Wednesdays with Writers: Would you stop to help a stranded motorist? In the rain? What if that person was found murdered the next day? B.A. Paris explores this and more in her smashing psychological thriller, THE BREAKDOWN as well as writing pressure, ideas for the next book, and so much more!

By Leslie Lindsay 

The highly anticipated second book from B.A. Paris following last summer’s stunning, bestselling BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. 

The Breakdown_COVER.jpg

I could. Not. Put. This. Book. Down. You know the books that make you ignore your family and other responsibilities like work and feeding your children? This is one of those. If you read 2016’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, Paris’s debut psychological thriller and were totally swept away, THE BREAKDOWN (June 20 2017, St. Martin’s Press) is just as good, if not better.

Cass Anderson is a newly married woman living in a quiet little hamlet in England with her very handsome husband. She’s struggling though after spotting a car on a lone winding lane during a torrential downpour, with a woman sitting inside…a woman who is later killed.

She’s trying to put the crime out of her mind, but it haunts her. Should she have done something? Pulled over? Perhaps if she had not taken that shortcut…

And now Cass’s memory is at stake
. Little things at first, then bigger things. But she can’t forget this woman, this car, this murder.

I don’t want to give away too much, other than the writing is breakneck speed, the short, choppy sentences are riveting. I simply did not want to put this book down; a page-turner in every sense of the word.

So, grab a cup of tea or coffee and eavesdrop on our conversation.

Leslie Lindsay: B.A., it’s a pleasure to have you back! I tore through this chilling tale, I simply could not put it down. I even dragged my children to the pool so I could lounge in the sun reading. I have to ask, what was the inspiration behind this one?

B.A. Paris: It’s a pleasure to be back, thank you for inviting me again. I love the image of you lying in the sun reading THE BREAKDOWN – probably safer than reading it at night! The inspiration behind the story actually came from two sources. The first was from a personal experience. I was driving home through some woods one afternoon when the sky suddenly darkened and I found myself caught up in a huge storm. There was no-one around and I began to wonder what would happen if I broke down, or if I saw someone who had broken down. If it was the middle of the night, would I stop to help or would I drive on? I thought it would be a great opening for a story. The second source was images (12)from various friends who had witnessed dementia in their parents and were kind enough to share their experiences with me. I’d already had an idea for a story where the central character feared she was suffering from early onset dementia, so I decided to bring these two ideas together to create THE BREAKDOWN.

L.L.: I think your skill lies in swift pacing, building anticipation, planting doubt and suspicious; truly brilliant. Yet, from the reader’s perspective, everything sort of feels stream-of-consciousness. Are you novels carefully plotted?

B.A. Paris: No, not at all. I always know what the opening scene is going to be, and I know the end I want to get to. The journey between these two points is a voyage of discovery!

“This psychological thriller is even harder to put down than Paris’ 2016 best-seller debut Behind Closed Doors; schedule reading time accordingly. With two in a row, Paris moves directly to the thriller A-list.” – Booklist, Starred Review!

L.L.: There’s so much I want to ask you, but don’t want to give it away! Can you tell us if you did any research on this story? Are the places real? Castle Wells? Browbury? I started Googling them, but came up empty-handed. What can you tell us about the setting?

B.A. Paris: As well as listening to my friends’ first-hand experiences of the effects of dementia on their parents, the internet proved to be a great source of information regarding early onset dementia. As for Castle Wells and Browbury, they exist only in my imagination, although they are loosely based on towns I know in England, around where I grew up.  

L.L. I have to draw a few similarities between BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and THE BREAKDOWN. First, they both feature young/newly married couples. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS it’s more recent—like Honeymoon stage and THE BREAKDOWN is within the first year. Children are not present in either of the books. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, other than what might intrigue you about young, childless couples?

B.A. Paris: That’s a good question! I don’t think it was intentional that I chose young, childless couples, I think it was more of a sub-conscious thing. People usually enjoy reading about young, newly married couples and children make stories more complicated, which is why I chose not to give Cass and Matthew any in THE BREAKDOWN. The plot was already complicated with the two different strands – the murder and the dementia – running through it.

L.L.: Can you share, without using complete sentences, what was going on in your life as you wrote THE BREAKDOWN?images (13)

B.A. Paris: Pressure!

L.L.: This is your second book. Was there any more (or different) pressure this time around? Can you talk about that, please? What might you have done better or differently?

B.A. Paris:  This question is great, as it explains my answer to your previous question. There was definitely a lot of pressure whilst I was writing THE BREAKDOWN. When I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, I didn’t know it was going to be published, so I was basically writing it for myself, with no particular audience in mind. With THE BREAKDOWN, I was writing it for all those who had loved BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, so the pressure to deliver the same kind of reader experience was definitely there. I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, but maybe if I’d had more confidence that I could write another psychological thriller I wouldn’t have felt quite so stressed.

L.L.: What in your real life might be a mystery or a psych thriller?

B.A. Paris: I really have to think about this one […] I would love to be able to tell you something amazing, but I’m afraid my life has always been quite ordinary. However, a few years ago one of my daughters had an experience which I may use as the basis for a future book. I can’t tell you what it was at I don’t want to give anything away!

L.L.: I could probably ask questions all day, but I want to let others get out there and get their hands on this book; it’s that good. Is there anything I forgot to ask, but should have?

B.A. Paris: I’d just like to tell you about my next book, if I may. It’s another psychological thriller and also features a couple with no children. But they do have a dog! It’s very different to BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and THE BREAKDOWN, and will be out in 2018.

L.L. B.A., it was a complete pleasure. Happy summer!

B.A. Paris:  Thank you so much for your questions, Leslie, a happy summer to you too!

For more information, to connect with B.A. Paris, or to order a copy of THE BREAKDOWN, please see: 

BA Paris_CREDIT Ev SekkidesABOUT THE AUTHOR: B.A. PARIS is the New York Time, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors. She grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters.


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


[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. Image of wooded road retrieved from Shutterstock, writer at work from CafePress, all on 6.19.17]  

Wednesdays with Writers: Bestselling Author Chevy Stevens talks about her obsession with earplugs (!?), travel, her furry writing companions, scrapping drafts, writing in coffee shops, how abuse can take many forms, and more in her psychological thriller, NEVER LET YOU GO.

By Leslie Lindsay 


Do you want to read a book and say, “I NEVER SAW *THAT* COMING?” Read this. 

Chevy Stevens’ 2010 breakout bestseller, STILL MISSING, was at the forefront of the trend of psychological thrillers featuring women protagonists, along with Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL. Don’t worry, this one isn’t another ‘Girl’ title, but it does feature a strong female protagonist in psychological peril; the best kind, in my opinion.

Stevens’ 6th thriller, NEVER LET YOU GO (which releases March 14, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press), is an addictive psychological suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat, questioning the ‘good guys,’ the sick, twisted ones, and then you’ll *still* be surprised.


Lindsey Nash is finally, finally rebuilding her life after a physically and emotionally abusive alcoholic husband is locked away. He’s out now, having served his sentence. But…strange, destructive things start happening, all of which point right back to the ex-husband. Stevens does a fine job of braiding past with present to give us an accurate–and chilling–look at the life Lindsey and her husband (Andrew) led before. We also get the POV of their (now almost-18 year old) daughter, Sophie. 

HARLAN COBEN: “Will grip you from page one.”

In NEVER LET YOU GO, Stevens explores the many different forms abuse may take, from alcoholism to psychological/emotional abuse, as well as physical. Spine-tingling scenes fill every page; this tale is highly addictive and quite possibly Stevens’ most astute study in human behavior yet.

Please join me in welcoming Chevy Stevens to the blog couch.

Leslie Lindsay: Chevy! It’s a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much for popping over. I read NEVER LET YOU GO in record speed. Mind you, I was busy preparing for the holidays, running after a young dog, and entertaining two school-aged kiddos and their bevy of friends. Yet, I still completed the book in two days. If it drew me in that quickly, I have to ask, what was propelling you to write it? Did the writing come through in the same frenzy as my reading did?

Chevy Stevens: I wish it had come through in a frenzy of writing because that would imply speed, but this book took almost two years to finish. I had originally started with a different book—title, plot, characters, everything–and after nine months, my editor and I realized it wasn’t working. We discussed a few ways to possibly fix it, but the overall premise wasn’t fbcd095037f84dca34bcf6cce10e0c09holding up and I wasn’t connecting with the storyline or the characters. It was the first time I tried to use multiple perspectives with a third person narrative, and it wasn’t for me. I knew in my gut that I had to move on and abandon that book, though it was a hard blow. Needless to say, after that I was concerned with getting the next premise right. The idea of a woman, fleeing an abusive ex-husband in the middle of the night with her young daughter, spoke to me. How did she escape? Would she ever be safe again? I felt it was a story I could tell honestly, from the daughter and the mother’s perspective. I also wanted to show that there is not one “fits-all” profile for an abusive person. Control can manifest in many ways.

L.L.: So many things that go into fiction are stripped from our ‘real life.’ I understand your father struggled with substance abuse and depression. How did that experience color the character of Andrew Nash?

Chevy Stevens:  My father committed suicide when I was twenty-two. Andrew Nash was not based on him and Lindsey and Sophie’s story is not my personal family experience, but the feelings, emotions, and many of the other issues are very similar. While writing this story, I was able to explore some of the unresolved issues I had with my father, through Sophie, and some of the imagined conversations I might have had with him if he had lived.  It also became a way for me to understand and empathize more with what my mother must have gone through and the challenges she faced. 

L.L.: I’d like to talk about structure for a bit. You do a fabulous job of weaving a seamless narrative between past and present. Personally, I love this technique. We get a really good glimpse into the life of Lindsey and Andrew *before* everything went down. Was this conscious on your part, or did it sort of evolve organically?

Chevy Stevens:  I knew that I wanted to show their life “before” so that we understood how Lindsey first fell in love with Andrew, what changed during their marriage, and then how dangerous Andrew was once he was released from prison, but it took me a long time to get those sections right. It was difficult to transition so many years of marriage into snapshot glimpses, to show the evolution of abuse over years and how it changed Lindsey into a mother desperate to protect her daughter. Each chapter had to be unique, riveting, and set the tone for the next chapter in present day.

L.L.: Do you have any writing routines or rituals? How does the life of a typical book work for you, from conception to completion?stillmissing-cvr-thumb

Chevy Stevens: I wish there was a typical book! Each time around I think I’m going to make
the writing process easier, but I have yet to find the magic answer.
Normally I come up with a premise that interests me, then my editor and I have a few brainstorming sessions, and I try to come up with an outline. Then, it changes, over and over again. Every book has taken me a different length of time to finish.  STILL MISSING and NEVER LET YOU GO have been the longest.

My day to day routine has changed with my daughter. When she was a baby, I could work at home, then I moved out to our travel trailer to write. Then she started to sneak out of the house to find me. This last year I have been writing at a coffee shop so I can focus. It’s better if write first thing in the morning, which is when I am most creative, so I try to get out of the house early.

L.L.: Can I ask what you’re working on next?   

Chevy Stevens: My current project has been undergoing a few changes and is still in the early stages so I don’t feel confident enough yet to share much about it. I will say that it is set in Seattle, which is an exciting change for me! The research has been great fun.

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

Chevy Stevens: Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with travel. I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching various destinations and hotels and endlessly scrolling 1_EL-ARCO-2.jpgthrough rentals on VRBO. My husband and I were just on vacation in Los Cabos, trying to soak up some vitamin D, and I was still on my phone Googling other resorts and comparing options.

L.L.: Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Chevy Stevens: I can share a few random “Chevy Facts.” I love earplugs. I wear them when I’m writing at home and often forget they are still in and walk around with everything muffled. My two furry writing companions are Ziggy and Oona, who have beds under my desk. My daughter also likes to hang out in my office, but she’s usually watching my iPad or building Legos. I’m a morning person, grumpy at night. I don’t watch much TV these days, but I tend to watch light shows, nothing too dark or intense. People think I read a lot of crime or thrillers and I actually love memoirs. I’m shameless when it comes to celebrity memoirs. Love them all. One day I hope to write my own memoir. Morning-Person.png

L.L.: Chevy, it was such an honor. Thank you!  

Chevy Stevens: Thank you for all your great questions!

To connect with Chevy via social media, to learn more, or to purchase NEVER LET YOU GO, please see:

Stevens%2c Chevy_CREDIT Poppy Photography.JPGABOUT THE AUTHOR:  CHEVY STEVENS grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. While holding an open house one afternoon, she had a terrifying idea that became the inspiration for Still Missing. Chevy eventually sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book. Still Missing went on to become a New York Times bestseller and win the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.  Chevy’s books have been optioned for movies and are published in more than thirty countries.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her husband and daughter in the local mountains.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay via these social media links. I’d love to see you around!


[Cover and author image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. Image of morning person from; Los Cabos image from. Slide show of C. Stevens’ books retrieved from her website, all retrieved 1.26.17]

Wednesdays with Writers: B.A. Paris talks about her runaway bestseller BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, psychological & emotional abuse, letting the characters do the ‘talking,’pottery, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay 

Oh wow. What a story. What pacing. Already a runaway bestseller in the U.K. with movie rights sold, B.A. Paris’s debut psychological thriller is sure to top many “must read summer lists.” BehindClosedDoors_COVER

And it should.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (forthcoming August 9th 2016) is completely unsettling and addictive, a true page-turner. Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he’s got looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better but it’s a challenge. She can’t meet up for coffee at a moment’s notice. When her friends call, she’s conveniently ‘out’ or ‘in the shower.’ She’s a gifted cook, but how on earth does she remain so slim?

And why are there bars on the window?

It may seem as if this so-called ‘perfect’ marriage is a lie.

And well, it is.

Today, I am thrilled to have B.A. Paris to the blog couch to chat with us about her gripping thriller, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

Leslie Lindsay: Oh, I am so glad you could pop by! I know Grace’s story was inspired, in part, by your suspicion that a friend was caught in a situation with very little control, unable to do as she wished. To me, this is a little bit of a relief, because if Grace’s story was based on truth…yikes! Can you share a little more about your inspiration for BEHIND CLOSED DOORS?

B.A. Paris: Thank you so much for inviting me today, I’m thrilled to be talking to you about BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Yes, you’re right, Grace’s story was inspired by my suspicions about a friend’s marriage but it could be that she is very happily married and it was just my imagination – I have a very vivid one! My story was also inspired by some articles I read about women who were controlled by their partners to such an extent that they felt incapable of functioning without them.  

L.L.: I think it’s very unsettling to know that there are some really horrific things that *do* go on out there and they may never get the redemption they deserve.  Can you talk about that, please?

B.A. Paris: The problem with psychological abuse is that there are no physical signs, so it is even harder to talk about than physical abuse, simply because it’s harder to prove. Also, if someone in this sort of situation were to confide in a friend, the most likely reaction would be ‘well, just leave.’ It’s difficult for someone on the outside to understand the amount of control involved. In one case I read about, a woman was allowed to go to the shops to buy some milk but while she was there it never occurred to her to try and escape, or to tell someone what was happening, she just went straight back, as she had been told to do. These sort of controlling relationships are based on fear, fear of what will happen if you step out of line, so the perpetrator often gets away with it simply because the victim doesn’t dare say anything.

L.L.: The character of Grace is well-drawn, but so is her sister Millie, who has Down’s syndrome. And Jack…well, what a creep! Was there a character or situation that came to you first?

B.A. Paris: In the beginning there were only Jack and Grace; it was their relationship I wanted to explore. But I knew that if Grace didn’t have something to anchor her into the relationship – a reason why she couldn’t leave – people would say that it wasn’t a believable situation. I don’t remember consciously creating the character of Millie, she was just suddenly there, writing herself into the story!download (10)

L.L.: I’m curious about some of your research that must have gone into BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. For example, you may have had to research the psychological concept of ‘gaslighting,’ and whatever psychological disorders you gave Jack. Can you share a bit of your process?

B.A. Paris:  As soon as I knew the sort of story that I wanted to write, I searched the internet for stories of people that had been controlled by their partners and who had eventually got away. I wanted to understand several things – what has pushed them to finally escape, how they had done it and why they hadn’t tried before. I read some particularly harrowing cases – one woman was kept prisoner in a pit for eight months and only fed twice a week. As for Jack, I knew from my reading that men in controlling relationships take great pleasure in instilling fear into their victim, so once I knew that, his motivation fell into place.   

L.L.: I think we all want to ‘side’ with Grace, but the truth is, she has some skeletons in her closet, too. Without giving too much away, can you share how both individuals in a gaslighting situation need to have a little imbalance to make it come across successfully—and yes, I use that word, ‘successful’ loosely.

B.A. Paris: Yes, definitely, both individuals need to have a little imbalance for this sort of relationship to function. The dominant partner, who is manipulative, exploits a weakness in the other. In Grace’s case, her weakness is her sister Millie – Jack recognizes from the outset that she would do anything for Millie and uses this as a weapon against her. But Jack has his weaknesses too – his arrogance and his conviction that he is invincible. And I’m afraid I can’t say anymore than that!

L.L.: I enjoyed your forays into Thailand. Not because what was going on there, but simply as a change of scenery. Have you been to Thailand and how did that come into your novel?

B.A. Paris: No, I haven’t been to Thailand – yet! – but I chose it for two reasons; first of all, it’s a popular honeymoon destination and secondly, I think it would have been possible for Jack to indulge in his love of fear there in a way that he couldn’t have in England. And I only really needed a hotel there, so that was easy enough to research on the internet!


L.L.: What do you hope readers take away from BEHIND CLOSED DOORS?

B.A. Paris: I would like them to take away an awareness that this type of mental and psychological abuse does exist and to hopefully recognize the signs so that if they have any worries about someone close to them, they can reach out to them. Or if they are going through something similar themselves, to ask for help. The most rewarding thing for me since writing the book have been the messages I’ve received from people thanking me for bringing this type of abuse into the open, because they were once in similar situations themselves.

“Debut-novelist Paris adroitly toggles between the recent past and the present in building the suspense of Grace’s increasingly unbearable situation, as time becomes critical and her possible solutions narrow. This is one readers won’t be able to put down.”

— BOOKLIST, Starred Review!

L.L.: As a writer, I am more a pantser, following whims and letting the character’s sort of tell their story. Plotting makes me want to run for the hills. But there are writers out there who swear by plotting. Where do you fall on this continuum?  And how was BEHIND CLOSED DOORS composed?

B.A. Paris: Writing BEHIND CLOSED DOORS was an amazing experience because I often felt that it wasn’t me writing the story but the characters. They seemed to take over to such an extent that sometimes, when I read over what I’d written the day before, I didn’t remember writing it and I was often shocked by what I was reading. This was especially true in relation to Jack. I never imagined when I started out that he would be so evil!

L.L.: I find that sometimes I have to get away from things I am writing and work on something else. It gets the creative juices flowing. Right now, I’m obsessed with how to re-do a bathroom. Silly, I know but somehow I will weave that into the next piece I write. What’s inspiring you nowadays? What has your attention?

B.A. Paris: When I’m writing, I tend to become a bit obsessed so it’s just as well that I work as a teacher, as it forces me to put my computer aside and concentrate on something else for a while. But I know what you mean – I’ve just taken up pottery and I know that somewhere, in a future book, I’ll somehow weave it into the story!

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

B.A. Paris: I have another psychological drama EVERY LITTLE THING coming out in 2017. And then I’ll be on to the next one.

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

B.A. Paris: No, your questions have been great and I think we’ve covered pretty much everything!

L.L.: Thank you so very much for spending some time with us today, we so enjoyed it!

B.A. Paris: Thank you for letting me come and talk about BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, it’s been a pleasure to spend time with you!

For more information, or to follow on social media, please see: 

Author Photo_BA Paris_No Credit Needed.jpgAbout the Author: B.A. Paris is from a Franco/Irish background. She was brought up in England and worked in London for three years before moving to Paris, where worked in corporate banking and as a trader in an international bank. After the birth of her first daughter, she became a stay-at-home mother and went on to have another three daughters. She spent four years in the Netherlands, where her fifth daughter was born. Returning to France, she decided to re-train as an English teacher and worked for some years in an international school and then at the Université de Marne la Vallée, teaching English to Architecture students. In 2009 she set up a language school with her husband and now teaches Business English in Paris.  

[With special thanks to J. Preeg at St. Martin’s Press. Author and Cover image provided by author’s publicist and used with permission. Gaslighting image retrieved from, Thailand image from, both retrieved 7.20.16]

Write On, Wednesday: Gilly Macmillan talks about her smashing psychological debut WHAT SHE KNEW, the role social media plays to our insecurities, obsessing over the third book, CALL THE MIDWIFE, writing ‘the end,’ & so much more

By Leslie Lindsay WHAT SHE KNEW

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: in a blink of an eye, their child goes missing. Gone. Without a trace. What could have happened? How could a parent have been so careless as to misplace her child?

What unspools in a frantic search for missing 8-year old Ben, Rachel Jenner loses herself, casts blame on others, has the reader doubting just what is real. To make matters worse, the public turns on this distraught mother following a single,   momentary mistake.  [What She Knew is the US edition of Burnt Paper Sky, published Dec 1 2015.]

WHAT SHE KNEW is an amazing debut by a highly talented writer, an emotional and enthralling tautly-paced and plotted ride to its chilling conclusion.

I’m so honored to have Gilly Macmillan with us to chat about her psychological thriller debut.

Leslie Lindsay: Gilly, thanks for taking the time to pop over the blog couch with us today. I read WHAT SHE KNEW in a breathless two days. I really wanted to know what happened that fateful afternoon in which your character, Rachel Jenner, lets her 8-year old son run ahead on their walk in the woods. Was this your intention when you set out to write WHAT SHE KNEW? What ultimately inspired you?

Gilly Macmillan: Thank you very much for inviting me Leslie!  I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the book.  When I set out to write WHAT SHE KNEW my overall goal was to write a page-turner, because I really love to read them myself.  However, I was also very keen to try to make it a powerful and personal and relevant story also, so WHAT SHE KNEW is my attempt to bring all of those things together in one novel.

L.L.: I understand, like Rachel, you are also a photographer and mother. Can you share a bit about balancing your desire to write, as well as also carry on with your other work?

Gilly Macmillan:  Well I must admit that having written the bulk of the first draft of WHAT SHE KNEW in my spare time, with no clue as to whether it would be published, as soon as I got an agent I decided I should probably prioritize writing, as I needed to do a lot of work to get the book finished to a good enough standard for submission to publishers.  I was very aware that this was probably my one shot at getting a novel into print.  Once I’d made that decision, it was soon apparent that producing a finished novel is such an all-consuming activity (even when I’m not at the computer typing, I’m thinking about the book all the time), that it’s as much as I can manage to keep my household running and get my kids fed and out of the door to school on time!  Juggling everything can certainly feel like a challenge at times.  However, I do feel that I’m very lucky to be able to work at home, and to enjoy the flexibility of fitting work around my family when I need to, and I make sure I pack my cameras whenever we get a chance to go away for a break, so the photography is not forgotten. 

Indie Next Pick for December 2015
Target Book Club Pick for December 2015
Romantic Times Top Pick for December 2015
Shortlisted for RT Reviewers Choice Award (First Mystery)
Featured Pick for Book-of-the-Month Club December 2015

L.L.: I’m amazed at the amount of research you did to make WHAT SHE KNEW such a compelling—and honest—exploration of a child gone missing. Kudos!  Still, it’s an emotionally visceral read. Can you to speak to that, please?

Gilly Macmillan: Thanks Leslie!  I love to research, partly because I’m naturally very curious but also because I think that it can lend an element of truthfulness to a novel, in as much as that can be achieved in fiction.  Having said that, I should admit that I wrote the first draft of WHAT SHE KNEW without doing any research at all.  I wrote it entirely from Rachel’s point of view, and just tried to imagine myself into her situation and record her journey and her feelings, however raw or challenging, as honestly as I could.  It was when I came to do the second draft that I began to look into the more concrete detail of the story, researching child abduction and speaking to retired police officers to make sure the procedural element was correct.  As I redrafted I built my research into the story, and introduced the detective character to act as a foil to Rachel’s narrative.  The difficulty at that point was to be careful not to lose the emotion of Rachel’s narrative so I’m delighted (and relieved!) to hear that you feel that both elements are there in the book.  I wanted very much to incorporate emotional truthfulness as well as factual truthfulness in the novel.

L.L.: Including social media into the novel is just brilliant! It seems like we spend so much time in front of our screens that we forget to look at the world around us. Is that what prompted your interest in adding social media to WHAT SHE KNEW? Did you have other motivations or inspiration?

Gilly Macmillan: Well, the irony is that until WHAT SHE KNEW was accepted for publication I wasn’t a user of social media at all!  Now I can definitely spend hours online if I’m not strict with myself, but at the time of writing the book it was my research into child abduction cases that led me to understand that so much of what people experience when they read about these cases comes through traditional media first of all, but then gets appropriated by social media, where it takes on a life of its own.  It’s can be a circular, self-generating thing too, as very often traditional media then reports on social media reaction, which stokes up online reaction further.  I watched one particular real-life case here in the UK unfold via social media as it was happening, and I was amazed at how personal people’s responses were and how emotionally close some of them seemed to feel (in both sympathetic and very unsympathetic and judgmental ways) to something that, while truly dreadful, was in reality removed from their own lives.  It was then that I felt that I should treat social media almost as a character in its own right in the novel, partly so that readers could experience my fictional case in the same way that they might experience a real life case, but also because I wanted to explore how the influence of social media can swell, and as this happens in WHAT SHE KNEW it affects the characters and the case profoundly.

[Click here to read an excerpt of WHAT SHE KNEW via Gilly’s FB page.]

L.L.: I kept wondering, like the title, what does she know? It seems there are many different ways the novel could have ended, how on earth did you decide on this ending? [without giving too much away, of course!]

Gilly Macmillan:  I wrote three different endings before the book was published because it was so hard to get it right!  I was always sure of one element of the ending, but as for the rest many conversations were had with my family, my editor and agent along the way to try to work out what would be best.  In the end I hope I’ve created an ending that feels truthful as possible, to the story and the characters. It’s been fascinating to have feedback from readers about the ending, and I’m always interested to hear what people think because it was such a difficult thing to do.

L.L.: I read somewhere that your son is a regular on the cast of CALL THE MIDWIFE. Oh, how I love that show! Can you share a bit about what character your son plays? How does the storytelling of television mirror that of novels?

Call_the_Midwife_titlecardGilly Macmillan:  My son Max plays Timothy Turner, the son of Dr Patrick Turner, and he’s just finished filming Season 5 so we’re all getting excited about that being on air in 2016.  Timothy has grown up on screen and we’ve been very privileged to read many of the show’s wonderfully written scripts over the years that Max has been involved, and watch his own storyline develop as well as the characters around him.  I definitely think we can draw comparisons between storytelling in television drama and novels, because it’s the job of both to bring us stories – either fresh ones or old tales – in intelligent, but also absorbing and entertaining ways.  Although they’re different mediums, the ways in which novels and TV drama achieve this are similar: both rely on the absolutely core ingredients of convincing characterization, careful pacing, and strong, believable stories.  When these elements work well together, both mediums can achieve a powerful integrity in their storytelling, and I think viewers and readers respond favorably to that.  It’s certainly something I look for when I watch drama or read a novel.  If a book or a TV show achieve that sort of integrity, it allows you to believe in the world and the characters you’re reading about, or watching, and then you care about what happens to them.  That’s what makes you turn pages in a book or watch every episode in a series.  It’s a challenge for every writer, producer or director.

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

Gilly Macmillan: I’ve just finished my second book, which is also a psychological thriller.  It has a complex plot and a cast of characters who both thrilled and unnerved me as I was writing. The action takes place over a short time scale and is intense and claustrophobic.   The main cover_bitdcharacter is Zoe Maisey – a child genius and musical sensation – who, several years earlier, caused the death of three teenagers.  She served her time, and now she’s free.  The story begins with her giving the performance of her life, but by midnight, her mother is dead.  The book is an exploration into the mind of a teenager burdened by brilliance, and it’s also a story about the wrongs in our past not letting go.

L.L.: Is there anything obsessing you now and why?

Gilly Macmillan:  My third book is obsessing me!  All of the time!  I’ve just begun it and for this one I’m returning to Jim Clemo, the detective character from WHAT SHE KNEW.  He’s going to have some involvement in a new case, which is a tough one.  I’m currently working out what’s going to happen to him personally and professionally and I’m developing the characters that will populate the rest of the story.  One in particular already makes my heart race when I write her sections of the story.

L.L.: Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask but forgot that you’d like to share?

Gilly Macmillan: I would like to share how delighted I am to be published in the US!  My family is from the UK but we lived in Northern California for a few years when I was a teenager, and I have very fond memories of that time, so it’s a real privilege, and probably a dream come true, for me to think of WHAT SHE KNEW being available to American readers.

L.L.: Gilly, thanks so much for spending some quality book time with us today, it was a pleasure!

Gilly Macmillan: Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, and it’s been an absolute pleasure answering your questions.

gillyGilly Macmillan grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in California in her late teens. She studied History of Art at Bristol University and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and worked at the Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecture in A Level photography. Gilly lives in Bristol with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.

[Special thanks to L. Truskowski at William Morrow/HarperCollins. Cover image and author image courtesy of William Morrow Publishing. Butterfly in the Dark cover image retrieved from the author’s website on 12.3.15. Call the Midwife screen shot retrieved from Wikipedia on 12.3.15] 



Write On, Wednesday: Meet Mary Kubica, author of Smashing New Psych Thriller, PRETTY BABY

PRETTYBABY3By Leslie Lindsay

Having read Mary Kubica’s debut psychological thriller last summer, I was equally piqued to jump into the new one, PRETTY BABY (which released yesterday, July 28th). And now I know why…it’s brilliant, riveting, and at times absolutely devastating. I plowed through PRETTY BABY in about two days. And today, I am honored to sit down with Mary and chat about her second book.

Leslie Lindsay: Welcome back, Mary! I loved having you last summer and so appreciate you popping by again today. You tackle so many issues in PRETTY BABY—homelessness, foster care, abuse, and mental illness—yet it’s handled with such aplomb, I’m curious how you were able to knit together such a riveting and complex storyline? What was the initial inspiration for you?

Mary Kubica: Thank you so much for having me back, Leslie!

This image of Heidi coming across a young homeless girl holding a baby beside the Chicago ‘L’ train was the first inspiration for this novel, and that image became the opening pages of the manuscript. I didn’t yet know who the girl was or what her story would be, and initially planned to make Heidi and her husband, Chris, the focal point of PRETTY BABY. But once I plunged into the writing process, I knew that Willow, our homeless girl, needed to be able to tell her side of the tale as well. Her voice needed to be heard, and I’d have to guess that for most readers, she is the character whose narrative will leave a lasting impression. Willow has quite a story to tell.

 L.L.: How has your writing routine evolved since your first book, THE GOOD GIRL (Mira, 2014)?

Mary Kubica: In all honesty, it hasn’t changed much. I’m a true believer in If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and so have tried to stick to my same writing routine. As with THE GOOD GIRL, I had little ones I home while writing PRETTY BABY, and so got in the habit of waking early in the morning to get my writing done. I try not to impose rules on myself as a writer; if the writing is flowing well, I write, and if it’s not, then I find other things to do and come back to it at a later time. As with THE GOOD GIRL, I didn’t outline PRETTY BABY, but rather allowed the THE GOOD GIRLstoryline to take a natural flow. For me, I find this works quite well.

L.L: So no more writing in secret?!

Mary Kubica: Ha! No, no more writing in secret, though to be honest, I’m certain there are some people in my life who still don’t know I’m an author, and even for those who do, I’m quite guarded about it. I find it hard to call myself that – an author – out loud for some reason, and tend to be a bit of an introvert anyway; I try hard to avoid talking about me. But it’s been wonderful getting to share the experience the second time around with family and friends who have been so supportive, and even more, getting to meet other authors this past year with whom I’ve been able to bond over our shared experiences.

L.L: PRETTY BABY is written from the perspective of three main characters—Heidi, a do-good middle-class wife and mother, Chris—her financial-driven corporate banker, and Willow—the young homeless girl with a baby. Can you tell us a few truths you learned from each of these characters? Did anything surprise you?

Mary Kubica: Without giving too much away, I can tell you that these characters are quite multi-dimensional, and with them, you can never take anything at face value. They’re all harboring secrets. They truly did surprise me each and every day, Leslie. Again, as an author who doesn’t outline, I literally make the story up as I go. It’s such a fun endeavor to witness the twists and turns the characters and storyline will take from that first day I sit down and begin the novel. Back in January of 2013 when I started PRETTY BABY, I could never have dreamed of the way the storyline would play out.

L.L.: Shifting gears a bit…a few years ago, you were ‘just’ a suburban mom and wife volunteering in an animal shelter and now…a national bestselling author on tour. First of all—congratulations!! How might an author maintain her (or his) humility and stay true to the craft of storytelling?

Mary Kubica: It’s a very strange conundrum, in all honesty. I find it hard to talk about things like agents and book tours in my suburban mom life, and really do keep the two very separate. Though most everyone knows I’m an author, I keep specifics – regarding the writing process, book sales, publicity, etc. – to myself. My life has changed quite significantly as you may imagine, and yet in some respects it hasn’t changed at all. I am still the animal shelter volunteer and suburban mom who writes novels in whatever spare time I can find. The only difference now is that from time to time I pack a few dresses and hop on a plane, and get to play the role of bestselling author. I supposed I live two very separate lives.

L.L.: What’s your favorite diversion from writing?

Mary Kubica: My kids! Now that they’re in school over 6 hours a day, I look forward to any and every time I have with them, and try to pack our time together with fun stuff. They’re growing up far too quickly for me.

L.L.: What books have you read recently—and what would you recommend?

Mary Kubica: Oh gosh, I have read so many terrific books lately, so these are just a few of them: Pam Jenoff’s World War II historical fiction novel THE LAST SUMMER AT CHELSEA BEACH, Karma Brown’s debut women’s fiction novel COME AWAY WITH ME, and Holly Brown’s A NECESSARY END, a truly twisted psychological thriller that I couldn’t put down.I also got a sneak peek at some ARCs by T. Greenwood and Carla Buckley – be sure to look out for them. They’re certain to please!

L.L.: Can you tell us what’s next for you?

Mary Kubica: I’m finishing up edits on my yet-unnamed third novel, which should release in 2016, and have also begun working on my forth! If all goes according to plan, that will release in 2017. Be sure to stay tuned for more details!

L.L.: Thanks so much for being with us today, Mary—and best of luck on tour!!

Mary Kubica: Thank you so much for having me, Leslie. The pleasure is all mine. Mary Kubica3

Bio: Mary Kubica is the national bestselling author of The Good Girl. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in history and American literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She lives outside Chicago with her husband and two children. Pretty Baby is her second novel.

For more information, head over to Mary Kubica’s website, Find her on Twitter, and connect on Facebook.

Write On, Wednesday: Meet THE GOOD GIRL Author Mary Kubica

By Leslie Lindsay

With about a million accolades already brewing for this dark, gripping psychological thriller set alternately in Chicagoland and rural Minnesota, Mary Kubica is here to chat with us about her debut, THE GOOD GIRL (to be released July 29th, 2014). It’s the most perfect summertime thriller. Read it at the pool, the beach, on the plane. You won’t want to put it down. THE GOOD GIRL

Leslie Lindsay: Mary, I am in the midst of reading THE GOOD GIRL and I must say…I love it! It’s raw, it’s authentic, and highly engaging. Can you explain how you came up with the premise of the book?

Mary Kubica: Absolutely. But first let me say what an honor it is to be here with you today at Write On, Wednesday. Thank you so much for having me, Leslie!

I’d love to say that there was some big, defining moment or event that sparked the ideas behind THE GOOD GIRL, but the truth of the matter is that it was a very conscious effort. When I began writing, I had this notion of a kidnapping that was not exactly what it seemed. I knew I wanted to write the novel in a non-linear, multi-perspective format, but other than that, I wasn’t entirely sure where the novel would go. The bulk of the ideas came to me as I wrote, and on any given day that I sat down to work, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to happen in the lives of my characters that day. But I found myself completely consumed by them – thinking of the characters at all hours of the day and night – and feel fairly certain that they’re the ones who told their story to me.

L.L.: From what I understand, you wrote this book almost entirely in isolation. Your family and friends didn’t even know you were working on a manuscript. How I wish I could keep something like that a secret! Was it fear of the unknown/fear of rejection that kept your lips sealed? Something else?

Mary Kubica: You pretty much hit the nail on the head there, Leslie! I’d definitely say it was the fear of rejection – or rather, the likelihood of rejection – that made me keep quiet about my work-in-progress. I’d been writing since I was a young girl, though as a hobbyist and nothing more. I understood that the chances of having my work published were slim to none. When I began writing, I wrote for me and only me, never imagining that something would become of my work. And so I began THE GOOD GIRL in secrecy, only telling my husband about the project. It wasn’t until I sold the manuscript to Harlequin MIRA that I spread the great news to family and friends – not only had I written a book, but it was going to be published, too! They were certainly surprised!

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.” From THE GOOD GIRL, 2014

L.L. There’s a wealth of insight a writing community can provide—feedback, instruction, plot twists. Don’t tell me you’re one of the rare lucky ones who can pull it off without a “village.”

Mary Kubica: When I wrote THE GOOD GIRL, I didn’t belong to a writers’ group, and my creative writing education was limited to one college course that I didn’t particularly like. I didn’t have a beta reader; no one – besides me, of course – read the manuscript before it was sent off to agents. That said, I found my village in the publication process. THE GOOD GIRL would certainly not be what it is today without the tremendous effort of my agent, my editor, and the many other brilliant people at Harlequin Books. I’ve connected in the past year or so with a number of authors – both in person and online – and I’m a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, which has offered much advice and enthusiasm throughout this process. I know authors now who I can go to for questions or lean on for support. Fellow Harlequin MIRA author Heather Gudenkauf is certainly one who must be mentioned; she’s been an amazing mentor to me this past year!             

L.L. I had to smile when I read somewhere that you fell in love with THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB series by Ann M. Martin…I’m so there! My friends and I devoured those books and then thought we could start our own club. Or at least write like Ms. Martin. Is this when your love of writing began?

Mary Kubica: I love this question – and I feel obligated to say that my sister and I did begin our own babysitter’s club back in the day; we printed up fliers and passed them around the neighborhood, and earned ourselves quite a few babysitting gigs! But yes, absolutely, this was the time in my life when I first decided I wanted to me an author. It was a cousin of mine who I accredit with my early love of writing; she shared with me a story she had written when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Until then I had no idea where books came from before they magically appeared in bookstores. They were just there. I’d never really thought much about the author behind the book, but I knew then and there what I wanted to do: I wanted to write books.   

L.L.: So, Chicagoland…ironically, it’s where we both live. In fact, several recent books have been set there—even ones featured here—what qualities do you feel Chicago authors bring to the literary table?

Mary Kubica: This is a great question! I can think of many notable Chicago authors off the top of my head – Veronica Roth and Gillian Flynn are two that come to mind, as well as Lori Rader-Day who you spoke with recently and whose debut THE BLACK HOUR I cannot wait to read – though I think every city and state across the country has its own set of notable, distinguished authors. I might be a bit biased here, but I feel Chicago is a highly cultured city, deeply rooted in Midwestern values, and that the cross between urban, suburban and country can make for a very diverse landscape in literature. Our people are unique, too, and stem from all walks of life, a fact that has likely inspired many remarkable characters. All in all it’s a great city, and I feel very proud of the authors who have come from Chicagoland.       

L.L.: And then you toss in Minnesota. Funny, cause I lived there, too! In fact, I’ve been to Two Harbors and Grand Marias—not in the winter like in the book—but in “mosquito season.” How did this remote cabin come into play?

Mary Kubica: It was really about logistics. I needed a remote wilderness where Colin and Mia could disappear – someplace far enough from Chicago where they wouldn’t be found easily, but close enough that they could drive there. Until recently I had never been to Grand Marais or up the Gunflint Trail and relied solely on research to describe the setting in THE GOOD GIRL. My family did, however, just take a trip to northern Minnesota (Yes, in mosquito season! I believe we went through three cans of Off!). I was dying to see the region in person, and on the eve of book publication, it seemed like the right thing to do. I was thrilled to discover the area was exactly as I had imagined it to be, and so excited to see streets and landmarks that are mentioned in the book in person. We even saw a moose and bear!    

L.L.: You’re a mom, a wife, a suburbanite. Even an animal shelter volunteer. As a writer and mom myself, I find I’m constantly juggling things—dropping balls, even. I think of characters at dinner and plots while at soccer games. How do you make your writing life possible…and keep all the balls in the air?

Mary Kubica: I’ll admit I’ve been dropping more and more balls of late, Leslie. Nothing vital, thankfully, but laundry gets done less and the house is not quite as clean as it used to be. These days my writing life happens between 5 and 7 a.m. Once my kids are up and awake, I pack my writing career away and become ‘mom’. My youngest is in half-day kindergarten; the few hours that he is in school are filled with errands and housework, and volunteering as much as I can at the animal shelter. But my mind is always busy plotting and carrying on conversations with my characters in my head, whether I’m at home or watching soccer games or swimming lessons, or driving the kids to and from school. It’s not easy; I’ll be the first to admit it. A few years ago I was the woman who could do it all, and now I must concede that I can’t do everything. I have to rely more and more on the help of family and friends, and I’m so very thankful to everyone who has stepped up to make my dream a reality.

L.L.: I suppose I could go on and on, but I’ll stop with one last question: what’s next?

Mary Kubica: I’m finishing up my second novel, which is about a Chicago mother who encounters a young homeless girl waiting beside the ‘L’ with a baby. She feels a strong desire to help this girl with her plight, and as she does, she discovers more about the girl that perhaps should have remained uncovered. Like THE GOOD GIRL, it has plenty of twists and turns along the way that will hopefully keep the reader guessing!  

Bio: Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.  She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.  The Good Girl is her first novel.

For more information/connect:


Write On, Wednesday: Introducing Lori Rader-Day and THE BLACK HOUR, her debut literary thriller about a college professor and her return to campus after being shot

By Leslie Lindsay

I am thrilled to have debut author Lori Rader-Day with us as we delve into academic life on the fictional campus of Rothbert University, a prestigious Chicago institution. Her first book, THE BLACK HOUR will debut July 8th and it’s fantastic poolside reading. Black Hour cover web2

With work appearing in a variety of publications, including the anthology Dia de los Muertos, as well as several review journals and mystery magazines, Rader-Day is quickly on her path to a career as a mystery/thriller writer. Welcome, Lori!

L.L.: You write with such deft precision about college life. The smells, the colors, and the overall atmosphere of Dr. Amelia Emmet’s old college office building truly come to life in those opening pages as she lumbers up the stairs. Can you describe your research into the university life?

Lori Rader-Day: I’m not sure you can call it research—I work for a university. I’ve worked for three universities in my lifetime, and I borrowed things for lovely, fictional Rothbert from all of them. The building Amelia works in is loosely based on one of the older buildings on the campus of Northwestern, but the stairs—warped over time from generations of footsteps—I took from Roosevelt University, where I studied creative writing. When you’re writing a novel, you have plenty of space to pull in many layers of your own experience. Of course I make up a lot of stuff, too. I borrowed the lake from the campus where I work, but a lot of its other features are based entirely in fiction.

L.L.: Speaking of your own college experience, you started out studying journalism at Ball State and then switched gears and studied creative writing at Roosevelt University. In what ways did journalism prepare you for a writing career? What might you advise to others who are seeking a course of study in the written word?

Lori Rader-Day: In the same way that all my experiences get rolled up into what I’m writing, all my educational experience contributed to my style of writing. I think journalism is a tremendous proving ground for those who want to write fiction. In journalism you learn a lot about how to write in a way that’s clear and makes its point. And deadlines—don’t forget deadlines. Creative writing lets you get away from shoving the five Ws into the first paragraph. Those classes let you stretch a bit in your efforts to tell a different kind of story. But together, I think they’re good training. I wish I’d taken a few more English classes early on in college, but I’m not sad I wasn’t an English major. Both my journalism degrees contributed greatly to where I am in life and as a writer.

L.L.: You’re firmly planted in the heartland having grown up in Indiana and now residing in Chicagoland. What qualities do you believe a Midwest life brings to your work?

Lori Rader-Day: I sort of want to pull in some kind of John Mellencamp reference here, but I’ll restrain myself. I’ve never lived anywhere but the Midwest, so I’m strangely unqualified to see my work in any way other than Midwestern. Midwestern stories might get away with a certain slowed pacing—but not too slow. It’s still crime fiction. And Midwestern mysteries are probably helped out by that neighborliness that comes from being enclosed with a small group of people. My hometown has fewer than 400 people in it, and my family actually lived outside of town by four miles, surrounded by cornfields. Truly, I should have taken up horror writing. But Midwest life is just as broadly experienced as life anywhere else. I’ve lived in the deep country and now I live inside the boundaries of a huge urban city. Both spots are in the Midwest, but their stories are different.

L.L.: Can you explain a bit about your writing process and how you find time to do what you love?

Lori Rader-Day: My process is a little haphazard at the moment, but I wrote The Black Hour during lunch hours of my day-job, weekends, vacations. I wrote 10,000 words of it on a cruise ship. You find time when you can. I suspect that people with kids have a tougher time than I do finding time, but we all do what we have to do. I could watch a lot more TV. There are movies I want to see that I will probably never see. I don’t have any other hobbies anymore. Oh, and I read a lot less than I used to, which is the one part of all this I regret.

L.L.: THE BLACK HOUR is written in first person, multiple POVs, and focuses on an inexplicable crime in which the main character, Dr. Amelia Emmet, returns to work as a sociology professor after having been shot. It’s part whydunit, part psychological thriller, and part survivor guilt. Was this your initial intention with the book, or did it evolve, as most do, into something different altogether?

Lori Rader-Day: You’re giving me more credit for intention than I deserve. The only thing I had planned when I started writing The Black Hour was that the professor would arrive back to campus after a long recovery, having survived an attack by a student who didn’t survive his own bullet. I knew that the people she encountered would have a lot of questions and a lot of theories—that’s just how closed communities work—but other than that, no plan. This isn’t a great way to write a mystery, by the way, since the way I did it meant that everybody in the book knew exactly whodunit by the time chapter one started. But the story and the characters compelled me. When Nath, Amelia’s graduate assistant, showed up the first time, he was never meant to take over half the book. Some of the other parts of the book came with further drafts, more intentionally. I’ll take credit for that part. I’m a big fan of revision.

L.L.: Here’s a fun one: if you could compile a playlist for THE BLACK HOUR, what songs would you select?

Lori Rader-Day: This is easy, because I MADE A PLAYLIST. I love to write to music, but the music has to be right for the project. For The Black Hour, I listened a great deal to one single song, “Sail” by Awolnation, on repeat. Many of you will not believe me if you know the song, but the dark, foreboding tone of it helped me get the last half of the book right. I also listened to Dawes (especially “When My Time Comes”) and The Head and the Heart. For my next book, which has to do with the girls’ relationships, I’m leaning heavily on Katie Herzig’s “Lost and Found,” Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery,” and Lorde’s “Team.”

L.L.: As a first-time author, what’s it like waiting for “your baby” to make its entrance into the world? (The pub date is July 8th, everyone!)

Lori Rader-Day: I’ve been working on “my baby” since early 2010. My baby should be getting ready for Kindergarten right now, but she’s still not yet out on the shelf. I’m an impatient person normally. Publishing has taught me a few things about waiting, using time, planning ahead, and waiting some more. I’m really looking forward to July 8. Then I can start waiting on something else. Two things have made this time much easier: writing friends and a new project. I would suggest to any writer to get at least one of each.

L.L.: As writers, we’re all on a different leg of the journey. In your experience, what are some of the best things a writer can do for him or herself?

Lori Rader-Day: Read a lot and write a lot. There’s probably a great quote on the topic I’m not quite remembering—Stephen King?—but there’s really no short cut. The only way to get a book written is to prioritize it over quite a bit of the rest of your life. It has to be important to you. Write the story that you’re passionate about writing, for whatever reason, and then spend the time. And then spend more time getting it as good as you can, even if you, like me, are terribly impatient.

L.L.: What are you currently obsessing over?

Lori Rader-Day: Getting the draft of my next novel finished before The Black Hour is published. Using all my vacation time to go to conferences and run book events. I’m also very concerned about what I should wear to all these events I have planned. I’m not a very fashionable person, and yet: cameras.

L.L.: Is there anything I haven’t asked that I should have?

Lori Rader-Day: You didn’t ask me what kind of tree I would be. I want to be General Sherman in Tulare County, California, the biggest tree in the world, or El Árbol del Tule in Oaxaca, Mexico, which has the widest trunk in the world. I mean, if you’re going to be a tree, be a big, bad-ass tree.

L.L.: Thank you, Lori! We look forward to a new voice in fiction!

Rader Day_Lori 2Bio: Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014). Born and raised in central Indiana, she now lives with her husband and dog in Chicago. Her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, The Madison Review, and others. Best-selling author Jodi Picoult chose one of Lori’s short stories for the grand prize in Good Housekeeping’s first fiction contest. Lori is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.

To connect:

Twitter: @LoriRaderDay



Write On, Wednesday: Bestselling Author LISA UNGER talks about books, writing, IN THE BLOOD & so much more!

By Leslie Lindsay

I am so very honored to have the amazing Lisa Unger with us today. Lisa is the NYT bestselling author of 12 suspenseful tales that range from crime, mystery, family saga, to the familiar psychological thriller; she’s a reader, wife, and mother (on a fun note, watch this interview with Lisa and her daughter, Ocean Rae discussing children’s books

Lisa’s newest release is IN THE BLOOD (January 7th, Touchtone).  When my pre-order arrived in the mail, I hunkered down and didn’t stop till I finished.  It’s *that* good.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the interview for a…Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, thank you for being with us today.  Your books are crazy-good in a twisted, dark manner that keeps us turning the pages, yet they seem to straddle several genres. According to your website bio, “My novels center around strong women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and explore themes such as the power of a single choice, the corrosive nature of secrets and lies, dark family legacies, and the secrets we keep from each other and from ourselves.” That said, how can writers authentically combine these varied genre aspects into a complete whole? Is it “just” writer-ly magic? 
LISA UNGER: Thank you for having me, Leslie. And thank you for the very kind words. I suppose you’re right in that the novels do straddle different genres. 
But I think it’s important for writers to remember that “genres” are classifications designed by book publishers and booksellers to market novels more efficiently. Writers should not be thinking about genre when they write.  We should be thinking about character, setting, plot, prose and all the elements that unify to make a great book.  We should be honoring our inspiration, putting in the time, and working hard every day to dig deeper and get better at what we’re doing.
Which is not to say that genre is not important. But it’s important later, after the book is written.  In the process of writing, it is far more critical to write authentically from an organic place.  Every one of my novels begins and ends with character voice.  I follow that voice and listen to that story.  Most of my novels are dark, and all of them might be classified as mystery, or thriller, or crime fiction.  But I don’t sit down to write my next “thriller.”  I sit down to write my next novel, and I honor the character voices in my head.  It’s not intent, and it’s not magic.  It’s just being true to who I am as a writer.
Leslie Lindsay:  You’ve always wanted to write—but before you landed a book deal, you worked in publishing. In what ways do you feel your earlier work prepared you for the life as a career author? For example, I just told my critique partner, “I only wished I’d started writing seriously sooner [in my life].” 
LISA UNGER: My years in publishing taught me some important things.  I had always been a writer, but I lacked the confidence to pursue that dream. Working in publishing showed me that it was, in fact, possible to do what I wanted to do.
My years in publishing also taught me that it wouldn’t be easy.  Getting published is not an end to the journey; it’s the beginning. It’s a foot in the door, an invitation to roll up your sleeves and get to work.  It’s harder to succeed as a published writer than it is to get published in the first place.  Knowing that prepared me for the dizzying highs and crushing lows of life as a career writer.  I am grateful to have that background, that I knew the realities of the business before I finally went for it.
Leslie Lindsay: In those early days of writing, what do you think you did “right?”What could you have done better?
LISA UNGER: Hmm … that’s an interesting question.  I am not certain what I did right, or what I could have done better.  In fact, I’m not sure that we can look back at any part of our lives in regret or in self-congratulation, since we never know what the consequences of other choices might have been.
But I do know that I have always done my best.  I am certain that each of my novels represents the pinnacle of my abilities at the time of its writing.  And the only thing that has ever motivated me is the belief that every day I can be better at what I do than I was yesterday. I believe that each book I have written is better than the one that came before it.  So, to be honest, I guess I wouldn’t change a thing.
Leslie Lindsay: IN THE BLOOD—wow! It’s so well done. I knew you had me when we first meet a psychology student with a trust fund, a mess of lies, and a web of secrets. Each and every sentence is so carefully crafted with unique turns of phrase and dashing imagery. Can you give us a little kernel of how IN THE BLOOD came to be?
LISA UNGER: The germ for a novel can come from almost anything – a news story, a line of poetry, even a photograph.  In the Blood was inspired by an article I read in The New York Times Magazine about how certain doctors think they can see early signs of psychopathic behavior in children as young as five. This idea ignited my imagination and led me to do a great deal of research on the topic.  And while I was reading, I started to hear the voice of Lana Granger. The only thing I knew about her was that she was hiding something big.  But I didn’t know what.  I also knew I had to tell her story.
Like most of my novels, In the Blood is my delving into the question of what makes us who we are, and what power do we have to change ourselves.  My father used to recite this poem for me when I was a kid.  You cannot hide in snow/ no matter where you go/ you leave a trail behind/ that anyone can find.  It sounds a little creepy, doesn’t it?  He didn’t mean it to be; he’s just into the sound of words.  It stayed with me and comes back at weird moments.  And over the course of my life, its meaning has evolved as an allegory for the self.  You cannot hide from yourself.  The psyche won’t allow it. You must embrace everything, even the darkest and most unpleasant things within you. That’s the major theme of In the Blood.
Leslie Lindsay: What advice would you give writers who are at that submission stage, who have a completed manuscript, and really want to get published traditionally? How do you see the publishing world changing?
LISA UNGER: Just keep writing.  Don’t wait to see if that book publishes, even if you are at the submission stage. Just keep writing.  Dig deeper.  Try to get better.  Because that’s what will get you published in the end, being great at what you do.
The publishing world is changing all the time; it’s true.  And it’s changing so fast and unpredictably that you shouldn’t worry about it until you are actually published.  And not even then!  Just write the best book you can write.  Write organically, exactly the book that your heart wants to write.  You can’t hope to follow trends or write to sell, because those trends, too, change all the time. 
What doesn’t change is that everyone is still looking for a great story – agents, editor, and readers.  We will always look to story to escape from or understand life a little better.  We will always want a great story to lift us up, thrill us, excite us, and make us feel something.  Publishing may change.  But love of story is forever.  There will always be a place for a great book.
Leslie Lindsay:  Is there anything obsessing you right now? 
LISA UNGER: I am always obsessed with questions of identity, nature vs. nuture, family legacies, abnormal psychology, relationships, religion, the many facets of love, and the things that connect us and tear us apart.  I am most recently obsessed with psychic phenomenon, haunting, and addiction. I have a kaleidoscope of obsessions, always shifting, changing and building on each other. Thank goodness!
Leslie Lindsay: What’s next for you? Working on another book—I hope! 
LISA UNGER: My next novel, entitled CRAZY LOVE YOU will publish in April 2015.  I am currently at work on my first young adult book, and the 2016 adult title.   Stay turned for more on all of that!
Leslie Lindsay:  Thank you for being with us today, Lisa Such a thrill! Can you kindly direct readers to your website, social media? Also, an author photo and book cover image would be much appreciated.
LISA UNGER: Thank YOU, Leslie, for having me!  And of course readers can find out lots more about me on the web!
Facebook: authorlisaunger
Twitter: @lisaunger
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Lisa Unger….New York Times bestselling author of IN THE BLOOD (Jan 2014)
Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way
And now for the GIVE-A-WAY!!  Lisa has generously offered a complimentary copy of her new release, IN THE BLOOD to one lucky reader. All you have to do it SHARE* this interview via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc. and LET ME KNOW you shared by dropping me a line at or leaving a comment in the comments section of this blog. If you don’t tell me you’ve shared, your name can’t be entered. GOOD LUCK!!
*The Fine Print: Give-a-way open to US residents only. Contest runs Wednesday, 2/19/14 thru Saturday 2/22/14 at 5pm. You will be contacted via email if you are the winner. Please check “junk” and “spam” folders for an email from me. If you are not the winner, you will not be notified. Respond promptly with your mailing address. Ms. Unger, or her representative, will send you the book. Your email will not be used for any other reasons.
Photographs courtesy of Lisa Unger and retrieved 2.18.14 from
This interview was arranged by Leslie Lindsay