Q&A with Joanna Schaffhausen, Author of The Vanishing Season

Read this exclusive Q&A with Joanna Schaffhausen, author of The Vanishing Season, and then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of her thrilling debut!

Joanna Schaffhausen is a scientific editor who spends her days immersed in research on potential new therapies for cancer, addiction, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. She is also an X-Phile, having written X-Files fanfiction for years. Winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition, her debut novel, The Vanishing Season, is available on December 5th.

Recently, the debut author generously answered our questions about The Vanishing Season, the transition from scientific editor to crime fiction author, and whether she's Team Mulder or Team Scully!

If you could team Ellery up with any other detective, real or fictional, who would it be and why?

If real, I think it would be interesting to pair her with a real-life Reed Markham type—someone who hunted serial murderers, like John Douglas or Robert Ressler. Each of the men has immense accumulated knowledge of serial killers, but not in the personal way that Ellery does.

See also: 5 Reasons I Love Mindhunter

If fictional, maybe Ellery could join D. D. Warren’s team in Boston. She’ll be needing a new job, and Warren’s smarts and take-no-prisoners attitude would be a great match for Ellery.

What would be your murder weapon of choice?

Poison is the easiest one to get away with, and with my science background, I could fake a heart attack fairly easily. If anything suspicious ever happens to my husband, I’d better have an iron-clad alibi.

Though, I admit a fondness for inventive murder weapons—like using a sample piece of granite from the home improvement store to whack your victim out cold but making it look like they accidentally hit their head on their kitchen counter that just happens to be made from the same granite.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Righteous by Joe Ide, and it was a rollicking roller coaster of a read. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for his super sleuth, IQ. Next up on my shelf is Brutality by Ingrid Thoft; how can I resist a book with a brain on its cover? I also have Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero in my queue because I adored Scooby Doo as a kid, and this sly pastiche on the cartoon sounds like a total hoot!

Are there any TV shows you're currently watching?

We love Brooklyn Nine-Nine in my house. It’s hilarious and features a diverse, talented cast and writing that never stoops to ethnic stereotypes to generate laughs. Also, Andre Braugher is a national treasure.

What's your favorite line from The Vanishing Season and why?

“She felt a stab of sympathy for him, this man who’d saved just one girl out of seventeen. He’d locked up the monster but failed to notice: the monster had already won.”

These two lines encapsulate one of the energizing forces of the book, which is the disparity of the Coben case from Reed and Ellery’s differing points of view. It was the worst thing that ever happened to her and the best thing that happened to him. They’ve been living these dual roles that were forged in their first meeting—with her as the victim and him as the hero—and it’s only in reuniting that they begin to shift their perspectives.

Which mystery/crime series has had the biggest influence on your work?

Biggest influence is hard for me to quantify because I learn something from almost every book I read. I loved the forensic details in Patricia Cornwell’s early Kay Scarpetta novels and how they were helmed by a woman in science. I devoured Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels for the way he was able to weave together multiple threads into a compelling climax. I admire Tana French’s books for their richly textured characters and sense of mourning for humanity.

Meanwhile, over on television, I have always been a sucker for male-female crime-solving teams. I grew up on Moonlighting, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Hunter, and the like, and I later moved on to The X-Files. I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Elementary. I like the yin-yang relationship you see in these kinds of shows with strong leads of each gender.

What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?

I hope they were entertained, first and foremost. I hope they would like to keep reading about Ellery and Reed in the future. But I also hope they look at the sensationalization of true crime stories with a different perspective, one that sees not just the principle perpetrator but also the ordinary humans caught up in his or her wake.

Take a visual tour through The Vanishing Season with GIFnotes!

Describe The Vanishing Season in five words or less.

You can’t outrun your past.

Give us a teaser: what's next for Ellery (and Bump)?

After the events of this book, Ellery is suspended pending an investigation and psychological evaluation. Forced into group therapy with other survivors of violent crime, she immediately finds higher priorities than “getting in touch with her feelings.” For one, she suspects a fellow group member may have helped convict the wrong man for a deadly arson incident years ago. For another, she finds herself in the desperate clutches of a young woman shattered by a recent brutal rape. The perpetrator is still out there—this man with a Spider-Man-like ability to scale buildings and crawl through bedroom windows—and his victim beseeches Ellery for help.

“She felt a stab of sympathy for him, this man who’d saved just one girl out of seventeen. He’d locked up the monster but failed to notice: the monster had already won.”

Soon, Ellery is digging around in everyone’s past but her own—a move that, at best, could put her out of work permanently, and at worst, could put her in the city morgue. She yanks Reed into the cases, and the two of them send up sparks as they hunt an arsonist.

As for Bump, he generates copious slobber and lies around in the sun. He lives to bark at the fat squirrels on Boston Common, and he’s always on the lookout for a cute poodle.

You won the Minotaur Books First Crime Novel award. Tell us how that came to be and how it's been since you won.

It’s been an amazing ride, like hitting the literary lottery! I stumbled across the contest in July of 2015 and figured I would use the December deadline to force myself to write the book. I never expected to win. When Kelley Ragland called to alert me, I was home sick with a high fever and almost didn’t answer the phone. I am still not 100% sure I haven’t hallucinated the whole thing…

What was the transition like from scientific editor to author? What draws you to crime fiction?

I think it was more of a transition from author to scientific editor, since I started writing crime fiction when I was eight years old. I’ve always looked for jobs that keep me immersed in words all day long, and editing scientific manuscripts certainly does that! To me, science and detective work seem highly related: each profession starts with a set of known facts and iterates a bunch of possible solutions before hopefully arriving at the correct answer.

Last question: Mulder or Scully?

Jeez, why don’t you also ask which child I love best while you’re at it?? (Ok, that one’s easy because I have just one kid. This question is way harder!) I adore Mulder for his enormous brain, sly wit, and his unceasing compassion for victims. But if I must choose, I’m taking Scully—a fellow scientist who can recognize any protein sequence with an ordinary laboratory microscope and who rocks a pantsuit better than all the men at the FBI.

See also: The X-Files Fanfic: The Stories Are Out There

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your username appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your username appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Vanishing Season Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/11/qa-with-joanna-schaffhausen-author-of-the-vanishing-season-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) November 28, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 12:59 p.m. ET December 5, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


To learn more or order a copy of Joanna Schaffhausen's debut, The Vanishing Season, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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Joanna Schaffhausen is a scientific editor who spends her days immersed in research on potential new therapies for cancer, addiction, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, she worked as an editorial producer for ABC News, where she advised and wrote for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter. The Vanishing Season is her first novel.


  1. Gordon Bingham

    Great interview and intriguing book!

  2. Patricia Nicklas

    Sounds like a great debut novel

  3. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  4. jane

    Enjoyed the interview so would love to win the book

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  6. Michael Carter

    Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks and best wishes!

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    Please let me win this one!

  8. Agnes Zelgert

    Interesting interview and book, good luck!

  9. Noreen Trotsky

    Great interview. Looking forward to reading her book.

  10. Karen Persinger

    Good luck with your new career. I would love to win the book!

  11. Richard Derus

    Team Scully here too!

  12. Terrie

    I look forward to reading it. I’m always looking for new crime fiction authors.

  13. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Science wins! Yes!

  14. Gwen Ellington

    Forensics! Great.

  15. theresa norris

    I love mysteries in books and television.

  16. Patrick Murphy

    Hope to win!

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  18. Donald Forsythe

    Sounds like a great read.

  19. Donald Forsythe

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  20. Barbara Bibel

    This sounds fascinating. I really want to read it.

  21. Darlene Slocum

    This seems like an interesting read.

  22. Carl

    Thanks for the interview, I’d love to win a copy of the book. Have a great day!

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  24. Clydia DeFreese

    thanks for the sweeps…..I haven’t won in a LONGGGGGG time.

  25. Clydia DeFreese

    thanks for the sweeps…..I haven’t won in a LONGGGGGG time.

  26. Lori P

    Really interesting profile, and premise for The Vanishing Season. Sounds like it’d be a worthy escape.

  27. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  28. L Peters

    good luck with the writing. thanks

  29. Pearl Berger

    Captivating novel and great interview.

  30. pearl berger

    Intriguing and unique. Enjoyed the interview.

  31. ellie lewis

    This interests me greatly.

  32. Margie Bunting

    I already had this book on my TBR list, so I’d love to win a copy! I really enjoyed reading the interview as well.

  33. Tracy Gibson

    I’m intrigued! She sounds like a very intelligent and knowledgeable woman with great taste in books. This book is bound to be good.

  34. Polly Barlow

    This is a new author to add to to my list. Her debut novel sounds intriguing, and I wish her much success in her writing.

  35. Laurent Latulippe

    Looking forward to reading this.

  36. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  37. lori lockhart

    Sounds intriguing! Would love to read her book!

  38. Janice

    Interesting interview. Makes me want to read the book.

  39. John Smith

    I agree–I could never choose between Mulder or Scully!

  40. Joyce Mitchell

    Thanks for the chance to win.

  41. Gail Weitzel

    Also an X-Files fan. I would be delighted to be the winner of this new book, and will seek it on my favourite bookstore’s shelves if I don’t win!

  42. Estella Wortham

    Great interview. Would love to win book, sounds very interesting.

  43. lasvegasnv

    interesting interview

  44. Janet Gould

    poison, I like that

  45. Janet Gould

    poison, I like that

  46. Maryann Selders

    Would love to win! Enjoy reading all types of naovels!

  47. Dawn Newsome

    Great interview. I would love to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the chance.

  48. C

    This sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  49. Carol Lawman

    I concur that this was a great interview and I’d love to read the book!

  50. Saundra K. Warren

    This sounds like it will be an awesome read!!

  51. charles j hauser jr

    IF it’s as good as Ed McBain I’m gonne lave it-

  52. Susan Morris

    I can hardly wait to meet Ellery and Reed. Thank you for the giveaway!

  53. Clydia DeFreese

    It’s always fun to read a new author. Thanks for the SS.

  54. Robert Grieco

    Excellent interview. I’m sure this book is a winner as well. Hopefully I’m a winner too! 🙂

  55. vicki wurgler

    read the interview-thanks for the giveaway

  56. Beth Lechman

    I see Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books are some you liked. I enjoy those books as well. Thanks for the chance to win. always looking to try new authors. The book sounds good.

  57. Beth Lechman

    I see Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books are some you liked. I enjoy those books as well. Thanks for the chance to win. always looking to try new authors. The book sounds good.

  58. Lys M

    Fun and interesting interview! Can’t wait for this book to be released.

  59. Catherine Myers

    Fun Q and A

  60. Catherine Myers

    Fun Q and A

  61. L

    A very entertaining interview. First I’ve heard of this book, but it definitely goes on my list now!

  62. Jennifer Hodges

    Sounds amazing!

  63. Mary Ann Woods

    The author has been influenced by some of my favorite writers. That’s a good recommendation for me!

  64. Andrew Gordon

    looks really good.

  65. ZS Seastrunk

    Looks like a book I would like to read.

  66. Tammy Z Evans

    I really want to read this. Thanks for the chance.

  67. Marjorie Manharth

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  68. Barbara Bates

    I love the X-Files and Elementary! Would love to win this book!

  69. Rebecca Swanson

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  70. Daniel Morrell

    looks interesting


    I think I would like (love) this.

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  80. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of Joanna Schaffhausen.

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  83. Lisa Pecora

    This sounds like a great read!

  84. Abigail Gibson

    [b]The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen looks like an awesome book that I need to read.[/b]

  85. Betty Curran

    Excellent interview. I can really relate to her coice of reading material.

  86. Buddy Garrett

    I want to read it. It sounds like a great read.

  87. Francine Anchondo

    sounds like a great read

  88. Stephanie Liske

    Thank you.

  89. Leela

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  90. tanya campbell

    I love interviews! Thanks for the giveaway!

  91. Margit Curtright

    This sounds interesting.

Comments are closed.