Nicki Valentine’s BFF, Kenna, is adopting a baby. When expecting birth mother, Beth, goes missing, Kenna implores Nicki to find out where and why Beth disappeared—hopefully before the child is born. I thought most babies were matched to couples after they were born so this concept intrigued me. Henery Press will release Susan O’Brien’s Finding Sky, the first in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series, on October, 7th.
Please welcome Susan to WWK. E. B. Davis
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here!
Your story is set in the VA suburbs of Northern Virginia, a place I’ve lived for the last thirty years. I’ve never heard of King County. Where is it? King County exists in my imagination, but it’s inspired by the many years I’ve lived in the D.C. area. Whether real or imagined, life around D.C. has a complex vibe that’s fun to write about.
You are a licensed private investigator in Virginia. Are PI licenses regulated on the state level? What are the requirements in Virginia? Have you practiced? The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) provides various registrations, certifications and licensures. One of the requirements to become a registered PI is completing 60 hours of training. Nicki is trying hard to do this, but it’s tough with two kids, limited childcare, endless laundry, and a gut-wrenching mystery to solve. I worked briefly as a PI, and I’d love to do it again.
From reading the hilarious descriptions of motherhood through Nicki, can I assume you also have young children? Mine aren’t so little anymore. One of the ways I got through those incredibly challenging (and wonderful) years was to laugh. A lot. And write!
Nicki doesn’t have to work in the present because she has received insurance from her father’s death, and I presume, her husband’s death. Her husband died in a boating accident with his lover. What were the effects of these deaths on Nicki? Experiencing so much loss at once makes Nicki fear losing anyone else. This affects the way she parents and how she approaches new relationships, including the one with her superhot PI instructor, Dean. She wants to protect herself and her children, and that complicates her personal and professional choices.
Mothers of young children, like Nicki Valentine, have trouble coordinating motherhood and jobs. Are there special considerations for mothers in the PI field? My work as a PI wasn’t extensive, but even in my limited experience, some of the risks and ethical dilemmas were challenging. The hours can be tough on families, too. Nicki definitely struggles with these issues.
Because I live in NOVA and because I’m nosy, what did you find when you researched gangs in this area? When I started writing Finding Sky years ago, I learned that many gang members seek a sense of “family,” whereas in other areas, physical survival can be a stronger motivator. At the time, gang members would often exchange business cards when they met—a fact I found fascinating but didn’t end up including in Finding Sky.
One of the most profound points of your book to me struck home that gang criminal activity affects all segments of society. It isn’t isolated. Is that true? Ultimately, I believe it does affect everyone. I’m thankful for the efforts of so many to prevent and address gang activity. For example, my kids were educated about gangs at school. I wish that hadn’t been necessary, but directly or indirectly, we’re all connected.
Why, at certain points in Nicki’s investigation, did she withhold information from Kenna?
Kenna has endured so much in her efforts to become a mom, and she’s afraid to hope this adoption will work out. She also cares deeply for the birth mother. Nicki wants to share just enough information to keep Kenna informed, but not so much that it will become emotionally overwhelming.
Are adoptions regulated on the state level? Is this pairing of birth mothers and adoptive parents increasing in frequency? Has it always been done?
Yes, state law governs adoption procedures. There are many types of adoption, and these days birth parents and adoptive families are frequently paired before a child is born. Nicki is honored to support Kenna’s commitment to adoption and parenthood. And she feels just as dedicated to the welfare of the birth mother.
What’s next for Nicki?
In Sky High, the second Nicki Valentine mystery, Nicki starts her own PI agency. Dean is still in the picture (and still smokin’ hot), and the book opens with a wedding. I can’t reveal much, but Nicki is excited about it, and so am I!
Are you a beach or a mountain gal, Susan? Beach, beach, beach! I spent most of my childhood summer vacations on the water, and it’s where I feel most at peace.