Tag Archives: psych thriller

Wednesdays with Writers: Wendy Walker talks about breaking the cycle of narcissism in families, letting creative ideas in even when they deviate from the outline, hitting ‘send’ and more writing anxieties in her psychologically twisted tale, EMMA IN THE NIGHT

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By Leslie Lindsay 

Where does the truth lie and darkness begin? That is the question overarching this entire book, but there’s more: it’s about love, obsession, mental illness, jealousy, revenge, and so much more. 

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“We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe.” So begins EMMA IN THE NIGHT (Aug 8, St. Martin’s Press) and immediately, I was hooked. This is a voice-driven character and right away, I can tell she has a skewed version of the world. And what’s more intriguing than reading about an unreliable narrator?

Three years ago on a foggy night, 15 and 17-year-old sisters, Cass and Emma Tanner disappeared from their home, seemingly walking into the shore of the beach ala Virginia Woolf. Everyone suspects they’re dead…and the investigation has come to a stand-still.

And then, with just the clothes on her back, Cass returns home…without her sister. She talks of kidnapping and isolation, a mysterious island off the coast of Maine where the girls were held in a home by two strangers, a husband and a wife. But–her story doesn’t all add up. There are inconsistencies. There’s talk that maybe Cass isn’t operating on all four cylinders…

Told in alternating POVs–Cass’s (first-person) and also Dr. Abby Winter’s (third-person), EMMA IN THE NIGHT is a bit of a mind-bending, staggering read. I felt I was reading a bit slower than typical, fearing I’d miss something. The prose is hypnotic and disturbing, fragmented and I think this is intentional…because…

We’re dealing with a very dysfunctional blended family. 

Please join me and Wendy Walker as we delve into this heady read.

Leslie Lindsay: Wendy, it’s great to have you! So many times a story is brewing because it’s something we’ve lived. But in your acknowledgements section, you make it pretty clear EMMA IN THE NIGHT is not about you or your family. And that’s a good thing! What was the inciting moment for this story?  What did you seek to explore?

Wendy Walker: [EMMA IN THE  NIGHT] started with the concept of a young woman disappearing and then returning home. Something about that fascinated me – what it would be like to return, and how easy it would be for her to manipulate the truth about where she’s been and why she left. From there, I needed a reason for this woman to manipulate people – and that’s when I came up with the ending. Of course, I love to explore real issues and psychological illnesses. After reviewing my research notes, I landed squarely on narcissistic personality disorder (or NPD) because it just fit this story so perfectly! The entire plot was then built around the ending and the mental illness of NPD.

L.L.: The mother of Cass and Emma is most suffering from a pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is handled quite well and I *almost* felt as if I were reading an abnormal psych textbook, yet we were hearing things from forensic psychologist Abby Winter. Can you tell us a bit about your research? I think you nailed it, by-the-way, and I’m a former psych R.N. Also, full disclosure: I’m pretty sure my own mother suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Wendy Walker: That’s a relief – I always worry when experts and professionals read my descriptions of these illnesses! As a family law attorney with training as a guardian for children in custody disputes, I learned the basics about personality cb1fd2746c65c59894b241f7e802cbaf--abuse-quotes-a-quotes (1)disorders and how they affect children. From this base of knowledge, I launched into research using the Internet and also the mental health professionals who have been generous enough to consult with me. It was a real challenge to get the technical information across to the reader without slowing down the plot. However, I really wanted readers to understand the complexities of this illness, and especially how underneath the narcissist’s confident alter ego, lies a fractured, deeply insecure true ego. This understanding is essential to following the plot, and the huge twist at the end!

L.L.: And kidnappings! I have to say, I have a bit of a strange fascination with them, as I think others might too. Here’s why: it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Missing kids on milk cartons, the fear, the threat…you mention a couple of contemporary cases [in the book] in the media: the Cleveland, OH girls and also Elizabeth Smart. What can you tell us about your research into kidnappings for EMMA IN THE NIGHT and why do you think we have such a fascination with them?

Wendy Walker: The book started with this very fascination! I think there is something uniquely terrifying about being held against your will. Can I escape? What will happen if I try? Can I accept this as my new reality? How long will it last? Will someone find me? Maybe today? And, for those left behind with the loss but also the uncertainty, a unique kind of emotional torment. Is she dead? Is she alive? Is it easier to keep looking and clinging to hope? Or to give up and grieve? Will I ever find her? Will I find her today? I read a lot of Internet material about the psychological rollercoaster for those taken and those left behind and tried to construct the characters around that research. I also tried to put myself in Cass’s head – because, after all, she grew up in a highly dysfunctional family so her reactions would not be quite the same as another young woman.

“In this searing psychological thriller…Walker’s portrayal of the ways in which a narcissistic, self-involved mother can affect her children deepens the plot as it builds to a shocking finale.”

  Publishers Weekly (starred review)

L.L.: How do you write? Do you follow an outline or let the pen guide you?

Wendy Walker: I always try to have an outline, especially when I am building to an ending like the one in this novel. It’s so important to find that balance of delivering clues but not enough for readers to guess. Everything has to fit like a puzzle, with the last piece being hidden until the very end. As I go along, however, I do deviate from the plan as the characters take shape in my head and new ideas find themselves onto the page. Sometimes, if I like the new idea enough, I will go back and rewrite passages to support that new idea. It is the depth of the characters that really makes a book enjoyable, so I think this process of development and rewriting is just as important as having the tight outline for the plot.

L.L.: What is/are the best thing(s) an inspiring writer can do to hone his or her craft? 

Wendy Walker: Just keep writing! It is helpful to read as well, but once you find your voice, it’s more important to listen to what your readers say about that voice – what they like, what they find difficult – and then to fine tune it to make your work accessible to a wide audience. The goal with commercial fiction, I think, is to tell a great story in a way that a very broad audience can enjoy. And to do that requires constant fine tuning, rewriting, and listening to feedback from all sources.

L.L.: Can you tell us, without using complete sentences, what was going on in your life as you wrote EMMA IN THE NIGHT?

Wendy Walker: One year. Writing. Revising again and again. One son applying to all-is-not-forgotten-wendy-walker-paperback-1college. A new relationship with an old friend. General emotional chaos resulting. Launching ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN. Excited. Nervous. Major life changes on all fronts.

L.L.: You’re stories are often about scary things: kidnappings, mental illness, violence, lost memories. What scares you about writing?

Wendy Walker: There is a twinge of terror every time I sit before a blank screen to write a new page. Even though writers are portraying made up characters, the thoughts and words and actions of those characters have to come from somewhere inside the writer’s head. I don’t think we ever stop feeling vulnerable when we put those things on a page and let others read them! There is also fear after hitting “send” – whether to a trusted reader, agent or editor. Is it any good? Does it work? Is it moving fast enough? Fear of failure with something as subjective as writing never leaves me. And then – the worst terror of all – setting the book free in the world of readers and reviewers. Sometimes I think I need thicker skin for this business! But then I’m not sure I would be able to reach the emotional depths that I like to weave into my work. In my next life – maybe a career as an accountant!

L.L.: Wendy, it’s been a pleasure! Before I let you go, is there anything else I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Like, what’s left on your summer to-do list, your nightstand reading, what you ate for dinner last night, if you’re writing another book, and if you miss practicing law? [you don’t have to answer all of those!]

Wendy Walker:  Back to school shopping. Karin Slaughter’s THE GOOD DAUGHTER. Steak. Yes. No. Seriously, I think something most readers find surprising about a writer’s life is that it is nowhere near as seamless as it appears on our social media pages! Most of us are sitting at a desk, still in pajamas, pounding coffee or Red Bull, feeling anxious about a blank screen, a deadline, reviews, sales numbers, or a plot that just won’t come together. We clean up for events and photos, but then we are right back to work. It has huge ups and huge downs and can be very isolating. Even so, I wouldn’t trade this career for anything – I fought for it for many years and I am very grateful for every person who buys and reads one of my books!

For more information, to connect with Wendy Walker via social media, or to purchase a copy of EMMA IN THE NIGHT, please visit:

Purchase EMMA IN THE NIGHT here:

Wendy-Walker-Headshot-350wABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendy Walker is a former family law attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten. Her second thriller, Emma In The Night, will be released August 8, 2017.

Wendy earned her J. D., magna cum laude, at the Georgetown University Law Center where she was awarded  the American Jurisprudence award for her performance in Contracts and Advanced Criminal Procedure.  She received her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University and attended The London School of Economics and Political Science as part of her undergraduate studies.

Prior to her legal career, Wendy was a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co., in the mergers and acquisitions group. She has also volunteered at the ACLU, Connecticut Legal Services and Figure Skating in Harlem where she served on the Board of Directors for over twelve years.

Wendy is currently writing her third thriller while managing a busy household.

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

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website. Image of narcissistic personality disorder quote retrieved from Pinterest no source noted, all on 8.8.17]

 

Wednesdays with Writers: In her fourth book of domestic suspense Mary Kubica tackles a grieving young mother, a marriage rife with secrets, and the dark folds of one’s mind in EVERY LAST LIE, set in the western Chicago suburbs

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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] 

 

Writers on Wednesday: Gilly Macmillan on the challenges of a sophomore novelist, finding inspiration from real-life, getting to the truth in fiction, never tiring of new ideas, and more in her domestic thriller THE PERFECT GIRL

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By Leslie Lindsay 

Last year, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Gilly Macmillan burst onto the scene with her critically acclaimed and Edgar-nominated debut, WHAT SHE KNEW.  She returns this fall (William Morrow, September 6 2016), with THE PERFECT GIRL, her second hypnotic literary domestic psych thriller. Perfect Girl
Set in Bristol, in the southwest corner of England, a beautiful young piano prodigy (Zoe) is living a privileged Second Chance Life with her blended family, consisting of her mother, step-father, step-brother (also a pianist) and new baby (half) sister, Grace. Lurking under the surface, however are some dark secrets Zoe Maisey and her mother are harboring. Though she has a genius IQ and can play the piano darn well, moments from the past continue to haunt both she and her mother, events so tragic the mother hasn’t even told her new husband–demanding Zoe to do the same. But the cat is out of the bag fairly early in the book when someone from Zoe’s past shows up at performance at a local church.Twenty-four hours later, her mother is dead. Macmillan’s writing is razor-sharp, blending suspense and a compelling plot, told by various POVs as the aftermath of Zoe’s mother’s death unfold. I flipped the pages at a frantic pace as I wanted—demanded—to know what really happened. Macmillan does a fine job of breathing breath into different characters and highlighting blended families, domestic violence, infidelity, substance abuse, moving forward with one’s life, and the extent to which we go to maintain our secrets, and perhaps, even our innocence.

So, join me as I sit down with Gilly and chat all things writing and THE PERFECT GIRL.

Leslie Lindsay: Gilly, thrilled to have you back to discuss your second book. Thank you for taking the time to pop by. I had a tough time putting this one down. I was reading with a frantic clip and I’m curious, was it that way for you too, as you were writing? What ultimately inspired this story?

Gilly Macmillan: Thank you so much for having me!  I’m thrilled to be back and delighted to hear that you enjoyed THE PERFECT GIRL.  You’re right, I did write it at a bit of a frantic clip.  I think it was partly because it’s such a claustrophobic set-up in the book, and set over such a short time-frame, that it rewarded that kind of immersive approach to the writing.

The inspiration behind the story was a real-life case that I heard about a few years ago.  It concerned a teenage girl who was sent to jail after being convicted of causing the death of some friends in a car crash, just like Zoe in the book.  This girl served her time, but never got back on track after that, in spite of having a loving and supportive family.  I was so saddened by the story, and by the idea that a foolish teenage mistake could result in such a devastating life-altering outcome.  The idea for the book took off when I began to wonder what might happen if you tried to move on after that: who would you become, and how would you make a future?

L.L.: I’ve heard some second-and –third-time authors lament about how challenging subsequent books can be to write. WHAT SHE KNEW thundered out of the gates and seemed to become an over-night success. Can you give a little glimpse into the world of a sophomore novelist? The challenges and also the benefits?

Gilly Macmillan: The world of a sophomore novelist is a strange place.  Sometimes thrilling, but often terrifying!  The learning curve is steep when your first book goes out into the world.  I was advised to write my second novel before the first was published and I was very glad I did because the promotion work and all of the other things that happen around publication can be very distracting and time-consuming. 

The challenges of writing my second book included writing to a deadline and for an audience that was wider than just myself and my regular readers (who were my husband and my writing partner) for the first time.  I felt under a spotlight in a way that was new WHAT SHE KNEWand threatened to feel uncomfortable at first.  My solution was to tell myself to hold my nerve (this is my mantra!  Sometimes hourly!) and write a book that I would like to read myself.  That’s how I got through WHAT SHE KNEW, and it was the key to writing THE PERFECT GIRL as well.

The advantages were many.  I had had no instruction on how to write when I started WHAT SHE KNEW so I made a ton of mistakes during the writing process that took a lot of time and patience to correct during edits.  However, that rather painful experience meant that I had a much better understanding of structure and pacing and the whole craft of writing a novel right as I worked on THE PERFECT GIRL.  It was good to feel that I’d learned a lot and meant that the editing process was much smoother.

“With tightly drawn characters, a fascinating storyline and absolutely exquisite narration, THE PERFECT GIRL is sure to keep readers up at night. Gilly Macmillan proves once again to be a master of the written word and is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors. Literary suspense at its finest.”

—Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Baby

L.L.: I have to applaud your attention and sensitivity to emotionally shaken adolescents in THE PERFECT GIRL. In my former life, I was a psych R.N. working in a place quite similar to what you refer to as ‘The Unit.’ Can you talk about how you developed this piece of the narrative and what did your research consist of?

Gilly Macmillan: Thank you.  It’s very important to me to try to remain as sensitive as possible to my characters and the situations they find themselves in, so it means a lot to hear that.  In terms of research, for starters I read everything I could find about teenage incarceration.  The material I found included first-hand accounts of the experience of being incarcerated written by teenagers, interviews with people who had worked with young people in detention units, and government inspection reports of juvenile detention centers.  I wanted to try to understand the system from every angle I could so I also did face-to-face research.  I interviewed a solicitor friend about how the law might treat teenagers in Zoe’s situation and also spoke to two retired detectives.  Additionally, I visited a police custody suite, spent a morning in court, sat in on a police interview with an adult who was under arrest, and visited an adult prison.  It was only after I’d done all of that that I felt able to try to imagine what Zoe’s experience might have been like and put it into her words.  What I learned during this process made fascinating but also very difficult material and certainly made me feel somewhat desperate about how we treat some of our teenagers and young people who are in detention.

L.L.: In fact, there’s a lot of issues that pop up in THE PERFECT GIRL: divorce/re-marriage, blended families, infidelity, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and secret-keeping. In fact, I think there’s a line in the book that goes something like, ‘A good lie is one that is very close to the truth.’ When we write about all of the things that make up the world we live in—even these not-so-pretty-things, I think there’s that much truth in our fiction. Can you talk about that, please?

Gilly Macmillan: Truth in fiction is something that I think about a lot, and something that I’m always striving for.  It’s one of the reasons I love to write in first person and it’s why I take my research very seriously.  I think the best fiction in any genre can tell us something about ourselves and our world, however uncomfortable, and the act of reading gives us time to reflect on those things. images

I try very hard to write characters whose predicaments grip us emotionally because there’s something recognizable and true in them.  I think there’s room for that in crime and thriller writing, alongside intricate plotting and all of the other devices we can use to pull a story along.  If the story isn’t tugging at the reader’s feelings in some way, I don’t think I’ve done my job.

L..L.: In what ways were you influenced by some of the teen culture mentioned in THE PERFECT GIRL?

Gilly Macmillan:  My children are teenagers (well, almost, in the case of the youngest) so I’m surrounded by teen culture at home and I’m always surprised at how much of it is based around what’s online.  I love it and I loathe it!  I think it can be wonderful when they make connections with new people and share recommendations and ideas online.  It’s a completely new way of creating and maintaining friendships and experiencing popular culture, and so different from my generation’s experience of being a teenager.  Having said that, I’m also afraid of its darker side, as many parents are.  I researched some nasty message sites as I was writing THE PERFECT GIRL and was shocked by the severity of some of the bullying that can go on.

Online teen culture felt like a really important part of Zoe’s story, especially as she’s rather shielded from it by her family and perhaps, as a result, a bit more naïve when she encounters it.  I think there’s some safety to be found in education around online culture, though it’s probably impossible to protect our teenagers from all of the pitfalls.  It’s certainly a rich source of material for psych thriller writers as a result.

L.L.: And since I’ve typed the title a handful of times, I have to ask, what are your thoughts on all of these books coming out in the last four years or so with ‘girl’ in the title? Because at one time, this book was originally called BUTTERFLY IN THE DARK.

Gilly Macmillan: ‘Girl’ titles are definitely a ‘thing’ right now, aren’t they?  The book was originally going to come out in the UK under the title BUTTERFLY IN THE DARK cover_bitdbut it was decided, rightly, that having different titles here and in the US can be confusing.  When THE PERFECT GIRL was first suggested I was pleased because I think it’s a great fit for the book, and for Zoe’s character, regardless of the trend for ‘girl’ titles.  I would like to think that ‘girl’ titles have become popular because we’re living in a time when we’re developing (finally!) more positive associations with the word.  ‘Girl’ nowadays can mean somebody feisty and brave and smart and engaging, and I think that qualifies it immediately as a potentially interesting title for a book. 

L.L.: What are you working on next?

Gilly Macmillan:  I’m working on a sequel to WHAT SHE KNEW which sees the return of Detective Inspector Jim Clemo.  He has a new case to work on, which involves two teenage boys who are involved in an incident that leaves one dangerously ill after almost drowning and the other so shocked that he’s unable to speak about what happened.  It’s been great to return to a character I know so well and am very fond of and it’s an exciting challenge to write a follow on for him.

L.L.: What’s keeping you awake these days? What’s inspiring you? It doesn’t have to be literary, but if it is, then by all means…

Gilly Macmillan: That’s a tough question!  I sometimes feel as if my mind will never rest, there’s so much to think about and so much going on the world at the moment.  In terms of writing, I was inspired a great deal by a book I read last year called ALL INVOLVED by Ryan Gattis It’s a brilliant, heart-breaking, raw story of what happens during the LA riots while the police are occupied and some of the gang neighborhoods are left essentially lawless.  My third book is the thing that’s keeping me up at night at the moment.  I can spend hours fretting over characters or plot points, and even in the small hours I feel compelled to write down any ideas I have right then and there because if I don’t they’re gone by the morning!

L.L.: What question have you been asked a lot lately?

Gilly Macmillan: I’m often asked if I think I’ll be able to keep having ideas for new books.  The answer is ‘yes’!  I find life, and people, so endlessly fascinating that I’m sure that, all being well, I’ll be finding stories that I’d like to tell and characters that I’d love to explore for a very long time.

L.L.: Gilly, just a pleasure as always! Thank you!

Gilly Macmillan: You’re very welcome, it’s been a pleasure.  Thank you so much for having me!

For more information, or to connect with Gilly on social media, please see: 

Website

Twitter: @GillyMacmillan

Facebook 

“Tightly focused and fast-paced. You won’t rest until you really know what happened.”

—Lisa Ballantyne, author of The Guilty One, on What She Knew

Gilly Macmillan -¬Gilly Macmillan.JPGAuthor Bio: Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full time. She resides in Bristol, England.

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

GoodReads

Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter

Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1

[Special thanks to L. Truskowski. Cover(s) and author image courtesy of William Morrow and used with permission. Truth and fiction quote by Stephen King image retrieved from on 8.24.16]

Write On, Wednesday: Mary Kubica on her stunning new book, DON’T YOU CRY, scrapped manuscripts, abandoned houses, being cat crazy, & so much more!

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By Leslie Lindsay

It seems Mary Kubica has had a quick rise to prominence. But once you get to know her, you’ll know its not exactly glittery stardust that got her to the top.9780778319054.indd

From writing in secret (her words, not mine) when her kids were just preschoolers, to getting a call from an agent two years after the first read of her debut THE GOOD GIRL (see my earlier interviews of Mary in 2014 and 2015), and then feeling as if she can’t possibly maintain her schedule of volunteering at the animal shelter, writing, raising kids, and everything else that goes into her busy life, Kubica returns with an electrifying and terrifying tale of deceit and obsession.

It’s stunning, creepy, and brilliant. 

I was reading away and thinking I had it all figured out. Maybe. Possibly. Oh, but wait…maybe not. DON’T YOU CRY (forthcoming, May 17th) is Complex, unpredictable, and masterful.

I’m so thrilled to have Mary pop over for a cup of coffee and chat about her new book and everything in between.

Leslie Lindsay: It’s great to have you back, Mary! I know we talked about DON’T YOU CRY when you were in the very early stages of writing, but at the time, your main concern was that the characters were a bit younger than your other two books. Still, I’m not sure I ever learned what really sparked your interest in this story. Can you share?

Mary Kubica: As with my two earlier novels, that first spark of inspiration is always some unintentional and underdeveloped idea that pops into my mind.  With The Good Girl, it was a kidnapping; with Pretty Baby, it was a vision of a young homeless girl with a baby.  When I began writing Don’t You Cry, I was intrigued by the notion of tracking the simultaneous disappearance of a woman with the appearance of a woman in another town, though I didn’t know who all the characters would be, or how their lives would intersect.  These were details I figured out during the writing process.  But Don’t You Cry came together differently than the rest of my books.  As I was on a tight deadline thanks to a scrapped manuscript and trying hard to make up for lost time, I wrote it in record time for me, finishing a draft in about three months and writing with an urgency I’ve never had before.  I think the storyline itself mimics my own frantic writing during this time.

L.L.: And so the character’s ages…was that a challenge in the end?

Mary Kubica: My second novel, Pretty Baby, has a heavy dose of marital conflict, family strife and the difficulties of motherhood worked in.  I intentionally wanted to take a step back from this and delve into the world of a different generation for Don’t You Cry.  In this novel, the main characters are twenty-three-year-old, Quinn, and eighteen-year-old, Alex, and though Alex is young, he’s mature beyond his age.  Quinn was the one who was more of a challenge for me to write because she’s carefree, sometimes making rash decisions, living in that time of her life when she’s just starting to figure out the realities of adulthood and has few responsibilities in life.  That said, she is a likeable girl and I know there are aspects of her young life I see in my own.  I think readers will easily relate to her struggles of growing up and coming to terms with adulthood.

If you haven’t read Mary Kubica yet, you need to start right this minute, with DON’T YOU CRY. This riveting psychological thriller had me turning the pages at warp-speed and kept me rooting for its heroine, the completely relatable Quinn Collins, who sets out to uncover the truth about her seemingly-perfect female roommate after the roommate mysteriously vanishes. The plot twists and turns more than Single White Female on steroids, and both women characters are crafted with emotional intelligence and extraordinary talent. Mary Kubica is a must-read for me, and she will be for you, too.

~ Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author of Every Fifteen Minutes

L.L.: You have such a way with the city—that is, downtown Chicago—that I don’t have, even though we’re both suburbanites to the same city. I don’t know what “L” stops take me to Cermack or where Farragut Avenue is located. I couldn’t tell you about the coffee shop at Clark and Berwyn, but you can. Is there a lot of research that goes into this, or is it just you and your super-power knowledge of being a Chicagoan?

Mary Kubica: Immediately after college, I rented a studio apartment in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood and worked at a law firm in the Loop – much like the one Quinn also works in – while finishing up my teaching degree.  I took public transportation to work and school, and so, though I’m a typical suburbanite these days, I have a prior knowledge of how the city works and feels.  That said, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be, and so I also spend a good amount of time scouring the CTA website for information when I write.  Many of the structures I mention – the coffee shop at Clark and Berwyn, for example, or the book store where Esther works – are completely fictional, and so the end result is a combination of prior knowledge, some research and a little imagination.

L.L.: And then we hop-skip to the other side of the lake, to a sleepy little Michigan resort town where we meet Alex Gallo, the young dishwasher who falls under the spell of a mysterious young woman. I felt this place very strongly. The cool November wind, the deserted streets after everyone left at the end of the season, the metaphorical chill. Do you feel as though setting often becomes character?

Mary Kubica: Setting is very important to me, and plays a central role in all of my novels.  I want readers to feel as though they’re there in my books, living beside the characters’ lives.  As a Chicagoan, I spent many summers vacationing on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan in towns like St. Joseph and South Haven, and some of my fondest memories of childhood involve climbing the sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park (a must if you’ve never been!) and walking along the shores of Lake Michigan.  The Michigan town in Don’t You Cry is a fictional composite of all of these towns, and serves as a contrast to the hustle and bustle of urban Chicago life.

L.L.: There’s an abandoned house that pops up in Michigan. Oh, how they fascinate me! Was there a real-life inspiration for this, or did it just magically appear for you?abandonedhousesinMichigan

Mary Kubica: This home fascinated me as well!  When I started writing the novel, it was completely fictional, but as soon as I realized the house was going to play a much more significant role, it became my mission to get the look and feel of the home just right.  I did research and found some older, abandoned homes in the towns around mine, and visited them to be sure I got the details right, the way the homes sunk at their bases; the cracked concrete foundations; the vines that snaked around the exterior of the homes, barring any natural light from entering the inside.  I found it captivating to imagine the family that once lived there, and to wonder what happened to them, and why the homes were now abandoned.  There wasn’t any one home in particular that became the inspiration for Genevieve’s home, but rather bits and pieces from an assortment of abandoned homes.         

L.L.: Speaking of which, I know you’re not a plotter. Does that help you in the writing process…to create a sense of surprise and urgency on your part? Is it a hindrance? Do you ever discard major portions of your work after you’ve played around with it and have found the ultimate direction?

Mary Kubica: You’re right, I am not a plotter, and try hard not to overthink my novels ahead of time but rather to create the characters and give them free reign to tell their stories to me.  As a writer I have the moments of writer’s block, of course, but by not planning it all out in advance, the novels have what feels to me to be a more natural flow rather than a premediated one.  There are many times the paths the stories take surprise me, and I find this thrilling as an author, though without fail, there are also things I end up revising or deleting because the direction of the book changes throughout the process.

L.L.: There are some dark, grisly scenes in DON’T YOU CRY. And I look at you and think, no…not this sweet gal with two young kids and a cat for every member of the family. But insinuating yourself into the minds of…well, crazy, sinister people is kind of fun. Can you speak to that, please?

Mary Kubica: Well, anyone who has four cats probably has to be a little bit crazy!  Truthfully though, it’s fascinating to me to be able to get into the minds of characters who are far different than me, whether it’s eighteen-year-old Alex with his incompetent and alcoholic father, working overtime to make sure they don’t lose their home, or someone who is dark and sinister and evil.  It’s fun, and suffice to say, my characters’ lives are often far more interesting than my own.  With them, I get to step out of my comfort zone, use a little creative license and imagine what it would be like if I wasn’t the average suburban mom with two kids and a houseful of cats.

L.L.: What are you working on next?

Mary Kubica: I’ve just finished a draft of my next novel, which is yet untitled.  This one should release in the summer of 2017.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

L.L.: What are you currently reading?

Mary Kubica: I just finished devouring Kimberly McCreight’s THE OUTLIERS and Megan Abbott’s YOU WILL KNOW ME, which release this spring and summer.  They’re both absolutely fascinating books and ones I would highly recommend.  Up next on my to list is JUNE by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.  I loved her last book, BITTERSWEET, and cannot wait to give this is a read.

L.L.: What might be obsessing you now and why?

Mary Kubica: My next project is where my obsession lies these days.  As with most of my books, I get completely swallowed up by the characters and their stories, and have trouble quieting them down when I’m not actively writing.  But I’m also obsessing over this season of American Idol, getting ready to launch Don’t You Cry, and counting down the days until summer.  It can’t get here soon enough!

L.L.: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Mary! Such a pleasure, as always.

 Mary Kubica: Thank you so much for having me, Leslie.  It’s always wonderful to visit.

Mary Kubica author photo credit Sarah JastreBio: Mary Kubica is the New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL (2014) and PRETTY BABY (2015).  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children.  DON’T YOU CRY is her third novel.Follow Mary on:

[Cover and author images courtesy of  E. Flounders at MIRA. Abandoned house image retrieved from on 2.29.16 and has no direct link to DON’T YOU CRY or Mary Kubica] 

Write On, Wednesday: Fiona Barton on her breakout debut THE WIDOW, adrenaline rushes, self-imposed deadlines, & feeling tearful after writing a first chapter

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By Leslie Lindsay 

In today’s cyber-media-crazed world, we have so much access–not just about the world around us, but are able to delve deep into the inner workings of the seedier sides of life through chat rooms and voyeuristic opportunities into the black market, sex trade, drugs, and so much more. It’s disturbing, to say the least. 9781101990261 (1)

In a compelling debut, sold at frenzied auctions in 30+ countries, THE WIDOW (New American Library, Hardcover; Feb 2016) is destined to become an international bestseller. The Wall Street Journal calls THE WIDOW, “One of five contenders for this year’s biggest thriller.”

Just how well do you really know someone? What secrets live within a marriage and what might be buried under that glossy veneer? Fiona Barton’s stunning debut delves right into the heart of those questions, a haunting domestic thriller with a fascinating examination of the darker sides of marriage and addiction.

Jean Taylor is the widow of a man who may be a killer. The worst kind: a pedophile. Though never convicted, Glen Taylor was the prime suspect in a horrific crime captivating people across England. Now, a week after his death, investigative journalist Kate Waters appears at Jean’s door seeking answers.

We all want answers—and they come to us in the form of an interlocking narrative, in past and present voices—some of which may be more truthful than others.

Today, I am humbled to sit down with Fiona Barton and have a cup of tea while we chat all things THE WIDOW.

Leslie Lindsay: Thank you for taking the time to pop by, Fiona. I am so taken with THE WIDOW. I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities, the opportunities, the fall-out. What was obsessing you enough to sit down and write this story?

Fiona Barton: As a journalist, I spent a lot of time in court. In the big cases, I would find myself watching the wives of those accused of notorious and terrible crimes and wondering what they really knew–or allowed themselves to know. I wondered: how do you cope with the idea that your husband–the man you chose to live with–may be a monster? THE WIDOW grew out of that fascination and has taken me on an unexpected journey.

L.L.: Would you describe this story as one about an abduction, or one about truth as we see it? Is it a little of both? Can you speak to that, please

Fiona Barton: Both, really but it started in my head as a story about a marriage with secrets. I was interested in what people really knew about those they imagined they knew best and how they coped when everything they believed was turned upside down. The crime came later and I chose the abduction of a child because I wanted an act that exposes our most basic emotional responses.

L.L.: As a writer, I often hear a voice, see an image, or become fixated on a character’s name before I even get writing. Was there a particular image, name, or voice that kept calling to you in THE WIDOW?

Fiona Barton: Jean. She was always there. I could hear her voice from the start. She is the widow in the title and the phrases she used, her thoughts, her distress, her disbelief had been echoing in my head. Hers was a compelling presence and when I finally stopped thinking about it and finally wrote it down, tapping away on an old laptop in a flat in Colombo (my husband and I were volunteers in Sri Lanka with VSO at the time), I felt chilled, despite the 30 degree heat. Jean was saying the words I had written in my head for her but it was as if I was hearing them for the first time.

I remember straightening hunched shoulders after a lost couple of hours, realizing it had got dark outside and feeling slightly tearful. Ridiculous, but it felt such an act of faith, writing that first chapter.

L.L.: I had to chuckle a bit when I read the setting of THE WIDOW being Southampton, England. My oldest daughter is completely taken with the Titanic and somehow—at least once a day—I read or hear some reference to the ocean liner. Can you describe the city a bit more for readers?

Fiona Barton: Southampton is a large port and university town in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Its main claim to fame is the fact that the ill-fated Titanic set sail from its dockside – and members of my family live there. I chose it because I wanted to set the book in places I know personally so I can walk the streets in my head rather than on Google Earth.

L.L.: There’s a part in THE WIDOW where Kate Waters, the reporter is writing down the story after her interview with Jean. “She was a plunger, not a planner, when it came to writing[…]some of her colleagues sat with their notebooks, marking quotes[…]underlining points[…]numbering paragraphs[…]others, ‘the real talent’—she acknowledged to herself—wrote the whole thing in their heads over a coffee or beer and then threw it down on the page in one beautiful, flowing draft.” This is really a long way of asking: are you a planner or a plunger?

 Fiona Barton: I am an unashamed plunger. I do write in my head before I put my fingers on the keyboard but I don’t make copious notes. I sit at my laptop and plough on and then review. Feels a bit dangerous at times – like walking a tightrope – but adrenaline is a great motivator.

L.L.: I’m sure much of the inspiration for Kate’s character came from your own experiences working for The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Are you still working as a journalist, or are you focusing primarily on fiction?

Fiona Barton: I stopped working as a journalist in 2008, when I went as a volunteer with VSO, to work with reporters in Sri Lanka. Since then, I have continued training and supporting journalists in exile and working under physical threat in their own countries. It has allowed me to work with some incredibly brave and committed reporters all over the world.

L.L.: Writing is such a fun—but timely pursuit. And then you add in all of the self-doubt, the outside work, family obligations, well it’s a wonder a book ever comes out in the end. What were some of your writing “demons?” What can writers do to overcome them?

Fiona Barton: My main challenge was finding the time to write. I was brilliant at making a million excuses not to sit at my desk and write – my job, my family, the need to sort out cupboards – but two things happened to get me on track. The first was a proper deadline. As a former journalist, I found I needed one and the thought of missing one is the stuff of nightmares. That is not to say that I don’t skid up the finishing line occasionally…

The second was a placement in Myanmar (formerly Burma) for six months. In exile from my everyday life, I found a rhythm, getting up early to write before the day started. 

download (31)Obviously, going to Myanmar is not an option for everyone but what I brought home from that trip was the idea of writing in bed. It is not laziness or decadence (honest!) but if I get up, I get distracted immediately so I stay put, fresh from dreams, and try to write for at least two hours.

L.L.: What can we expect from you in the future? Are you writing more fiction?

Fiona Barton: I am deep into my second book with Kate Waters, the reporter, back as a narrator. I never thought of writing a series – The Widow was a story that came to me – but there has been such a response from readers to Kate and journalists in general that I have explored her character further. And Bob Sparkes makes an appearance…

L.L.: What is obsessing you now and why?

Fiona Barton: See above…[there’s] no time for anything else!

L.L.: Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

Fiona Barton: Hummm…I’m not telling…

L.L.: Fiona, it was a pleasure having you. Thanks for the lovely chat.

Fiona Barton: Thank you, Leslie

For more information, or to follow on social media: 

Twitter: @figbarton

Join the conversation using #TheWidow

Website: http://www.fionabartonauthor.com 

FionaBarton-shot02-JennyLewis-33 higherAuthor Bio: Fiona Barton lived for many years in London where she worked as a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at The Daily Telegraph, and as chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards. Since leaving her job in 2008 to volunteer in Sri Lanka, Barton has trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world. Born in Cambridge, England, she now lives in southwest France with her husband and is currently at work on a second book.

[Special thanks to L. Jaggers at Penguin RandomHouse/NAL. Author image credit: Jenny Lewis. Cover image and author image used with permission. Myanmar image retrieved from on 4.14.16]

 

Write On, Wednesday: Interview with Suzanne Redfearn, Author of HUSH LITTLE BABY

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By Leslie Lindsay

In a grippingly honest and electrifying debut, author Suzanne Redfearn has taken us on a horrific journey through the madness and terror of being a victim of domestic violence. The story is masterfully told, the pacing relentless, and the observations terribly realistic. In fact, you may find it a challenging read given the content at times. Still, it’s such an important book to open our eyes to the truth that lies behind some closed doors.

L.L.: Suzanne, thank you so much for being with us today. I was so taken with HUSH LITTLE BABY (Grand Central, Oct 2013), that I found it hard to read, while simultaneously hard to put down. Can you explain how you were able to craft a story that was both heart-wrenching and insightful?

Suzanne Redfearn: Thank you for hosting me and for your kind words.

I kept a box of tissues beside my computer. Just as reading a story that is heart-wrenching can be difficult, so is writing it. The characters become real, and you feel for them the way you do for real people. Part of the emotions come from knowing that, while you are writing fiction, the story is based on reality. This story was inspired by a friend who was going through a difficult divorce, and the characters and a lot of the storyline were based on hundreds of testimonials I read from women who were in abusive relationships. So the compassion I felt as I was writing and that I hope the readers feel when they are reading it is not only for my characters but for all the victims who suffer in similar situations.

L.L.: I was completely touched by the ‘author’s note’ at the end of the book in which you talk about a friend of yours going through a similar experience as the protagonist, Jillian. “My life is good…but what if…” seems to be a common thread throughout much of the book and fiction in general. Can you speak to that?

Suzanne Redfearn: This idea started with three lines written on a napkin during a dinner with the friend you mentioned: 1) Marital sabotage 2) Custody 3) Evil appears good; good appears evil. The idea of what one spouse could do to another was haunting. What if? What if my husband turned on me? What if he wanted to get custody of the kids? He knows my secrets, my failings, my vulnerabilities. What if he were able to convince everyone I was a bad parent, dangerous, unstable? These are universal fears every mother can relate to and which my friend was unfortunately experiencing. Once I had those three lines, I knew I had the germ of an idea for a story that would resonate universally.

L.L.: Domestic violence is such a sticky subject. In some cases, it seems the only logical answer is to run, just like Jillian in HUSH LITTLE BABY. But that’s harder said than done, no matter the resources a person may have. Why is that, in your opinion?

Suzanne Redfearn: The control tactics abusers uses to keep a woman from leaving are paralyzing. One of my goals in writing this story was to expose the truth about domestic violence and how difficult it is to escape. I purposely made Jillian a strong woman who is financially well off. I did not want her to be a stereotypical abuse victim because, the truth is, there is no “type”. The physical, emotional and psychological intimidation abusers use to control their victims are not dependent on wealth, race, or education. Everyone is susceptible regardless of their station in life. Abusers isolate and trap their victims, cut them off from resources that would allow them to flee, make them feel worthless, demoralize them, threaten what they care about most—family members and their children. Viewing the situation from the outside, it might seem cowardice when a victim stays, but in truth, it is often the opposite—the victim remains as a valiant act of martyrdom, heroically enduring the abuse in order to protect their children or others. I am a strong, professional woman…I am a mother…before I wrote this book, I believed, Never, not me. Now I know, I am not immune, merely lucky. Jillian could be any of us, she could be my daughter, my mother, my friend—she could be me.

L.L.: I have to say I got a little connected to the folks in Oregon, Paul and Goat. What do you think became of them in the end?

Suzanne Redfearn: It’s funny how I get asked that all the time. Paul and Goat are two of my favorite characters as well, especially Paul because he is the antithesis or Gordon, a guy who has been in trouble with the law and who appears dangerous but who is wholly good. I’m very glad the Flying Goat and all the Oregon characters came into my life and that I got to enjoy their company for the months I was working on the story. I imagine they continued as they were when Jillian found them, flowing through life in a way that makes me a little jealous, content and at peace with who they are.

L.L.: Switching gears a bit, I’m curious about some of the architectural references in Laguna Beach—and if they actually exist. You speak of Jillian’s parent’s home—“a Normandy Revival cottage with a wavy Cotswold roof” as being on the home tour in the northern part of Laguna Beach. Is there really such a house—and tour?

Suzanne Redfearn: There are several cottages in Laguna that fit the description. One of the founders of Laguna Beach was a man by the name of Joe Jahraus and he had served overseas in World War II. He brought the architecture home with him, establishing a design vernacular that can be seen throughout the town. The restaurant my husband and I own, Lumberyard Restaurant, was built by Joe and his son in 1916 and it uses Normandy Revival architecture and has a Cotswold roof. [image retrieved from Laguna Beach Best on 2.5.15]

L.L.: As a first time novelist—and former architect—what advice do you have for others looking to break into the publishing world? Did you take classes to hone your skills? How long did it take to write HUSH LITTLE BABY? And could you speak to the submission process?

Suzanne Redfearn: Write, write, write. HUSH LITTLE BABY was my fifth novel. The first one got me my agent, but he wasn’t able to sell it. The next two weren’t good debut novels. The one after that was a Christmas novel, which I found out after I wrote it, no one wants to buy because the shelf life is limited. HUSH LITTLE BABY was the one that made it through the gauntlet. I wrote it in a panic, afraid I would lose my agent if I didn’t give him something he could sell. It took me four months.

If you know how to tell stories and you have something to say and you are determined, you can learn the rest. I didn’t know how to “write” when I started, I only knew how to tell a story, so that’s what I did. I told a story, then I went to the bookstore and I bought every book I could find on the craft of writing, and I set about fixing what I wrote. I have no idea what advice to give regarding breaking into this crazy world. It feels like it’s a combination of perseverance, luck, and talent—talent being the least important of the three. My first novel is as good as my fifth, but that one didn’t sell. It was luck as much as anything that my query landed in the hands of the great Nick Ellison, an agent who embraces stories that are out of the box. He likes HUSH LITTLE BABY but didn’t fall in love with it the way he did my first novel, so if I hadn’t written that first one, he wouldn’t have offered to represent me, and there’s a very good chance I would never have written HUSH LITTLE BABY and I wouldn’t be answering this blog.

The more mud you throw on the wall, the better chance you have of making it. So I suppose that’s the best advice I can offer, don’t give up and keep writing.

L.L.: What can we expect from you next?

Suzanne Redfearn: I’m very excited about my new novel that is going to be released February 2, 2016. It is titled NO ORDINARY LIFE and it is the story of a young single mother whose four-year-old daughter is discovered from a YouTube video that goes viral and catapults the family to superstardom. The mother thinks her prayers have been answered until the dark trappings of their new life are revealed and she discovers the devastating price of fame. Their world begins to splinter apart, and the mom needs to figure out a way to save them before she loses everything.  http://suzanneredfearn.com

“Last year I read an AHHHMAZING debut novel called Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn. I am STILL beating people about the head and face with this book. I think I’ve made all of my friends read it. Suzanne has a new book scheduled to hit bookstores in 2016 (i’m already excited to read it) and she needs our help!” [image retrieved from D.L. White’s blog, The Sweet Escape on 2.5.15. Contest on this blog is over. Cover and quote used to promote S. Redfearn’s next book]

L.L.: What question have I asked that I didn’t but should have?

Suzanne Redfearn: Who is going to win the World Series next year? The Angels of course!!!

L.L.: Thank you so much for being with us today, Suzanne! It was such a honor.

Thank you. I loved your questions and having the opportunity to talk about my “baby.”

Don’t miss out! Learn more about HUSH LITTLE BABY and Suzanne Redfearn here:

Web:www.SuzanneRedfearn.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SuzanneRedfearnAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SuzanneRedfearn

***PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY REVIEW: This snappily paced, cinematic novel about the dysfunctional modern American family from architect and first-time author Redfearn contains heavy doses of violence, danger, and fear. Events hurtle along with great
urgency to a rousing climax. A smart, suspenseful debut***

Suzanne RedfearnAbout Suzanne: Born and raised on the east coast, author Suzanne Redfearn, moved to California when she was fifteen and currently lives in Laguna Beach with her husband and two kids, where they own a restaurant called Lumberyard. Her debut novel, Hush Little Baby, was released in 2013 and received rave reviews. RT Book Reviews chose it as a Top Pick and nominated it as Best Mainstream Fiction. Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “smart, suspenseful debut.” Kirkus Reviews describes it as “A compelling tale of deceit, violation and anguish that ratchets up the tension page by page.” And Target chose it for its Emerging Author Program and as a Target Recommends selection. Suzanne’s second novel, No Ordinary Life, is scheduled for release in February 2016. Prior to becoming an author, Suzanne was an architect specializing in residential and commercial design.

Write On, Wednesday: Meet Thomas Christopher Greene of THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE

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By Leslie Lindsay

It’s that time of year again. There’s a nip in the air, an excitement humming about campus, and perhaps the ivy is a little greener and a little more lush along those stone and brick buildings.

I am thrilled to welcome author—and president of Vermont College of Fine Arts—Thomas Christopher Greene—who prefers the less pretentious Tom—to our literary blog.

Having just read THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press, 2014), the fourth of Greene’s novels, I have to say, this one blew me away. It’s part mystery, part literary academia, and part psych thriller. Definitely a blend of my favorite genres. What’s more, it takes place—in part—at a Vermont prep school.The Headmaster's Wife

Leslie Lindsay: Thank you for being with us today, Tom. I found THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE compulsively readable. While overall the prose is easy reading, the subtext is complex. We definitely get that ominous vibe that something is amiss. Well, okay—it is amiss. In the opening lines, our middle-aged headmaster is wandering around outside in the buff. Was this your intention all along, or, as many things with writing, did the narrative take a life of its own?

Thomas Christopher Greene: I often find the beginning of a novel after writing the first seventy pages or so six or seven times. It’s a horribly inefficient way to write but the only one I know. So in this case, I added that beginning after I had developed Arthur’s voice, and also the in between sections where he is being interviewed by the police.

Leslie Lindsay: Let’s talk about structure. It’s a big obsession of mine of late. You do a wonderful job of creating a sort of bifurcated narrative with framing the story along the lines of now—not now—now; tossed in for good measure are some scenes in which Arthur is being interrogated. The writing just seems to flow organically. But something tells me this was carefully thought out. Can you explain?

Thomas Christopher Greene:When I start a book, I spend a lot of time thinking and living with the characters in my head. Structure is critically important, in that it is the framework for how you tell the story. That said, this idea I came across by accident—I wrote the long first piece that is Arthur’s point of view and initially I thought the whole book would be told that way. But I knew I needed Elizabeth’s point of view and the conventional way to do it would be to alternate it with Arthur’s, which is often done. But then I came across the idea of essentially telling the same story—with different viewpoints, in, as you put it, a bifurcated narrative. And once I had that figured out, the rest of the structure took care of itself.

L.L.: THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE was born of personal tragedy and grief in your own life. Oh, I can only imagine the heartache of losing a precious young baby. Grief is a tricky thing, and yet you write about it so eloquently. What would you recommend to others who are attempting to write about grief without being stereotypical?

Thomas Christopher Greene: The great thing about fiction is that it allows writers to deliberately obfuscate a story in order to find a deeper truth. In this case, I didn’t actually have the resources—emotional, mental etc—to write about my own experience with losing our daughter. But I found that through characters I could write about the emotions and feelings I had, and there was enough distance, paradoxically, to allow a certain measure of honesty. I don’t know that there is any good advice I could give someone writing about grief, just as there is no blueprint for grief itself.

L.L.: Let’s shift over to the business of writing. What is your advice to aspiring novelists?

Thomas Christopher Greene:Read everything you can. Be thick-skinned because that will carry you. Trust your own vision. And come to Vermont College of Fine ArtsJ

L.L.: Can you tell us a little about the writing programs at your college?

Thomas Christopher Greene: We have two low-residency programs, one in writing (poetry, fiction, memoir) and one in writing for children and young adults. They are widely recognized as two of the top writing programs in the country. Next fall we are also starting our first full residency program in writing and publishing. Author Talks and Story Slam at VCFA Montpelier Vermont

L.L.: Can you share a bit about what you are working on next?

Thomas Christopher Greene: I’m writing a novel that for now is called SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press hopefully in early 2016. It’s a story of a great unrequited love and what happens after a chance meeting on a Manhattan street.

L.L.: Finally, how can we learn more about you and your work?

www.thomaschristophergreene.com

and www.vcfa.edu

Thank you so very much for being here today! We so enjoyed.

My pleasure!

Thomas Christopher Greene

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts to Richard and Dolores Greene, the sixth of seven children. He was educated in Worcester public schools and then Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut. He earned his BA in English from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, where he was the Milton Haight Turk Scholar. His MFA in Writing is from the former Vermont College. [book cover image and author image retrieved from www.thomaschristophergreene.com with author’s permission 10.01.14. College image retrieved from http://www.wherezit.com/listing_show.php?lid=423779 on 10.01.14]