What inspired the idea for your book?
KLP– In Book One, my protagonist, Olivia Callahan, suffers a major life setback that sets her on a series of disastrous decisions, one of which lands her in the bushes outside an ER, a victim of a vicious assault. When finally arising from a TBI (traumatic brain injury), she finds her difficult recovery had left her a completely different person—her brain had rewired itself in amazing ways. Instead of being shy and passive, she was now assertive and quirky. Driven.
The idea for this character plowed its way into my brain when I met a woman to whom this very thing had happened! She’d been in an auto accident that left her in a coma for months and months and had little hope of survival. When she arose, her personality had been flipped by her healing brain. I loved the idea of a ‘flipped personality’. Talk about second chances! And the more research I did, the more I realized that the brain can heal itself in a thousand ways, none of which are predictable. This makes for a great, character-building exercise as an author.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?
KLP– Since I already knew the background of my characters…many of their personality traits and life goals and family issues…I was free to more deeply explore these characters. Leaving the basics behind, I reached for the deeper, more insidious aspects of each life, and intertwined them with the stumbling blocks and obstacles that each character experiences in their separate life journeys alongside my protagonist, Olivia.
If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together?
KLP– My protagonist, Olivia, is my favorite, and I love the woman she is becoming after the disastrous assault injuries. She was not even expected to survive, but because of the TBI she experienced which changed her personality, she is discovering a side of herself she never knew existed. We’d explore different kinds of good wine, make jokes about her giant, ginger, tomcat, Riot; talk about dating and the various ways to uncover the proverbial ‘ rotten apple’ in order to avoid catastrophe. Blindsided by her abusive ex’s divorce filing and an affair, we’d make sure that the life lessons Olivia had learned would stay intact by holding each other accountable. We would celebrate the blossoming of a new, better life and a new career, one that is exciting and exhilarating, but also a bit dangerous. In short, we’d be best friends forever.
IR– What does it mean to you to be called an author?
KLP– For me, being called an ‘author’ is a nod to the discovery, later in life, that I can wrap stories into words that tantalize and thrill. Words that have meaning and nuance and take a reader on a journey. I was certainly surprised to learn that not everyone could do this, and now I take huge satisfaction in putting words together to craft a story, and keep learning the best ways to do it. I don’t think an author can ever stop learning the craft.
IR– Do you have any quirky writing rituals?
KLP– Oddly enough, I have this weird procrastination that occurs whenever I place butt-in-chair in order to start writing. I’ll open a new pack of gum, clean off my desk, check my email. Check the weather. Check email again. Check texts. Then FB. Finally, I’ll zip in my earbuds, choose an instrumental station, and start. When the words start flowing under my fingers, it’s like getting high in the best way.
IR– What do you look for in a story as a reader?
KLP– I look for good grammar, an understanding of POV, and good sentence structure. I look for well-edited and formatted books. I can read the back cover copy, usually, and know whether I’d be interested in the book. Bad grammar or head-hopping or chronically misspelled words throw me out of the story. I love a well-written, tense, opening prologue or chapter that promises more suspense and tension moving forward.
IR– What has been your favorite reader feedback?
KLP– My all-time favorite is: “I couldn’t put it down!” And also, “I fell in love with Olivia!” I write in the suspense genre, so of course, I want to keep a reader on the edge of his seat. But I think the most endearing thing a reader can express is their absolute hatred of an antagonist or their complete adoration of one of the main characters. To me, the intimate bonding they’ve experienced with my characters thrills me like nothing else.
IR– What is the first book that you remember reading?
KLP– I started reading from an early age, thanks to a mom that dragged me to the library every place we lived. I cannot pinpoint a first one, but I remember at age 10, reading a series that changed my life. Trite as this may be, it was “Pollyanna.” These stories about Pollyanna, the child of missionaries waiting with glee for a barrel of donated goodies, taught me the power of words. Pollyanna played something called the ‘Glad Game.’ When things were tough, as they often were, she would tilt over the circumstance and find something to be glad about instead. It was a wonderful, wake-up call for me as a child, to discover I could be optimistic in the face of rejection, despair, disappointment, or failure. The power of words, i.e. stories; is a wonderful thing.
IR– What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
KLP– Go to writing conferences that are dedicated to the genre in which you want to write. Learn what differentiates one genre from another…this is so very important. Join a writing club in your area, there are many. Listen to published writers that do seminars on Zoom or in person. Don’t expect your first draft to be any good at all…it takes several edits to refine it. Don’t give up. Explore the industry, look up publishers and submissions guidelines. Read these publishers’ blogs. There is a wealth of information there. Do your research before submitting anything, all the instructions to submit to each publisher are unique to that publisher. I’d suggest a professional edit on the first manuscript before sending out.
IR– What are you working on in the near future?
KLP– Book Three in the Olivia Callahan Suspense series! And I’m exploring an idea to write a psychological suspense series set in the Carolinas. Also, the possibility of a Book Four and Five for Olivia.
IR– What are your top 5 favorite books or authors?
KLP– “The Gift” by Louise Jensen
“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides
“61 Hours” by Lee Child
“Her Three Lives” by Cate Hollahan
“The Testament” by John Grisham
IR– Name three fun facts about you or your work.
- I name many of my characters with the baby names I selected for my four kids but did not use!
- I love cats and have had one as far back as I can remember. Right now, I have two.
- My husband and I met online and found out we’d gone to the same college, at the same time, but had never met. Also, the last four digits of our socials are the same. Coincidence? I think not.
by Kerry L Peresta
May 1-31, 2022
Virtual Book Tour
Just as the pieces of her life start falling into place, she stumbles across the still-warm body of an old friend who has been gruesomely murdered. Her dream of pursuing a peaceful existence is shattered when she learns the killer left evidence behind to implicate her in the murder. The only person that would want to sabotage her is Monty—but he’s in prison! Something sinister is going on, and Olivia is desperate to uncover the truth before another senseless murder is committed.
After an assault that landed her in a hospital as a Jane Doe two years earlier, Olivia Callahan has regained her speech, movement, and much of the memory she lost due to a traumatic brain injury. The media hype about the incident has faded away, and Olivia is ready to rebuild her life, but her therapist insists she must continue to look back in order to move forward. The only person that can help her recall specifics is her abusive ex-husband, Monty, who is in prison for murder. The thought of talking to Monty makes her skin crawl, but for her daughters’ sake and her own sanity, she must learn more about who she was before the attack.
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Suspense, Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 168512092X (ISBN-13: 978-1685120924)
Series: Olivia Callahan Suspense, Book 2
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
“How low you fall points to how high you’ll rise.”
The stark buildings and barbed-wire-topped walls surrounding the correctional facility reminded me of a Hitchcock movie.
My fingers tightened on the steering wheel. I found a parking spot, and waited in the car a minute, taking in the starkness and finality of a prison compound. My heart did a little lurch when I thought about Monty—my ex-husband and the father of my two daughters—inside. Incarcerated. I guess since I hadn’t seen him since his indictment, it didn’t seem real.
However, I’d learned that having sympathy for Monty was like having sympathy for a snake just before it sank its fangs. “It’s been eighteen months. You can keep it together with this psycho,” I hissed to myself. I hiked my purse onto my shoulder and walked out into the buttery sunshine toward the visitors’ entrance.
I presented my driver’s license, endured a frisk, offered my hand for the fingerprint process, and walked through the metal detector, which of course, went off. With stoic resignation, I endured another frisk, a few hard glances from the guards, and eventually pulled the culprit from the pocket of my pants, an aluminum foil candy bar wrapper.
While I waited for Monty at one of the small, circular tables in the visitors’ room, I scanned the list of do’s and don’ts. Hands must be visible at all times. Vulgar language not allowed. No passing anything to the prisoner. No jewelry other than a wedding band or religious necklace.
I stared at my hands, sticky with sweat. My heart beat in my throat.
I lifted my curls off my forehead and fanned my face with one hand. Three other visitors sat at tables. One woman with graying hair piled like a crown on her head stared at the floor. When she noticed that I was looking at her, she raised her head and threw me a sad smile. A younger woman at another table struggled to keep two young children under control, and an older couple with stress-lined faces whispered to each other as they waited. The room had tan, cinder block walls, a drop-in ceiling with grid tiles that probably hid video cameras, and a single door. No windows. A scrawny, fake plant in one corner made a half-hearted attempt at civility.
The metal door opened. My thoughts were mush, a blender on high. Could I do this? After two years of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and every other kind of therapy the docs could throw at me, shouldn’t I react better than this?
Remember, they’re only feelings.
I squared my shoulders. Wiped my palms on my pants.
As Monty offered his cuffed wrists to the corrections officer, he scanned the room under lowered eyelids. When he saw me, he gave me a scorched- earth glare. After the guard removed his handcuffs, he shook out his arms and rubbed his wrists. The raven-black hair was longer, and brushed his shoulders. He’d been working out. A lot. He wore a loose-fitting top and pants. Orange. As usual, he was larger than life, and in the bright white of the visiting space, surrounded by matching plastic tables and chairs, he was a raven-haired Schwarzenegger in a room full of Danny DeVito’s. I’d once had hope for reconciliation. The thought gave me the shakes now.
He dropped into the chair across from me and plopped his hands on the table. “What do you want?”
I spent a few seconds examining his face—this man I’d spent twenty, long years trying to please, and the reason I’d been assaulted and left for dead by Niles Peterson, a wreck of a man whose life Monty had destroyed as well.
The man responsible for my convoluted recovery from a brain injury that stole my past. Even after two years, I still had huge gaps in my memory, and staring at him felt like staring at a stranger instead of an ex-husband. “My therapist says I need to look back to move forward. I wanted to ask you a few questions, that’s all.”
“Okay,” he grumbled. “I’ll give you a few minutes. Oh, and you’ll love this. I have to attend counseling sessions about how to keep my ‘darker dispositions’ under control, and I have one of those in thirty minutes.”
Resisting a smile, I quipped, “Are they helping?” He rolled his eyes. “What are the questions?”
“I still have problems remembering stuff. There are things I need to… figure out about who I was before—”
“Before you hooked up with my ole’ buddy Niles?” he interrupted, with a smirk. “Before you threw away everything we had? Before you got yourself in a situation that could’ve gotten you killed? Before you started treating me like a piece of shit?”
I was careful not to react. I’d had enough therapy to understand how to treat a control freak that tried to make me the reason he ended up in prison. That part of my life—the part where Monty had been in charge and his spouse had to obey or else—was over. “Are you done?” I asked.
He clamped his lips together.
I folded my hands on the table and leaned in. “I’ll get right to the point. What drew you to me in the first place? What was I like before the accident, from your perspective?”
Monty tried to get comfortable in the plastic chair. Beneath his immense bulk, it seemed like a child’s chair. “Is that how you’re dealing with it?” His lips twisted in disgust. “It was an assault, Olivia. He tried to rape you, for God’s sake.”
I looked away. “It’s over, and he’s in the ground, thanks to you.”
He crossed his arms and glared. A corrections officer lifted his hand. With a grunt, Monty slapped both hands on the small table where the officer could see them.
After a few beats, he sneered, “You mean besides the obvious attraction of an older guy to a high school girl?” “Give me a break, Monty.”
He chuckled. “You were kind of…I don’t know…scared. I was drawn to you in a protective way. You were shy.”
I frowned. “What was I scared of?”
“Your crazy mom had married some jerk that kept you off balance all the time. Don’t you remember him?”
I thought for a few seconds. Nothing came.
“That coma still messes with you, doesn’t it? Well…might be good not to remember. Maybe he did things to you that he shouldn’t have.” Monty raised his eyebrows up and down.
I wanted to slap him, but I kept my expression neutral.
“A brain injury recovery is unpredictable. I still lose memories, even if someone has drilled them into me. I’m trying to use visualization. I have this feeling…that if I can see it, the rest will be like dominos.”
“So you may not ever remember? Even the good things about our marriage?”
I laughed. “We must have very different perspectives about the word ‘good’, Monty.”
Monty’s jaw muscles flexed. “Next?”
“Was I a capable mother? Was I available and…loving to the kids?”
Maybe it was my imagination, but his lower lip quivered. Did the guy have a heart after all? I’d always believed he loved our daughters. I hoped this was true.
“Olivia, you were a good mother. We had our problems, but you made a good home, and took excellent care of the kids. You were at every freakin’ event, every school fundraiser, everything.” He scowled. “I took a big back seat to the kids.”
“What problems did we have? When did they start?”
He leaned in. “You don’t remember our sex life? How terrible it was? Nothing I could do would get you to….” He shook his head. “You couldn’t even fix a decent meal. You should have been grateful you married someone like me so I could…teach you things.”
“Keep your voice down!” I insisted, embarrassed.
He cocked his head and grinned. “You always had this…desperate need for my approval or whatever. And when you conveniently avoided telling me you weren’t taking birth control it caused a lot of issues that could’ve been avoided.” He snorted. “Like being in here.”
I tried to rein in my disgust.
“So, let me get this straight. Your priority in our marriage was sex and good food and to pin all our issues on your child bride?” My tone hardened. “A young woman who came from a single-parent home? Who had no understanding what a good and normal guy was like?”
He gave me a look that could peel the skin off my face.
“How did you react when I didn’t do things the way you wanted?” I continued.
“Like any man who’d been disrespected. I corrected the issue.”
“How? By yelling? Physical force? Kicking your pregnant wife in the stomach?” This was a memory I had recovered.
A vein pulsed in his neck.
“How often, Monty? Were these reactions a…a lifestyle in our marriage?” “Look,” he snarled, “I don’t know that this is productive.”
“It is for me,” I said, brightly.
I glanced at the closest officer. He had his hands full with an issue at one of the other tables.
“Mom told me that Serena and Lilly floated out to sea one time, on a rubber raft. Do you remember that?”
His eyes found a spot on the wall.
“So you do remember. What happened?”
“Look, they were, I don’t know, four and six or so. I didn’t think it would be a problem for me to run grab a drink from our bag, and come back. I was gone less than five minutes. How could I know they’d lose control of the raft?”
An earthquake of anger shot through me. “You turned your back on a four-year-old and a six-year-old and expected them to have control of a raft? They were babies!”
“Yeah. Well.” He rose. “Looks like this question thing of yours isn’t working for me.” He pushed his chair in with a bang. The correctional officer gave him a look. Monty strode to the officer’s station and held out his wrists. Adrenaline made me a little shaky after he’d gone, but it wasn’t from fear of the man. My therapist would call this real progress.
I left the room and gathered my things from the visitors’ processing center. As I walked out of the prison facility, all I could think about was…why? Why had I married this guy? And stayed for twenty years? I couldn’t even remember myself as a person who could do that.
At least I’d dragged more information out of him. I was determined to piece together the puzzle of the past I’d lost.
Excerpt from The Rising by Kerry L Peresta. Copyright 2022 by Kerry L Peresta. Reproduced with permission from Kerry L Peresta. All rights reserved.
Kerry’s publishing credits include a popular newspaper column, “The Lighter Side,” (2009—2011), and magazine articles in Local Life Magazine, The Bluffton Breeze, Lady Lowcountry, and Island Events Magazine. She is the author of three published novels, The Hunting, women’s fiction, The Deadening, Book One of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series, and The Rising, Book Two. Book Three in this series releases in 2023 by Level Best Books. She spent twenty-five years in advertising as an account manager, creative director, editor, and copywriter. She is past chapter president of the Maryland Writers’ Association and a current member and presenter of Hilton Head Island Writers’ Network, South Carolina Writers Association, and the Sisters in Crime organization. Kerry and her husband moved to Hilton Head Island, SC, in 2015. She is the mother of four adult children, and has a bunch of wonderful grandkids who remind her what life is all about.
Catch Up With Kerry L Peresta:
BookBub – @kerryperesta
Instagram – @kerryperesta
Twitter – @kerryperesta
Facebook – @klperesta
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GREAT interview! And not just because I love you! LOL
“The Testament” is my favorite John Grisham book, and I have read many!
And, also fellow cat lover! 🙂
So excited about reading this book!
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Thanks Wendy! You are so sweet! Glad to know we have much in common!! I love following you on Insta. Stay fabulous.
Thanks for the fabulous opportunity to interview!
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We enjoyed talking to you