Excerpt from “The Ride of Your Life” by Laurie Stevens
“What about you?” He swiveled his head toward her. “What’s your name, anyhow?”
“Mary. Mary Fitzpatrick.” She let her eyes roam the mountains bordering the canyon road.
“Well, Mary Fitzpatrick. It looks like you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You have a husband?”
The car fishtailed as it hit the bumps in the center.
“Please slow down!” Mary cried.
He evened out and decreased the speed.
“No, I don’t have a husband,” she said, eyeing the road ahead of them with worry. The turns were tight, and they were still traveling too fast. The car tightly hugged the hills to their right. On the opposite side, the road bordered a sheer, steep drop to the canyon stream below.
Mary could swear that the last person they’d passed whipped out a cell phone and photographed the Buick as it sped by them. Surely, someone would have called the police by now.
“You have kids?” the man asked her.
“No.” Mary barely heard the question. Her mind mulled over some possibilities. “I live alone.”
“Los Angeles can be a cold and lonely place for a nice old lady.”
She cocked an eyebrow over her spectacles at him. She smiled despite her predicament. With her gray hair, glasses, and dowdy clothing, Mary knew most people considered her much older than her years. That was okay with her. She wanted them to think that.
The Rochelle Staab Questions asked of Laurie Stevens
What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you in Los Angeles?
What’s not been weird? I guess the time I exited a gym and saw an elderly woman walking aimlessly through traffic. I asked if she needed a ride and she told me “Quick! Take me to the Pink Turtle!” She instructed me to drive her to the Beverly Wilshire hotel and asked if I would wait with her for her friend. She bought me hot chocolate and spaghetti. No friend appeared, so I took her to her apartment in West LA. I helped count out her ration of medication/pills for the week and as a thank you, she insisted I take home a folding chair. I kept that chair for a long time.
Do you have a yet-to-be realized L.A. dream?
I have not yet hiked to the Hollywood sign.
Why write short stories? Why write at all? What’s in it for you?
Do writers really have a choice whether or not to write? We have to. Short stories give me a chance to make a quick commentary or take a snapshot of life that isn’t big enough for a novel, but delicious just the same.
What is the biggest challenge in writing to theme?
That you don’t stray from the theme.
Are the characters in your story based on you or people you know/met?
Without creating a spoiler, I’ll say that one of the characters is based on a nefarious and infamous person who, I believe, is still serving time in prison.
Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods. Why did you pick the area you used for your story, and how did the neighborhood influence your writing?
Well, if you read the story you will see the two characters travel all over. They start in the city, go through the valley, then end up in the canyons on the way to the beach. I myself like quilts!
Are there scenes in your story based on real life—yours, hearsay, or a news story you read?
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I’ve read about embezzlement cases, so the man’s crime is not unusual, unfortunately. As far as the car jacking is concerned, I wanted to put a twist on that, and I’ve never heard of it happening before.
What came first, the character or the plot?
The plot came first. The twist came first… Then I added that character from the news story.
While you’re writing: music (what kind?), dead silence, or…?
Silence while I write. Music while I walk between writing to complete those hard-to-complete scenes. I keep a playlist for each book or story I write.
Favorite writing quote—yours or from someone else…
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. Stephen King
Your writing ritual begins with…
A cup of coffee and a lit candle. A quiet space and for God’s sake turn the phone off!
Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay psychological thrillers, The Dark Before Dawn and Deep into Dusk. The books have won twelve awards, among them Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011, the IPPY for Best Mystery/Thriller, Library Journal’s Self-E Award, the Amsterdam Book Festival, and Random House Editor’s Book of the Month. Laurie is an active member of MWA, ITW, and sits on the Board of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. She’s proud to have been included in two Sisters in Crime anthologies: Last Resort and Last Exit to Murder.