If you’ve ever seen the abandoned water park just off Interstate 15 on the way to California, you know just how terrifying (and scorching hot) it would be to wander the hovels of the uncharted desert. Just ask The New York Times best-selling author Vicki Pettersson. Her new thriller, Swerve (Gallery Books, $26), is about a woman whose fiancé gets kidnapped during a road trip through the Mojave Desert.
Swerve, which hits bookstores July 7, is a departure from the local author’s urban fantasies, all set in Las Vegas. Her other books include a series about a casino heiress with superpowers (Signs of the Zodiac) and a series about a crime-fighting angel and reporter duo (Celestial Blues). With Swerve, Pettersson looks more to connecting with her readers over fierce female characters than pinning herself into one genre.
Pettersson’s inspiration for Swerve and her other novels started backstage at Tropicana’s now defunct Les Folies Bergère, where she performed as a showgirl for almost a decade. There, among glitzy costumes and tubes of lipstick, a fellow showgirl introduced her to Dean Koontz thrillers.
“This is a tough chick. I mean, she’s a cop now. [The book] was freaking her out,” Pettersson says. “I was kind of jealous. How do you get someone so into your book that they cease their life?”
Pettersson’s readers motivate her. At the moment, she is drafting a thriller and a fantasy, unsure of which she’ll pursue. Whenever she begins writing, Pettersson pins a letter in her journal. The letter is from a Saudi girl, thanking Pettersson for giving her the courage to move to United States and pursue an education in dentistry.
“If I never write another word, it would have been worth it for that letter alone,” Pettersson says. “If people can learn anything from [my work], they can learn that strength is there inside of you.”
Vicki Pettersson Book Signing
7 p.m. July 7, Barnes & Noble, 2191 N. Rainbow Blvd., VickiPettersson.com.