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Not Your Child: New Suspense by Lis Angus

Not Your Child, brand new suspense by author Lis Angus

Author Interview + Book & Author Info + Author Pet Corner

Not Your Child

Ottawa psychologist and single mother Susan Koss discovers that a strange man has been following her twelve-year-old daughter Maddy. She fears he’s a predator, but it’s worse than that. The man, Daniel Kazan, believes Maddy is his granddaughter, abducted eleven years ago … and he’s obsessed with getting her back.

Susan insists on a DNA test to disprove Daniel’s claim, but the result is one she can’t understand or explain: it says she’s not Maddy’s mother.

Then Maddy vanishes. Susan’s convinced Daniel has taken her, but he has an alibi, and two searches of his house turn up nothing. The hunt is on—police are on full mobilization, and Susan fears the worst.

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Not Your Child — Author Interview with Lis Angus

Not Your Child features single mom Susan Koss. Tell us about your protagonist:

Susan is a child psychologist, working in a children’s mental health clinic in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. She’s also a single mom with a twelve-year-old daughter, Maddy. She and Maddy have always been close, but in the past few months they’ve been having “run-ins” where Maddy challenges her mother’s authority. Susan knows that it’s normal for an almost-teenager to yearn for more independence, but still finds Maddy’s confrontations hard to deal with.

When Maddy is followed from school by a stranger, an older man, Susan’s protective instincts kick in, especially once she learns that the man believes Maddy is actually his granddaughter Hannah, who disappeared as a baby from the car crash where her parents died. And he wants her back.

Tell us about your path to publication for Not Your Child:

It was a long and twisted path, as first novels often are. In a way it’s taken all my life, but the actual time between idea and publication took four and a half years.

The book started out in 2017 as an impulse project for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month, when thousands of people commit to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I managed to achieve that word count—a victory in itself—but I let the manuscript sit for a month so I could come back to it with fresh eyes. And when I did, I concluded it was far from ready for prime time. However, instead of shoving it into the proverbial drawer, I decided to keep working on it. That launched me into an intense period of learning about writing fiction and structuring a novel.

I had been writing throughout my career, but it had mostly been research reports and articles and briefings of various sorts. I hadn’t tried writing fiction for years. I began searching the web for advice, and signed up for writing classes. Over the next three and a half years I rewrote the novel multiple times, drawing on feedback from beta readers, other writers, and editors.

I went through a couple of rounds of querying agents. Each time, a few of them asked to see the manuscript, but none offered to represent me. I think I ended up with 81 rejections (including some who simply never replied.)

But I refused to be discouraged: I took this as a sign that the novel still needed more work. In 2021 I engaged another editor and did another rewrite. And this time I started getting positive signs. I was a finalist, and then second-place winner, in the 2021 Daphne du Maurier contest for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense in the division for unpublished novels.

At the same time I was querying again, but this time I didn’t only query agents; I also submitted to a few publishers who accept un-agented submissions. I was encouraged when several of them expressed interest, giving me detailed replies.

And in July of that year The Wild Rose Press, a small press in upstate New York, offered me a publishing contract. On checking with other authors, I learned that Wild Rose has a sterling reputation, so I accepted. From contract to publication has now taken less than a year, which is quick in the publishing industry.

Not Your Child is full of twists and turns, what is your writing process like? Did you outline? Or discover the reversals and reveals through organically writing drafts?

Yes, to all of the above. I created an outline when I first started the novel, and it gave me the confidence and structure to keep going. But as I went through subsequent drafts, getting to know my story and my characters better, I found myself restructuring, throwing scenes or storylines out and adding other ones in. I think I ultimately discarded nearly as many words as were in my original NaNo draft.

In my final draft I reorganized the timeline and wrote a completely new ending. By the time I was finished, I still had an outline, but it was very different from the one I’d started with. It was basically reverse-engineered, a spreadsheet listing in order each scene that appeared in the manuscript. That outline was no longer a guide to writing, but a way to visually picture my plot and keep track of my word count.

As for reversals, twists and reveals—they emerged as the story unfolded, but I definitely paid attention to how each one would affect pacing and suspense. I tried not to telegraph something too early, spoiling the effect a later placement could have.

What draws you to writing suspense versus another subgenre of crime fiction?

I enjoy reading many crime fiction subgenres, but I especially love suspense novels because of the feeling of tension that builds up the further one reads. It’s the dread of knowing something terrible may happen and hoping it’s possible to stop it, but fearing that the worst may occur after all. The best suspense novels keep that feeling of dread ratcheting up, so that readers are simply unable to put down the book because they need to know what happens.

Why is experiencing that dread so enjoyable?

It’s not unlike the feeling one gets while riding a roller coaster or watching a scary movie, both of which have a lot of fans.

We’re told that “the only thing to fear is fear itself.” Maybe it’s reassuring to discover that fear itself hasn’t overwhelmed us. We can experience fear vicariously in a controlled environment, and return to the apparent safety of our normal world.

How does your degree in psychology help you with creating characters?

I’m not sure which came first, my interest in how people function or the academic studies that helped give it structure. Having an understanding of the range of people’s behaviors, emotions and defense mechanisms is definitely useful for a writer. But I’d have to say that my approach to creating characters isn’t mainly based on theory or clinical categories.

I began with a basic “what if.” What if someone showed up and claimed that your child wasn’t your child at all? Then I tried to figure out how that might happen, what kinds of individuals would be affected, what their backstory might be, and how they’d react and interact. I tried to imagine myself inside the characters, to feel what they must be feeling. With each draft I got a deeper understanding of each of the characters. I was into the fourth or fifth draft before a major insight into Susan struck me, for instance.

I think my own life experience contributed as much to creating my characters as my academic studies, or perhaps more. My three main characters—Susan, Maddy, and Daniel—are at different ages, different stages of their lives. I’ve been all three of those ages myself, and the yearnings and concerns that each of them is experiencing are ones I can identify with. None of the characters is “me”—this isn’t an autobiographical novel—but they each have something of me in them. And, I hope, they have something that my readers can identify with too.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new novel, another standalone. This one also started with a “what if:” What if someone shows up and tells you that your deceased father had another wife, another family? And that your family was the second, secret one?

Once again, I used NaNoWriMo to plunge into exploring that starting premise. I finished November 2021 with 50,000 words of what I’ve been calling a “draft zero”—not quite a first draft, but a good scaffold to build on. Launching Not Your Child has somewhat distracted me from the work of fleshing out the characters and plot of this new book, but I hope to have a working draft by midsummer.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

Two phrases come to mind.

First of all, “keep your eyes on the prize.” Know what your goal is and keep working toward it.  Don’t be discouraged by initial setbacks. Believe in yourself and your ability to get there.

Secondly, “all writing is rewriting.” I think it was Hemingway who said that, or something like it, and it’s definitely a motto to for writers to live by. I love Anne Lamott, who said that she’d never get anything written at all if she didn’t give herself permission to produce “really really shitty first drafts.” Turning those into sparkling prose is the work of rewriting.

Author Pet Corner!

Mickey & Scout!

I’ve had many animals in my life—I grew up on a farm, so there were horses and cows, chickens and pigs. And we always had at least one dog and several cats. None of these were actually pets; even the cats usually stayed in the barn, and their job was to keep down mice. But one of those cats, a grey tabby named Cinderella, basically adopted me as a young child, letting me use her as a pillow for naps and bringing me “presents” of dead mice. I’ve included a photo of me at age three holding Cinderella, with my big sister Iris behind me.


So I’ve been a lifelong “cat person.” My husband and I had a long series of cats throughout our married life, both before we had children and while raising our two daughters. At the moment we no longer have pets, but here are photos of our “grand-pets:” terrier-shepherd-mix Scout and tuxedo cat Mickey, who tease and tolerate each other at our older daughter’s house, and Moe, the ginger tabby who rules the roost at our younger daughter’s place.

Don’t miss our upcoming blog when Lis comes back to guest post on her blog tour!

Lis Angus

Not Your ChildLis Angus is a Canadian suspense writer.

Early in her career, she worked with children and families in crisis; later she worked as a policy advisor, business writer and editor while raising two daughters.

She now lives south of Ottawa with her husband.

To learn more about Liz, click on her name, photo, or any of the following links: Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Elena Taylor

Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.Not Your Child

For more information on All We Buriedclick on the link here to visit the home page.

Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020

Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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