Hailed as “gritty and powerful” (Jo-Ann Mapson, bestselling and award-winning author of Finding Casey) and a “fast-paced, gripping read” (Laura Moriarty, author of The Center of Everything), ORCHIDS AND STONE heralds the arrival of an immense talent to contemporary fiction. Preston has crafted a story that is at once a white-knuckle thriller, a piercing exploration of the human heart’s intricacies, and ultimately a cathartic tale of one woman’s redemption.
Thirty-something Daphne Mayfield’s life has never followed any convention or set course. While educated and naturally intelligent, a family tragedy led her to drop out of college before finishing her last semester and now she chooses to spend her days hanging sheetrock and shingling roofs as the lone woman on a hard-working Seattle contractor crew.
Though she maintains a select few relationships—a steady boyfriend and a longtime best friend—she is reluctant to step outside her self-created emotional fortress and fully open herself, even to them. She is still devastated by her older sister’s murder a decade earlier, and her father’s subsequent suicide after the case started to go cold and the lead detective retired from the force.
One day, she seeks a rare moment of tranquility alone on a bench in Seattle’s Peace Park, when a frantic, confused old woman suddenly accosts her, pleading:
They’re trying to take me. Help! Help me, please.
Daphne does her best not to engage the apparently dementia-stricken geriatric, and a moment later a well-dressed younger woman appears, apologizing to Daphne for the behavior of her “mother” whom she leads away and into a waiting car despite continued cries of protest.
Mere minutes after the incident is over, something about it doesn’t sit right with Daphne. For one, the desperate, genuinely afraid look in the old woman’s eyes, that remained fixed on her even as the car drove away. Then there was the alleged daughter’s cold, belittling demeanor and prying questioning of Daphne, all of which seemed out of sync with her story of recovering her bewildered mother.
Daphne’s unease quickly turns into a gnawing fear that she failed to intervene in a highly suspicious situation if not a serious crime, and that because of her negligence a helpless old woman’s life is now in grave danger. Her suspicions are confirmed when she traces the victim’s name to a house, and upon investigating it is assaulted, robbed, and dragged on a cat-and-mouse car chase through Seattle’s streets that ends with the assailant escaping and Daphne being arrested for reckless driving.
Now determined to uncover the truth and stop the criminals herself—as the police remain skeptical of her accounts—Daphne plunges into an increasingly treacherous web of deceit and danger. As the layers of the conspiracy peel away, she will have to overcome the demons of her own past and summon previously-untapped inner reserves of courage and trust in others if she is to save an innocent person and stay alive herself.
ORCHIDS AND STONE is one of those novels that stays with you for days if not weeks after you’ve put it down, relating your own internal struggles to Daphne’s and reliving the unforgettably intense scenes of action and suspense. It announces the debut of a bold, sensitive, and utterly unique new voice on the popular literary scene.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Preston’s debut novel follows several nonfiction books on animal care. Her experiences as a mountain climber, fire department paramedic, and police sergeant are channeled into fiction that is suspenseful, fast-paced, and well acquainted with human drama. She has lived in Arizona, California, and Alaska and now makes her home in western Washington. In addition to writing, Lisa is an competitive endurance athlete and avid horseback rider. This year, she won the Women’s Division National Championship for Ride and Tie—an intense race that combines two people and one horse and involves trail running and endurance riding over 100 miles of remote terrain.
Q&A with Lisa Preston
Q: You accumulated a diverse set of life and work experiences before writing this novel. What are some of the most notable ways the things you’ve done in the past informed the characters, plot and setting of ORCHIDS AND STONE?
A: My previous careers in emergency services certainly inform my writing. A lot of the police and paramedic responses that people expect are simply not what occurs in real life. Some of those misrepresentations have been presented to readers and viewers so often that they can feel sure they know what a cop or medic would do in a given situation, yet they are often mistaken. However, the most notable impact of my experiences has been to make me a people-watcher; understanding the factors that drive people to make the choices they do fascinates me. I think choices-- whether they are passive or engaged, bold or seemingly insignificant— are rooted in character, and that character drives the plot (and even the setting, which is another choice) of every life, whether it’s real or fictional.
Q: Balancing a fast-moving, engaging plot with complex, fully-realized characters who are not mere vehicles for the plot is something many authors struggle with. How did you accomplish this feat in this book?
A: Thanks! I like character-driven stories, and it was natural for me to write what I like to read. In considering Bystander Syndrome and the implicit question of what it might take to prompt a person to intervene for a stranger, I knew I’d be starting with a character who would be driven to take action and her motivation had to arise from formative past experiences.
A: I love a good story and always wanted to create absorbing, contemporary fiction. In much of my nonfiction, I’m serving as a subject matter investigator, reading dozens or hundreds of scientific papers and then organizing a narrative that presents information in one readable resource. The two jobs of writing fiction and nonfiction are as dissimilar as running and racquetball—I wear the same clothes and sweat about as much, but the efforts are different.
Q: Do you plan to write more novels? Will we see any of the characters from ORCHIDS AND STONE in your future work?
A: I am working on my next novel, at that lovely stage of excitement with interesting people in interesting situations. One character who was mentioned in ORCHIDS AND STONE is trying to get involved. Although I’m writing stand-alone thriller and suspense, I think readers often enjoy reconnecting with— or seeing a new aspect of— a character they met in a previous novel. But
I’ll only allow a reappearance if it serves the story’s narrative well. My editor and I have also talked about a mystery series and stand-alone contemporary fiction.
Q: Perhaps the most striking trait of Daphne Mayfield is her tragic past. How did you craft her situation so realistically? Did you base her on a specific case or person?