Julia Shupe - Psychological Thriller With a Twist
Julia Shupe is a thriller, science fiction, and epic fantasy novelist, and an avid reader of the genres. She has published 4 novels to date, and is currently working on book 2 of the Vanessa Stone series, as well as non-fiction novel about the (elusive) secrets of true happiness. She lives in Las Vegas, NV with her husband, Nat, and their three beloved kitties: Tiger, Baxter, and Ollie. As our Author of the Day, Shupe tells us all about her book, Carved in Stone.
Please give us a short introduction to what Carved in Stone is about.
This is the story of Carlton Tubbs, a man who attacked a woman named Meghan Newton at the age of 18. The novel begins with his release from prison, and skips ahead thirty years to present time. Vanessa Stone, a detective with the Sarasota police department, is pulled into a serial murder case involving eighteen women who bear the distinctive markings of the old Tubbs case. Carved in Stone chronicles one man’s journey into insanity. The novel moves from present-day to Carlton’s past, when he was abandoned by his mother and left at an orphanage. It describes his experiences as a child, including a strange relationship with a child named Smith. Tubbs was a fledgling serial killer who was caught imprisoned and released. But was he rehabilitated? Did he change? Childhood trauma leaves deep psychological scars, but childhood friendships can cut just as deep.
What inspired you to write about someone who is released from prison after 20 years?
A TV show, of all things! Several years ago I was watching a show called “I Survived”. A woman was speaking about surviving a brutal attack by a known serial killer. Her story was so moving I actually cried while watching it. After explaining her harrowing ordeal, she mentioned that she later faced her attacker in court. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, which was a ridiculously light sentence. Later, after his release, he went on to kill two more women. I was astonished that our judicial system could allow such a thing to happen. It got me thinking about rehabilitation. It also made me wonder if man can truly rise above repetitive thought patterns, addiction, and compulsion. When I wrote Carlton Tubbs, I dove deeply into these issues. I followed him after release from prison and imagined the inner battle he would be fighting. Did he win or lose? I’ll let the reader discover…
Your book touches interesting themes, including how our childhood affects us later in life. Why did you find this topic important to explore?
As it pertains to the nature vs. nurture debate, I’ve always been a nurture girl. Extensive research has been done on the topic, and I truly believe (when it comes to criminal deviant behavior) that the environment shapes man more than his genes. I am an avid crime/suspense/thriller reader, and I always seem to connect to the stories that delve into a killer’s past. I want to know how and why people act. I want to know what drives and shapes them. The only way to correct certain behaviors is to understand how and why they develop.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about?
I reviewed over 130 cover submissions. This was the second one I saw! I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. I still gaze at it lovingly from time to time! (I’m pathetic). I wanted a beautiful cover that would pop. I also wanted something that would brand the series for future novels. This cover is very adaptable. When I look at it, I see a beautiful trilogy. (hint!)
Readers say that this is a very dark book - was this intentional?
Yes! You’re right! They do say that. And I’ll admit, I was incredibly embarrassed when I first read that. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly dark person, but when an author inserts herself into a character like Carlton Tubbs (or Smith), it’s difficult not to get swept into darkness. In the novel, I deal with his childhood trauma, including the ways he was abandoned, and the psychological torment that resulted. Tubbs is broken. He is truly insane. To be authentic, I had to be real. To be real, I had to be dark. (PSA: This novel is dark. Skip if you don’t enjoy.) But I think what really makes the reader uncomfortable is Carlton’s humanity. He struggles to lead a normal life, but his imaginary friend won’t let him… Nuff said.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Hmmm. Is cat-mom a skill?
Who is Vanessa Stone and what makes her tick?
In a word, Vanessa Stone is me. I patterned her after myself. I gave her my faults, my imperfections, and my strengths. I’ve always said—if I could go back in time—I would become an FBI agent or detective. I am truly fascinated by this stuff! In the first novel, Vanessa is a seasoned detective. In the second, she is in an FBI-agent-in-training. When I write characters, I insert as much of myself into them as I can. I think it makes them feel more authentic to the reader. I want the series to follow Vanessa’s career, her love life, and her journey as a single parent. Time shapes all of us. I can imagine that Vanessa will be a very different woman at the end of book 3.
Why do you enjoy writing thrillers?
This is my first thriller. I’ve written a science fiction novel and two fantasy novels. I always wanted to write a thriller, but developing a “whodunnit” is terribly difficult! I didn’t want the reader to be bored or think the plot was formulaic. I think that’s why I focused on motive and drive. The investigative aspect of crime is fascinating, but in this book, I chose to focus on intent and human impulse. I think the reader will find the chapters with Carlton Tubbs’ prison psychologist particularly compelling.
Carved in Stone is the first book in a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
The reader can try to read this novel as a stand-alone, but I don’t believe he or she will succeed. I didn’t mean to do it, but I ended the novel on a major cliffhanger! I tried to imagine the greatest twist—something that would compel the reader to continue. I think I succeeded. After reading this ending, I feel confident that the reader will continue the series. Can’t wait to hear feedback about the ending!
Have you always known you wanted to be a writer? What inspired your debut?
I’ve always been an avid reader. In 2015, when I was reading my favorite series of all time (Robin Hobbs’ Farseer series), I remember closing the book and thinking “I can do this. I have ideas.” I had no idea what I was doing at the time (the 10,000 hour rule has merit...trust me), but there was a plot in my head since 2007 (Barren Waters), so I sat down and gave it a try. Once you have a basic plot, the only thing left to do is to create engaging characters. Everyone has a story inside of them. Give it a shot!
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I can tell you what I don’t do—outline. I know….tisk tisk. Bad writer. The first thing I do is research. I’ve never experienced writer’s block because there is always a topic to research. As I research topics, the plot seems to develop around me. I consider the characters and then do the research. Hasn’t failed me yet.
What are you working on right now?
Book 2 in the Vanessa Stone Series! Skipping Stones is the name. People reach out to me through my website and twitter to inquire about the release of Book 2. I’m feverishly writing it. I know I left people hanging…
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love interacting with readers! www.Juliashupe.com or hit me up on twitter @Juliashupe33. I’d love to hear what people think of Tubbs/Smith. I’ll leave it at that…