the work I do- from my earliest days as a journalist and into my career as an author. Authenticity, for me, is essential. That bleeds into every acre and element of storytelling, from the characters and what they do professionally and for fun, to where they live and travel, to customs and laws, to scenery. It runs the gamut. If one of my characters lives in England and looks out of a window, you can be sure I’ve been there on the spot and gazed out of that window. I’ve done an enormous amount of studying up on police procedural for my Louise Rick series, and for this American-set series, I’ve researched the undertaking industry (which has been super-fascinating!), and especially the differences in the laws and regulations from country to country and even state to state sometimes. I’ve learned so much and have tried to bring that insight to my storytelling.
CBTB: I’m also so interested in your decision to set this series in the US. Why did you choose Racine for the location for this series? Did you visit Racine during your writing process?
SB: For some time, I toyed with the idea of telling a story outside of Denmark, but it wasn’t until I lived in the USA, in New York City, that the concept began to really percolate. It would be a challenge (which I love) and a tribute to my American home and readers; it would also allow me to try something new and exciting. I chose Racine because of its sizable Danish-heritage population; that intrigued me and the fit was perfect. Ilka’s father had emigrated from Denmark and Racine made sense as his destination and new home.
I’ve visited Racine numerous times, first as part of my research, and then because I fell in love with the city and its people. And as a part-time immigrant to a new country, being able to connect with the culture and people and products from back home is such a thrill and a treat.
CBTB: Speaking of your writing process, what does that look like? Do you write from a strict outline, or do you allow the story to change directions as you write?
SB: I do both. I’m all about planning and deep-conceptualizing before I begin writing in earnest. I take copious notes and construct character profiles. And, I rely on my plotting cards, which cover my walls and allow me to see and set-up and blueprint. They inspire me and keep me focused. When my son was little, he was drawn to my “killing cards,” and would always comment upon which character was going to meet up with unfortunate circumstances.
But then, as I’ve said, I remain completely open to changes and new ideas that cook up and present themselves in my imagination along the way. I find the balance is perfect: the more I plan, the more room I have for fantasy. One supports the other.
CBTB: When you’re not writing crime fiction, do you also read crime fiction? If so, could you share with us a few crime books you’ve recently read and loved?
SB: Oh, yes! I am a voracious reader of crime fiction. I’ve loved the genre for as long as I’ve been reading and can remember. Recently, I’ve absolutely loved The Wife by Alafair Burke, Under My Skin by Lisa Unger, and The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. These women are masters of the genre!
A huge thank you to Sara Blaedel for stopping by CBTB to give us the inside scoop on her newest book, HER FATHER’S SECRET - available now! Catch an excerpt from the book on CBTB, too!
Series: The Family Secrets series (Book 2)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Translation edition (March 5, 2019)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.