"Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things" "Sharks, Jellyfish and Other Deadly Things" "Shooting Stars and Other Deadly Things" "Golden Eggs and Other Deadly Things" "Slippery Slopes and Other Deadly Things" "Ablaze"

Characters' Genesis         

The “Other Deadly Things” Series:

“Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things” was my first try at a novel. Coming as I did from an acting background, I’d started out writing plays and screenplays. Many writers have been actors in their early years. The transition is a no-brainer because actors understand how to construct a scene, how it should build and how it should end. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t have to spend years developing my new craft. I took writing classes and joined an excellent writing group. During that time I wrote a stage-play that had an off-Broadway reading; a film script—a courtroom drama based on a trial that I’d attended, a spec script for the TV series, “Cagney and Lacey” that highlighted the bizarre world of religious cults; and another for the soap opera, “One Life to Live.” Surprisingly the Soap was the most difficult requiring me to read ten years of back scripts to familiarize myself with the characters. I came pretty close to landing the TV job when I was invited by the head writer to LA to pitch story ideas. This was at a time in my life when six figure pay was looking really good to me. I’d recently been divorced and when “Cagney and Lacey” was cancelled before I’d even booked my flight I was, well—not exactly suicidal but definitely stressed out. My life was looking pretty bleak. Then the wonderful Ann Loring, my mentor, whose writing group I’d been attending every Friday evening for more years than I can remember, suggested I try my hand at a novel. In the mood to kill a few people, I jumped on the suggestion. Writing great literature, however, was not in my mind. Murder was. I would write a mystery.

Initially my protagonist was a psychologist, but I hadn’t written more than a chapter or two when I realized that I knew little about the field and a lot of research would be required. I didn’t have time for research. I was in a hurry to knock off the mistress. What profession did I know about? Biofeedback! I was a biofeedback practitioner myself and I knew how it felt to be an about-to-be-divorced, stressed-out stress reduction therapist. Thus Carrie Carlin was born.

Carrie is an almost divorced mother of two pre-teens, caregiver of four animals and a biofeedback therapist who is having one heck of a time practicing what she preaches. This is because I’ve insisted on putting her in situations that would stress out a monk. She’s been described by reviewers as “loveable,” “engaging,” and “endearing,” but also as “clever and slightly neurotic,” “exasperatingly stubborn” and “prone to taking risks. “ One reviewer found her to be “devoted to her children and so good-hearted that readers find themselves rooting for her and wanting her to back off while also feeling sorry for her lover….” while an unhappy Amazon reader felt Carrie needed “parenting skills” and should see a therapist herself. That, as they say, is what makes horse-racing.

I wanted Carrie to be someone readers could relate to, flawed, just like the rest of us but essentially, despite her homicidal fantasies, someone you’d like to have as a friend.

“Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things” sold within a few months after my agent submitted it to several major New York publishing houses. That’s not to say it didn’t suffer a few rejections along the way but, like finding your soul-mate, it only takes one. The cherry on the sundae came the day my terrific editor at Dell asked me what my plans were for the rest of the series.

“Ablaze” A Samantha Barron Mystery

After writing five books in which Carrie keeps falling over dead bodies, I realized I needed to move on. After all, despite the high murder rate in this country today, how realistic would it be to have Carrie stumble on a corpse every year? It would stretch credibility despite the fact that, in the last book in the series, it’s looking as though Carrie may marry her homicide detective boyfriend, Ted Brodsky. I could, of course, switch protagonists and make Ted my protagonist but I’m more comfortable writing females. I decided to write a love story, a romantic suspense. To my surprise, however, I found my thoughts continually straying from the romance aspect of the story into the suspense area. And there was all that research on cults I’d done for the “Cagney and Lacey” script sitting in my desk drawer just begging to be used. It seemed I still wanted to tell that story. And that story was about a murder. Once a mystery writer, always a mystery writer.

In “Ablaze,” my protagonist, thirty-one year old Samantha Barron, is the victim advocate for the Bergen County New Jersey prosecutor’s office. A Munchausen by Proxy survivor, Samantha, having been a victim of her mother’s madness, is programmed by her own experience to want to help people in trouble, especially children. So when a terrified young girl shows up at her office spouting religious dogma about having seen the grim reaper standing over a friend who had been “cast into the abyss” at the Greenwich Village Halloween parade, Samantha has to get involved. Unfortunately, so does Douglas Ruark, a man with whom Samantha had once had a love affair that had ended badly.

The San Francisco City Book Review describes Samantha as “a sympathetic protagonist, bent on saving Miriam, even as she puts herself in danger... and her nemesis, Ruark as “a dream male lead, tough and vulnerable..."

And from Grady Harp, Hall of fame top 100 reviewer Vine Voice

“.…Nancy's theatrical experience, both on stage and at the writing table, allows her to paint the images of cults, terror, passion, romance, and crime investigation with such deft color that we might as well be watching a film surrounding our space.…”

ABLAZE is a story about power and greed and about the mind control used in destructive cults by men corrupted by the power they have gained over the souls of their followers. The victims of this evil, often done in the name of God, are the alienated and the vulnerable, but surprisingly, they are also bright young idealists who are convinced that they are being shown “the way.” Many people believe that cults died out in the seventies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The cult in this book is fictional, a conglomerate of many such groups drawn from my imagination, but the methods used to recruit and control its followers are based on my research culled from the experiences of ex-members.


© 2016 by Nancy Tesler. All rights reserved.