Thursday, February 23, 2023

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY - The Lacey James Series by Chris Patchell

The Lacey James Series


Get a behind-the-scenes all-access pass to Chris Patchell's The Lacey James Series!


Lacey James solves crimes in her hometown of Sweet Home, Oregon, while trying to keep her family from falling apart. Lacey is married to a military man named Caleb. His deployment a thousand miles away at Fort Hood has pushed their relationship to the breaking point.

This four-book series features an ever-growing cast of characters who are tasked with solving a new crime in each. While they have been released as a series, they can also be read as standalones. Here’s a short preview into each.

Find Her:
When obsession turns to murder, can Officer Lacey James stop the terrifying crime spree before another victim dies?

Save Her:
Abandoned on a remote mountain road, the storm closing in isn’t the only deadly threat she faces.

Tell Her:
Lives are shattered when a killer comes to town.

Hide Her:
The discovery of an abandoned child forges a chilling link with an infamous cold case.


What is the sub-genre and trope?  Did your characters lead you to this genre or was that decided before the story began?

The series is a police procedural with a sub-genre of romantic suspense. I started writing the series with these genres in mind.

Are you more character or plot driven?

Oooh, this is a tough one. I try to do both, but if I had to choose, I’d say they’re character-driven stories with strong plots.

With many main and secondary characters, how do you keep them separated in your mind?  Do you have a story/vision board above your workspace?

I spent the majority of my career as a project manager in technology, so tracking the complexities of characters and plot happens to be one of my superpowers and I’m able to keep track of most of the details inside my head. That said, I do keep character notes in an electronic file and story outlines, for reference.

I know from previous interviews that characters take on a life of their own.  Were any of the characters in this series determined to take their own direction instead of where you initially wanted them to go?

Lacey is very much her own gal. While I had a good idea where each of the books in the series were going, I let Lacey lead the way. Readers are finding her smart, tenacious and caring. I’d also say that she’s more than a little stubborn, which makes her both a frustrating partner and a great cop.

Are any of the male POVs based on anyone you know?

No, but while I was modeling the relationship between Lacey and her military husband, I did have conversations with a girlfriend of mine who is also a military wife. Those conversations were very helpful in defining the conflict within their relationship in a way rings true.

Are any of the female POVs based on anyone you know?

There was a narcissistic secondary character in Save Her who was loosely based on one of my husband’s friends… I won’t tell you which one…

Was there any one character/scene that was harder to write about than the other?

Figuring out how to end the secondary storyline in Save Her was a struggle. Lacey and Caleb’s troubled marriage keeps butting up against the same core struggles, and I wasn’t sure what the right emotional note to land on was for as I endeavored to write the end. I spent a lot of time thinking about it before admitting to my husband that I was stuck. He gave me a piece of advice that finally helped me work through the mental block I was having and enabled me to figure things out.

It’s challenging to write deeply emotional scenes that feel authentic, but when you manage to nail it, it’s such a great feeling.

What is your favorite book in the series?

Don’t mention it to the other books, but Tell Her, the third book in the series, is my personal favorite. 

The thing I like best about this story was that I was able to infuse little bits of smalltown humor into the storyline. I really started developing a rapport with some of the reoccurring secondary characters in the series, like the older waitress at the local diner who’s always flirting with Lacey’s handsome partner, and the local skateboard kid who starts out as a low-key menace but ends up the hero in one of the action scenes. 

Then there’s the food fight scene at Safeway. I won’t spoil this one for you, but it was a lot of fun to write. Throughout this story, Lacey has to unravel the many lies told by the characters in her search for the truth, some of which are undeniably shocking.

In the immortal words of Dr. Gregory House, everyone lies.

I know that we aren’t supposed to have “favorites” as far as our children, but seriously, who’s your favorite character and why?

Honestly, I kind of have a bit of a character crush on Lacey’s partner, Eli. 

He shows up in the second book and becomes a larger part of the series in book 3. He’s got an interesting back story of his own—a former big city cop who moved to Sweet Home to take care of his mother’s failing health. He’s a good guy. Strong and supportive.

Series question - Who is your favorite couple and why did you decide on their dynamics?

Hey now! I’d tell you, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. 😊

How do you get inside these characters’ heads to find their perfect HEA?

I spend a lot of time thinking about life from their POV. I think about their backgrounds, relationships and their struggles. This process helps me develop a rich set of characters that are realistic and relatable. 

I also spent a lot of time in the area where the stories take place. I grew up in a smalltown and love that whole theme of how everyone knows everyone else’s secrets and how that’s a good and bad thing.

What scene in this book/series sticks out the most for you?  Why?

That’s a really tough question. There are so many memorable scenes, but I’d choose one of the climactic scenes in Tell Her. 

Lacey’s been trying to uncover the truth behind who killed J.J. He’s the new guy in town who everyone seems to like. The scene takes place on a farm outside Kennewick, Washington and what I love about it is the starkness of the landscape. I can picture it in my head. It’s dusk. The fading light turns the trees in the apple orchards to black. The farmhouse is lit up and as Lacey approaches the house, she sees a figure emerge from the orchard, walking between the outbuildings. 

It’s creepy. Ominous. Highly visual. Just the kind of scene that suspense writers like me love best.

Series - Were any of the books harder to write than others?

Definitely. Save Her, which happens to be the shortest book in the series, was also the most challenging, due in part to the intensity of the storyline. It’s action-packed and because of the dire nature of the situation (a woman lost in a forest on a mountain being chased by a predator), understanding the stages of hypothermia and how long she could survive challenged me as a writer.

This question is if you write in MULTIPLE POVs not just the hero and heroine - I love the multiple POVs in a book.  It’s not just the hero and heroine, but we get inside the heads of multiple characters throughout this series.  I feel that it gives the story further depth.  Do you think you will write another book or series following this multiple POV outline? 

The first book in the series, Find Her, spends a fair bit of time inside the mind of the villain. While readers will have no doubt that this is indeed a bad guy, I thought it was important to do a dive inside his point of view to fully understand what was driving his actions. I’ve always been fascinated by the darker side of human nature, and writing crime thrillers provides me with a plausible opportunity to indulge this fascination.

“How do you explain your browser history, Ms. Patchell?” “Well, you know, I write stories…”

Most of my books are written from multiple points of view. I feel that this gives the story additional depth and is definitely something that I plan to continue doing.

There are four books in The Lacey James series now, but readers keep asking if there will be more. That’s a definite possibility.

How long did it take you to write this book/series?

I started writing this series as a challenge to myself to see if I could find a way to shorten my editing cycle without compromising the quality of my work. Before this, I’d waste months or years tearing stories apart, to the point of despair. It was sucking all the joy out of writing, so I decided to change things up. Run an experiment of sorts. I set hard deadlines and stuck to them, for the most part. 

The Lacey stories are shorter, ranging from novellas to nearly full length. The shorter word count kept me focused and I was able to crank them out more quickly. I challenged myself to trust my instincts and resisted the urge to rip apart the plot. I focused the edits on improving the flow of the story, heightening the mystery and suspense, as well as making the emotional moments shine.

In the end, the experiment worked. Not only was I able to write and release these stories within an eighteen-month period, but I did so while still maintaining my quality bar. Readers love them, and I’m proud to share that several of the books in the series have won awards, including a Next Generation Indie Award and a Readers Favorite Award for best crime fiction. They are all available through Kindle Unlimited.

How did you come up with the title for your book and series?

Find Her just came to me. The cover for the book was inspired by the look and feel of the Pacific Northwest in the late fall, which was the time of year in which the story was set.

After that, I devised a model of creating short titles for the series, centered around the theme of “Her.” Each title reflects the main conflict of the story.

If you met these characters in real life would you get along?

HAHA! I’d get along great with Lacey and Eli. Some of the other characters, maybe not so much. 

Not every smalltown archetype is likable, and Lacey is a woman living in a man’s world. As such, she faces her fair share of men who think that women don’t belong in law enforcement. Having worked most of my career in the technology realm, I understand what it’s like to work in a male-dominated industry, and while most of my coworkers have been great colleagues, I’ve been forced to confront chauvinistic tendencies from time to time.

Series question – Did you know in advance that you were going to write this as a series or did one of the characters in book one demand their own story?

No! It all started with a writer friend of mine, Judith Lucci, reaching out to see if I wanted to contribute a book for a multi-author boxset she was putting together. I’d been wrestling with my latest work in progress, and I figured that taking a break from that to write something new would be fun, so I said yes. 

Find Her was based on a short-story idea I had years ago, which I combined with a few other story ideas I had about a smalltown cop. My copyeditor said that she loved these characters and was wondering whether I’d make a series of it. 

I laughed and said no, I’d written it on a lark, but she’d planted the seeds of the idea in my head, so when another author friend approached me to participate in a different boxset effort, I said yes and wrote Save Her. I wrote two more books in quick succession after that.

It’s been so amazing to see how much readers are loving this series. I’m really grateful to both Amy and Judith for giving me a nudge.

Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect next?  Whether a new book and series or a sequel to an existing series?  Can you share a small tease?

I’m working on something brand new. It’s a serial killer book set in Portland, Oregon. Dual POV with a disgraced Portland cop who’s forced to team up with an FBI Agent to solve the crime. Starts out when a dead hiker is discovered on a trail near Multnomah Falls.

Did he fall, or was he pushed?

This story has an intriguing modern twist that I think my readers will enjoy.

I’m in the home stretch of finishing the first draft, and I’m thinking that after I finish this one, I may have 2 or 3 more in the pipeline. And there’s always time for another Lacey story.


 Check out all my interviews/reviews for Chris Patchell!


Chris Patchell is an award-winning USA Today Bestselling Author who started writing to curb the homicidal tendencies she experienced during her daily Seattle commute. She writes gripping suspense thrillers with romantic elements set in the Pacific Northwest and believes good fiction combines a magical mix of complex characters, compelling plots, and well-crafted stories.

Over the years, she has written numerous popular books and series, including bestsellers Deadly Lies, In the Dark, and her most recent collection of small-town crime novellas, the Lacey James Series. Along the way, her writing has won several awards, including a 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award, an IndieReader Discovery Award, and a Pacific Northwest Literary Award.

When she’s not writing, you can find Chris reading books, hanging out with her family, watching football, and struggling to keep up with her workout regime, all while shushing her incessantly yapping Yorkies. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two kids.

Connect with Chris: 








FIND HER by Chris Patchell
The Lacey James Series - Book One

Available in Kindle Unlimited!


A stolen hammer. A dead suspect. A terrifying trail of murder.

Sweet Home, Oregon. Detective Lacey James needs to solve her marriage problems. But with her focus on a culprit escaping after a robbery call, she’s alarmed when she discovers his getaway car hides a chilling collection of rope, gloves, zip ties, and a gun. But her success in hunting him down turns into horror when the man grabs a firearm, killing a fellow officer before himself.

As her only lead lies silent on a slab, the dedicated investigator’s suspicions are confirmed after discovering a woman connected to the case is missing. And fearing time is running out for the kidnapped victim, Lacey follows clues to a gruesome scene warning her she might already be too late.

Can she unravel the truth before the morgue claims another corpse?

SAVE HER by Chris Patchell
The Lacey James Series - Book Two

Available in Kindle Unlimited!


Abandoned on a remote mountain road, the storm closing in isn’t the only deadly threat she faces in this intense thriller by USA Today bestselling author, Chris Patchell.

A New Year’s Eve party is the perfect time for Audrey Drummond to reconnect with old friends. She hitches a ride to the party with her high school ex. What begins as a trip down memory lane ends up in a stone-cold nightmare when Audrey is abandoned on a mountain road. Bitter cold, black as sin, miles from help.

Audrey’s disappearance thrusts Officer Lacey James into action. But with few clues to go on, and the storm conditions growing more treacherous by the minute, the quest to find Audrey takes a dark and perilous turn.

Time is running out, and the killer storm isn’t the only deadly threat Lacey faces in a desperate quest to save her.

Winner of the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award for best novella!

TELL HER by Chris Patchell
The Lacey James Series - Book Three

Available in Kindle Unlimited!


Lives are shattered when a killer comes to town.

When Officer Lacey James is called to the scene of a brutal murder, she doesn't recognize the victim. Jonathan Jones--JJ is new to Sweet Home. Everyone Lacey talks to in the close-knit community claims he was a good guy, but someone is lying. Someone wanted JJ dead. And someone else knows why.

On the hunt for the murderer, Lacey reconstructs the victim's trail. A bar fight. A bloody footprint. A faulty timeline. Together with her partner, Eli Davidson, Lacey pieces together the clues while keeping track of the witnesses'lies. Each twist in the case raises new questions about the victim. About the motive behind the crime. Until Lacey and Eli unearth a piece of salacious gossip that sends the investigation reeling down a dark and dangerous path.

Will the killer be punished?

Or will the hunt for the truth land Lacey in the crosshairs of a killer?

HIDE HER by Chris Patchell
The Lacey James Series - Book Four

Available in Kindle Unlimited!


The discovery of an abandoned child forges a chilling link with an infamous cold case.

It’s early morning in Sweet Home, Oregon. Officer Lacey James speeds down an empty highway when a young girl appears out of nowhere. She’s alone and terrified. Unable to speak. Lacey begins searching for her parents but soon, the investigation hits a dead end.

Enlisting the help of outside agencies, a task force is formed. Who is this child? Where does she come from? And why haven’t her parents stepped forward?

As the mystery surrounding the girl’s identity begins to unravel, a shocking truth about the child’s past is revealed. A link to an infamous cold case thrusts Lacey into a media firestorm, the likes of which, Sweet Home has never seen.
Will revealing the truth endanger the girl’s life?

Can Lacey return the child safely to her family, or will she be the next one to die?

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