Meaning, today, I answer your questions about No Safety in Numbers and No Easy Way Out, just in time for you to start reading the final installment of the trilogy. HUZZAH!

First question comes from Leslie: “What was your inspiration to deciding to write a novel where the characters were trapped in a mall due to a biological bomb?”

No Safety started as a tiny kernel of an idea way back in 2007. My husband and I had gone to see a late movie in a mega-mall near where he worked. When we got out of the movie, it was close to one in the morning, and the entire mall save the movie theater was closed.

Now, the movie theater was on the top floor, and so to get to our car, we had to travel down through all the rest of the four floors of the mall to the first level and out the exits. What surprised me was that whoever ran the mall had turned off all but a few emergency overhead lights on all the lower floors of the mall, meaning we descended into semi-darkness as we travelled from top floor to bottom. And just to up the creep factor, the mall did not close off access to these darkened floors, so as we wound our way down from escalator to escalator, there were voices echoing from the dark. I could see shadows moving in the halls. Laughter, shrieks. Needless to say, we got out of there as quickly as possible.

This experience gave me an idea that I wrote down the second I got home, an idea which became No Safety in Numbers. Check out my blog post from the book birthday for No Safety to learn more…

Next question is from Michael: “Who is your favorite main character from the trilogy?”

Oh, Michael, this is like asking me to choose between my children! I love all the characters, equally. But, to answer your question, Marco and his struggle forced/enabled me to go through some powerful and disturbing emotions. I was completely surprised by the way his story turned out, and am so thrilled to have gone on such a completely bizarre voyage with him. Who’s your favorite?

And from Angela: “So I am a huge animal lover & generally dislike books where animals are needlessly killed. Were you at all concerned that the goose killing incident would turn readers off?”

I hope it doesn’t turn people off! I feel like once you get to that scene in No Easy Way Out, you’ve seen a lot of death and killing in the books, and you are also (I hope) pretty invested in finding out what happens next, so it didn’t occur to me that people might put the book down because of the duck’s sacrifice.

But also, the death of the duck is far from unnecessary. Those guys hadn’t eaten in days–they were hungry, and ducks are food! In addition, plot-wise, it’s a huge turning point. It not only literally changes the plot—the duck’s blood contains a bird flu virus that mutates the Stonecliff Flu virus—but also occurs during major changes in the stories of each of the main characters, and represents a kind of turning point for the mall as a whole. I also wanted to echo the pig sacrifice scene from Lord of the Flies…:).

Next is from Mark: “As I read through the book(s) I literally have attempted to create a “map” of the mall layout. I like to reference it from time to time. My question, is the mall in the books in any way based on a real life mall? Maybe one from your childhood? Or maybe one you currently frequent?”

Wow! Awesome! I would love to see this map! I, too, tried to physically map my mall over and over on paper, but got tripped up by the sheer scale of the thing. It’s so big! There are so many floors! I was only ever able to keep a map of it clear in my mind…

The Shops at Stonecliff is based on an amalgam of real malls. As I mentioned above, I got the idea for the story during a late-night movie date at a mega-mall. But I also grew up in New Jersey surrounded by no less than four—no joke, FOUR—malls. And that’s not counting the myriad strip malls that make up the better part of Bergen County. So my childhood is steeped in mall layouts, in stores and their hidden innards. I worked in malls—cashier for men’s shoes; waitress in a chain restaurant—and shopped in malls and just hung around in malls for the better part of my child and teen existence. All of these places informed my fictive creation: The Shops at Stonecliff.

And finally, from Hannah: “Our government is meant to help us. Why did the government in the series decide to abandon all those people? Do they know something about the virus we don’t? And where did this “bomb” so to speak, come from? Will we ever get an answer or are we just left to wonder?”

I see the government in No Safety in Numbers as making a difficult choice. Westchester County is mere miles from Manhattan, from some of the biggest airports in the world. Imagine if the virus got out. If even one infected person escaped and coughed, spread the virus to two or four more people, if they then infected two or four, and then one of those got on a plane, and sneezed on two or three more, and so on. Imagine the millions, the billions who might die. And so those in charge decided to lock in these few thousand—a mere few thousand!—to prevent the greater tragedy. They tried to provide for those quarantined the best they could, and who could have foreseen what happened once the quarantine was imposed?

As for the bomb, and whoever put it in the Shops at Stonecliff, there will be answers—but you have to read No Dawn Without Darkness, available TODAY!

Thank you all so much for your questions!

And now—the GIVEAWAY!

I put all your names in a hat, and the winner of a complete, hardcover set of the No Safety in Numbers series is…


Thanks to everyone who entered!

Next blog will be Thursday’s installment of the Big Bad Books read-along: Moby Dick, Blog #2! And on next Tuesday, I’ll post my playlist for No Dawn Without Darkness!

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