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Welcome readers, and Kellie for an interview!
TRIXI: First of all, I'm curious to know how the story idea of Buried Evidence came about?
KELLIE: The crime element in Buried Evidence was inspired by a true disappearance, which hit close enough to home that writing this book was surprisingly challenging. Club cycling was pretty popular at the large midwestern university I attended, and I got involved my senior year. The year after I graduated, a student disappeared while out riding her bike alone on one of the many country roads I’d traversed just the year before. Her bike was found dumped on the side of the road a couple of days later, but there was no trace of her. I knew her older brother—not well, but enough to make her disappearance that much more personal. They still hadn’t found her when I moved away the following year.
I checked back on the case a few years ago. Some hunters had stumbled across her remains three years after her disappearance, as confirmed by dental records. At first, the authorities believed she’d been accidentally struck by a vehicle and her body dumped when the driver panicked. Later, witnesses came forward and a different man was convicted of shooting her, apparently because he was angry his girlfriend had broken up with him. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
With the book, I wanted both to process this kind of traumatic disappearance and explore its impact on the characters, but at the same time alter the real events enough to create a story that would appeal to Love Inspired Suspense readers. Laney and Ryan’s occupations and history fell naturally into place once I had the story concept.
TRIXI: Laney Hamilton is a forensic anthropologist, which I find fascinating, by the way! What kind of research did you do to make this as authentic as possible?
KELLIE: I had a lot of fun researching and writing Laney’s occupation as a forensic anthropologist, especially because I got to dust off my college degrees. I studied biology as an undergrad and went on to earn a Master’s in anthropology, specializing in nautical archaeology. Though the forensics angle was new, the concepts of how to set up a dig, how to handle what you’re digging up, and how to analyze what you find are very similar to what an archaeologist or field anthropologist does. To learn more about how police handle evidence, I sat in on a fascinating talk at the last Romance Writers of America conference I attended. I also turned to the internet to better understand how forensic anthropologists identify remains (the key is the teeth!) and how much they can learn from the bones. Thankfully it’s such a popular field, there’s a lot of material out there for anyone who’s interested.
TRIXI: How did you come up with Laney and Ryan as your characters? Did they change any as you wrote this book?
KELLIE: Many of my characters take a while to fully develop in my mind, but Laney and Ryan more or less popped into existence full-fledged. Almost as soon as I had the plot concept down, I knew they needed to be a forensic anthropologist and a cop, and I knew I wanted to make their connection to Jenna (the missing girl) as close as possible. Since they both knew her in the past, it only made sense they’d know each other, and the reunion romance was born.
At their cores, neither of them changed much as I wrote, but I did go back during editing to try to make Laney’s motivations clearer. Early feedback from my critique partners showed they were having a harder time connecting with her than Ryan. She’s so unhappy, almost bitter, about coming back to her hometown in the beginning, and very reluctant even to see him again. All that negative emotion is hard to connect with if you don’t understand why the character feels that way, so during edits I had to work in more of her backstory to help make her more sympathetic.
TRIXI: Ultimately, what do you want readers to get out of your books?
KELLIE: Great question! My hope with all my books is simple—that the love of Christ will shine through my words to offer hope and encouragement to my readers. I put my characters through some pretty horrible situations, and like us, they have the choice to walk through their trials in faith or to wrestle with God. The road isn’t easy and sometimes they do both, but at the end they walk away stronger in their faith and better for trusting Him. It’s my hope that when we face trials, we too will trust the Lord and experience the blessing of His presence in the midst of hardship.
TRIXI: Lastly, what do you have in the works? I'm definitely looking forward to any future books you write :-)
KELLIE: Right now I’m working on what I hope will be a new set of books for Love Inspired Suspense set in national parks. If you’ve read my first book, Fatal Flashback, you know the story took place in Big Bend National Park in Texas. I love writing wilderness settings, as they’re perfect for torturing characters (for their own good, of course) and come with so many built-in possibilities for adventure in a suspense story. My current project is set in North Cascades National Park and involves a park ranger hero who has to help a future aerotech CEO heroine escape the bad guys chasing her when her plane crashes on a glacier. It’s been a lot of fun so far and has me itching to do some hiking! Just not with the armed hit men after me… 😉
Thank you so much for having me here today! I love hearing from readers, so feel free to visit me at www.kellievanhorn.com or my author Facebook page (@authorkellievanhorn) and get in touch!
“Can unearthed bones solve a ten-year-old cold case?”
This certainly had my attention when I read the back blurb about Laney Hamilton being a forensic anthropologist and solving not only a cold case, but quite possibly that of her long-missing best friend Jenna. Talk about ramping up the tension! I love cold case files and have watched many TV series based on real cases so this story definitely kept me glued. To add to an already tense plot, Laney works with ex-boyfriend police sergeant Ryan Mitchell, who also happens to be Jenna's brother, to solve the case and catch a possible serial killer.
The story ticked all the boxes for a good suspense and the ending was a shocker! I love it when an author can keep all the puzzle pieces scattered until the very end and then bring it to a fast-paced adrenaline-fueled conclusion. VanHorn had me on my toes the entire time wondering what was going to happen next. She even added a creepy psychological angle that made my skin crawl and sent shivers down my spine....all in the name of a good suspense, of course!
I also liked seeing Laney and Ryan work through their past history to find common ground again and have a second chance at love. The fact that they gave their heart to the Lord years ago and worked hard to rely on Him in everything encouraged me in my own faith walk. They both had great loss when Jenna disappeared, but eventually found peace and was able to forgive. I liked seeing them work together to solve the cold-case crime and catch the killer; I think they made for a great team.
I highly recommend this to any reader of suspense and second-chance romance lovers! I think you'll find this packed full of what makes for a great book to keep you guessing and riveted to the pages!
*I received a complimentary early reader copy from the author and was under no obligation to leave a favorable review. All opinions expressed here are my own. *
Can unearthed bones solve a ten-year-old cold case?
Returning home isn’t easy for forensic anthropologist Laney Hamilton, especially when it means examining bones that could belong to her long-missing best friend—the sister of the man she once loved. But now someone wants Laney dead, and her ex-boyfriend, police sergeant Ryan Mitchell, must shield her. As the predator stalks them, can Laney and Ryan finally uncover the tragic truth about their past?