A San Diego native and first-time author has imagined Solana Beach as not only the setting of bustling retail, dining and waves but also as the place where a fictional psychopath commits a string of murders.
Geree McDermott, who now lives in Chile, wrote "The Swirling Red Mist: A Tale of Murder" following a battle with a real killer — cancer.
She began writing the thriller novel in 2013, upon enduring chemotherapy treatments, all the while researching psychopath mentality, police procedures and Solana Beach landmarks. She aimed to make her book so accurate to her setting, in fact, that she studied the city's train schedule to accurately reflect that in the story.
McDermott, who self-published her novel on Sept. 27 through Amazon, recently discussed "The Swirling Red Mist."
For more information and to purchase a copy, visit amzn.to/2MUvntX.
Q: What inspired this story?
A: I was recovering from chemo after losing a breast to cancer and started writing to vent my anger. I started writing a perfect life for myself but it was boring so I researched how to write a thriller suspense, and this is what came out. I wrote most of it in San Diego while caring for my elderly mother. After I finished it, I was worried what people would think of me when they read it because it is about a murderer. But then I realized it was my way of facing my fear of cancer and the way it attacks without warning. Even the bad girl is named Nancy — shortened to Nance — which I was surprised to realized sounds a lot like cancer. So, it is a sort of metaphor for my experience with cancer. But it is about a psychopath who starts killing people who get in her way.
Q: Why did you decide to set it in Solana Beach? How does that setting play into the book? What city features/places are in the book?
A: I lived in Solana Beach for 11 years, and know it better than other cities. I love it. I was able to visit it and get information about the train schedule and other details. Local places? The Belly Up, the train depot, Fletcher's Cove, Carl's Jr., Lomas Santa Fe, South Cedros Avenue. The main characters all live on South Cedros Ave in the design district. Let's see, Nancy goes to Las Colinas briefly and manages to kill a fellow ex-inmate at Mission Bay Park. It starts on the last day of finals at San Diego State University, followed by the Rolling Stones Zip Code Tour concert at Petco Stadium. They have a funeral at Moonlight Beach, followed by dinner at Las Olas.
Q: Did placing the book in a familiar setting make the writing process easier?
A: Yes, I was able to picture the scenes in real places. And, I love reading about stories in familiar places, so I thought Solana Beach would be great. I have never read a book that took place there.
Q: Did you face any difficulties while writing the book?
A: One thing I had trouble with was weapons. All but the final few frenetic murders appear to be accidents. That is how she goes on killing without anyone noticing.
Q: Did you have to do any research for this book?
A: Tons. First, how to write a book. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I also had to research on sociopaths and psychopaths, then on police procedures. What happens at Las Colinas? What happens in court? When I went to the Amtrak Solana Beach Station and asked what time the freight trains ran through town, the woman didn't know. A man took me aside to tell me to be quiet so I wouldn't be arrested as a possible terrorist. He then told me the times freight trains go through town.
Q: How long did it take you to write the book? When did you start?
A: I started about six months after chemo ended, around the beginning of 2013. A friend sent me a book she had written called ‘Mind Games.’ In it was a 28-day program to overcome trauma. I later learned she wrote for me specifically. So I did it to please her and I swear on day 29 I awoke feeling free and happy. The therapy was writing about the experience, so I just decided to write a book, and five years later, it was finished enough to publish. I rewrote it numerous times, finally deleted all 'author's voice,' and it reads as one person said, 'like a movie.’ It is that fast-paced.
Q: What viewpoint is the story told from? Is it told from the psychopath's mind or in third person or by someone else?
A: Interesting you should ask. It is from the perspective of the psychopath. The reader follows her as she commits murder but they never see it coming. It is written in third person, sometimes her friend Riki is the main character but mostly it is Nancy, the killer.
Q: Do you want to continue writing more books?
A: Yes, of course, I have a sequel swimming around in my head. It is summer here in Chile so I have 'writing books' on my winter's project list.
I also published a book of my colored drawings last July when I was waiting for my husband to finish proofreading the novel. I have a book of paintings on the list plus a few coloring books for grownups. The published book is called, "Colorific Abstracts." It’s on Amazon, of course.