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The Dark Side

Learn more about Her One Mistake

What inspired Her One Mistake?

A very haunting true story of a child who'd been left at a party and tragically had a fatal accident. I couldn't imagine what both sets of parents must have gone through. The blame, guilt and grief must have been palpable, yet they'd never been able to share it with each other. I decided to base the story around a child who went missing as this is every parent's nightmare, and the idea that Alice was being looked after by her mum's friend was something I hadn't read before. I also had firsthand experience of losing a child at a busy theme park and the emotional rollercoaster I went through will never leave me.

Female friendship is often explored in novels. Do you have a favourite literary friendship, good or bad?

I absolutely adore Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies and the female friendships within this novel really stand out to me. They each have their personal battles, often hidden from their closest friends, but they devoutly stand by each other.

Why did you choose to make social media such a key part of the novel?

Social media has such a huge influence on our lives today. It has an undercurrent that runs through many things we do. It is distracting and often unsociable and I felt was exactly the right thing to absorb Charlotte when she should have been watching the children. I couldn't ignore the impact of Facebook and other platforms as a means of Charlotte searching for what everyone thought of her. Even though she didn't want to see it, she couldn't resist its pull. I didn't set out intending to make it such a key part of the novel but as I wrote, it kind of earned its place by its own merits!

Did you ever envision a different ending for the book?

Yes! In fact the first draft I wrote had a very different ending, although it was one I never felt happy with. Endings are such tricky things and once I decided I need to change it, I deliberated over a number of different outcomes before I found the one I was totally happy with.

What book do you wish you had written?

Can I change this to say which books?! There are so many I wish I'd written. The first that springs to mind is Big Little Lies again, I hope that isn't cheating as I've already used it for one of my answers, but I just love the characters and the structure of the novel. Plus who wouldn't want Nicole Kidman phoning you up one day to see she wanted to turn your book into a TV series?!

But as I've already spoken of my love of that book, I'll add another and say I also wish I'd written Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere. Everything from the title to depth of her characters was inspired. I loved that book.

And finally Gone Girl. I see this as a turning point in psychological thrillers. Suddenly every other book was being touted as the next Gone Girl and when I set out as a writer I wanted the same. What a honour that must be, about a novel you have created.

Heidi Perks

Heidi Perks

Heidi Perks was born and raised in the seaside town of Bournemouth on the south coast of England. After moving up to London for a short stint, she has since moved back to Bournemouth where she now lives with her husband and two children. Heidi has been writing since she was small, though for too many years her day time job and career in marketing got in the way. Now she writes full time and cannot think of anything she would rather be doing.

Learn more about The Homecoming

Describe The Homecoming in 3 sentences, with no spoilers!

The Quinlan family gathers at an enormous, forest estate for the reading of their father's will, a man who has been absent for long stretches of their lives. When the condition of their inheritance requires them to stay at the estate for thirty days, they reluctantly agree (in large part to learn more about who their father really was). What they come to learn is that their family, their father, and their very selves are not what they thought them to be - and the estate holds secrets of a kind they could never have guessed at.

What would you be willing to do to get a massive inheritance?

Quite a lot, I think...though not what the characters in my novel end up going through! The concept of "inheritance," however, is an interesting one. Yes, there's the implication of wealth - of one degree or another - being passed from the dead to the designated living. But as anyone who has grown up in a family knows, one inherits so much more: habits (both good and bad), memories, talents and flaws. The Homecoming is inspired by my experiences and reflections that followed the deaths of my parents within a week of each other a few years ago. The way that I and my siblings remembered our parents and our childhoods - the similarities and sometimes striking differences - was an inheritance too.

The novel has a very cinematic feeling, did you have any movie or TV inspirations?

I love film, but I don't write novels with a view to the movies they might one day be. But movies certainly influence my work as much as books, less in terms of overall form or content or "accessibility" than in terms of building toward vivid moments. I write for moments - the parts in a book that make you put it down and go "Ohhhhhh!" Having said all that, in hindsight, I think the cinematic strands in the DNA of The Homecoming would include Sleuth, Deliverance, with a dash of Ordinary People.

If you could cast the movie adaptation of The Homecoming, who would you choose to play Aaron and who would play Bridget?

Okay, if I could cast the movie and have a time machine to do it (because the actors and their ages wouldn't match up without one), I'd say a late-30s Tim Robbins for Aaron, and a teenaged Jennifer Connelly for Bridget. No time machine allowed? Then how about Oscar Isaac for Aaron and Millie Bobby Brown for Bridget. Come to think of it, they would be awesome.

Which book or books do you wish you had written?

Ghost Story by Peter Straub (the gold standard, in my opinion, for the kind of modern horror I love to read and aspire to write). The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (the original text that set the model for psychological thrillers, written at the turn of the last century). The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (a Freudian follow-up to Turn of the Screw, where the genius lies in what is hidden more than what is revealed). Among many, many others.

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper is the author of The Only Child, which was an instant national bestseller in Canada. He is also the author of six previous novels, including The Demonologist, which won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Hardcover Novel and was selected for The Globe and Mail's Best 100 Books of 2013 and Amazon's 20 Best Books of 2013. The Killing Circle was a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. Four of Pyper's novels, including The Damned, are in active development for feature film. He lives in Toronto. Visit or @AndrewPyper.

If you had to describe your book in one sentence, what would you say?

Social Misconduct is the story of a smart, ambitious young woman whose online life goes so far off the rails that she is driven to desperate measures.

Social media features prominently in your novel; why did you decide to write a novel around it?

My first two novels were based on my life. Deadline is about political journalism, which is how I have spent much of my career. Salvage is about sailing, the culture of the South Shore of Nova Scotia, death, fishing, sex, and cocaine. Both novels were driven by personal impulses. For my third novel, I thought I should think about what kinds of stories the world needs, take a more strategic approach.

I was studying the nineteenth century novel and noticed that many novels of that era were preoccupied with marriage and adultery, and that these novels helped people at the time understand the way that gender relations were changing. That made me think about how many great novels—books we think of as timeless—like Pride and Prejudice or Madame Bovary—are rooted in a moment. Stories that connect with readers often have to do with the way the world is changing. So I thought a story about smartphones, about social media, might be useful to readers.

You are also a journalist; how were you able to use your journalism experiences to research and write Social Misconduct?

After 30 years of typing for a living, I think I have a facility with the language that is helpful, and also a lot of research experience.

For this book, I did interviews with people who work in social media and I read books about online culture, the computer business, and the psychology of trauma. I repeatedly talked to people in law enforcement to figure out some tricky plot points. I also visited all of the places in the book, taking notes and cell phone pictures and talking to people, getting what journalists call colour.

This is something you learn from journalism, not so much a particular skill, since anyone can do it, but a habit, something you learn to force yourself to do: go up to strangers and talk to them. Often I wrote scenes based on internet research, then visited the places, and went back and rewrote the scenes based on my observations.

Can you tell us who your favourite character to write was? (without spoilers!)

Candace, the central character, is interesting, smart, and resourceful and somehow mysterious, even to me. I came to feel, after a certain point, that she came alive, that I did not have the power to tell her what to do. She was going to do certain things, and I was going to write down what she did. I am not sure what to think of her.

Were there any other books, TV shows, or movies that influenced you while writing?

The most important inspiration for this book was Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which is a profound, original novel, the kind of book that changes the publishing industry, changes the culture. I also went back and reread The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester, because I liked a feeling the book had at certain point, and wanted to study how he produced that feeling.

Those were the two most important influences, but during revisions, I also went back to books by Martin Amis, Patricia Highsmith, P.D. James, and Stephen King, rereading them to observe their techniques and see if I could find inspiration. I'm not sure I found direct lessons, but it probably helped me to meditate on the puzzles I faced as I was trying to improve the story.

S. J. Maher

S. J. Maher

S. J. Maher is an award-winning journalist who has uncovered scandals, reported from remote outports, jails, warships, hospitals, parliamentary chambers, Afghanistan, and Haiti. His second novel, Salvage, was shortlisted for awards by the Crime Writers of Canada and The International Thriller Writers. He writes his books at anchor on his old sailboat, Free Spirit. Visit him at or follow him on Twitter @stphnmaher.

What was your inspiration behind writing The Last Resort?

Four years ago, I was on holiday with my family. I was writing a different novel at the time, but I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect the setting we were in was and wondering what might lurk beneath the surface. Authors tend to do this; we're always looking for stories. I'd entertain myself poolside by engaging in a favourite hobby of many authors: people-watching, then speculating to my husband about what everyone's story really was. Soon, I had a novel about a supposedly idyllic couples' counselling retreat percolating. By the time I had finished the other novel I was working on I was ready to start The Last Resort, some major world events —Trump being elected as president, the #MeToo movement—had changed the way I saw the world. I was frustrated and concerned about many issues, and I channeled all this into my writing.

The Last Resort is very different from your previous novel, Things to Do When It's Raining. Do you enjoy writing darker, more thriller type novels as opposed to contemporary fiction? And what genre do you see your next book being?

I didn't set out to write a typical thriller novel. I write about families, relationships, and human interaction. In this way, The Last Resort is no different than my previous two novels: it examines marriage and relationships, and our motives within these relationships, and definitely picks up many of the threads in Mating for Life and Things to Do When It's Raining about the secrets we all keep. But yes, things do end up taking a dark turn in The Last Resort, and this is new for me. I think it happened because my writing came from a dark, frustrated place. A friend recently described the book as "furious", and she's right: many times when I sat down to write, I was furious. I didn't realize how dark I could go—but I also believe I've created something that isn't just dark: there is hope, redemption, and love. I think The Last Resort is an interesting hybrid of the thriller and contemporary fiction genres — and that it likely delves deeper into the psyches and inner lives of its characters than many thrillers do. My next novel has thrilling, mysterious elements, too. And—a first for me—only one central character with a very big secret. That's all I can say for now.

Who is your favourite character from The Last Resort and why?

I think I'd most want to be friends with Grace. Despite everything, she's an excellent therapist, and a genuinely insightful, caring person.

If you weren't an author, what would you be?

A librarian, an editor—or miserable, because I love being an author. If I weren't an author, I'd probably spend most of my time trying to figure out how to be one.

What books are on your summer to-be-read list?

I've already read what I'm sure is going to be one of the biggest books of summer 2019: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm often asked for book recommendations, and this is the one I'll be singing the praises of far and wide. It's a delight from start to finish, and everything I want a beach read to be: smart, deep, and rollicking. I'm also looking forward to reading Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo, The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess, Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon, Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn, Bad Ideas by Missy Marston, and Worst Case, We Get Married by Sophie Bienvenu.

Marissa Stapley

Marissa Stapley

Marissa Stapley is the author of the bestselling novel Mating for Life, and Things to Do When It's Raining, which has been published in nine countries and translated into seven languages. Her journalism has appeared in newspapers and magazines across North America. She lives in Toronto with her family. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @MarissaStapley.

I'll Never Tell is set at a summer camp. Were your own camping experiences your inspiration?

For the setting, definitely. I spent 11 years total at sleepaway camp; 9 at the same camp in the townships in Quebec. Nothing like what happens in the book happened to me or anyone I know though! Based on a real location, not real experiences.

You've written 8 novels prior to this one, and they are all very different — where do you get your ideas?

Thank you! I try to make them different. It's hard to say where ideas come from exactly. Usually it's a bit of plot or concept that comes to me first. For I'll Never Tell, I had always wanted to set a book at camp but could never come up with an idea. I also wanted to write an Agatha Christie-type mystery. And I also wanted to write a reunion book. One day the ideas just fused.

So much of this novel is about family and the ties that bind us. What do you think it is about family and secrets that is so tempting for a thriller writer?

You can't have a thriller without secrets! And while everyone has secrets, they mostly only matter to those that [they] are close to. I like mining the idea of how little we know one another, but also the idea that if we all just sat down and were honest with one another, we might figure things out faster.

Can you tell us which character in I'll Never Tell was your favourite and why? (Without spoilers!)

Writing the twins was a lot of fun. They are so different and yet so the same, and I loved playing them off of one another.

If you had to inherit anything, what would you want to be left?

It's wrong to say a lot of money, right? Mmm, I'm really not sure. Probably some family photographs that my grandmother has – she's 103! – and she has this great wall of history in her house. But I'm in no hurry to get them. May she live to be 110.

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie's The Good Liar was a national bestseller. Her previous novels have been translated into multiple languages. A graduate of McGill University, Catherine practices law in Montreal, Quebec, where she was born and raised. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter or Instagram @CEMcKenzie1.

Your Life is Mine

Can you explain your novel in three sentences or less?

Blanche Potter is a young documentary filmmaker whose father was a spree-killer and wannabe cult leader. She's changed her name and tried to leave her traumatic past behind, but the fragments of that nascent cult are still active, and the murders aren't over.

What were your biggest challenges when writing this novel?

I wanted to tell both a page-turning, thrilling story and integrate thoughts about issues such as spree killings, toxic incel "philosophies," casual violence, American gun culture, and misogyny. Balancing all of that in a way that would satisfy readers who come to books for a variety of different reasons was quite difficult!

Blanche is fantastic protagonist. Did you have anyone in mind when writing her?

Not in particular, though I'm certain many of the working woman artists, writers, and filmmakers I know influenced how she turned out on the page. In terms of her "look," I never describe it in the book because she's narrating and doesn't much care about what she looks like, especially while undergoing the most stressful experience of her adult life. But I do know she wears heavy metal t-shirts and black jeans.

Cults are at the center of the novel. What research did you have to do for this aspect of the novel?

I did a lot of research into the Jim Jones story, but I also wanted to use the cult context to discuss the insidious online cult-like incel communities and their admiration/deification of various murderers and lightweight, misogynistic philosophers.

Were you influenced by any TV shows or movies?

I can't say that I was, certainly not directly. I draw most of my writing inspiration from books (and the news, of course), but in terms of atmosphere, I wanted to write a thriller that had the spiritual intensity of early 90s Florida death metal. But doesn't every writer?

Nathan Ripley

Nathan Ripley

Nathan Ripley is the pseudonym of Toronto resident and Journey Prize winner Naben Ruthnum. Find You in the Dark, Ripley's first thriller, was an instant bestseller and an Arthur Ellis Awards finalist for Best First Novel. As Naben Ruthnum, he is the author of Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race. Follow him on Twitter @NabenRuthnum.

The Arrangement

What piqued your interest in the topic of The Arrangement?

I saw a news article about the rise of sugar babies on college campuses across Canada. At that time, UBC, the university near my home in Vancouver, had the most in the country. (A recent article reports that U of T now holds the crown.) I wanted to explore what drives a young woman to get into the sugar-baby life, what that would feel like, and, because I write thrillers, how it could all go so wrong.

Did current events, such as the ubiquity of online dating, influence your novel or writing process at all?

My daughter is nineteen, and we have discussed dating apps like Tinder and various sugar-dating sites. To me, hooking up with someone you met online is terrifying. To her, picking up a guy at a bar is unthinkable! I read numerous articles and news stories about the increase in "transactional dating," where women are paid by men for their time, attention, and their bodies. The #MeToo movement also influenced me. Some of the female rage in my book stems from watching women come forward who had been harassed and abused and then made to disappear.

How did you gain your understanding of the psychology and inner workings of the sugar-daddy relationship?

I did a lot of research for The Arrangement. I created an online profile for my character on one of the sugar-dating sites. Within minutes, I had numerous messages from 'daddies' offering $400 for a glass of wine, a three-thousand-dollar allowance to see them once a week, and bonuses to engage in kinky sex. It was intriguing and disturbing. I also sat down with a couple of sugar babies who were really open with me about how it works and how it makes them feel. It's a fascinating, sometimes dangerous, world.

Is there a certain message from the novel that you want to get across to readers?

I'd like readers to see how a regular, relatable girl could end up selling her sexuality for money. I think removing the stigma around sugar dating (and sex work in general) makes it safer for women. If they're not made to feel ashamed, they will tell a friend or family member where they're going and who they're with. And I hope that my novel will spark the important conversations that are finally being had about female sexuality and empowerment.

Did you have a different view of sugar-baby/daddy relationships by the end of writing this book?

Absolutely. When I would see a young woman out with a sugar daddy, I'd be repulsed. Researching and writing this novel forced me to examine why I felt that way. As a Gen X woman, I grew up focused on equal opportunities and equal pay. Seeing girls being supported by rich older men felt like a step backwards for feminism. But talking to young women opened my eyes to a different point of view. Many of them have a post-feminist, sex-positive perspective. They believe that sex work has and always will exist, and our focus should be on making it safer and more consensual. That's when I realized that my judgement serves no purpose. Removing the taboos, bringing it into the open means that sugar babies won't feel ashamed to tell a friend or family member where they're going and who they're with. Their safety is the most important thing.

What are you reading and watching at the moment?

I read a lot of thrillers but I'm currently reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It's smart and hilarious and it's a nice change of pace! I've been watching City on a Hill about a corrupt cop in Boston in the nineties. And, of course, I recently devoured Big Little Lies and The Handmaid's Tale.

Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding's novels include The Party, Her Pretty Face, and The Arrangement, and she has written and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband and two children.

The Last House Guest

Describe your book in 3 sentences or less!

The Last House Guest is about the mysterious death of a wealthy summer visitor, and her best friend—someone who grew up in the town—who is desperate to uncover the truth before the facts get twisted against her instead. It takes place in a small vacation town on the coast of Maine, and centers on the complex, unusual friendship between Sadie and Avery—along with all the secrets hidden under the surface of this picturesque town.

What was your inspiration for The Last House Guest?

I usually begin with character, but The Last House Guest was partly inspired by the idea of a place: a vacation town. I knew I wanted to set the story in a town where there would be a contrast of insiders (the characters who live in the town year-round) and outsiders (those who visit each summer). Avery and Sadie grew from this idea. The friendship between Avery and Sadie—and all that happened because of it—became the heart of the story. But as I worked through earlier drafts, I realized that Avery embodied both sides of that equation—she is someone who grew up as an insider, but now feels like an outsider to her own town. That's when I knew The Last House Guest would be her story to tell.

As a thriller writer, do you find you know the plot structure before it happens, or does it develop as you write?

For me, it definitely develops as I write. I'm fascinated by how stories are told, and what different structures can reveal. I'd like to say that the story and the structure always arrive hand-in-hand, but that isn't always the case. With The Last House Guest, I tried at least three different structures before finding the focus of the story and understanding how best to tell it. It ultimately ended up being told in two different timelines: the present summer, and the prior one. At the start of the story, Avery can't seem to accept or move past Sadie's death a year earlier. And she keeps circling back to that pivotal night with each new discovery, looking for the things she might've missed the first time around.

What books have inspired you as a writer?

So many! I am a life-long mystery and suspense reader, and there have been so many different books that have inspired and spoken to me at different times in my life. Growing up, I loved both writing and science, and one of my teachers gave me Jurassic Park, which made me realize you could have a story with the twisty, action component, and also the parts of you that make you different—whether that be questions of science, or something else. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak was another story that spoke to me on such a personal level. I also love character-driven stories of all kinds, and have been inspired by books by Tana French, Gillian Flynn, and more.

Avery and Sadie were inseparable friends for almost a decade. Have you ever experienced a tight female friendship like that? If so, how do you bring that into your writing?

My first disclaimer is that my real-life friendships are nothing at all like the ones in my books! I have had the same best friend since I was a child, and am so thankful to still have her friendship in my life, many decades later. One element I think a lot about when I'm writing is destabilizing the main character's foundation, especially in the psychological suspense genre. Maybe that's how I bring those experiences into my stories, which are so different from my own life—to disrupt the relationships that have been so stable and important for myself.

Avery is a great amateur sleuth. Which literary detectives have inspired you?

I definitely got started when I was younger with Nancy Drew. Since then, I've gotten hooked on series featuring many detectives, amateur or otherwise: Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta, and Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar, to name a few. No matter what the character's background or career, I'm always fascinated by how each person uses the resources at their disposal, whatever they might be.

Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger, and The Last House Guest, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. She has also written several books for young adults, including Come Find Me, Fragments of the Lost, and The Safest Lies. She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Follow @MeganLMiranda on Twitter and Instagram, or visit

The Family Upstairs

Can you describe The Family Upstairs in 12 words or less?

A sinister, dark and unsettling story of family, loss and unthinkable secrets.

There's a very cinematic quality to this novel, were you inspired by any tv shows or movies?

No, not really. I do write very visually and readers always says that they can picture my books as films and TV shows, so I think that's probably the case here too. The inspiration for this novel mainly came from wanting to write about a dysfunctional family, which I hadn't done since The House We Grew Up In six books ago and which I really enjoyed. I also wanted to write about a grand house and about a homeless mother living rough on the streets of the south of France, inspired by a woman I'd seen there when I was on holiday in 2017.

Without spoilers, did you have a favourite character and why?

Henry is my favourite character without a doubt. I started writing him as a ten-year-old boy and grew with him into his teenage years and then as a forty-one-year-old man narrating the back story. He never failed to surprise me and wrong foot me (and sometimes slightly scare me!) I've rarely written a character who controlled his own destiny and evolution as much as Henry did and he was so much fun to write.

You've written 17 novels and have yet to run out of fascinating plots, where do you get your inspiration?

I don't tend to start with a plot in mind, I plot as I write which gives me no choice other than to keep the story moving and unfolding and holding the readers' interest. I usually start with tiny little seeds of ideas; like, in the case of this book, the woman I saw in the south of France. That grew by imagining an interesting story for her and then finding a way to tie that in with the dysfunctional family and the grand house I wanted to write about. It's very organic which means I can build a whole book from the tiniest, tiniest of beginnings rather than a fully imagined plot.

The Family Upstairs is very much about family and the damage it can cause, do you have a favourite literary family?

I'm not sure that I have a favourite literary family as such, but I do love every family created by Eve Chase; she writes dual time frame novels about incredible old houses with dark histories and her back stories are always peopled with the most fantastically interesting families written with such life and verve. I also loved the Bohemian families in The Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido and Learning to Swim by Claire Chambers, both of which are seen through the eyes of a shy and slightly unassuming incomer, highlighting their colour and idiosyncrasies.

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found You, The Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

Woman on the Edge

First things first––tell us about your inspiration for Woman on the Edge.

It was a cold winter morning six years ago when I was waiting for the subway on a Toronto platform, watching the commuters, wondering what everyone's story was. I wasn't specifically looking for a plot, because usually my best ideas come to me when I'm not trying so hard to find them. Then I saw a woman holding a baby. She looked tired and frazzled, as most new mothers do. Just as I did many years ago. I was curious what she was thinking about and how she was doing in this new life that we're thrust into the minute our baby is put in our arms for the first time. I was afraid for her, because she was so close to the edge. There are no barriers, and one false move—a light push, a trip, and she could fall onto the tracks. Even then I hugged the wall on the platform, and now I basically press myself against it until the train comes. I felt the wind of the oncoming train as it careened through the tunnel, and I imagined this mother asking me to take her baby. I experienced the exhilarating, heart-pounding excitement of a new story, and my thoughts got darker. As the train pulled into the station, I scribbled the idea on an empty gum pack. By the time I'd boarded with all the other commuters, and happily, also the mother who was nestling her baby against her, the premise for Woman on the Edge was born.

What books and/or authors have inspired you as a writer?

I honestly need pages to answer this question, because I'm a voracious reader and so many authors have inspired and continue to inspire me. I've been reading and writing since I was very young, but it wasn't until I was twenty-nine that I decided to write my first full-length novel. And it was because I had just finished Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. I fell in love with her voice, wit, intelligence, and ability to appeal to such a wide audience by creating a character we all root for. That was what I wanted to do. It took four more novels and seventeen years to see my dream realized with the publication of Woman on the Edge. In those seventeen years, authors like Gilly Macmillan, Lisa Jewell, Lisa Unger, Sue Grafton, Kate White, Mary Kubica, Heather Gudenkauf, Karen Katchur, Wendy Walker, Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Peter Swanson, Joy Fielding, Roz Nay, Chevy Stevens, Catherine McKenzie, Robyn Harding, Jennifer Hillier, Hannah Mary McKinnon, Marissa Stapley, and so many others have kept me glued to their pages and motivated me to keep going and never stop.

When constructing a thriller, what comes first for you––the story or the ending?

Definitely the story. Usually it's the premise, then the first line, and then the characters start to develop in my mind. Some authors hear their characters, but I see mine. I'm a visual person, and as I write, my chapters play out in front of me like movie scenes.

You deal with some heavy topics in Woman on the Edge. How did you approach adding these issues in to such a gripping thriller?

I don't want to shy away from heavy topics, writing or reading them, no matter the genre. I think there is such importance in delving into gritty, real-life themes in commercial fiction because the subject matter is woven into the narrative and the characters' backstories. Readers can then relate to these characters' experiences, so they can both feel a connection and the joy of entertainment. Though I did not experience postpartum depression, I definitely dealt with the fear and anxiety that begins the moment you meet your baby for the first time. It meant a lot to me to open a window into that worry to create more discussion around the challenges of new motherhood. Parenting is hard! And we try to do it all, so well and so fast, and we sometimes pay for that by not taking care of ourselves. I wanted a feminist approach because women are so complex, deep, and strong, and we strive, even thrive, as we handle whatever's thrown at us. I'm also very interested in power and wealth as a driving force toward happiness, and how being rich doesn't necessarily bring satisfaction.

Readers may not know this, but you're also an editor. Do you think that changes your writing experience at all?

It absolutely does, and in the best ways for me, I think. I'm so lucky to edit manuscripts written by such talented authors, and it's helped me focus my writing on the internal and external goals and motivations of my characters, how much backstory to include and when, the beats and pacing. It's also made me understand how important an editor is, and that I can't self-edit as thoroughly as someone else can edit for me. We simply can't always see what's actually on the page as opposed to what we think is there because it's in our minds. We're too close to it to be completely objective. Like I hope my clients are when I edit for them, I have a very tough skin for critiques and relish the most honest, toughest feedback so I can improve. I only want the best for my clients, and my editors only want me to produce the best work I can. To me, that's a gift.

Samantha M. Bailey

Samantha M. Bailey

Samantha M. Bailey is a Toronto-based novelist, journalist, and freelance editor. Her work has appeared in NOW Magazine, The Village Post, and Oxford University Press, among other publications. She was a writer-in-residence for Kobo Writing Life at BookExpo America 2013. She is the co-founder of BookBuzz, a promotional and interactive author-reader event held in New York City and Toronto. Woman on the Edge is her debut novel. Connect with her on Twitter @SBaileyBooks and on her website at

The Majesties

Without spoilers, can you explain your novel in three sentences?

Set in a wealthy Chinese-Indonesian family, The Majesties opens with a mass murder: a woman finds out her sister has poisoned everyone at their grandfather's birthday banquet, and she is the sole survivor. But she's trapped in a coma, and in order to figure out why her sister did it, she must sift through her memories and recent discoveries about the family's dark past. Think literary thriller plus opulent dysfunction plus sociopolitical critique, with traces of gothic sci-fi.

Families are complicated (even more so in your novel!). What are some of your favorite fictional families?

The Jia family of The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin makes me especially happy. I love that novel's treatment of the boisterous chaos of extended family life. I have a tender spot for the Nolan family of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I was addicted to in my early teens. Of course, there's more to life than novels, and I'm a big fan of the family in the short story "Two," from Julie Koh's Portable Curiosities. The piece offers a bitingly satirical commentary on breezy upper-class ambition through its portrayal of the father, but also a very moving portrait of impractical, sentimental goodness via the second child, whose name is Two.

There is a lot of fantastic behind the scenes information on the elite lifestyle these characters lived. How did you go about researching their world?

The circles my family moves in have some overlap with this world. So believe it or not, this information comes from my own experiences growing up, although as an adult I've sought some distance from this life.

Were there any books, movies, or TV shows that influenced you when writing?

Timothy Mo's Redundancy of Courage provided a framework for thinking about the simultaneous villainy and victimhood experienced by the Chinese-Indonesian family of the novel. The narrators of Kazuo Ishiguro's novels and Charlotte Brontë's Villette have provided useful models when it came to constructing characters who engage in severe self-repression. I reread F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, and Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier in order to create a similar tone of entitlement and matter-of-course privilege for my narrator's voice. And I was reading William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! when I wrote the first draft, which probably accounts for the nightmarish sections describing Estella's marriage to Leonard.

There is some great fashion-related content thanks to the characters' glamorous lifestyles and line of work. How did you come up with that story line?

Funnily enough, the fashion part of the storyline—where a character founds a luxury fashion house that creates accessories from sedated insects—sprang more out of my fascination for insects rather than an interest in high fashion. I got "into" insects when I was in high school and have continued to dabble in them since. I've kept mantises and hissing cockroaches as pets, I volunteered briefly in the entomological collections at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and I used to pin and label insects at my part-time job at a natural history store in Berkeley. I've always been struck by the beauty of insects—the micro-elegance of their structure, form, function, color. Somehow, to me, incorporating insects into the narrative seemed natural. I felt they worked well on a metaphorical level, given my vision for the work as a whole.

Samantha M. Bailey

Tiffany Tsao

Tiffany Tsao was born in San Diego, California, and lived in Singapore and Indonesia during her childhood and young adulthood. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a PhD in English. In addition to writing, she translates Indonesian fiction and poetry.

The Tenant

Can you describe The Tenant in fifteen words or less?

A writer's unfinished crime novel seemingly predicts an actual murder in the city of Copenhagen.

You have worked on films before and The Tenant has a cinematic quality. Were you inspired by any films when you started writing?

In general, I am not often inspired by films. A film is a very finished and polished thing, and I tend to find works of fiction that are open to interpretation more inspiring to my own creative process. That said, I do see every single book scene as a film inside my head and know exactly how the characters look. In other words: I shall be a pest on the future film sets of my books, hah!

Were any of your characters in The Tenant based on real people?

Each and every character in The Tenant has inherited traits from real people, as well as from myself. Sometimes it's a hairdo, sometimes a figure of speech or a way of moving. All real elements are disassembled, though, and put back together in new ways; I would never depict someone exactly as they are in real life. But I do strive to make every character relatable, even the bad guys—especially the bad guys.

Did you ever envision a different ending for the book?

Not only did I envision a different ending, I wrote and published it! The first Danish edition of The Tenant had a slightly different ending to what it has now. But I was never really satisfied with that first version, so last year I reworked the whole thing and published it anew. As an author you grow and learn, and it can sometimes be quite painful to look back on those early mistakes. I always want to change and improve everything so I have to abstain from reading my own books, otherwise I would be rewriting them the whole time.

What book do you wish you had written?

I have several literary idols, Dorothy L. Sayers, DBC Pierre, and Donna Tartt being some of them. But my all-time greatest heroine will always be Ruth Rendell (aka Barbara Vine), who in my mind has written some of the best crime fiction ever. Her novel No Night Is Too Long is pure genius and I would love to have written it.

Katrine Engberg

Katrine Engberg

A former dancer and choreographer with a background in television and theater, Katrine Engberg has launched a groundbreaking career as a novelist with the publication of The Tenant. She is now one of the most widely read and beloved crime authors in Denmark. The Tenant is her debut novel and the start of a series hailed for its artful originality and beautiful prose.

Follow Me

In Follow Me, your main character Audrey is a social media star. Do you use social media and do you ever worry about people online finding out too much about your life?

I'm a big fan of social media in general, and I spend a lot of time each day (possibly too much time) perusing Twitter and Instagram. That said, I don't post a lot of my own content, largely because I worry about oversharing. I haven't always been this careful—I used to post tons of photos on Facebook and regularly "check into" businesses on Foursquare, which I would then cross-post to Twitter. I shudder when I think about how I blithely announced my location to anyone who cared enough to look. I started to become circumspect with what I posted online when I started working at a law firm and wanted to ensure I was maintaining a professional image, and I really began to think extra carefully about what I posted once I became a mother. Now that I have more than my own safety to consider, I always carefully consider whether what I'm about to post will somehow reveal details about either my child, my home, or my current location. If only Audrey took the same precautions . . .

Your first book was just made into a TV series called Truth Be Told, starring Octavia Spencer. Who would you want to play Audrey and her best friend Cat if Follow Me were made into a movie or series?

Seeing Truth Be Told on the screen was so amazing! Octavia Spencer was obviously incredible, and Lizzy Caplan and Aaron Paul were just as I imagined the Buhrman twins and Warren Cave. My dream casting of Audrey in Follow Me would be a young Sienna Miller, but I could also see her being played by Leighton Meester, if she channeled a certain amount of Blair Waldorf's self-absorption. For Cat, I can absolutely see her being played by Jennifer Lawrence—I think she could really nail Cat's high-achieving-but-wildly-self-conscious thing.

How did you research for this book? Did you uncover any scary details about internet privacy while researching?

My inspiration and a large chunk of my research came from an article called "Meet the Men Who Spy on Women through Their Webcams." As horrifying as that title is, the contents of the article were even worse. It discussed how relatively easy it is for a person to install something called a remote administration tool (or RAT) on your computer without your knowledge. Once the RAT is installed, they can remotely access your computer—including your webcam. Some of these people just want to play pranks on you or mine your hard drive for financial information, but some of these people specifically seek out women's webcams and then surreptitiously watch them as they go about their daily lives. They even make a game out of "collecting" women. Frankly, it was one of the most terrifying things I've ever read.

Do you ever base your characters on real people?

While I don't purposefully base any characters on real people, I'm sure that certain traits or characteristics of people I know make their way into my work. Honestly though, it's usually bits of myself that I leave scattered through the book. For example, Cat is an attorney like I used to be, and there's a mention that Audrey's ex-boyfriend Nick never properly replaces the lid on anything—something that's one of my unfortunate habits as well.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished an early copy of Vanessa Lillie's For the Best, which is about a woman who sets out to clear her own name after she's been accused of murder, and I loved it! Right now, I'm reading Lori Rader-Day's The Lucky One, which is about a woman who was kidnapped as a child and comes across an image of the man who kidnapped her. I can't put it down! After that, I have an early copy of Megan Collins's Behind the Red Door queued up, and I'm extremely excited about it!

Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber's first novel, Truth Be Told (formerly titled Are You Sleeping), has been adapted for television by Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine. Kathleen was raised in Galesburg, Illinois, and is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and son. Follow Me is her second novel.

Darling Rose Gold

Can you describe your book in one sentence with no spoilers?

Darling Rose Gold is the story of a young woman who, despite being poisoned by her mother for 18 years, makes a calculated decision to take her in after her prison sentence.

What was your inspiration for this novel?

I learned about Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) from my best friend, who is a school psychologist. The more research I did, the more fascinated I became. The perpetrators of MSBP are usually mothers—interesting in itself since the mother/child bond is supposed to be sacred. Perpetrators act out of a need for attention or love from authority figures within the medical community, a motivation both intriguing and heartbreaking. I wanted to get inside the head of one of these mothers, to try to understand whether they know they're lying or if they believe they're doing what's best for their child. Along came Patty Watts.

If you could cast anyone in a movie version of Darling Rose Gold, who would the actors be?

The two main characters in Darling Rose Gold are Patty Watts, an overbearing mother with Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and Rose Gold Watts, a young woman who has grown up isolated from the rest of the world because of her mother.

For Patty, I'd choose Kathy Bates to play her. Bates has the same physical presence and brassiness. She moves effortlessly between spunky and vicious, just like Patty does.

For Rose Gold, I'd choose Julia Garner of recent Ozark fame. Garner is one of those actors who can play the innocent as well as she plays the mischief maker. She would need to be able to do both in order to portray the character changes Rose Gold goes through.

What kind of research did you have to do for the novel?

I read short- and long-form firsthand accounts of survivors, as well as news articles and a medical textbook. I started by researching the illness (MSBP) in broad strokes, then began to build profiles of both perpetrators and survivors. From these general profiles I was able to establish a few traits my main characters, Patty and Rose Gold, had to have but then fleshed them out to make them my own. I also researched commonly faked illnesses, rigged lab tests, harmful substances to put in the bloodstream, and how real-life perpetrators trick doctors. Not exactly light reading!

Tell us five books in your TBR pile.

Savage Appetites by Rachel Monroe, Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal, Vox by Christina Dalcher, and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The only issue is choosing between which to read first!

Stephanie Wrobel

Stephanie Wrobel

Stephanie Wrobel has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in the Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. Stephanie grew up in Chicago, Illinois, but now lives in the UK with her husband and her dog, Moose Barkwinkle. Visit her on and connect with her on Twitter @StephWrobel and Instagram @StephanieWrobel.


What was your inspiration behind the name of your main character, Temperance Brennan?

Back in the day, I had a student named Tempe. I liked the name. But my main character was raised as an Irish Catholic lass, so she needed a more formal, "baptismal" name. Thus, the elongation to Temperance. Since the character of Tempe's daughter, Katy, is an amalgam of my two daughters, I didn't want my son Brendan to feel left out. Thus, Brennan.

A Conspiracy of Bones is the nineteenth novel in your Temperance Brennan series—do you have a favourite side-character from the entire series?

You've got to love crusty old Erskine "Skinny" Slidell. I think he is the most fun character to write.

How do you keep up to date with all the developments in forensic science?

I attend the annual meeting of our primary professional association, The American Academy of Forensic Sciences I read our main professional journal, The Journal of Forensic Sciences I maintain contacts with my colleagues throughout many fields of forensic science.

What are you reading right now?

Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance. It is for research for book number twenty. And for fun, Daisy Jones and the Six.

Do you have any strange habits when you are writing? E.g., music you listen to, things you eat or drink, places you get your best ideas, etc.

I like isolation and quiet. No music, maybe just a purring cat. In the morning, I drink coffee. Later in the day, I switch to sparkling water (my grandkids call it spicy water) with lemon. Any place I travel can stimulate story ideas. Guatemala. Afghanistan. Yellowknife. Charleston. Chicago. The Blue Ridge Mountains. The Canadian Maritimes. All have been featured in Temperance Brennan stories.

Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs' first novel Déjà Dead was a #1 New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. A Conspiracy of Bones is Kathy's nineteenth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels. Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She divides her time between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Montreal, Québec. Visit Kathy at

The Swap

Without giving too much away, can you describe The Swap in one sentence?

The Swap is about two couples, one night of sexual shenanigans, and an obsessive teenager who knows way too much about what the adults are up to.

This book, as well as some of your previous books, explores the intricacies of female friendship. Why is that topic so interesting to write about?

They say that male friendships revolve around shared activities, while female friendships revolve around shared thoughts and emotions. Women can grow to really need and rely on each other, so the end of a female friendship can be as devastating as a marital divorce. And the reasons these relationships go wrong are wide and varied, providing great fodder for suspense novels.

This book also involves the world of social media and influencer culture. Has your opinion of social media changed since writing this book?

Before writing The Swap, my social media experience revolved around the book world, which is a pretty warm and supportive place. As research, I followed a number of high-profile influencers on Instagram. I can see how young, impressionable viewers could be made to feel that their faces, their bodies, and their lifestyles don't measure up. Social media contributes to an epidemic of insecurity and low self-esteem. Savvy viewers know that what they are seeing is fake and photoshopped, but to many, it's aspirational. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with social media when I was growing up.

Without spoilers, who is your favorite character and why?

The teenager, Low Morrison, is my favorite character. Even though she's only eighteen, she sees the world in such a jaded, cynical way that I find unique and funny.

If you could cast anyone to be in an adaptation of The Swap, who would you choose?

I'd love to see Margot Robbie as Freya, Emily Blunt as Jamie, and I think they could find a really amazing newcomer for Low (a tall gangly teenager just waiting for her big break!). Max, the hot hockey player, could be played by Martin Sensmeier, and John Krasinski would be great as the novelist, Brian.

What are your top three summer reads?

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, Hurry Home by Roz Nay, and Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier.

What are you binge-watching right now?

I'm re-watching The Wire. And watching Normal People, based on the book by Sally Rooney. So far, it's a brilliant adaptation.

Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding

Robyn Harding is the author of several books, including the international bestseller, The Party, and wrote and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and children. Visit her at or follow her on Instagram @RHardingWriter or Facebook @AuthorRobynHarding.

You Can't Catch Me

Can you describe your book in 3 sentences or less?

A woman named Jessica Williams meets another woman with the same name in an airport bar. A week later, all of her money has been stolen by the second Jessica. When the police refuse to help, Jessica One decides to find Jessica Two on her own and stumbles across a string of other Jessicas who have all been defrauded by the same woman.

What inspired you to write about identity theft?

A friend of mine has a common name and she was having trouble crossing the border because someone with the same name and birthday was wanted by the police. I also met someone with the exact same name as me, including the same middle name. It made me think one day who if you had a common name you wouldn't even have to steal someone's identity to steal their money, because, on paper, you are them.

Cults play an interesting part in the plot of the story, what research did you have to do for that aspect of the novel?

I've been obsessed with cults for a long time so I didn't do any specific research here, just drew on my knowledge.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have trouble writing sitting up. I am usually half-supine on the couch.

What snacks do you have around the house to help fuel your writing?

Oh no snacks are my downfall. I DON'T keep them around the house, but if I did, it would be cheese Pringles. Or any kind of chip, really.

Does your work as a lawyer come into your writing or do you keep them totally separate?

I try to keep them totally separate. I think being a lawyer brings a certain sensibility to my writing, but I generally tend not to write too much about legal things or the type of work that I do as a lawyer.

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie's I'll Never Tell and The Good Liar were national bestsellers. Her previous novels have been translated into multiple languages. A graduate of McGill University, Catherine practices law in Montreal, Quebec, where she was born and raised. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @CEMcKenzie1 or Instagram @CatherineMcKenzieAuthor.

Hurry Home

Hurry Home is the second thriller you have written. What draws you to write thrillers rather than other genres of fiction?

I think I live a pretty sunshiney life, but have always been compelled by what happens in the shadows. I watch creepy TV (although never before bedtime, too scary) and love it when a scene is so well-imagined it makes your skin crawl. People are endlessly complex and secretive, so it's a fun genre. Everything I write aligns with the premise that we're all hiding something...

Who is your all-time favourite thriller writer?

There's a wealth of talent out there, but I have to go with Lisa Jewell. She's so good at weaving in thoughtful, almost philosophical prose and her characters really stay with me. I still think about that basement in Then She Was Gone...

In Hurry Home, the two protagonists are sisters. Did you draw on your own relationships to write about their sisterly bond?

I think I must have, although I'd argue that my relationship with my two sisters is a lot less complex than Ruth and Alex's! What drew me to sisterhood as a backdrop is the devotion that's inherent in the bond. Even when sisters aren't getting along—even when terrible thriller-ingredient things are happening—there's play to be had in the lengths they'll go to for each other. I had fun with that.

What is your writing process—do you plan out the entire story, or does it come to life as you write?

I used to be a pantser and now I'm fully reformed. In my life, I'm quite slapdash and never really need a plan, but what I found with my writing is that it benefits from having a structure. Hurry Home came to life as it went, but I've just handed in the next thriller, which was a lot more disciplined. It was also a lot quicker to write...

If you could invite four literary icons from any time period to dinner, who would you invite and why?

Mark Twain, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and Harper Lee. I'd fawn over all four of them, and tell them how influential they've been in terms of how they write and what they write. They all pushed limits and created change. I'd also sit Mark and Margaret next to each other, because they'd be hilarious.

Roz Nay

Roz Nay

Roz Nay is the bestselling author of Hurry Home and Our Little Secret, which won the Douglas Kennedy Prize for best foreign thriller in France and was nominated for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Mystery and the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award. Roz has lived and worked in Africa, Australia, the US, and the UK. She now lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and two children. Visit her at or connect with her on Twitter @RozNay1 and Instagram @RozNay.

Three Perfect Liars

Describe Three Perfect Liars in under ten words.

A fatally toxic mix of office politics, women, and motherhood.

What inspired you to become a thriller writer?

I love reading thrillers and crime. It is my go-to read for the pure adrenaline and suspense and a twist that catches me out. Having always wanted to write a book since I was a child, for me there was just no other choice when it came to starting my first book.

If Three Perfect Liars was optioned to be a TV series, who would play the three leading women?

Oh, this is such a brilliant question, because in my head I had the faces of three women when I wrote the book. I had their photos in my phone so I could describe them, though they aren't all actresses and therefore not who would play the characters! But for pure looks I imagined British presenter Emma Willis for Mia, Meghan Markle for Laura, and Jennifer Lopez for Janie!!!! All beautiful women and completely out of any TV series league, I'm sure!

Are any of your characters in Three Perfect Liars based on real people?

No! None of my characters ever are, though their situations will often be (I went through something similar to Laura after my maternity leave) and some aspects of their personality will be based on people I know. It makes it much easier to write realistic reactions when you can imagine what a certain person might do, but they are never the whole character.

Who are your three favourite thriller writers at the moment?

Liane Moriarty for writing my favourite ever book (Big Little Lies), Rosamund Lupton for the brilliant way she writes, and recently I've read all Belinda Bauer's books, which are great for crime thrillers.

Heidi Perks

Heidi Perks

Heidi Perks was born and raised in the seaside town of Bournemouth on the south coast of England. After moving up to London for a short stint, she has since moved back to Bournemouth where she now lives with her husband and two children. Heidi has been writing since she was small, though for too many years her day time job and career in marketing got in the way. Now she writes full time and cannot think of anything she would rather be doing.

The Girl From Widow Hills

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I had been thinking about these huge media stories that capture the public interest—the ones that really stand the test of time and linger in our collective memory. Years ago, I was watching a news program and heard someone mention the story of Baby Jessica, and I remembered the story in an instant, though I had been a child when it happened. Most recently, I was thinking about the soccer team who became trapped in the Thai caves, and how invested I was in following their rescue. And I remembered the feeling when they were found alive after so long. I started to think about a main character who had been at the centre of a major event like this when they were young, but who maybe didn't want to be part of the story. I was also thinking about what can make a story like this sensational, and that's where the idea for The Girl from Widow Hills began.

This is one of those stories where you don't know who you can trust as you're reading it. As the author, do you know who you trust in advance? Or do suspects reveal themselves to you as you write?

I confess I never know who to trust at the start! I like starting a book without knowing—part of the fun is figuring out the puzzle, and my first drafts are very much discovery drafts. Since I write from the main character's point of view, I feel like I can connect to that perspective authentically when I also don't know. I really need to write my way into things before I discover who the characters are and what their relationships are like, before I can have a sense of what happened and why.

Our protagonist Olivia once changed her name in order to avoid public attention. How do you name your characters? Have you ever changed the name of a character during the writing process?

Usually, the names sort of come to me in a way that I wish I had a better answer for. They're names I like, for the most part. I try not to use names of people I know well, though inevitably I will meet someone with the same name as soon as I finish writing! In this book, I actually did change the name. When I started, the main character went by Arden in her adulthood, instead of in the past. But I quickly realized having such a distinct name would make her more memorable, and she'd choose to go by a more common name in the present.

Do you have any odd habits or strange quirks that help you in the writing process?

I have an odd habit of fueling my revisions with Pop-Tarts. I never really crave them any other time of the year. But whenever it comes time to revise a draft, I find myself stocking up on them again.

What are some of the books on your #TBR right now?

The Searcher by Tana French, When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole, and Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger, The Last House Guest, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, and The Girl from Widow Hills. She has also written several books for young adults, including Come Find Me, Fragments of the Lost, and The Safest Lies. She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Follow @MeganLMiranda on Twitter and Instagram, @AuthorMeganMiranda on Facebook, or visit

Little Disasters

What inspires you to write thriller fiction? What inspired you to write Little Disasters?

I guess I'm interested in exploring the dark undercurrent of our lives: that disconnect between what's really going on in people's heads and relationships, and the image they present to the world. Psychological thrillers exist to explore this tension, and the purest navigate and play with the darkest recesses of our minds.

I wanted to write Little Disasters because I want to write honestly about issues that affect women. So in Anatomy of a Scandal, that was rape, and here it's maternal mental health and the fracturing of self that can sometimes happen after having a child. I also wanted to draw on my own experience. After having my second baby, a perfect storm of circumstances—being unable to walk during pregnancy and afterwards; moving 50 miles away from my home, sister, and support network; giving up the career that had validated me and given me an identity—meant I had postnatal anxiety and experienced some intrusive thoughts that made it very easy to imagine what it would be like to have maternal OCD. My catastrophising fears were also sparked by my experience as a news reporter. Because I'd covered several high-profile cases of murders by pedophiles, I constantly feared my daughter would be snatched from me as she scooted ahead of me, for instance, and those fears were exacerbated by sleep deprivation.

I also wanted to write about another woman whose professional judgment has a dramatic impact on other people's lives. In Anatomy of a Scandal, Kate's job as a barrister means she is tasked with persuading jurors to convict James. In Little Disasters, Liz's job as a pediatrician means she has to be alert to safeguarding issues when children are brought into her trauma room. Deciding that a parent may have harmed a child means that child will be isolated from them—and will cause huge emotional upheaval for all concerned. It's a scenario that could happen to any parent with a baby who's banged their head, and I think the everyday nature of this jeopardy is what makes it so scary. Throw in a character whose thinking has become warped, irrational, and unreliable and you have a scenario ripe for dramatic potential.

Liz, the main character, is an ER physician. Did you have to do a lot of research into the medical world to write her?

Well, I had the huge benefit of being married to a surgeon! We've been together over 20 years so that helped in my understanding the practicalities of life as a doctor, but I was also meticulous about my research. As a journalist, I always want to get all the details right, so I spoke to pediatric registrars, an obstetrician, and a perinatal psychiatrist, as well as social workers and a retired detective to make sure the policing issues were accurate. I obviously couldn't hang around pediatric wards, but as a parent, I've been on a ward and, inevitably, on three occasions to pediatric A&E.

Your first book, Anatomy of a Scandal, is currently being filmed as a Netflix series. Who would you hope to play the main characters in Little Disasters if it also gets picked up?

Little Disasters has already been optioned by a production company (although I can't yet reveal which). Thinking of British actresses, either Ruth Wilson or Charlotte Riley would be an excellent Liz. For Jess, you need someone who is strikingly beautiful but a bit unknowable, and Laura Haddock is physically similar to the Jess I imagined. In Anatomy of a Scandal, the actresses Sienna Miller and Michelle Dockery play Sophie and Kate respectively, so perhaps because of this I imagine a darker, more intense, and deeply intelligent Liz, and a more radiant, fairer Jess.

Who are your three favourite thriller authors of all time?

Such an impossible question. I'm not sure if Daphne du Maurier is viewed as a thriller writer, but I think Rebecca is the ultimate psychological thriller. Sticking with historical writers, I think Patricia Highsmith is peerless. I recently read The Talented Mr. Ripley and there is a part involving jewellery and Tom being about to be found out where I think I stopped breathing. What's so audaciously clever about Highsmith is that I wanted Tom to get away with it all. Looking at more contemporary writers, I've never been disappointed by Liz Nugent who is fearless in looking at some unpleasant truths about familial dysfunction. And I would feel confident of a satisfying read with Lisa Jewell, Louise Candlish, Lucy Atkins, Ruth Ware, Shari Lapena, Sabine Durrant, Erin Kelly, and Lucy Foley.

What are you currently reading?

I'm halfway through You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. HBO's The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, is based on it and I'm intrigued, from a screenwriting viewpoint, to see how the show departs from the book. I'm particularly interested because the dream team of producer Bruna Papandrea and writer David E. Kelley adapted this. They also created Big Little Lies and, with producer Liza Chasin and writer Melissa James Gibson, my own Anatomy of a Scandal, so I'm learning so much from assessing these literary adaptations.

You Should Have Known is such an immersive read in its own right, though, and is written in the close third person from Grace's viewpoint. Along with her patients and the upper East Side mothers, Grace is skewered quite spectacularly: the therapist who perhaps should heal herself. It's quite a slow burn, and I suspect the killer may be different in the novel to the TV series. (I've skipped ahead to check; no hope of checking with the series, released once a week, of course.) But it's compelling and it makes for delicious reading. Before this my "second lockdown" read was Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light. I'm a huge fan of her Cromwell novels and this had weirdly prescient parallels with the current pandemic. (There's a plague going on, and there are huge concerns that Henry VIII doesn't come into contact with anyone who has a family member who might have it.) This third installment features a middle-aged Henry, handicapped by weight and ulcerous sores on his leg, who is mercurial, spoilt, and paranoid. Again, reading it during the US election and in its aftermath, it was hard not to see parallels with another hugely powerful man.

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan studied English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. She spent eleven years at The Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent, and political correspondent. Sarah lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.

The Residence

Your book, The Residence, involves a haunted White House—what made you want to write about this topic?

I actually wasn't looking to write about the White House, nor write a historical thriller at all, before I stumbled onto the story of Jane Pierce, First Lady to President Franklin Pierce. Oh, and I'd never heard of President Pierce prior to that either! I was just starting on a completely different book and found myself killing time—as I sometimes like to do—internet searching about haunted houses. It was down one of those related rabbit holes that I found Jane. What fascinated me about her wasn't that time of American history (not yet, anyway), nor was it the unique setting of the presidential residence for a horror story. It was how this woman lost all three of her children, the last of whom—her favourite—perished in a freak train accident (the only fatality) mere weeks before her husband's inauguration. An unthinkable tragedy. But what really grabbed me was how, when she moved into the White House, she spent her time writing letters to her deceased son, Bennie, pleading with him to return to her. And according to her letters...he did. As soon as I read that, I set aside my novel-in-progress and started work on what would become The Residence.

Since this book is based on true events, what kind of research went into writing it? And can you reveal any research that you found interesting, but didn't make it into the book?

I knew from the beginning that The Residence risked being a black hole of endless research. After all, it touches on major events in American history, namely the lead-up to the Civil War, which is another way of saying it deals with the atrocities of slavery. And then there's the cultural and sociological research that runs alongside the political, the most interesting for me involving the obsession with spiritualism and talking with the dead that gripped the nation at that time. Not to mention the Pierces themselves, their strange marriage, their astonishing loss. There was potentially a lifetime of research one could have indulged in here without ever writing a word of the story. So I was alert to choosing the topics and moments I needed for the novel I had in mind.

As to research I didn't use—there was a lot of material concerning the haunting of the White House that followed the Pierce Administration that is deeply weird and frightening that I won't share here because I hope to use it in a separate project one day!

What do you love most about writing horror?

The pleasure I take in writing horror is the same no matter what kind of story I may be wrapped up in. It's about the daily task of finding the answer to a thousand questions, some big, some microscopic. Writing is choosing a path, finding a way into a character or scene that excites and surprises me, feeling the pieces snap into place in a way that feels right. I love the work so much, the quiet pleasure in filling the empty page with meaning or action. If I can make a reader keep the lights on all night along the way, all the better.

What books or authors would you recommend for someone who wants to start reading horror?

Stephen King, of course (my faves of his are Salem's Lot and The Shining). But on the less beaten track I would recommend Sara Gran's Come Closer, which is a short and wonderful introduction to horror if you have your doubts about the genre. I would also say that, for me, Peter Straub's Ghost Story is a masterpiece of the form.

What are you currently reading?

I'm reading a super-weird (and super-great) horror novel from a few years back, The Cipher by Kathe Koja. I'm also reading Revelations by Elaine Pagels, a brilliant close reading of the Bible's Book of Revelation.

What are some of your writing essentials?

Coffee. A decent chair (but it doesn't have to be great, just good enough to not leave me crooked as a question mark). Coffee. A level surface to support my laptop or notebook. Coffee. Uni-ball Vision micro black ink pens. Did I mention coffee?

Nathan Ripley

Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper is the internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels, including The Demonologist, which won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Hardcover Novel, and The Killing Circle, which was selected a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. He lives in Toronto. Visit and follow him on Twitter @AndrewPyper.

White Ivy

What was the inspiration behind White Ivy and its compelling protagonist, Ivy Lin?

I was really interested in writing an anti-heroine character who is highly motivated to achieve her goals, no matter the cost. I also love a good coming-of-age story and stories about class and family. The first line of the book came to me out of the blue—"Ivy Lin is a thief but you'd never know it to look at her"—and that became the bedrock of the novel. I immediately knew where Ivy's ambitions would lead her, and the plot has been unchanged since the beginning.

White Ivy is your debut novel. Was there anything about the publishing process that surprised you along the way?

I was really surprised by how long it takes to publish a book. After my editor acquired it, we did six drafts of edits together over two years. Then there were many rounds of copy edits, cover design, marketing, and so on. It's really such a team effort.

Shonda Rhimes won the adaptation rights to White Ivy for a Netflix miniseries. What would your dream casting be for the adaptation? Were there any actors you were imagining as you wrote the novel?

I didn't have anyone specific in mind as I wrote the novel. I think Rooney Mara or Elle Fanning would make an excellent Sylvia. Timothee Chalamet is so talented, he could play any of the male roles. I cannot imagine any actress as Ivy because she's so distinct and specific in my mind that I have a hard time seeing anyone else as Ivy.

Have you developed any fun author quirks during your first foray into writing a novel?

For most of this novel, I was nocturnal, writing from 10 p.m. to 4 or 5 a.m. But that's not necessarily developed from being a writer—I was always a night owl. But since writing doesn't necessitate any meetings or human interactions, I could stay up as late as I wanted without anyone bothering me. Those are my most productive hours.

What are some books on your #TBR right now?

I am looking forward to reading Butcher's Crossing by John Williams. I read Stoner and Augustus by the same author over the holidays and loved both so much. When I find an author I love, I tend to read everything they've written back to back. I'm not a moderate person. It's probably one of the few things I have in common with Ivy!

Susie Yang

Susie Yang

Susie Yang was born in China and came to the United States as a child. After receiving her doctorate of pharmacy from Rutgers, she launched a tech startup in San Francisco that has taught 20,000 people how to code. She has studied creative writing at Tin House and Sackett Street. She has lived across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and now resides in the UK. White Ivy is her first novel.

Little Cruelties

Little Cruelties revolves around the often tumultuous relationship between three brothers––William, Brian, and Luke. Where did you get the inspiration for writing about such a complex family dynamic?

In my previous books, the protagonists all grew up as only children, whether by birth or by circumstance, so this time I wanted to explore the dynamics between siblings, and particularly between brothers.

I have a fascination with flawed men (in fiction!) and dysfunctional families (possibly influenced by television). The Sopranos and Breaking Bad were both examples of how the characters' pasts influenced their futures and their family relationships. Tony Soprano wanted his mother to love him. Walter White wanted the respect that was afforded to his former business partner turned Nobel Prize winner when they were young men. These men were both emotionally stunted.

I also come from a large family. I have eight siblings and I know that if I were to ask each one of them to recount an incident from our childhood that we would come up with nine different versions of the event.

The three brothers in Little Cruelties are connected to fame and fortune. Were any of the brothers inspired by real celebrities or people in the public eye?

Will was based on a notorious theatre producer. His bullying behaviour was abhorrent, but in those days, it was just accepted as the price of keeping your job. He was exposed quite dramatically by the Irish media some years ago and has now disappeared from public life. Good riddance!

Luke was very loosely based on Nina Simone. Though his pop career is very short lived, he battles with inner demons that ultimately destroy him and everyone around him—if his brothers don't get there first.

If you were to cast the Netflix series of Little Cruelties, who would you want to play William, Brian, and Luke?

That's a very dangerous question to ask because currently there is a very real chance of that happening. Writers never have any say in casting decisions, but if I were to name names, then the actors who do get cast (fingers crossed) might hear of my thoughts and see themselves as a second choice. So if you don't mind, I'll keep my mouth shut.

Which thriller writers are you inspired by or would you consider your contemporaries?

I'm a big fan of Robyn Harding; her books seem to explore the same kind of domestic noir territory as mine. They are plot driven, whereas mine are character driven, but I would see us in the same wheelhouse.

I may be very presumptuous to compare myself to Liane Moriarty, but again, her thrillers are not cops and robbers and high-octane car chases. She writes about the relationships between family and friends and love and betrayal. I think where we differ is that I go much darker psychologically than she does, though I try to sprinkle a bit of humour and lightness throughout.

What are you currently reading and what is next on your #TBR pile?

I am currently reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, which recently won the Booker Prize (the most prestigious literary prize in the UK). It is very grim, about extreme poverty and addiction, set in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1970s. It is exquisitely well written but I am desperately hoping something good happens to the children and their mother very soon.

Next, I think I will have to reread an old favourite. The pandemic is hard on everyone and apart from a couple of weeks, we have been in lockdown since March, so I need a comfort read. It's either going to be Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theater, and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written critically acclaimed short stories both for children and adults, as well as the bestselling novels Unraveling Oliver and Lying in Wait. She lives in Dublin. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter at @Lizzienugent.

The Woman Outside My Door

Can you sum up The Woman Outside My Door in two sentences?

The Woman Outside My Door is a twisty psychological thriller about a troubled young mother, Georgina, who becomes convinced her son's imaginary friend is real. As she digs for answers, it becomes increasingly unclear if her mental health is unravelling or if her child is in real danger.

This is your first novel. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story?

The idea for the plot came to me as I was out walking one night. The opening scene appeared in my head fully formed, and I rushed home and wrote the first chapter on the spot. But the themes of mental health, motherhood, and generational trauma are all areas of interest of mine, so I'm not surprised that this is the story my subconscious cooked up for me.

What sort of research did you have to do?

During the editing process, I read a lot of non-fiction on the relevant topics to make sure I had my facts straight. It was a challenge to weave in the necessary information while keeping the plot propulsive – it's a kind of balancing act!

Which character was your favourite to write and why?

I loved writing Cody, the seven-year-old boy at the heart of the novel. His defiant personality and vivid imagination allowed me to blur the lines between what's real and what isn't, and to give the story that shadowy, uncertain vibe that throws the reader off balance.

Irish-noir novels have become very popular. What do you think makes Ireland a breeding ground for these sorts of dark stories?

Ireland has quite a dark history, and I think that's reflected in the thrillers that are coming out of the country at the moment. Ireland also has a very rich literary history, and maybe this is our moment to contribute to the world of psychological suspense.

What books are on your TBR pile now?

I'm just finishing Louise O'Neill's After the Silence, and next up is Jo Spain's The Darkest Place. Which makes it sound like all I read is psychological thrillers set in Ireland, but I swear that's not true! Under those is James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, which I'm really looking forward to.

Rachel Ryan

Rachel Ryan

Rachel Ryan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. She can usually be found writing in coffee shops, hanging around libraries, or walking the streets of Dublin, making up stories. The Woman Outside My Door is her first novel.

Good Neighbors

Can you sum up Good Neighbors in two sentences?

Good Neighbors is about a rough-around-the-edges family who save up for a piece of the American Dream—a run-down house on a suburban Long Island block. But it’s the near future, and with the threads of civilization coming undone, the neighbors have been wanting a scapegoat for years—they find it in the Wilde family.

The novel is set in the near future where things are a little bit different but still recognizable. Why did you use that time period?

Global warming isn’t going to get any better over the next few decades. I wanted the people in my story to have a greater sense of threat over that—they don’t know if their jobs or mortgages or plans for the future will hold. Once the sinkhole appears, they can’t even trust the ground beneath their feet. It’s a problem we’re all going to have to plan for (or not). When our own resources become limited, will we help the people who are worse off? Or will we be so frightened for our own security that we invent reasons to fear them?

What sort of research did you have to do?

I studied mob mentality, the Stanford Prison Experiment, the Kitty Genovese story, and narcissism. What I learned was that the bystander effect and these bleak sociological explanations for human behavior are exaggerated. People tend to be good and want to do good. But what I learned from studying personality disorders like narcissism is that it’s human nature to invent false narratives in childhood that we cling to for the rest of our lives. These false narratives can often override our better natures. We wind up speaking different languages to each other. It’s in these misunderstandings that trouble brews.

Which character was your favourite to write and why?

Rhea was probably my favorite character. She’s got the mean, funny lines we all want to deliver, but never do. I did a lot of research to get her right—she’s damaged but also extraordinary. Though she was raised wild, she’s managed to mimic the suburban ideal of perfect wife and mother—no one the wiser. She’s a survivor. But her scars are just so deep. They get in the way, and when the story opens, she’s looking for a cure. But she doesn’t know who to trust or where to start.

So many characters are more than a little damaged, and the whole book speaks to “you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.” What inspired you to create this dark neighborhood?

I don’t think it’s that dark. It’s just honest. Plenty of thrillers and literary fiction out there tell much bleaker stories. But those stories are stylized—the violence is fun and gleeful, the characters wish fulfillment. I think the difference is that readers actually believe what happens in Good Neighbors is possible—it’s not escapism. It’s reality.

This story is about ordinary people. We all have scars, and we all misunderstand each other because of those scars. The Capitol was recently stormed. That happened for a reason. I’m just looking at what’s going on in the world and trying to make sense of it.

What books are on your TBR pile now?

This year, I loved Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. On my TBR, Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and Jesmyn Ward’s Wolf Hall, and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.

Sarah Langan

Sarah Langan

Sarah Langan, a Columbia MFA graduate and three-time recipient of the Bram Stoker Award, is the author of three novels, including The Keeper. She grew up on Long Island and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters.Find out more at

The Girls Are All So Nice Here

What was the inspiration behind The Girls Are All So Nice Here?

I went into this book knowing I wanted to write a story set on a college campus and to explore toxic friendship through that lens, and in particular, the ways women are expected to see each other as competition. I think that the campus environment lends itself to so many unique themes, such as the pressure to reinvent yourself and fit in. For many people, college is their first time living away from home and it comes with a new set of challenges: rebranding from high school, navigating a new social hierarchy, and making the most of a fresh start.

I also knew I wanted to explore bullying from the perspective of the bully herself and delve into the factors driving her cruelty—namely, how far someone would go to reinvent herself.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here is your debut adult novel, but you’ve written a number of young adult titles. Was there anything in the shift from writing teen fiction to writing adult fiction that surprised you?

I really gravitated toward the retrospective element that’s possible with adult fiction. In YA, everything feels very immediate and intense, but with adult, you can show a much larger range of emotional separation, as well as an evaluation of former decisions and the consequences they wielded. This structure worked well for The Girls Are All So Nice Here, as we’re inside Amb’s head at two different stages of her life: once as a college freshman, and again as a woman in her early thirties headed to her college reunion. She has the hindsight to look back on her past and the girl she used to be, and to evaluate her regrets and mistakes—especially when her former actions quite literally confront her.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here really explores the toxic friendships that women encounter, particularly in their late teens/early twenties. What made you choose to pull out those themes and explore them?

I’m fascinated by toxic friendship because I feel it’s a theme virtually any woman can relate to, and these toxic, one-sided friendships are something we often don’t understand until much later. It can take years before the realization sets in that a relationship was unhealthy, and in the moment, it’s easy to be blinded by charisma or the desire to fit in. In The Girls Are All So Nice Here, Amb sees her friendship with Sully as something practically sacred and it’s not until many years later that she sees it for what it was. Her need for attention intersected with Sully’s boredom at the worst possible time, to devastating consequences.

When writing a thriller like this, do you know the ending going in? Or do you uncover the story as you create it?

I’m the type of writer who doesn’t know where the story is going until I’m writing it. This can make the process a bit chaotic (and sometimes daunting), but I always feel that if I’m able to surprise myself with a plot twist, I’ll hopefully be able to surprise a reader as well. What I find fascinating is how much my subconscious is at work while I’m drafting. I’ll write in a line or a random detail, unsure of its importance until much later, but it all seems to come together.

What’s on your #TBR right now?

There are so many books coming out this summer that I’m very excited to read. At the top of the list: The Turnout by Megan Abbott, We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz, The Husbands by Chandler Baker, For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing, and Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda. I recently finished The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris and am currently reading Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian. Both are mind-blowingly excellent, and I would highly recommend!

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a former model who lives in London, Ontario, with her husband and three children. She is the author of three young adult novels: Firsts, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, along with Last Girl Lied To and All Eyes on Her, under the name L.E. Flynn.

The Drowning Kind

Can you describe The Drowning Kind in fifteen words or less?

A drowning on her grandmother’s estate forces Jackie to confront dark family history.

What is the most challenging part of writing a story with dual timelines? Do you ever get the characters or plot points mixed up between the two?

The most challenging part, for me, is making sure the stories fit together and flow. In The Drowning Kind, I began with the story of Jax and Lex in the present day. As Jax began to learn the history of the old family land and pool, I realized I wanted to show what it was like back when there was a hotel there. So I started the 1929 timeline where we meet Ethel, and she and her husband travel to the hotel for a weekend. Because I’m not a plotter or planner, I had no idea at first how these two storylines were connected—I had to keep writing to discover that there was more than the landscape holding the two stories together. Once I understood the connection, I had to go back and weave in details and play with the structure until I felt like the two timelines flowed back and forth in a way that propelled the book forward.

What book or books would you recommend to readers who get spooked easily by thrillers? Anything to ease them into the genre?

You can’t go wrong with some of the classics steeped in good old-fashioned atmospheric suspense—anything by Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, or Patricia Highsmith.

What is the best book you read in 2020 and why? (You can only pick ONE!)

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. This was the first book I’ve read of his and it absolutely blew me away. He’s phenomenal and is now one of my new favourite writers! It’s a terrifying and gut-wrenching story about revenge and regret that follows four Native American friends who are haunted by a hunting trip gone wrong years ago. I love the inclusion of Blackfeet folklore and that, at its heart, it’s a story about identity and loss. The characters are all wonderfully flawed and feel completely real. And then there’s the Elk Head Woman who scared the bejesus out of me! It’s been months since I’ve read it, but I still find myself searching the shadows for her. She’s one of the most authentically frightening characters I’ve ever met.

What is one book (of any genre) that you wish you had written?

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. One of my very favourite books ever. The story is so simple but revealed in such a masterfully sinister way by the unreliable—but profoundly sympathetic—young narrator. Really a masterpiece.

What are you binge-watching right now?

Mare of Easttown. The story is compelling, the acting is amazing, and the whole thing just feels so real. The relationship between Jean Smart’s and Kate Winslet’s characters is especially brilliant. We’ve only got one episode left and I really don’t want it to end.

Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is the author of nine novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Promise Not to Tell and The Winter People. She lives in Vermont with her partner, Drea, and their daughter, Zella. Visit her at or connect with her on Instagram @JenniferMcMahonWrites and Facebook @JenniferMcMahonBooks.

The Other Passenger

What was the inspiration behind The Other Passenger?

There were three big inspirations. I really wanted to write a thriller set among commuters, exploring that superficial intimacy between people who see each other every day but barely look beyond the surface. I was also very inspired by Double Indemnity and old noir movies—my ambition was to write a contemporary double-crossing plot with a monstrous femme fatale (Melia). Finally, I wanted to explore generational conflict (in this case, Gen X vs younger millennial)—I’m obsessed with it!

How would you cast a movie version of The Other Passenger? Do you ever picture actors while you’re writing?

Funnily enough, The Other Passenger is my first book where I had an actor in mind as I wrote: the British actor Steven Mackintosh. He is Jamie and I was overjoyed when he later agreed to record the audiobook for us. The book is being developed by actor/director Joseph Cross and his company Moving Image Productions and will probably be transplanted to NYC, so it will likely have a North American cast. I can’t wait!

Do you ever write versions of yourself into your novel?

There’s a lot of me in many of my characters, male and female. They often have my sardonic sense of humour, for instance. But the terrible situations they find themselves in are from my imagination. If I’d gone through anything like the calamities Jamie has to navigate in The Other Passenger, I’d have had a nervous breakdown by now.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Maybe not strange, but people are often surprised to hear that I don’t have a desk. I sit on the sofa with my laptop and my dog. When magazines ask me for a photo of my desk, I have to gather bits and pieces and style one on the dining table!

What’s on your TBR right now?

It is teetering, but at the top are the new Val McDermid, 1979, and Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. I need to clear a week for Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle—I love her writing. I’ve just finished The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell—it’s classic Jewell; she grips you from the first page and you remain in her thrall for the entire book. And, out next year, The Maid by Nita Prose, a debut with the most fabulous main character, Molly the maid. I completely fell in love with her.

Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish is the Sunday Times (London) bestselling author of fourteen novels. Our House, a #1 bestseller, won the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards, was longlisted for the 2019 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award. It is now in development for a major TV series with Red Planet Pictures, producers of Death In Paradise. Louise lives in London with her husband and daughter. Visit her at or connect with her on Twitter @Louise_Candlish.

The Hunted

The Hunted takes place on an island off the east coast of Africa. Did you base the setting on real places that you have travelled to?

Yes, the setting is 100 percent authentic. When I was twenty-one, I travelled to Mafia Island (off the coast of Tanzania) and lived and worked at the very dive camp that the characters in the book go to. I used every little detail I could remember from that place and time.

If you were going to cast the movie for The Hunted, who would be your number one choices to play the main characters?

I always had Vanessa Kirby in mind for Stevie. Initially I thought Chris Pine for Leo, but I might swerve and cast James Norton. I had Dylan O’Brien in mind for Jacob with that nice, boy-next-door face. And Antonia Thomas for Tamsin.

Where is your favourite place to travel to and where is the first place you hope to visit when you travel internationally again?

I love tiny, tucked away little beach spots like Little Corn Island in Nicaragua. And I’ll always have a soft spot for Byron Bay, Australia (I met my husband there!). I’d love to go and check out Morocco when things open up again. Although right now, I really just want to go home and see family in the UK...

What is your writing process like? Do you start with the setting, the characters, or the plot? Or all of the above?

I always seem to start with settings and characters. Those come first, but then I have to figure out what they’re hiding and why. The intricacies of the plot evolve for me—sometimes even as I’m writing it—but I usually know the big moments before I set out.

What are you currently reading?

I actually have two books going at the moment, which is unusual for me. I’m reading Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin for a refreshing, hilarious, poignant break from thrillers. But I’ve also snuck into We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz because I’m so excited to read the travel thriller aspect of it, and I got hooked by chapter one.

Roz Nay

Roz Nay

Roz Nay is the bestselling author of Hurry Home and Our Little Secret, which won the Douglas Kennedy Prize for best foreign thriller in France and was nominated for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Mystery and the Arthur Ellis Best First Crime Novel Award. Roz has lived and worked in Africa, Australia, the US, and the UK. She now lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and two children. Visit her at or connect with her on Twitter @RozNay1 and Instagram @RozNay.


Can you describe your book in three words?

Intense. Thriller. Page-turner.

The film rights for Falling have been bought by Universal Pictures. Who would you cast in the roles of Bill, Sam, Jo, and Theo?

My lips are sealed! I’m simply blown away that this story could be told on screen at all and I can’t wait to see the way it will translate to that medium.

Falling is a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat read. Do you think you’ll continue to write in this genre?

I do. Life is hard enough. I love taking myself (and a reader) out of the day-to-day slog and into a fun adventure.

What is your preferred genre to read in your spare time?

I try to read across all genres. I think it’s important to have a balanced literary diet. My book choice usually depends on what kind of story I’m in the mood for.

What are some of your writing essentials?

One or two candles burning and hot black coffee (decaf after about 9pm).

T.J. Newman

T.J. Newman

T.J. Newman, a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. She wrote much of Falling on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Falling is her first novel.

My Heart Is A Chainsaw

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is often referred to as the book equivalent of a slasher movie. What would you say are the most iconic slasher films, and how did they influence your writing of the book?

How much time you got? I can go on and on. I have list after list, this grand sweeping attempt at a taxonomy. And each new release shakes things onto different branches. But . . . let’s see if I can limit it to five here. Halloween, which codified it all; Friday the 13th, which is when the slasher metastasized; A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was kind of the high point of the Golden Age; Scream, which reinvigorated the whole genre; and then . . . The Cabin in the Woods, say, which recontextualized the whole genre for us in a way we hadn’t been anticipating—we hardly could have anticipated. They all supply the lifeblood thrumming through My Heart Is a Chainsaw’s veins. Without them chiseling conventions and tropes into stone, and then runnelling blood into those well-worn grooves, then I’ve got to do it all myself. And it’s much easier to stand on the shoulders of Jason and Michael, Freddy and Ghostface.

Have you thought about who would play your main character, Jade, in a movie adaption of the book? Who would be on your shortlist?

Saw someone on social media saying Devery Jacobs, of Reservation Dogs of late, would be a good Jade, and I have to agree.

The setting in both My Heart Is a Chainsaw and in your previous book, The Only Good Indians, is such a vivid and pivotal part of both stories. How do you decide where to set your books and do you base these locations on real places?

For The Only Good Indians, yeah, it’s the reservation, it’s Browning, it’s Great Falls, it’s Montana—all places I know. So it was less about making them up, more about getting them right. Or, less wrong, anyway. I did have to move the elder section across the road, from Yellow Mountain to down by Duck Lake. For My Heart Is a Chainsaw, though, yeah, Proofrock’s not an actual place. But it is, to me, a real place. That place is the small town I grew up in. Like Jade, I felt like it was stuck in the sixties. Like Jade, I was the only Native around. Like Jade, I was the weird one who liked the horror stuff. And I was always having to go home from school for my T-shirt choices.

If you had to choose another genre to write in that you’ve never written in before, what would it be and why?

Romance. I love rom-coms. Just as much as horror, really. When they all come together in the end, in a kiss? What can be better? I’ve only ever written one romance story, “Boys with Guitars,” now unavailable, I think. But it was so, so fun. I could do that more and more. Who doesn’t want to run through the love fields, right? Or the “fields of love,” maybe? Not sure what the best term is, really. Maybe I need to start there.

Are you a big film and TV buff? And if so, what have you been watching recently?

Reservation Dogs, Rutherford Falls, Ted Lasso, Yellowstone. Just now watched the pilot for the new Walker, Texas Ranger. I’m now one episode into Midnight Mass, but, as slow as I watch television—it’s been nearly a week since that ep—it’s probably going to be a while before I’m done. I don’t seem to have the ability to binge. Or to remember that I’m actually watching a show. And? I’ve always got slasher movies on hand, right? They’re usually where I end up. Happily.

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians. He has been an NEA fellowship recipient and been recipient of several awards including: the Ray Bradbury Award from the Los Angeles Times, the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Jesse Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the Alex Award from American Library Association. He is the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Lost Immunity

Lost Immunity delves into the world of vaccines and touches specifically on vaccine hesitancy. What inspired you to write about such a timely topic, and was the timing with COVID a pure coincidence?

It was a wild coincidence. I tend to write stories that incorporate hot-button medical and public health themes. Even before COVID, vaccine hesitancy and the anti-vax movement were arguably the most controversial topics in that realm. I began writing the novel in the summer of 2019 and, coincidentally, I finished the first draft on the week I heard about a new virus emerging in Wuhan, China. In subsequent drafts, I was able to easily incorporate COVID and set the story in a post-pandemic world. I like to think the story and its themes would have been topical regardless, but they became exponentially more relevant after COVID!

Your books always have such rich characters who have depth and knowledge. How do you research your characters, and do you ever base them on real people?

Thank you. Even though I write plot-driven thrillers, characters are always my primary focus. No matter how complex or propulsive the storyline, I won’t be interested in it if I’m not invested in the characters. I always strive to create characters (likable or not) who have some complexity and, ideally, vulnerability to them. In other words, to make them interesting and relatable. But I’m very careful to try not to base them on real people, especially ones I know personally, because for me that has always led to creating caricatures instead of characters.

What is your writing process? How do you balance your demanding career as an ER doctor with writing books?

I don’t really have a writing process per se. When I have a momentum on a story and I have something to say, almost nothing can stop me from writing. But little is more incapacitating to me as a writer than a bunch of free time and a lack of wind in my creative sails. Also, being an ER physician, I kind of thrive off chaos. And sometimes, my hectic “day job” allows me to translate that energy onto the page.

Lost Immunity and your previous books typically fall into the thriller genre, often with a medical and sometimes historical influence. Is there a genre of books you would like to experiment writing in?

As a matter of fact, I just did! My upcoming novel, The Darkness in the Light (May 2022), represents a real departure for me. It’s still a thriller with some medical elements, but it would probably best be described as Nordic noir in genre. It’s a dark, psychological mystery-thriller with some huge twists that is set in the remote municipality of Utqiagvik, Alaska, the second northernmost town in the world. Despite the dark themes regarding suicide and predatorial behaviours, I had so much fun creating this little world and the characters in it.

What are you reading and watching at the moment?

I am watching the third season of Narcos: Mexico. And at this point, I don’t even know why. The story follows the relentlessly violent and often tragic events of the cartel wars in 1990s Mexico, and there’s no possibility whatsoever for a happy ending.

I am currently reading Comanche Moon, which is another exceedingly long but highly readable novel in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series that follows the exploits of a few eccentric and memorable Texas Rangers in nineteenth-century Texas. I never thought I could be so hooked on a Western series, but McMurtry didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize for nothing. He writes such compelling characters!

Daniel Kalla

Daniel Kalla

Daniel Kalla is the internationally bestselling author of novels including Lost Immunity, The Last High, and We All Fall Down. Kalla practices emergency medicine in Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit him at or follow him on Twitter @DanielKalla.