This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Eliot Parker, whose new novel is A Knife’s Edge. Here is the publisher’s description:
Six months after a drug cartel infiltrated Charleston, Ronan McCullough continues to fight the drug war that plagues the city. His investigations are halted when the body of a mutual acquaintance, Sarah Gilmore, is found in the trunk of a burning car. In an investigation that takes him deep into the professional and personal life of the victim, McCullough discovers secrets lurking in her past, and a tangled web of personal and professional conflicts, suspicion, and betrayal. Was Sarah killed for those reasons or something larger? As Ronan seeks answers, his life and the lives of those closest to him are used as pawns in a deadly game that has no ending.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Eliot Parker:
There are several parts of my book that are scary. One scary component of the novel is the sheer level of violence that occurs, at times, in the book. The violence is not present by happenstance because it is necessary to move the plot of the story forward. For example, in the book, Ronan and the police are trying to manage a crime wave and increased drug activity that is plaguing Charleston, West Virginia. Ronan gets pulled away from that work when the body of a mutual acquaintance, Sarah Gilmore, is found butchered in the back of a burning car. The investigation takes him deep into the personal and professional life of the victim. Ronan discovers some secrets in Sarah’s past and also discovers a tangled web of personal and professional relationship contacts. Ronan has to determine if those conflicts lead to her death or was it something larger, and Ronan gets some answers, and puts himself and his family into harms way. As I got into the story and got to know my characters on a deeper level, I realized that the only way Ronan McCullough was going to survive was to become more ruthless than his adversaries.
The work that Ronan does is dangerous work and the physical and emotional toll it takes on him in this book (like in the last book) is tremendous. Those feelings impact Ronan’s relationship with Ty and Nick (his nephew), who Ronan loves more than anything, but struggles to keep them away from his work and keep them safe as the story unfolds. Ronan and Ty have to hide their relationship so that Ronan is not ostracized as a member of the police department and that serves as another layer of conflict. There is a more dangerous, more deadly set of criminals that have moved into Charleston now as a result of what happened in Fragile Brilliance and as they ratchet up their lethal behavior, Ronan has to lift himself up to match the challenge. Ronan finds himself in this book having to fight “eye for an eye” in several moments in order to get the information and help he needs.
The scariest part of my book centers on the premise of the plot. A Knife’s Edge is a sequel to an earlier novel, Fragile Brilliance. One of the subplots in Fragile Brilliance involved Ty (Ronan’s boyfriend and an emergency room nurse) leading a fundraising team at Charleston Mercy Hospital. The hospital was trying to raise money for a new children’s cancer center. In this book, the money has been raised and the new wing has been built onto the back of the hospital. The hospital was able to complete the fundraising thanks to a donation from a new blood diagnostics company called BTech, who was promised a floor of lab space in the new hospital as a “thank you” for the donation. Also, due to a severe state budget crisis, the state of West Virginia no longer operates the state police crime lab in South Charleston, and instead has outsourced their blood analysis work for police investigations to BTech. I was at a bookstore a few years ago and I picked up a copy of Time Magazine. On the front cover was a woman named Elizabeth Holmes, whom the magazine had named as the most influential woman in the country. She founded a company called Theranos which created technology and equipment that could diagnose diseases, infections, illnesses, etc. in patients with just a drop of blood from the end of a finger. The idea was that hospitals and crime labs wouldn’t need all of this expensive equipment that has to be purchased and maintained. Instead, Theranos developed two machines that could do all the blood analysis work. Unfortunately, the company ended up being a fraud, but when I read the story, I started thinking, “What would happen if that type of technology made it into the wrong hands?” That’s when I decided to include it in my plot.
An emotionally “scary” part of the book for me as the writer was writing a sequel to a novel. This is the first time I have ever written a sequel. I think the scariest challenge when writing a sequel, for me, comes with characters. In the second book, you (as the writer) want to make sure that the characters remain true to themselves, but at the same time, you want them to grow and develop as the book progresses. That was a real challenge for me. However, it was so much fun spending time with all of these characters again.
A Knife’s Edge: Amazon
Eliot Parker is the author of four thriller novels. His third novel, Code for Murder, was a finalist for Best Thriller Novel by American Book Fest in 2018. Eliot is a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. A recipient of the West Virginia Literary Merit Award and also a finalist for the Southern Book Prize in Thriller Writing, Eliot teaches writing and literature at Mountwest Community and Technical College.