Wednesday, May 30, 2012


My guest is Lisa Brackmann. I'm glad to have her visiting Over Coffee again. If you remember, I interviewed Lisa last year when her debutROCK PAPER TIGER (Year Of The Tiger in the UK)—was released. 
Lisa's second book, GETAWAY (Library Journal Reviews lists it as a must read this summer), has just been released. Lisa is currently down in Puerto Vallarta (hence the margarita above, directly from her to us) attending a book event and will be checking in from Mexico through out the day.  

I’m here in Viejo Vallarta, a few blocks from the beach, close enough to feel the ocean breezes. To my left is a ravine, where several donkeys stomp on the hillside, waiting for their nightly appearance at Ánadale, a bar down the street in La Zona Romántica.

At this point, some of you who read my latest novel, GETAWAY, may be saying, “Waaait a minute. Didn’t you just write a scary book about an American woman who goes on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, and things go very, very wrong? Aren’t there headless bodies on every street corner?”

It is true that there are some very scary stories coming out of Mexico, largely centered on the violence that has exploded since Mexican President Calderón declared war on the drug cartels a few years ago. This war has claimed upwards of 40,000 casualties, and though most of them are involved in the drug trade, journalists, officials and innocent bystanders have also been targeted or caught in the crossfire.

All of that said, it’s important to understand that this violence is largely localized, focused mainly in the border zone or in other areas where different cartel factions vie for control of the market.

Puerto Vallarta is still a safe destination for tourists and a wonderful place to spend your vacation. In fact, every time I visit, I ponder relocating here. I could live in this town. Write on a terrace cooled by ocean breezes. Take a break on Los Muertos Beach. Have a margarita or two.
So, why did I write a book that made the place seem dangerous?

My primary reason was that I am familiar enough with the location that I felt I could do the setting justice. A lot of readers want to be taken to an unfamiliar place and get a sense of what it might be like, and providing that experience is one of the things I most enjoy when I write books.

The other? It’s the job of a suspense author to, well, provide suspense.

This trouble looks pretty 
good to me, especially after a 
Margarita or two...
So, after deciding that I would set a suspense novel here, I had to figure out where the suspense would come from. I had a sort of vision, of an American woman on vacation, sitting on the beach, watching the passing carnival of tourists and locals, drinking beers, selling trinkets and serapes. She was unhappy, I knew that, but I didn’t know why. I wrote the first chapter, and figured that part of it out. Set up the situation that would get her in trouble.

Then, I had to determine what that trouble was.

You work with what’s plausible, or at least with what you can sell as plausible. Involving the drug trade in protagonist Michelle’s problems made sense. But I hope what people will take away from the story is not, “Mexico is scary!” and that the drug trade is a Mexican problem, one that has nothing to do with us in the US. But rather, that the story deals with corruption in general, and on both sides of the border.

A friend of mine who lives here asked, why would setting a crime novel in Puerto Vallarta be any different than say, setting one in Los Angeles? I think it’s a very good question.

Most Americans wouldn’t hesitate to visit Los Angeles, setting of countless crime novels, or New York, or Navaho country, or Oslo, or Beijing, or most of the places where countless authors have created fictional mayhem. In the case of Mexico, it’s true that there are areas you probably want to avoid, but I think that the many stories of drug violence with little to balance them have created a perception that does not match the reality of the country. Yes, the drug war is one reality. One aspect. And it’s a tragedy of epic proportions.

But, life goes on as well. And in most of Mexico, life is peaceful and ordinary.

So, adiós, for now, from Puerto Vallarta! It’s time for me to walk down to the beach, and have a margarita.

GETAWAY  Available in stores and online bookstores.

Michelle Mason tells herself she’s on vacation. A brief stay in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a chance to figure out her next move after the unexpected death of her banker husband, who’s left behind a scandal and a pile of debt. The trip was already paid for, and it beats crashing in her sister’s spare room. When a good-looking man named Daniel approaches her on the beach, the margaritas have kicked in and she decides: why not?

But the date doesn’t go as either of them planned. An assault on Daniel in her hotel room, switched cell phones and an encounter with a “friend” of Daniel’s named Gary gets Michelle enmeshed in a covert operation involving drug runners, goons, and venture capitalists. Michelle already knows she’s caught in a dangerous trap. But she quickly finds that running is not an option. If she’s not careful, she’ll end up buried in the town dump, with the rest of the trash. Now she needs to fight smart if she wants to survive her vacation. EXCERPT

"Brackmann strikes exactly the right mood in this frantic look at an ordinary woman who can't seem to claw her way out of the mess in which she's managed to land."—Kirkus Reviews

My Review 


Lisa Brackmann has worked as a motion picture executive and an issues researcher in a presidential campaign. A southern California native, she currently lives  in Venice California, with her three cats. Her critically acclaimed debut novel Rock Paper Tiger, was an Amazon best book of 2010.

You can find Lisa: Website, Twitter, Facebook


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome back to Over Coffee, Lisa! I really enjoyed Michelle's story.

I want to be on that beach and sip that Margarita!.

What book event are you attending? Seems to me, having Puerto Vallarta as the setting and then doing a book signing with all the tourist around would be a great thing. :-)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful post to read. as always a great place to visit.


Other Lisa said...

Happy to be here, and thanks for having me, Sia!

Other Lisa said...

Oh, my friend who lives here, Pilar Perez, set up the book event. I'm going to be doing a little talk and Q&A -- and yes, there will be margaritas!

DonnaGalanti said...

Lisa, I really enjoyed hearing how this novel began. You decided on the setting and then made up the story. I love how you had just the kernel of an idea - an unhappy woman and it flowed from that first chapter. What an organic way to do it! As an author, it sounds like a fun way to challenge myself in picking a not-so familiar spot, visit it, and then set the book there. see how my writing flows with that margarita or two in me...

Jo said...

Hubby wouldn't go to Mexico on vacation for anything.

Interesting post, and cheers!!!

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Lisa!! I've read Getaway and love, love, LOVED it! That said, I'm not sure I'd want to visit Mexico anytime soon. In Los Angeles or New York (at least from what we read here in flyover country)there is violence, yes, but not 40 people at a time beheaded and laid out in a row. It's scary, and it's sad. And legalization is the only way to end it all, and your work mentions why that will never happen. It makes me crazy.

At the same time, you're wandering on "Los Muertos Beach"? The beach of the dead? Okay, you better make that margarita a double!

Other Lisa said...

It really is very peaceful here! Most of the trouble people get into in vacation towns like Vallarta really is about partying too much with the wrong person. Pretty much the same in resort towns everywhere.

The mass killings in all seriousness are very much about cartel on cartel violence. The major exception that I can think of was the firebombing of the disco in Monterrey, an area that unfortunately has seen a lot of violence in the last few years. But these are not things that are happening often or in the country as a whole.

Johanna Garth said...

Margaritas, beaches and crime. I know what I'm going to be reading poolside this summer! Great post ladies!

Dana Fredsti said...

Looking at the pictures of PV that you've posted, I'd be willing to risk the possibility of naked men and such to sit on teh beach and drink one of those margaritas!

Tonya Kappes said...

LOVE LOVE Mexico! I love how you have incorporated the setting into your story. Food for thought!

Carol Kilgore said...

This book sounds awesome. I love the background from Lisa, too. Thanks, Sia.

And who can resist a Margarita on the beach? Not me!

Jill Lynn A. said...

Ah man! Did I miss the margaritas? :-)

Great post, Lisa. GETAWAY is getting exceptional reviews all over. And, to that I say WOOT!

Arlee Bird said...

Glad you reassured us about Mexico, but I'm still not going. Then you throw in the Los Muertos Beach--hmm doesn't sound safe to me. I think it would be a great place for a setting for a novel though. I've always had a fascination with Mexico, but now L.A. is starting to look like Mexico in a lot of places so that's enough for me.
Book sounds good though.

Tossing It Out

Other Lisa said...

Arlee, the way I feel about it is, avoiding all of Mexico because of the drug war is about the same as avoiding all of the US because of the amount of gun violence we have here. I mean, would you avoid Seattle because some nut-ball went on a shooting spree?

It's actually a little easier in Mexico because the drug war related violence is mostly very localized.