May 24, 2022

Meredith Doench Advocates for Disability Representation in Crime Fiction

Meredith Doench Advocates for Disability Representation in Crime Fiction

Ep 123:  Meredith Doench talks with Brad about being a nice person with a dark side, being a skilled literature and writing instructor, and her latest grim and gripping novel. Read the Queer Writers of Crime Guest Blog for her post on Disability and Crime Fiction.

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Whereabouts Unknown by Meredith Doench

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Meredith's article about disability and crime fiction on CrimeReads

Meredith Doench is the author of the Luce Hansen thriller series. Her work has appeared in literary journals such as Hayden's Ferry Review, Women's Studies Quarterly, and Gertrude. Her nonfiction essay "South Carolina, 2012" was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize by The Tahoma Literary Review. She served as a fiction editor at Camera Obscura: Journal of Literature and Photography. Meredith lives in Ohio where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at the University of Dayton.

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Brad Shreve  00:01

Welcome back. Meredith. Are you hanging out in prisons these days?


Meredith Doench  00:07

I've read No, you know, COVID has sort of taken away that one of my very favorite hobbies. I haven't actually visited a prison in two and a half years. I guess we're going on now. I know I've heard this number opening up again. So yeah,


Brad Shreve  00:24

so you will be going back?


Meredith Doench  00:26

Yes, this summer, hopefully, yes, for sure. I'm


Brad Shreve  00:29

back to hang out in prison. Some things never changed. And if you have no idea why I'm asking her this question, hang on my guest Meredith tension, I will set things straight right after this.


Announcer  00:44

It's time to put on your sleuthing cap zeal nailbiting dread and face heart racing fear. This is Queer Writers of Crime, where you'll get book recommendations and hear interviews with LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense and thriller novels. Here's your host, Brad Shreve.


Brad Shreve  01:06

Hi, I'm Brad Shreve and welcome back my guest, Meredith Dench, it's great to chat with you again, Meredith.


Meredith Doench  01:13

It's great to be here. Thanks


Brad Shreve  01:14

for having me. To introduce you to Meredith. She is the author of multi award winning loose Hansen thriller series. All three of her novels were Goldy finalists from the golden crown Literary Society, or in simple terms, she's a damn good writer. She's also on the board of the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America, which is no small feat. Good job on that. So let's get to the opening. So that about hanging out in prisons, because not everybody heard your last interview, yeah, to give them an idea of what we're talking about. Catch them up on what that was about.


Meredith Doench  01:55

So I really love to visit working prisons like ones that are currently in working order, but also ones that have been shut down for whatever reason. Usually, it's due to some sort of like, you know, there's asbestos in the building or something that it can't house the inmates. And now they've either just become museums, or they're just simply shut down. One of my favorite things to do is visit those and we have, there's also some mental asylums that are shut down in that way to that you can visit. And my favorite thing is just to go and look at records and look at the hand write handwritten records about why people were serving time there, how much time they were given. It's also really interesting that you know, earlier prisoners had to do like, they had a physical that went with, they had a physical when they came in to the prison. And it's, you know, interesting to see kind of how they notate things like tattoos, size, how tall you are. I just, it's just a really interesting thing to do. I also teach prison literature at the University of Dayton. So, present is sort of a hobby of mine, at least reading about it and talking about it. I'm not I have never been incarcerated, and I hope I never am. But I love to read about it and talk about it.


Brad Shreve  03:10

I've got to ask, Have you listened to your hustle? Oh, yes. Oh, my gosh, yeah, it is me. It is one of my top two, podcast, it is amazing. And if you're not familiar with air hustle, your hustle is a prison term for listening in on other people's conversations. And it is a podcast that comes out of the San Quentin prison. And they don't glorify prison life. They don't whine about their why they're there. It's just matter of fact. And you'll learn a lot. It blows. I love the show. When I first found it. I'm like, oh my god, it struck gold. So yeah, it's absolutely I mean, it really is. And it's odd to be listening to a guy and he's very endearing. And then he starts coming up, people be murdered. Right, you know, it's very odd, but it's a fascinating show. So it's only half an hour long. So you can listen to that show and have plenty of time to listen to this one as well. Yes. I'm curious. You mentioned mental institutions, is you know, in movies are always very creepy. Yeah. Do you find that to be true when you go to the old ones?


Meredith Doench  04:29

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think they're set up for tours, but you can also go, you can do a self guided tour, which is usually what I like to do because those they kind of just give you free rein and you can walk around how you want from those are the ones I like to do best, but it does get creepy when you get into areas of the buildings where there might not be other guests who are also walking around or they're you know, and usually they don't have all of their lights working and that kind of thing. So they have like their overheads are on but It just still can get a little creepy when you're you realize suddenly you're all by yourself and you're in kind of a remote part of the building or something. Yeah, it can get a little creepy.


Brad Shreve  05:10

Yeah, well, thanks. So I, I don't know if you've ever been to Colonial Williamsburg?


Meredith Doench  05:14

No, I have not. That is one thing I haven't done.


Brad Shreve  05:17

It's a lot of it's very whitewashed as you can imagine. But it's still fascinating to see the different buildings and like the, the governor's palace and, and when you go to the restaurants, it's served traditionally. So there's some really good things about it. One thing they had there was it just opened up when I went was a museum of psychology or I don't know what it was called. But basically, it was meant what a men's mental institution look like, during that era, they they found the artifacts, and nobody would go with me they were too creeped out, and I was dying to go in there. Someday, if I ever go back. I don't know if I ever go back to Williamsburg. But someday, it should be the first place I hit because I feel so neglected. And I didn't want to go alone. So


Meredith Doench  06:08

yeah, I love isn't it nice? Yep.


Brad Shreve  06:11

You're here, man. Well, just to talk, but we're going to talk about whereabouts unknown, your your most recent novel. But before we talk about that, if I could reach through the monitor right now, I would give you a high five. Well, thanks. And let me tell you why. I was surfing the net to do a little digging to see what you've been doing and what's going on in your life. And I stumbled on a site that caught my eye. And I've been to the site before and used to look up some of my old teachers and professors that I had. And you may be familiar with the site is called rate my Oh my gosh, yes. You're familiar with it? Yeah, so yeah, I'm going through and I said, Okay, if her name popped up while I'm searching, there's some reviews for Meredith in there. So I pulled it up. And wow. You. I don't know how you know, you're rated in there.


Meredith Doench  07:16

How I know. I mean, yeah, I


Brad Shreve  07:19

don't know if you know how well you're rated in there.


Meredith Doench  07:21

I haven't looked at it in quite some time. But one of the I mean, that is one of those things in academia, which we, we really hate now, you can do this with high school teachers and middle school teachers and everybody, but I think it pretty much started with college teachers. And I find it frustrating because most people who use that they're either really super happy with you, where they really hate you.


Brad Shreve  07:44

Yeah. They, in the past, they did not allow the professor's to retort. And they do have that. Yeah. But then, to me, that would be like making a comment back to a book reviewer. It wouldn't end pretty. They did give that as an option. But I will say I've seen some pretty nasty ones. And for those of you that aren't familiar with it, I probably pretty self explanatory based on what we've been talking about. It's a site that students can log into and review and rate their professors. Meredith is a senior lecturer of Creative Writing Literature and Composition at the University of Dayton, in Ohio. And I will tell you, I've seen other professors in the past that had a few reviews here and there. Meredith has a whopping 56 reviews. Oh, wow. And out of those 56 100% of them say they would take your class again. Wow, that's nice. That's pretty cool.


Meredith Doench  08:52

It does sort of feel like a book review, though. I don't know if I really want to know.


Brad Shreve  08:57

Well, I didn't read all the details of things people had to say. I will say it had the keywords that were most kind of like Amazon has the most common keywords people used in their comments. And the ones they had for you were gives good feedback is caring, respected, clear grading criteria, which I would say is a big thing. Yeah. And the tough one you got was you people were warned to get ready to read. Oh,


Meredith Doench  09:34

yes, I do assigned read. Yeah.


Brad Shreve  09:36

You don't want to slack off, obviously. But obviously they don't mind that.


Meredith Doench  09:40

Yeah, that's interesting to know that that's out there. And yeah, that you can. I haven't looked at it in a while. We're getting ready to wrap up here. We've only got two and a half weeks off to class and then we'll be heading into summer school. So Oh, wow. We're getting there. Wow. Yeah.


Brad Shreve  09:56

How long have you been working there?


Meredith Doench  09:58

So this will be Oh, my 13 Well, wait a minute, let me think about this. I'm either I think I'm ending my 12th year next year will be my 13th year there at UD University of Dayton. Sorry.


Brad Shreve  10:12

And what do you think makes you such a damn good? Instructor?


Meredith Doench  10:20

I don't know, if I would call myself a damn good instructor, obviously I do, I would just say that I try really, really hard to be a really good instructor. And I try. One of the things that I think students appreciate, is there's not just one way to write a story or not just one way to write a nonfiction essay type of a thing. And so finding what writing process works best for each student is kind of I take that on kind of as my job to figure out and help them figure out for them how they right. And so that's, I think, that I would try really, really hard at that. And I also think that it's very unfair to grade someone with something, if they don't know what the criteria is. So I try very hard to give really clear directions about here's what I'm going to be looking at. So just so you know, up front, this is what I'm looking for type of a thing. So yeah, I don't know, I try really hard. I work in a place that's got amazing. I mean, my colleagues are so great. We there's only 35 of us in our English department. So we all sort of bounce each other ideas off of each other and work really well together. So yeah, it's a great place.


Brad Shreve  11:37

And I like that you're open minded about, I can't remember the word you exactly use but different styles. I want to share experience I had in college, I had no problem. My instructors loved me. But in high school, I was in a college prep English class. And I had this teacher, I can't remember her name, she was very into Emily Dickinson and she wore nylon stockings that had spider webs on them and a spider spider brooch. But when it came time to sign up for next year's, the next year's classes, she said she wasn't going to sign up for college prep again. And because she didn't feel like my writing deserved it. And I said, the reason why you don't think that is, I can't write like you do, which is exactly what you expect everybody in this class to do. She looked at me a little bit pissed off. And she said, Let me think about this. And my other my past instructors told me she went back and talked to them. So she came back. And she for my senior years, she signed me up for college prep. So But that's an example of somebody that I see is very close minded that says, this is the way writing, you know, writing rules are, there's no, there's no gray areas. It's black and white. And I don't think somebody like that should be teaching.


Meredith Doench  13:03

But she did let him do the class.


Brad Shreve  13:05

Yes, she did. Yeah, yeah. I can tell she never liked my papers. She did.


Meredith Doench  13:14

Yeah, yeah. I know. It's hard. It's, and there's been so many changes in styles of teaching, and it continues to change. I mean, it's a really changing field. So yeah, it's, it's a fun job. It's a great job to have as a writer, I think because I meet a lot of people and hear a lot of their stories and hear kind of like, you know, what they struggle with? And sometimes that makes it into my books. Sometimes it doesn't. So


Brad Shreve  13:41

well, your bio, at the University describes the books that you've had and the accolades that you've received. Do your students bring that up? And are they interested in that?


Meredith Doench  13:53

Most of the time? No, they do not usually. Check. Well, I guess I can't say for sure. I've never had anyone really talk to me about my books. Yeah, no,


Brad Shreve  14:06

you know, I probably wouldn't pull up my professors. Yeah, I would ask around


Meredith Doench  14:13

19 year olds or 20 year olds actually think of that. But every once in a while somebody will like, once they've been in my class for a while, they might say something, but not usually right away. And that's certainly not why they sign up for the class. So because they usually don't know anything about my books, or anything like that. Yeah. But, but yeah.


Brad Shreve  14:32

What is the craziest thing that you have seen or experienced as a professor?


Meredith Doench  14:38

Oh, gosh, the craziest thing?


Brad Shreve  14:42

I'm thinking of love Raphael's books that all take place on a university. Hopefully you don't see bodies on the quad every other week.


Meredith Doench  14:52

No, no, no. Well, honestly, okay. The craziest thing I've experienced has been COVID and you going from being in class, everybody in their class full 100% to a week and a half later, everybody's online, and trying to figure out how to teach that way. That was really crazy. That was the craziest it's ever been. It was a really hard time. And then I spent one whole year teaching online. So I learned how to do it. I've learned how to do it pretty well, I think. But then now we're at board the opposite end of it, where this year we were 100% back in the classroom, and using Zoom, and using distance learning very, very rarely. So I would have to say COVID. And nobody really saw it coming. And so it was just such a such shock. You know, like, pack up your bags already go home and check your emails for when you're coming back. You know, it was definitely the craziest thing I've ever experienced.


Brad Shreve  15:58

Yeah, my husband is an IT specialist. And overnight, every client in every office said, You've got to set up our people at home. Yeah, and we need it now. And it couldn't be done all of them now. But he worked 24 hours a day for a good set of days, to the point of pure exhaustion, getting everybody set up at their home because it we all kind of knew the virus was coming. But it was just like, all of a sudden they said,


Meredith Doench  16:29

Oh, no, it was Yeah. And like stay in your house, you know?


Brad Shreve  16:33

Exactly, exactly. Did you see a drop in attendance when it went to virtual?


Meredith Doench  16:39

Yeah, you know, some students really loved zoom, because they could just stay in their home, you know, and, and then others really hated it. So and especially at first it was okay, if people were still learning how to do it, and they thought it was kind of cool. But the longer it dragged on, we did that did start to see a little bit of a drop in attendance and things like that. So it's been good being back on campus this year, and being in person, I really like


Announcer  17:07

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Brad Shreve  17:49

So get into your book, rather than get into the details of the story. I'd like to start with an important aspect of the novel. And it's based on something you wrote, actually, I've seen a few things that you wrote, but most recently, it was in crime reads last month. Yeah. And it was an excellent article that you wrote on representation of people with disabilities in crime fiction. And you really made a good case. I had a list of specifics that I wanted to delve into based on the article. And I tossed it out, because I really would rather just you share your message. What what, what did you have to say in that?


Meredith Doench  18:34

Well, I was having a really hard time writing this book, let me just start there. This took me a really long time to write. And I wish I could blame it on COVID. I really do. But COVID really didn't have anything to do with me struggling with it. But what I will say is that the majority of this book was written, like from the time we went into quarantine and that kind of thing. And so I couldn't help but to think about health and bodies and all of that. But at the same time that that was going on. I also was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2017. So I had my own issues with autoimmune stuff that I was trying to deal with and still trying to deal with and trying to learn how to live with and all of that, then we have COVID that hit and how can you not think about bodies and health when you're seeing the daily counts of how many people have died in the country from COVID that day, and yeah, and so and before that all happened, my mom had to have surgery on her neck and had limited movements for a while. So I was taking her to physical therapy which really opened my eyes to different ways of moving different ways to different things that can help people move how she sort of moved from different aids that you know helped from like going from a walker to a cane. And just sort of watching that progression was really, really interesting and to see all the people who are in there, too. So I mean, I just really wanted to write about characters that were struggling in some way. And in particular, my hero. I didn't I mean, we do have examples of, of crime fighters who have some sort of a disability. But I haven't seen that many of them, or I haven't been exposed to that many of them. And so I really wanted mine to struggle with it. And so I had her my main character is injured in really the first is like the first major chapter, she's injured, and it's very unclear whether or not she's going to be able to come back from this injury, this work injury. So she's going through physical therapy, she has, you know, it's it's an injury of the hip, but it's also very, it's really affected the nerves in her leg. So is she going to be able to get back to where she was. And so that's, I wanted her to really be struggling with that, at the same time, that she's sort of working on a case that has to do with health type of issues. So we have like, teenagers in this book, who are pregnant, and what the, you know, they're selling their babies, but they're only selling perfectly healthy white babies, right? So I wanted that to be kind of like the issue that she's dealing with. And I haven't second major character in the book named Annabelle, who is one of the 16 year olds who's gone missing. And she is one of the ones that's pregnant, and she she suffers with an autoimmune disorder called lupus. And very severely, like, she needs her medication, she needs it daily, and she's been out of it, and not been taking it. And so it's, it's a real struggle. She's in a flare, and it's a really


Brad Shreve  21:51

big struggle. And it does cause some tension. Yeah,


Meredith Doench  21:55

there's a lot of body stuff happening. There's the birth of the babies that are happening. Also, Theodora, who is my main detective, her wife is pregnant and has a baby in the book. So there's a lot of health stuff going on. I don't know if I necessarily intended all of that health stuff to come together like that. But it certainly was something I was thinking about at length when I was writing it. Well, I'm


Brad Shreve  22:21

curious, like, Theodore, that the one that has a lot neurological problems there, I can say it. I'm curious, when you the idea for this book started modeling in your brain? Did you say, was there a point where you said, you know, I think in my next book, I'm going to give representation to people with disabilities? Or did you have the idea for this thriller novel? And then say, I think I should have characters that are disabled? chicken or the egg which one came? First?


Meredith Doench  22:56

That's a really good question. I think that? Well, I can tell you this from the moment I met her, when from the moment I met Theo, she had been injured already. So I knew that that would happen. What I didn't know what happened was that the teen would have lupus, that was a surprise that came later. So I would have to say I knew that I would be writing about an issue with disability. And at first I thought it might be more of a of a book about is the Oh going to lose her job because she can't do the work that's required of her is she going to like get like an early retirement at first, that was the book I was planning was this argument about why she should be able to keep her job, even if she can't do the physical things that are sometimes required. But then it sort of just sort of morphed into something else as we were, as I was working on it. But I find it interesting that so many detectives, they kind of have to come to this question. And some of them gladly jump at it. And some of them hold back and want to not do it. But so many people in law enforcement are able to retire in their mid 50s Like they've given they've put in their years, right, and then they're able to retire. And it does seem to be a profession that I don't know if I guess the word is highlights, youth or admires youth. And part of that is because of the way that you know, if you're able to physically go after people that you're chasing and things like that, that that really helps. But I don't know, that's been something that's been really interesting to me is that because a lot of people say that in their early 50s, or they're, you know, in their 50s or just hitting their perfect stride with their career, and they feel really comfortable with their career and they've got another 15 years or so that they can do it. But that's not always the case with law enforcement. So,


Brad Shreve  24:56

and well at least stereotype in movies and TV He, there's a lot of pressure on them from the younger people to get out of their way. I don't know how realistic that is. I would think there's something to that. Yeah. Yeah. I know, I had a career job where, basically when my next promotion was depending on somebody dying. Because the next promotion, it was a limited number of positions. So, of course, I wasn't wishing anybody dead. But it was frustrating. It was very frustrating. It was either move in another direction or weight, and I moved to another direction. So you mentioned a list of examples of characters that have been written that did have some kind of disability. And one caught my eye and that was narrow Wolf who was in a wheelchair. And the reason it caught my eye, I don't know if you're familiar with the TV show iron side. I'm not I didn't think you would, and now you're making me feel old. It ran from the late 60s to the early 70s. And the detective was bound to a wheelchair. And it started Raymond Burr, who is most known for playing Perry Perry Mason. And I don't know how long it after Perry Mason ended that Ironside began. But he played the part so well, that he in the studio were flooded with letters saying, What happened to him? Know what, what, how did he get that way? And he was acting. But he played that well. And I can't think of another sleuth represented in television with some kind of disability until we get to monk, which was almost 20 years later, right? Yeah. i There may be somebody in the middle, but I sure don't know who it was.


Meredith Doench  27:03

Yeah, well, one of the things that I list on that Craig reads article, if you're really curious about this topic, there is someone who has painstakingly gone through all of like mystery, whether it's British, whether it's Canadian, whether it's American, and pulled out, every single person that has written with some sort of a character with disability, usually it's the major character. But there's a link to that in my primaries article, I don't know if we can put that in the show notes or something. But it's really amazing to see how many people have written about it, we just don't, those don't seem to be the characters that we return to very much when we talk about crime writing and things like that. So.


Brad Shreve  27:46

So let's say I want to write a novel and want to include a character with some type of disability. Let's say there is a blind detective, yes, would be a difficult story to write a good challenge for somebody. Yeah. What would be the best way for me to get started with that?


Meredith Doench  28:04

Well, I guess so one of the things that made this a little bit easier for me to write was that I actually experienced, I don't know, immune disorder. So I was able to use some of my own experiences, plus the experiences of people I've listened to, unlike support groups, and things like that. But I do think that if you don't personally have the disability that you're trying to write about, you need to talk to someone who does and who's open and willing to share their experience with you. And it would be really interesting, I think, if you wanted to write about a character who was in law enforcement, who got their job with their disability to begin with, what that kind of process was to get into that job. And were they asked to do something else at any point, you know, I think that talking to somebody who has a job would be someone who has a disability, and then also the same job that you want them to have, it would be really, really important. And I found that most people are really willing to talk about their experience, if they understand why you want to know about it. Absolutely. And they're also to are they very much want it their disability or you know, whatever it is to be represented accurately on the page. Like they just like the rest of us. We want accuracy on page. So, you know, most people are very generous and willing to talk at length about whatever they've experienced. And yeah, just taking the time to do that makes all the difference in the world, I think.


Brad Shreve  29:36

Yeah, I agree. 100% I will say not to take get people off the hook, but it would be a challenge for me and let me explain. I doubt you've heard of the show because very few people have it was a TV series called black box and was from about five years ago. Doesn't ring a bell at all. No, no, but it It lasted a season, I don't even know if it lasted the whole season. And thank God because it didn't deserve to last a whole season. But in the show, the primary character was a neurosurgeon with bipolar disorder. And she was she had pretty bad bipolar disorder. There's bipolar one and bipolar two, I think she had one which, which is the most difficult to struggle with. And her thing was, she was trying to hide it from her family. And so I was kind of, but it piqued my interest, because I have bipolar disorder. And so to hear that there's a show that has a character that has bipolar disorder, I'm like, Oh, wow, this is going to be great. It wasn't so great. It was a disaster. And what they did was if she went off her meds, almost immediately, she was having sex with strangers, all over town. And I will tell you that when a person with bipolar disorder is in a manic state, some of the things that may occur is a lot of sex, unprotected sex with strangers, maxing out credit cards in 30 minutes and things of that nature that those do happen. But if you miss your pills one night, you don't wake up the next morning, as if you've never had any kind of medical medication or, you know, some people don't use medication, I won't go there, I medication saved my life, I will tell you that. But you don't just immediately revert to the worst case scenario. And that's what happened on this one. And she had hallucinations. Immediately. I used to see a donkey in my living room. And it was kind of fun to see the donkey in the living room, because I knew he wasn't really there. And my husband and I would joke about it. I don't see him anymore, I'm on my meds, he may come back if I ever go off with him. But if I went off tonight, he wouldn't be there tomorrow. But the reason I brought all that up is, as much as that is a stereotype and really made me angry. And I can You can imagine the articles in mental health magazines about this, this show. People have suggested to me that I should write a pie or a detective of some nature, who has bipolar disorder. And it's not going to happen to my next series, and probably not the one after that, but it doesn't treat me. But I will say when I think about the idea, even though I have the disease, it will be very hard to steer away from the stereotypes. Yeah, because they're much they're easier to write. You know, as is, it's easy to write a suddenly crazy person, rather than somebody that is slowly going to a particular state. So I'll figure out how to do it someday, but I'm not there yet.


Meredith Doench  33:09

But that would be very interesting. That would be a really interesting character to see on the page.


Brad Shreve  33:12

Yes, I think so. Especially if they aren't being treated. You know how they do and even when you're treated, it never goes away. It just you learn to deal with it. And and it's not as severe. So what do you deal with a detective who is depressed sometimes, and manics up times? And has to do their job within that, that? You know what? I may move it up? Maybe it'd be the third series.


Meredith Doench  33:41

It sounds like a good challenge.


Brad Shreve  33:42

Yes, it is definitely a challenge. I'll maybe I'll start with a short story. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. So getting deeper into your novel, where about unknown, which I can tell you is I'm hearing great things about and I can tell deservedly so. It's time for the segment that I call finally given in a name beyond the blurb. Okay, because the blurb only tells us so much. Obviously, you don't want to give too much away. But we need more than the blurb. Tell us more what's going on in this story. All right.


Meredith Doench  34:19

So as I said, we I have kind of two main characters that are sort of working. So it's two it's a dual point of view novel. And the first character that we follow is the homicide detective Theodora Matson, she mostly goes by Theo. She works for the Dayton Police Department. And she's in the prime of her life with a woman she loves a job she loves. She has a baby on the way. And then as I mentioned, she gets injured. And it it's a very serious injury and we're not sure in the book, if she's going to be able to pull out of it or if it's going to be a career ending injury or not. But during this time, you know as she's recovering, she's put on desk duty And she is I mean, she's a little bit elevated beyond desk duty, but she is working with people who are coming in who need to speak with a detective and things like that. And some information comes across her desk about a missing teen near Cleveland, that is very much like the case in Dayton that she worked about a year and a half ago of a missing teen and Dayton. And she starts to see the similarities between these two cases, you know, and starts to think that maybe there's a connection, maybe these kids are being taken or targeted in some way. And so this person Annabelle, she's the 16 year old from near Cleveland, who goes missing and we get her point of view in the book as well to how she is the one who's being held against her will, she's pregnant. And so it becomes this sort of race against time, because he starts to think these two kids might be alive. We just haven't found them yet. And she knows that this has something to do with pregnancy. So she's hurrying, because she's afraid that if these kids have their their babies, they'll kill the mothers. So it's kind of a race against time to see if she can save them and put this case together. And at the same time, her own partner Bree is getting ready to have their first child. So she's dealing with the first time parents stuff, and all of that, as that goes with it as well, too. So yeah, that's what it's about. There's a lot going


Brad Shreve  36:33

on in it. She's got a lot to do in a very complicated life. Yeah,


Meredith Doench  36:38



Brad Shreve  36:39

One thing I think I mentioned recently on the show is I'm typically not a fan of changes in point of view. But I said at that time, one thing I do enjoy is the prologue or the first chapter to be from the point of view of the victim. And because endears it to the victim, and you can feel the terror. And then of course, it switches to the point of point of view of the Sleuth. So I had a similar feeling about your novel it, it switched point of view, and I didn't care, I thought it was perfect. Because when you were inside her head, and the terror that she was going through, it really would have been a different book, had you not done that. And it would have not nearly as good of buckets, in my opinion.


Meredith Doench  37:36

Well, thanks, Annabelle was the last part that I wrote. And I think part of me spending some time on this book, trying to figure it out was I was trying to tell it all from the detectives point of view. And I really, really, really needed a victim's point of view in it. And once that voice finally came through, it really pulled it all together.


Brad Shreve  37:55

Was it difficult to write that?


Meredith Doench  37:58

You know, it was but I think that I spent a lot so so there is a real case about a guy named Todd and I'm probably going to not say his name correctly, I think it's colep, who was in South Carolina, who was lived on rural property, and he had these storage containers on his property, and kept a woman, she had a couple in it for a while, um, you know, and then one of them was killed. And then the woman was kept there. And then I thought about that for so long, because there's been pictures that have been put out to the media of what, you know what conditions she was found inside this storage container, when they finally rescued her. And I've just thought so much about how ease I guess just how a person could just vanish. It seems to me it like it would be so hard for someone to just suddenly be gone. But yet, this shows, I mean, these kinds of cases like this show that it's just in the blink of an eye, sometimes people can be gone, and be so close to their own homes. Like I think that this this woman who was being held by him in South Carolina, she lived in the same exact town. She was like, you know, 10 miles from her own home, but she was out in the middle of the woods, and there's just it's a really crazy story. And so, I think that that was what really captivated me. Like, if you don't have your cell phone, you're stuck in the middle of the woods. You're chained. What do you do? So it was more like be trying to figure out how to get house someone like it out of that, I think, but it was difficult to write it. I will Yes, definitely.


Brad Shreve  39:40

It felt like it would be difficult to write. Yeah, for sure. When we talked in the past we talked about your love for serial killers, and I don't mean I mean that your your fascination, let's say with serial killers. And then we have this book and I was trying to come up with a use the word dark a lot. And I was trying to think of another word for dark. And I saw somebody refer to the book as grim. I said, that's perfect. It's grim. And that's, that's not a negative, right? Because that's what I expected. And it's exactly what I got. When I talk to you, you just seem just so laid back and cheerful. And where the, where the hell does this dark side come from?


Meredith Doench  40:30

Everyone asks me that. It's so funny, everybody, when they interview me, they ask that they can't imagine that this actually comes from me, but it does. I, you know, I'm drawn to darkness, I think in a lot of ways. And in my forms of entertainment, you know, like, I always will pick the darkest movie, the darkest book to read all of those kinds of things. Yeah, I don't, I don't exactly understand it about myself. And one of the jokes I think that about this book is that I didn't, I wasn't going to write another loose Hanson book, because I felt like I was really trapped in that serial killer cycle with her, because her whole entire job was finding serial killers, right. So it's kind of hard to write about anything but a serial killer. So kind of a whole joke about this book is I intended to write a book that didn't have anything to do with serial killers. And I ended up writing about a serial killer again. So it feels like they're just old to me and these writing things that I do.


Brad Shreve  41:30

While they're there. They're exciting. You do well. So. And that begs the question, the last time we talked you, it was your third? Loose hands? Is it loose hands? And you said, you're definitely going to continue on? And then all of a sudden, you come up with this book? Do you still plan to continue? You just felt like you needed a break?


Meredith Doench  41:57

Yeah, I do. And I thought it would be you know, I do think it would be kind of cool to bring these two women together. And that could absolutely happen. They're just working for different organizations in the state of Ohio. But yeah, I would really like to revisit, revisit loose, and also Theo, I've really come to like her a lot by overriding this. So I do hope that both of these characters kind of haven't. I would love to see him in a book together. I don't know. Let's just see how it goes. But do


Brad Shreve  42:29

it. Yeah, let's see. So okay, we have the loose books, the first three, and then we have this book, all for thrillers. Yes. Is there something that draws you to thrillers rather than other genres in the in the crime fiction realm?


Meredith Doench  42:47

I think that what I love about a thriller, is that the person who is supposed to save the day, so in most cases, that's like somebody in law enforcement, or it could be someone who's a private investigator or something like that, but the person who's supposed to save the day, at some point, finds themselves in danger. Yeah. And I think that that's what I really love about it. I think that it makes it feel like everything could be lost. If this person ends up being killed, then this will never be solved type of a threat. I think that that's what draws me to it most. Because not all mysteries have their main character, you know, in danger. And so I think that that's what I'm most drawn to.


Brad Shreve  43:31

Yeah, and even when they're in danger, it's not nearly typically to the degree that it is in a thriller.


Meredith Doench  43:38

Right, like life threatening type of a thing. Yeah.


Brad Shreve  43:41

Do you see yourself going into one of the other sub genres?


Meredith Doench  43:45

You know, I've really wanted to try writing true crime. And I don't know, I've been sort of working on a couple of just little things here and there. But you know, writing true crime has been it's been an eye opener because writing fiction you know, we can just put in a character if we need another character we just have one if we need them to move locations we just move on but true crime you can't do that. Right. So yeah, I don't know. I I'm kind of playing around. Was that a true crime to crime me type of a thing.


Brad Shreve  44:18

That'd be interesting to see where you go, I've read. I'm not a fan of true crime podcasts, which there is one on every second of the day. There's so many, and some are so well researched, and then others take their idea, listen to a podcast and then make a podcast about what they just heard about and, or they go to Wikipedia. Yeah. So that's why I say as a rule, I'm not a fan of them, but i Boy, I've read some. I've read I've read some really good ones and the only one that really comes to mind because it's probably one of the first ones I read was Helter Skelter. Yeah, that was that was pretty grim. And it's pretty grim. So let's get to writing. If you You were to start your writing career all over. Imposter syndrome affects most of us. I'm gonna guess that you experienced it from time to time. And for those that aren't familiar with impostor syndrome is a very quick, simplistic definition is you're worried that the next book, people are going to find out that you've been taking it all along? For like, that's pretty much it. Is it? So given that it's likely you experience and actually you nodded your head? People couldn't see it? Absolutely. Yeah. How do you overcome that?


Meredith Doench  45:39

Yeah, it happens every time I go to write something new. And the only way that I've been able to overcome it is to keep it for myself for a while. So I'm working on the plans for it. I'm working on trying to craft a character. And I just tell myself that if this sucks, nobody ever has to see it. I'm just playing around with this person, or I'm just playing around with this idea. And nobody even knows that I'm writing it, nobody, it's not under contract. It's not, you know, there's nothing, there's no reason for anybody to ever even know. And that's the only way I've been able to get around it. And then at some point, you know, you get enough words on the page where you're like, Okay, this is going to turn into something, this is going to turn into either a story or a novel. And then you get more confidence. I think that that, but the only way I've been because getting started is the hardest part. And the only way I've been able to do that is to say no, just play around with it. Nobody has any idea. Nobody has to know what it is. Even if it's terrible. Just spend some time on it and see what happens. You know,


Brad Shreve  46:48

yeah, I, I used to be a moderator in a beginning writers support group. I remember when we reached 1000. Members, and we got excited. And now it has like 30,000, I don't know, but it is it's huge. And you got to be too much work for me. But one of the common things was that I see causes, this is perfection, it has to be perfect. And I was always lecturing, just just write it, who it shed shed just, I wasn't thrilled with with my book, I was able to use pieces of it to write the one that I did published. Yeah, but you know, just do it. Because if nothing else, you're gonna learn from it.


Meredith Doench  47:37

Absolutely. And there might be parts of it, you can take into using into another project, you know,


Brad Shreve  47:43

exactly which, which is what I did. Yeah. Do you believe in writer's block? Or do you think it's kind of the same thing?


Meredith Doench  47:51

Yeah, I think they sort through to me, they sort of go together. And they sort of go together. And I also think that once the longer it goes on, the worse it is, the longer that you don't you allow yourself not to write because your whatever feeling about it, the worse it gets. So as soon as you can break it, it's better to break it, even if you're just breaking it with things that you don't think are good. Because I think you can get yourself into a real spiral of, it's not going to happen today. Maybe tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes and you it just seems like the longer that you put it off, the longer that you go without actually putting words on the page. The worse that it becomes,


Brad Shreve  48:35

it becomes like a diet. I'll start tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will stop eating chocolate and I'll start writing my novel. Yeah, and I will tell you, I, when I was going through a really bad period, just feeling down on myself and thinking, you know, I've fooled people, my my books, this next book is gonna be crap. And I'm gonna be embarrassed. So I sent a lot of emails and messages out to writers I respect and some very prominent writers. And I said, when do you reach the point where you basically actually what I said, when do you reach? When did you reach the point where you were no longer concerned that your next novel was going to prove to everyone that you are a fake? And everyone gave me the same answer. And it was almost verbatim every answer. And the answer was, I'll tell you when I get there. Yeah, yeah. So and that made me feel good. Well, I'm like, Oh, shit, this is never gonna go away. But at least I know it wasn't abnormal. So yeah, well, we are at my, one of my favorite point parts of the show. Show. Okay, it's awkward questions authors get as you know, it's questions that authors get that are either awkward or uncomfortable, or sometimes we just aren't thrilled to be asked this question. And as I mentioned in another episode, in the past, I look these up online and what I did, I actually met a few maybe somebody reached out to, I sent a lot of messages out and said, Give me some weird questions that you've got. So I can assure you these are all real. So yeah. Are you ready for the wheel? All ready? Let's do it. Let's spin it. Okay, Meredith? Well, I will certainly say this is not offensive. I'll just say it. When are you going to write a story in Philadelphia?


Meredith Doench  50:56

Oh, my goodness. I have never thought about writing a story in Philadelphia. I don't know. When are you going to write a story in Philadelphia? Brad,


Brad Shreve  51:08

I doubt I'll ever write a story.


Meredith Doench  51:11

Remember, not elfia. So I drove


Brad Shreve  51:14

through it once. And it was a traffic jam. And I hated every second of it. I won't let that reflect on the entire city. But as of right now, I don't have a good. Yeah. No, I can't see myself. Even though I don't even live in LA, I'm sure. Eventually I move outside of LA. In fact, actually, there's a standalone I want to be on the Outer Banks, but not Philadelphia. No. What is really funny the the last person that I actually I think it was the only other person that I drew this question for all their novels take place in Philadelphia. They were like, all right.


Meredith Doench  51:52

Yeah, I'm pretty much in Ohio girl. All of my books have been in Ohio. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know if I'll ever get out of Ohio or not.


Brad Shreve  52:00

So the name of the book is whereabouts unknown. And of course, it goes without saying there will be a link in the show notes. And I'm going to put a link, you need to send that the link to that article. Yeah, I can do that to me. And I'll make sure that gets in there, as well as the link to your website and amongst all the other things that we normally put in there. So thank you. I'm so glad that when this book was coming out, he said, Hey, Brad, I'm ready to get back on the show. So thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to have you on


Meredith Doench  52:32

yeah, thanks so much. I always love coming on your show. Hopefully there'll be a next time.


Brad Shreve  52:36

I'm sure there will be