The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream is a classic Christina Dodd novel. The plot has Merry Byrd seriously injured in an explosion that meant to kill her. She had to undergo numerous facial surgeries that changed her appearance. To get the financing she had to make a pact with the devil, a possessive old geezer who wanted her for his trophy wife. Changing her name to Helen Brassard she endured nine long years of his abusive, controlling, and manipulative ways. After he died Helen reinvents herself yet again. She disappears and remerges as the beautiful, reclusive Merida Falcon in the coastal town of Virtue Falls, WA. While there she decides to reconnect with her childhood friend Sheriff Kateri Kwinault. Unfortunately for Kateri at the same time her friend arrives women are being slashed to death. Besides dealing with this she is recovering from a drive by shooting which left her needing to walk with a cane, her best friend hovering near death, a series of unexplained murders, a deranged local meth-head criminal, and a complicated love life.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Christina Dodd: I had taken a two-week transatlantic cruise and was able to observe different personalities. I started thinking about different scenarios including what would make someone want to become a trophy wife, having to service an old and disgusting guy. YUK! I wondered if they sought revenge, money, were being blackmailed, or wanted to escape something in their past.
EC: Why did you make Kateri a Native American?
CD: She is actually a half-breed, as she refers to herself. The book is set in Washington, where there are so many tribes so I knew I could not just ignore the culture. I wanted her to be successful and in the earlier books of the series she was the commander of the local Coast Guard, using her background to help her understand what was required. Since the Native American culture is surrounded by myths I wanted to incorporate that in the story as well. I think it is fun to see how Kateri has grown throughout the four books.
EC: How would you describe Kateri?
CD: Since her mother was an alcoholic she had to grow up very fast. Even though at times she was crushed by life, she gained strength from the adversity. She rebuilt herself and refined her strength. What makes her such an attractive character is how she overcomes her disabilities and pain. She is someone who picks up the pieces, moving on from all the tragedies in her life, including feeling disgraced after being court martialed.
EC: Who is the “Frog God?”
CD: I wanted to make up a Native American legend. He is a gigantic frog that sits at the bottom of the ocean who is bitter, unhappy, and manipulative. I based him on a Hindu legend of a huge turtle that had the earth on its back and when it moved caused earthquakes. The ‘Frog God’ causes the earth to move as he jumps and tries to taste the sun. He revives Kateri after her ship sinks and flings her back on shore. Unfortunately, he could not save her from a court-martial. The rule is that anyone who loses a vessel must be court martialed even if it were not their fault, as was the case with Kateri.
EC: Anyone who has a dog can relate to the scenes where Kateri turns to her dog Lacey for comfort?
CD: Her dog Lacey is based on one of my dogs. She was the sweetest Cocker Spaniel you ever met, a fabulous dog. We lost another dog this September and I wanted to show how dogs just hold your heart.
EC: What about Kateri’s half sister, Lilith Palmer, the wicked stepsister?
CD: She could easily come back in another book since I considered her such a fabulous character. What a Bit–. Yet, she also had another side as evidenced when she made sure she was not going to let anyone hurt her sister. I think she is one of those dysfunctional characters who readers will not completely dislike. She was ‘a know it all’ and was the typical older sister who always wants you to do what they tell you to do. I have two older sisters so I know all about it. I can remember saying, ‘Janet knows everything. Phyllis knows best, and Christina knows sh–. Blessed their hearts.’
EC: Describe Stag Denali, Kateri’s boyfriend.
CD: I have yet to really cover his background. We know he was a bouncer and served time in prison for killing someone. Because he is building a casino on the reservation he is in direct conflict with Sheriff Kateri, as a law enforcement officer. He was always in love with her, but she was too busy defining herself to get involved until this story. I hoped I showed how he has unconditional love for her.
EC: How would you describe Mary aka Helen aka Merida?
CD: She is damaged, bitter, angry, and driven by vengeance. She changed from a happy person to feeling betrayed by the man she loved. This crushed and warped her, and made her become guarded. I had to do some delicate writing to get her to connect to people and to open up to some affection. I hoped I showed this transformation by having her connect with Benedict Howard, her past lover. They had similar backgrounds and both went on an emotional journey.
EC: You made Merida mute. Why?
CD: I wanted to show her mental anguish that came with her unable to speak. I also wanted to put in some things about mute people. For instance, most people ridiculously talk to someone in the same manner they speak with a person who does not understand their language: either raising voices or speaking very slowly. I want people to consider what it is like for someone who loses one of their senses. I also wanted to show how someone communicates with sign language. They can hear us, but cannot respond so they sign. Did you know you could say someone is mute, but not ‘a mute?’
EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?
CD: A great entertaining story. But, also that people with handicaps are not broken and do not need to be fixed. They are whole people. They were put in circumstances they never dreamed of, but were able to pick themselves up. A side tidbit: we raised one of our dogs to be a service dog. One thing we found out is that these dogs help the handicap with incredibly important tasks. They allow a handicap person out in public to be viewed as the person with the dog, not the person with a disability. Finally, I put humor into my stories because I want to show no matter how hard life is you still need to laugh.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
CD: Benedict and Merida will not return as characters, although I will never say never. If they do return it will be under different names. My next book is a spin-off series, ‘Cape Charade.’ The title is Dead Girl Running. In a town down the coast from Virtue Falls a lady who was dreadfully abused reinvents herself. In March there will be a short story and the book comes out in May. The plot also has a murder mystery so Sheriff Kateri will be in it.