By Leslie Lindsay
Soon to be a Netflix film, THE OTHER MRS. is a twisty, spine-tingling read chocked full of twists, turns, and deception.
Mary Kubica has won me over countless times since her debut, THE GOOD GIRL in 2015. Perhaps its her down-to-earth approach, the fact that she resides in the Midwest and writes about family and geography of which I am familiar, yet with a twisted jaw-dropping jolt. THE OTHER MRS. (Park Row, February 18 2020) is no exception.
Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family–two boys, 14-year-old Otto and younger Tate–from Chicago to small-town Maine following the death of Will’s sister. They’ve inherited Alice’s old, creaky home along with her 16-year old daughter, Imogene. Sadie is working as a one of the only two physicians at the small island clinic. Will is a part-time professor at a small college. Shortly after moving in, there’s a murder of a female neighbor. Suspicions rise. Will is known to be a philanderer and Sadie the jealous wife. Could they be involved? What about Imogene? She’s struggling with her mother’s suicide. Or maybe Otto? He’s a bit disturbed and has a ‘past’ in Chicago. Maybe it has something to do with the victim’s step-daughter? She’s young but she’s the one who found her step-mother and made the 9-11 call.
THE OTHER MRS. is told from a total of four POVs–two women and a little girl, and toward the very end, we get the story from Will’s POV. I found each POV engaging and dark, but some of the earlier chapters were a little confusing…I kept wondering how all of these characters fit together. And they do, but it’s not quite as clear-cut as other books in the same genre might be. Everyone’s a little damaged, and most definitely an ‘unreliable narrator.’
Once I had a good working theory, everything seemed to zoom! Some readers may need to suspend belief with a few of the plot points, but overall, I liked the direction this story took. There’s a bit of a twist to the twist, and I found this a bit jarring in a good way.
Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Mary Kubica back to the author interview series.
Mary! Wow. Such a twisty and duplicitous tale. I always want to know about beginnings and what was haunting you when you set out to write THE OTHER MRS. Was it a setting, an event, or character you wanted to explore? Something else?
Thank you for having me here, Leslie! I’m thrilled to be chatting with you again. Without giving anything away, the twist came first. It doesn’t often happen this way, but with THE OTHER MRS. I had an idea that I wanted to learn more about and deeply explore, and so I went with it. The characters came next, to fit the needs of this ending I had in mind. As the characters evolved throughout the writing process, however, their stories took on a life of their own and they became darker and more damaged than I thought they would be, and their lives exponentially more complicated. This is one of my greatest joys about writing: seeing the way the story spontaneously takes shape.
I love how the majority of THE OTHER MRS is set in remote island off the coast of Maine. Sure, there’s some Chicago backstory, but mostly we’re in Maine. This is the first book you’ve written that didn’t take place wholly in the Chicago area. What was that like for you?
It had its challenges, because I’m not nearly as familiar with Maine as I am Chicago, and yet it was refreshingly new. I took a fictional, unnamed island that I could do anything with, and set my story there. I had to do a decent amount of research into Maine islands in general, such as how to access the islands, how people make a living there, and things like emergency protocol on the more sparsely populated of them, but because it was fictional, I could alter the details to suit my needs. I once thought I’d set all of my novels in Chicago because it’s home for me, but I enjoyed trying something new for a change – and a remote island off the coast as winter sets in was just what this novel needed in terms of setting. It wouldn’t have worked as well on the bustling streets of Chicago.
I loved, loved that old house where the Foust’s end up living. It’s creepy and gloomy and of course, Alice died there, too, so that adds to the ominous vibe. Can you tell us a little more about the house, the setting, and if it was inspired by any real place? Or fictional? Because I kept ‘seeing’ the Addam’s Family house.
I loved this house too! I know what a huge enthusiast you are of old homes, and am thrilled this one spoke to you! I found a photo of an old foursquare farmhouse that I used as inspiration for the exterior. As for the interior, I made it all up. I thought of what would creep me out, and a dingy, dark, aging home with an eerie attic where a woman had died pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. One of my favorite parts of this book was the creation of the house and all the stories and secrets it holds.
I know we’ve talked about this before—about the plotter vs. pantser thing. Actually, it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s view of gardener (pantster) and architect (plotter). An architect is all about the structure and the gardener makes it pretty. Or maybe that’s the decorator? So what I want to know is, what weeds did you have to dig up in this one? Did THE OTHER MRS. start off one way and end up going a different direction?
I had the pleasure of hearing George R.R. Martin speak last year, and he also described authors as either gardeners or architects. I absolutely love that comparison. I am a gardener, and what Martin said about gardeners is that sometimes we plant a seed and don’t know what will come up. Other times we plant a seed and nothing comes up. I really appreciated that admission, especially coming from such an esteemed author. With THE OTHER MRS., the story evolved much in the way I imagined it. That’s not to say there weren’t many drafts and a lot of revision, but much of that was about pacing and revealing things at the right point in the novel. One part I struggled with was the character of Mouse. Hers is the only narrative the readers hear in the third person perspective. I didn’t feel I could do her story justice any other way, and feared getting her voice quite right.
THE OTHER MRS touches on child abuse and other darker things—like mental illness, stress, anxiety, bullying, and more. Can shed a little light on this, please? What do you think is important for readers to take away?
There are many dark aspects to this novel. It can be heavy at times. I didn’t know early on that all of this would find its way into THE OTHER MRS., but as I created the characters and learned more about their backstories, it needed to be there. All of these things are prevalent in our lives, whether they happen to ourselves, to people we know or are in reports we see on the news. It was important to me that readers had a clear picture of who these characters are and of the experiences and events that brought them to this juncture in their lives. If there’s something for readers to take away from this, it’s just that we never be fully aware of the extent of other people’s struggles. Be kind to one another.
Oh my gosh! I have to ask about Netflix! How thrilling. What is that process like and when can we expect to see this on the screen?
The screenwriter, Jack Thorne, has recently delivered the screenplay, and is making revisions as we speak. I’m so thrilled to see what he’s done with it! It is truly beyond my wildest dreams to be able to one day soon see my story on TV.
What three things do you wish you were asked about more frequently? It doesn’t have to be literary.
Being honest, I feel like all the questions get asked. There isn’t ever anything I wish people would ask more frequently.
“In The Other Mrs., Mary Kubica weaves a labyrinth of deception and family secrets, each one more shocking than the last, with an ending that left me thunderstruck. If you have any doubts Mary Kubica is a master of the genre, this book will change your mind.”
~ Samantha Downing, bestselling author of My Lovely Wife and forthcoming He Started It (April 2020)
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m looking forward to enjoying time with my family. My kids are growing up far too fast for me. My daughter starts high school in the fall and my son will be in 7th grade. I want to soak up as much time with them as I possible can. I’m also working on my next novel (of course!).
Mary, this has been most enlightening. Thank you, thank you for taking the time. Please let me know if there’s anything I forgot to ask.
I think you covered it all! Thanks so much, Leslie, for the thoughtful questions and for taking the time to read THE OTHER MRS. and speak with me. I always enjoy this!
Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow @leslielindsay1 on Instagram
For more information, to connect with Mary Kubica, or to purchase a copy of THE OTHER MRS., please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MARY KUBICA is the New York Times and international bestselling author of several psychological thrillers, including the THE GOOD GIRL, which has now sold over a million copies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children, and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter.
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Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Common Ground Review, Cleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The Waking, Brave Voices Literary Magazine, Manifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.
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[Cover and author image courtesy of Park Row Books and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow @leslielindsay1 on Instagram]