Author Jean Hackensmith is here today, taking about writing and her latest book and projects!
Thanks so much for agreeing to be with us today, Jean! What 5 things should readers know about you?
- First and foremost, I’m the mother of three, stepmother of two, and grandmother of twelve wonderful grandchildren. My children and grandchildren are the light of my life.
- I’m a recent widow. I lost the love of my life, Ron, in November of 2011 when he died in an accident at work. I got the proverbial phone call that no wife wants to receive. I miss him dearly and always will.
- I’ve been writing since the age of 20. That’s thirty-seven years, and yes I’m revealing my age. To me, writing is an addiction. I have to spend some time each day, even if it’s only an hour, doing something on my current book. It might be writing a paragraph or two, or doing some research, but I have to do something or I don’t feel fulfilled.
- I absolutely love live theater and, in fact, founded our local community theater back in 1999. I’ve directed upwards of fifty shows over the years, but appeared on stage in only two. (Anna in the King and I, and Miss Hannigan in Annie.) I’ve found that I’d rather be behind the scenes than in front of an audience. There is a certain amount of pride involved in watching a show come together and knowing that you had a hand in its success.
- My other love is dogs. I have three. A Cocker Spaniel, a Jack Russell Terrier, and a Black Lab. They’re my children now, since mine are all grown and gone with families of their own.
So sorry to hear about your husband. I know how difficult that is. We also share a love of theater–I co-directed eight junior high drama club productions–I’d definitely rather be behind the scenes!
Tell us all about your main characters—who are they? What makes them tick? What one thing would they need to have with them if stranded on a desert isle?
The main character in Identity Crisis, and the entire B.K. Investigations series, is Brian Koski. Brian is a former police captain with the Cheyenne, WY Police Department. After rumors regarding the suspicious death of Dan Hamilton (the villain in Checkmate, book one in the series) reach the new Chief of Police, Brian is forced to resign. Left with few options, he starts his own P.I. business. Brian is somewhat of a playboy. In fact, in one review I was criticized for his perception of women as playthings, but that’s just who Brian is. As I explained in the blog on my website, this vice gives Brian room to grow as a man and as the main character in the series. He is also a bit of a “rogue” when it comes to police work. Brian definitely does not follow the rules. He does what he needs to do to help his clients, and if it means breaking a few laws along the way, oh well. That’s what makes Brian so much fun!
The second main character is actually Brian’s dog, Sinbad. A former NYC police dog, Brian acquired Sinbad from a trainer when the dog displayed a fear of loud noises. The dog freaks during thunder storms, or when a train goes by. Helicopters also make him turn tail and run. The only loud noise Sinbad is not afraid of is gunfire. The dog’s fear actually makes for some very funny scenes and, I believe, will endear him to readers as much as it has endeared him to me.
The last main character is Katrina Cordova. When little Angela Patten is kidnapped in the book, Katrina informs Brian that she knows where the girl is being held. She saw it in a vision. Katrina is psychic, but she has her visions only during thunder storms (unfortunate for Sinbad!) Her visions are right on the mark, detailed and accurate, unlike a lot of other psychics who speak in generalities. One recurring vision, however, has nothing to do with Angela. It is of a massive explosion, where hundreds, perhaps thousands of people will die. This particular vision will become more detailed in each successive book, giving Brian more and more information as to the time and location of the explosion, and will reach is culmination in the final book in the series.
If stranded on a desert island, Brian would have to have a woman to survive. No contest there.
Excellent answer–to all of the above 🙂
If your book were being cast as a movie, who would you want to play the main characters?
It would be a dream come true to see Tom Cruise play Brian.
Katrina is dark and sultry, so Angelina Jolie would be perfect to play her.
For Sinbad? Any famous Belgian Malinois out there?
Sigh…I still love Tom Cruise. I’d totally be there 😉 Not a clue about the Belgian Malinois, though…
How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been writing for close to forty years. My first manuscript, titled Tender Persuasion, was a 1300 page monstrosity that, understandably, was never published (though I did steal the title later for another book). I was hooked, though, and have been writing ever since. I would have to say that, in the beginning, my mother was my inspiration. In fact, I was talking to her on the phone when the first line of that first book just kind of appeared on a piece of paper on the counter in front of me. (I was always a doodler when talking on the phone.) I read my mother the line, and she said, “Now that would make a great first line for a book!” and she was right. That manuscript is long gone now. In fact, my ex-husband burned it when I left him. But I still remember that first line. It was, “Jennifer McCall awoke with a scream on her lips.” My mom was always my biggest fan, even when I was a child and would write little stories. She read each of them and always encouraged me to follow my dream.
Moms are awesome like that 🙂
What do you like best about being a writer?
Having the ability to spin a tale that helps my readers to leave their problems behind, if only for a short time, and become immersed in someone else’s life.
Another good answer!
What is the most challenging part of being a writer?
Research, research and more research. Like most writers, I strive to make sure that any and all of the facts in my books are correct. I do have to admit that it’s a lot easier now than it was years ago. In fact, a computer and the Internet are a writer’s best friends. I still remember those days when I would haunt my local library and come home with stacks of books to sort through to find the information I needed. Frankly, it sucked. Now, however, when I’m in the middle of a book and run up against something that needs to be researched, I just jump on the internet, find what I need, and get back to writing. It’s wonderful.
Seriously, I often wonder what we did before computers. It’s amazing how much information you can get in seconds! Though I do miss going to the library as much as I used to…
What are you working on right now? What can readers look for from you in the next year?
I do have book three in the B.K. Investigations series plotted and about twenty pages actually written, but my current project is about as far removed from the mystery genre as you can get. My son has been bugging me for years to co-author a science fiction book with him, and that’s what I’m currently working on. Ever wondered what would happen if a neutron star were on a collision course with earth? Probably not, but you’re about to find out. Its massive gravitational field would pull the earth apart piece by piece. We earthlings would have little choice but to venture out into space and search for a new home. In my current book, Exodus, that’s exactly what the human race does. They build space ships, massive ones, and head for the Alpha Centauri system. Each of the ten ships being constructed worldwide hold 100,000 people. The problem? That’s only a million people, and there are over eight billion souls on the planet. So, who gets to go????
Yikes—scary to think about. And you’re writing with your son? That’s fantastic!
What authors and/or books have inspired you?
Kathleen Woodiwiss, hands down. I started out reading her romance novels and, at first, that’s what I wrote. Honestly, though, after twenty-odd years and ten or so romances, I became rather bored with the typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl break up, and then get back together plots. That’s when I also discovered Dean Koontz. What I love about his books is that you never know what to expect. He isn’t bound by any particular genre. He’s written mysteries, thrillers, sci fi and main stream. That’s what I now strive to become known for, also. I’ve written romances, yes, but I’ve also written a main stream novel about a small town guy running for President (We the People), and the first book in the B.K. Investigations series (Checkmate) was actually dubbed a “thriller” by my publisher. Now I’m working on the sci fi novel. Like Dean Koontz, I don’t want to be predictable.
What are you currently reading? What are your thoughts about it so far?
Unfortunately, I’m not reading anything right now. I’m too busy writing!
You have a perfect excuse!
Please share a favorite scene from your book with our readers.
Excerpt from Identity Crisis:
“Mr. Lanaski? I’m Brian Koski. We spoke last week?”
“I have nothing to say to you.”
Once again, the tall, blond man attempted to slam the door in Brian’s face and, also once again, he prevented the action.
“I’d beg to differ on that point. You’ve been harassing my clients, Collin, and in particular, their little girl. It has to stop before you land in jail.”
“Angela, or rather Courtney, is my daughter,” Lanaski ground out. “I may not be able to prove it right now, but I will. And, when I do, it’ll be them sitting in jail. Not me.”
“So, why don’t you tell me about it, Collin? Why don’t you invite me in and explain why you’re so certain that Angela Patten is your daughter?”
The taller man, taller in fact by three inches, studied the private investigator for a long, arduous moment. His deep blue eyes almost seemed to look right through Brian, and the former cop had to quell the shudder that threatened to wrack his body. There was definitely something eerie about this guy, and Brian cautioned himself silently to stay on alert…if Lanaski agreed to let him inside, which apparently he had.
“Okay, I’ll talk to you…but only if you agree to hear me out before you come to any conclusions.”
“Agreed,” Brian answered readily.
Lanaski opened the door wide, then stepped aside and allowed Brian to enter. The experienced cop sidled into the room, never letting his eyes leave the other man. When the door had been closed and Lanaski had seated himself at a table in the small dining area, Brian relaxed…at least somewhat. He moved to scan the myriad of pictures that hung on the wall in the equally tiny living room. Most contained the vision of a lovely, platinum blonde–haired woman. In some of the photos, Collin stood beside her. In all of them, with the exception of the wedding photo in the center of the collage, one or the other held a child—an adorable little towheaded baby girl ranging in age from birth to three years old. Other pictures featured only the child in various stages of growth. She definitely had the same hair color and facial features as Angela Patten, but the seasoned detective was well aware of the fact that, at that age, a child could resemble anyone you wished them to.
“Are these pictures of your wife and daughter?”
“They were beautiful.”
“Yes, they were…and Courtney still is.”
Brian turned…and got right to the point. “So, tell me about the dog tags.”
“I’m former Air Force. 1st Lieutenant. I always wore my dog tags, even when I was home on leave. From the time Courtney was three months old, she would play with them whenever I held her. She was fascinated by them. Before I left for Iraq, I told my C.O. that I had lost one of them, so they issued me a third one, which I gave to Courtney. I wanted her to have something to remember me by.”
“How long was that before the accident? When you went to Iraq, I mean.”
“About six months.”
“And your wife and daughter stayed here, on the base?”
“They couldn’t very well go with me.”
Brian ignored the snide remark. “And Courtney was what? Three years old when you left?”
“Actually, she was only two. She turned three while I was gone.” His eyes teared suddenly. “You know, I was never here for even one of her birthdays. I wasn’t even here when she was born.” He looked at Brian. “And I haven’t been able to be there for her birthday for the last four years, either.”
Brian also chose not to comment on the other man’s reference to Angela’s last four birthdays and continued the questioning. “So, finish telling me about the dog tag you gave her. Why are you so convinced that your daughter would have been wearing it the day of the accident?”
“Because she wore it on a chain around her neck, and I told her to never take it off. I told her it was magic and would keep her safe, and she took me literally!” Collin stood to wander the room and, surprisingly a slight, reminiscent smile curved his lips. “Whenever I talked to Lynn—”
“Lynn was your wife?”
He nodded. “She would tell me how she couldn’t pry the damned thing off Courtney. Even when she’d give her a bath, she had to leave it on or Courtney would throw a fit. She’d tell her, ‘my daddy’s, my daddy’s.’ She even wore it to bed, which actually worried Lynn, because she was afraid the chain might get tangled or caught and choke her.” He turned to Brian. “She would have had that dog tag on the day of the accident, Mr. Koski, but when I viewed what was left of their bodies after I got home, it wasn’t around her neck and the coroner swore he didn’t take it off her. There was also the whole thing with the car seat.”
“The car seat?”
“We bought a new one just before I left for Iraq; the old one was worn and just kind of nasty since she’d been eating, and sometimes peeing, in it for two years. I remember the new one vividly, because I had such a hell of a time getting it secured in the car. It was a Dora the Explorer car seat, a limited edition, more of a booster seat style. It didn’t really have sides on it. The one that was in the car, though, was the wrap-around kind, like for a younger child. It was also on the wrong side of the car. Lynn always insisted on having the car seat on the passenger side in the back seat, so she could look over her shoulder and see Courtney. The seat in the burned-out car was behind the driver and, again, the police and the coroner insist that nobody moved it.”
“I’ll admit that’s a little strange, but it doesn’t prove—”
“Yes, it does! You would had to have known my wife to see that it does prove it. Lynn was a meticulous type person, especially when it came to Courtney. That car seat was always in the back seat on the passenger side, and it was found behind the driver’s seat after the accident!”
“And there are any number of reasons why she might have moved it. The seat belt on the passenger side might have broken, or the seat itself became unsafe. The position of the car seat does not in and of itself prove anything. And, even if it did, you had only the one child and that one child was found in the car after the accident.”
“Then what about the scar?”
Brian’s eyes narrowed. “What scar?”
“The scar on Angela Patten’s right shin. She fell out on the playground one day and skinned her knee. When I rolled up her pants leg to clean and disinfect the cut, I noticed that she had a scar on her shin. Courtney also had a scar—in the exact same place! She fell off a swing when she was just over a year old and cut her leg. Lynn had to take her in for stitches…and it left a scar!”
Brian’s chest rose in a sigh. “Kids get bumps and bruises and cuts all the time, Mr. Lanaski. All kids. It’s not that much of a stretch to believe that Angela could have injured herself in the same place that Courtney did.”
“It is a stretch! When you combine it with everything else, all the other discrepancies, it’s a stretch!”
“Your daughter is dead, Mr. Lanaski,” Brian countered gently. “As painful as that is to accept, she died in that accident, along with your wife, and there was a body to prove it.”
“My daughter is not dead! I know it! I would feel it if she was. I felt that pain when I viewed Lynn’s body, but I never felt it when I saw Courtney because that child was not her! She’s alive, and somehow the Pattens got ahold of her. They’ve been raising her as their own daughter, and she is mine!”
For the first time since arriving at the Lanaski home, Brian caught a glimpse of the man that Collin Lanaski had become. His fists were clenched, his eyes wild, his jaw tense. Even the veins in his forehead threatened to burst with his level of agitation—agitation born of an incredible, all-consuming grief.
“Mr. Lanaski, please, you have to be reasonable—”
“I said, get out! Get the hell out of my house! Go back to your clients and tell them that I know! I know they took my daughter and I will damn well kill them if I have to to get her back!”
“You’d better watch the threats, Mr. Lanaski.”
“It’s not a threat. It’s a promise,” he ground out.
“Are you aware that your wife had filed for divorce?”
Lanaski did a double-take, and the rage left his eyes in an instant. “What?”
“Thomas Mathison, the lawyer who is not going to take your case by the way, was actually retained by your wife a few months before the accident. She was going to divorce you, Collin. She just didn’t want to tell you while you were in Iraq fighting for your country. She was going to wait until you got home.”
“That’s impossible.” Lanaski’s voice came out in barely a whisper. “We had a good marriage.”
“Apparently she didn’t think so.”
“Get out,” he growled.
“Is it possible that your wife saw this side of you, Collin? The side I’m seeing right now? The psychotic, delusional, crazy part of you?”
“I said, get out!”
“You need help, Mr. Lanaski. You’re in full-fledged denial. You need help to accept your daughter’s death, and you also need help with your anger issues. If you don’t get that help, the anger is going to fester and the delusions are going to grow, and you’re going to be a danger to everyone around you, including the children in your class at Lebhart that you’ve sworn to nurture and protect—”
Lanaski’s eyes widened with a sudden dawning. “You got me suspended, didn’t you?”
“When I went into work this morning, I was called into the principal’s office. She suspended me until the whole Angela Patten situation, as she put it, had been settled. That was you, wasn’t it? You told her that I’m psychotic and delusional!”
“I did talk to Mrs. Sampson, yes. Whatever action she took was her decision. Not mine.”
“You need professional help, Mr. Lanaski. Please, see someone before this escalates out of control.”
Collin advanced toward Brian slowly, methodically. The former police captain held his ground, even as the final, scathing words poured from Lanaski’s mouth. “Angela Patten is my daughter. I will never believe otherwise. The Pattens are the ones with a problem…a big problem…and that problem is me! They took my daughter—when and how I don’t know yet, but trust me, I’ll find out. And when I do, they’ll damn well give her back to me or they’ll find themselves lying dead in a ditch somewhere! And you, detective, if you try to stop me from proving my claim, will be lying right beside them.”
ABOUT JEAN HACKENSMITH
I have been writing since the age of twenty. (That’s 37 years and, yes, I’m disclosing my age.) I am the proud mother of three, stepmother of two, and grandmother to twelve wonderful children. I lost the love of my life, my husband Ron, in November of 2011 when he died in an accident at work. He took my heart with him and, for a time, my desire to write. Time, as they say, heals all wounds, and I have again discovered my passion for the written word. In fact, I find it strangely comforting to delve into the intricate webs that are my character’s lives and immerse myself in their existence instead of dwelling on my own.
Next to writing, my second passion is live theater. I founded a local community theater group back in 1992 and directed upwards of 40 shows, including three that I authored. I also appeared on stage a few times, portraying Anna in The King and I and Miss Hannigan in Annie. I am sad to say that the theater group closed its final curtain in 2008, but those 16 years will always hold some of my fondest memories.
My husband and I moved from Superior five years ago, seeking the serenity of country living. We also wanted to get away from the natural air conditioning provided by Lake Superior. We moved only 50 miles south, but the temperature can vary by 20-30 degrees. I guess I’m a country girl at heart. I simply love this area, even though I must now enjoy its beauty alone. I love the solitude, the picturesque beauty of the sun rising over the water, the strangely calming effect of watching a deer graze outside your kitchen window. Never again, will I live in the city. I am an author, after all, and what better place to be inspired than in God’s own back yard.
ABOUT IDENTITY CRISIS
When rumors of how Dan Hamilton actually died reach the Cheyenne Chief of Police, Brian Koski is forced to resign his position as captain of the Sixth Precinct and go into business for himself as a private detective. His partner? A mahogany colored Belgian Malinois named Sinbad. A former NYPD police dog, Sinbad is vicious when need be and reliable to a fault–unless a train goes by or there’s a thunderstorm, then chances are he will turn tail and run.
Brian’s first clients are Jeff and Melody Patten. He’s an explosives expert for a local demolitions company, she’s a stay-at-home Mom. Both are devoted parents to their young daughter, Angela. The problem comes in the form of one Collin Lanaski, an unstable ex-Air Force lieutenant and Angela’s second grade teacher, who suddenly starts insisting that Angela is his daughter—the same daughter who died in a tragic car accident four years earlier. What does Collin base this incredible revelation on? Dog tags and car seats. Brian is convinced the man has suffered a psychotic break. He’s delusional and dangerous, and it becomes the P.I.’s job to protect Angela from a madman.