May 2014 First Friday Breakfast with an Author

Welcome to our May First Friday Breakfast with award-winning author Gillian Doyle. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and a menagerie of pets—dogs, cats, birds, fish. Several years ago, in a community college writing course taught by poet and novelist Frank Gaspar, Gillian submitted a one-page assignment that led to an invitation to his novel-writing workshop. The dark historical tale of two characters with psychic powers became her first published book in 1989 when St. Martin’s Press released RAPTURE’S LEGACY by Susan Phillips (not the same author as Susan Elizabeth Phillips). Under the name Susan Leslie Liepitz, she has s written time-travel romances for Jove Time Passages and contemporary romance for Harlequin Temptation.

Gillian has been a member of Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America since 1985, serving on the executive board for a number of years, including Co-President and Treasurer.

Gillian has now taken her paranormal interests into the realm of supernatural suspense as well as narrative nonfiction.

This morning I’m enjoying a pita topped with baba ghanoush, lebni, a fried egg, tabbouli, cherokee red sail lettuce, olive oil and sesame seeds.  With a decadent mocha cappuccino. What are you having for your virtual breakfast, Gillian?

Before I start, I want to thank you for this interview!

My dream breakfast is not so much “What” but “Where” — It is the “Steamboat” (Three Fluffy Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Sausage) at the River Belle Terrace in Disneyland.

You are so welcome! And now I want to switch my breakfast to a location too. Tell us about your writing process from concept to draft to revision.


Taking on a collaborative project of narrative nonfiction has been an entirely different experience from writing a novel solo. My co-author, Deanne Acuña, is a private investigator I have known for a long time, but we only started writing together four years ago. We met in a weekly metaphysical discussion group in the late 1980s. During my first meeting, the leader of the group, Marsha Utain, asked if she could do a reading with my jewelry (known as “Psychometry”). I thought this was standard procedure for a newbie. Turns out it wasn’t. I vividly remember Marsha smiling, saying “Murderous Liaisons.” No one in the room knew I am a writer, so these words surprised them. Not me, though. I was trying to sell a paranormal historical romance with murder in it. It seemed to fit. Or so I thought at the time. Decades later, I believe that reading describes my writing liaison with Deanne, particularly with this first book, LOSING LISA, about a young woman whose brother has murdered their parents and intends to kill her, too.

Even though Deanne took a writing class from my own mentor, Frank Gaspar, she admits that she is accustomed to writing short, concise reports of her investigations for clients. Frank helped her to narrow her focus to this one case about “Lisa” but she needed a co-author who knew how to bring the story to life. The next day, we bumped into each other as we were boarding the same flight. We hadn’t seen each other in six years. Coincidence?

I read Deanne’s first three chapters and was hooked by Lisa’s story. The majority of the manuscript was written in tagless dialogue that needed to be molded into a balanced narration. I wasn’t sure if I could succeed but Deanne believed in me one hundred percent. We started meeting every Wednesday afternoon so I could pepper her with questions about the plot. Her initial draft was written in present day, even though the murders had taken place in the mid-1980s. I give her credit for trying to make the story more timely for readers, but the real-life events from the Eighties did not hold up to modern technology. I had to convince her to allow me to take the book back to the original time period. But then I had to research everything from portable phones to firearms to airline companies of that era!

Did I mention that Deanne is claircognizant and telepathic? No? Well, she doesn’t advertise herself as a psychic, but she does have amazing intuitive skills—and intended to use her books to explain how she uses her gifts in her investigations.

Over the course of several months, I fleshed out scenes but would reach a point where I wasn’t quite sure of the next step. Instead of stopping to call Deanne, I plunged ahead, leaving a note to check with her during our weekly meeting. Nine times out of ten, whatever I wrote was exactly how she wanted it. Deanne explained she had been receiving and answering my questions telepathically. My lesson was to realize I am capable of telepathy, too.

You made me smile. This is very different from my collaborative projects confined as we were to email and google docs. Tell us about your book.

In LOSING LISA, two loving parents in an affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles are killed in cold blood by their oldest son, Kevin, once a promising Psych major at USC who became a drug addict. Pretending to agree to rehab, Kevin had asked for one last family dinner with his parents, his sister (“Lisa”) and his kid brother (“Tommy”). UCLA student Lisa canceled at the last minute after her cat ruined a class paper due the next morning—an accident that ultimately saved her life. Kevin shot his parents and Tommy, leaving them for dead and escaping with $10,000 from a wall safe. In his drugged-out, egotistical mind, Kevin believes he will inherit the entire family fortune worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but only if he can get rid of his sister.

When Lisa is notified by police about her parents’ death, she learns Tommy is in critical condition and has identified Kevin as the shooter. Soon after, Lisa receives a threatening phone message from Kevin: “You’re next!” Unwilling to leave town without Tommy, she needs a safe place to hide while she figures out how to protect the two of them by leaving the West Coast and starting over under assumed names. Homicide detective, Nick Oates, offers the phone number of a friend who can help her—Private Investigator Deanne Acuña.

After several years working for an attorney as an investigative assistant, Deanne had developed a reputation for being able to find people when no one else could. While intuition helps, learning how to locate someone through bureaucratic red-tape also teaches how to “lose” someone in the same system. With this knowledge, Deanne helped several victims of spousal abuse obtain new identities and start over in another state where the abuser can’t find them.

Learning about the death threats by the drug-crazed brother still on the loose, Deanne opens her home to Lisa and ends up helping Nick track down Kevin in Las Vegas. Behaving erratically, he is brought back to Los Angeles and placed in the jail ward of the County hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Lisa tries unsuccessfully to convince the doctors and police that her brother is pretending to be crazy. Within days, Kevin escapes, still unaware his younger brother has survived and still intent on taunting Lisa, now with letters sent to her apartment. He apologizes, claiming he does not want to harm her, but he wants his share of the inheritance so he can leave the country.

Afraid for her life and the life of her kid brother, Tommy, Lisa hires Deanne to find Kevin and bring him in—a monumental task that spans several months over several states.

Let me warm up your green tea. What did you find fun about writing LOSING LISA? What was difficult?

The fun was the challenge of telling a true story in an interesting and dramatic narrative that retains the integrity of the real-life experience of my co-author, Deanne. Everything that happens has a different perspective by everyone involved. This is Deanne’s story. In a Narrative Nonfiction class last year, the instructor said we could not possibly publish a book without interviewing all of the people involved. Well, I can’t. Lisa and Tommy–not their real names, by the way–changed their names and left Los Angeles over twenty years ago. Lisa has given Deanne permission to write the book, but neither she nor Tommy wish to give up their anonymity. Kevin is serving a life sentence in a California prison. His name has been changed to avoid any notoriety that he might gain from this book.

The difficult part of writing this story was learning how to write a narrative nonfiction book. I was definitely a fish-out-of-water at the beginning, but it has been extremely fulfilling. I feel I was meant to do this work, in addition to my fiction writing.

Tell us about your next project and when it may be published.

While I am still working on re-issuing previously published romances as Gillian Doyle, FINDING FAITH is the next book in the Intuitive Investigator Series with Deanne Acuña, which we hope to publish in August. It is a true account of an American teenager (“Faith”) who vanishes during Spring Break with her girlfriends in Mexico in the early 1990s. The young woman’s parents tried to find her on their own but could not get help from the police so they contacted Deanne who is certified as an international investigator and speaks fluent Spanish. The search for Faith winds through Central America into Columbia. Sadly, this human trafficking story of young women and girls abducted for the sex trade is still headline news today. Helping Deanne write this horrifying story has been, at times, truly gut-wrenching.

Human trafficking is a scourge, and I know your book will open eyes and hearts to its devastating effects.

Thank you for sharing your breakfast and writing life, Gillian. I enjoyed learning more about your narrative nonfiction.  

Here are a few links if you want to read more about Gillian Doyle and intuitive investigations.

Gillian Doyle links: Website, Facebook – @GillianDoyleAuthor, Amazon Author’s Page:

Intuitive Investigator linksWebsite Facebook Twitter – @IntuitvInvstgtr

I have LOSING LISA and Gillian’s time travel novels MYSTIC MEMORIES and THIS TIME TOGETHER. I highly recommend all of them. Before you blast off to Amazon to get your copy of LOSING LISA or click, who would like to join us for a cup of her favorite Yogi Green Tea Blueberry Slim Life?

About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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