Where the Truth Hides by Liane Carmen Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Buried secrets can be deadly.
Becky Morgan has a life most women would envy until a car accident lands her in the hospital. She insists she’s fine, but it quickly becomes clear she’s changed. She’s forgetful, paranoid, short-tempered. Her husband wants to write off her change in personality to the IVF hormones she's taking in an attempt to get pregnant.
Becky's best friend, Jules Dalton, is a gorgeous, single woman, with a habit of sabotaging relationships. When Jules loses the man who could have been “the one,” she confronts the realization that being adopted at birth is contributing to her trust issues. She’s obsessed with finding out why she was given up and turns to DNA testing in hopes her matches will lead to her birth parents.
As Jules dives into her DNA results, Becky’s life soon becomes one she doesn’t recognize. Those closest to her are accusing her of things she simply can’t explain or remember. She’s terrified of losing everything: her career, her marriage, and her dream of becoming a mother.
Desperate to put the pieces of her shattered life back together, Becky needs her best friend more than ever. What she doesn’t realize is that Jules knows something that could explain everything away.
Becky has a dark past she’s unaware of. A darkness that’s coming for her.
The ding of the elevator announced her level, and Becky subtly glanced in his direction as the doors slid open. She stepped out, keys in hand. Her anxiety ramped up as he stepped out as well—right behind her.
She knew exactly where her car was located and walked swiftly in that direction. The sound of footsteps hitting the concrete echoed behind her. It was the middle of the day. Of course there would be other people in the parking garage. The feeling she was being pursued, hunted even, overwhelmed her.
She couldn’t help herself. As she spun around ready for a confrontation, she frowned as there was no one behind her. Her senses were on high alert as she looked for any flash of movement that would tell her where he’d gone, but she saw nothing.
She took off running in the direction of her car. When she was safely inside, she slammed the button to lock the door. Sucking in a huge breath of air, she then exhaled loudly. No monsters appeared. No one was chasing her. So why did she feel like someone was?
I've always been an avid reader and a fan of the suspense/thriller genre. Several years ago, we decided to solve a family mystery using DNA and my obsession was born. My love of writing and my new addiction led to my first novel, "Where the Truth Hides", newly released in May of 2020. It will kick off a series of books delving into the mysteries that DNA can reveal.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Writing books, especially novels, has always been on my bucket list. Ideas spin around in my head until they drive me crazy (currently, there's about three new books swirling around in there!).
Finally, one storyline idea took hold and just wouldn't let me go. I couldn't come up with a worthwhile answer as to why I couldn't turn it into a novel, and so it began. I do have a full-time job, working in marketing for Coca-Cola (so you'll probably notice my characters drink only Coke products). Writing was part-time. Evenings, weekends, days off, vacation time—all spent with Becky and Jules.
There was a huge learning curve, and the cutting room floor is littered with my schooling. If anyone wants to see some great deleted chapters, let me know. There are tons!
I started to love spending time with my characters, and sometimes even I can't wait to see what happens to them. Watching a blank page suddenly craft a story is exhilarating!
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I'm a huge animal lover. About a year and a half ago, my son (and me as his mother, of course!) started fostering kittens to meet his service hours requirement for high school. He surpassed his hours early on, but somehow there is still an endless parade of sweet fosters that come through. I'll give you one guess who's doing the majority of the work!
We have kept a couple of favorites, but for the most part, we have a completely different mindset when we foster. We're there to give them tons of love (and get them used to people, other cats, and a rambunctious puppy) until they're ready to go to their forever home. The day they go home with their new family makes me feel amazing.
Some of my favorites tug at my heart a little, but that's when I call the nonprofit I foster for and send up an SOS—need new kittens!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
This will probably sound terrible, but my DVR is filled with what my boyfriend calls "murder TV." I love true crime shows! I also can't resist anything about DNA or reunions. I'm beyond excited about the new show, The Genetic Detective, and Long Lost Family just gets me every single time.
Otherwise, a true treat is time to read a book. I mostly read suspense/thriller, but I'm not a read a chapter per night kind of girl. I need to read the entire book in a sitting or two. It's usually a weekend plan where I ignore the laundry and responsibilities calling me. I tend to read very fast but retain very little. Once a book is finished, and I'm on to the next, only the truly extraordinary stories stay with me. Lately, that would be Verity by Colleen Hoover. I can't stop thinking about that book!
How do you spend your spare time?
When I'm not writing, I can't resist a good DNA hunt and have helped numerous friends solve their own family mysteries. One friend looked for her birth mother for two years, and I found her in two hours. I called her up, and in my best Lisa Joyner Long Lost Family voice told her, "I found her." If you've never researched in Ancestry or on your family tree, it's completely addicting. When you look up from your computer, how long you've been sitting there will astound you. Right now, I've been working on my father's maternal line. My eleven-times great-uncle is the brother of the first Governor of the Plymouth Colony who came over on the Mayflower. Any other Carvers out there I could be related to?
The most intriguing part of a DNA hunt, which I tried to capture in Jules's storyline, is the overwhelming coincidences that seem to turn up. The woman above who I helped had adoptive parents named Fred and Caroline. Her birth mother's parents? You guessed it. Fred and Caroline. Another friend and I searched for years for her birth father. We had his name, but it was a common Hispanic name. We didn't have a middle name, which made it very hard until a close DNA match solved the case. Her biological father's middle name turned out to be Benjamin—the same name my friend had given her only son. These coincidences happen so often, it really makes you think about the forces at work out there.
What inspired you to write this book?
Someone in our family was adopted, and we set out to see if we could use DNA to find their birth family. I became both fascinated and obsessed!
It's estimated that over 26 million people have taken an in-home ancestry test. Some do the test just to learn their ethnicity. For the most part, that's what all the commercials promote. But for those that are adopted like Jules, this science can help to finally answer the question of where they started.
What people are not always prepared for is that this tiny little tube could also be taking them down a path they didn't even know existed. DNA can uncover family secrets and truths people thought would be taken to the grave. Sometimes DNA hits you with a whammy, and those are real, conflicted emotions to feel.
In our search, we uncovered a secret or two. More than one person asked: is DNA ever wrong? After much research, I have found the simple answer. Families keep secrets, and people don't always tell the truth, but DNA doesn't lie. It appears that maybe that little tube should come with a warning label. Spit at your own risk, because the truth is about to be revealed.
This realization led me to the idea for my book and the books that will follow. The stories and secrets surrounding what DNA can uncover are endless.
What can we expect from you in the future?
More mysteries with Becky and Jules. They're so affected by what they learn from DNA that they open up a DNA Detective Agency to help others. Just get ready. Much like real life, sometimes their searching doesn't go quite as they expected.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I knew I wanted to write a story about the secrets that can be uncovered by doing a DNA test. We have been touched by adoption in our family, so I wanted one of the main characters to be searching for her birth parents. It was important to me to tell that story. Jules had a great family and upbringing, and yet, she yearned to know why she was given up. It was affecting her ability to find a relationship. For some adoptees, not knowing presents a big void that impacts their lives in ways non-adoptees can't imagine.
The other topic I felt strongly about was infertility. So many women are impacted, but they stay silent as if there's a stigma associated with it. I wanted Becky to shine a light on the struggles and emotions that surround wanting so badly to be a mother. All you warriors, I see you on Twitter and Instagram. I follow your stories. I smile for you when you realize your dream and shed a tear when you don't.
Who do you believe is the audience for your book?
I do believe my book is meant for women. Although men have read it (and said they enjoyed it …), I think the topics and emotions from the main characters will resonate more with women. The story is as much a DNA mystery as it is a story about the friendship of Becky and Jules.
Anyone fascinated by DNA, or anyone who has used it and become obsessed like I have, should be the perfect reader for this book. My hope also is that women impacted by infertility or adoption will see themselves represented by Becky and Jules. And of course, there's my suspense readers. If you love a book where you try to guess the ending but get a huge twist at the end, this book is for you.
Are there personal references in the book?
There are hidden meanings throughout the book that those who know me probably can't help noticing. Sherlock, Becky's cat, just happens to be the name of my own socially-awkward orange tabby. I lost my twelve-year-old golden retriever while I finished this book, so the restaurant where Jules has her blind date became Riley's in his honor. Riley and my newest golden, Tucker, also get a nod with the reference to the golden retriever rescue.
Becky's address is also personal. The town she lives in and the street are all related to where I live in Florida.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
If you check out the acknowledgments at the end of the book, you'll see some familiar names!
It's funny how character names just appear on the screen. Friends and acquaintances alike may be surprised to find their names. The people I used to babysit for, my junior high best friend, my high school best friend and her husband, a work friend and the names of her three dogs, the mother of a DNA match, my childhood best friend's mother. It's endless.
Lucy, a mystery match of Jules, was also the name of a mystery relative I found in my own DNA search. I thought perhaps I had a family scandal (I can't lie, I was a little excited), but she turned out to be my grandmother's much younger sister I never knew about. My aunt had been looking for Lucy for over twenty years! I love that I was able to connect them, and my fellow genealogists will understand my glee when Lucy sent me a treasure trove of old photos, birth and marriage certificates, obituaries. Family tree heaven.
What was the strangest twist to a character name you used?
Probably the most ironic name in my book is a character named Jonas. One of my favorite authors is a writer named Jonas Saul. If you haven't read his books, look him up because you're missing out! Jonas really connects with his readers. He asks them to vote on covers and book titles. He sends postcards to his readers when he travels for book research. My favorite thing about Jonas is that he writes his readers' names in as characters in his books. Send him your name and you're on the list. So, as I started writing Where the Truth Hides, his book, The Pact, Book 17 in his Sarah Roberts series, was released and there I was: Liane Carmen, police officer. It was so cool that I decided to return the favor and included his name in my book (not that I expected him to be nearly as impressed as I was!).
Fast forward a few years (yes, it took me that long to perfect this book), and Jonas posts a Facebook note that he is offering editing services. Well, I thought I was finished with my book, but how could I resist the chance to work with one of my favorite authors? He's as wonderful in real life as I always imagined and has been an incredible mentor to me. So now he has a place not only as a character in my book but in the acknowledgments as a friend as well.
What did you enjoy most about writing and publishing this book?
Seeing my book evolve from the earliest draft (which was way too long) into the version readers have today has been a labor of love.
I felt like the first draft gave away the twist too early, and I hated that. As a suspense reader, I always try to figure out what's going on throughout the book, but I don't REALLY want to be right! When I started circulating the revised draft to beta readers, I felt this tingle when they told me they didn't guess the ending. But those were people I knew. Were they just being nice?
When I put advance review copies out there, I held my breath. When time and again, reviewers said they loved it and were shocked by the ending. I let out a sigh of relief. One of the reviewers wrote, "You probably shouldn't try to guess the ending. If you do, good luck getting it right." I loved that! There is nothing more gratifying than knowing something you put your heart and soul into has been enjoyed.
Do you feel connected to your characters?
It might sound odd, but Becky and Jules feel like friends of mine. When I have to go a little bit without writing about them, I kind of miss them! I feel like we should be scheduling a happy hour or some girl time to catch up.
Even as I wrote about their individual struggles, I wanted so much for them to find what they were looking for, but I also had to be realistic as a writer. There's not much suspense if everything goes perfectly.
In Jules's hunt for her birth parents, I wanted to show the reality of what could happen. Some reunions are welcome and heart-felt, and sometimes an adoptee doesn't get the reaction they're hoping to get. I wanted Jules to have a little of both. In the next book, The Inheritance, Jules will get some resolution with her birth mother. She just needs to have a little patience.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
What I love about Becky and Jules is they're a little like all of us. They're not perfect and maybe even a little crazy sometimes. I mean, who hasn't stalked an ex-boyfriend just a little, right?
Becky moved away when she was young, and never found the kind of friendship she had with Jules. When she moved back, the first place she wanted to go was to reconnect with Jules. She has a loving husband, but Jules is definitely her "person."
Jules is the fiercely loyal friend every woman wants to have. She may be single, but she believes women can have friends who are soulmates, and Becky is hers. She needs the connection the two of them have like she needs air to breathe. Becky is the one relationship in her life she trusts completely.
The two best friends both want something they feel is life-changing. I always envision Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy thinks she needs the ruby slippers to get what she wants most of all but is shocked when Glinda tells her she actually had the power all along. Becky and Jules travel parallel paths toward different goals, but ultimately learn some powerful lessons about appreciating what they already had.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
They say write what you know, right? A good portion of Becky is me, right down to her parking deck phobia. We don't look alike at all though. As I wrote her, I pictured Jennifer Love Hewitt (ala Ghost Whisperer timing) or perhaps Tiffany Amber-Thiessen (post Beverly Hills 90210 – the first 90210 for people younger than me!)
Although the DNA obsession is all me, Jules is mostly based on my best friend Stacy, right down to her red and black cowboy boots and huge smile. While she wasn't adopted, she is still single which I will never understand. Just like Jules, she's quite fabulous! Her younger self was always what I pictured as Jules started to take shape, although Stacy does spend her spare time trying to figure out who she wants to play her in the movie. I think currently Jessica Biel is in the lead …
Tonya was based on a running buddy, and Becky's husband Bryan is loosely based on my boyfriend. Yes, there are men that love to cook, and I'm lucky enough to have one of them!
I didn't know my boyfriend when he was Bryan's age, so his visual was different. I actually work full-time for Coca-Cola in Sports Marketing. (Right now you're probably thinking, Aha, now I know why her characters only drink Coke products.) It was the beginning of football season, and I was at the coach's table for a UCF kickoff luncheon. As I looked across the table at my coach crush, Scott Frost, I thought, well, damn, he's the living breathing version of Bryan. (He coaches for Nebraska now which made me really sad, but look him up and see what you think.)
What did you edit out of this book?
Too much to mention! I lost a good deal of the flashbacks: how Becky and Bryan met, Tonya and Becky meeting in college and becoming business partners, the day Becky found Sherlock and tried to sneak him into the house before she told Bryan about him.
I streamlined a good deal of the IVF information. While it was important that the process resonated with authenticity, I understood (or was convinced, however you want to look at it …) that too much information bogged down the story. I didn't want to lose readers that weren't as intrigued by all the elements of egg retrieval, so I took a good deal of the minutia out while hopefully leaving enough so that the storyline made sense.
I also had a great scene (again, I liked it, but perhaps my editor thought it wasn't quite necessary) that really told the story of the IVF hormones wreaking havoc with Becky's emotions. What woman can't understand a little bit of crazy that goes with being a girl sometimes? And to Bryan's credit, he was able to understand it was the hormones talking, so he was able to dismiss a little bit of Becky's stress that she had unloaded on him. Just another reason Becky is so lucky to have him.
Advice they would give new authors?
As a new author myself, it's hard to think I could give worthy advice. I will share the advice I found most valuable, and it came from a fellow author and backed up the way I already felt.
When I started working with Jonas Saul, a fabulous author who also helps fellow writers with editing, he gave me some great insight. He told me that when a book is poorly edited, the reader is let down. They don't feel the author felt they were important enough to spend the money to properly edit and proofread their book. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
It's so important your book is professional so your reader can lose themselves in the story instead of the fact that it's not edited well. There may be writers who disagree, but I don't really think you can do a final edit of your own material. No matter how many times you read it, there are things that are going to slip by you. I had a small typo that an early reviewer pointed out, and even after the told me, I still couldn't see it when I read and reread that sentence. I thought I was going crazy!
How do you feel about reviews?
I never gave much thought to reviews until I became an author. I remember the first one I got on the book for an advance reader copy I had sent out. I keep reading it and rereading it. She loved it! That is the most incredible validation for something you have put your heart and soul (and time and money!) into. Reviews really are important to an author. Good reviews help the author sell more books.
It's important to have a thick skin though. Even the most well-known authors don't always get five stars on their books. Not every book is for every person, and that's okay. But, the ones you do touch – there's no better feeling.
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