Book review

By the time you read your morning edition of The Seattle Times, Jayne Ann Krentz has probably been at work for at least a couple of hours. You don’t get to be a mega-bestselling author without a powerful work ethic and a speedy set of typing fingers.

Right now, the Seattle writer — who has also written under pseudonyms Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle — is hard at work on a sequel to her newest novel, “The Vanishing,” in which two women with psychic abilities who witnessed a long-ago murder suddenly find themselves in deadly danger. The book is out Jan. 7, with a signing at noon Tuesday at Page 2 Books in Burien

“I love the psychic connection between humans. I find myself coming back to it,” Krentz says of “The Vanishing.” “It gives me a way of deepening the relationships and giving them another level. I think most readers are able to step into a fantasy involving the psychic vibe because it is just one step beyond intuition. And everybody believes in intuition!

Jayne Ann Krentz will read from and sign her latest work, “The Vanishing,” at Page 2 Books in Burien on Jan. 7. (Marc von Borstel)
Jayne Ann Krentz will read from and sign her latest work, “The Vanishing,” at Page 2 Books in Burien on Jan. 7. (Marc von Borstel)

“The psychic element makes it possible for me to do suspenseful plots without the heavy, police-procedural forensic elements. It allows for crimes that often go unobserved because they don’t look like crimes to the police — they look like natural disasters or deaths,” she continues. And so enters “The Foundation,” an undercover government agency that handles these crimes. Krentz called the shadowy unit “basically a remnant of the old days, when the U.S. government was seriously experimenting with the paranormal as legitimate research.

“In the book, I just posit that the experimentation and research never really went away, and that’s where the Foundation comes in,” she says.

“The Vanishing” starts in 1960s Fogg Lake, a small mountain town for off-the-grid people who didn’t welcome outsiders. The government’s underground laboratory, however, caused an explosion in the nearby cave system when an experiment went awry, releasing unknown gases. The townspeople slept for two days and awoke to a different world. They explained away the hallucinations that followed “the Incident” — but some Fogg Lake descendants, like protagonists Catalina and Olivia, were later born with “other sight.”

The friends — witnesses to an unsolved murder in the caves, 14 years prior to the novel’s action — put their preternatural abilities to work in their Seattle private-investigation firm. There, they meet investigator Slater Arganbright, who is probing a series of recent murders. When Olivia suddenly goes missing, Catalina and Slater join psychic forces to find her.

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And, of course, they also find each other: this is, after all, a novel of romantic suspense, at which Krentz is an acknowledged master. She has over 35 million books in print, and has written more than 100 novels, over 50 of them New York Times bestsellers.

“This is the first book of a projected trilogy, and a lot more will be revealed gradually in the next two books,” says the prolific author. She likes trilogies; they allow for a lot of plot development, but are still easy for readers to access (unlike, say, a 20-book series). Krentz’s “core story” — the development, through adversity, of a relationship between a strong hero and a brave, resourceful, powerful heroine — doesn’t work for a long series, because readers are waiting for “the sense of resolution,” as Krentz puts it.

You might say she knows her craft; what might surprise you is how painstaking and dedicated she is. Every morning, she’s up at 5 or 5:30 a.m., writing; her afternoons are devoted to editing and research, fleshing out characters and plot elements. Physical descriptions are a lot less interesting to her than dialogue, which conveys the essence of the character.

“Too much chatter on the page, though, and you’re looking at a play,” she observes.

“My favorite time is writing the second draft, after I’ve done the rough draft and I know where I’m going, with a complete vision of the book.”

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But there is a third draft, too, and a fourth and fifth. There’s nothing slapdash about Krentz’s method, and it’s easy to see the pleasure she takes in her work: “The good ideas start when two characters start talking to each other in an imaginary conversation.”

Krentz especially likes setting novels in the Pacific Northwest, a locale that’s natural for “The Vanishing.”

“There are still so many tiny towns and wild places in the state, and I’m always amazed that people still disappear in the mountains. And some of the volcanic lakes are almost bottomless,” Krentz says. “I like drawing on the wild energy of nature for the storylines. And the energy of Seattle is at the core of the story: Almost any kind of character can come out of our town.”

Krentz also likes the changes that come with starting a brand-new book in a different milieu.

“Each book is a ‘palate cleanser’ for the one that came before,” she observes.

“It gives me something fresh to look forward to. I don’t know if my career would have endured as it has if I had not made the decision to write in two or three ‘worlds.’ When I emerge from a past, present, or future world, I’m ready for the total change of pace of a new one. That gives me the energy and excitement I need.”

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“The Vanishing” by Jayne Ann Krentz, Berkley, 304 pp., $27

Author appearance: Krentz will speak about the new series and sign books at noon Tuesday, Jan. 7, at Page 2 Books, 560 S.W. 152nd St., Burien