As seen in the April issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.
Uncaged: You definitely captured a teenager perfectly in See with Carlie and her friends. Can you tell readers more about See?
Thank you so much! Certainly. SEE is the story of Carlie Henson, a pretty and popular, All-American girl. She has a gorgeous boyfriend and a mother who lives to keep her safe. Probably because everyone is drawn to Carlie…including the murderers she has the ability to identify when she looks in the eyes of their victims. Keeping Carlie’s secret seems simple when all she has to do is avoid dead people. But when a cheerleader at her high school is murdered and the killer seems to have gotten away with it, Carlie knows what she has to do. With the help of her boyfriend, Dillon, she devises a plan to see what she must, no matter her personal safety. But when Dillon is the one who’s injured in the showdown with the killer, Carlie vows to never help anyone again…until the next young woman attacked is her best friend, Jenna.
Uncaged: What inspires you to write in the YA genre? Have you dabbled in other genres or plan to in the future? What do you have coming up in the near
I have always adored the YA genre. Probably because I devoured books as a teen, and I enjoyed the relatable voice in young adult fiction. Fortunately, as an author, I’ve never lost that voice. I do have books published in the adult romance genre as well, but I do prefer YA. I have sequels to SEE and two of my other YA titles coming about in the near future, and I recently completed an adult women’s thriller novel with my writing partner, Michael Neff. Our penname is Michael-Ann Ward.
Uncaged: You had a Facebook launch party for See. How do those types of promotional events work for authors?
Launch parties are great because you capture the excitement of your readers, who are always asking, “Hey, when’s your next book coming out?” They can order your new book during the party and receive prizes for doing so. It’s great! And, they get to interact with me, other guest authors, and fellow readers as well. It’s a total blast!
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?
Yes, I read all of my reviews. And I love it when readers are specific about why they liked the book, or even when they point out areas where the story could’ve been stronger. There is no growth as a writer without constructive criticism, and I learn something new every day. I encourage all readers to leave reviews, especially on Amazon. Reviews are a writer’s best friend.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me about one of my books was that it helped her through a dark time in her life, and after reading my story, she knew someone understood and she didn’t feel so alone anymore. That phone call from a fan solidified my passion to write. And I love what I do.
Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?
My favorite part about being an author is connecting with my fans. I love reading their messages or autographing one of my books for them (and when they say it’s their favorite). I write for my readers, and they are the favorite part about what I do. My least favorite part about being a writer? Rejection. Querying and pitching publishers IS NOT FUN!! But I am thrilled to be a part of the Evernight Teen and Inkspell families. I have two amazing publishers.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I love to read, and baking designer cakes is my second career. I enjoy spending time with my family, especially my 18-month-old granddaughter, Lilliana Rose.
Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book?
To me, the hardest part of a book to write is the beginning. You must hook the reader from the first page, or you’ll lose them. The easiest is writing action scenes. When there’s a lot going on, my fingers start flying. The longest it has ever taken me to finish a book is 3 years (my book set in ancient Egypt took almost 3 years of research, and only 4 months of actual writing), and when SEE was originally titled Beholder, I wrote it in 6 weeks (keep in mind that it has since been rewritten 9 times, though). Each story is different, and so are the timeframes to write them, but I do always keep one hard, fast rule. I storyboard every book before I write it.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
I would like to thank all of my fans, first and foremost. It thrills me when I hear from you, and I answer every single fan message or letter. You are why I do this.
Lee Ann Ward
Carlie Henson is pretty, popular, and an All-American girl. She has a gorgeous boyfriend and a mother who lives to keep her safe. Probably because everyone is drawn to Carlie…including the murderers she has the ability to identify when she looks in the eyes of their victims.
Keeping Carlie’s secret is pretty simple when all she has to do is avoid dead people. But when a cheerleader at her high school is murdered and the killer seems to have gotten away with it, Carlie knows what she has to do. With the help of her boyfriend, Dillon, she devises a plan to see what she must, no matter her personal safety.
But when Dillon is the one who’s injured in the showdown with the killer, Carlie vows to never help anyone again…until the next young woman attacked is her best friend, Jenna.
I was five and a half when I realized I could see him. I was five and a half, two days, and six hours when I realized he could see me too.
There was nothing extraordinary about that night. Mom had long put me to bed, and she and Dad were watching an unsolved cold case show on TV. By the time I’d made my way downstairs for an unnecessary drink of water, a picture of a murdered lady was flashing on the screen. No one knew who’d killed her, and the cops had looked for the murderer for several years and given up.
“That’s such a shame,” my dad had said. He was still around then.
“Yeah, it is.” Mom’s words were dragging and nonchalant, as if she were reacting to some lame laundry detergent commercial or something.
But not me. There I stood in my Belle Disney Princess nightgown, my gaze transfixed on the television. I couldn’t move—couldn’t look away. Something about the image of that dead woman struck a chord—her lifeless body and wide, opened eyes.
All I could do was scream. “I know who killed her!” I remember the panic, the way it made my stomach ache and my skin crawl. “I know who did it! I can see his face!”
“Carlie.” Dad picked me up, the exasperation in his voice as clear to me now as it had been ten years ago. “What are you doing out of bed? This is way too scary for you to be watching.”
I was crying so hard my nose was running. “Daddy, I know who killed her! I can see him! I really can!”
Mom turned off the TV and took me from Dad. The puzzled look she threw him let me know she was at least listening to my wild claim, and to this day I’m grateful for her next move.
“Do you want Mommy to draw a picture of the face you’re seeing, sweet girl? Would that make you feel better?”
“Linda, what the hell are you doing? Don’t encourage her.” Dad was pissed at me to be up that late. He was always such a tight ass about things like bedtime.
“It might help her,” Mom insisted. “Something obviously has her freaked out, Patrick. I’m getting my sketchbook.”
It’s the one time I was actually glad that my mom’s a sketch artist for the Pensacola Police Department’s Homicide Division. People describing perps to her so she can draw them never bothered me. But the photos of decomposed bodies—the ones of unidentified missing persons that she has to create faces for—totally creeps me out.
Mom lit a lavender candle to help me relax and set me on her knee. “Go ahead, honey. Tell me what the man looks like.”
One hour and three holy shits from Dad later, I’d described a killer’s face, and Mom had him on paper. I was sure of it. But my parents were convinced I was simply spooked from seeing the dead lady on that show.
Until two nights later when he came for me.
A scratchy hand on my ankle wakes me, yanking, pulling, suspending me in mid-air for several seconds until my face is buried in a wide chest, wider than Daddy’s. Maybe it’s a giant. The stranger smells like dirt and worms—the fat ones in Granny’s garden. Slimy. Greasy. Nasty. I hate worms.
The man shoves a hand against my mouth so hard I bite my lip. I want to cry out, but it’s useless. My lips are crushed. No sound comes from my racing lungs, no matter how hard I try to scream. His face is in my hair, against my ear. “Don’t make a sound,” he whispers, “or I’ll kill your parents.”
Kill my parents? I’m frozen, silent.
He tugs me to the window and my elbow scrapes the ledge on the way out. It burns and stings. Tears sting my eyes too, but I’m quiet. So quiet. We reach a car and he digs in his pocket with one hand while the other keeps me tightly against him. When he finds the keys and opens the car’s trunk, he starts to shove me inside it. I hate the dark. I can’t ride in there. Before he lets my mouth go, I bite down as hard as I can on two of his fingers.
“Shit!” he screams. “Let go! Ahh, shit!”
It hurts my mouth, but I don’t care. Something that tastes like dirty pennies hits my tongue as he throws me to the ground. I cover my face when I see a foot coming down in front of it, but then I hear a loud crack and the man falls.
“Daddy!” He drops the wooden bat and scoops me in his arms. Mom isn’t far behind, her eyes wide and hands shaking. After they call the police, Dad stands over the guy, daring him to wake up, and Mom rushes me to the couch to look me over for injuries.
“Did you see him?” I ask when she brings me a glass of water and tells me to drink.
“What do you mean, Carlie?” she asks, kissing my forehead and stroking my hair, still grateful he hadn’t made off with me and that Dad had played baseball in college.
“It’s him,” I mumble.
I open the drawer on the coffee table and pull out the sketch we’d created two nights before. “The man who killed that lady.”
She takes the drawing and springs from the couch. “Wait here, baby. Patrick!” She sprints outside to Daddy, but leaves the front door open. “Look at this. Oh my God! She’s right. It is him!”
By the time the police arrive, the guy’s coming around from Dad’s brain bash, and all he says is, “She knows what I did. All these years, and that kid knows what I did.”
Several months later, the scumbag is convicted and sentenced to death for killing Tara Shaw, the lady from the show. Trying to silence a five-year-old had sealed his fate…and mine too. Now we know that if I look in a murder victim’s eyes, I can see their killer. The only hang up with that is I attract the murderer straight to me as well. Irony blows.
So I learned a long time ago not to open the oversized envelopes littering my kitchen table. Those are Mom’s bad photos. She spends hours drawing faces for them, and equally as much time reminding me to never look in the packages. Can’t have some psychopath coming after you like what happened when you were little. So that’s my life—avoiding yellow envelopes, true crime shows, the news, or anything corpse-like for…well…forever I guess.
This has to be one of the best YA books I’ve read in a long time. Ms. Ward captures a teenager perfectly, without the overabundance of angst that you find so much of. The paranormal part of the book is light – just the right touch. Carlie could have been me as a teenager, or any other reader. She’s moody but smart, and she’s not whiny, she’s a strong young woman that is loyal and stands up for herself and her friends. I even smiled at some of the interactions with her mother which I’m thinking a lot of readers will be able to connect with.
On to the story. If Carlie looks into the eyes of a dead person, she can see the killer. The one bad part about that, is that the killer sees her too. So she makes it a point not to look, and that’s worked up until now. But when a friend is killed, Carlie will risk everything to bring the killer to justice. With her boyfriend trying to keep her safe, this book will keep you on the edge of sanity – and I hope you don’t have a habit of biting your fingernails, or you may not have any left. This is also a book that is written in first person that is done so well, that I had no problems picturing the places or the characters as I read along – which doesn’t always happen.
A great suspenseful YA that needs more readers. Lee Ann Ward is one to watch. Reviewed by Cyrene