Life Without Parole
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After the death of her ex-husband, things are finally returning to normal for Kate Conway-so normal that she's gotten a little bored. Out of the blue, the television producer is offered a documentary gig about lifers in a state prison. Kate jumps at the chance. The only problem is that she's also just been asked to produce a reality show about the opening of a new restaurant-one backed by Vera, her dead husband's mistress. Reluctantly, she agrees to both.
But when one of the restaurant's investors is murdered and Vera is the chief suspect, Kate must ride a treacherous psychological edge, relying on the minds of death row killers to help her solve the case.
Clare O'Donohue is a freelance television writer and producer as well as the author of the Someday Quilts mystery series. She lives outside Chicago, Illinois.
Q. This is your second book about Kate Conway. Did you find yourself learning new things about her as you were writing, or had you fleshed out her character completely while writing Missing Persons? What kind of challenges present themselves when you’re writing a series as opposed to a single book?
Her husband has only been dead about six months, so this is definitely a time of transition for Kate. It’s her first time ever as a single adult. In Life Without Parole she keeps putting off the decision to buy a new car because Kate’s never made a major purchase on her own, and she’s scared. Kate is learning about herself, so I’m learning along with her. I think she’ll continue to grow and change and Andres, Victor and especially Vera will challenge her to push beyond her comfort zone.
Rather than a challenge, knowing that Kate is a series character allows me to make the changes in her personality more subtle, slower as they would happen in real life. It makes her more real, I think. She’s certainly become very real to me.
Q. What kind of research did you need to do in order to write the novel? You, like Kate, are also a freelance television producer how did your own experiences inform this mystery?
I do a lot of independent research. In Life Without Parole I talked to people in the restaurant business in Chicago and read books about life in prison. I also used my real life experiences of interviewing inmates for various TV shows and newspaper articles. Beyond that, I use the flavor of my work the realities of being freelance, of putting together a television show, and the camaraderie of the crew in each book. However, the specifics of the stories are complete fiction, and I do play around with some TV stuff to make it fit the novel. It’s sort of like reality television, I take the truth and tweak it to make it more entertaining (just like Kate).
Q. Will we meet Kate again? What are you working on next?
I love Kate. I would love to keep writing about her for years. Currently I’m working on the third in the series, in which Kate will be producing a documentary about a controversial figure from American history and getting herself involved in state politics, romance, and, of course, murder. As always, Victor, Andres and Vera are along for the ride and we’ll see a change in the relationship she has with Vera as well as a new side to Victor.
- How do the very first few paragraphs of the novel set the tone for the rest of the book?
- At the beginning of the book, Vera invites Kate over for dinner. Kate says, “I could have not shown up. But here I was. I can be a real jerk when I want to be, but for some reason, I don’t like being impolite.” What does this tell you about Kate? How does this trait manifest itself in the rest of the novel?
- Why do you think Vera resists placing any blame on Doug after Erik’s murder, despite the fact that there is some damning evidence against him? What does this reveal about Vera’s character? What does Kate think it says about Vera?
- Discuss Kate and Vera’s friendship. What does it tell you about both women? Can you imagine a scenario where you would be able to be friendly with someone your spouse had an affair with? How does Vera endear herself to Kate?
- How do Andres and Victor support Kate? Why do you think she pushes them away at times? Why does she push her sister and mother away? How do Brick and Tim get under Kate’s skin, despite her attempts to close herself off to them?
- Were you surprised by the development of Tim’s character? How does he initially convince Kate that he’s a good guy? What is it that eventually clues her in to his deception? What about Brick? Were you surprised by his sincerity?
- What role does Detective Makina play in the book? Is he as bad as Kate makes him out to be?
- What clues did the author give you about who Erik’s murderer was? Did the author lead you astray in other ways? How did you feel when Roman’s killer was exposed?
- Kate remarks towards the end of the book that she learned a lot about Frank after his death. How does the book deal with the unknowability of other people? How is Kate surprised by the actions of others throughout the story?
- What did you make of the end of the book? Are you hopeful for Kate’s future? What about Vera’s?