the shores of Hope’s Peak, North Carolina, evil waits as his next victim
approaches. He’ll make her a princess like the others…
Jane Harper can’t shake the image of the young woman discovered in a field—eyes
closed, a crown of woven vines on her head. She expects macabre murders like
this in her native San Francisco, not here. Jane and her partner, Stu, vow to
catch the killer, but in this town, that’s easier said than done. The police
department is in the grips of a wide-reaching scandal that could topple the
entire force, and Jane and Stu face a series of dead ends. Until they meet Ida
knows too well the evil that lurks in the cornfields. Tortured by her mother’s
murder years before, Ida is paralyzed by the fear that she could be next. As
the killer grows bolder, Jane must persuade Ida to use her remarkable gifts to
help in the investigation. It’s a decision that brings them closer to the
killer…maybe too close.
In an attempt to find out about Kindle bestsellers,
I ran into Tony Healey’s book Hope’s Peak,
released in January by Thomas & Mercer Publishers. A week after it went
live on Kindle, it listed as third on the Kindle bestseller list. As a Kindle
Unlimited member, I read it for “free.” What intrigued me about the book was
the blurb. It hinted of a sixth sense element, which pressed my finger on the
download button. Healey writes in third-person multiple POVs. It’s a mystery, a
police procedural, but turns into suspense when he presents the killer’s POV.
This book will repel many of
our cozy readers. Amazon reviews are all over the place, but in a short time,
there are pages of reviews. However readers feel, Healey’s book has stirred
public emotions. Healey presents a rapist and serial killer attracted to young
black women. That sort of reading doesn’t appeal to me, but Healey bestows the
flawed main characters with interesting backstories, treats the victims with
reverence, and shows violence in a non-titillating way, revealing his sensitivity
and insight into the killer’s mind. Even with uncomfortable subject matter Hope’s Peak is a well-written page-turner.
Please welcome Tony Healey to
WWK. E. B. Davis
Many of the reviewers stated that Hope’s Peak was your first book. You’ve
written about fifteen books in what I would have categorized as Sci Fi on
Amazon, but I discovered a new subgenre dubbed Fringe Science in which your
previous series was placed. Tell our readers about Fringe Science and why you
decided to write a mystery assuming this is your first?
I've always wanted to write, but I've come to
realize that wanting to write, and having the ability to write are two complete
separate things. For the longest time, from my mid-teens to my mid-twenties, I
wanted to write. I filled journals with hundreds of pages of notes, ideas,
plots—you name it. But it wasn't until I was a couple of years in my marriage,
two kids around my ankles, that I was finally ready to write. I'd lived a
little bit, had some life experience under my belt, and something just clicked
into place. I sat down at our dining table and slowly, sluggishly, typed out a
short story called 'Frank'. I followed this up with another story, featuring
the same character, for the charity anthology Resistance Front. It just so happened that two well-known scifi
authors—Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster—also had stories in Resistance Front.
I guess it went on from there. At that point,
10,000 words seemed an impossible figure to achieve, but I decided to push
myself. I had an idea for a sci fi serial, about a ship that gets sucked into a
black hole and flung far from home (See what I did there?). I decided I would
do one a month, for twelve months, and write them as connected episodes. So
twelve episodes, when combined, would make up a 'season', like a TV show.
It was tough going. It would take me a few
weeks to write each episode, then I'd spend a couple of weeks editing and
revising. But I stuck it out. All in all I wrote three 'seasons' worth,
totaling about half a million words.
That was good practice. You learn by doing,
and I made every mistake possible to begin with. But something fantastic
happened—as I was releasing each episode, they were really taking off. They
built me an audience, and a following eager for more from these characters I'd
created. When the twelve episodes were done, I packaged them together into a
collected edition, and it hit #1 in is category for over two months. So I not
only learned how to write, but along the way I got paid for my efforts. I was
soon raking in a second income.
With three 'seasons' worth under my belt, I
fancied trying my hand at something new. I wrote a short, violent fantasy novel,
The Bloody North, and a Young Adult horror, Past Dark. But there was one idea that wouldn't go away.
I have a passing interest in Fringe
Science—hence my twitter handle, @Fringescientist. It's things like telepathy,
clairvoyance, that kind of thing. The idea I had was for a woman who had known
a great trauma, and had some kind of psychic ability 'awakened' by the event.
But there was something about it, I couldn't quite it down on paper. I couldn't
wrangle it into a short story, so I stopped trying and let the idea rest. Well,
in 2015 I finally felt ready. I had an idea for a serial killer plot, but it
was missing that all-important 'something' that makes it special. In 'Silence
of the Lambs' it was the relationship between Lecter and Clarice that took the
book to the next level. That's the kind of thing I was looking for. Inevitably,
my thoughts returned to that story idea of a psychic with a troubled past. I
put the two together, and had the concept for Hope's Peak.
I think there are two important things to
take away from this:
1. It took me several years, and half a
million words, to get to the point where I felt ready to write Hope's Peak.
2. The story came together in its own way.
Over time, it came together, and that's not something that can be forced or
How did the deal with Thomas
& Mercer come about?
My friend (and frequent collaborator) Bernard
Schaffer was publishing some things co-written with J A Konrath through the
Dystel & Goderich agency. The lovely lady he was working with there was an
agent called Sharon Pellettier. If I'm remembering correctly, Bernard
introduced me to Sharon, and I mentioned that I was nearly finished with a
novel. She was interested to read it so, when it was completed, I sent it
Now, she's a very busy woman. Has a lot going
at any one time, so it took a short while for her to get to Hope's Peak, but when she did . . . she
wanted to represent it straight away. We sent it around to a few publishers,
and Thomas & Mercer put an offer in for Hope's
Peak and a sequel. I've been very lucky, really, in that I've had a pretty
smooth ride—and both my agent, and my publisher, have treated me very, very
From your online biography, I
discovered you live in Sussex, England. There’s racial tension in England, but
you showcase American racial tension. Why did you set your book in North
Carolina, not say, Hastings or Brighton?
I couldn't imagine the story working anywhere
else. You know, one of the things you consider is how you open a novel. What's
the reader's first sensory experience as they turn the page and start reading?
I pictured a black girl, raped and strangled, left in a field of corn. Green
stalks swaying in the breeze, rustling like paper. Straight away, you have a
sense of place. You feel that weight in your heart for the victim. Not a woman.
A girl—denied the chance to even begin having a life before it is taken away
from her. In that first chapter I sought to establish a lot, and I remember
rewriting it and rewriting it until I got it right. Until it clicked. I wanted
the clinical detachment of the coroner. The strong-headed main character,
seemingly facing the impossible. Her 'complicated' relationship with her
partner, Stu. But at the center of that is the girl. Robbed of everything, and
crowned. To me, it was totally about the killer, Lester, taking ownership of
her. He was marking the girls as his property, his conquests, his creations
almost. I thought that was very interesting and unsettling.
I truly didn't feel the story would work in
the UK. I'd also been watching True Detective, and just fell in love with
that kind of setting. Vast, open space. A sense of foreboding in every frame. I
thought it would work perfectly with the story I wanted to tell.
When a young, black woman’s raped
and murdered body is found in a field, detectives Stu Raley and Jane Harper are
assigned the case. There are indications that the killer could be a fledgling
serial killer, but then their boss, Captain Morelli hands Jane a file for a
similar killing that happened decades ago, which Stu and Jane find is the first
case of many that have been suppressed by the town’s governing families. What
motivated Morelli to reveal this case, and why would town leaders suppress such
To answer that would be revealing far too
much. All I can say is that readers will get their answers in Storm's Edge, the sequel to Hope's Peak, which picks up a few months
later and deals with three things: What happens next for our characters Jane
Harper and Ida Lane; who covered up the murders of those poor young girls? And
lastly . . . why? Who is behind all of this?
I saw Hope's
Peak as a story of two halves. One, a serial killer. Two, a conspiracy in a
small coastal town. The first book dealt with the killer. The second . . .
well, you'll see.
There’s only one character in
the book that I think is totally innocent. You’ve even provided some of the
victims’ histories showing them not to be pristine in character. Why?
Nobody is squeaky clean. Everyone has dark thoughts. Everyone has
something in their past, in their history, that they're not too pleased about.
That's just being human. If you're going to write about people, they can't be
clean-cut angels who do nothing wrong. That's untruthful writing and, most
important of all, it's very boring.
Does everyone have a vice?
Yes. And if you say you haven’t, you're full
of shit (hahaha!).
Black detective Albert Goode
fascinated me. How does he play the race card?
I don't think he does. He's young, black and
gay. He's innocent and offers a different perspective to what's going on.
Harper can get pretty cynical, sometimes. I thought it was interesting to have
a character in there, a protégé type, who wasn't so beaten by life already.
He's fresh-faced. You'll be happy to learn Albie is very prominent in Storm's Edge. He's a great character
and I enjoy writing him.
By storytelling through the
killer, you turned the police procedural mystery into suspense about three
quarters through the book. Why?
Because I think you can only keep the
boogeyman element going for so long, before you get fatigued. Yes, it's cool
showing a killer slaughtering people. Kidnapping them, doing things to them.
We've seen all of that a million times. But what's even more interesting is
getting inside their head. Establishing them as a villain and then, at a
certain point in the book, rounding them out. Making them a character in their
own right. Yes, Lester is an evil, sick, deranged murderer. But he's also a
human. As hideous as that notion is, you can't deny that that's how it is in
real life. Also, by telling things from his perspective, we got a glimpse of
what made him that way. Nobody is born a killer. They evolve into that. Why
wouldn't you want to show some of that? Otherwise, what you're writing is a
You provide the reader with a
glimpse into the killer’s history and sexual depravity. Having four daughters,
was it hard to write? Was it important to tell his story?
It was very hard, very uncomfortable. But you
know what? You write what makes you squeamish. The secret fears you harbour
inside yourself, your phobias, your nightmares . . . you funnel all of that
into your fiction, somehow. It just happens.
I have seen a lot of reviews mention the
killer's sex scenes in the book. Some are grossed out by them.
That's the point.
What I wanted to do was show our heroes, Jane
Harper, Stu Raley, as having 'loving' sex. I don't go into detail, I gloss over
it. Love making, as in real life, is best when it's a private, secret act
between two people. It's an exclusive connection between two lovers. I didn't
want to sensationalize that, or make it pornographic.
Lester having sex, however, was a different
thing altogether. I wanted to make it graphic, and sort of gross to read. I
wanted it to turn your stomach. This is a perverse man, who kills young women
for kicks. He thinks he knows how to love, but he doesn't. So I wanted to
differentiate the two in the book, and I think I succeeded in doing that. It's
not to everybody's taste, of course, but I can't help that. You write what
you've gotta write. But what I didn't want to do, was have what our heroes
experience lumped into the same category as what Lester, the killer, gets up
to. One is love. The other—what he does—is, as you say, depravity.
Ida Lane was my favorite
character. She smokes, drinks, swears, and she’s also a survivor with a courageous
heart. Have you met anyone like her upon whom you based the character?
I think she's an amalgam of a lot of people
I've encountered in my life. I think she's also a part of me, too. It's
interesting, when you write a book filled with characters because you start to
realize that all of these people you're populating your story with are you.
Okay, maybe not Lester!
But all the others, there's something of
yourself in them. Even if it’s just in the way they conduct themselves. Their
attitudes to life. Hopes and dreams. Somehow, all that stuff gets into your
book and your characters. I think Ida's perspective on the afterlife, in
particular, is pretty close to my own.
Are you hooked on writing mystery?
Yes, but I'm hooked on writing in general. It
can be sci fi, fantasy, romance, mystery, you name it. It's the story that
grabs me first and foremost. The rest—the category that that story falls into
when you've written—is secondary.
Do you write full time or do
you have a day job?
I have a day job. I work until midday, and
then I write in the afternoons. This sometimes rolls into the evenings too, but
mostly I like to read, or Netflix and chill J
On vacation, do you want to go
to the mountains or to the beach?
Both? Can I have both?