Phenom skiier, a terrible accident, murder, motherhood, mental illness, and so much more in this chilling tale of domestic suspense~JT Ellison on TEAR ME APART

By Leslie Lindsay 

Dark domestic suspense meets police procedural in this unique read encompassing genetics, secrets, lies, and so much more in TEAR ME APART.

Join me in conversation with J.T. as she talks about the stigma of mental illness lifting, how she’s been haunted by the book for awhile now, the fact that writer’s block is your story’s way of saying something’s not working and so much more.

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How far would a loving mother go to protect her superstar daughter? Mindy Wright is seventeen years old and a spectacular downhill skier in Vail, Colorado. She’s vying for a position in the U.S. Olympic team when a horrible crash sends her to the hospital with a broken leg requiring surgery. During the pre-op blood work, doctors discover she is suffering from a severe form of leukemia. Only a stem cell transplant will save her. But no one in her immediate family is a genetic match.

How could that be? 

Told from multiple POVs, TEAR ME APART is a very complex, multilayered read, revealing decades-old secrets and lies. 

I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. I was especially intrigued with the psychiatric hospital connection and the letters back and forth between two young patients. TEAR ME APART may also be the first story I’ve encountered featuring a downhill skier and the world of sports competition, which I found fascinating– Ellison has clearly done her homework in terms of medical, psychiatric, and competitive sports goes. 

TEAR ME APART is a powerful story of love, sacrifice, and murder. It has given me a lot to ponder.

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Please join me in welcoming J.T. Ellison to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

J.T., it’s a pleasure to have you. I understand you were haunted by a mother sacrificing herself so her family could have the chance at a happy life, and also the world of competitive sports. Can you shed a little more light into the inception of TEAR ME APART?

J.T. Ellison:

Thanks for having me, Leslie! This story started back in 2011 with the idea of a young mother who commits suicide but makes it look like a murder in order to get her family an insurance payout. It was a very dark idea, and I wasn’t sure how to make it work. I wrote some, thinking maybe it was a short story, then put it on hold to work on another book. But the concept wouldn’t leave me alone. Fast forward several years. By now, I knew there was a grieving husband and a missing baby, too. I dove into the story and realized quickly it wasn’t at all what I originally thought it was about. Instead, it was the story of a young phenom skier who finds out over a course of terrible events that she’s not her mother’s daughter.

I also loved the idea of looking at a child who’s grown up destined for glory, to be the best skier in the world. The pressure of her training, the intensity, lent itself well to the story and its pacing.

While I was drafting the book, I came across a great article in National Geographic about a new forensic DNA method called phenotyping. When I read it, I knew I had to use it in the story.  Mindy’s aunt Juliet works for the CBI, and has the ability to find out who Mindy’s true parents are through phenotyping. It was a great tool for conflict.

And I knew I wanted to have a discourse on mental illness. I feel like we’ve finally reached an era where the stigma is disappearing, which means more and more people will get the help they need. I hope this book sets a few people on a path to recovery, as well as raises awareness about some difficult issues.

So a number of different facets came together to build the story over the course of several years. Not an unusual path for one of my books.

Leslie Lindsay:

Your research into skiing is evident. Do you have experience with it yourself? How did that piece of the story present itself?

J.T. Ellison:

Yes! I grew up in Colorado, started skiing when I was 5. My parents used to take us up the mountain on weekends and I loved it. I even raced for a (very) short period of time, but quickly realized that I’d need discipline and talent far beyond my abilities. I always wondered what would have happened if I’d stuck with it – and Mindy Wright was born, at the gate, ready to make the Olympic team with her blistering-fast run.

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Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

There’s are so many layers to TEAR ME APART. Do you write with an outline or do you let the characters direct you? Maybe a little of both? Do you ever write yourself into a corner?

J.T. Ellison:

I always write myself into corners. But I believe in the process, believe in my subconscious. If I’ve written to a certain point and it’s not working, I feel I’m not seeing the whole picture. Writer’s block is your story’s way of telling you you’re going in the wrong direction.

I outline more now than I used to. It usually comes in the guise of a thorough synopsis, ten pages or so, and I take the beats from the synopsis and put them into a Scrivener document, then flesh from there. Once I’m well into the story, usually over halfway, that’s when I outline heavily to figure out how to get to the end.

I believe in the characters’ rights to speak as much as trying to infuse the story with my own voice and ideas, so I try not to be married to what I draft. Sometimes they want to go somewhere else with their lives other than what I originally foresaw. Honestly, that’s the joy of writing for me, when I find myself somewhere surprising at the end of a workday. It’s a very organic, loose process, with a few walls nailed into place to hold up the roof.

Leslie Lindsay:

Turning to the psychiatric piece of the story—I especially enjoyed this bit because I’m a former adolescent psych R.N.—I felt much of the teenage psychiatric institutions were spot-on (although many things have changed since those 1990s-ish scenes). What research did you do to bring this piece to life?


“[An] outstanding domestic thriller… The intense plot…builds to a stunning conclusion. Ellison is at the top of her game.”
—★ Publishers Weekly, starred review


J.T. Ellison:

The research was more first-hand than I would have preferred. Mental illness, suicide, and self-harm have affected my family deeply. I hope I’ve done the situations and characters justice. It’s a difficult topic, and one I’ve wanted to dive into for a long time. I hate the stigmas attached to mental illness, and want to see them go away so more people will get help if they need it. I also became aware of Project Semicolon several years ago, and wanted to dedicate the book to those who are struggling. I address this in my author’s note at length.

Leslie Lindsay:

What did you find most satisfying about the writing process? The most challenging?

J.T. Ellison:

I love the writing itself. It brings me such joy, such a feeling of peace and accomplishment. I mean, it’s hard, and gets harder with every book. I never want to write the same book twice, I always strive to get better, to be clearer, more concise, more evocative. But I will take a bad writing day over anything else.

I love the connection it makes with strangers. There’s nothing like an email from a reader who tells me they spent a few hours reading one of my books and felt like they’d escaped from their difficulties for a while. I write to entertain, to help people escape, to hopefully make them think, and because there might be the one person out there who reads my words on a day when they need them. Makes it all worthwhile.

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Leslie Lindsay:

The page is blank. What’s calling to you now?

J.T. Ellison:

I have a short story I’m playing with, and of course, I’ll have to gear up and write another novel here soon. I’m being drawn to boarding school mysteries and epic fantasies right now, so who knows where it might lead. It’s very rare for me not to know exactly what’s coming, but I don’t. I’ve had a long eighteen months of grinding out a lot of words, and it’s time to refill my well and take a break!

Leslie Lindsay:

J.T., it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

J.T. Ellison:

Not at all, though I would love to mention where you can find me these days – on Facebook, we have a private group called JT Ellison’s Literati, and I’m very active on Instagram @thrillerchick. And always, jtellison.com is home base for all my bookish endeavors.

It’s been wonderful, Leslie! Thanks for having me, and for loving TEAR ME APART.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of TEAR ME APART, please visit: 

Order Links: 

JT Ellison Author Photo credit Krista Lee Photography - verticalABOUT THE AUTHOR: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the international thriller series “A Brit in the FBI” with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the EMMY Award-winning literary television series A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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[Cover and author images courtesy of MIRA Books and used with permission. Author photo credit: Krista Lee Photography. Bookstore image retrieved from author’s Instagram account, 9.4.18]

What happens to a young woman when her mother dies and she’s thrust into debilitating grief? Mary Kubica tackles this & more in WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT

By Leslie Lindsay 

Twisty, thought-provoking, dizzying, hypnotic, emotionally-wrenching fifth book from Mary Kubica about identity, motherhood, loss, and insomnia. Mary is here chatting about the origins of the book, motherhood, sleep (yes, you can die from lack of sleep!), and so much more. 

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Mary completely wow-ed me with her breakout novel, THE GOOD GIRL, and since 2014, I’ve gobbled up every one of her novels. She’s immensely talented and her writing is always darkly brilliant. Plus, she’s sweet as pie, training for a half-marathon, and completely dedicated to her children and multiple furry babies.

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT (Park Row Books, September 4 2018) a slightly different read from Kubica–erring on the side of motherhood, grief, loss, and identity—providing a unique reading experience. 

Jessie Sloane is tired. She’s been caring for her ailing mother for years and her time is coming soon. Dedicated and devoted, Jessie is at her bedside in the hospital but she can’t rest knowing her mother is on her deathbed, that there are just minutes, hours left of her mother’s life.

And then Jessie is hit with a remarkable sense of grief, a horror of living, of trying to re-build. She’s only 20 and suddenly she’s alone, without a home, a mother, and who is her father, anyway?

Told in alternating settings, time periods, and narrators (Jessie and mother Eden), we experience several worldviews and a highly emotional ride.

Please join me in welcoming Mary Kubica back to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Mary, I am always, always thrilled to chat with you. I have to know: what was haunting you when you started WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT? How did this one call to you?

Mary Kubica:

Thank you for having me back.  I always look forward to chatting with you, Leslie!  I can’t say too much on this one – the twist itself was my initial spark of inspiration, and so I don’t want to give anything away!  But my books are heavy on the psychological side.  They’re not whodunits or crime fiction per se, but rather use kidnapping, murder, identity theft and such as a means to explore themes of grief, abandonment and wanting.  When the twist came to me, I thought to myself: what could be more psychological than that, and was quite pleased to have the opportunity to explore a young woman’s psyche from a different angle than what I was used to.  It came with its challenges, but I loved the research involved… all of which I’m hesitant to speak of in any detail for fear of spoiling the book!


“Kubica is a helluva storyteller.”
~ Kirkus Reviews


Leslie Lindsay:

You tackle so many emotionally-wrought topics in WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT: motherhood, infertility, miscarriage, grief, loss, identity, insomnia, paranoia…I mean, wow! Many of these go together. Was this intentional on your part, or did they arise organically?

Mary Kubica:

They arose quite organically.  As you know, I’m not an author who outlines in advance, but take my books one page at a time.  There were a few things I knew when I began writing the novel.  One, that twenty-year-old Jessie’s mother has just died and she’s left to fend for herself, only to discover she may not be the person she believes she is.  And two, that Eden, twenty years before, is a woman so desperate to become a mother that she’d do anything to make it happen.  I also knew of Jessie’s insomnia – a blight that plagues her in the days following her mother’s death and complicates her search for self discovery.  The rest just happened, a result of the writing process and of getting to know more characters better.

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Leslie Lindsay:

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT focuses mostly on two characters—mother Eden and daughter Jessie. Did you identify more with one over the other? Do you often write pieces of yourself into characters—maybe even subconsciously? 

Mary Kubica:

There are parts of my life in both of these characters.  Jessie loses her mother to cancer in the opening pages of the novel.  Her memories of the cancer, of chemotherapy, of her mother’s final days are taken from the memories I have of my grandparents’ battles with cancer, and of being beside my grandmother when she died.  Eden is a married woman, struggling with infertility, desperate to become a mother.  Back when I was starting my own family, a number of women I knew struggled with infertility.  Watching that struggle – that frustrating, expensive, gut-wrenching fight – is something that changed me, especially as I became a mother myself and knew the joys of motherhood.  It was heartbreaking and inconceivable to me that this great gift could be withheld from some.  I started wondering what I would have done – what would have become of me – if I’d never been able to be a mother.  These experiences became part of the novel.

Leslie Lindsay:

I have to say, sometimes reading about Jessie’s insomnia made me tired. I experienced this sort of buoyant, hypnotic feeling…and just wanted to go to sleep! Ironic, right? Sure, I’ve tossed and turned before, but never to the extent of Jessie. Can one really die from lack of sleep?  What research you did to make this piece of the narrative so alive? 

Mary Kubica:

Yes, one can die from lack of sleep.  Chronic insomnia has very serious physical and emotional effects, which can lead to death.  Fascinating fact: the percentage of heart attacks spike as much as 25% on the Monday after we switch over to daylight savings time, therefore losing an hour of sleep.  The longest a person has been reported to stay awake dates back to the 1960s, when a high school student set a world record for a science fair.  Randy Gardner lasted eleven days (an early title for the novel!) before the fatigue got the best of him and he went to sleep.

These days Gardner says,

“You have to have sleep. It’s as important as – it’s the big three. I call it the big three. Water, food, sleep – you’ve got to have them, all of them.”

While death was certainly a danger for Jessie, the focus of my research was on insomnia and the debilitating effects of it: the grogginess, the moodiness, the cognitive dysfunction, the hallucinations and paranoia, in addition to the more physical symptoms that Jessie experiences in her narrative.

Leslie Lindsay:

Sleep and dreams have always been an interest of mine. It’s amazing just how powerful one’s mind can be. And yet it can be restorative, protective. Can you talk more about that, please?

Mary Kubica:

I’m not generally a napper.  But there are days – especially when I’ve been plugging away at a WIP [work-in-progress] for hours and my mind has turned to mush – that a twenty minute nap does the trick.  A quick reboot.  I love a good night of sleep.  Like many of us, I have a way of working out problematic things in my dreams – whether thorny issues in a manuscript, or in life.  It is restorative.  On the flip side though, the lack of sleep, insomnia, is a bear.  Just a single night of lousy sleep turns me into a different person, a much more unpleasant version of myself!

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Leslie Lindsay:

Often in life, with major projects, we start with the end in mind. Eden wanted a baby. Jessie wanted to sleep. And her mother not to die. But sometimes, we don’t always get what we want. Not in life and sometimes not in a narrative. What might you say to those who are expecting one thing from WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT and receive something completely different? Do you think there are multiple ways of reading a book?

Mary Kubica:

I think the ending will surprise many readers!  This book is a bit different than my first few, in that it’s quite heavy on the emotional side and really a hybrid of psychological suspense and women’s fiction.  I don’t want any of my novels to feel cookie cutter, but like to be bold and original and explore new styles and themes with each novel I write.  As with any book (mine or otherwise), I always feel it’s important that a reader goes in blind, not expecting any one thing in particular from the novel, but just enjoying the ride.  There are of course multiple ways of reading a book.  Each reader will walk away with his or her own impression.  That’s the joy of books (and the reason many make terrific book club books – so many different opinions to discuss!).

Leslie Lindsay:

Mary, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I forgot to ask—like: what you’re reading, how the training is going, how the back-to-school craze is going, what you’re working on?

Mary Kubica:

I’ve just finished reading Catherine Steadman’s SOMETHING IN THE WATER (amazing!), and am looking forward to devouring ARCs [Advanced Reader Copies] from Jessica Strawser and Kaira Rouda next.  Half-marathon training is going well, as is the back to school craze!  As for writing – I’m just finishing up the final edits on my 2019 release, which I’m so incredibly excited for.  It doesn’t have a title yet, but this one focuses on a family of four that’s just relocated to Maine for a fresh start after a number of personal hardships force them from their Chicago home.  Their fresh start isn’t so fresh however when a neighbor is murdered in her home across the street, and the family falls under the scrutiny of the community and police.  More to come on this one soon!

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT, please visit: 

Order Links:

Mary Kubica 2017-8ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five novels.  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.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

 

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#psychthriller #suspense #insomnia #authorinterviewseries #motherhood

Inspired by Agatha Christie, Shari Lapena takes us to a secluded hotel in the Catskills and tosses in a murder or two in AN UNWANTED GUEST

By Leslie Lindsay

Pure WOW in this wickedly good twisted tale of isolation, torturous tension, smart and oh-so-good thriller from bestselling author Shari Lapena. She’s here chatting about writing herself into corners, how this is a ‘puzzle mystery,’ and she doesn’t always know the answers, plus her writing advice, being disciplined and so much more. 

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In 2016 when THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR came out, I was swept away. And then Lapena gave me more chills with A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE (2017) and this book, this one–AN UNWANTED GUEST (Penguin/Viking, August 14 2018) totally knocked it out of the park.

This time, Lapena takes us to a small luxury hotel nestled in the Catskills Mountains with a cast of characters who don’t know one another. Soon, everyone becomes isolated from the outside world as a winter storm rips through the area leaving the inn without power. There is no escape. No Wi-Fi, no phone service, and plenty of tension. Oh, and a killer at large. At least underfoot.

Maybe. Probably. What would explain the death of gorgeous Dana, engaged to a handsome guy from a prominent East Coast family? She’s found at the bottom of the stairs of inn on the first morning…was it an accident or something else? And then the body count rises. Everyone and no one is a suspect. Tensions run high. Accusations mount. Not everyone at the inn is as angelic as they seem.


“An intriguing cast, an isolated location, a raging storm and the threat of death in every dark corner: AN UNEXPECTED GUEST reads like Agatha Christie with a shot of adrenaline.”
Gilly MacMillanNew York Times bestselling author of THE PERFECT GIRL


We all have secrets…but could any of us be killers? That seems to be the overarching question AN UNWANTED GUEST is trying to answer.

Lapena writes with such a fluid hand, such intelligence that doesn’t come across as ‘too much,’ but quickly pulls the reader right into her grasp. Despite the murderous nature of the book, I almost found the reading experience ‘cozy.’Maybe it’s the language she uses or the images evoked with the descriptions of the inn, but I fell under Lapena’s spell almost immediately and didn’t want to let go.

You will have theories and ideas about the end, the twist, but chances are, you’ll be wrong. I was. Seriously, read this.

But first, join me in conversation with Shari Lapena.

Leslie Lindsay: 

Shari, it’s always a pleasure. I’m so, so intrigued with your initial concept of AN UNWANTED GUEST. It feels very classic in terms of storytelling—and that’s a good thing! I’m reminded not just of Agatha Christie but also the new trend in Escape Rooms. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration behind the narrative?

Shari Lapena:

That’s interesting that you suggest Escape Rooms. I hadn’t thought of that! The inspiration behind AN UNWANTED GUEST is actually Agatha Christie’s novel, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of people trapped somewhere with a murderer among them and the characters (and the reader) trying to figure out who’s doing the killing and who’s going to be next. I tried to create a setting reminiscent of that Golden Age by creating a hotel from that era, full of antiques and old fashioned touches. Also, a few years ago, we had a severe ice storm where I live in Toronto; all the power was knocked out, and it was extremely treacherous. I thought then that it was a great atmosphere for a thriller. I combined the two and came up with AN UNWANTED GUEST.  

Leslie Lindsay:

I love, love all of your twists and turns and the characters in AN UNWANTED GUEST. So I’m curious 1) do you ever write yourself into a corner and 2) did you have a character you felt most aligned with?

Shari Lapena:

Yes, sometimes I write myself into a corner and have to back up and reconsider, but that’s all part of the process. Because I don’t really plan it all out, I do have to rethink and rewrite. This was a particularly tricky book to write, because it’s a puzzle mystery. I would have to say I felt the most affinity with the character of the writer, Candice. She is based a bit on me, I think. I also write in yoga pants, am very disciplined, even driven, and I don’t like to tell people what I’m working on because, as Candice says, “it sucks all the energy out of the project.” I had fun writing her.

Leslie Lindsay:

We all have secrets—and darker truths to our characters than even we’re willing to admit—that’s what seems to be lurking under the surface in AN UNWANTED GUEST. You never know who might be a little unhinged. Can you talk about that, please?

Shari Lapena:

Well, that’s what psychological thrillers are all about—getting to the darkness, the motivations underneath that people are hiding. And there’s certainly a lot of that in AN UNWANTED GUEST. Each of the guests has something going on beneath the surface, something they’re not telling, but is it enough to make them a killer?  And then there’s the question of the rational (if you can call it that) murderer who is motivated by a reason, and the unhinged type of murderer who may have no good reason at all. It could be either in this story. You just don’t know until the end.

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Leslie Lindsay: 

I’d love to ask writing advice, but I have a feeling the answer will be, ‘read a lot in your genre and write every day.’ So, I won’t ask. But I am curious what inspires you and how you keep the saw sharp.

Shari Lapena:

I would say read a lot in general, not just in your genre. It’s true that writing regularly really does help. Writing in fits and starts isn’t the best way to really discover your own voice. My advice would be to write the stories that really excite you and write them in your own way—only that way will you discover your own unique voice, and that is what writing is all about. Write for yourself, really—write something you would love to read.

What inspires me is the work itself. I start with an idea or a premise that interests or excites me and take it from there. Once I get into it and the characters start to come alive and do things and make things more interesting, I become inspired by the story itself. I become curious about where it’s going and what’s going to happen next. Writing is like reading—you become absorbed in that world.

Leslie Lindsay:

I’ve so enjoyed this, Shari. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Shari Lapena:

Someone asked me recently how I would react if I was a character in one of my own novels. I thought that was an interesting question. I know if I were a guest at Mitchell’s Inn I would be watching everyone very carefully and trying to get a read on their characters. In real life, I like to study people’s behaviour and try to predict what they will do in given situations based on what I know of them. I find human psychology very interesting!

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For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of AN UNWANTED GUEST, please visit: 

Order Links:

Shari Lapena_credit_Tristan OstlerABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of the thrillers The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House. The Couple Next Door was a #1 Sunday Times Bestseller and a New York Times Bestseller. It has been sold in 35 territories around the world and has been optioned for film. A Stranger in the House was also a Sunday Times Bestseller and a New York Times Bestseller and has been sold in 25 territories so far.

She lives in Toronto with her family. Her next thriller, An Unwanted Guest, will be out the summer of 2018.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Penguin/Viking and used with permission. Photo credit author image: Tristan Ostler.] 

The horrific reality of cybercrime, property fraud, and so much more in OUR HOUSE from brilliant UK author Louise Candlish

By Leslie Lindsay 

What if you were to come home and find your beloved home was being emptied of all its belongings and new owners were moving in? That’s what OUR HOUSE sets out to discover. Plus, Louise talks about how sometimes our demise is at our own hand, writing herself into ‘knots and tears,’ and being published for the first time in the U.S.

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I’m a big sucker for books about houses. Seriously, two of my favorite things. So when I stumbled upon OUR HOUSE (Berkley, August 7 2018), I knew I had to read it. I’m new to Louise Candlish, too and her writing is quite beautiful and darkly brilliant, well-plotted, and compelling.

Fiona (Fi) and Bram are at the end of their marriage. Bram has been unfaithful one too many times and Fi is done. But what about the kids and their beautiful home in a desirable London suburb? They couldn’t possibly sell it and split the family, send the boys to a different school. So Fi devises a plan to keep the house and the family as intact as possible in the bird’s nest arrangement: the children will stay in the home and the parents will take turns caring for the boys in the house (while the other parent stays in a nearby flat). Everyone is in agreement that this is the best possible scenario.

But. 

Fi comes home from a few days away with her new beau and lo and behold, there’s a moving van out front, a new couple giddy with their purchase. This couldn’t be happening…could it?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


We hear both sides of the story via Bram (Word Document) and a podcast from Fi
 so it’s a bit ‘he-said, she said;’ plus there are as interspersed newspaper articles, and yet still such a mystery. This technique lends to the overall frantic feel of the narrative.

Overall, OUR HOUSE is a very fresh, darkly disturbing, brilliantly plotted domestic
suspense about property fraud, murder, adultery, secrets/lies, double-crossing, and so much more. The killer ending is a fast-paced rush to the finish line.

Please join me in conversation with Louise.

L.L.: Louise, it’s great to have you! First, the cover is stunning and the writing very gripping, but before we get to all that, what was your inspiration when you set out to write OUR HOUSE?

Louise Candlish: Thank you for having me! The main source of inspiration for the book was the increasing problem of property fraud here in the UK. There’s a perfect storm of rising house prices and burgeoning cybercrime that’s truly terrifying. I wanted to write about a crime I hadn’t seen before in fiction and I knew this was it. One particular real-life case caught my eye in the Daily Mail: a woman was almost defrauded of her million-pound home by a criminal gang, one of whom had even changed her name legally to the owner’s. It was stopped at the last minute.

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L.L.: I have to admit to liking the bird’s nest concept. I haven’t actually seen it in practice, but I can see the appeal. Can you tell us more about how this came to your attention? Do you know others who have done this successfully?

Louise Candlish: It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Emblematic of our age of conscious uncoupling. I read about it in the Telegraph here and a lightbulb flashed: perfect for my domestic crime set-up! It’s evidently quite a successful custody arrangement, but tends to be an informal thing (as Bram and Fi’s is), rather than a court-ordered one, so it’s impossible to quote data. I would do it myself (while keeping my passport and personal documents under lock and key, of course).

L.L.: Bram is kind of a bad-boy. He’s charming, charismatic, and well-liked by the ladies. And he has a bit of a reckless streak. At some point in the novel, there’s a passage about our undoing being completely on our own accord. Can you elaborate on that, please?

Louise Candlish: It’s so interesting that you picked up on that, because it’s one of the central concerns of the novel. What’s the difference between things going right and things going wrong? It’s one bad call, basically, one unfortunate little bit of poor judgment. Then life can spiral dangerously quickly. Of course it’s not quite that simple. There are complex links between mental health issues and crime and Bram’s got a lot going on in his head. He isn’t in a position to make a good decision.

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Photo by Joe Fitzpatrick on Pexels.com

L.L.: There are a lot of characters in OUR HOUSE, most notably Fi and Bram but also neighbors, as well as Mike and Wendy and the various storytelling techniques used [Bram’s Word Doc and Fi’s podcast]. Was there a character or technique you enjoyed more—or felt most aligned with?

Louise Candlish: I enjoyed writing Fi’s (transcribed) podcast interview, because by definition when you’re giving a interview meant for public broadcast, you have an agenda. She’s quite controlled, but then occasionally she’ll allow some emotion or grievance to burst through. That was fun to write. Bram was a different experience because his account is so raw and confessional. He made me feel quite sad. For me, their narratives exemplify one of the points the book makes: men are straightforward, their faults on the surface for all to see, whereas women are more multi-layered, more ambiguous. I had an inkling readers would find Fi irritating at times, so I used the tweets to provide some human reaction to her.

L.L.: OUR HOUSE is so intricately plotted—or at least it reads that way!—what was your process like and did you ever write yourself into a corner?

Louise Candlish: I was in corners a lot. In knots in corners, weeping. The main problem was how interconnected everything was, so every tiny alteration had its own ripple effect and I had to chase the ripples until they disappeared. It’s been interesting to see the reaction of other writers to this book: to a man (and woman), they have remarked on how hard it must have been to structure. They totally understand my pain. For the reader, of course, I hope it’s seamless!

L.L.: The page is blank. What’s calling to you now?

Louise Candlish: I’m in the late stages of my next novel, about a terrible neighbour who inspires the worst instincts in those who cross his path. Could you hate your neighbour enough to plot to kill him? If the newspapers are anything to go by, yes. I’ve yet to discuss this with anyone who doesn’t offer up a horror story of their own. Bad neighbouring is universal and yet somehow we all think we’re great neighbours. Interesting.


“A high-stakes domestic thriller that is utterly absorbing. Twists and turns abound; OUR HOUSE will have you locking your doors and checking your windows . . . Trust no one!”

HEATHER GUDENKAUF, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF NOT A SOUND


L.L.: What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Louise Candlish: I’ve always been a big tennis fan and I annually down tools for Wimbledon, but in this digital age I can watch any tournament I like – a terrible temptation. I will be one of the millions who will wear black for a month when Roger Federer retires. Same for Rafa Nadal. If they retire at the same time, well, that will be the end of me.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: Louise, it’s been a pleasure. One last question: is Alder Rise/Trinity Avenue a real place? Is there anything else I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Louise Candlish: The pleasure is mine. No Alder Rise is fictional, but many people know I live in South East London and know certain areas better than others. Alder Rise is a composite of those areas. It’s the hidden gem with the park and the great school and the farmer’s market and the artisan bakery. These houses never come on the market (at least not to the owners’ knowledge!).

I guess you could ask what it’s like for a British author to be published for the first time in the US?

The answer: so far so delightful. So I thank you.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of OUR HOUSE, please visit: 

Order Links: 

Louise Candlish (c) Jonny RingABOUT THE AUTHOR: Louise Candlish attended University College London and worked as an editor in art publishing and as a copywriter before becoming a novelist. She lives with her husband and daughter.

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You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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[Cover and author images courtesy of Berkely and used with permission] 

What if you committed a heinous act as a teenager & it continued to haunt you? Emily Arsenault explores this & more in THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU

By Leslie Lindsay 

Dark tale about a woman and her younger, troubled days, a murdered psychologist, and a small town cop. Plus, Emily chats about characters flirting with madness, staying disciplined as a mom-writer, and the books that stay with her.

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Dr. Mark Fabian is found murdered in his office. His patients are suspected: including former patient, Nadine Raines, and Johnny Streeter, now serving a life sentence for a mass shooting at a local retirement home. But Nadine and Johnny were patients over 20 years ago, in 1997…what could they possibly have to do with Dr. Fabian’s death? And why now?

THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2018) is an edgy small town whodunit with alternating POVs and time periods, mostly focused on Nadine and Henry, a police officer-newly-turned-detective. And of course, what happened to Dr. Fabian?

At once a psychological thriller, THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU is also a slight deviation from Arsenault’s previous works as this one is also part police procedural.

Emily Arsenault takes her readers into the dark folds of a disturbed young woman’s mindobsession and secrets—with a great deal of small town edginess that will have you frantically flipping the pages.

Please join me in welcoming Emily to the author interview series:

Leslie Lindsay: Emily, welcome! I am curious what the instigating spark was for you with THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU? Was it a character, a situation, or something else you wanted to explore?

Emily Arsenault: Thank you, Leslie! It was primarily a character—my female narrator, Nadine. I started with her. I wanted to write about a woman who does something impulsive and violent as a teenager and then has to figure out how—and how long—to atone for it. I wanted to go deep into her psychology to explore her reasons for that one fateful act. I’ve always been interested in adolescent impulsivity and the way our choices or behavior at that age can affect the rest of our lives. This is a theme I’ve touched on in earlier books, but I think I wasn’t yet ready, in those books, to carry this theme to as dark a place as it goes in The Last Thing I Told You.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

L.L.: And yet it’s a bit different from THE EVENING SPIDER, which was more literary and focused on motherhood and hauntings and was almost historical in nature.How did your process differ with THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU? Or, did it?

Emily Arsenault: The Evening Spider wasn’t necessarily a typical book for me, either. That was my fifth book and I had never done a historical novel before. In fact, the process for that and The Last Thing I Told You had some similarities despite content differences. Both have two narrations that I was constantly jumping back and forth between as I worked. Both have one seemingly steadier, more relatable narrator and one who might be flirting with madness. Thematically, I think there are similarities that might not be immediately obvious. Both feature female narrators who think in a dark and perhaps skewed sort of way, and whose peers view them with suspicion.


“Psychologically acute, beautifully written, full of twists and turns, The Last Thing I Told You is a complex, absorbing and satisfying read.”

– William Landay, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob


L.L.: I was intrigued with the therapy piece of this tale—I’m curious what research you did to make this realistic?

Emily Arsenault: I really loved writing Nadine’s therapy sessions. As far as research, I read a few books and articles on the subject of therapy, but the main thing I did was consult with a friend who has worked as a therapist. At first, we just chatted generally about the subject. Then, when I was further along, she read the therapy notes and files of my fictional therapist to help me keep them realistic and professional. When I was revising the draft, she read the whole manuscript. Something we talked about a great deal is that the experience of therapy can vary widely depending on the particular type of training the therapist receives, the accountability structure he or she is in (e.g. hospital setting, private practice, paid by insurance, paid privately), the therapist’s philosophy or approach, and the therapist’s level of competence. I thought it would be interesting for readers to assess for themselves, along the way, if Dr. Fabian is a good therapist—if he’s asking the right questions or calling Nadine out at the right moments. The reader is very much in Nadine’s head for the therapy scenes, but the presence of Dr. Fabian—in the actual therapy sessions and his files—potentially gives readers a different perspective on her.

L.L.:  Can you share a bit about your writing routines and rituals:

Emily Arsenault: It really depends on where I am in a project. When I’m in the early drafting stage, I struggle to stay on task for two or three hours a day. When I’m finishing or revising a project, I tend to want to power through and write all day and night. When I’m in the middle of a tough part, I tend to reward myself with sugar for finishing a certain number of pages or scenes. A miniature can of Coke or a cookie. My process is still in flux. I was very disciplined while my daughter was a toddler and a preschooler because my daily writing time was really limited and I had to use it wisely. Since she went off to full-time kindergarten this past year, I’ve kind of become flaky and unfocused. I’m still working out what my work and writing balance should be as she continues through elementary school.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

L.L.: What do you hope readers take away from THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU?

Emily Arsenault: Primarily I’d like readers to keep turning pages and enjoy the read. But with Nadine, I’d hoped readers would experience a dark female character in a way they might not have expected. I don’t want to say much more than that, because I don’t want to prescribe to readers how they “should” feel about Nadine.

L.L.: What’s the last book you read—and which book do you keep thinking about?

Emily Arsenault: I’m in the middle of The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. A book I keep thinking about is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

L.L.: Emily, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Emily Arsenault: No—but thanks for your insightful questions, and thanks for having me!

For more information, to connect with with author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE LAST THING I TOLD YOU, please see: 

Order Links: 

Emily Arsenault author photo (c) Ross Gram (1).jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:Emily Arsenault is the critically acclaimed author of six mystery and psychological suspense novels, and one young adult psychological suspense novel, The Leaf Reader. Titles of her adult novels include: The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times Notable Crime Book in 2009, The Evening Spider, What Strange Creatures, In Search of Rose Notes, selected by The Wall Street Journal as one of the Best Mysteries of 2011, Miss Me When I’m Gone, and her latest book, The Last Thing I Told You, which released i n July 2018 and was one of PureWow’s Best Beach Reads of the summer. She lives with her husband and daughter in Shelburne Falls, MA.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

[Cover and author image courtesy of William Morrow/HarperCollins and used with permission. Author credit: Ross Gram.] 

Michelle Frances on her debut–an International bestseller–THE GIRLFRIEND, multifaceted characters, possessive girlfriends, & more

By Leslie Lindsay 

A slow-burn (and that’s a good thing!) literary domestic thriller with a very unlikable, conniving, master manipulator of a girlfriend.

Plus, Michelle Frances talks about how her career writing TV scripts helped with the narrative, the mother-son dynamic, her summer plans, and what’s next for her.

the girlfriend final WOW. This girl. THE GIRLFRIEND is everything a mother of a son(s) would absolutely deplore. She’s from the ‘wrong side of the tracks,’ lies, lies, lies, and yet she’s sweet (at least to your face), gorgeous, and your son’s smitten. But something’s off. Does a mother intervene?

That’s what THE GIRLFRIEND sets out to answer. At first Cherry is a bit endearing in her nervousness around ‘the parents,’ but how she quickly–and subtly–worms her way onto the dark side. This gal is sneaky, highly disturbed, and just fun to hate. I was absolutely blown away with audacity of this young woman and also it reminded me of how ‘love is blind.’

A bit on the plot: Daniel is in medical school. He was born into a wealthy family, but seems to be a good all-around guy who wants to work in medicine even though he doesn’t technically *have* to work; he has a trust fund, a Mercedes, and his dad just paid for his fancy new flat. And, as an only child, he has a very doting (enmeshed?) mother, Laura.

Along comes Cherry who works as a Real Estate agent (apprentice) and lo and behold, smart rich boy needs a place to live…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Please join  me in welcoming Michelle Frances to my author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay: Frances, Wow! You absolutely blew me away with Cherry! First, I want to know if there was a scene or character or situation you wanted to explore most in THE GIRLFRIEND; what was the driving force?

Michelle Frances:  Thank you, Leslie!  This is such an interesting question because this is exactly how the book started.  There is a moment about halfway through the novel when Daniel’s mom, Laura, decides to do the most awful thing and tells a lie like no other.  It was this lie that got me thinking about how such a scenario could exist – how could a character like Laura justifying saying such a thing?  And from there grew the story.

L.L.: While I found the plot to be taut and intriguing, THE GIRLFRIEND is also a very voice-y narrative, but it’s quite literary. Was there a particular character who ‘spoke’ most to you?

Michelle Frances:  I have a soft spot for both mom Laura and girlfriend Cherry, despite their bad behavior.  They both start from a hopeful, positive place but jealousy and insecurity warp their perception of the situation they find themselves in, and lo and behold, things start to spiral out of control.  I feel for Cherry as she’s a classic victim of intergenerational unfairness – for her there’s no state certainty of a safety net and a pension.  Even the idea of owning her own home is a distant dream.  These challenges echo what young people are having to face today and in fact many will be worse off than their parents.  I can understand her struggle and have empathy for her reasoning that you might as well spend time in a geographical place where future boyfriends are more likely to have money, than a place where they’re not.  I also have empathy for Laura’s desire to protect her only remaining child from someone who she believes to be up to no good.   I don’t think any mother could stand back and watch what they believe to be a car crash relationship unfold – although mothers don’t have to go to the extent that Laura does in order to stop it!


“The Girlfriend is a taut psychological thriller, the evil chillingly drawn.  Every character is layered and beautifully twisted.   Makes me consider running background checks on any potential spouses my children bring home!”
– New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose


L.L.: And with Cherry—she’s such a fickle, complex character. Did you have to do any research to get her ‘just right?’

Michelle Frances: Cherry is incredibly complex in many ways, but she’s also very straightforward.  She has simple goals that chime with most of ours: financial stability and a happy relationship.  I didn’t do any particular research to understand her, she actually came alive to me quite readily.  Most of us are young and broke when we’re starting out and the class system in the UK is very much alive and well.  Cherry is also incredibly intelligent so I just pitted that intelligence right into the middle of the scenario of her finding a wealthy boyfriend with a tiger mom and her psychology and motivation became very clear.  As soon as Cherry comes up with the notion that Laura believes she’s not good enough for her son Daniel, Cherry decides she’s going to keep him, whatever it costs.

L.L.: Similarly, does Cherry have a psychological diagnosis?  Cause I’m kind of thinking she should!

Michelle Frances:  Ha!  Well, I do think she has very dark thoughts sometimes – as many of us do – the difference being that most people wouldn’t choose to act on them in the way Cherry does!  She feels she has so much to lose and she is fighting for her place from what she feels is a real disadvantage, therefore she justifies crossing that line – more than once!  Personally, I’m fascinated by how psychotic tendencies in people can become dangerously exacerbated when they feel threatened.

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L.L.: Was there anything that surprised you during the writing process? Did you learn anything along the way?

Michelle Frances: As this was my first novel, the whole writing process was a learning experience.  I had to feel my way through and found my skills in television script editing came in very useful!  Although the medium of television is very different to a novel, certain elements are true of any form of storytelling: character development, pace, and twists in the story are all essential to an engaging thriller.

L.L.: Do you have any exciting summer plans…perhaps to the South of France? Or maybe whitewater rafting?

Michelle Frances: Funnily enough, I did go white water rafting a few years before writing the book — just days after meeting my boyfriend.  It was a gift for his birthday!  Fortunately there were no accidents but I do remember very clearly the adrenaline rush of the rapids.  This summer I shall be working on my third book, with perhaps a family seaside break in the middle.

L.L.: Who or what is obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Michelle Frances: Oh gosh, I get fired up about lots of things.  I’m a governor at my children’s school, which means I’m involved in the strategic decisions of the school.  Education is something I’m extremely interested in, and how teachers and pupils are affected by government policies and decisions.  I also get very hot under the collar about injustice and in fact the book I’m working on this summer is a ‘David and Goliath’ tale about a mother’s fight for justice for her daughter.

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L.L.: Michelle, it’s been an absolute pleasure! Please tell me, is there anything I’ve forgotten?

Michelle Frances: Thank you so much for [having me].  I’ve loved [every minute].  If you enjoy THE GIRLFRIEND, then perhaps I can also shamelessly let you know about my next book!  It’s called THE TEMP and is due out in the USA on 29 January 2019.  It’s about a successful TV producer, Carrie, who unexpectedly falls pregnant and reluctantly has to leave her job in the hands of a young, ambitious temp cover.  Emma is smart and charming and Carrie begins to suspect she is maneuvering her way into Carrie’s life, causing turmoil in her marriage and her work.  It’s a thriller about ambition, deception and betrayal. Thank you again!

For more information, to connect with with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE GIRLFRIEND, please see: 

Order Links: 

MF CroppedABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Michelle Frances graduated from Bournemouth Film School in 1996 and then from the Masters programme at the American Film Institute, Los Angeles, in 1998. Returning to London, she has worked for several years in film and TV as a script editor and producer for both the independent sector and the BBC.

THE GIRLFRIEND, her debut psychological thriller, has been optioned by Imaginarium Studios for film adaptation.  Translation rights have sold in fifteen foreign territories.

Michelle is currently working on her second novel.  She lives in East Surrey.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

GoodReads
Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
Email:leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com
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[Cover and author images courtesy of Kensington Press and used with permission].

Special Pub Day Edition: Mary Kubica’s EVERY LAST LIE now in Paperback

By Leslie Lindsay 

When Mary Kubica arrived on the scene in 2014 with her twisty, dark and obsessive THE GOOD GIRL, I was hooked. And I think it’s safe to say that many others are, too. She’s a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, making her summer books a quick read, and ones I look forward to every year.

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EVERY LAST LIE (June 27, 2017) takes a desperate and grieving young window to the edge. Clara Solberg is shattered when she learns her husband is suddenly killed in a car crash. She answers the door with her days-old infant son in her arms, wet spots on the front of her shirt. She hasn’t slept in days. Her 4-year old daughter, Maisie, also in the car at the time is unharmed. But Nick is dead.

Maisie starts having nightmares and is talking in her sleep about ‘a bad guy.’ But the crash was deemed an accident; a one-car accident due to Nick’s speeding. Still, Maisie’s response has Clara concerned, and perhaps a little unhinged.  Could someone have been out to kill Nick? But who? And why? He was an upstanding man, a dentist, a father. 

Check out the chilling book trailer of EVERY LAST LIE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsYzpz_z0AY

Clara is plunged into a desperate attempt to find out what *really* happened that late afternoon as the sun bore down on the winding road on the way home from Maisie’s ballet lesson. I felt every raw emotion from pity, sympathy, disbelief, even anger.

Told in alternating POVs: Clara’s “after” and Nick’s “just before,” Kubica does a lovely job of writing domestic suspense, her strength I think, is bringing Chicgaoland to life; her characters are fully developed, flawed, and unique. There are plenty of red herrings, too but they are presented in such an authentic way that doesn’t feel forced; in many cases, everyone becomes a suspect. EVERY LAST LIE is chock full of hair-pin twists and chilling revelations.

So pull up a chair and join me and Mary for a little coffee break. By-the-way, she only drinks hot coffee, not the iced frou-frou stuff I prefer.

Leslie Lindsay: It was a few years ago as we were talking about PRETTY BABY at a local coffee shop that I asked what was brewing for your next book. You had just turned in the edits for DON’T YOU CRY.  You leaned forward and said, “It’s in its very early stages but a father and young daughter in a car. There’s an accident. The daughter remembers things that might make it seem as if the father was murdered.” Of course I was intrigued.  What ultimately inspired the storyline for EVERY LAST LIE?download (16)

Mary Kubica: While most of my novels stem solely from my imagination, EVERY LAST LIE was inspired by a news article that caught my eye.  The headline read something to the effect of: girl’s nightmares help solve the mystery of her father’s death, and immediately I was intrigued.  I knew right away that I wanted to do something with this, but being only partway through writing DON’T YOU CRY at the time, I had to table the idea for a bit.  But of course, the wheels in my mind were already turning, creating Nick and Clara long before I began to write their story down on paper.

L.L.: All of your books have been set in the Chicagoland area, which living here, I know is immense (thanks to some stats in EVERY LAST LIE, I now know it tops out at ten million). PRETTY BABY took place in the city, so too did parts of DON’T YOU CRY (also resort communities across Lake Michigan). THE GOOD GIRL was home to a wealthy North Shore community and remote Minnesota. But this book—EVERY LAST LIE—takes place nearly in my backyard. My daughter played a soccer tournament at Commissioner’s Park where Clara met with Kat. My kids will one day attend the high school on Harvey Road where Nick met his death. I know about the sex shops and seedy motels on Rt. 30; the myriad of dental practices lining Rt. 59. I think I might even know the exposed beam converted warehouse where Maisie takes ballet lessons. I’ve driven Douglas Road and Wolf’s Crossing. On a regular basis. So the question is: why this area? And might it have something images (11)to do with the fact that these tragedies often happen to just about anyone, anywhere, or something more?

Mary Kubica: I set EVERY LAST LIE in the western suburbs of Chicago because like you, this is home to me.  My own children grew up playing at Commissioner’s Park – which they dubbed the hippo park themselves, an anecdote that made its way into the novel – and many of the locations mentioned in the story are based loosely on places I know (the police station and Maisie’s ballet studio, for example, as well as the hairpin turn where Nick meets his death).  My previous novels have all been set in the city of Chicago but for this one I wanted something different and new; the suburbs fit the bill perfectly.    

L.L.: Clara’s mother is suffering from dementia. She reminds me a bit of Alex’s father in DON’T YOU CRY who is an aloof alcoholic. I like how you balance two storylines, often one with medical underpinnings. Is this deliberate on your part, or does it just sort of ‘come’ to you?

Mary Kubica: Rarely in our lives are we able to tackle just one mishap at a time.  How often do we ask ourselves, Why does everything have to happen at the same time?  We take on too much, we give too much of ourselves until we’re pulled in all directions and don’t have a second in our days to spare.  To me, Clara’s mother’s dementia is an example of real life.  Many people in Clara’s generation are dealing with aging parents while trying to raise families of their own.  It puts plenty of stress on an individual.  Add in a newborn baby and the unexpected loss of a spouse, and it’s enough to throw Clara into a tailspin.  Not only does the inclusion of Louisa help round out Clara’s character for me and give her some depth and emotion aside from her immediate family, but it’s authentic.  Many of us are bogged down by more stressors than we can handle.  If a tremendous tragedy were to occur, there’s noburroakdistance telling how we might respond.

L.L. And Clara. She is a brand-new mother having just given birth to little Felix, plus running after 4-year old Maisie when the knock arrives at the door that her husband has been in an accident. You convey a sleep-deprived, grief-stricken mother so well. Please tell me this isn’t based on fact.

Mary Kubica: I think most mothers and fathers can relate to those sleep-deprived days, weeks and months after a baby is born, when the amount of sleep we reap is slim and because of the overwhelming fatigue, we go through the motions, there but not there all at the same time.  This is something I can relate to though, thank goodness, I never had a tragedy like Clara’s to contend with at the same time.  I think some readers will be unsympathetic to Clara; she’s overwhelmed, she’s grieving, and she makes a number of poor decisions, especially where her children are concerned.  I tend to feel sorry for her because I don’t think any of us can know for certain how we’d respond in a similar situation unless we were in Clara’s shoes.

L.L.: I know you’re not a plotter, but do you start out with a sentence, or perhaps only a premise? John Grisham says an author should always know the ending before he even begins writing. I tend to disagree. Where do you sit on that debate? And do you have little hacks to keep your story moving forward…note cards, post-its? Have you ever written yourself into a corner?


Mary Kubica:
I start out with an idea, usually some sort of problem that my characters will spend the next three hundred pages sorting through.  With EVERY LAST LIE, it began with the idea that a recent widow comes to believe her husband’s death wasn’t accidental, but rather a murder.  Rarely do I know the ending of my novels when I begin; I need time to get to know my characters and figure out how the story will go before I can decide how it will end.  I write myself into corners from time to time, mostly because I’m not a plotter, because I don’t rely on notecards or post-it notes to keep my thoughts organized, but have a tendency to dive right into the writing (my favorite part!), wing it a little and see what happens.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it takes a little backtracking and a lot of editing to get my ideas clearly across.  Sounds a little pell-mell on paper, but it’s a method that works well for me.

L.L.: There were so many ways this story could have gone. Do you ever have multiple endings in mind? Do you have difficulty deciding which direction to take? I know I would!

Mary Kubica: Yes, there are always many ways the story could go!  Truly, I consider them all before attempting to rule out the most obvious solutions.  I try and decide how the reader will envision the ending, and then do a 180 in the hopes of taking readers by surprise!  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but either way, my main goal is that readers enjoy tagging along on Nick and Clara’s journey.

L.L.: You’re a busy mom and yet your summer is filled with a Midwest book tour, a bit of a break and then back at it this fall. Plus, you obviously need time to write. download (17)How do you balance the demands of a family with that of in-demand author? Do you ever have to say ‘no’?

Mary Kubica: I do have to say no, and it’s been happening with more frequency lately.  I hate passing up on any opportunity, but my kiddos aren’t so little any more – they’re 9 and 11 now, very soon to be 10 and 12 – and I’m coming to the awful realization that they won’t want to hang out with Mom much longer.  I relish these days we can spend together, and make every attempt to keep my family my number one priority in life, which means that I can’t always do the travel and publicity that’s part and parcel of a writing career.  I do as much as I can from home, and many libraries, bookstores and book clubs have been wonderful to Skype or FaceTime with me to cut down a bit on travel.  Beyond that, my travel has been streamlined to help me better maintain that work life balance.  A day will (unfortunately) come when my kids don’t need me quite as much, and then I’ll have more hours in my day to commit to my career.

L.L.: Can you give us a little glimpse as to what’s next for you? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Mary Kubica: I’m just finishing up my fifth novel, called 11 DAYS, which is a story about identity and infertility, and will be released next summer.  Beyond that, my family has a trip to Hilton Head planned this summer.  I’m so looking forward to a little time away!

L.L.: As always, it was a pleasure, Mary. Thanks for taking the time to chat. Is there anything else I should have asked but may have forgotten?

Mary Kubica: I think you covered everything, Leslie!  Thank you for including me again, and I look forward to chatting over coffee sometime soon.  Enjoy your summer!

For more information about EVERY LAST LIE, to connect with Mary, or to purchase your own copy of the book, please visit: 

Mary Kubica-9ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of four novels.  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, where she enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, through these social media sites:

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[Cover and author images courtesy of Park Row Books and used with permission. Image of Harvey Rd. retrieved from Trulia.com/public images. Burr Oak tree on Katy Trail in McBain, MO retrieved from bikekatytrail.com] 

 

WeekEND Reading: Simon Lelic on his psych thriller, THE NEW NEIGHBORS

By Leslie Lindsay 

What if the house you moved into has a story all its own? Simon Lelic talks about the ‘terrifying’ experience of house-hunting, how he wishes he kept more of his childhood books,writing advice & so much more…

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Dark, twisted U.K. thriller with undertones of paranormal and horror.

I have such a soft-spot for tales of houses and so when THE NEW NEIGHBORS (Penguin Random House, April 10 2018) came across my desk, I knew I had to read it. Syd and Jack are a twenty-something couple seeking their first home together (they are not married) and when they come across the perfect London home, they make an offer. It’s low, but the owner wanted someone young. It almost seems too good to be true when their offer is accepted. 

Once they move in, strange things start happening. For one, the previous owner left all of his furnishings, including taxidermy-ied animals. But the walls seem to permeate an odor and what’s with that stuff in the attic? Jack has been wary all along, but Syd is more nonchalant about the new place.

Told in alternating POVs of Jack and Syd in a written journal-like narrative (the characters refer to it as ‘the manuscript,’), the story can be a little challenging to follow in som regards as different perspectives color the story. But when a murder is committed outside their back door, Syd and Jack become suspects.

One begins to wonder if Syd and Jack are really responsible, is it the house, or something (someone?) else more sinister at work?

THE NEW NEIGHBORS is a tale of duplicity, a ‘he-said,’ ‘she-said’ type of read that will most definitely send shivers through, and perhaps, have you looking over your shoulder (or at least in your attic).

Please join me in welcoming Simon Lelic to the blog couch.

Leslie Lindsay: Simon, it’s a pleasure. I always want to know why this story, why now? Was there a character, event, or line that kept drawing you to the keyboard?

Simon Lelic: The main inspiration for The New Neighbors was the house-hunting process, which we’ve all been through in some form at one point or another, and as it happened my wife and I were going through it around the time the novel was written. It’s such a terrifying process – you are asked to commit a vast sum of money, and indeed your family’s entire future, on a property you only really get to see two or three times. It’s only when you’re committed, and you finally move in, that you get to discover what’s really buried beneath the floorboards…

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“A raw, tightly wound thrill ride, a nightmare scenario about a home purchase that goes horribly wrong. And then some. This is a fast-paced, intense, and creepy novel that you won’t be able to put down until you reach the end.”

—David Bell, bestselling author of Bring Her Home


L.L.: I understand this is your first psych thriller, but not your first book. How was this one different? Or, was it?

Simon Lelic: I suppose with psychological thrillers, it’s all a question of degrees. My first novel, A Thousand Cuts, dealt with bullying as a motive for murder, and you could argue that you don’t get much more psychological than that. But The New Neighbors definitely takes this up a notch, in that you are never really sure how much of what is happening is only taking place in the characters’ heads.9780143118619.jpg

L.L.: You’re a former journalist. I’ve found that many former journalists turn to writing thrillers. Any ideas as to why that is? How does your background inform your fiction?

Simon Lelic: I’ve never really thought about this before, but I guess journalism teaches you to write sparely, to make every word count, and this style of writing definitely suits the thriller genre. For a thriller to work well, you need to keep the story moving forwards. 

L.L.: In shifting gears a bit, I am anxious to talk about the house as a character. Is that how you saw it, too—as a character—or was it more of a ‘setting?’

Simon Lelic: It started as just a setting, but quickly took on a personality on the page. At least for me – I can only hope that readers will agree! I’ve always loved haunted house stories – from Shirley Jackson to Mark Z. Danielewski – and I wanted the house in my novel to loom just as large in the reader’s mind as it would if they were reading a ghost story.

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L.L.: Syd’s character is complex, vulnerable, and secrets of her family origin leak.  transforming the narrative a bit into one of violence and perhaps madness. Was that intentional or did it sort of grow organically?

Simon Lelic: Syd was always the key to the story. Without giving too much away, her character, and the reasons for her being the way she is, are fundamental to events in the book. Which isn’t to say Jack’s background doesn’t have significance too…

L.L.:  Jack finds a small box filled with childhood treasures in the attic. What item(s) from your childhood do you long for, if only occasionally?

Simon Lelic: Books! For some reason I will never quite forgive myself for, I gave away whole boxloads of books I’d loved as a kid, I think at some point when I figured I was ‘all grown up’. But now I have children of my own (three of them, all turning into avid readers) I would dearly love to be able to pass on some of those books I devoured when I was their age, many of which no longer seem to be in print.

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L.L.: What aspects of writing have you struggled with and how did you work to strengthen those areas?

Simon Lelic: Writing is always a struggle, at least in the sense that you can invariably do it better. That’s partly why I love it so. It’s a craft, and like any craft, the key to improvement is practice.

L.L.: What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Simon Lelic: I’m not sure about the best piece of writing advice I’ve received, but the best piece I can give is, be wary of what advice you follow. Find what works for you, and do it.

L.L.: What question do you get asked all the time, that I forgot to ask?

Simon Lelic: The same question every author gets asked: where do you get your ideas? And I’m glad I don’t have to try to come up with an answer!

L.L.: Thank you, Simon. It’s been a pleasure!

Simon Lelic: Thanks so much for having me. I sincerely hope your readers enjoy the book!

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to order a copy of THE NEW NEIGHBORS, please see:

Order Links:

244784ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simon Lelic is a former journalist and the author of the award-winning A Thousand Cuts as well as the critically acclaimed The Facility and The Child WhoThe New Neighbors is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. Simon lives with his wife and three children.

 

 

 

 

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[Cover(s) and author image retrieved from Penguin Random House website. Couple house-hunting retrieved from usatoday.com; all on 4.18.18 ] 

Wednesdays with Writers: Stunning Psychological Debut from Roz Nay OUR LITTLE SECRET

By Leslie Lindsay 

Stunning Psychological Debut from Roz Nay about first loves, mother-daughter relationships, a disturbing twist and so much more in OUR LITTLE SECRET; oh and her TV obsessions, literary influences, those delicious almonds, and so much more.

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Stunning voice-driven psychological thriller explores first love and the dark recesses of a twenty-something’s mind. 

High School. Oh, how we loathe to love. Or love to loath. It’s often a time complicated with first love, self-discovery, and parental angst. That’s where OUR LITTLE SECRET starts–with Angela Petitjean, a girl living with her high-achieving academic parents and feeling like she’s not really fitting in. Plus, her mother is a little overbearing and a little too enmeshed in her daughter’s life. 

But back up a bit and the story actually begins in a starl interview room at a police station. The officer hounds Angela about a missing woman, whom she claims to have no knowledge of. What she ‘forgets’ to tell us is that missing woman is the wife of her first love, HP. 

Angela promises the officer she will tell him everything she knows if she is able to ‘go back to the beginning.’ He agrees, somewhat reluctantly, to hear her story. OUR LITTLE SECRET is one of those books where the backstory *becomes* the narrative; it’s a bit like a frame story in which the beginning and the end are tied together by a character looking back. 

I was completely intrigued with the mental games and present relationship between Angela and her mother. Keep a close eye on who you trust, on who you think the ‘our’ is in the title.

That said, there’s much to love about OUR LITTLE SECRET. It’s twisty, it’s dark, it’s winding and just plain evil at times. I found a handful of really fabulous lines and astute, poetic observations and psychological foreplay that left me a bit bewildered. 

I promise, OUR LITTLE SECRET is a dark, psychological thriller that will have you guessing till the very end. It’s not to be missed.

Please join me in welcoming Roz Nay to the blog couch:

Leslie Lindsay: Roz, congratulations on such a gripping debut. I’m always, always intrigued by what was haunting writers when they start out on a particular title. What was it for you?

Roz Nay: Thanks for hosting me! OUR LITTLE SECRET actually began as a homework assignment in a writing class my husband signed me up for because he wanted me to have a hobby. That’s quite funny now. Once the class was done, I couldn’t let go of Angela’s voice so I wrote the book in amongst the chaos of raising two children under five. It came at me in the snippets of time I could grab. I’d given up teaching high school in order to parent, and I missed the kids I used to teach and that sense of potential that hums around teenagers. I wanted to write a lonely story in the voice of woman who feels wronged, and who’s ended up not meeting any of her potential. In terms of being haunted by that, I think it’s ongoing: I’m always interested in the tragedies people bury, the losses they carry, or the lies they tell themselves and others. These might be themes that creep into every book I write because to me they just feel human and relatable.

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L.L.: There’s a lot of psychological tension throughout OUR LITTLE SECRET—and that’s a good thing! Did this come easy for you, or did you have to dig deep to bring that to the forefront? Did you do any research, for example, about first loves or mother-daughter relationships, or police interview techniques?

Roz Nay: First loves and mother-daughter relationships came ready-stocked for me! I actually wrote the book while my own daughter was four, so she’s very close to the character of Olive. My relationship with my mum is utterly different from the one in the book – I’m really close with my mum and had to do some fast talking when she read it! But the world as I see it is always full of tension – all of it psychological, not all of it negative – and I think writers steal moments every day from their own lives or other people’s. I’m always watching for dynamics when I sit anywhere in public, and I’ve heard some of the best lines of dialogue ever in coffee shops and bars. There’s nothing more interesting to me than what real people say in their lives, what they annotate. In fact, if you ever notice me sitting next to you in a coffee shop or a bar, you should probably whisper. Or move.


“In her debut novel, Roz Nay lures readers down a dark and tangled path that explores the aftereffects of lost first loves. Our Little Secret is a gripping addition to the psych thriller world.”
Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl


L.L.: So why do you think we cherish those first loves so dearly?

Roz Nay: I think it’s because they happen at a time when everything’s exploding into colour and sound. And there’s so much at stake in those years because it’s all so formative. When I think of myself at sixteen, I see how curious and trusting and new I was; and while I might have held on to some of those things, newness is by definition a one-time offer. That’s what makes first loves so tender, I think: we’ve never been anywhere like this before.

L.L.:   I’m curious about your writing process—the structure, in particular—was it your intention all along to delve into the past, or did it grow organically as you wrote?

Roz Nay: I definitely knew that Angela would want to tell a story different to the one that Novak needs. And I knew that I wanted to put the two characters into a confined space, and that this disconnect between the stories they tell/need would create most of the tension for them. My sense has always been that love stories very much enjoy the company of crime stories, and so the love triangle was also always with me from the start. There were a lot of pieces of the story that evolved as I wrote, and my editors helped me find my way through it all; but Angela arrived for me pretty fully-formed, and so in a sense I always knew what the end scene would be.

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L.L.: Did you ever get to the point in the early writing process where you wrote yourself into a corner, or felt you were spinning your wheels? What propelled you to move forward, when sometimes it’s so easy to throw in the towel?

Roz Nay: The interesting thing about this book is that it was signed with a different crime and a different victim. That’s quite a serious swerve.  It was only in edits that I realized I’d forgotten to ask myself the number-one-most-important question of my main character: what does she want? Yep, forgot that one. So there was a day mid-edits, where suddenly 40,000 words of the book had to be cut and on that day I thought to myself, right, Rozzy, sink or swim. I freaked out for about three hours, and then I sat down and started the rebuild. Because what else was I going to do? I couldn’t leave Angela in the lurch like that! All the way from the very beginning, hers was a story I wanted to tell and when you feel like that, it’s really just about sitting down each day and keeping going.


“A clever and addictive read that had me enthralled from the first chapter all the way to the shocking twist that left me breathless. I stayed in bed one lazy afternoon and polished it off, then stared up at my ceiling, stunned that it was over and still half in love with the characters. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a debut this good. Roz Nay is going to be a name we hear a lot of in the future.”
— Chevy Stevens, bestselling author of Still Missing


L.L.: What—or who—are your writing influences?

Roz Nay: I grew up on Enid Blyton mysteries and all the Nancy Drews. I had a well-developed crush on both of the Hardy boys. At 15, I read John Fowles’ THE COLLECTOR which has always stayed with me in terms of ultimate creepiness done really subtly, and for beautiful sentences I always go to Ian McEwan or Donna Tartt. I read a lot of psychological thrillers now and devour anything Jessica Knoll and Harriet Lane come up with. I also really like Andrew Pyper’s style but I can only read his books in the morning sunshine or I get nightmares. For real.

 

L.L.: Angela is obsessed with HP. What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Roz Nay: The book I cannot stop talking about this year is Thomas Christopher Greene’s THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE. [See Leslie’s interview with Thomas Christopher Greene here]. In my opinion it’s perfect and everyone I know is hearing that opinion often and relentlessly. I’m also obsessed with the TV show PEAKY BLINDERS although it’s not a new obsession. SHETLAND is also high on my list. My daughter has just started karate so my brain is shouting instructions in Japanese at me at night which is rather unsettling. And I’ve just discovered tamari almonds at the co-op so I’m buying those in bulk to stave off book 2 writing fatigue…

L.L.: Roz, it’s been a pleasure. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Like, your weekend plans, what you’re binge-watching (or eating!—Crème Brule almonds, anyone?), if you’re writing another book…

Roz Nay: Almonds are getting a lot of good press here! This weekend I plan to not attend a minor hockey event, which feels celebratory because I’ve been in attendance every weekend since October with both kids. In terms of books I’m working on, I’ve written another psychological thriller and it’s with my editors , and I’ve just had my pitch for book 3 approved, so that one’s starting to fizz in my brain, too. But this weekend I’ll be walking the dog, listening to Coldplay, and hanging out with my husband and kids. I love spring – it’s all about renewal! I might even clean the fridge so I’ll really feel like I have my life together.

 For more information, to connect with Roz via social media, or to purchase a copy of OUR LITTLE SECRET, please visit:

Order Links: 

Roz Nay_credit Lisa SeyfriedABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roz Nay grew up in England and studied at Oxford University. She has been published in The Antigonish Review and the anthology Refuge. Roz has worked as an underwater fish counter in Africa, a snowboard videographer in Vermont, and a high school teacher in both the UK and Australia. She now lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and two children.Our Little Secret is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter@roznay1 and on Facebook.com/roznay1.

 

 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and used with permission. Image of woman in interrogation room retrieved from, ‘the end’ from, image of Enid Blyton books from; all retrieved on 4.4.18].

Wednesdays with Writers: What if you disappeared–intentionally–following a natural disaster? Could you deceive everyone and get away with it? That’s what Catherine McKenzie explores–and so much more–in her new domestic suspense, THE GOOD LIAR

By Leslie Lindsay 

A Goodreads Hottest Thrillers of 2018 Selection

When tragedy strikes in a Chicago building, three women’s lives are thrust together in a tale of secrets, lies, and grief, in THE GOOD LIAR (Lake Union Publishing, April 3 2018)

The Good Liar
A year ago, Cecily (Lily) Grayson became the poster child for a horrifying explosion the ripped a Chicago building apart on October 10th. The media is calling this Triple Ten because it occurred at ten in the morning. Cecily was supposed to have been in the building that fateful day, but she wasn’t; she was late for a meeting. Her husband, Tom, worked in that building, so did her best friend, Kaitlyn. They both died.

Meanwhile, Franny Maycombe, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched in horror as that building went up in flames. She was desperate to reconnect and now, it looks like she’ll never have that opportunity.

Now, the anniversary of the explosion haunts the town. Documentaries are being made, memorials, and even a memory book, showcasing all 513 lives lost.

And yet, thousands of miles away, in Montreal, another woman is hiding some deep secrets. 

I found THE GOOD LIAR wholly original, delightfully twisted domestic suspense. The writing is razor-sharp, witty, and smart. McKenzie definitely has a gift for dialogue. In some ways, THE GOOD LIAR is more about ‘good,’ ‘better’ and ‘best,’ in terms of who can be the most deceiving. You decide.

“A riveting story that revolves around the aftermath of a national tragedy: three women, three separate yet deftly intertwined lives. I adored the look at the story behind the story, the background lives of the women we so often see in the news. The twists are shocking, the characters are well drawn but unpredictable, and the conclusion is as poignant as it is surprising. THE GOOD LIAR is thrilling, captivating, and not to be missed!”

—Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year
and The Blackbird Season

Please join me in welcoming Catherine McKenzie back to the blog couch.

Leslie Lindsay: Catherine, welcome back! I know the idea for this novel has been percolating for quite some time, with the thought, ‘what would happen if someone used a national tragedy to escape from their life?’ What an intriguing concept. Can you elaborate, please?

Catherine McKenzie: Thanks for having me! It’s perhaps awful to say but it is something that kind of haunts me every time I see a national tragedy on TV. I can’t help but wondering, what would you do if everyone thought you were supposed to be in the Twin Towers, for example, and you weren’t. Would you use that event to escape your own life? What would make you consider it. That’s one of the threads that I used in this book.

L.L.: And yet, you’ve said the writing came more difficult than others. What do you think contributed to that feeling and how were you able to muster through?

Catherine McKenzie: I had a deadline! I had some challenges in my personal life while I was writing this book and that took up a lot of the time and energy that I use to write. So I found myself having to write the last third of the book over my Christmas holiday which I did, but which was a bit stressful.

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L.L.: In many ways, THE GOOD LIAR is about deception born of tragedy. Or does tragedy lead to deception? It’s a bit chicken-and-egg. What are your thoughts?

Catherine McKenzie: I think that tragedy can reveal deception. Think of all the things someone might learn about you if you died or disappeared suddenly. Feeling nervous?

L.L.: THE GOOD LIAR is told from the POV of three different women: Kaitlyn, Cecily, and Franny. Is there one you connected with most? Or enjoyed writing more than the other?

Catherine McKenzie: Franny was fun to write because she was so different from my experience. It’s always fun to get in the shoes of a character who is so completely different than you.

L.L.: Did you write THE GOOD LIAR in a linear fashion, as the story unfolds, Point A to Point B, or did you write certain portions (characters) and then piece them together?

Catherine McKenzie: I always write in the order the story unfolds, whether that is linear or not – it’s linear to me! Sometimes I’ve shifted around events or chapters, though not in THE GOOD LIAR.

L.L.: Do you ever think about what might happen with your characters once you finish a novel? Or, do you sort of close the book and move on?

Catherine McKenzie: No, that’s how I know a book is finished. When I don’t have any questions about the characters in my mind anymore, I am ready to be done with them.

L.L.: Franny was obsessed with finding her birth mother. Cecily was obsessed with her failing marriage, and Kaitlyn was obsessed with running. What’s obsessing you these days, and do you think it’s important for characters to have an ‘obsession?’

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Catherine McKenzie: I think it’s important for characters to have a focal point. I think characters in books are characters in crisis, so their crisis is front and center and that can seem obsessional. I don’t think anything’s obsessing me at the moment, which must mean I’m not in crisis. Oh, wait… I have a book coming out!

L.L.: Catherine, it’s been a pleasure! Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

Catherine McKenzie: Nope! Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE GOOD LIAR, please see:

Order Links:

Catherine McKenzie credit Jason Trott © 2016ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine McKenzie, a graduate of McGill University, practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine’s novels Spin, Arranged, Forgotten, and Hidden are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. Hidden was an Amazon #1 best seller and a Digital Book World bestseller. Her fifth novel, Smoke, was an Amazon bestseller, a Goodreads Best Book for October 2015, and an Amazon Top 100 Book of 2015. Her sixth novel, Fractured, was a Goodreads Best Book for October and Fall 2016, a Buzzfeed Big Book of Fall 2016, and made numerous other Best Book lists including those for Real Simple, Redbook, PopSugar, and Read It Forward.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Kathleen Carter Communications and used with permission. Neurobiology of writing image retrieved from, image of laptop from, all images retrieved on 3.20.18]