Slight of Hand


Q. What was the impetus for your new series?

A. There is always a danger when writing a series of growing stale. I wanted to try something new. It’s important to stretch your wings and try new things. I wanted to try first person, in which you have a more intimate relation with your main character. And I wanted to try the suspense/thriller because it provides more room to explore the darker sides of life, than the traditional mystery or cozy such as the Fenimore series. I also thought it would be nice, at my age, to get inside the skin of a twenty-something woman for a few hours each day!


Q. What kind of research did you do for your book?

A. Reading, internet, movies, talking to bikers. Two bikers, in particular. A professor at La Salle University and a woman biker. The former provided me with minute details about biker rituals, i.e. for the funeral in my book, for example, clothing, customs, etc. When my copy editor questioned whether bikers used cell phones, he was the one who assured me that the cell was the main form of communication between bikers. (It was great to one-up a copy editor with a bona fida professor!). The woman biker filled me in on the role of the female among bikers. Their "old ladies, "Mamas," and the more recent exclusively female biker clubs. My greatest research regret was--no one volunteered to take me to a biker bar! My children promised but chickened out.

The biker who took my picture, I chased down after finding a Harley catalog discarded in the laundry room of my apt. bldg. Detective that I am, I reasoned the owner of the Harley parked outside must live in my bldg. I waylaid him in the lobby as I was getting my day. When he drove up, I flew outside (locking myself out in the process) and asked if he’d be willing to let me sit on his Harley and take my picture. He was happy to comply. We set a date and a time and had a regular Manhattan photo shoot on 33rd St. with passersby gawking. He even lent me his helmet and shades.!

Other research required exploring remote corners of south Jersey, including one corner that actually still belongs to the state of Delaware (since the days of Wm. Penn). Eerie and desolate--nothing but sand, driftwood and phragmites, populated by an occasional heron, egret, and beer can. My husband and I walked there--and as we walked in this silent, lonely place we heard the distant rumble of a motor. As we watched, dumbfounded, a lone biker trolled toward us down the sandy path between the tall reeds of phragmites. Instinctively, my husband and I simultaneously ducked down behind a large culvert. (Why, I don’t know--probably because we were both so full of the sinister story I was creating aand suddenly it seemed as if the story was coming alive!) The biker rumbled past us toward the Delaware Bay. A few minutes later, he returned and disappeared the way he had come. Perfectly harmless, of course, he was just enjoying a ride to the water--but he sure gave us a scare!

Another research source was a wonderful book of essays by bikers, "She’s a Bad Motorcycle: Writers on Riding," edited by Geno Zanetti,  in which they revealed their individual reasons for loving their bikes and biking.

Q. Why do you write about doctors?

A. Good question, since I’m not one and am totally unscientific. Barely passed algebra. Two reasons:

  1. Doctors make the perfect sleuths because diagnosing a disease is not too different from solving a crime. It requires the same skills. A combination of paying close attention to detail and an intuitive sense for something being askew or wrong.
  2. Doctors, through their profession, come into contact with people in trouble more often than most people—than say an architect or a businessman, for example.
  3. (Of course, there’s a third reason. Medical knowledge is easily accessible when you’re married to a doctor.)

Q. How did you come to plant Jo Banks, a city girl, in the wilds of south

A. I thought Jo’s city ways would make an interesting contrast to the customs of the country folk. Also, I love NYC and south Jersey and I wanted to write about both. Eventually I will take some of Jo’s country mouse friends to the big city and we’ll have even more contrasts.


[ check out the Doctor Fenimore Mystery Series ]

©2004 Robin Hathaway