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Lisa Gardner: She reads for story, not genre

Lisa Gardner.PhilbrickPhotography

Inspired by her own hiking obsession, best-selling writer Lisa Gardner set her newest, “One Step Too Far,” in the wilds of Wyoming where her anti-heroine Frankie Elkin goes searching for a missing young man. This is the second in Gardner’s newest series about Elkin, a recovering alcoholic obsessed with cracking cold cases. In all, the New Hampshire writer has penned more than 20 books, four of which have been adapted into movies. Gardner lives in the Mount Washington Valley. “One Step Too Far” is out Tuesday.

BOOKS: What are you reading?

GARDNER: S.A. Cosby’s “Razorblade Tears.” It’s about fathers and sons and vengeance. You would think that a middle-aged woman sitting in New Hampshire wouldn’t be interested in that but it’s so confidently told it sweeps you away. The novel has a strong voice, and I’m a big reader for voice.


BOOKS: Who else would you put in that strong voice category?

GARDNER: Karin Slaughter and Tess Gerritsen. I read a lot young adult novels as well. I think they are written with a lot of confidence, such as Sarah J. Maas’s books. I like an author who is very confident.

BOOKS: When did you start reading YA?

GARDNER: For many years I read it because of my daughter. It’s something we can share. The next best thing to reading a great novel is talking to someone about it. I bought Xiran Jay Zhao’s “Iron Widow” for my daughter for Christmas and read the book before I gave it to her. Then I was dying for her to read it so we could talk about it. The novel, which is set in a futuristic, feudal China, is the angriest book I’ve ever read. I can’t decide if that’s the coolest thing in the world or just really angry.


BOOKS: Are you a science fiction reader?

GARDNER: I’m a reader. I care less about the genre than I do about the character. One of the reasons I love Karin Slaughter so much is for the character Will Trent, who is a dyslexic detective. How his liability becomes his strength is intriguing. That’s also why I love Gregg Hurwitz’s “Orphan X” series because of the character Orphan X. He’s like a Jason Bourne but he’s also trying to find his humanity.

BOOKS: What would make you put a book down?

GARDNER: Like a lot of readers I don’t like violence towards animals or children. If you include those kinds of scenes there has to be a lot of payoff to make it worth that kind of emotional distress. A great thriller novel is about empowerment and heroism. If it’s “life sucks and then it sucks more,” I don’t need that. I got the news for that.

BOOKS: What was the last true crime book that you liked?

GARDNER: “If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bonds of Sisterhood” by Gregg Olsen, one of my favorite authors. I like true crime with the narrative drive of a novel.

BOOKS: Who is a thriller writer that you wish was better known?

GARDNER: I read an absolutely fabulous debut book called " Never Saw Me Coming” by Vera Kurian. The main character is a psychopath who is in a university program for psychopaths.


BOOKS: What other kinds of books do you read?

GARDNER: Historical fiction. Kristin Hannah is hands-down my hero-worship author. I’m hoarding her “The Four Winds” for when I have 48 hours to be left alone with it. She’s famous for her WWII books. My favorite is “Winter Garden,” which is set during the siege of Stalingrad. Her novel makes it very human.

BOOKS: How has COVID changed your reading?

GARDNER: I really miss writers’ conferences. That was the best way to discover new authors and books. But I’m very lucky that publishers send me lots of new books. When I was 16 this was my biggest fantasy. I’ve been known to open up books in the entryway, and two hours later I’m still reading in the mudroom. I did that with Riley Sager’s “Final Girls.” I liked the packaging, opened it, and started reading the book standing up. My daughter walked by and said, “Mom, you can sit down.”

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane” and she can be reached at amysutherland@mac.com.