Tuesday, March 8, 2011: Maximum Shelf: Love You More

Bantam: Love You More by Lisa Gardner

Bantam: Love You More by Lisa Gardner

Bantam: Love You More by Lisa Gardner

Bantam: Love You More by Lisa Gardner

Editors' Note

Maximum Shelf: Love You More

In this edition of Maximum Shelf--the monthly Shelf Awareness feature that focuses on an upcoming title that we love and believe will be a great handselling opportunity for booksellers everywhere--we present Lisa Gardner’s Love You More, which goes on sale on March 8. The review and interviews are by Marilyn Dahl and Debra Ginsberg. Bantam has helped support the issue.


Bantam: Love You More by Lisa Gardner

Books & Authors

Lisa Gardner: Evolving Characters and Life Choices

One of the most compelling themes in Love You More is that of choice. Both D.D. Warren and Tessa Leoni are strong women forced to make difficult--sometimes impossible--choices that cut straight across traditional gender lines. How did this theme develop as you wrote the novel?

I've been writing for over 20 years now—since I was 17. I always joke that my career has evolved in tandem with my personal life. For example, when I was a single 20-something, I wrote romance novels. Then I got married, hit 30 and changed to homicide. Now, I'm a 40-year-old working mom, which is a stage of life that's all about compromise. I think the opening line of Love You More says it all: "Who do you love?" Because that's what's going to define your day, your life, your family. One question, asked a dozen times a day. Welcome to modern life. 

D.D. and Tessa are complicated and highly nuanced characters. They are tough, stubborn, dedicated and vulnerable. But both characters also struggle with inner darkness. Do you ever feel pressure, either internal or external, to "soften" your characters?

Never! And I love that about my editor, Kate Miciak. The darkest scene in Love You More is when Tessa Leoni finally gets her hands on the man who hurt her family. As a mother, as a state trooper, she's beyond the edge of reason, fueled entirely by rage and fear and desperation, and oh yeah, she's got a knife and she knows how to use it. I totally went for broke when writing the scene. At the last minute, of course, it occurred to me my editor might never let it pass. But no. Kate loved it. She trusts me and she trusts my readers, which is why I love her more. 

Love You More takes many turns and often veers off in unexpected directions, both in terms of its action and in the psychology of its main characters, yet every twist makes sense and you never take any narrative shortcuts. How did you go about constructing and maintaining this kind of complex plot scaffolding for the novel?

I only wish I had a master plan. When I start a novel, I purposefully don't define my characters. I wait and see how they develop. It's mysterious even to me, because at the beginning of my career I was such a big planner, and I think those novels aren't nearly as tight and natural as my more recent novels, which had no plan at all. My characters now are both good and bad, which makes the plots twists more logical, believable and relatable. Or so I hope.

This is the fifth novel to feature Detective D.D. Warren, but you have also written six FBI Profiler series novels and two stand-alone novels. What are the challenges--and, conversely, the rewards--of writing series vs. stand-alones?

I think the typical rules apply: stand-alone you get to start with fresh characters, which is like taking a vacation from your family--even if you love them, everyone needs time away. Conversely, writing series novels is like returning to the family fold, comfortable and a bit more predictable. Of course, no one wants to hang out with the same old folks book after book, so you have to constantly think of ways to shake things up, or in my case, grow my characters up. D.D. started as a single-minded workaholic. Her life is way more complicated now, which brings us to the tough choices she's facing in Love You More. 

How do your two series compare, both in terms of your own writing process and reaction from your readers?

I love hearing from my readers, particularly on this subject. I'd say as of this time, there's no clear winner in the series war. I hear from just as many fans who want to see the Quincy FBI family as I do readers who want more D.D. Warren/Bobby Dodge. So, as a special treat, I'm now working on a D.D. Warren novel that will involve cameos from all my past characters. I'm having the best time writing it! It's like catching up with old classmates at a high school reunion. I hope my readers will love it. 

How has D.D. Warren evolved for you over the course of her series? Has she become easier or more difficult to write? What would you most like readers to know about her?

D.D. is becoming human. She's always been aggressive, determined and neurotic, which I think is fun, but also a bit polarizing. Real life has caught up with her now. Heaven help her, she fell in love. And, in the opening pages of Love You More, she's facinganother major life change--pregnancy. Can a successful career woman have a happy home life? This is what D.D. wonders, fears, desires. She's becoming a fully evolved human being and it's good for her. 

What are you working on (and how long before we'll be able to read it)?

My 2012 release will also feature D.D. Warren. Pedophiles are being shot to death in Boston, and while D.D. has no argument with dead perverts, it is a crime on her watch. Complicating matters: the appearance of a girl claiming she will be murdered in four days and she'd like D.D. to handle the investigation. Finally, the baby must be picked up from daycare at five. Meet the new and improved Detective D.D. Warren, 40 years old, still on the job and trying valiantly to do it all. --D.G.

Bantam: Love You More by Lisa Gardner

Kate Miciak: Editing the Dark Side of Human Nature

Kate Miciak is editorial director, v-p, of Ballantine/Bantam Dell. Among the authors she edits are Lisa Gardner, Melanie Benjamin, Alan Bradley, Lee Child, William Landay, Laurie King and Karin Slaughter.

How long have you and Lisa Gardner been working together and how did that relationship first begin? 

I've been really lucky. Lisa's first editor left just as Lisa was finishing her third novel, The Third Victim. Serendipitously, I'd read it the previous weekend. I'll confess I issued death threats to Management in the event I wasn't chosen to work with Lisa... they took the hint!

As an editor, what are the challenges of helping to shape a novel in a series as opposed to a stand-alone?

The biggest challenge is the one the author faces in enmeshing new readers instantly in the fabric of the lives of characters other readers have long embraced. The dance is to set the match to the fuse of these characters' lives--without dragging us through the high points of their history that we simply don't need in this new novel.

What, for you, is the most powerful element or theme of Love You More?

Oh, it's definitely the opening line: "Who do you love?"(Grammar be damned.) This is a novel where the choices are never easy, and the answers ring tough and true from beginning to end. But from beginning to end, the reader keeps asking himself/herself: "What would I do if this were me?"(Again, grammar be damned.) And the joy of it is that these characters are so fully fleshed out that you can't single one out and be certain that the author is going to protect them from harm. It's a terrifying psychological choreography and one of the reasons everyone who has read this novel can't stop thinking/talking about it. I can't wait until reading groups get hold of Love You More--there's such juicy, rich material here for thought, discussion and debate. 

Lisa Gardner's characters, especially D.D. Warren, are rich in psychological complexity and nuance, but contend with substantial inner conflict. Likewise, the situations she creates do not skirt the dark side of human nature. Do you feel that audiences now are more open to harder-hitting crime fiction authored by women than they have been in the past?

There are readers who will always flinch from the darker side of human nature: it's not why they want to immerse themselves in a read. So, male or female, those readers are going to decry the elements that are painful to read or think about. But I think the finest crime writers are first and foremost fine writers. I'd like to think that it doesn't matter what gender the author is.

Love You More is told from the points of view of state trooper Tessa Leoni and homicide detective D.D. Warren, characters who mistrust each other precisely because they are similar in so many ways. How did you encourage Lisa to keep these two voices distinct and unique?

I've worked with Lisa long enough to know that both Tessa and D.D. were singing their dangerous songs in her ear--and that she heard each tune with that uncanny prescience she brings to all her characterizations--large and small.

How is the editorial process between you and Lisa different now than when the two of you first began working together?

Years ago, with The Next Accident, I thought I had to sit down with the first draft of Lisa's manuscript and think like an editor. Now I know that I can first read them simply as a reader: if I need to get analytical (which isn't often), I'll first have the pleasure of the minefield Lisa has walked me through so ingenuously. And I know she won't let me down--although she'll raise my blood pressure to unsafe levels as she does so. 

What would you most like readers to take away from Love You More

Fascinating question. I'd like readers to take away the knowledge that Lisa's not simply writing extraordinary suspense novels; that she delivers these amazing psychological portraits of characters who are tough, tender, confused, professional, unprofessional, scared, brave, weak, strong--in short, complicated, fully fleshed-out individuals who linger in your memory. --D.G.

Book Brahmin: Lisa Gardner


New York Times bestselling suspense novelist Lisa Gardner began her career in food service, but after setting her hair on fire, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. With 20 million copies of her books now in print--plus a 2010 win for Best Hardcover Novel from the International Thriller Writers for The Neighbor--she's glad she did. 


On your nightstand now:

Robert Dugoni's Murder One (available June 2011). Holey-moley, does this plot fly, and the main female character is smart, sexy and dangerous. Love it!

Favorite book when you were a child:

Jamberry by Bruce Degen. I'm from Oregon, we're into berries. Not to mention the words of the tongue-twisting rhyme dance when you read them out loud. Makes you feel happy all over.

Your top five authors:

Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Jayne Ann Krentz, Karin Slaughter, J.R. Ward, Joe Finder, Suzanne Collins, Kresley Cole, Charlene Harris, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Kristin Hannah.... I'm sorry, what's the limit again?

Book you've faked reading:

What kind of woman do you think I am?

Book you're an evangelist for:

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I think Katniss is one of the single best protagonists ever written. You feel for her, root for her, and are stunned by her. I have author envy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose. Actually, I love the packaging for the entire trilogy. Beautiful books, beautifully written. What more can a reader want?

Book that changed your life:

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. Made me totally rethink World War II and what it means to sacrifice for your child. Sometimes, as a working parent, I get a bit overwhelmed by the daily demands of modern life. Then, I read that novel, cried like a baby, and remembered everything I'd been taking for granted. I've been gifting it to all my female friends ever since. 

Favorite line from a book:

Any line written by Elmore Leonard. He can do more with three words than most of us can do with an entire novel.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Rainwater by Sandra Brown. A moving story of a time, a place and a woman. Slow Heat in Heaven remains one of my favorite suspense novels from Sandra Brown, but Rainwater touched my heart.


Book Review

Mandahla: Love You More

Love You More by Lisa Gardner (Bantam, $26.00 Hardcover, 9780553807257, March 2011)

After I finished this stunning thriller, I lamented that I hadn't read Lisa Gardner before. That was immediately followed by the realization that I have 12--12!--books by her waiting to be read. And read they will be, because Lisa Gardner is dynamite, and Love You More is the kind of book you will be an evangelist for; it's not just an excellent mystery, it's a compelling story of parental love, romantic love, lost love, dashed dreams, despair... and hope.

The opening scene is a textbook heart-stopper, and sets up a fine puzzle:

Who do you love?

"He asked the question, and I felt the answer in the weight of my duty belt, the constrictive confines of my armored vest, the tight brim of my trooper's hat," and Tessa slowly unbuckles her belt and gun.

She asks him where Sophie, her six-year-old, is, and he yells at her to put the gun on the table.

"I looked my husband in the eye. A single heartbeat of time."

Who do you love? She thinks of Sophie. She sets the belt down on the kitchen table.

"And he grabbed my Sig Sauer and opened fire."


Gardner then switches to Sgt. Detective D.D. Warren of the Boston PD, as she waits for her lover, Alex, to leave for work so she can run into the bathroom. Faintly echoing Massachusetts State Trooper Tessa Leoni's thoughts, they say "love-yous" and D.D. makes it down the hall just in time to throw up. Lying on the floor, contemplating the probability of pregnancy, she is called to a murder site by State Police Detective Bobby Dodge, her former partner. After she connects the dots--missing child, state police on site, but Boston PD jurisdiction--she's no longer nauseated, she's pissed off, a normal mode for her. Arriving at Leoni's house, she finds her crime scene messed up by troopers; the body of Brian Darby, Tessa's husband; an Amber Alert for Sophie; and Tessa Leoni in shock, concussed, covered with bruises and watched over by her union rep and legal counsel.

Warren is immediately frustrated by Leoni's obfuscations. She looks around, thinking, "So many things that could go right in a house like this. So what had gone wrong?" She moves into action, angry about the crime scene ("They trampled [it]. I don't forgive. I don't forget."), and forces the EMTs to give her five minutes with Tessa by playing the missing child card.

In alternating chapters, we gradually learn about Tessa: a child out of wedlock; a desire to provide for herself and her daughter that led to her becoming a state trooper; then, three years ago, falling in love with Brian, who seemed to love both her and her daughter in equal measure. As Tessa unwinds her story, we read about domestic disturbance calls she attended, and what she learned about lying. So when she's questioned about what happened, she's very careful to lay the groundwork for her defense: "My husband.... Sometimes... when I worked late. My husband grew angry. He hit me." That morning, she says, she feared for her life. She shot her husband. "Then I went looking for my daughter." Later at the hospital, she thinks:

"The doctor saw me as a victim, just as the EMT saw me as a victim. They were both wrong. I was a survivor and I was currently walking a tightrope where I absolutely, positively could not afford to fall.

"Think strategically. Speak carefully. Sacrifice judiciously."

So, two strong, smart women face off, Warren beginning the game a skilled detective knows how to play, Leoni continuing the game already put into play. And what a game it is.

D.D. and Bobby immediately start down the wrong path, led by the obvious evidence, and in the course of their investigation go down more wrong paths, subtly led by Tessa and by D.D.'s faith in her own snap judgment and expertise. You can see why D.D. thinks she is right, but she's no match for a woman determined to save her daughter. Or, as D.D. believes, a woman who killed her daughter as well as her husband. 

Lisa Gardner writes this novel in two voices, D.D.'s and Tessa's, and by using the first person for Tessa's voice, makes the story immediate and heartbreaking. Tessa seemingly loves her daughter more than anything, while in counterpoint, D.D.'s pregnancy makes her wonder if she wants to be a mother, if she can be a mother; even, given Tessa's example, if female law enforcement officers were meant to live lives of domestic bliss. White picket fences and Sig Sauers just don't mesh. D.D. is so tightly wrapped that she doesn't even know how to bring this up with Alex, and thinks she is hiding her condition successfully until Tessa calls her on it.

Gardner is a master at intricate plotting and, as you unravel the tangled threads of this story, you'll think you know what happened, but you don't; halfway through the book, you'll know a large part of what has actually happened, but not why. At the point where the tension is unbearable, there are still 100 pages to go, and you will have no idea where they will take you. At the end of Love You More, you will be astonished at the complex plot, but this is more than a satisfying thriller; this is an emotionally deep exploration of love and trust, and you will long be thinking about the central theme: Who do you love, and what would you do to save them? --Marilyn Dahl

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