By Leslie Lindsay
An explosive page-turner from Mary Kubica will have you looking over your shoulder–and your neighbors–differently.
~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~
Mary Kubica has done it again. Every one of her books is a treat and I so glad I had the opportunity to dive into this one a bit early. LOCAL WOMAN MISSING (Park Row Books, May 18 2021) is her seventh (!!) domestic thriller and it’s so, so good.
Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. This is unusual, she has a newborn, she’s relatively new to town, what reason would she possibly have to leave…or for someone to kidnap her? Not long after, Meredith Dickey goes missing, and her 6-year old daughter. But it’s a close-knit, suburban town outside of Chicago, neighbors are concerned but there’s only so much that can be done, even after a search party is formed. The case(s) eventually goes cold and Meredith’s husband, Josh, and son, Leo, continue with their lives.
Now, eleven years later, the 6-year old daughter shockingly returns. She’s traumatized, must wear sunglasses at all times because she has been kept in a dark basement; sounds bother her. Her father is overjoyed she’s back, but her brother is skeptical. And her mother is presumably dead.
Meredith Dickey is a doula—coaching and supporting women as their babies are brought into the world. Could this be something to do with her job? A disgruntled mother? A challenging birth? And then she starts receiving threatening–anonymous–texts. What–or whom–could be behind this? She’s done nothing wrong…right?
I read LOCAL WOMAN MISSING at lightning speed. It’s smart, chilling, twisty, with just the right amount of whodunit–and several real suspects–the tension is taut, the writing fast-paced and it’s so very atmospheric. It’s spring in the Chicago suburbs and I could nearly taste the rain on my tongue and hear the claps of thunder. The community is darling, too, featuring old, restored homes and leafy yards.
Clear your calendar and curl up with LOCAL WOMAN MISSING—but first—join me as I welcome Mary Kubica back to the author interview series.
Mary! I cannot believe we’ve been talking about books for 7+ years. It’s always such a delight. Thank you for taking the time. I flew through LOCAL WOMAN MISSING. But I know, easy reading is hard writing. What sort of haunted you into this one? What questions or themes did you set out to explore?
Thanks so much for having me back, Leslie, and for being a huge champion of my books. I always look forward to chatting with you! I cannot believe it’s been so many years since we first sat down together in a local Starbucks and discussed THE GOOD GIRL!
Thanks also for your incredibly generous words about LOCAL WOMAN MISSING. As I was dreaming up ideas for this book, I thought how we hear so often about missing people, but we don’t hear much about what happens to them when they return. That was my first spark of an idea for LOCAL WOMAN MISSING, how this child returns home very unexpectedly after eleven years in captivity. She was six years old when she went missing; now she’s seventeen, and, in the interim, her family had given up hope of ever seeing her again. I started wondering how a family adapts to that. It’s a happy time, yes, but also one full of regret for those missing years they’ll never get back. It requires rebuilding relationships from scratch and dealing with trauma and uncertainty and sometime resentment. I also wanted to explore what it is like for the person returning, who has little if any memory of the years before disappearing. How does that person cope? And of course, laced into all this is a mystery: Where was Delilah all this time, and why is she suddenly back?
“Complex, richly atmospheric and thoroughly riveting, LOCAL WOMAN MISSING is a thoughtful look at how even the most innocuous secrets between happy couples and beloved friends in tightly knit neighborhoods can sometimes turn so unexpectedly and terrifyingly deadly.”
~ Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia and A Good Marriage
We all want to write ‘page-turners’ and guess what? You do. Each chapter sort of ends in motion. The reader keeps deliberating and visiting ‘old’ material just as your introducing something new. What I want to ask is: how do you do this? But that’s kind of lame. Instead: what do you feel compels the upward motion, both as a reader and a writer?
This genre seems to hinge on that all important big twist. As a writer, this terrifies me. It’s a great big buildup for something that may or may not fall flat for the reader if he or she predicts it. As a result, I try to rely on a number of small, developing mysteries that lead to the ultimate twist or twists. This (hopefully) keeps the reader in a state of constant suspense and even if they manage to work out some part of the ending, they still enjoy the ride! As a side note, I do make it a habit of ending every chapter on a cliffhanger of some sort. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but enough that the reader wants to turn the page and keep reading!
All of your stories are so atmospheric without really being pretentious. But they’re also dark and disturbing. With the exception of just a couple, most are set primarily in Chicago and the suburbs, where you live and grew up. How does this area shape your writing, both formally and in context?
It’s comfortable for me. I feel very at home writing about Chicago and the suburbs, which allows me more time and energy to focus on plot and character development. When I’m writing, I like to lose myself in the lives of my characters, and by having a setting that I know so well, it’s easier to become completely immersed. One thing I’ve discovered about writing domestic suspense, is that it’s incredibly fun to try and make even the most idyllic settings feel ominous. Every town has it’s murky, mysterious places, whether abandoned homes or dark, isolated forests or creepy roadside motels. Places like this inspire me, as does the capricious Chicago weather.
Whom—or what else—influences your writing? For me, right now, I am influenced by nature and homes, and also family history. I’m intrigued with how the past informs the present, how stories are all interconnected.
I’ve become a true crime junkie, especially during the pandemic when my husband and I are watching more TV than ever before. What fascinates me is how so often, people are killed by the ones they’re closest to or by someone they should be able to trust – but can’t. This concept carries much weight in the domestic suspense genre. We can only ever know as much about another person as they’re willing to share.
Of course, I have to ask about the houses in LOCAL WOMAN MISSING. I love the architectural details you mention—the servant’s stairs, the renovations—it’s not a huge portion of the story, but there, in small doses. Do you homes sort of tell a story?
They do! To be honest, I live in a tract home that’s fairly new; my family has been its only owners. Our house doesn’t have a story to tell other than ours. I’m so envious of the historic homes like I describe in LOCAL WOMAN MISSING. These homes have been around for over a hundred years. They’ve gone through countless owners and hold so many secrets and memories. They’re also a tad bit creepy because, as we all know, old homes have weird quirks and make spooky, sometimes unexplainable noises, which adds great atmosphere to a suspense novel!
What three things can you not stop thinking or talking about? It doesn’t have to be literary.
- Defending Jacob the miniseries – SO good! (the book was incredible too!)
- How happy I am that summer is almost here. Chicago winters, as you know, feel never ending.
- The end of Covid and hopefully a return to normalcy in the near future.
I’ve enjoyed this so much, Mary! Thank you. What should I have asked, but may have forgotten? Or, maybe there’s something you’d like to ask me?
Thank you so much for another lovely interview! You come up with the best questions!
What I’d love to ask you is how you find the time in your incredibly busy schedule (Writer! Blogger! Super mom!) to read as much as you do and come up with such thoughtful, original questions for all the authors you support?
Thank you for these kind words, Mary. Honestly–I’m not sure how I do it all, either! For years and years, I’ve immersed myself in all things literary. It’s just a part of who I am. There’s precious little downtime, although one could argue reading is ‘downtime.’ [hint: not when you’re reading to interview authors]. I’m very disciplined. Each day has a ‘theme,’ and certain tasks that need to be completed. Television isn’t really a ‘thing’ for me at all. My release is cardio and yoga and I think that keeps me balanced. You’ll often find me in the car reading or writing while my kids are at tennis or soccer practice, and we always have a sit-down dinner as a family. I join a good deal of virtual writing events and I think this helps hone in on what questions to ask. As writer myself, I know how grueling and delicate (and frightening!) it can be to get one’s story out in the world, maybe that has helped develop more empathy and insight? Either way, I’m grateful to be sharing all of these fabulous books and author insights. It’s such a rewarding aspect of my life.
Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #amreading
For more information, to connect with Mary Kubica via social media, or to purchase a copy of LOCAL WOMAN MISSING, please visit:
WHAT TO READ NEXT:
There are some similarities between LOCAL WOMAN MISSING and the writing style of Shari Lapena, particularly in SOMEONE WE KNOW, but I also found touches of Gilly Macmillan’s style here, too. See past interviews with Gilly HERE.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of six novels, including THE GOOD GIRL, PRETTY BABY, DON’T YOU CRY, EVERY LAST LIE, WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT and THE OTHER MRS. A former high school history teacher, Mary 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. Her first novelTHE GOOD GIRL was an Indie Next pick in August of 2014, received a Strand Critics Nomination for Best First Novel and was a nominee in the Goodreads Choice Awards in Debut Goodreads Author and in Mystery & Thriller for 2014. Mary’s novels have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold over two million copies worldwide. She’s been described as “a helluva storyteller,” (Kirkus Reviews) and “a writer of vice-like control,” (Chicago Tribune), and her novels have been praised as “hypnotic” (People) and “thrilling and illuminating” (Los Angeles Times).
She is currently working on her next novel.
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.
Cover and author image courtesy of HarperCollins and used with permission. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #amreading