Someone's Always Watching in the Latest Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen Novel

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Mother-son team Iris and Roy Johansen have gotten together again for a nail-biting entry in their beloved Kendra Michaels series. In Look Behind You, music therapist Kendra is dragged into another serial killer investigation — but this time, it's personal. Several murders in San Diego are thought to be the work of a serial killer, but when Kendra gets on the case, she links them to famous serial killers from across the country … all done by one man named Zachary. As she works with friends — and a lover — against the clock, Zachary is watching and waiting, taunting Kendra to come find him. 
Since we couldn't put down this suspenseful thriller, we had to get answers from both Iris and Roy Johansen on how they crafted this excellent story!
RT: Were there any real serial killer cases you were inspired by?
Roy: None specifically, but we did study the patterns of dozens of highly-organized killers. That is, killers who are intelligent, methodical and keenly aware of investigative techniques. It’s been said that a great hero needs a great villain, and we agree. The smarter we make our villain, the more impressive Kendra must be to defeat him.
Iris: It also improves the book. A clever and terrifying villain forces us to up the ante, so to speak, to create a suspenseful and scary story.
Different methods of murder, varying investigators and even nerve gas went into this book — what was your research process like? Did either of you speak to authorities to gain better information?
Iris: The murders themselves are purely a result of our twisted imaginations, I’m afraid. I’ve now written scores of dark and unusual murders, and I always do my best to keep things different and interesting.
Roy: Over the years, I’ve consulted many law enforcement officers, most recently with an FBI Agent at the Los Angeles Regional Office. I read a lot, and my DVR is always full of Discovery ID television shows. Much of our research is situational; we think of an idea, then we research the best way to make it correct and plausible.
The culprit for this book is a great reveal, and no spoilers to our readers, but did the two of you debate on who the killer would be? Or did you both know going in?
Roy: We knew very early, and we always felt it was the right choice. The only discussion was how to handle the reveal. It’s a very delicate thing to reveal your villain’s identity; it has to be surprising, but at the same time must be logical and in hindsight seem inevitable.
Iris: It’s important that the reader shouldn’t feel cheated by the big reveal. There’s nothing worse than reading an entire mystery and discovering that the killer is someone who was introduced maybe twenty pages before. You need to play fair with your readers.
It’s interesting that the perspective shifts from our protagonist Kendra to the antagonist Zachary. As authors you know his plans and how close he is to the heroes — what’s it like getting into his brain and writing from that point of view?
Iris: We tried not to have too many scenes from the killer’s point of view — after all, it really isn’t his story — but we wrote just enough to give an added sense of menace.
Roy: Sometimes it’s rather fun to get inside the villain’s head and look at the world from such a nasty perspective. I don’t take any great pleasure from writing the murder scenes, though. It’s much more interesting to explore the sense of anticipation, the glee, as he’s planning his kills.
Do either of you find yourselves trying to identify someone’s traits and habits by their body language like Kendra does?
Roy: As a longtime Sherlock Holmes fan, it’s something I’ve been trying to do since my early teens. I don’t know how successful I am, but it’s been a great help in writing the Kendra books!
Iris: I’ve been trying to do it more and more since we started writing Kendra about five years ago. I would love to meet someone and be able to recite their life history from a mere glance.
This will be your fifth book with Kendra Michaels. How has she changed as a character from book one, Close Your Eyes
Roy: I think Kendra is a bit more open to the cases that come her way. She’s still a reluctant sleuth, but she’s come to realize that her abilities can actually save lives. She’s not doing it for the police or the FBI; she’s doing it for the potential victims out there.
Iris: Kendra is also more able to accept romantic love than she was; after gaining her sight, she spent a long time trying to prove to herself that she was independent, that she didn’t really need anyone else. But we’ve seen that starting to change, especially in her relationship with Adam Lynch. It’s something that will continue to develop.
Both of you write separately; what is it like to go solo after teaming up on a story?
Iris: The process is remarkably similar. I wake up every day and write the most interesting and exciting story I can. Instead of trading off sections to write, in my solo books I just write everything myself. I will say that collaborating forces me to think a little more about what’s ahead, so that we stay in sync.
Roy: The processes are different enough for me that it’s invigorating to bounce from solo projects to collaborations. We have fun playing off each other, occasionally writing each other into corners, but it’s also refreshing to have total control over these stories and characters we each create.
Will we be seeing more of Kendra Michaels and Adam Lynch in the future? Possibly together? (Please?)
Iris: Definitely. We’re already working on the next Kendra book, scheduled for 2018. A lot of it will feature her and Lynch together. We have some exciting things in store for them!
We can't wait for another page-turner from these masterful authors! Pre-order your copy of Look Behind You from one of these retailers: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Indiebound
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