Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Friday, October 14, 2011

Murder is her day job!

No, it's not "Murder, she wrote," it's... "Murder, she analyzed"!

Lisa Black is a forensic scientist and the New York Times best selling author of the Theresa MacLean suspense novels Defensive Wounds, Trail of Blood, Evidence of Murder, and Takeover. After spending five years at the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office, analyzing gunshot residue on hands and clothing, hairs, fibers, paint, glass, DNA, blood and many other forms of trace evidence (the "happiest years of her life," she writes in her bio), Lisa is now a latent print examiner for the city of Cape Coral, Florida, police department, working mostly with fingerprints and crime scenes.

And when she gets home from her day job... she writes gripping, grab-by-the-throat suspense novels! It is my great pleasure to have Lisa Black as my guest today!

EEG: Lisa, I'm insanely curious about your day as a forensic scientist: what is it like?

LB: There is no such thing as the average day, and if there were it would still depend on where you work and what your agency does. At the coroner’s office I would usually be examining victim’s clothing, typing blood (this was a while ago), running gunshot residue samples through the spectrometer and analyzing hairs and fibers. At the police department I spend 90% of my time sitting in front of a computer looking at fingerprints, and the rest photographing and processing crime scenes (usually burglaries) and evidence.

EEG:  Did you always write or was it your job that one day sparked the writing muse?

LB: I wrote first, starting in grade school, back when I wanted to be a pilot, archaeologist, ballerina or astronaut. But I always wrote mysteries.

EEG: From what I've learned about forensic sciences, you have to be very meticulous in collecting the evidence and analyzing it. Do you think this ability helps you in your writing, too?

LB: Yes. I grew up reading the classical mysteries of Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie, so it’s important to me that every last factor is realistic and fits into a pattern. There is an overwhelming amount of attention to detail in a mystery story.

EEG: How much of your heroine Theresa MacLean do you see in yourself?

LB: All of it, which is a problem. I need to let her be herself instead of what I want her to be, which is me only stronger, faster, smarter and divorced.

Well, you never know, characters do have the tendency to surprise even their authors, sometimes!

Thanks so much, Lisa, for taking the time to answer my questions. To find out more about Lisa Black and her best selling novels, visit her at

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