You’ve cited To Kill a Mockingbird as inspiration for this novel, but you began writing it before Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman came out. How did Lee’s “found” manuscript affect how you felt about this book? How do you think it will affect future Harper Lee-inspired novels?
My book was well under way when the discovery of Watchman was announced, so I shrugged and said to myself, “Keep going.” I don’t think Watchman is a game-changer for anyone who wants to revisit Mockingbird. In fact, I think it gives people more license to rethink the book.
What was the process of writing this novel and building the contrast between attitudes in past and present? Did the 1980s narrative come first, or did you initially place yourself in present-day Lu’s world?
When I’m playing with time, I usually dabble in both the past and present to get a feel for what’s going on, then opt for a straight-forward chronological approach. So the sections about the past were written first, then I followed the events of 2015. But I had a pretty clear idea of what was going on in 2015.
What do you admire most about Lu?
Her loyalty to her family.
What was most personal about this novel for you? What was the furthest away from yourself?
Lu’s decision to follow her father, professionally, and her desire to protect him and his reputation—that was very personal for me. Her extracurricular life, if you will, is not something I would do.
What mysteries and thrillers do you think everyone must read?
People should read what they love. That said, I wish people would read with a heightened awareness of sexism and racism.
What do you love most about writing thrillers?
I love being engaged in a form of writing that can work on so many levels. The best, best thrillers—bear in mind, I'm not saying I write them—should be able to entertain the person just trying to survive a plane ride, but also engage a person looking for something more serious. They are layered, capable of being many things to many readers.
A novel set in the pre-internet year of 1995, when disappearing was a little bit easier.
Author photo credit Lesley Unruh.
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