I get ideas for my novels from my own life events, or from other people's stories. The inspiration for The Stalker came from a little bit of both.
It started when an online feud erupted on my Facebook newsfeed. Two artists, who'd once worked together, had a falling out. They'd blocked each other on Facebook, but that didn't stop the feud. One would post something about the other. Someone else would take a screenshot and send it to the other one, and then the mud-fest would begin. About the time it settled down the other one would start in, and the cycle would repeat itself. The rest of us got a ringside seat, whether we wanted it or not.
Of course the writer in me saw this as a good premise for novel. I especially liked the idea of the lead character being harassed by someone she'd once worked with, instead of a former lover. (The former lover will be the premise for my next novel, The Letter.)
In The Stalker, Craig, the antagonist, stalks and harasses Rachel, the leading lady and a former coworker. Rachel had once considered Craig a mentor, but he turned on her when she got a promotion he felt she didn't deserve. Like my other novels, The Stalker twists and turns as the story progresses, taking you, the reader, on yet another roller coaster ride.
The following excerpt is a sneak preview from The Stalker.
Rachel waited until Shane was gone before turning her attention back to the deputy. His name tag identified him as Joseph Gonzalez.
“And so another wonderful evening gets ruined, thanks to Craig Walker.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “I first met Shane, the man who just left, back in high school, but I never really talked to him until tonight, and I could tell something wonderful was about to happen. Then you showed up.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m just doing my job.”
Her tone softened. “I know you are, and I’m sorry for being rude. This really isn’t your fault. You got duped by Craig Walker, just like I did.”
He motioned for her to take a seat in the corner of the lounge. As she settled into her chair, he took a small notepad from his pocket and sat down across from her.
“Okay, Ms. Bennett, can you please tell how you know Mr. Walker?”
“Craig Walker is an ex co-worker who I first met in Reno, Nevada, where we both worked for a magazine.”
“Were you ever romantically involved with him?”
“No.” Her head shook as she spoke. “Mr. Walker and I have never been romantically involved. It was strictly a business relationship.” She went on to describe their talks in the break room, and how he had turned on her after she was promoted to the new art director.
“So,” said Gonzalez, “you said he was reprimanded after this incident. Did the harassment stop after that?”
“He never actually spoke to me after that, but he still gave me the evil eye whenever he saw me. And he always made a point of contradicting me at staff meetings, even when everyone else agreed with me. I probably could have said the sky was blue, and he would have said no, it was green. And then things started getting really scary.”
“What do you mean by scary?”
“I started getting some really nasty emails in my personal account. They came from different senders, but they all had pretty much the same verbiage. I was a hack who didn’t know how to do my job, and the only reason I got my job was because I’d slept with the boss. Changing my password and blocking the senders didn’t seem to help. So, I finally went back to my supervisor, but I was told that unless I could prove Craig was the sender they couldn’t do anything about it. They suggested I open a new email account.”
“Yes. And after that I made a point of not checking my personal email from my work computer. Later on, I found out someone was using the contact form on the magazine website to complain about me, but management simply ignored it. They knew what was going on; they just didn’t want to get involved. It was about the same time we learned the magazine would be going out of business.”
The deputy went over his notes. “You mentioned something about this not being the first time you had an evening ruined by Mr. Walker. Could you please explain what you meant by that?”
“Back in Reno, it seemed like every time I went out with friends, Craig would be there. If we went to a bar or restaurant, he’d be at another table. If we went to a movie or show, he’d be seated in the auditorium; always giving me a cold, hard stare. It was as if he knew my every move, even though I’d made a point of keeping my private life private. I never discussed any of my plans with co-workers. Then there was Eric.”
“Who was Eric?”
“Eric Hawthorne was someone I was seeing while I was in Reno. It wasn’t anything overly serious, but we enjoyed each other’s company. So one night while we were out having dinner, Craig was brazen enough to approach Eric in the men’s room. He told him what a lying, two-faced bitch I was, and that I was sleeping with the boss, and why was he wasting his time with someone like me when there were so many other women out there who were better? The confrontation apparently didn’t last long, maybe a minute or so at best, but it really made Eric mad, not to mention how embarrassing it was for me.” She sighed. “Eric sent me an email a few days later. He said he was sorry about the problems I was having with Craig, but he wanted to end the relationship. He wished me luck and hoped there’d be no hard feelings. After that, I never heard from him again.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Once again, I went to my supervisor. She said she was sorry, but since it happened after hours and away from the office, they weren’t going to get involved.”
“I see.” Gonzalez scribbled down more notes. “Is there anything else?”
“Other than the fact that he harassed me via the company email account at my next job, and through social media, I can’t think of a thing.”
“How did he do that?”
“I was working for an advertising agency which, for a time, had the company email directory posted on its website. They eventually took it down, but by then it was too late. Craig had my email address. The harassment started once again, so I had to set up a new email account. He’d also set up social media accounts under different names and send me friendship requests, as well as friendship requests to some of my other online friends. Then, after I’d unknowingly accept the request, he’d post some pretty inflammatory rants about me. I’d report it, but they never seem to do much about it. They just tell you to block them if you find them offensive, as if I hadn’t done that already. I even tried going to the police, but they just don’t seem to take these things too seriously either.”
“Well, Ms. Bennett, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Unfortunately, what you’ve told me would be considered a civil matter, so unless he were to actually harm you, or damage your property, there really isn’t much we can do either, other than take a report. You may want to consider going to court and filing an injunction against harassment.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know. I’ve heard it all before, but I’m afraid taking him to court is much easier said than done. All l can tell you is I’m really losing faith in the system.”