Every artist knows that the highs and lows of life play an undeniable role in what we create. Personally, some of my work I hold as most meaningful to me has been that which is born out of trial. This month, we’ll discuss Leanna Sain’s new book, Hush, and explore how hardship helped shape the newest installment of the Amelia Island Suspense series.
Lydia: You’ve mentioned that writing this book was therapeutic for you during a difficult season. Could you tell us more about that.
Leanna: The story about a serial killer who uses the verses of the lullaby, “Hush, Little Baby” as staging or directions for his murders had been percolating in my brain for a while, but the actual writing didn’t begin until Mama started going downhill with her Alzheimer’s. I was struggling badly with the pain, anger, and frustration of it all and I needed an outlet. I hated that there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the inevitable. Alzheimer’s is a death sentence. The worst kind of death. It steals away everything that makes a person who they are. My Mama was gone. Oh, yes, there was an empty shell who looked like her, but that’s where any similarities ended. The person I loved and who loved me died long before her shell did, and there was nothing I could do about it.
So the story shifted a little. I decided to create a minor character (in this case, Lacey, my protagonist’s mother) and I gave her Alzheimer’s. It was a mean thing to do, but at that point in my life, it felt necessary, and it allowed me to honor Mama by weaving some of the things she said and did into my story. I guess Lacey was sort of my alter ego during this difficult time. I know God is in control even when everything feels chaotic, but it helped me to have this tiny measure of control over one small thing in a fictional world.
Lydia: Tell us about Hush. Obviously, the circumstances of your mother’s Alzheimer’s played a role in shaping the story. Could you tell us a little more about that also?
Lacey Campbell can dream murders before they happen. The problem is her dreams are in fragments—bits and pieces—not enough clues to allow her to stop the murders from happening. She dreams flashes of a man singing “Hush, Little Baby” while he strangles a young woman. When she awakes, she tried to convince herself it doesn’t mean anything, but the next night she dreams a second murder—same scenario—the lullaby… another strangulation. It’s time to tell the police.
State Bureau of Investigation sends in their man, Detective Ford Jamison, to help the local police which results in the typical territorial skirmish between the two forces. Ford soon has a two-part working theory: the killer is using the lullaby to stage his murders and he’s targeting women who look remarkably like Lacey. That knowledge doesn’t slow the killings, though and the police are always one step behind. Now Lacey is afraid to go to sleep because the next face she sees in her dreams might be her own.
I guess I tried to evoke the feeling of inevitability; that the next victim will die and the killer gets ever closer to his final victim … Lacey. It was a picture of the certainty of Mama’s coming death … the fear and sadness, and even anger that went along with that. To add even more danger into the mix, I threw in an approaching hurricane.s
Lydia: It’s a wonderful thing you’re doing, Leanna. It’s not easy watching a parent slowly die. You’ve been through so much, I know you have seen God work in mighty ways during the time of creating this book. Would you share some of those experiences with us?
Leanna: Like I said before, Alzheimer’s steals away everything that makes a person an individual. But it also steals abilities. The ability to dress oneself, to brush one’s own teeth or hair, to talk, even the ability to swallow. Before Mama lost her ability to talk, her speech was what I called “word salad”… random words tossed into the mix that didn’t make sense. But one night when I brought supper over to their house, she kept repeating, “God makes no mistakes.” She must’ve said it fifty or more times, over and over. I needed that reminder. God used Mama’s voice to speak to me. I used this in one of the scenes in the book.
For several weeks until the end, Mama’s food had to be pureed, then they switched her to a high-protein shake. I fed her lunch everyday. Daddy fed her supper. It would take at least an hour for her to sip an 8 oz. shake, and the workers couldn’t take that much time with each patient. I discovered that the process went more smoothly if I sang to her. She was always very musical; played the piano and organ at church, sang in the choir, duets with Daddy. You could never go into my parents’ home when the radio wasn’t playing. Even with no one there, the radio would always be on. Music played a central role in her life. Singing during Mama’s lunchtime helped me as much as it seemed to help her.
Lydia: As the time goes by and readers have had a while to engage with Hush, what is the one goal you will have hoped to accomplish?
Leanna: To encourage someone who might also be watching someone they love turn into a stranger due to this, or some other horrible disease.
Lydia: What final thought would you like to share with us today?
Leanna: Please help me by getting your copy of Hush today and don’t forget to write a review. Stay tuned for the second book in the series, Hoax.
Lydia: Leanna, thank you for sharing with us. It has been a pleasure having you with us on Growing Up in the South. I pray that God blesses your work, and blesses you. Be sure to let us know when you finish your next book. We’d like to have you back to tell us all about it.
Thank you so much for checking out our interview with Leanna Sain! If you’d like to enter for a chance to win a free copy of Hush, sign up for our mailing list below! You can buy Hush here, and purchase her other works here. Check out her website, and be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter! If you have a question or comment for us, we’d love to hear from you! Be sure to share this post, and comment below.
Thank you for reading!