Considering what life experiences Martha C. Lawrence has had, it is remarkable that she remains a stable and cheery individual. [Author's note: The interviewer caught me on a good day.] In her public appearances, she is able to share with her readers the uncommon occurrences of her life that include being blessed by heightened sensitivities, an early separation from her father, a time in a religious cult, a rape experience, and a stalking episode. Martha has used these experiences to develop a fascinating new character in mystery fiction, psychic private detective Elizabeth Chase. Chase can see auras, go out of body, and has special insights, but Lawrence is very careful not to allow those special sensitivities to interfere with telling her solidly constructed plot. With well developed characters and an interesting setting, MURDER IN SCORPIO is a wonderful first novel, which was just nominated for an Edgar Award.
DP: You are a practitioner in the area of paranormal, and excuse me if that is not the correct term for these experiences.
LAWRENCE: We need a new word. Let's look at that word. Paranormal means it is not normal. I used to feel really abnormal because I had these experiences and now I think it's a problem with our culture. There are a lot of other cultures where this is a given, "So you see the ghost of a deceased person, so you see an aura of light around a person." These are not big deals. In our culture this is considered wacky. I don't like the term paranormal. "Psychic" also has these weird Friday night connotations. I don't know what word I would use but let's say heightened sensitivities or awareness.
DP: You have heightened sensitivities?
LAWRENCE: Yes, from an early age. Then I discovered that the world of the paranormal was full of really whacked out people who wanted to separate you from your money and tell you things that were not true. Very early on I did not want to be associated with these charlatans. I wanted to be liked and respected like anybody else so I did not talk about my abilities or experiences. It seemed like a repression. These are important things in my life and how I perceive the world. Why is this not represented realistically in literature? I suspect there are a lot of people out there in my position. After signings, people will come up to me and tell me their stories. They'll say, "Hey, it only happened once or twice," but they will have a story. I think we tend to repress this ability in our culture. It is not considered okay. It's the realm of the freaks and weirdos and crackpots. I want to reclaim that territory for normal people.
DP: You cannot have Elizabeth pick up an envelope and hold it to her head, like Carnac, to discover who the murderer is.
LAWRENCE: Elizabeth can use (her psi ability) part of the time but she cannot guarantee it.
DP: It adds an almost Gothic element to the book. She is a very nineties woman but yet she cannot control what is happening to her.
LAWRENCE: Between you and me, how much control do any of us really have in life? People like to think they are living in really well defined little boxes and that they are in control, but you could get a telephone call tomorrow that would throw your life into a tailspin.
DP: What would you like to say about the second book?
LAWRENCE: Elizabeth is called upon by the San Diego Police Department because for the last eight months a serial rapist has been terrorizing San Diego women. In preparation to write the novel I actually had a hypnotherapist take me back to my own rape experience to see if I could cull more details of the crime than I could consciously remember. I was just blown away by what I uncovered.
DP: Your first book came out in November 1995. Can we look for the next book in November of 1996?
LAWRENCE: Look for the paperback of MURDER IN SCORPIO November 1996 and the hardcover of THE COLD HEART OF CAPRICORN in January 1997.