This past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend ThrillerFest 2017, an annual crime fiction conference in New York! While at ThrillerFest, I sat down with author Cate Holahan, whose books DARK TURNS (2015) and THE WIDOWER’S WIFE (2016) have received fantastic praise from readers and reviewers alike, and whose upcoming psychological thriller LIES SHE TOLD (on sale 9/12/17) sounds right up my alley. LIES SHE TOLD includes a book-within-a-book mystery and an examination of what happens when reality and fiction collide. I absolutely cannot wait to start reading it!
In this blog post, you'll find:
- A brief video introduction to Cate and LIES SHE TOLD
- LIES SHE TOLD plot summary
- A full written recap of my conversation with Cate!
I have to say, I was totally blown away by what I learned from Cate. Her attention to detail, her enthusiasm for her work, and the thoughtfulness she puts into each aspect of her stories made me all the more excited to read LIES SHE TOLD. One particular thing struck me while talking with Cate: I think it's so cool how Cate actually addresses many questions I always have about fiction writing through her book-within-a-book psychological thriller. You’ll read all about this below, but Cate actually directly addresses two questions I always love to ask authors. She considers where ideas come from and the concept of characters taking on a life of their own, all within LIES SHE TOLD.
Many thanks to Cate for taking the time to chat with me, and to her publisher for facilitating this interview. LIES SHE TOLD is my next read—I’m so excited to dive in!
Video Introduction: Meet Cate Holahan!
About LIES SHE TOLD (on sale 9/12/17):
Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.
Liza Cole has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. In the meantime, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. With stresses weighing her down in both her professional and her personal lives, Liza escapes into writing her latest heroine, Beth.
Beth is a new mother who suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home alone caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.
Then the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the same river and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.
CBTB chats with Cate Holahan
I absolutely loved speaking with Cate—her book sounds fantastic! Below you’ll find the key highlights of our conversation. Note that these responses are paraphrased, not direct quotes from Cate - any errors my own.
On the inspiration behind LIES SHE TOLD:
Cate described how this question can be so challenging for writers, because so much of inspiration is subconscious—and she actually wanted to explore this topic in her book. This story follows an author who realizes that her subconscious is doing what can so often happen to writers: it’s picking up pieces from her real life that she hadn’t consciously been aware of. But in the case of this main character, her subconscious is picking up clues to a mystery that involves a friend of her fiance, clues which she’s using to craft her fictional mystery, while they actually reflect her real life.
I personally always love a good “book within a book” mystery. How did this element of LIES SHE TOLD come to be? What kind of planning goes into making this successful?
It takes a lot of plotting to tackle this kind of mystery. Each story has to stand on its own, but they also have to relate to one another! Cate uses extensive excel grids to map out the details of the stories—including mapping out character development, how the characters interact, how the story will develop, and more. Cate emphasized that you can’t be a “pantser” to write this kind of mystery; you really have to be focused on plotting and organizing.
While reading a “book within a book” mystery, I’m always curious why the author chose to structure it this way. Why not write just one of the stories on its own?
In this particular book, the main story really is about the author and where she's finding the ideas and inspiration for her story. This book delves into the fact that we know things on a subconscious level that we’re not even aware of. LIES SHE TOLD examines where these ideas come from, and how we can have subconscious reactions that are incorporated into our lives without us being aware of it. The second book, the “book within a book” to this mystery, is a reflection of the main character’s subconscious - so it made perfect sense to structure the book this way! The second book represents the subconscious of LIES SHE TOLD's main character.
As a reader, there are often times that a character feels like a real person - someone you get to know as you read. And those characters can surprise you, just like real people would! I was curious if Cate ever feels as a writer that her characters become their own people, and if those people can surprise her, even as she’s the one creating them?
Cate actually plays with this idea in the book! Without spoiling anything, there’s a scene where the main character (Liza) has a character who does something that surprises her. Liza is surprised—she feels that her character shouldn’t be reacting the way she does! Liza actually sits back and has a mental conversation with her own character, asking her why she’s doing this. So Cate actually exactly addresses my question within LIES SHE TOLD! As Cate described it, when you’re writing, you really are writing people—and they have their own characteristics that sometimes make themselves known in surprising ways.
I personally haven’t read Cate’s books before, so I asked her to share a bit about her previous books! How is LIES SHE TOLD different from her previous book, THE WIDOWER’S WIFE?
LIES SHE TOLD is a true psychological thriller, where THE WIDOWER’S WIFE was more of a “investigator looking into a crime” structure. LIES SHE TOLD is more unconventional and more unexpected. Cate shared that as she’s continued to write, she’s become more sure of herself as an author, and it’s allowed her to take risks in her writing. She shared that sometimes when you’re starting out, you want to start with a book that’s a bit more easy to explain, one with concrete roles—for example, THE WIDOWER’S WIFE, which has a clear-cut investigator who is trying to solve a mystery. LIES SHE TOLD takes risks—it’s more complex. She credited her confidence with the trust her agent and publisher have in her, and her experience as a writer.
What is Cate working on next?
She’s currently writing her next novel, and it sounds fantastic! It’s a story about 3 couples that go to a house out in Long Island for a couples vacation… but then one of them disappears, and all the people in the house have different motives for why they might have wanted this person gone. In some ways this is like a locked room mystery - but it also has a psychological suspense element. It sounds pretty perfect, right?!
Last but certainly not least—I wanted to know what Cate is reading!
Cate definitely reads within her genre—she reads lots of psychological suspense and psychological thrillers. But she also likes to incorporate literary fiction into her reading routine every so often. You can check out her current reading list on her Kindle, pictured below!
Many thanks to Cate for taking the time to speak with me!
Grab Your Copies of Cate Holahan’s Books!
Catch up on Cate's previous books while you wait for LIES SHE TOLD to release in September:
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