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Interview with Jessica R Patch

You may think an author who "likes all things girlie-girl," and counts rose gold as one of her favorite colors, would mostly write sweet, heart-warming romances set at a gently moving pace, that involve somewhere in there tender moments with a handsome fireman, or a picnic in the park, or cute babies.

Not Jessica R. Patch.

The majority of the books she's penned includes almost 20 category length novels for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense that contain ruthless killers, callous drug lords, and all sorts of other remorseless criminals. Her newest release, Her Darkest Secret, just might be the darkest story of them all.

This novel is written for Love Inspired Trade, making it an extended-length book, and it is a gritty, psychological thriller that reads at a lightning-speed pace. It tells the tale of a cold-case serial killer, identified as the "Nursery Rhyme Killer," who murdered the heroine's sister two decades ago, and is now out to kill the heroine.

Writing about homicides, combined with the author's love of "girlie" things, is one reason the tagline on Jessica's website – which she made up herself and this writer thinks is very clever – is this: "An author who loves pink, but her stories run red!" The color red, of course, refers to murder and blood in her novels, but something else that might surprise you, is that Jessica says the red also refers to "more importantly, Jesus!"

And Jesus, and the hope He brings, is one takeaway that is in all of Jessica's novels now, and will be in all of her novels in the future.

"No matter how dark life gets, no matter how uncontrollable or desperate the circumstances, there is always hope in Jesus Christ. If readers can get past the scary/suspenseful parts, they’ll get to the light, the hope, the grace, and mercy of our God. I contrast light and darkness in all my books. Some books the darkness is pitch black and deeply sinister. It makes for a backdrop of even brighter light. Sometimes the darkness is dusky. It depends on the book and the story, but all are filled with hope."

One reason Jessica writes in the genres of Christian suspense and psychological thrillers is not only because it's a good way to illustrate her above point about having hope even in the darkest moments, but also because she's a Christian who wants to encourage other Christians by using spiritual threads they can relate to as well as be challenged by. Jessica also writes in these genres because she herself loves reading mysteries (they are always whodunits), and because she's fascinated with the psyche of people, in particular the bad guys, and loves exploring what shaped them.

Lots of "exploring" no doubt was done for the books so far that are in the Strange Crime Unit (SCU) series. Her Darkest Secret is book one, and A Cry in the Dark, which releases early at Walmart this December, is book two.

Evident in the name of the series, these novels deal with strange crimes, with the first novel having a serial killer known as the "Nursery Rhyme Killer," who stages his victims in nursery rhymes and leaves a lone goose feather as his calling card.

Many authors pull several experiences from their own lives to incorporate into their novels. Thankfully, Jessica has never had any serial killers chasing her down, but she says she thinks all of us have lived through some scary situations. While none of hers are in Her Darkest Secret, she says fear has been felt by everyone at one time or another, so that is a feeling everyone can relate to. One item Jessica says is personal, though, is the nursery rhymes aspect.

"My grandma used to tell them to me before bed when I’d stay the night. One in particular stuck with me, and while it’s not the first staged scene in the novel, it's the one I saw first when plotting it. I’m sure my late Grandma Smith will be so proud her sweet bedtime poems became the driving force behind a sadistic killer! Ha!"

Listening to a family member tell her stories when she was young was one thing Jessica enjoyed that later gave her an idea for part of one of her novels. Watching movies with family members as an adult is something Jessica now enjoys, and something that one time—and one time only!—gave her an idea to write something similar from the movie into one of her books.

"The only movie I've ever taken to a book is The Long Kiss Goodnight (which I can't necessarily recommend because it has a bit of language) about a female assassin. I loved that movie and wanted to write my own take, so I did with Recovered Secrets, which is published with Love Inspired Suspense—minus the language."

Since Jessica hasn't had personal experience dealing with the likes of serial killers and the law enforcement agencies that go after them, as well as the procedures used by different agencies to catch these killers, how then does she write realistic novels about these things?

Research. Lots of research. And not "research" obtained via watching fictional TV shows or movies either.

"Most of my research in law enforcement comes from someone I know. A friend from school is now an FBI agent, though I can't use his name due to the nature of the job. How do you like that for suspense? He was extremely helpful in my research for Her Darkest Secret and aiding me in making my fictional unit believable. I'm also good friends with a retired CID detective with the local sheriff's department and one of our local ADAs—so that's always helpful. And, I have a family member who was undercover with the DEA who worked SWAT. Cop shows don't usually get it right, so I never go by TV. I talk to professionals, read books written by professionals, or take classes taught by professionals."

One facet of her novels that she doesn't have to do research on is the faith aspect, because she's lived that out plenty in her own life through the years. She shares her faith and her love for Jesus with others by writing devotions; by writing and teaching Bible studies; and serving as the Biblical Studies and Women's Discipleship coordinator at her church. Ten of her devotions have been published with Guideposts in their Every Day with Jesus book. In a section of her monthly newsletter, Jessica also writes devotions that encourage and inspire women to forward-living.

"Equipping and encouraging the body is at the heart of everything I love to do, so it’s only natural to do it through both fiction and devotions, because not everyone reads fiction – though that's just crazy!"

For those of us who do read fiction, we're lucky Jessica "kept the faith" by keep on, keeping on, and continuing to write and submit her fictional manuscripts. Jessica wrote her first book in August 2008 and gave it to her mom for Christmas. She then kept writing more and more novels before pitching to agent Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management in February 2011. Rachel offered Jessica representation in September 2011, and in November 2011, Rachel submitted Jessica's novel—not her first, but her 12th novel! Jessica assumed she'd have a contract in a month or so.

But … no. She waited and waited, and continued to write more novels – eight more, in fact. At that point, God gave Jessica a new vision, a new direction, so she trusted God and obeyed. She wrote one more novel. She sent the proposal for this novel to her agent in February 2014. In March, an editor requested the full manuscript. In October, the editor asked for revisions, and at the end of January 2015, Jessica got THE CALL. Her debut novel with Love Inspired Suspense, Fatal Reunion, was published in January 2016.

Jessica—and many readers—are so glad she persevered!

"I love sharing real faith and hope through fictional stories. Most of my books are set in the South where I live. This has been a blessing, being able to write for God's glory."

She lives in northwest Mississippi, but says she is literally five minutes away from Memphis. Jessica loves everything about living in this part of the South, except the wasps.

Her future fictional writing plans are many. She already has out a three-book proposal with her editor for a new Love Inspired Suspense series. Jessica's current work in progress is tentatively titled, Every Dark Intention, and it is book three in the Strange Crime Unit (SCU) series. It is in the plotting stage right now.

Since this third book is still in the plotting stage, and since Jessica sets most of her books where she lives, and since she hates wasps … maybe this book or some new ones will contain a serial killer who uses the venom from wasp stings on his victims! Or, since Jessica has a pet Shetland Sheepdog named Wyatt, maybe that dog will be in the book helping to catch criminals in some way? Or … since Jessica has stray cats who like to hunt vermin and bring them home, maybe Jessica will put cats in her next novel who like to bring home other things – like body parts! Or … perhaps Jessica's love of collecting recipes to amazing dishes will be incorporated into her next novel by the killer poisoning people with these elaborate dishes!

Who knows if Jessica will put one or more of these kind of things into any of her next novels? Guess we will just all have to wait to find out – and hope that the suspense doesn't kill us!
Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

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