Bestselling author Iris Johansen turned from a successful career in contemporary romance novels and historical romances to writing crime fiction in 1991. Her novels featuring Atlanta, Georgia, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan began with the 1998 The Face of Deception. Eve has made ten more appearances since then, the most recent being last year’s Chasing the Night.
Eve is usually paired with her romantic interest, police detective Joe Quinn in these novels, along with a supporting cast of recurring characters. As Publishers Weekly noted, Johansen’s novels are known for their “flesh-and-blood characters, crackling dialogue and lean, suspenseful plotting,” while Booklist has called Johansen’s work “gripping and relevant.”
Iris, thanks much for joining us at Scene of the Crime. Atlanta features heavily in your Eve Duncan novels. What’s your connection to that city?
I’ve lived in Atlanta for a number of years and thought that it would authenticate the Eve Duncan series if I gave Eve a background with which I was familiar. I know Atlanta very well and it made the creative process easier for me.
What things about Atlanta make it unique and a good physical setting in your books?
Atlanta is a large cosmopolitan city and yet it has a historical flavor that is unique to the south. It also has a huge influx of other cultures from the Yankees up north and the citizens of the world.
Did you consciously set out to use Atlanta as a “character” in your books, or did this grow naturally out of the initial story or stories?
No, I did not set out to use the setting as a character in the beginning. I did not realize Eve was going to be a series character until after I finished the first book. It came into being as the stories progressed.
How do you incorporate location in your fiction? Do you pay overt attention to it in certain scenes, or is it a background inspiration for you?
How does Eve interact with her surroundings? Is she a native, a blow-in, a reluctant or enthusiastic inhabitant, cynical about it, a booster? And conversely, how does the setting affect Eve?
It is her home. She has lived in Atlanta all her life but she is a citizen of the world due to her profession. She knows the place and is aware of all the good and bad that is her city. Particularly, since her lover is a police detective.
Has there been any local reaction to your works?
Yes, I am fairly well known in the city. Occasionally I will hear from a reader who recognizes a street or lake and ask if a place is real or fictional. I blend truth and fiction frequently in the books. I am published all over the world and am generally well reviewed.
Have you ever made any goofs in depicting your location or time period? Please share–the more humorous the better (we all have).
Of the Eve Duncan novels, do you have a favorite book or scene that focuses on the place?
I write frequently about Eve’s cottage on a private lake but in Bloodgame I had a scene on Lake Allatoona that featured my villain who had vampire leanings and had just made a kill. This lake is real and the chill and menace came across very well and I revisited the site several times in the book. The menace became very real to me as well.
Who are your favorite writers, and do you feel that other writers influenced you in your use of the spirit of place in your novels?
I have many favorite authors. Koontz, King, Ayn Rand, Linda Howard, Catherine Coulter, Kay Hooper….It goes on forever. No, I appreciate their use of memory and visuals but I don’t believe I’ve been consciously influenced. Subconsciously? Perhaps. Who knows?
I’m very excited about a trilogy that will start next April. The trilogy will answer many questions that I have been asked over the years. In April, Eve will be on the stands followed by Quinn in July. The final book will be out in October and it is called Bonnie. We kept the books close because we knew the readers would be very eager for the next story in the trilogy. As I said, it answers many questions.
I’ve been fascinated by the actual creation and can’t wait until I get reader response.
Iris, thanks again for taking the time to talk with Scene of the Crime about Atlanta and Eve Duncan.
For more information on Iris Johansen, see her homepage.