By Leslie Lindsay
If you all read Kimberly McCreight’s smashing debut psychological thriller, RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA (A mother’s search for the truth behind her dead daughter and NYTimes Bestseller, Target Book Club, etc.), then you are not going to want to miss this next book, WHERE THEY FOUND HER which just released yesterday! The cover is stunning and the story even more so.
I’m thrilled to have Kim back with us this year (see my earlier interview from January 2014 of RECONSTRUCING AMELIA) to answer some questions about the book and the writing life.
“A roller-coaster of a novel…. How lucky for us readers—McCreight has once again proven herself to be an insightful writer capable of taking us on a hell of a ride.”
—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time and The Storyteller
L.L.: Wow—your second book is here—and it’s highly anticipated. Congrats on such a fantastic accomplishment. I’m always intrigued with inspiration, that little kernel of truth lurking behind every cover. Can you share how WHERE THEY FOUND HER came to be?
Kimberly McCreight: The story came from several different places, but especially my own experiences as a mother. Where They Found Her is about many things, including how we navigate life as parents in light of the families we were raised in, which is something I often ask myself. The book was also inspired by real life events. Years ago, I saw a story on television about a young woman accused of killing her newborn. Already a mother at the time, I felt a mix of horror and sympathy for all involved. It was a story that so haunted me I had no choice but to write about it.
L.L.: Many of the threads in WHERE THEY FOUND HER are based on the voices of several women living in the same prestigious college town (Ridgedale, NJ); yet each voice is unique—they are not your typical suburban cookie-cutter women. We often wonder who is being the most reliable. Can you speak to that?
Kimberly McCreight: I’m glad that you found the voices distinct, they certainly were meant to be. All the point of view characters in Where They Found Her are unreliable narrators to varying degrees, but in a somewhat more ordinary sense than that term is sometimes used. I believe we are all fundamentally unreliable narrators when it comes to recounting the truth of any situation because we are telling our truth, which will almost certainly differ from anyone else’s. My characters are unreliable narrators because they see the world, necessarily, from their own point of view.
L.L.: As a writer myself, I realize it’s not so much the story that is gripping, but what we hope others glean from it. There really is a ‘function in fiction.’ What is it you hope others take away from your books?
Kimberly McCreight:I want readers to be entertained by the mystery aspect of my books, but I also hope they come away asking questions about the relationships in their own lives. In Where They Found Her that central question is: how does our own personal history continue to play out—for better and for worse—in our lives today. I also hope the book makes people reflect on the role of women in the world and how having a child does or doesn’t change that.
L.L.: Much of writing is like running. We train, we persevere, our feet hurt, our muscles tire. Sometimes we think we just can’t make it any farther and we’re tossing out the laptop, burning the manuscript, chucking the Nikes. How can writer’s succeed in such a fickle—and oftentimes—subjective career?
Kimberly McCreight: By recognizing that it is just that: unpredictable. Whether a piece of writing is “good” is always a subjective question. To know that, one need only check out some of the online reader reviews from some recent Pulitzer Prize winners. No piece of writing is going to be for everyone, and very, very few will be for many.
As a writer, you only ever have control over the work you produce. And by “control” I mean, of course, if the writing gods shine down upon you on any given day. But you can still get up every day and sit down in your chair and commit to doing the very best job you possibly can to tell your story—whatever that story is. And then you can be diligent about revising, and get a great critique group, and maybe take some classes to hone your craft. Then revise and revise and revise some more until you can revise no more.
And then you cross your fingers and hope someone will get what you were trying to say. And in the meantime, you get to work on something new. Because the writing is all that ever belongs to you.
L.L.: Can you tell us a bit about what you are working on next?
Kimberly McCreight: I’ve just finished a draft of the first book in my YA Trilogy The Outliers due out June 2016 from Harper Teen. The Outliers is about a girl named Wylie who is still reeling from her mother’s recent death in a tragic car accident. When the book opens her ex-best friend Cassie has gone missing and reaches out to Wylie for help. Along with Cassie’s boyfriend Jasper, Wylie – whose lifelong struggle with anxiety has hit a fever pitch since her mom’s sudden death – heads out to find Cassie and in the process learns that what’s actually going on is far more complicated than she ever imagined. It’s a character driven mystery, but it’s also a speculative story that delves into the question of what would happen if female intuition were a scientifically proven fact. What if women are more emotional, but instead of that being a weakness, it’s finally recognized as a strength? I’m really in love with the characters and the story.
L.L. What is obsessing you now and why?
Kimberly McCreight: The AMC show Better Call Saul. Often, the writing is so well crafted is leaves me breathless.
L.L.: Thanks so much for being with us today, Kim. Can’t wait to spread the word on WHERE THEY FOUND HER!
Kimberly McCreight is the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel as well as an Alex Award. Called Entertainment Weekly‘s Favorite Book of the Year, Reconstructing Amelia was one of CNN’s Reader Favorites for 2013, a finalist for Goodreads Best Mystery of the Year and a Book Club pick for Target, Books-a-Million and Indigo. Reconstructing Amelia has also been optioned for film by HBO and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films. McCreight’s second novel Where They Found Her, will be published by Harper in April 2015. Her teen trilogy The Outliers, to be published by Harper Teen in 2016, has been optioned for film by Lionsgate, Mandeville, and Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.Be sure to hop over to Kimberly McCreight’s website where you can learn more about her, get tour dates, newsletter updates, and more.
“Kimberly McCreight doesn’t just give us an intense, interwoven, multigenerational, multi-household mystery (as if that isn’t enough). She creates a world that pulls us in completely and genuinely, with characters that can enrage, amuse and fill us with empathy. It’s a thrilling, lovely novel.”
—Gillian Flynn, #1 NYT bestselling author of Gone Girl
[Author image and cover image courtesy of Harper Collins. Book Trailer via author’s newsletter and can be found on YouTube. Gillian Flynn and Jodi Picoult endorsements from Kimberly McCreight’s March newsletter]