WORTH, Texas ó Julia Heaberlin didnít plan to write
a book about date rape.
when the Fort Worth-area novelist sat down to work on
"Lie Still" and the first sentence from the
female protagonist was a recollection of being attacked
in college, Heaberlin decided to see it through.
thriller genre in which Heaberlin works, after all, is
an ideal forum in which to discuss societal issues
"without making your readers zone out," she
"Lie Still" (Bantam, $15 in trade paperback,
out July 2) mixes serious discussion about "the
last frontier in crime" with a twisty-turny mystery
plot and a cast of eccentric characters that
considerably lighten the reading experience.
kind of book, which is somewhere between literary and
popular mystery, is a good way to appeal to people on
issues like this," Heaberlin says.
Still" is also a broad satire of a culture of money
and privilege. The ladies of the fictional North Texas
town of Clairmont (a thinly veiled version of affluent
Southlake) are textbook examples of excess.
is in this community that protagonist Emily Page, a new
resident, one whoís simultaneously amused and appalled
by her rich neighbors, investigates the disappearance of
the groupís queen bee, while also dealing with a
stalker from her own past.
chatted last week with Heaberlin, a former Fort Worth
Star-Telegram editor, about "Lie Still."
Are you prepared for what likely will result from this
book? Readers who share Emilyís experience ó people
who were attacked, people who were stalked, people who
live in fear ó are likely to share their stories with
you. Youíll get a lot of people unburdening their
I donít know, frankly. I read the first chapter of
"Lie Still" to a book club for the first time
about two months ago. I was there primarily speaking
about my first book ("Playing Dead"), but I
thought I would try it out. And there was silence after
I read it. Then the reaction was positive.
woman said that her daughter had been raped and had
tried to commit suicide and she had never told anyone
that until she told this group that night. So I was a
little surprised at that reaction. But Iím getting
How common a crime is this, especially on college
campuses, where Emily was attacked?
College campuses are a laboratory for this crime. I have
a son going off to college, and I went to an orientation
on crime prevention, and we were told stories about
girls and attacks and how the main problem is that they
donít have a game plan, that theyíre putting
themselves in dangerous situations. If I had a daughter
today, I would never send her to college without her
having some sort of self-defense course.
are women all around us ó in the workplace, in the
park, ahead of us in line at the grocery store ó who
have experienced sexual attacks that have left lifelong
When you spend almost a year writing a story like this,
going back to this dark place every day, even if it
exists only in your imagination, is it hard to keep it
from getting you down and creeping you out? Do you
become paranoid once you discover how easy it is to be a
I try to separate my writing from real life. And if Iím
getting down while writing the book, I try to lighten it
up a little. Which is why I put a little humor into
"Lie Still," particularly with a character I
created named Letty. One day, I was particularly down
about something. Iím not sure it was about the
particular topic of rape. But she just sort of came to
life and cheered me up.
Speaking of which, was there a specific incident
involving Texas women that inspired these crazy ladies
I definitely used the lifestyles of Colleyville,
Southlake and Westlake for "Lie Still." I
thought it would be interesting to layer a thriller on
top of the modern trappings of all this bedazzling
wealth: kids driving Hummers and SUVs, flat-screen TVs
in multiple rooms, families that regularly vacation in
Italy and Hawaii, women who carry $1,800 purses the size
of a horseís head.
that said, itís fiction. These crazy women donít
exist. For instance, I donít know a slightly racist
ex-fashion queen on a hot dog-and-banana diet who
carries an assault rifle in the trunk of her car.
Well, none that you know of anyway. In the meantime,
readers from around here are liable to play guessing
games, telling you, "I know who this character is
Iím a little worried about that, because my friends
often see themselves in my characters. Iíll say,
"I never knew that about you!" And Iíve had
some early reviewers say that they find the eccentric
characters of "Lie Still "to be pretty
believable. I want to ask them, "Who the heck are
you hanging out with?"