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Deserving: On VENGEANCE and the writing of Lost and Found

Apr 05, 2012 in Fiction, Guest Posts, Mulholland Authors

Day 272 - The view from across the roadThe desire for retribution is a theme familiar to all crime and thriller authors, and it has to be one of the strongest. Never is a character’s motivation more compelling than when they determine to go after somebody who deserves to die―no matter what―and it’s personal.

I’ve touched on vengeance many times in my writing. My ex-army-turned-bodyguard heroine Charlie Fox has a lot in her past to be vengeful about, and while she may be wary about crossing the line, that doesn’t mean she won’t do it if she has to.

But not this time.

When Lee Child first contacted me about contributing to a then-unnamed MWA anthology, I agreed (bit his arm off at the elbow is probably a better description) and asked him if there was a theme. “Good people doing bad things for the right reasons,” came his typically succinct response. “Dark justice.”

Dark justice.

That sounded damn cool to me. But although Charlie is a troubled girl, she’s never really embraced her dark side. And I wanted this tale to be dark. I don’t really write noir in the true ‘everybody dies without redemption’ sense of the word, but I love the hardboiled edge.

Here was an opportunity to take that edge and push it just a little further.

The basic idea for Lost And Found came very quickly. Almost as soon as I’d got the email from Lee. Working out the best way to get the story across, though, that took me rather longer. Meanwhile, the deadline crept ever nearer.

Now, every writer knows that nothing concentrates the mind quite like a deadline, and as the story grew and took shape in my head I knew I was going out on a limb with it in both style and structure. As soon as I started to write, the thing that came over most strongly to me was the staccato rhythm of the piece, partly from the natural urgency within the story, and partly from using present tense.

I wanted to tell the story using two intertwined narratives, so first-person was out, but rather than two third-person viewpoints, I went for one in third and one in second-person.

From there it came in a rush. A tale of two men whose lives touched and parted, leaving indelible scars on them both. And the ultimate act of vengeance one is driven to commit upon the other.

When I sent the piece to Lee, I did so with the proviso that there were still a few weeks to go before the deadline: “So I still have time to write something else …”

Within a few hours he’d come back to me—I won’t tell you exactly what he said, but I will say I’m thinking of having the email framed and hung above my desk. Suffice to say that the story made the cut of VENGEANCE, as it was written.

I am enormously proud to have it there.

Zoë Sharp wrote her first novel at fifteen and created no-nonsense ex-Special Forces-turned-bodyguard heroine, Charlie Fox, after receiving death-threat letters as a photojournalist. Her work has been nominated for the US Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Benjamin Franklin, and Macavity Awards, as well as the CWA Short Story Dagger. Find out why Lee Child said, “If I were a woman I’d be Zoë. If Jack Reacher were a woman, he’d be Zoë’s main character, Charlie Fox.” Follow Zoë on, @authorzoesharp

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