Necessary Lies is the story of Jane, young middle class social worker thrust into the world of her poor rural clients. When she learns that one of her teenaged clients, Ivy, is about to be sterilized against her will, Jane finds herself in a moral and ethical dilemma.
The book is set in 1960, so why did you opt for this time?
The sterilization program, designed to prevent "undesirables" from reproducing, really did exist in North Carolina from the '20s to the mid-70s. I chose 1960 because I wanted to illustrate how, even in relatively modern times, this injustice was still occurring.
The book begins in North Carolina, so was this choice motivated by where you live?
I do live in North Carolina which is why I was so aware of the sterilization program when it became big news a number of years ago. North Carolina was the only state that allowed social workers to refer people for sterilization, so as both a North Carolinian and a former social worker, I was anxious to tell the story.
You are the author of twenty one novels, so please tell us about some of the themes that run through them.
Themes that run through my stories are forgiveness, redemption and the strength in families and how families can come in all varieties. I have three grown stepdaughters and am no longer married to their Dad, but for birthdays and holidays, it's not unusual for all of us—my stepdaughters' Mom, Dad, their spouses, my significant other and I—to all be together and get along. I like to write about people finding ways to make their relationships work.
Why is a secret in a novel such a good device for story telling?
I know as a reader, if there is a secret I've got to keep reading to find out what it is. I love twists and surprises and my books are usually full of them. My biggest fear as a writer is being a bore! I think secrets are a great way to ward off boredom.
Who do you most like to read?
I have too many favourites to list! In general, I like writers who create characters I can sympathize with. If I don't like a character, chances are I won't like the book.
How much has your background in psychology affected the creation of your characters?
I think my background gives me good insight into what makes people tick as well as an understanding of the different "quirks" we all have. I also studied hypnosis and have found that a light trance is a great way to put myself inside my characters' heads and hearts.
You were a medical social worker and a psychotherapist, so at what point did you decide that writing would be your way?
I was writing at the same time I was a social worker and psychotherapist and I enjoyed both careers. As the demands of my writing career grew, I knew I was going to have to make a choice. Obviously, I chose writing, but I feel fortunate to have had two careers that I both loved and that allowed me to touch people in positive ways.
Please tell us about the conditions in which you write.
In the mornings, I usually write in a coffee shop. Even if I'm on vacation I find the nearest coffee shop and take my work there. It's a long-held habit that I enjoy. In the afternoon, I work at home, on my porch if the weather is nice or at my desktop if it's too cold or too hot. Either way, I'm writing!
What is next for you?
I'm working on my book for 2014. It's the story of a young woman who discovers that her late sister was a murderer. I expect it will be published this time next year.