I am so excited to have the opportunity to interview one of my favorite storytellers, the lovely and talented Debra Webb. Debra writes spine-chilling suspense for Harlequin and St. Martin’s Press. Debra’s latest releases are the most recent Colby Agency story, Broken, and her self-published Jackie Mercer novel, Dirty.
Debra Webb was born in Scottsboro, Alabama, to parents who taught her that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. She loved telling stories and began writing at age nine.
What was the most memorable research trip you’ve made?
One I truly loved was with my family to New Orleans! We roamed the city, visited former plantations and rode the bayou! It was awesome, alligators and all!
Please share with us the most interesting stories law enforcement or forensic professionals have told you.
I can’t go into details since it was a real case (already closed at the time, of course), but an ABI (Alabama Bureau of Investigations) agent visited our local RWA chapter and walked us through a real murder case from the discovery of the body to the apprehension of the suspect. It was awesome! He brought a huge box of evidence, crime scene photos and reports.
Anything that changed your real life or that made you write a story you never thought possible for you to write?
My most recent Colby Agency story, Broken, was a step away from the norm for me in terms of the ending. Generally with romance you want as much of the story to end “happily” as possible. However, last year I suffered a personal tragedy and lost most of the use of my right arm and hand. Unfortunately the loss is permanent. It took months for me to come to terms with the new me and how my life was changed. So, as I wrote Broken with its damaged hero and heroine, I decided to go with a real life ending. Yes, it’s a happy ending ultimately but that happiness is only realized after the acceptance that some things can’t be changed.
Are there any stories that have made you cry, laugh, stunned you or rendered you speechless when you heard it, that you had to incorporate them in your fiction?
I saw an interview once with a woman who was deaf and worked for the FBI. She was so good at lip reading that they decided to use her in the field to “listen in” on suspects where electronic devices wouldn’t work. I found that so interesting that I created my Silent series in Bombshell with a deaf heroine! It was challenging to write since I did her POV in first person and I had to be extremely careful not to show her “hearing” anything!
How would you say you have evolved as a writer over time?
Oh my word, after nearly 100 books I’d say I’ve gained an ease with the flow and pacing. I think my work reads more naturally now. I get deeper into the characters. I hope I’m better at the craft! BUT, the storytelling hasn’t gotten easier. I still have to work just as hard! Seems unfair, lol!
When you’re not writing, what are your favorite ways to relax and have some fun?
Gardening! I love, love gardening. And antiquing and junking!
Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why?
That’s tough. I guess if I had to pick, there would be two. Nameless because of the main characters and the plot. It was an awesome journey for me. And Dirty, my current self-published work. I love Dirty and I have waited a long time to get her out there. Dirty is the debut of a new series about a 45-year-old woman who still loves to look good and have fun! She’s sexy and sassy, yet she’s a real woman. I adore Jackie Mercer!
Do you have plans to write other genres in the future?
I think I’ll be sticking with my romantic suspense and the women’s fiction/mystery series that started with Dirty!
Has your life changed since you’ve become a published author? If so, how?
It’s a dream come true. Not because I’ve made the tops of any lists or because I’ve gotten rich (because I certainly haven’t), but because I have had the privilege of telling my stories. There are no words to adequately convey my gratitude.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment at a booksigning?
I can’t recall one at the moment, though several have been quite interesting!
I have found that some authors listen to music while they write. Do you listen to music or is it something that is distracting to you?
I can usually tune anything out. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I don’t. I have to be in the mood for music when I’m working.
Do you ever fear writer’s block or that you’ll let your audience down?
Writer’s block? No way. Letting my audience down? Definitely. Every story I write comes with that worry. I know I can’t make everyone happy all the time but I darn sure try!
Do you belong to any writers groups and what do you feel you have gained from the social sites?
I belong to RWA and to ITW. Social sites are a terrific way to connect with readers and other writers. Writer to writer it provides a wonderful support system. Writer to reader, it gives an opportunity for a real connection. I think readers appreciate it, I know I sure do!
Are there any characters in your books that represent you?
Maybe Victoria Colby, a little. She’s experienced a lot of tragedy in her life and she just keeps getting back up and going again. My first child was born with multiple permanent physical challenges, I lost both my parents way too soon, and then I lost a big part of myself (use of right arm and hand). But like a Timex, I just keep on ticking.
How much of the characters and story lines come from people you know and your own experiences versus your imagination?
Mostly it all comes from my imagination. Occasionally I’ll model a character after someone I adore!
How do you keep your characters fresh and the plot exciting?
I keep in mind that the characters are like real people, they’re all different and each one will handle a given situation differently. I have several friends who have recently divorced after lifetimes of marriage. Each one’s experience has been totally different and they’ve handled the emotions and changes differently. As long as you remember that one rule (story characters must be real), then no matter how many serial killers or cowboys or kick butt heroines you write, they will always be different. No matter how many times you visit a particular storyline (secret baby, missing person, reunited lovers), the story will always be unique because the characters are unique!
Can you tell us one thing about yourself that most of your fans don’t already know?
That I’m an HGTV addict!!!!
I want to thank Debra for the interview and for many hours of high octane entertainment.