A Conversation with Sandra Brown
Seeing Red by Sandra Brown is an intriguing story about redemption and second chances intertwined within a “who done it” mystery. The complexity of the plot originates with the lies and deceit. Twenty-five years ago, a bombing at the Pegasus, a Dallas hotel, leaves 98 dead and 197 wounded. An iconic photo was taken of Maj. Franklin Trapper rescuing a little five-year-old girl from the building’s ruins. Although he was never the reluctant hero and has played off his fame, the last few years he has gone into seclusion. Fast-forward to twenty-five years later, where that girl, Kerra Bailey, now a Dallas reporter, is trying to get an interview with the major. She is hoping to gain national fame during that interview as she tells the world that she is the girl in the photo.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Sandra Brown: I never know specifically where my ideas come from. For this story I went back to the Oklahoma City bombing. My children were students at Oklahoma University when the Murrah Building was bombed. My daughter, taking classes at the Medical Arts Building, was about six blocks away that morning, so she felt the blast. Her graduation three weeks later was a very somber event, and it, along with the bombing, became very meaningful to me.
EC: Did the iconic photo of the fireman carrying the child out embed in your subconscious?
SB: Yes. It was blazed into my mind. That iconic photo made an impact on everyone in the world who saw it. It was horrible and heartbreaking. It really resonated with me. And I got to thinking about other iconic photos of history. There was the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-E Day, the Vietnamese girl running naked down the road, covered in napalm. Each of these photographs tells a story that affect people in a profound way. I thought about how the photos impact the people who are actually in the photographs. In the major’s case, he has made a whole career out of that photo and the fame that ensued. It defines him for the remainder of his life. What must that be like? And what must it be like for someone to live in his shadow, such as his son Trapper?
EC: You talk about how Trapper lost his father on that day?
SB: It had a profound effect on him regarding his personality and development. He still remembers that his father and he missed his Little League baseball game for a photo shoot. Trapper also has tension with Kerra who is trying to resurrect the image, while he is trying to keep it buried.
EC: How would you describe the characters?
SB: The major was ego-driven, with his family becoming secondary. He stepped into the hero role easily and embraced it. Being former military, he became a patriot to admire and a champion that society needed. He had the courage to take the time to go back and get Kerra instead of just running out of the building.
Kerra is a character I admire. She didn’t let her profession overcome her humanity. She knew where the line should not be crossed. I describe the media in the book, but it does not apply to her: They act “like vultures circling a wounded animal, waiting for it to die.” She is ambitious, goal-driven, and a hard worker.
Trapper is a flawed hero. His life was one long game of catch-up. A game he could not possibly win, since the expectations for him were so high and unrealistic. He did have a defining moment even if it was the worst thing he could fear. He self-sacrificed.
EC: What genre would you associate yourself with?
SB: If you had to tag a genre on me, it would be romantic suspense. There is a strong relationship element to all of my books and they also have a mystery and thriller element. What I am impressed with is that the thriller genre has so many categories. I am proud to be a part of The International Thriller Writer’s Organization because they wanted authors who write different types of sub-genres, including military, suspense, espionage, and cozy mysteries. I am thrilled that it is a blanket of diversity that embraces and appreciates all the genres.
EC: What do you want the readers to get out of the book?
SB: I hope they see me as a really good storyteller. A good plot can take place on a spaceship or wagon train and it should not matter. As a reader and a writer, I find the best books are where people can identify with a character that must overcome incredible odds. We want to see a protagonist overcoming a problem. What is really important to me is that the readers get caught up in the story.