Nationally bestselling author Eileen Carr has always been close with her family. So when she learned to love reading from her mom, and learned to love suspense from her dad, it just seemed natural to combine the two and become a romantic suspense author. Check out how she got started in the genre below — and how she had a near-miss with the police!

I credit my mother with instilling a love of reading in me. We read every night together even after I could read myself and  often read her to sleep instead of the other way around. But it was my Dad that introduced me to romantic suspense. He was the one who left a Mary Stewart novel lying around the house where an unsuspecting fourteen-year-old could pick it up and be completely transported.

Stewart was like a gateway drug. I moved on to the harder stuff like Helen MacInnes after that. I think I swiped one of those right off my dad’s bedside table while he was at work. Daddy’s absolute favorites? Mysteries written by British women. He liked the British authors for their dry senses of humor. He once told me that he preferred books written by women because he felt they spent more time describing the settings and engaging all the senses. He liked to feel like he was really there in the scene.

When I was working on my first romantic suspense novel Hold Back the Dark (available as a free read this month!), I wanted to get that same sense of place in my book. I set the book in Sacramento so it was easy for me to hop over there for an afternoon or morning and check out places to use in my book.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched an author working through an idea. I get a kind of far away look. Depending on the kind of scene, I might look dreamy or I might scowl. People often take this personally and it doesn’t seem to help when I tell them that I’m not really looking at them. It’s just that their faces are in the path of my stare. At any rate, I kind of lose track of what’s actually around me.

One afternoon, I wanted to find the perfect neighborhood and house for the murder that happens at the beginning of Hold Back the Dark. I settled on the Pocket neighborhood of Sacramento. The Pocket is a little u-shaped piece of land that sticks into the Sacramento River. The houses are nice. Really nice. It was a lovely sunny day. I parked my car and started walking around. Occasionally I’d see a house I liked the look of for my murder house. I’d stop, take some pictures, try to see into the back yard or side yard without actually going on the property.

I finally settled on a particular house. I took some more pictures of it, trying to capture it at different angles. Then I got into my car and started on my way home. As I pulled out of the cul-de-sac the house was on, a police car pulled in. I didn’t think anything of it. Then the police car followed me out of the cul-de-sac, out of the neighborhood and all the way out of the Pocket until I got back on I-5 heading north. About halfway to the interstate, I realized why. I must have looked like I was casing the houses. I probably got in my car and left at the exact right time to avoid having to answer some pointed questions about what my business in the neighborhood was.

My dad gave me a lot of things: blue eyes, a roof over my head, a college education, an appreciation of good chocolate. In return, I took my mother shoe shopping (he totally hated that), gave him a couple of grandchildren who adored him, bought him his last beer and his last chocolate milkshake and apparently almost got arrested trying to write the kind of book he would like reading.

National Bestselling Author

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