Having interviewed Woodbury after the release of her first novel, I couldn’t wait to reach out and interview her again on A DEAD END IN VEGAS. With a completely different storyline and style, I had questions!
First off, I wanted to know what inspired Irene Woodbury to write A DEAD END IN VEGAS, since it’s a totally different genre than her last novel. Woodbury’s response: “I had heard about couples who met on the Internet, and then got together in person. Some of them flew across the U.S., or even from one country to another. They had high hopes and were very excited, and, most of the time, it was a positive, romantic experience. But I couldn’t help wondering about a situation where it went really badly--and maybe even ended tragically. It was an idea I couldn’t let go of. And so, little by little, I started to put the plot together and create the characters.”
That led to my next question: How long did it take to write A DEAD END IN VEGAS? “I thought about it for three or four months,” Woodbury answered, “then spent two years writing it.” I wasn’t surprised. The way the characters were represented and married into the storyline, I could tell it was no fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants book for sure!
It’s amazing to me that someone can put together a complex storyline--keeping the details to precise perfection--and put it all down in print. I asked Woodbury if there was any truth in her novel (it just felt so real when I read it, like no one could have made that up). She responded, “It took a few months to think it through. I had this idea about a couple—both of them married--who try to meet for a week in Vegas, and it turns into a disaster. But then, when I came up with the friend of the man meeting her, their affair, and her death, I knew I had a book.”
I asked Woodbury about choosing character names. Did she have them in her head from the start, or did each character grow into their name? Woodbury explained, “Sometimes I have the names early on, sometimes I change them over and over till it sounds, and feels, right. When I’m stuck, I look up most popular baby names on the computer, or the 1,000 most common surnames in the U.S. I can spend days looking at websites trying to create names of towns, too. When you’re writing, sometimes it’s kind of a break, and you prolong the process because you’re trying to avoid the writing. I’ve done that a lot.” I think prolonging the writing, and extra research, are what made this story pop!
So, do writers fall in love with their characters, or one in particular, I wondered? I asked Woodbury if she had a favorite character in A DEAD END IN VEGAS. She most certainly did: troubled teenager Randy. “He’s in a terrible situation,” she pointed out, “and too young to know how to handle it. He’s angry, rebellious, deeply wounded, and full of vengeance and confusion. I couldn’t believe his trip to Vegas, how resourceful he was about the whole thing. And he dies a sort of heroic death.” Isn’t it funny how a writer reflects on her characters as if they themselves wrote the script of their life--when in fact it was the author?
I asked Woodbury if she could personally relate to any one of the characters? If so, who, and why? She shared, “I relate to all of them, good and bad; Tricia’s vulnerability, Dave’s stubbornness, Sally’s compassion, Mike’s practicality, Randy’s impulsiveness, and Sarah’s innocence.”
Okay, once you get the opportunity to read this amazing book you will better understand the next question I had to ask Woodbury. I had to know if she felt it was a little cruel to leave Cindy high and dry on her wedding day? “Oh, yes,” Woodbury replied, “but I honestly believe Dave realizes, as he’s about to put the ring on her finger, that this might not be the best thing for him—or her—because of his feelings for Sally. Once he sees Stella at the wedding with Mike, he realizes that the marriage between Mike and Sally is on its last legs. That causes him to re-examine his feelings and back out of the marriage. In a way, I hate what he does, but I also think he’s doing what he thinks is right.”
I couldn’t resist asking about a sequel to A DEAD END IN VEGAS. Will there be one? “That would be wonderful!” Woodbury said with a smile. “I’d love to find out what happens at the wedding after Dave and Sally walk out. How do Mike and Stella react? And what about Ryan and Sarah? What does Cindy do? Those are the burning questions. I would love to plot it out and write a sequel, but I would need to give it a lot of thought.”
So, there is hope! But I still had to know why she ended the book the way she did (read it and you’ll see what I mean). Woodbury shared with me exclusively, “As I wrote A DEAD END IN VEGAS, it became more and more apparent that all Sally talked about was Dave. In the beginning, she doesn’t even like him and blames him for what happened to Tricia. But, as the story develops and she sees him in all these different situations, she starts to understand him and feel sorry for him. I think that Dave and Sally bond over Tricia’s death; to me, it’s a positive thing that love came from the tragedy.”
She went on, “Also, one of my favorite expressions is: ‘Life is what’s happening to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ Sally doesn’t realize what’s happening as the story moves along, and neither do we. And then, suddenly, it has happened. We don’t quite know how, or when, but it has. And that’s the way real life is. I like that.”
Regardless of whether you like the way the book ends, it gives readers the opportunity to add their own mental sequel. I can also guarantee that you will not forget the characters in A DEAD END IN VEGAS anytime soon. I give the book five stars, and would like to thank Irene Woodbury for the opportunity to get the inside scoop behind the author and A DEAD END IN VEGAS.
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