By Leslie Lindsay
Suburban noir, paranoia, and murder. No one does it better than Shari Lapena in her fourth book, SOMEONE WE KNOW.
INSTANT UK SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
NOTABLE BARNES & NOBLE JULY 2019 PICK
Shari Lapena is among a rare breed of prolific women thriller writers. Each book is fabulous, hitting the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, her first thriller, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR (2015) was on the list for twenty-three consecutive weeks. Her second book, A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE, sealed her fate. She knows what readers want. And last year’s summer hit, AN UNWANTED GUEST was a nod to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, which had me re-thinking whether I should bring that book with me to a little inn on the coast of Michigan. I did, anyway.
Clear your calendar for about 18-24 hours, because this book will be wholly consuming. It could easily be read in one sitting, but those of us who feel obligated to sleep or let the dog out, go to work, or care for the children will still rush through in in no time, as I did. Shari Lapena is back with her forth book of domestic suspense, SOMEONE WE KNOW (July 30, Pamela Dorman Books/PRH) and it is not to be missed. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one, other than I LOVED it! Shari keeps you guessing right up to the last minute and even then, you still wonder…
We start off with a gruesome murder. Someone is swinging a hammer and bludgeoning someone to death. But who? And why? We awaken to a sleepy, quiet middle-class neighborhood where the homes are well-tended, the neighbors seem ‘nice and normal,’ and then a text appears on a teenage son’s phone. A mother looks. A glance, really. She’s in his room because it’s 2pm and he’s still in bed. She learns her son has been breaking into houses. But not taking anything. Why?
Everyone in this neighborhood has secrets–and they certainly aren’t divulging all at once. Everyone becomes a suspect. There’s great organic character depth and yet, SOMEONE WE KNOW is a fast-paced read with plenty of twists and turns, which are all inevitable, mysterious, suspenseful, and smart.
My only complaint…I finished reading too quickly. ; )
Please join us in welcoming Shari back to the author interview series.
Shari! Welcome back. I blew right through SOMEONE WE KNOW because I loved it so. And I had theories and the writing was so gripping. But, I am sure you didn’t ‘whiz’ through writing it. Can you give us a timeline of how you start with your books—from conception to completion. Let’s say, initial kernel to draft-to-editor.
Well, I have a book out at the end of July every year. That means I get the final in, after proofing, by about the end of April. By early May, I’m starting on a new book. I take time off from writing the new book in the summer to promote the book that’s out in July, but I hope to get the first draft of the new book done sometime in the fall. Then the rewrites and editing start, and I work hard at that—with the inevitable breaks for work-related travel—until the spring. So it’s pretty much full-on, all the time. Writing, promoting, travelling, editing. I’m getting used to the rhythm of it.
I understand your premise for SOMEONE WE KNOW was taken from the Internet. You read that a teenage boy was breaking into homes in the middle of the night to use their wifi. Just this was enough to set your imagination wild? Were there other themes, or a setting you wanted to explore before setting out?
No, that was it for this one. Once I started thinking about it, I started to wonder what else a tech savvy teenage boy might get up to when breaking into houses. And I thought about what secrets he might find in his neighbours’ computers, and I wondered what his mother would do when she found out. That got the ball rolling… Theme is something that comes out in the writing, organically. I did know that I wanted to set this one in a neighbourhood where I could explore a variety of relationships—I wanted to branch out a bit.
I know from our past conversations that you are not a plotter. You sort of get into the skin of your characters and think of how they would respond. I love this organic storytelling approach. It makes it more fun for the writer, I think, to have a little surprise. But how do you keep track of your plot? Do you keep notes? Diagrams? Do you ever write yourself into a corner?
It is nice to surprise yourself while you’re writing. It’s a bit like reading—you want to find out what’s going to happen next. That’s what keeps me going. I keep track of my plot in my head. I do go back and reread to keep it straight. I also keep a file called “notes” where each day I might write my current thoughts on where the story might go over the next day or two. I don’t do diagrams. I’m hopeless with diagrams. The worst thing, for me, is when someone is trying to explain something and says, “Let me draw you a picture.” I’m not a visual learner at all. I’m better if someone explains something to me in words. I have written myself into a corner—I did it in AN UNWANTED GUEST. I didn’t know how to go forward, so I went back and changed things so that I could carry on. But I think that’s the only book where I ever wrote myself into a corner and had to go back. That was a particular kind of puzzle mystery and the hardest book for me to write for that reason.
Is there a character or a situation in SOMEONE WE KNOW you most closely identify with yourself? Or, maybe one you found most exciting to write?
Ha! I probably identify most with Olivia, the middle aged mother of a teenaged boy, who has trouble getting him up in the morning. It’s not that my son has ever broken into a house—far from it. But that feeling of loving your kids, and worrying about them, and feeling unsure of your parenting, and not being sure of whether to step in or step back—I think that’s very common for most parents these days.
I loved writing Raleigh. It was fun to go into the head of a teenaged boy who hasn’t really got the maturity to make good decisions yet.
“Slyly plotted . . . Lapena skillfully maximizes suspense with her dual story lines that eventually collide, as well as some deft misdirection . . . many fans of domestic suspense will be satisfied.”
What three things can you not stop talking about? They don’t have to be literary.
I can’t top talking about: how frustrated I am with how are renovations are going; my cat Poppy, and whatever I happen to be reading at the time.
Shari, thank you, thank you! This has been most delightful. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?
You could ask me where I’ll be next. I’ll be at Bloody Scotland, September 21, with Caroline Kepnes, and I’ll be at the Guadalajara Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico, from Nov. 28 to Dec 1 to meet some of my Spanish-speaking readers.
Thank you, Leslie!
For more information, to connect with Shari Lapena via social media, or to purchase a copy of SOMEONE WE KNOW, please see:
- Barnes & Noble
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of the thrillers THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE, and AN UNWANTED GUEST. All of her thrillers have been UK Sunday Times and New York Times Bestsellers. Her books have been sold in 35 territories around the world. Her latest thriller is SOMEONE WE KNOW.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1
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[Cover and author images courtesy of PRH and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow me on Instagram for more like this. Photo cred: Leslie and Shari–Mary Kubica]