Nikki LeClair knows how to write suspense on a level that connects so intimately with readers that her books correctly earn the title “cozy mystery” . LeClair crafts characters that reflect us and perhaps people we know. Even the ghost in her books, the delightfully marvelous Edie Edwards, retains human attributes. I recently interviewed Nikki LeClair about her upcoming book, Locking Up Santa, the second book in her Haunting Me series. Read what she had to say below.
Congrats on the upcoming release of Locking Up Santa. What was your greatest challenge in writing this sequel to Haunting Me?
“The greatest challenge was whether or not I wanted, first of all, for it to have a happy ending or whether I wanted it to be another cliffhanger. I have my endings before I have anything else. I’m more of a pantser and what a pantser is, is someone who doesn’t really plan anything. You just kind of wing it as you go along. So the very first thing that I wanted to do was to make sure where I wanted to go with the ending. Another challenge was how I wanted it to be because I didn’t want the plot to be too terrible or too scary because it is a cozy mystery. I wanted it to be a little bit light because it is set during Christmas. No one wants to read about murder and all that horrible stuff at Christmas time so it was really a challenge for me to think of something that people would find upsetting hearing about but not too horrible. I actually got the idea a couple days later when I heard on the news that somebody was dressing up as the Easter Bunny and broke into some homes in Canada. They caught him; he was just an eighteen year old boy. But I found it funny that he was in an Easter Bunny costume. At the same time, it was very creative. That’s how my writer mind works. So that’s kinda how the whole story came.”
In Haunting Me, readers met Phoebe Mercer, a legal assistant who befriends a ghost named Edie Edwards. In what ways, if any, do you feel the relationship between Phoebe and Edie has grown in Locking Up Santa?
“I will try to make it a little, not obvious, but a little foreshadowing for readers that Edie is looking at Phoebe more and more as if she were her daughter. Edie has a little bit more of a protective nature over Phoebe even though they have only been together for about seven months. I actually hope to expand more on their relationship in the third book. The third book is going to be much more Edie centric as it looks into their relationship. That’s my number one priority in the third book. I want Edie and Phoebe to become close yet at the same time, drive each other crazy because sometimes, you have that relationship with your mother and father. You can love them to death but sometimes they will get on your nerves. I wanted readers to get that with Phoebe and Edie.”
What would you say that you learned about yourself as you embarked on this writing journey?
“I definitely learned that I have to work on my patience because for some reason, there were several scenes that weren’t happening the way I wanted them to and every time I tried working on them, they would go a way that I didn’t think they would. I totally believe in that saying that sometimes characters take over and they do things they not supposed to. I found that happening alot in the sequel (laughs). So I had to learn to be patient and to let what was happening on the keyboard happen and to just deal with it later. That was challenging. But I learned that in the end, it is sometimes one hundred percent better letting your characters do the talking. Because they know better.”
Locking Up Santa is an ingenious title. Not only is it enticing to readers but it also acknowledges the plot of the book. Out of curiosity, what other titles had you considered for this book?
“Actually, there were. I had them written down, but I can’t remember now, but I will tell you this, none of them were as good as Locking Up Santa. I had people voting and they were like, these are horrible, where did these come from? One problem that I have as a writer is that it is very rare for me to be able to come up with a really good title. The title is usually the very last thing I do and I will probably agonize over it for a week or two. Locking Up Santa didn’t have a title for two weeks and I was going crazy and saying to the universe send me a sign. Then I was having a conversation with a friend about Christmas movies and my daughter said something about watching Santa Claus is Coming to Town. So my friend said something about locking up her dog because she was having house guests. I heard locking up and I heard Santa and that’s how that title came to be.”
What are some of the themes of Locking Up Santa?
“I would definitely say trust your gut, trust your instinct. Phoebe had her brother and people she knew telling her things and she listened because she figured that they were more experienced than she was. Regardless of whether someone has the experience, I think that it is very important to trust your gut especially if you’re very in tune with yourself. It can stop you from getting into alot of trouble. I also wanted friendship to be a theme because Phoebe does go through something with her best friend Clara all because of a misunderstanding. I did want to make the point that relationships are a two way street and it’s important to hold on to those relationships.”
Are there any other projects that you are currently working on that you are able to share with us?
“I participated in a holiday anthology (It’s beginning to look alot like Chick Lit) which was so much fun to do. It was the first time I’ve done something like that. I’m not really good at short stories. I usually don’t like writing them. It’s hard for me. But I really ended up liking it. I had so much fun writing with the other authors. They’re so talented and I learned so much from them. What I’m working on right now is a story for NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) so I am working on a Chick Lit story.”