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SunLit Interview: Jodi Bowersox’s deep research on schizophrenia shaped one of her characters

The author fleshed out a key player in "Red Rabbit on the Run" -- and then vetted the result with a medical expert

Jodi Bowersox has been an actress, seamstress, designer, business owner, homeschool teacher, kid’s choir director and artist. Her romance novels span genres from faith fiction to suspense to time travel to sci fi with small town and big city settings. Several have won awards from the Colorado Book Awards, the Colorado Authors League, and the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. In addition, she has children’s picture books to her credit, a book of stage productions, and a non-fiction Bible commentary. As an award-winning watercolor artist, Jodi specializes in pet portraits. You can view all her creative endeavors, as well as read samples of her books at jodibowersox.com. She lives with her husband in Colorado Springs.


SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate? 

Bowersox: “Red Rabbit On The Run” is the third book in my Anonymous series. In the previous book, “The Diamond Diva Vendetta,” Stafford Investigations is searching for trafficking victim Tiffany Morrow in Brazil. Many complications slow that down and a whole new plot takes over, but she is found in the end. 

And this is where “Red Rabbit” begins. For her rescuers, it should be a simple matter of taking her home and getting paid, but Tiffany has other ideas and gives them the slip almost as soon as they reach Denver.

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it? 

This excerpt is right after those taking Tiffany home — P.I. Will Yarnel, and Dani Harper — have lost her. Will sees her on a passing bus, however, and they jump in a cab to follow. Dani and Will had been thrown together in Brazil, and here we see a bit of their current relationship. We also get the first look into Tiffany’s mind and motivations.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.

Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you actually sat down to write the book? 

In the previous book, Tiffany was just a college student from Denver that they were searching for. Now I had to flesh her out and make her into a real person. I had thought about the paranoia of schizophrenics and how that could complicate a mystery. How would those trying to help her know if her perceptions were real or not? 

Much research ensued. I read about schizophrenia. I read first-hand accounts of those afflicted. I read about current treatments and drugs. I read about those who could live a normal life as long as they stayed on their meds, and I read about those who never quite made it to normal—who never escaped the voices completely. 

And once I had it written, I gave it to a medical doctor to read to make sure I was not completely out in left field. He gave me a thumbs up but also gave me some things to throw in — nervous tics to add to the realism of her condition.

Once you began writing, did the story take you in any unexpected directions? If so, how would you describe dealing with a narrative that seems to have a mind of its own?

It would take a more brilliant mind than mine to plot out a whole book with no surprises. I usually have a general idea—in this case a traumatized sex trafficking victim with schizophrenia trying to prove a crime—and start writing. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

I guarantee you, I won’t keep everything I write, but everything I write will be valuable in discovering who this character is. And the characters are always the foundation of my books. They absolutely form the story. It takes a while, sometimes, to get to know those characters. And sometimes what you think you know in the beginning gets turned on its head as they reveal more of themselves to you. 

I’ve had side characters thrown in for comic relief turn into major players, who then get their own book. That’s half the fun – finding out who they really are. There is an advantage to continuing a series with some of your previous characters; you don’t have to do this process with every single one. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book? 

I’m going to let you in on a secret… writing a good mystery is hard work. I’ve written in a number of different genres, and I think mysteries require the most brain power. 

All books need suspense in one form or another to keep a reader reading, but working in clues that aren’t too obvious and keeping the bad guy a secret until you want them revealed, not to mention tying up all your loose ends, is not a cake walk. There’s nothing worse than the reviewer who says they figured it out too soon and nothing better than hearing, “I did not see that coming!”

Has the book raised questions or provoked strong opinions among your readers? How did you address them?

The response so far has been really positive. It’s always risky to step out into a topic like schizophrenia — eventually you’ll get the “you’ve got it all wrong” review — but my hope is that people reading will realize that there is a very broad spectrum of symptoms and experiences out in the world, and it’s okay if Tiffany’s experience is different than their own.

Walk us through your writing process: Where and how do you write? 

I usually try to write every day, but the last six months or so, I’ve also been working on illustrating a children’s book. Therefore, I paced myself with writing so I could paint one illustration a week. Two more to go!

Tell us about your favorite character in this book.

Tiffany enlists her computer science tutor, Steve Elway, to help her prove her embezzlement claims. Steve is based on a real-life Steve I knew in college. Tiffany describes him as someone whose “reactions filled his whole body” and his expressions were like “reading the book of Steve.” 

He is so open and honest, he couldn’t keep a secret if he tried. And because he has an aunt with schizophrenia, he doesn’t make a big deal out of Tiffany’s condition. He not only agrees to help her, he even  finds himself pondering what a relationship would be like with her. Do they make it as a couple? You’ll have to read to find out!

Tell us about your next project. 

The next book in this series, “Blue-Eyed Devil”, tells the continuing story of Justin Miranda, a prominent character from “The Diamond Diva Vendetta,” and one of the men responsible for Tiffany being sold to a Brazilian brothel. It has a release date of July 1. 

The book I’m illustrating is called “CATS,” and will feature 20 watercolor cat portraits. It will be released under the name J.B. Stockings, hopefully by summer’s end.


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