An Odyssey Of Self-Discovery

Jafe Danbury Author Interview

Leaving Phoenix follows a young woman who heads west to uncover a family secret but the answers come at a terrible price. What was the inspiration for the idea behind this thriller?

The inspiration for my follow-up novel, Leaving Phoenix, came to me following a pilgrimage to Arizona to visit my sister. The magic of the Arizona desert, in recent years, has really hit me like a lightning bolt. Something about it resonates deeply with me––from the saguaros to the roadrunners, and everything in between.

The idea of creating an exciting thriller against that backdrop was entirely dependent on my coming up with an interesting character I could completely get behind, and I wanted to create a strong female protagonist this time out. I also wanted to make the story an odyssey of self-discovery and empowerment, and I wanted to have it take place––at least initially––in the 1970s. Once I had the main character established, I had to dig deep and flesh out her backstory and, in doing so, I decided to deal her a horrifically-bad hand of cards to deal with.

Once the timeline was decided upon and the backdrop (Arizona) was established, I decided to make her quest for the truth evolve during a soul-searching–and perilous––road trip to California. With “Point A” being Arizona and “Point B” being another very special place to me, the central coast region of Monterey County, California, I began my plotting. This required my doing an inordinate amount of research, to the point of procuring copies of vintage maps of all of my regions, as well as historical and cultural references to assure authenticity, as the story spans a couple of decades. Music plays a huge part in this story as well, thus the book has a killer “soundtrack!”

Phoebe is a character that I enjoyed following. What were some sources that informed her character development?

For Leaving Phoenix, the idea for the main character, Phoebe, came to me very clearly. It started in dribbles, really, but her physicality presented itself vividly. As I started weaving the intricate plot, this young twenty-something, Phoebe, became subjected to some pretty brutal truth-bombs, and it’s a piece of cryptic correspondence from a mysterious stranger in California that sets her on her quest for the truth and, as it turns out, brings her to the crossroads with great peril. The byline on the back cover of the book reads, Everyone has a past. How prepared are we to go there? That’s the task––and the challenge––I put before Phoebe. The result is a visceral page-turner, as well as a heartwarming story of redemption, with a most satisfying ending. It’s been called a high-octane thriller with a lot of heart, and something to say.

What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?

In deciding to make this a “period” piece, I chose to have the story start in 1974. The reason for that wasn’t arbitrary, as there were certain plot points that were dependent on that period, as well as cultural references, and societal attitudes that related to it. As I mentioned, music plays a large part as well, and I created mixed tapes for Phoebe to listen to her during her journey. The song choices not only bely her feelings but serve metaphorically as well, and serve to shape her. I created several playlists, and even tasked myself with making sure the songs all timed-out accurately to the cassettes she created. There were several songs I had to seek out licensing for as well, and that alone was a huge challenge. As the story spans some twenty-five years, so do the references, and I did painstaking research to assure it was both convincing and interesting. Readers of Leaving Phoenix have mentioned how impressed they were with the research I’d done to create this story, and they loved the music.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

As the book was only recently released, I’m still trying to get this one safely out of the harbor. Some people have suggested that I might consider writing a sequel to Leaving Phoenix, as the characters were very well drawn. I may consider that, down the road, but if another lightning bolt hits me along the way, I may run with that. Sometimes lightning hits twice, or even thrice, as my debut novel, THE OTHER CHEEK, was awarded a Finalist prize in the Best First Novel category at the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I’m also seriously considering adapting Leaving Phoenix as a screenplay, because there is an awesome movie there, plus the book’s cover is already movie poster worthy––not to mention the built-in soundtrack album… It’s the whole package! Stay tuned!

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website


Born in a crucible, Phoebe has been living on borrowed time. Faced with a series of excruciating truths and a cryptic letter from a mysterious stranger, she becomes consumed with learning the truth about her past.

In the course of her journey, she finds that answers may come at a terrible price as she begins to witness an insidious evil and underbelly to her existence she could have never imagined.

– – – – –

From the award-winning author of THE OTHER CHEEK, a story of descent into a nightmare existence of abuse at the hands of a close family member, comes the thrilling tale of self-discovery that results after becoming embroiled in the decisions and lives of strangers.

When twenty-something Phoebe LaFlamme heads west to pursue further details of baffling correspondence filled with stunning evidence of a family secret, she has no idea of the danger she unwittingly chases. Can she trust the letter’s mysterious author? What else does this person know? Are this person’s associates as well-intentioned as she wants to believe?

And will Phoebe have any hint at all of the danger she draws closer toward?


About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on October 6, 2021, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Kathleen Hevia

    As a reader in the middle of this saga, I find myself in the mist of a colorful adventure I don’t wish to end. When I complete this book then what?!
    This book is a colorful escape bringing me back to those days I miss, my transition from a high school student into my adulthood living making my way to my future while attempting to escape my past and the many choices I may have done differently. This book exemplifies the many issues young women faced in the ‘70s, especially me!
    LEAVING PHOENIX awakens all of my senses. I can hear the sounds of the time, revisit the styles of fashion and decor and even smell the upholstery of Phoebe’s orange muscle car!
    I do look forward to more of Phoebe in the future… screenplay and or a sequel!


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