Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Chris Patchell. She writes Suspense, Mystery, Thriller novels set in the Pacific Northwest. Chris is the author of the The Jill Shannon Murder Series and A Holt Foundation Story.
Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
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Chris Patchell is the bestselling author of In the Dark and the Indie Reader Discovery Award winning novel Deadly Lies. A former tech worker turned full-time author, Chris Patchell pens gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest.
Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn't steal them from comic books.
Her novels have been praised by Kevin O’Brien and Robert Dugoni, and her rich complex plot lines and well-drawn characters will keep you turning pages well into the night. When she’s not writing books or watching football, Chris is hanging out with her husband, kids, and two crazy dogs.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: Vow of Silence. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Thank you, James. VOW OF SILENCE was a challenging book to write. It has an intricate plot which one of my readers accurately described as a puzzle within a puzzle.
VOW is the second book in a series, and it’s always interesting to dream up ways of keeping characters (and storylines) fresh. This story begins five years after the first book ends, and follows the deeds, or should I say the misdeeds, of Jill Shannon. Jill is a complex and rather unconventional antihero. I love writing her stories because I end up doing some fascinating research during the story development phase, and her stories always take me surprising places. There is never a dull moment with Jill.
I’m really excited about my next book, Deception Bay. It’s a bit of a departure from the dark suspense Patchell fans are used to reading—I’ve delved into the genre of Romantic Mystery. I suspect readers will enjoy this new direction as much if not more than what they’ve read previously.
Here’s a bit of what my readers are in for…
The boat pitches and he loses his footing as he scrambles toward the cabin’s opening. He grabs hold of the ladder and climbs down into the darkness below. The bilge pump huffs as it tries to empty the cabin. The water is already thigh-deep—as heavy as wet cement as he struggles toward the red light.
Teeth chattering, he drives his legs forward, gathering his last bit of strength. Stumbling. Reaching. Gasping until he makes it. He tears the radio microphone from its perch. Thumbs the button. He screams out the words in a torrent of panic hoping somebody will hear.
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Dreamcatcher. We’re three miles east of Deception Bay. We are sinking. Repeat. We are sinking.”
Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
Oh, man. I have been heads-down for the last six months working on two books. My family would call my occasional forays outside my office a rare sighting. Most of my appearance of late have been in the form of online Facebook Events with my fellow boxed set authors, where we’ve been talking about our Love Under Fire books. I am going to be giving a talk in Salem, OR later this fall about a topic near and dear to my heart—ways to ratchet up the suspense in your novels. This talk is geared mostly toward writers, but will be fun and entertaining for all. I’ll be reading samples from my own works as well as others from authors I admire to illustrate my points. After that, we’ll see… Need to hit my deadlines first.
The best way to keep up with my happenings is on my Facebook Author site or through my Newsletter.
Several of your novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience for you? Do you recommend new authors going this route to get more exposure?
As a reader, I am a huge fan of audiobooks. Audiobooks saved my sanity on my daily grinding commute through Seattle traffic, and when the audio rights for my books were acquired by Audible, I was thrilled! My goal was to attract a new audience of readers, and I have managed to reach new fans through Audible, but so far the audiobooks have not had a huge impact on my book sales.
My advice to a new author would be that if you can produce audiobooks of your works, great. Do it. I’ve discovered a lot of authors I love through listening to audio. But I wouldn’t consider releasing audiobooks a must-do at the early stages of your career.
You are a part of an Anthology collection called MOSTLY MURDER: Till Death. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other mystery authors?
I don’t often write short stories, so part of the challenge inherent in joining the Anthology collection, was to see if I COULD do it—could I actually tell a compelling story in less than five thousand words? It turned out that FORSAKING ALL OTHERS was a lot of fun to write! I came up with the story over lunch with my husband one day. I was lamenting that I didn’t know what I was going to write and then—poof. The magical muse of story ideas struck and the ideas just came pouring out. The goal of this effort was to expand my audience. The great thing about any Anthology or Bundle is the possibility of cross-pollinating your audience with those of the other authors contributing to the effort. MOSTLY MURDER includes stories that run the gamut from the dark and edgy ones like mine, all the way to cozies. From a reader’s perspective, if you’re willing to risk the literary whiplash, the radical style difference can be kind of fun.
I don’t think that this Anthology had a huge impact on my other sales, but when readers sign up for my newsletter, they get a free copy of FORSAKING ALL OTHERS as a gift. It offers a brief glimpse of the kind of shocking surprises that are in store if you pick up one of my books.
What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
“Hi. My name is Chris Patchell and I write suspense. Deception Bay is my fifth novel.”
Just kidding. Every writer needs a support group and I am fortunate to have a few. First and foremost, I belong to a writing group. We’re small. There are three of us. We all write in different genres, which is great because we all have different strengths and styles. The feedback we give and receive in our critique group makes everybody’s work stronger. I also meet for coffee with a couple of other writers and we often talk about marketing strategies and publishing paths. I love working with authors who have different experiences and perspectives than my own. It makes for great learning and I’ve been lucky to meet up with like-minded people who are happy to collaborate and share.
What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?
People are the most interesting puzzles to solve. My fascination with the darker side of human nature has inspired me to primarily write suspense. I love crafting complex stories lines with realistic and flawed characters that keep people up late at night because they just can’t sleep until they know what happens next. One of my favorite reader reviews started out with “Curse you, Chris Patchell, for ruining my beauty sleep again…”
Things change so fast in the marketing world that I’m always trying to evolve my approach. I’ve signed up for blog tours, done interviews, promotions (both paid and free). Giveaways. Contests. I look for ways to engage people in what I’m doing and my work, because hands-down, nothing sells a book as well as word of mouth. If someone loves your book enough to tell their friends, that’s the kind of thing that makes a difference.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I gave away a lot of copies of my first book, DEADLY LIES. For me, the goal has really been to build a readership, and exposing your work to a broad audience is one great way to do this. My first BookBub free promotion was hands-down the most successful. In two days there were sixty-eight thousand downloads of DEADLY LIES. It was amazing, and the side-benefit was that sales of my second book, IN THE DARK, skyrocketed. IN THE DARK was already doing well, but having the extra boost from the free promotion drove it to number one on Amazon in its categories.
I’ve done other types of giveaways, including Goodreads and Amazon, Facebook and in my Newsletter. Goodreads was an effective way to get reader reviews, especially when I had first released DEADLY LIES. Doing Giveaways through my social media channels is another fun way to reward readers and build engagement.
As far as obstacles go, mailing costs outside the US for print books can add up. Goodreads has also changed its giveaway rules so authors need to give a hundred books away, which unfortunately, is cost prohibitive. It’s too bad because it means that Goodreads Giveaways are no longer a viable avenue for most new and Indie authors.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
Absolutely. My reader list is my newsletter. This is a combination of folks who found me organically through a link in the back of my books, or my website and those I have found through various Newsletter building services, where fans of a particular genre sign up for your newsletter as part of a multi-author giveaway. This has been a fantastic way of reaching new readers. I have also run Facebook ads asking folks to join my newsletter. These Facebook ads are targeted toward people who have an interest in suspense novels and are looking for new books.
You have a great blog. You do a good job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?
Blogging is one of the things I don’t do regularly enough! Between marketing, writing, and spending time with my family, there are not enough hours left in the day to do all the things I would like to do. A few years back, I did build a list of resources for authors who are just starting out, that I maintain on my website. I’ve been lucky enough to have other writers mentor me, and I wanted to do something to give back. When a new author is figuring out how to get their work into the hands of readers, there is a lot to learn. I shared some of what I learned and the resources I discovered along the way.
And because there is never enough time, I prioritize how I spend my days. There are things I’d love to be doing that I don’t do, besides blogging, like running on the treadmill or playing the piano. I always have goals of what I want to achieve in any given week, and those things get worked on first—whether it’s a marketing task or a writing task. Deadlines are usually the drivers for what bumps certain tasks to the top of my priority list. I do assign deadlines (goals) to my writing goals, like when I want to complete specific chunks of work. The two things I’ve learned about myself on this journey are; 1) I need deadlines to keep me on track, and 2) my estimates are ridiculously optimistic, so I hardly ever achieve them. But that said, the fact that I have deadlines and relentlessly drive toward them does motivate me to get more done.
I try not to spend time doing things that I either don’t enjoy or don’t absolutely need to do. Housework gets done, but not to the level my mother would have considered acceptable. Sure, we end up eating out more at the end of a book cycle, but the point is that we all make choices for how we spend our time, and I try and make sure that I’m devoting my time to the things that matter most.
I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of a novel collection called Love Under Fire with twenty other authors. What a great group of outstanding people. (Many have been interviewed on this blog). What was your main objective in bundling your works with other authors? How do you communicate? How did you get involved with this group?
Speaking of Author communities, my second book was a Kindle Scout winner, and I met some really great authors through this program. One of those authors, Fiona Quinn, invited me to join the Love Under Fire group. At first, I wasn’t sure about it. I mean, I knew there was an accomplished group of authors participating, but Romantic Suspense is new for me, and given my other deadlines and commitments, I wanted to make sure that I had a story worth telling. Turns out, I’d had a story idea in the back of my mind that was different than the other books I was working on, and this gave me the perfect opportunity to adapt it to this project and actually finish the book!
The thing I love best about DECEPTION BAY is that it’s lighter and funnier than my other novels. Austin has been a blast to write, and I think people are going to enjoy this story.
The goal of this bundle is to support a great cause—Pets for Vets. There are so many pets in need of good homes and so many Veterans who would benefit from being paired up with a support animal, that I call this a win-win. My own dog, Sasha, was a rescue dog from a puppy mill. We got her when she was about three or four years old, and having spent most of her life in a box cranking out puppies, she was not very well socialized. Because of that, she is a high-strung pooch. We got a second dog (we call him the therapy dog) to help her adjust. Maximus is a Terrier mix with a big heart and he’s been good for her. First thing in the morning, they love to wrestle, which is pretty fun to watch. Of course, the best time to play tug of war with one of their toys is when I’m on a video call. *sigh* Kids. What are you gonna do?
So, Fiona hooked me into the group, and it’s been a great learning experience. I’m amazed by the talent of the other authors. Mostly, we communicate on Facebook. We have our own author group where we share marketing information and encourage each other and learning a lot. Some of these relationships will extend far beyond the bundle.
Author's Book List
Vow of Silence
- The Jill Shannon Murder Series Book 2
Five years after the brutal slaying of her husband, software executive Jill Shannon is ready to take the next step in her life. But with her wedding to prosecuting attorney Conner Manning just eight weeks away, her future father-in-law’s political ambitions for her fiancé threaten all her hopes. Jill’s past holds dark secrets. Secrets she can’t afford to have exposed under the relentless lights of a political campaign.
When Phoenix Detective David Shaw turns up at Jill’s door asking questions about a reporter's murder, he has no idea what a lethal Pandora’s Box he’s just opened. Was the womanizing reporter killed by a jealous husband, or was it related to his drug use? Or did it have something to do with the secret expose the reporter was working on? Jill Shannon looks like a dead-end lead but Shaw can’t shake the feeling the beautiful widow has secrets she’s not sharing.
Jill is caught between the sins of her past and the shattered hopes for her future. Shaw finds himself drawn deeper into a twisted labyrinth of lies and danger. One thing is clear: some vows are made out loud in front of witnesses. But some vows are made in silence, and witnesses can’t be left alive.
Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
- The Jill Shannon Murder Series Book 1
Hurt Jill Shannon once, shame on you. Hurt Jill Shannon twice, and she'll bury you six feet under.
After running fast and far from her painful childhood, Jill Shannon has made it. She has a successful career and is married to Detective Alex Shannon. Together they live out what seems to be a perfect life in Seattle.
The vow she made as a teenager to never again be a victim lies dormant—until one day a reporter lures her to his hotel room under the pretense of an interview—and suddenly it all comes rushing back.
Jill seeks revenge on the reporter, triggering a series of events that leads Jill down a wormhole of retribution, forcing her to spin an ever-widening web of lies.
Meanwhile, Alex is on the case of a series of murders that began as cyber relationships. There seems to be a familiar fingerprint on these crimes, but Alex refuses to believe that the murderer could be so close to him.
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Barnes and Noble
- A Holt Foundation Story Book 2
The deaths of innocents, the birth of evil...
When a single-mother-to-be goes missing on a snowy Seattle night, the investigators at the Holt Foundation fear that the police have zeroed in on the wrong suspect. With the baby's due date weeks away, two lives hang in the balance as the harrowing search for the missing woman unfolds.
For single-mother Marissa Rooney, the case feels personal. With her own daughter still recovering from the trauma of being kidnapped, Marissa is torn between trying to help her daughter recover and her growing responsibilities at the foundation. Her fragile new relationship with the scarred widower, Seth Crawford, adds another layer of complication to an already difficult situation.
Then a second pregnant woman goes missing.
As the Holt Foundation's chief investigator, Seth desperately races to unravel the threads linking the two missing women and their babies. His success or failure could mean the difference between life or death for another innocent woman and her unborn child. Then a chilling clue surfaces, revealing a sinister motive behind the crime. With time running out, Marissa has a secret of her own that could make her the target of a madman and throw all their lives into jeopardy.
Entangled in the roots of a growing madness, Seth and Marissa are in a race against time to stop a killer before he can reap his dark harvest…
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Barnes and Noble
In the Dark
- A Holt Foundation Story Book 1
Marissa Rooney stands in her daughter’s empty dorm room, a half-used vial of insulin clutched in her trembling hand. Brooke has been missing for days. Her roommate hasn’t seen her since that night in the bar. And if Marissa has Brooke’s insulin, it means that Brooke does not.
But Marissa isn’t alone in her terror. A phantom from her past is lurking in the shadows, waiting in the night, and holding her family captive…
In the dark.
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Barnes and Noble
LOVE UNDER FIRE
From around the edges of every day existence lurks mystery, betrayal, greed, and death.
With every turn of the page, feel the heat of adrenaline as fear lights up the night. Fight alongside the tenacious heroes and heroines as they battle for survival. They'll put everything on the line to thwart the evil coming after them.
They want to trust in the power of love. But is it enough?
EVERY SALE HELPS a VETERAN get a PET!!!
Judith Lucci - RUN for your life
Stephany Tullis - Blue Lady's MISSION UNDER FIRE
Fiona Quinn - Cold Red
Anna Celeste Burke - Lily's Homecoming Under Fire
Margaret A. Daly- Monsters in my Closet
Linda Watkins - The Witches of Storm Island, Book I: The Turning
Tamara Ferguson - Two Hearts Under Fire
Suzanne Jenkins - Running with Horses
Inge-Lise Goss - Diamonds and Lies
S.R. Mallery - Tender Enemies
Jinx Schwartz - Baja Get Away
Uvi Poznansky - Virtually Lace
Kathryn Knight - The Haunting of Hillwood Farm
Stephanie Queen - Ace Under Fire
Casi McLean - Reign Of Fire
Valerie J. Clarizio -The Code Enforcer
Chris Patchell - Deception Bay
Aaron Paul Lazar - The Asylum: A Carmen Garcia romantic suspense novel
Alyssa Richards - Chasing Secrets
K.M. Hodge - Summer of '78
Pamela Fagan Hutchins - Buckle Bunny
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Barnes and Noble
She’s armed. He’s dangerous. Together, can they stop a killer from tearing a small island community apart?
When wise-cracking cozy mystery author, Austin Martell, left his hometown on Whidbey Island for the bright lights of New York, he vowed he would never go back. But some promises are impossible to keep, and when Austin discovers that his mother has suffered a serious accident, he has no choice but to return. Austin soon learns that her accident may be no accident at all, and secrets that were laid to rest after his brother’s tragic death off the coast of Deception Bay, have now begun to surface. Austin finds himself in the center of a real-life murder mystery, when Police Chief Ellie Sharpe uncovers a curious connection between the author and the death of a local businessman. Born and raised on Whidbey and trained as a New York cop, Ellie is smart, and tough, and determined to solve the mystery behind the killing before more people die. Sparks fly as the two pair up to figure out who is responsible for the murder. The closer they come to discovering truth, the more desperate someone is to keep the sins of the past from coming to light. Someone close to Austin harbors a deadly truth. Can Ellie unmask a killer before Austin becomes one more secret buried beneath the waves of Deception Bay?
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