Young Adult Paranormal Suspense
Date Published: 5/27/2013
To tell the truth...it doesn’t really matter if you lie.
It’s impossible to lie to Derry MacKenna. For as long as she can remember, Derry has been plagued by the extraordinary ability to hear, see, and feel the truth. But when Derry and her erratic, self-centered mother move to historic Harpers Ferry, she discovers she is not the only one with hidden talents.
As the newest reporter on the school newspaper, Derry learns of a high school student’s unexpected suicide and recognizes that the truth behind her death may still be hidden. When tragedy strikes, Derry is drawn into a deadly battle of wits with the only person whom her abilities don’t affect.
Driven by guilt and an obsession with bringing the killer to justice, Derry finds herself in danger from a vindictive murderer, a sadistic deviant who preys on the weak, and trapped in the middle of a treacherous triangle of attraction between two brothers whose abilities rival her own. Derry must trust her instincts to guide her to the truth and bring her enemies to justice even as she fights for her own survival.
INSTINCT focuses on a gifted, intelligent, and loyal heroine who must contend not only with the inherent dangers of high school bullying and backstabbing, but with loss, grief, and guilt. Against issues of sexual abuse, teenage suicide, and destructive relationships, the heroine learns to cherish the strength of real friendship, understand accountability, and experiences the healing touch of first love.
"This is competently written and well-paced, and the author does an excellent job of exploring what a gift like Derry's would mean in real life...Most refreshing is the severing of several YA tropes in interesting and welcome ways."
--- Publishers Weekly
The sign over the doors reads “John Brown High School.” I don’t see anything else because there isn’t any truth to conceal. The building is exactly what is advertised, and my nerves calm their ragged dance slightly at this reassurance. Taking a deep breath, I put my hand out and get ready to open the door.
It swings open, nearly swatting me in the face, and I stagger back, almost tumbling down the stairs I just climbed. An angry looking boy in a black wool pea-coat and dark jeans stalks past me, not even glancing my way or noticing the way I’m cradling my arm where the door struck it. I consider saying something, but the hard set of his shoulders prevents me from forming words. I swallow my irritation and rub my forearm until the stinging passes. The boy runs down the stairs and halts before he crosses into the street. He glances around as though searching for something and then slowly pivots and locks his gaze on me.
My chest constricts and I can’t breathe. An invisible hand is gripping my throat and deliberately tightening until my head is no longer connected to the rest of my body. The inside of my mind burns like molten lava being poured in my brain and my legs and hands start to shake uncontrollably until I almost cannot remain standing.
Just as suddenly it stops and the vise on my neck is released. My mind clears with no residue of pain, as though the past few seconds never happened. I see the boy widen his eyes in surprise before he jerks abruptly and turns his back to me, crossing the pick-up lane and turning the corner, out of my sight. I am left breathless and stiff with terror.
I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but I can’t help feeling that somehow that boy just nearly killed me with a look.
- Where did you get the idea for the novel?
I misread a billboard while driving home from work. It was an advertisement for a local law firm, and at first glance I could have sworn it read: “Worst Lawyers in the State!” It didn’t of course, but that faulty first impression got me thinking about instinct and first impressions in general, and why we trust them so much. The story developed from there.
- Your title. Who came up with it? Did you ever change your title?
Instinct was my title from the first. I actually tried to change it a few times, thinking that if I could come up with something clever it might appeal more to readers, but in the end, there really wasn’t anything else that fit the story. It was my first impression, and I stuck to it.
- Why did you pick this genre? What do you like about it?
I love Young Adult. I read the genre all the time, and some of my favorite books are YA. I think it’s one of the most fascinating periods in life, being on the cusp of adulthood and still clinging to the safety of adolescence. Every day issues carry so much weight and importance, relationships are more intense, and the characters have to face issues adults shy away from. It is such an honest genre, and the readers expect so much from the authors that it’s a constant challenge. I have a few projects with adult characters as well, but I think YA will always be my first love.
- Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
Getting a fan letter. I cried off and on for the whole day when I got my first fan email. I had gotten some really positive reviews, which I also cried over (I cry when I’m happy, if you can’t tell already), but nothing has matched that crazy joy I experienced the first time someone reached out to me to share that they loved my book. It was incredibly powerful.
- What book are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?
I’ve been reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews in preparation for the new release. I love that series.
- What is your writing process?
I don’t really have much of one to be honest. Typically though, my books all begin with a character, rather than a plot. The plot develops from the way the main character reacts to their world, what special skills they have, and what they desire most. I don’t really outline my books, although for the two series I’m working on I do have a planned story arc. But the way my characters maneuver through those arcs depends entirely on them.
- What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m a closet karaoke nut. My version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a religious experience.
- How do you react to a bad review?
I’ve been lucky so far to not get any really scathing ones, just a few lackluster responses. And although it always hurts a little bit to know my work didn’t meet the mark for a reader, I’m a big reader myself and I know that taste plays a big factor in how I respond to books. Just because I loved a book doesn’t mean it’s anyone else’s cup of tea, and I have many times read a book with tons of accolades and wondered what it was that I missed when I read it. Reading is such a subjective pastime, so I am careful not to take negative feedback personally, and if I can take suggestions for improvement from the review I will. I do ask, as a self-published author without access to professional editors, that readers be kind when you run across a typo; I try my best and I’m very lucky to have a retired English teacher for a mother who I force to do most of my editing, but I am undoubtedly going to miss a few things, as will any self-published author. But any response is good in my opinion, because at least it caused the reader to feel something, even if it’s utter loathing, and that’s the real purpose of writing anyway.
- How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
Mattie Dunman is a lifelong resident of "Wild & Wonderful" West Virginia, and has dreamed of being a writer since she first held a pen in hand.
Mattie has pursued several useless degrees to support this dream, and presently enjoys teaching (or tormenting, as the case may be) college students the dying art of public speaking. She spends most of her free time writing, but also indulges in reading and traveling.
She is the proud owner of an adorably insane American Eskimo named Finn, and a tyrant cat named Bella, who take up more of her attention than they probably should.
Please visit Mattie's website at www.mattiedunman.com