In Becky Masterman’s debut, Rage Against the Dying, retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn tries to build a “normal” life, but a serial killer from her past causes trouble.

For 14 years you worked at a publisher of forensic texts, first as a marketer then as an acquisitions editor. Did any of the FBI types you meet on the job help inspire Brigid?

More than the FBI, more than the forensics, the reason why I chose this character is that once I moved out to Arizona eight years ago from Boca Raton [Fla.], I discovered that I had post-polio syndrome. I had had polio as a child, and my legs are weak. And it frightened me to think that if someone chased me I could no longer run. I fantasized about a woman who could still fight a young man and win.

What kind of initial reaction did you get when you submitted the book?

The book was originally called One Tough Broad, and when I first sent out the query, I got the response that nobody wanted to read about an older woman. And then the world just changed, and suddenly I was there with the character that people wanted to hear about.

What are some of the most unusual forensic tidbits you’ve learned on the job?

I know an author in Mumbai who has most recently written a book for me on necrophilia. He compiled a list of 547 paraphilias—things that arouse people—and when I asked him what about arousal by mummies, what’s that called, he said, “Oh my goodness, I don’t have a category for that!” So he named a paraphilia in my honor: moumiophilia.

What surprised you most on that list?

Well, I don’t know if you could print it, but the only thing that comes to mind is licking lizards. I guess I’ve been working in forensics for so long and seeing such things that I’ve become desensitized. What people see on CSI, it’s so much worse than that. If anything, I wonder if sometimes I go too far without knowing. I don’t want to be pornographically violent. It doesn’t move people.

What’s special about Brigid?

I hope that readers will connect with Brigid’s not going gentle into that good night. I guess what distinguishes her is the fact that she’s lived her whole life trying to save the world without ever knowing what it was like to live in the world. And now for the first time in her life she’s trying to be a wife and a friend—in the second book she’s trying to be a friend—and so she stumbles. It’s almost in some respects like a coming-of-age novel for an older woman.