By Leslie Lindsay
“When do you cross the line from curious to obsessed? From fan to fanatic? Compliment to threat?”
That’s the overarching question of Internationally bestselling Catherine McKenzie’s FRACTURED sets to find out, and it’s done beautifully. I really, really enjoyed the aura of conflict she set up from page one. There’s mystery, a hint of romance, psychological conflict, all intermingling with a touch of women’s fiction ala Jennifer Weiner.
Bestselling novelist Julie Apple Prentice and her family have just moved from Tacoma, Washington to bucolic Mt. Adams, Ohio. She thinks she’s finally put the past behind her, including a female stalker/fan/ex-law school colleague. Yet, her past seems to follow her. Could it be that there’s something ‘off’ about Julie?
Told in alternating time frames from two distinct characters, Julie and John Dunbar (the married neighbor across the street), FRACTURED (just named one of the best books of fall by GoodReads) is a chilling and tense ride through suburbia where nothing is as it seems. Forget the cute white picket fences, the block parties, the neighborhood newsletter, and the speed bumps, there’s something darker and more sinister growing at the root; yet subtly.
As a writer myself, I loved all of the “tips and tricks” Julie Apple Prentice’s character provided about the writing life; so much of it rang true!
FRACTURED was at once addictive and subtle, thrilling, yet familiar. Readers who enjoy Tom Perrotta’s LITTLE CHILDREN will appreciate this one, as well as THE DROWNING GIRLS by Paula Treick DeBoard, and THE WONDER GARDEN (Lauren Acampora) will devour this one.
Today, I am honored to have Catherine McKenzie join us on the blog couch. So grab your cup of coffee and settle in.
Leslie Lindsay: I grew up in the St. Louis suburbs where kids sped through the streets on Big Wheels; everything appeared well-maintained, normal, innocuous. But there were things amiss, if you dug deep enough (sometimes barely scratching the surface). Still, there’s a strange, dark fascination with suburbia; it’s hardly as simple as it appears. Are these the questions that plagued you when you set out write FRACTURED, or was it something else?
Catherine McKenzie: Thanks for having me Leslie and for your kind words about the book. I don’t think I was trying to explore suburbia, per se, and the area where FRACTURED is set is not really a suburb; it’s very close to downtown Cincinnati. I was trying to explore how a close-knit community can be evasive and how being an outsider in that community can be tough. I also like exploring how class works, how wealth and idleness can lead to so much overthinking of everything.
Leslie Lindsay: You tell the story of FRACTURED through two very distinct characters, Julie Apple Prentice and John Dunbar. How did you make this structural decision? Why those two characters, when there are plenty others?
Catherine McKenzie: I always knew that Julie would be there, but it was actually John’s voice that came to me first. And that first line “I don’t know when I began my morning vigil at the window.” These two characters are at the heart of the story and are also, in a way, mirror images of one another. John is the insider where Julie is the outsider. John narrating the present also lets me keep the mystery central but also hidden.
Leslie Lindsay: I’d say FRACTURED is a very character-driven novel. That said, I loved to hate Cindy Sutton, the neighborhood chair/newsletter writer who would come up with the most outrageous stuff to add to her newsletter. Yet, people like Cindy certainly exist! Can you speak to that, please?
Catherine McKenzie: I think everyone feels the same about Cindy and so do I! Cindy is a catalyst. She is the present threat in Cindy’s life and an example of how bullying still goes on with adults. I may have exaggerated a little for effect, but these kinds of things are actually going on in neighborhoods! I based ineighbor (the neighborhood social network) on something similar I read about that was being used in exclusive neighborhoods in LA.
“Suspenseful, insightful, and cleverly structured, Catherine McKenzie’s Fractured is a page-turning pleasure. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.”—Leah Stewart, author of The Myth of You and Me and The New Neighbor
L.L.: How I adore your “tips and tricks” from Julie, the bestselling author in FRACTURED. The way she meets her daily word counts, turning on the MySanity app so she stays away from the Internet, stumbling upon a stranger reader “her” book…in fact, I found myself nodding and then thinking, “ooh…that’s a great idea.” I have to ask: is Julie based on you? Someone else? Or is she purely fictional?
Catherine McKenzie: Not based on me at all! The idea I had in mind for her was Gillian Flynn after GONE GIRL comes out. I can’t imagine what that level of attention and pressure must be like. But she is not Gillian Flynn, either, as I do not know her or much about her other than she writes kick-ass books. I think the only thing we have in common is word counts-I think most authors have used these at some point or another.
L.L.: I’m working on something quite similar to FRACTURED—in terms of structure: Non-linear. Multiple POVs, deep layering of secrets. It’s hard! Even I’m getting confused, yet I detest plotting. I love the element of surprise (even as an author). Do you outline? What advice would you give writers struggling with structure?
Catherine McKenzie: I don’t really outline, I sort of build an outline as I go along. I use Scrivener, which allows me to see a visual (and color coded) map of the book, and keep chronologies. I also have an awesome assistant who reads behind me and points out all my mistakes.
L.L.: I understand you’re a full-time attorney and manage to publish a book every year or two, plus you also run an online book club. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Can you talk a bit about how you manage your time and offer any advice?
Catherine McKenzie: It’s important to be organized. That’s for sure. : )
L.L.: Julie Apple Prentice pens a bestselling novel, THE MURDER GAME in which the character and her law school peers create the perfect murder. This comes up throughout FRACTURED. I understand this was a real manuscript for you, too. It was originally written ten years ago and never published…until now. I’m dying to know more. What can you tell us?
Catherine McKenzie: THE MURDER GAME (November 1, by Catherine McKenzie, written as Julie Apple, the character in FRACTURED) is a novel about four law school friends who plan a perfect murder. Ten years later, the murder has been committed, one person is accused and another friend has the job of prosecuting him. Are they all in on it? Or is the main character being used and manipulated by her former friends?
L.L.: As a writer, we draw our inspiration from all kinds of places: TV, movies, other books, nature…the list really can go on. What inspires you?
Catherine McKenzie: This may sound cheesy but: life. I try to take as much as I can in and then let it simmer and then out it comes in a novel. Hopefully : ).
Leslie Lindsay: What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?
Catherine McKenzie: I really think you hit them all!
Leslie Lindsay: It was great having you, Catherine. Wishing you all the best.
Catherine McKenzie: Thank you!
For more information on FRACTURED, or to connect with Catherine McKenzie through social media, please see:
Author Bio: Catherine McKenzie is a graduate of McGill University in History and Law, and she practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. Her novels, Spin, Arranged, Forgotten, and Hidden are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. Her last novelSmoke (2015) was named a Best Book of October by Goodreads and one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by Amazon. Her just published novel FRACTURED was named a Best Book of October 2016 and one of the 25 Big Books of Fall by Goodreads.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, through these various social media sites:
[Special thanks to K. Zrelak. Cover and author image courtesy of Lake Union Publishing. Author photo credit: Jason Trott. Image of pub in Mt. Adams, OH retrieved from MtAdamstoday.com on 10.19.16. Image of author Gillian Flynn from her website]