Author Julia Heaberlin is coming home.
The Decatur native will be at the local library Tuesday to speak and sign copies of her second psychological thriller, “Lie Still.”
The book, which was released July 2, has received favorable reviews and earned Heaberlin the honor of being named a Target Emerging Author for a second time. It’s a follow-up to her first novel, “Playing Dead,” released in May 2012.
“Sometimes I look up, and I still can’t believe it,” she said. “The first book had so much of me in it, and I loved the character. That will always be my baby. Every book is just very different. They’re just out there on their own, and you almost can’t believe you did that.”
The award-winning journalist, who worked at The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News, quit her job as a features editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram six years ago to launch her fiction-writing career.
Although “Playing Dead” was published first, Heaberlin said she had the basic concept for “Lie Still” while still toiling in the newsroom.
“I had this idea years and years ago,” she said, “about a club of Southern women with black hearts that had a lot of secrets.”
The main character, Emily Page, and her husband move from Manhattan to the small, affluent town of Clairmont, Texas. She quickly becomes tangled in a club of secretive women while quietly battling personal demons and facing a series of anonymous threats. The subject matter in “Lie Still” is darker than that in “Playing Dead,” which may come as a surprise to some readers.
It was also a surprise to Heaberlin as she sat down to start the story.
“When I started writing, the protagonist started talking about this date rape,” she said. “I was channeling something that happened to a friend in college, and once I got going, it was important for me to say something.
“I wanted a heroine who had been a victim of a crime and was the primary voice, which is rare in the male-dominated thriller world.”
Heaberlin said she doesn’t write from an outline but starts with an idea and waits to see where the story goes.
“If I don’t know where it’s going, then it’s easier to make the story surprising,” she said. “If I outline, then what I do is fairly static.”
Heaberlin is at work on her third book, “Black-Eyed Susans,” which is also set in Texas, and is the story of a teenage girl left for dead in a field of wildflowers with a pile of bones. She has also sold a fourth book, all of which will be published by Random House.
She said although the writing process doesn’t get easier, she enjoys the routine and time of discovery.
“The book launch part is stressful,” she said. “You put something out there, and you have no idea how they are going to react. I’d rather be sitting at my kitchen table in my pajamas writing.”
She’s looking forward to returning to Decatur next week and still has fond memories of last year’s signing for “Playing Dead.”
“The first signing in Decatur was incredible,” she said. “My parents were there, people I grew up with, friends from high school …
“There were two mountaintops during the process of the first book,” she said, “the review in the Times of London and my name on the marquee of the Decatur library.”
The Decatur Library Foundation will have copies of “Lie Still” available for purchase at next week’s event – 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6. For more information, call Library Director Pat Peters at 940-393-0290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6
Decatur Public Library