Briefly tell us about your book.
The Silent Wife is my 20th book. The main character, Will Trent, is an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and when he is pulled into investigate a prison riot, a case from the past is reopened. Unfortunately, that case has some ties to his longtime girlfriend, Sara Linton. So you can imagine that things are going to get worse before they get better. As Will digs deeper into the past, a very disturbing picture starts to emerge.
What inspired the idea behind this book?
Actually, I planned the major twist in this story over a decade ago. This book goes back in time a bit, to the Grant County Series which I finished writing in 2007 (NOTE: you absolutely do not have to read the earlier books to enjoy this book—it’s just a nod to the good ole’ days). I knew that I’d want to write this story but that some time would have to pass first. It’s been thrilling to finally write this story. Readers are in for a real treat.
What was the research process like for the book?
I always do a ton of research for my books, and like to use first hand sources whenever possible. For this one, I spoke to detectives from the GBI (which I do for pretty much every book). A doctor who advises me on all of the medical details helped to make Sara sound credible. I spoke with a mortician and a medical examiner and a few other folks who were able to give me insight into certain topics. I researched child abusers. Criminal Law. And I’m sure that there is more I’m forgetting. Sometimes I’m working on a book and while I’m doing research I’m like “oh, that could be an idea for my next book.” So sometimes I might hear a fascinating detail that doesn’t work for the current story, but I’ll jot it down for a future novel.
If I looked at your internet history, what would it reveal about you?
Oh, you’re not gonna want to do that. If I’m being honest? You’ll find a lot of searches for kitten porn. Hey, authors are people, too! And the internet was practically invented for cat videos. Weirdly, I got into watching burial vault videos while I was doing The Silent Wife. The music that accompanied them was just…fascinating. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of funny videos for social media, so you’d discover where I get all of my great costumes and props. You’d also find a lot of searches for “How To” videos—like how to cut music in iMovie. How to calculate the life span of an average roll of toilet paper. How to spell T’Pau. Just things like that.
What are you hoping the reader will take away from reading your book?
I always hope readers just have a great time reading, and find something that thrills them. I read for fun, and I know how transporting a great book can be. I try to deliver that experience every time. But I also try to layer in social issues, so if you’re looking for a message behind the text, you’ll definitely find that there. I’ve been writing about violence against women since my first novel, and the most horrific thing I’ve learned is that in the ensuing twenty years, statistically, not much has changed.
Does the creative process get easier for you with each book?
If anything, the more I write, the harder and more challenging it gets because I learn something new with each book. If there’s an easy part, it’s that I have a lot more resources now. If I need to talk to a cop about how to commit the perfect murder, she’s not going to put me on a watch list. I hope. I have a doctor, a medical examiner, lots of folks I can call up and ask crazy questions. Also, a certain level of confidence comes from writing several novels. I don’t feel compelled to fit in everything. I’ve learned the patience of being able to say, “this character detail or plot twist that I love doesn’t work in this story, but I can put it in the next one.”
How does it feel to hold your book in your hands?
It feels exciting and fantastic every single time. You have to know that writing is this very personal and singular thing. But publishing is a collaboration. You spend all of this time crafting a story, and you are the only one experiencing the book during that time. Then you send it out and your editor reads it and gives notes. Then the book jacket is designed and it is laid out into pages. Marketing copy is written and so on and so forth. By the time I get to hold the finished book in my hands it has become a Big Thing. It is really rewarding.
What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
The most challenging part of writing this particular book had to do with technology then (back in the Grant County world) vs. present-day technology in the Will Trent world. As written, only eight years have passed between the last Grant County and now. But in the real world many years have passed, and technology has changed tremendously. For instance, when was the last time you received a fax? Remember when Blackberry phones were top of the line? And everyone got those AOL discs in the mail? So, I admittedly took some liberties. But liberties had to be taken!
How did you think of the title of the book?
The way Sara and Will communicate, or don’t, is at the heart of this story. Sara is very conscious of the mistakes she made during her first marriage, and she is determined not to make them again. Of course, it’s not that clear-cut, but she tells herself she doesn’t want a silent husband and she sure as hell is not going to be a silent wife.
What is something that has influenced you as a writer?
Growing up in a very small, insulated Southern town, I was told there was something wrong with me because I was a little girl who was interested in the darker side of life. They all thought I should be playing with Barbies and wearing pink and braiding my hair when I literally taped a photo of Marilyn Monro after the autopsy onto the side of my lunchbox as a statement on the sad fleeting of beauty. Then, a librarian gave me a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, and told me that O’Connor was a woman who grew up in a small, insulated Southern town and became celebrated around the world for writing about dark subjects. I realized that I wasn’t alone or weird, or touched in the head—there were other girls like me out there. Flannery O’Connor isn’t usually considered a crime writer but the world-building in my own novels owes a lot to her. Her books contain all the elements of great a crime novel—poverty, unusual characters, small towns, people who are up in your business, characters with criminal intent. So reading authors like Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Mitchell, Patricia Highsmith, Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie and Anya Seton made me realize that there were all these really talented women who had come before me. They helped me realize that it’s ok for women to talk about these dark, horrible things that are, more often than not, happening to women.
What’s the easiest and most difficult parts of your job as a writer?
The easiest part of my job is that I get to work in my pajamas, but honestly, I wore my pajamas to work before and no one really noticed. I get to travel all over the world, which is nice because I’ve met all sorts of interesting people and that one mildly racist woman in Canberra, but that wasn’t wholly unexpected. I love working with my editor because she really gets me and we grew up in this business together. I love being able to write for a living, which is unheard of in most parts. Maybe the coolest thing for me is walking into a book store and seeing my books on the shelves, but not too many books because people have been reading them and the store needs to get more. That’s really one of the best things about being published—knowing my readers are out there and that they are happy with my books.
The most difficult part of my job is having to get out of my pajamas when I go out in public or on book tours.
Do you write about people you know? Or yourself?
All of my characters have some aspects of me, especially in Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter, which are both sister stories. I am the youngest of three girls so I know older sisters are bossy brutes. But even Will Trent is a bit like me in that he loves cars and is very mechanical and puzzle-oriented and not fond of talking about his feelings. And Sara Linton uses a Mac and drives a BMW, and I wanted to be a doctor most of my childhood (and then I nearly flunked math and it was made clear that I was perhaps better suited for liberal arts). Since most of my work is set in Georgia I use my experiences in real places to infuse my writing with a sense of place.
What’s some great advice you’ve received that has helped you as a writer?
Two things from two different authors. Tess Gerritsen told me when I go on tour, to always pack more underwear than I need, and she was absolutely right. Harlan Coben told me that the problems you have when you are successful are much better than the problems you have when you are not. Also correct.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read as much as you can. Even if it’s a bad book, you’re learning something about where a story can go wrong.
Who are some of your favourite authors? Or favourite books?
I’ve read all of Kate Atkinson’s stuff. I adored Case Histories. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters was one of my all-time favorites. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski are my favorite series characters. Alafair Burke, Kate White, Sara Blaedel, Don Winslow, and Lisa Gardner are all on my necessary reading lists.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
My routine is that I get up in the morning and start writing and I write until I can’t stop, then I go to sleep or watch mindless television and then I wake up and write again. I do most of my writing up at my cabin in the mountains, which is great because it’s very isolated. I like to cocoon myself in. I spend a few weeks at a time writing, then I take long breaks, then start again.
I’m not working on anything at the moment. I was preparing for my UK and Netherlands book tours to begin in June. But given the Covid-19 situation, everything is changing day by day. So I’m doing a lot of virtual events right now. Also supporting other authors by doing entertaining interviews and posting them on my social media. I’ll begin working on my new book in the fall.