Thanks for inviting me over to Community Bookstop to talk about Read Me Dead!
When I first began Read Me Dead, it wasn’t supposed to be what it is now. I knew there was secret that my main character, Alexia “Alex”, had kept, but I wasn’t sure what that secret would be. I never imagined that she would ever witness her own parents’ murder. That was emotional, having a ten year old child witness the brutal murder of her mom and dad, but it was a very poignant plot point. After all, the story wouldn’t be what it is without her secrets.
I think having Alex keep her secret for seven years is what really amps up the tension, especially when she finally reveals it to her friends and the local newspaper picks up the story and runs with it. It’s then that we learn the murderer has come back to keep his promise.
I think what I liked most about writing this type of young adult novel was that it’s entirely plausible. It felt real to me when I was writing it, and I drew from how I would be if I suddenly found myself in Alex’s shoes. How would I handle it? I would need help getting through carrying around such a huge secret and living with those terrible memories. I know Alex isn’t the strongest character, but I feel like she grew through the novel and that made it even more plausible.
This novel came from a dream that I had about a young girl being chased because of a secret she told. She knew something about someone who wanted to get away with murder, so I had to write her keeping this secret because she, in turn, didn’t want to die either. It wouldn’t leave my mind. I have worked on different variations of this novel since I first started high school back in 2002. I had the dream even before that, and it’s stuck with me, begging me to write it. One day, I had all of these ideas about what Alex had actually seen and eventually, it came back to this one huge secret. (Revisions didn’t hurt it either though.)
Writing suspense/thrillers wasn’t something new for me. Ever since I was old enough to read “adult” books, I picked up Dean Koontz’s books. He was my inspiration, and I wanted to write a good suspense/thriller like he did. I wanted to bring it to the teens though because I was a teen when they didn’t really, technically have the young adult genre. Sure, we had it, but it wasn’t what it is now. I’ve always had a fondness for writing for teens/young adults; however, I didn’t want to write coming of age stories. This is so much more than coming of age. This is a young girl trying to cope with a horrible situation, and I wanted to bring that out forefront. I wanted people to be in her head, feeling her pain and emotions as she struggled with normal high school problems: falling in love, trying to keep up with school work, and on top of all of that, she’s having to deal with her secrets, memories and eventually, betrayals.
Why did I write Read Me Dead? I think it’s to prove that no matter what someone is going through, there’s always a silver-lining. It may be buried deep, underneath loads of emotions, problems, and in Alex’s case, murder, but it’s there. There is always something worth living for, and you don’t always have to be strong. It’s okay to need someone and to confide in someone. Alexia learns this, and she learns it in a big way.
Emerald Barnes lives in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She tries her hardest to write novels that appeal not only to young adults but to those who are young at heart. When she isn't writing, she's spending all of her time with her nieces and nephews or has her nose in a book. She has the great pleasure of being an Indie author with her first two books, Piercing Through the Darkness and Read Me Dead. She doesn't know what her future holds except that there will be more writing of books along the way.