Sometimes inspiration comes in strange places. For my seventh novel, SPILLED BLOOD, I owe an odd debt to Lady Gaga. No, she probably isn’t the first person who comes to mind for crime fiction.
Let me explain. My books often start with setting – places that seem ripe for the sort of remote, rural crime that I write – and that was true of SPILLED BLOOD. I’d recently done a series of library events in southwestern Minnesota, which is a bleak, barren part of the state, particularly during the winter months. Dirt roads. Dormant corn fields. Flooded rivers. There are also vestiges of the Depression-era past, including ghost towns with long-abandoned buildings and shops that once hummed with activity. I was there during gray days, and I knew I wanted to set a book in that locale.
I had an image of starting the book in a ghost town, but I was struggling with the opening scene. That was when I heard Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” on the radio one day. The song includes the line: “Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun.”
And I thought: Russian Roulette. I had this immediate image of two teenage girls from opposite small towns, caught in the midst of a bitter feud, both emotionally desperate, confronting each other over a gun. That was how SPILLED BLOOD began to take shape. It was about fear. It was about revenge. It was about emotional frustration. When one of those girls winds up shot dead – and the other claims she didn’t pull the trigger – the drama begins.
I’ve always said I don’t write about super-heroes and super-villains. I write intimate psychological suspense, which means drama that emerges out of the stories of ordinary people who are drawn across terrible lines. SPILLED BLOOD is exactly that kind of novel, where most of the characters have good intentions, but they are blinded by loss and grief. You won’t find any serial killers here. Instead, you’ll find real, flawed human beings who sometimes make bad choices with deadly consequences.
You’ll also find just that one little echo of Lady Gaga.
SPILLED BLOOD by Brian Freeman is out now from Quercus, hardback £12.99