“Complex characters give way to a brilliantly written story… Incredible writing from a first time author.”
“Great small town setting with an awesome cast of characters. J Mercer masterfully takes you on a journey full of twists and reveals that are woven so skillfully into the story you’ll want to read it again and again.”
Published: May 17th, 2017
Faryn Miller wants to build a new life in a small town. It’s her last chance to figure out, of all the roles she’s played in her thirty-some years, which one truly fits. Her aim at simplicity sounds like the perfect medicine until she meets Kai Allen, who’s spent his life doing everything the hard way and never bending for anyone. Lucky for Kai, Faryn has no preconceived notions about what he’s done and who he is, unlike the rest of town.
When cryptic messages start sneaking their way into Faryn’s apartment, then blatant threats, the two of them compile a long list of who could be stalking her. Unable to keep his frustration and rage hidden any longer, Kai explodes on everyone in his path, and Faryn can’t help but wonder if the storm is closer than she thinks.
1. After years of “critiquing others work” what were your main challenges when creating Dark & Stormy?
Imagining all the critiques that would come to it, for sure. Which made me more deliberate about my choices, and more sure about the decisions I made. This was actually awesome, and helped me set a new goal for all future books—I want to have a good reason for every scene and every choice, so much that I’d do it again even in the face of criticism.
For example, I expected some people to have a really hard time with the swearing—I’ve heard people describe it as weak writing even—but no matter how many times I tried to cut Kai back, I couldn’t. It did not feel like him without it. It helped that Faryn didn’t swear much, if at all—proof I could lose it when I wanted to. But that was a decision I had to make, knowing it would turn many off.
2. The book is described as “Romance meets suspense” – which readers did you have in mind when writing the story or what did you do to keep both categories of readers interested in this story?
Honestly, I wrote what I was compelled to write and crossed my fingers. It doesn’t entirely fit into the romance genre, and it doesn’t entirely fit into the suspense genre, so I felt I couldn’t market it as one or the other exclusively. I had to think about the suspense readers more though, because aside from the first page, where the reader finds out Faryn dies before the end (leading them to hopefully wonder throughout who did it), the beginning was naturally very romance heavy. Dropping red herrings so the reader didn’t forget that death/suspense was still also a thing took some work and tweaking, through every revision.
3. The story takes place in a small town. What make these small towns the “perfect” places for thrillers (in general and/or for D&S)?
Small towns are so compact and everyone has overlapping lives, in my experience, more than bigger cities. You trust everyone, but you know their dirty secrets, so you also have immediate ammunition not to trust them when they do something suspicious. No benefit of the doubt, really.
4. What are your preferred techniques / rules of writing thrillers that you follow or broke?
Hmm. Well, I didn’t think about this much in the writing itself, so looking back I suppose I might not have sparred with the reader enough—as far as leading you to think one thing and then jerking you to think another. I believe I hinted at possibilities throughout, but never really shut a tendril down, more than leading a path and then veering off it.
5. What are your plans as a writer for the future and what do you want your mark to be? (what is that thing that will make readers say this is a Mercer story?)
My next novel (currently undergoing copy edits) is a large family drama set in a small, coastal, tourist town—women’s fiction. So definitely a departure from the romantic suspense, though there is still romance in it.
As for my ‘brand,’ I want readers to be surprised, in that it’s not always the same feel or the same genre, yet I hope I can pull this off in a way that excites them and not confuses them. I hope it feels like a Mercer story because of the heart—the depth of character/relationships, and the common human struggle, be it of different kinds, on the page.
6. What is better to have on your back cover: a short description of the story or praise quotes?
I think a short description, but that’s my opinion as a reader. I’m looking at back covers in order to choose a novel, so want a taste of it there. That being said, I’m often disappointed in back cover blurbs, more than I’m disappointed in the book, so that would be an argument for quotes. I guess a little of both makes the most sense—but I’ll read the blurb first and skip the quotes if the blurb doesn’t get me. So maybe, to be safe, just quotes? Lol. I don’t know! Good question!
7. What about the cover – how important is a cover for a mystery book and how did you choose it for D&S?
I think covers are important, because if the blurb isn’t clear or convincing, the cover can be. I want my covers to set a tone, to give the reader a vibe—a hint of what they’ll find inside or how they’ll feel when reading. When I decided to put Dark & Stormy out there, I was most concerned with finding a cover I liked and thankfully stumbled on the ink in water right away. After contacting a few artists, Chris offered to create a unique image for my book alone, and design the cover from start to finish. Done! We talked about color and what I wanted the shot to say, and he nailed it. I’d also like to point out, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a facial profile in the ink cloud. I wanted it subtle so you might not see it, so your subconscious might pick it up and have a reaction, even if you didn’t.
Thanks so much for having me! Happy reading!
About the author:
J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. Find her on: