S.M. Freedman is a top-ranked Amazon author in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense categories, and a member of the WorldWiseWriters group. She lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children and a giant orange cat. She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and spent years as a private investigator and business owner.
Her debut novel, The Faithful, is published by Thomas & Mercer (Amazon’s Mystery/Thriller Imprint). It’s an Amazon Bestseller in the US, UK, Italy, Canada and Australia, and was a Quarter Finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It was selected by Suspense Magazine as one of the “Best Books of 2015” in the Debut Author category.
Interview with S.M. Freedman
S&S: Show (or tell us) about your favorite coffee mug. What’s it say about you?
SMF: My browser history is serial killer creepy. I swear all my research is writing related, but here’s my worry: What if someone “out there”is paying attention to the fact that I just spent an hour Googling untraceable poisons, or how to properly use a garrote? I figure I’m one mouse-click away from a firm knock on my door, so I keep my trusty mug ready. You know, just in case.
S&S: Who is your least favorite (good!) character in your upcoming novel –Impact Winter – the sequel to The Faithful?
SMF: Probably Jack’s dad, Keaton. He’s the kind of guy who sticks his head in the sand (or bottle of Jim Beam) to avoid seeing the truth about his child, and in so doing fails to give his boy the adult safety net that all kids so desperately need. It’s a parental weakness that, quite honestly, I fear. Just the idea of waking up one day and realizing that I don’t really know my own kids, don’t know who they are or how they think—to fail them through blindness … well, I can’t even imagine.
S&S: Who, in your mind, is the ultimate villain in literature? Why?
SMF: For me, the best villains are those in whom you can still see the bits of good, the bits of humanity. I find it intoxicating to watch someone grapple with their conscience and then ultimately choose to do evil—another theme I explore in Impact Winter. Having said that, what immediately comes to mind is that faceless “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s 1984. I first read it in high school, and man, that book was like a panic attack on paper! And have you seen Kevin Spacey in House of Cards? Holy cannoli! He’s so narcissistically evil, and yet I can’t stop rooting for him. Love that show.
S&S: What was the hardest part in writing this second novel?
SMF: In writing, the editing process is often called “killing your darlings.” I’ve actually never had much trouble killing my word darlings; sometimes those suckers need to be sacrificed for the good of the story. But in Impact Winter, I killed some real darlings: Characters I’d come to know and love. And it’s been really hard to let them go.
S&S: Sumner is an interesting character. I never could quite pin down if he was crazy or just…well… actually I don’t know how to begin to describe the dude. Are we going to see a lot more of him in Impact Winter?
SMF: Ha! Yeah. Poor Sumner. He’s my terribly inappropriate sense of humor, unleashed with equally poor timing. And yes, he’s a little crazy. But I figure he’s got the right to be, after being mind-washed and forced to run I Fidele’s kidnapping ring. He, like Ryanne, is dealing with a major case of the guilts over his role in the downfall of humanity. Although I don’t spend as much time with him in Impact Winter as I did in The Faithful, he’s on a pretty intense path of growth, love, discovery, and repentance—and that will be one of the driving forces behind the third and final book in the series.
S&S: In the first book, The Faithful, there’s a relationship where one of the Chosen actually gets to meet her real mother. After such an extended absence, it seems like it would be extremely hard for that bond to truly form between them. Are you going to explore that more in Impact Winter?
SMF: Yes. Impact Winter deals heavily with trying to repair broken parent-child bonds after a lengthy absence, whether the absence is due to kidnapping, isolation, or alcohol abuse. The pain, uncertainty, yearning, and heartache of parenthood are all themes peppered throughout the book. Being a mom of two, it’s probably the theme closest to my heart.
S&S: I just recently interviewed Joseph John, author of The Eighth Day, and he said he thought the world would end not with a bang, but with a whimper. What about you?
SMF: Despite the impression I might give in The Faithful, I’m rooting for it not to end at all! Having said that, there are bleak days when I fear it can’t be helped. If it does end, I think it will be in a big putrid cloud of ignorance and hatred.
S&S: If you can do it without giving away too much, what are you most excited about for readers in Impact Winter?
SMF: I’m really excited to introduce readers to Neema. In The Faithful Ryanne was run over trying to stop the abduction of Neema’s daughter, and then inadvertently responsible for the murder of Neema’s mother. But Neema remained nameless, hovering in the background while all this horrific stuff happened to her. I kept thinking about her. This poor woman was trying to deal with her daughter’s disappearance and her mother’s death, and then she was thrust into global chaos. How would she survive? How would she keep her two remaining children alive? She became a key player in Impact Winter’s Through Neema’s eyes, we see the aftermath of I Fidele’s destruction. We see the great warrior mama unleashed as she fights to survive and find her lost daughter—and through her we witness the next step in I Fidele’s plan for world domination: the round-up and brutal internment of all survivors.
S&S: I noticed from your blog that you have a three-year-old little girl and an older boy. Being a writer and reader yourself, how big of a role do books play in their life?
SMF: My daughter is falling into an easy love of books and stories, which is really exciting. My son, on the other hand, had a really hard time learning to read. He’s very verbal (at school they actually call him The Human Dictionary—wouldn’t that be an awesome, nerdy superhero?) but reading was a huge struggle for him. We’ve always read to him at bedtime (still do!) but he didn’t want to read for himself until he discovered the world of Harry Potter. He’s now nine, and I have J.K. Rowling to thank for helping my son break past his barriers. He spent hours this weekend with his nose in a book, and there’s nothing that does my mama-heart more proud than that.
S&S: Did writing this series turn you on to prepping at all?
SMF:  You’d think it would, wouldn’t you? Sadly, future “oh no, the shit really hit the fan” me probably wants to hop in a time machine and beat the snot out of lackadaisical present me, because I’m not at all prepared for any kind of emergency, and if the zombie apocalypse happens I’ll be the first one eaten. Hmm, maybe I should get working on that. You hear that, future me? I’m getting around to it..
For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts. They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick. Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force. Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he’s pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears. All the children had psychic abilities. All the cases went cold — with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered. Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.
For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA’s Spaceguard program, memories are lies. The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place. New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape. Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey; and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.
For Sumner, memories have become weapons. He’s sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders. He’s eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele’s heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.
To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth. They’re ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale. If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive.
S.M. Freedman’s next book, Impact Winter, will be released soon! In the meantime, why don’t you get caught up and read The Faithful? Buy it now on Amazon!