Tom Lowe - Mystery-Thriller Inspired by Butterflies
Tom Lowe is a mystery-thriller author who currently writes three series. The Sean O'Brien series features Florida as a backdrop. After his wife dies of ovarian cancer, O'Brien tries to put the pieces of his life back together. His powers of observation, both in human nature and crime scenes, attracts wounded people in his direction. But his past often intersects with the present leaving a future that that's beyond his choosing. As our Author of the Day, Lowe tells us all about the latest Sean O'Brien book, The Butterfly Forest.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Butterfly Forest is about.
The Butterfly Forest is about innocence lost, love found, trying to put shattered pieces together, and becoming more resilient for having gone through the experience. The story juxtaposes the sweetness of two college graduate students making an effort to save endangered butterflies, losing their life for it, and how two other people come together and attempt to right a horrible wrong.
What inspired you to write The Butterfly Forest?
My youngest daughter. A few years ago, my daughter Ashly and I were visiting Balboa Park at the San Diego Zoo and we stopped at an open-area butterfly grotto. It's filled with flowers, water, shrubs and leafy plants. It's a magnet for butterflies. Ashley wanted to sit still and to see if a butterfly would alight on her hand. After a few minutes, a gorgeous swallowtail butterfly landed on her finger and slowly crept to the palm of her hand. She was ecstatic. At that moment I begin to think .... what if? And the story was launched on the wings of a butterfly.
Why do you like to pick Florida as the backdrop for your books?
Florida is like a character all by itself. It's a state where a lot of interesting and often weird things happen, and I'm not referring only to elections. The state, with its long coastline, Everglades, swamps and often eccentric people, easily becomes part of the stories. There is no other state in the nation like it, and I find it gives my Sean O'Brien novel a powerful and visual backdrop.
The Butterfly Forest is described as a high-octane thriller that is part mystery, part love story. Why did you write the book this way?
I feel that one of my goals as an author is to entertain the reader. Certainly good writing, as readers and authors know, is a big part of that - but the essential ingredient is good storytelling. It begins with building a story around compelling characters. I try hard to capture the reader's attention in the first couple of sentences from chapter one, and to keep their interest and curiosity throughout the story. To do that, I create hybrid storytelling - mysteries, thrillers, romance - because that's often what propels the story in a character-driven narrative.
This book has been likened to the work of Lee Child, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly and others. Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I certainly enjoy those authors, and I'm very flattered readers have compared my work to them. I read constantly, fiction and non-fiction. For fiction, some authors I like to read include: Tana French, David Baldacci, Karin Slaughter, Joyce Carol Oates, Irwin Shaw, Stephen King - the list goes on and one.
How much does your experience as a former journalist and filmmaker influence the way you write your books?
A lot. As a journalist, I learned how to get - or try to get - both sides of any story. It gave me a good perspective into human nature. When I worked in journalism, I strived hard to include the "why" factor in the who, what, where, how components of a story. I wanted to know what compels someone to do what he or she did. And I always tried to write about the consequences of that action.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I enjoy painting. Most of my work is in oil painting.
You wrote the book from different points of view. Why did you take this approach?
In each novel I write, I want to tell the story in a way that best fits the dynamics of that particular story. Sometime it's in first- person. Sometimes it's third-person. And once in a while it's a mixture of both. My novel, Blood of Cain, is a good example of that.
Many readers say you had them hooked from the start. How did you pull that off?
Because I value their time and money. Writing, to me, is similar to sharing a story with someone. I don't want to be long-winded and lose their interest. In writing, I want to engage the reader immediately, keep their curiosity up the whole way through, and give them an ending that makes it all worth their time.
Butterfly Forest also includes some historical elements - how much research did the book require from you?
Many of my novels draw from history or an historical event that is solved with the contemporary story I write. In The Butterfly Forest, I did a lot of research on butterflies, especially endangered butterflies. And I brought in the elements of Ma Baker and the infamous FBI shootout near the Ocala National Forest, a location where a lot of the story happens.
What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
First and foremost, I want them to be entertained. I want them to feel it was worth the time they invested. In terms of what to take away, I hope they'll have a deeper appreciation for living in the moment, something that Molly, one of the characters tries to do in her effort to slow down and reach her hand out to save endangered butterflies.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
It usually depends on the nature of the novel and its theme. My novels are character-driven. They're often about someone who must leave his or her comfort level to do something they usually would never do. The stories are about how the characters adapt and change to circumstances that are beyond their control, and how they can become better off for having gone through the experience.
What are you working on right now?
I recently finished, Dragonfly, the ninth novel in the Sean O'Brien series. The book will be released in mid-December. I'm wrapping up the second novel in the Elizabeth Monroe series. It's called The confession. The first book was Wrath. Elizabeth Monroe is a women who teaches criminal psychology at a university in Mississippi. Police often ask her to create profiles of people who've committed heinous crimes. In every profile Elizabeth does, she's looking for one man in particular - the man who took the life of her daughter.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You can hang out with me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I send out a monthly newsletter via email, too. To get it, please visit my website, www.tomlowebooks.com. Thanks and welcome aboard!