The Comeback Character by Dianne Emley

It’s a pleasure to welcome LA Times bestselling author Dianne Emley back to the blog. Well-known for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers (The First Cut, Cut to the Quick, The Deepest Cut, and Love Kills) and Iris Thorne mysteries (Cold Call, Slow Squeeze, Fast Friends, Foolproof, and Pushover), Dianne’s newest entry in the Nan Vining series, Killing Secrets, is forthcoming from Random House on July 21st.

Dianne EmleyThe Comeback Character

Five years have passed between my last Detective Nan Vining mystery and my latest one, Killing Secrets, the fifth in the series (out July 21 by Alibi/Random House). During that time, I was busy writing, but not stories about Nan–a haunted and driven Pasadena, CA homicide detective and single mom. I felt I’d get back to the series eventually, but wasn’t sure when.

One morning out of the blue, I got a phone call from my editor for the first four Nans. “Want to write more Nan Vinings?” Heck yeah! A few days later, my high was replaced with anxiety. Could I still channel that world? Had I lost my feel for Nan, her daughter, Emily, her work partner and lover, Jim Kissick, and the other characters as well as the dark thread that runs through the books? What about the series nuts-and-bolts? Are Jim’s eyes hazel or brown? (They’re hazel). What are the names of Nan’s ex-husband and his new wife’s two little boys? (Kyle and Kelsey).

The nuts-and-bolts issues were easily resolved–I reread the first four books in the series. Reading my earlier books is both interesting and surreal for me. The next challenge came in deciding where to start the new book, Killing Secrets.

Five years had passed in the real world since Nan #4, Love Kills, was published. For the new book, how much time did I want to have gone by in my fictional world? Through the first four books, I didn’t keep the characters frozen in time nor did I age them in real time. In the series debut, The First Cut, out in 2006, Nan is thirty-four and daughter Emily is thirteen. Three books later, in Love Kills, out in 2010, only two years have passed in the character’s lives; Emily has just turned fifteen.

Dianne EmleyEmily has a large role in the new book and it was important that she be a testy adolescent with a driver’s license and a car. She’s spreading her wings, pushing boundaries—and her mom’s buttons. I decided that 16½ was the perfect age for Em in this book. “Almost seventeen,” as she reminds Nan. She’s a good kid, but she’s acting out as a result of the life-altering tragedies she and her mom endured earlier in the book series. Killing Secrets kicks off with Emily and a cocky boyfriend, who Nan doesn’t know about, stumbling upon the bloody bodies of a much loved young teacher and her troubled student in a remote area of a Pasadena park.

All the Nan Vining books are set in the same time period in which I wrote each book with the technology, jargon, and cultural references that were contemporary then. In 2010, when the last Nan Vining took place, social media and texting weren’t nearly as significant as they are today. I moved Killing Secrets forward into the here and now and Emily and her friends text and tweet with abandon.

Another challenge remained: could I inhabit my characters’ hearts and minds? My doubts disappeared when I started Killing Secrets and it felt entirely natural, as if I’d come home. It felt great to return to this familiar tableau, but also to break new ground. I’ve just signed a contract with Alibi to write the sixth and seventh in the Nan Vining series and I’m excited to see where the journey takes the characters and me.

Killing Secrets is available from Alibi/Random House on July 21st.

Dianne Emley is a Los Angeles Times bestselling author and has received critical acclaim for her Detective Nan Vining thrillers and the Iris Thorne mysteries. Her short fiction has been published in Shaken—Stories for Japan and Literary Pasadena. Her books have been translated into six languages. A Los Angeles native, she lives in California with her husband. To learn more about Dianne, visit her website.

Special thanks to Dennis Eamon Young for Dianne’s author photo.


  • Michael Murphy

    July 17, 2015 - 2:08 PM

    Really looking forward to the release of Killing Secrets!

    • Dianne Emley

      July 17, 2015 - 2:39 PM

      Thanks, Michael! I have your Jake and Laura mysteries queued up on my Kindle and am looking forward to digging in this summer!

  • Jackie

    July 16, 2015 - 6:43 PM

    Thank you for this post, Dianne. I’ve always wondered if I could finish a novel I began years ago. I still know the plot points and the arcs for each character, but – like you – could I “inhabit” that world again, get into their minds and hearts, project the same “feel” as in the earlier parts?
    Your post gave me courage.

    • Dianne Emley

      July 17, 2015 - 11:14 AM

      I’m happy you got something from the post, Jackie, and thanks for your comment.It is a bit like riding a bicycle. I think those stories that haunt you are telling you to return to them. Good luck!

  • Craig Faustus Buck

    July 16, 2015 - 12:11 PM

    I’m so glad Nan’s back! You know what a fan I am. Congrats!

    • Dianne Emley

      July 17, 2015 - 11:15 AM

      You have been a great fan of Nan, Craig, and I appreciate it! Looking forward to hearing what you think of Killing Secrets!

  • Kim

    July 16, 2015 - 11:10 AM

    Hi Dianne – So exciting to know that Nan is about to return to all of us eager fans!!! Can’t wait to celebrate with you in person one of these days. XO Kim

    • Dianne Emley

      July 17, 2015 - 11:16 AM

      Yes, a celebration in person is in order! We’ll do it. Thanks of your note and your good wishes. XO.

  • Charles Emley

    July 15, 2015 - 6:47 PM

    I’m so glad and proud of you getting Nan, Emily, the Pasadena PD and all back in a terrific new story “Killing Secrets”. I can see they’ll be lots more. Your fans should be very happy :). Charlie

  • Maggie King

    July 15, 2015 - 6:27 PM

    Dianne, Looking forward to reconnecting with Nan, Emily, et al. I wish you and merry launch!

    • Dianne Emley

      July 15, 2015 - 6:43 PM

      Thanks, Maggie! Launch is next Tuesday. Hard to believe that it’s almost here.

  • paul alan fahey

    July 15, 2015 - 5:53 PM

    Really great discussion here. I had a heck of a time closing out my WWII romance series as I’d fallen in love with the characters. Maybe one day I’ll revisit them. And remember this post. Thanks, Dianne. Terrific. Hugs, P and B.

    • Dianne Emley

      July 15, 2015 - 6:02 PM

      Thanks, Paul. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Dianne Emley

    July 15, 2015 - 5:43 PM

    Thanks for hosting my guest post, Elizabeth. Always a pleasure to appear on your terrific blog.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      July 16, 2015 - 10:18 AM

      Thank you for taking the time in these busy days leading up to the official launch! 🙂

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