Southern Writer Spotlight: Lisa Black
Updated: Jul 30
Name: Lisa Black
Book(s): "Red Flags" (and 15 other books, but "Red Flags" is the start of a new series)
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Latest Book Set Where: Washington, D.C.
Gives us a brief description of your book(s).
My Theresa MacLean series revolves around a forensic scientist in the Cleveland Coroner’s Office (my old job). Theresa is a 40ish single mom of a teenage girl, and her "partner," so to speak, is her first cousin Frank, a homicide detective with the CPD.
In my Gardiner & Renner series, Maggie Gardiner is a young, divorced forensic scientist with the Cleveland Police Department, a little more of a loner and workaholic, who picks up the trail of someone working within the department to execute — humanely — the worst of the worst criminals. That someone turns out to be homicide detective Jack Renner. But through a series of events Maggie is forced to keep his secret in an uneasy partnership as they navigate other murders through the course of the series.
In this new series — "Red Flags" debuts today — Dr. Ellie Carr is a DC FBI agent with a hankering for forensics, and is fulfilling that duty as part of her job when she responds to the vastly wealthy home of a vastly wealthy Washington power couple. Their baby has disappeared from his crib in the middle of the day, while the family was home, with no sign of outsiders on the surveillance cameras. Either someone committed an impossible crime, Ellie thinks, or the parents are lying. But she changes her mind when she finds that the mother is her first cousin Rebecca. They used to be as close as sisters, during Ellie’s very non-traditional childhood. So Ellie trusts her — doesn’t she?
What brought you to write these stories? For instance, was it a personal experience that inspired you, your “day job” or perhaps an overactive imagination?
I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, and they were always detective stories. I always wanted to be solving some crime or puzzle. Then, after I went to work in forensics it just made sense to tell the crime-solving story from the forensic viewpoint. And the advent of the "CSI" craze certainly didn’t hurt!
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Depending on the topic I can do a lot of research to get the information (and go down that familiar author’s rabbit hole of having so much fun researching that you never get around to the book!) if necessary. For the forensic information, I have a lot of resources available through work. Ideas come from all over. Sometimes I start with a topic that fascinates me, like cults or the 2008 financial crash, sometimes it’s a location, sometimes it’s just something that I want to have happen.
Where does the story(stories) take place?
I wanted my character to be able to travel, so I gave her a job where she can go to other cities or even countries. This first book takes place in Washington, D.C., and the sequel is in Chesapeake Bay, but after that she’ll be in other places.
How does setting play in the telling of the story?
Most of the story takes place in the Carlisles’ palatial mansion, so it was important to give readers a sense of the sprawling, slightly antique, luxurious home that’s so alien to Ellie’s experiences. But other scenes take place in D.C. with the habits and quirks unique to that place.
What do you think makes a good story/book?
One that you don’t want to put down. That you’re picking up in the five minutes while the soup heats up. That makes you think why did she do that? I would have done this while waiting for the bus or gassing up your car.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always wrote, but I never thought "being a writer"was something I could actually do. (See next question.)
When did you write your first book? And how was that experience?
I wrote my first book only because I had a dull job as a secretary and sat in front of a word processor all day — if I’d gone straight into forensics after college, who knows, maybe I’d never have finished a book at all? (PS The six books I wrote at that job were never published, except to my attic. I had a long learning curve.)
Is writing your primary job or do you have another career?
Oh yes. I still work full-time as a CSI/latent print examiner for a police department in Florida. I’d never make a living writing books.
What does your family think of your writing?
They love it. I’m from a family that loves books.
What was the most surprising thing you learned writing your stories?
That I can write something people actually love. I still don’t understand how that happens.
Did writing your book(s) lead you to other things?
Well, I visited Prague just because I wrote a book set there. (Loved it!!) I’ve learned a lot of things through research — for instance, in ""Red Flags," I was surprised to discover how proposed legislation actually winds through Congressional committees. And I’ve made a lot of friends, people I otherwise would never have met.
What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?
Read all the greats who write the kind of stuff you want to write.
How can readers find and purchase your books?
Anywhere books are sold — bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Amazon, libraries. For more information and links you can check my website: www.Lisa-black.com