When rising star Allie Kramer goes missing and her stunt double is shot on the set of her latest film, Allie’s sister, struggling actress Cassie Kramer, is considered a person of interest. The sisters have already been through more than their share of drama after a killer stalked them and their once-famous mother, and Cassie has never been the same. But she’s determined to find Allie, despite their strained relationship.
Combining the hot genre of dark, female-driven suspense (think The Girl on the Train) with the evergreen topic of sibling rivalry, Lisa Jackson’s After She’s Gone takes readers along for the chase as Cassie tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance.
Jackson’s new thriller is a long-awaited follow-up to two of her most popular books: The West Coast Series’ Deep Freeze (2005) and Fatal Burn (2006), which are being reissued in new mass-market editions to coincide with the release of the latest book in the series.
Jackson, who has published 37 books with Kensington and has almost 20 million copies of her books in print, knows something about sisters—she periodically collaborates with her real-life sister, fellow bestseller Nancy Bush. Jackson talked to us about the role of sisters in After She’s Gone, as well as the source for her energetic writing.
A pair of sisters is at the heart of this story, and you have a close relationship with your sister—one I assume does not parallel the story of Cassie and Allie! How does your relationship with your sister influence your writing?
When we were growing up, there was some sibling rivalry, but we were always pretty close. There were a couple of years between us, and in high school I would say, oh, do I have to hang out with Nancy? [Now] we only have each other. I’ve talked to her four times today and been over to her house once, and it’s only 11 o’clock.
My sister and I think a lot alike, although we play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, I’m the worst with typos. She notices those. She balances her checkbook to the penny. If my checkbook is kind of close, it’s good enough.
Conversely, I’ve always said I’m a big picture person. I am very much, and Nancy is a detail person.
How do you and Nancy determine which projects to collaborate on?
The first book we ever wrote was a collaboration with another gal and it never went anywhere, and that was 35 years ago. About 10 years ago, we were on a road trip and we said, let’s do something together a little different than what we would usually write. [The Wicked series] had a paranormal aspect—all these sisters who have been sequestered away. Let’s give them all a gift and play with that. We had so much fun.
Sometimes it’s a grind, but we try to keep having fun and mix it up a little bit to keep it fresh. We’ve been at this for 37 years. When we had children it was easier because we were more hip, the kids were more hip. Now I have grandchildren, and they’re a little too young to be hip. They’re 5 and under, and they’re not cool yet.
With After She’s Gone, you’ve returned to your West Coast Series. Why did you go back to this story almost 10 years after the publication of the first two books?
I love the characters. I loved writing Deep Freeze and Fatal Burn. The series was very popular, my editor [John Scognamiglio] loved it, and he wanted to see where the girls were today. . . . I ended Deep Freeze with a cliffhanger that I wanted to go into the next book. Then John brought it up again and said, ‘What if we have a stalker and he really likes Hollywood.’ I said, ‘John, that’s Deep Freeze. We can’t do that again!’
I wanted to flip it. I wanted it to be about the sisters and the rivalry. I read Deep Freeze and Fatal Burn again and thought, what am I going to do to these sisters to make them hate each other? It was a switch. It was a challenge. But I also had a lot of fun with it.
Jackson celebrates 20 years at Kensington with her editor, John Scognamiglio.
It sure seems like you enjoyed writing After She’s Gone.
I felt like this book had a lot of energy. . . . If I have high energy in my life, it translates in the book I’m writing.
How do you pursue that invigoration in your life?
My life is never dull. That’s not by choice. I have lots and lots of interests. I have a big interest in my family and my grandchildren and the generation above me, which is falling left and right now. I have business interests and I have charitable interests. I have friends that I don’t get to see enough of. I have a very, very busy life. I think that energy translates.
I don’t get in my chair—which I used to, but I can’t do it anymore—and just sit down and let the day unroll. Now I feel like I have to exercise three times a week because you can’t put it off. You can put it off in your 30s and 40s, but you can’t in your 50s and 60s because [stuff] falls apart.
I read a lot, I watch TV, I read the newspapers. I have more story ideas filed away than I have years in my life left.