Article published on June 21, 2016.
When Esther Vaughan mysteriously disappears, Quinn Collins sets out to uncover the truth about her seemingly perfect flatmate. But when Quinn finds a haunting letter addressed to ‘My Dearest,’ among Esther’s possessions, everything she thought she knew about Esther is thrown in to turmoil.
Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbour town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where 18-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister.
As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell, Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted rollercoaster ride that builds to a stunning conclusion, showing that, no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end…
Don’t You Cry is the rivetingly suspenseful new psychological thriller from Mary Kubica, the international bestselling author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby.
We thought reviewer and contributor Jade Craddock might like this – and she did! She also came up with some searching questions for Mary…
Don’t You Cry is your third novel. Your first two novels were hugely successful, did this add pressure to you when writing Don’t You Cry or did it help?
A little bit of both, in all honesty! I have learned so much about my own strengths and weaknesses as an author while writing The Good Girl and Pretty Baby, and I was able to apply that knowledge to Don’t You Cry as I was writing it. But I have also set the bar quite high for myself with my first two novels, and find that all subsequent novels I write must compete with their predecessors. Finding new and unexpected twists to surprise readers becomes more tricky all the time – though I’m feeling up for the challenge!
The novel starts with Quinn discovering her roommate Esther is missing, and I wondered what appealed to you about the idea of roommates and this relationship?
This was a very conscious decision. My first two novels are heavy into family strife and marital conflict, and I wanted to take a step away from this and examine younger individuals at a different point in their lives. All of the characters are younger – in their upper teens and early twenties – though they are still going through very adult moments in their lives, and rather than exploring parent/child or husband/wife relationships to the same extent as The Good Girl and Pretty Baby, I wanted to focus on the friendship between these two young women. They’re at the point of their lives where they’ve graduated from college, moved out of their parents’ homes, and are beginning their careers. It’s a difficult – and yet exciting – time for a young person, and works perfectly with the plot of Don’t You Cry.
You use a dual narrative, but neither of the voices is that of the missing person, did you ever consider including this other voice at all?
I didn’t. Though this novel is ultimately about the disappearance of Esther, we don’t hear from her but rather see the story unfold from two other characters’ eyes: Quinn and Alex. For me, this ups the ante a bit and keeps readers guessing until the very end, wondering what has happened to Esther.
I loved both narrative angles, but was particularly intrigued by Alex and how he came into being?
I absolutely adore Alex. Every novel I write has one character that particularly resonates with me, and in Don’t You Cry, it’s Alex. He’s a mature eighteen-year-old boy, stuck at home caring for his alcoholic father after his mother left the both of them. He works tirelessly to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, so that he and his father don’t lose their home. He’s a dependable, smart young boy, who has an enormous heart. For me, he serves as a nice contrast to Quinn, who can be much more naïve, and a bit more self-serving. Don’t You Cry is a story about contrasts: the disappearance of a woman and the appearance of a woman; the hectic pace of urban Chicago and the slow, small town setting of Alex’s hometown; Quinn and Alex themselves.
The novel poses questions about the effects of parenting and of the dichotomy of nature and nurture and I wondered what your feelings are about this and in particular, without giving the story away, whether what happened in the novel you think was an outcome of upbringing or a simple inevitability of the antagonist’s inherent character?
Without giving too much away, I think that both nature and nurture shape the character of an individual. There are certain qualities we’re inherently born with, and yet parenting, home environment, peer pressure and more have an effect on these and ultimately transform us into the people we become.
I think one of the challenges in this genre is to keep the suspense up throughout the story but you do this incredibly well, is there a key to doing so?
I like to include many mysteries within one novel so that, though the big twist isn’t revealed until the end, there are other impactful moments on the page that keep readers guessing at regular intervals throughout the book. I like to end my chapters on cliff-hangers to constantly propel readers forward through the text. I also believe it’s vital to have likeable characters that readers want to hang out with for three hundred pages or more. That’s a lot of time to invest in a book, and having characters that readers will ultimately care about is important for me. My hope is that if a reader figures out that big twist, they still enjoy the journey and want to know what becomes of the protagonist in the end.
The novel has all of the ingredients of a thriller movie and I wondered whether films influence your writing at all?
I love watching films, but when I’m writing my books I’m only thinking of the book itself and not picturing it as a film or trying to let films I’ve seen sway the course of the book. That said, The Good Girl has been optioned for film, and I’m so thrilled to see it on screen!
Similarly do you find it important/useful to read other books from the same genre? Or do you prefer not to read around the genre and just focus on your own writing?
I absolutely love reading psychological suspense novels; they are certainly my go-to when I’m looking for a good book to read (S.J. Watson, Paula Daly, Kimberly McCreight, Megan Abbott, Heather Gudenkauf – just a few of my favourites!). However, if I’m knee deep in the writing process then I will typically shy away from suspense novels as they are too close to what I’m writing, and I never want to be influenced (or intimated!) by the brilliant work of my peers. In that case, I tend to read historical fiction or women’s fiction.
Some novelists prefer for a story to evolve organically as they write, it struck me as I read Don’t You Cry, and in fact for a lot of psychological thrillers in which the plots need to be so tight, that this might be problematic, how did you go about writing the novel and making all of the plot elements fit together?
I don’t plot out my novels in advance, but begin with a problem first, create my characters, and then take the story from there. I love to see the story unfold organically rather than in a premediated way, and feel that until I truly know my characters and their hopes, dreams, motivations, ambitions, fears, etc., I can’t be sure how the story will go. However, I don’t always write my novels in the same way a reader will read them. With Don’t You Cry, I wrote Quinn’s story in its entirety, and then went back and wrote all of Alex’s chapters. Making sure events are revealed at the right time takes careful editing, but this is a method that has worked for me for three novels so far, and one I love.
At the end of the story, although the drama is over, I wondered whether any of the characters had achieved any closure, it seems that there’s still a long way to go for most of them?
I don’t want to give too much away, but in all of my novels there are some elements that are not tied up into a neat bow when the drama is through – because, to me, this is reminiscent of real life. There’s still much for these characters to do to truly have closure and to move on from the events of the novel. But I like to hint at the fate/future of these characters and leave it at that, letting readers wonder and also imagine their own destiny for the characters. By the end of the book, they belong as much to the reader as they do me.
The psychological thriller has been something of a success story in the last few years, why do you think it’s such a good time for the genre and what appeals to readers and authors about it?
Psychological thrillers really are all the rage right now! Of course I’m partial to the genre and so my answer will certainly be biased, but I think readers enjoy the action, the sometimes unreliable characters, the edginess and grittiness of the text, and the sense of mystery that propels them through the page. Readers want to be challenged, and thrillers do just that – challenge our understanding of human nature and our knowledge as we try and figure out that big twist. These books are also exciting and often times a much needed break from our day-to-day reality.
I’m also interested by the fact that are so many women-led stories in the genre, both in terms of the central narrative voice but also women as suspects/antagonists rather than just victims, and I wondered as a female writer how you feel about this?
I’ve heard the term domestic noir used with some frequency lately. Many of today’s psychological thrillers use the domestic sphere as the setting, delving into the worlds of mothers and children, husbands and wives. They take our own lives and turn them on edge, which is one reason I think these novels appeal to women: authors of today’s thrillers take our ordinary and make it extraordinary. I love seeing women as the antagonist or the protagonist in today’s novels; to me this is real life, and it’s a welcome change to see women as something more than the victim.
What’s up next for you writing-wise, do you see yourself staying in this genre?
Yes! I see myself writing suspense novels for a very long time! I’ve just finishing up my forth novel, which is still unnamed, but begins when a young father is killed in a car crash with his four-year-old daughter in the backseat, completely unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident until the coming days when the little girl begins having nightmares about a car following and pushing her and her father from the road. The man’s widow sets out to find her husband’s killer. Coming in 2017!
And finally a bit of a curious question, but the inverse letter in your cover titles has become a bit of a trademark, is there anything behind this?
It began with The Good Girl and was an indicator that not everything was quite what it seemed to be, that certain characters and elements of the plot would essentially turn on the readers. But, you’re absolutely right, it’s become a bit of a trademark now!
About the author
Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in history and American literature. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children. She is the author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby. Rights to her debut novel The Good Girl have recently been acquired by Anonymous Content, the production company behind True Detective and Winter’s Bone.
Find out more about Mary at marykubica.com
Follow Mary on Twitter @MaryKubica
Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica, published by MIRA on 19 May, 2016 in hardback at £12.99
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