Author Q&A: Lisa Unger
THE STRANGER INSIDE
I’m delighted to welcome bestselling, beloved crime writer Lisa Unger to Crime by the Book today for a Q&A on her newest release, THE STRANGER INSIDE. An expert balance of page-turning plotting and rich character development, THE STRANGER INSIDE is an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a crime novel to cozy up with - and stay up all night reading - this fall. THE STRANGER INSIDE follows a new mother living a picture-perfect suburban life… only she has a very dark secret lurking in her past, and it’s about to be unearthed. In her childhood, our protagonist had a near brush with death; she escaped a kidnapping attempt, but her closest childhood friends weren’t so lucky. One was brutally murdered, and another was held captive and subjected to unspeakable trauma before he managed to flee his captor. Now, in the present day, a series of vigilante killings have begun, and our protagonist has reason to believe they might be connected to her own dark past. THE STRANGER INSIDE is gripping, page-turning suspense - a psychological thriller that delves deep into the inner lives of its protagonists and its villains. I loved this book, and am betting a whole lot of you will love it, too. It was such a pleasure to get to ask Lisa Unger a few of my most pressing questions on her excellent new release, and I’m so excited to share this Q&A with CBTB readers today!
Without further ado: read on for the inside scoop on THE STRANGER INSIDE, including plot details, a snippet of my review, and my Q&A with Lisa Unger!
THE STRANGER INSIDE by Lisa Unger
Even good people are drawn to do evil things ... Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped an abduction while walking to a friend's house. Her two best friends, Tess and Hank, were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape. Their abductor was sent to prison but years later was released. Then someone delivered real justice--and killed him in cold blood.
Now Rain is living the perfect suburban life, her dark childhood buried deep. She spends her days as a stay-at-home mom, having put aside her career as a hard-hitting journalist to care for her infant daughter. But when another brutal murderer who escaped justice is found dead, Rain is unexpectedly drawn into the case. Eerie similarities to the murder of her friends' abductor force Rain to revisit memories she's worked hard to leave behind. Is there a vigilante at work? Who is the next target? Why can't Rain just let it go?
Introducing one of the most compelling and original killers in crime fiction today, Lisa Unger takes readers deep inside the minds of both perpetrator and victim, blurring the lines between right and wrong, crime and justice, and showing that sometimes people deserve what comes to them.
"Unger writes smart, chilling thrillers, and THE STRANGER INSIDE bodes to be one of her best." --Boston Globe
"Riveting...first-rate crime fiction."--Tampa Bay Times
"Completely unexpected and riveting."--Associated Press
"Superb...echoes of Dennis Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER."--Providence Journal
"Surviving a crime is the beginning of the story, not the end, in this astute, engrossing thriller." --Kirkus, starred review
"Unger's latest thriller relentlessly uncovers a multitude of secrets, leading readers down a delicious path of fear, lies, and long-awaited justice, with an ending that will leave jaws dropping." --Booklist
"Cleverly plotted...Unger's well-honed craft shows in her unmasking the avenger early on and using the reveal to ratchet up suspense. She also squirrels away several startling trump cards for later." --Publishers Weekly
"Loved it!! Frightening, utterly compelling but also sharply insightful, compassionate and with a dark, atmospheric heart. Highly recommended." --Gilly Macmillan, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Nanny
"A darkly thrilling tale of survival and obsession. Lisa Unger never disappoints." --Riley Sager, bestselling author of Lock Every Door
About the Author:
Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of seventeen novels, including THE STRANGER INSIDE. With millions of readers worldwide and novels published in twenty-six languages, Lisa Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. In 2019, she received two Edgar Award nominations, an honor held by only a few writers including Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie. The Edgar-nominated UNDER MY SKIN is also a finalist for the prestigious Hammett Prize, and the Macavity Award for Best Novel. And the original short story THE SLEEP TIGHT MOTEL is a #1 bestselling single.
From CBTB’s Review:
Love crime novels that put a fresh spin on the serial killer thriller? Looking for a suspense book that reads a bit like an episode of Criminal Minds? I’ve got the book for you. This week, Lisa Unger - a prolific New York Times bestselling author with 17 novels under her belt - has released a harrowing “popcorn read” of a thriller: THE STRANGER INSIDE. This gripping character study takes readers inside the mind of a villain with terrifying authenticity, examining the fallout of a brutal crime through the inner lives of its survivors. Following a young mother living in suburban bliss, but harboring a dark past, THE STRANGER INSIDE doesn’t ask “whodunnit”—instead, it asks “whydunnit,” and the answer will be revealed to the reader bit by tantalizing bit over this book’s 380-odd pages. Lisa Unger is a master at crafting truly palpable tension, and her skill at plotting and suspense-building ensure that readers will be glued to the pages here, even long after the killer’s identity has been revealed. THE STRANGER INSIDE will prove to be a surefire hit for crime fiction readers looking for a page-turning, richly developed thriller with serious entertainment value. My only complaint? That now I’ve got to wait patiently to see what Lisa Unger does next. | Continue Reading
Author Q&A: Lisa Unger
THE STRANGER INSIDE
Crime by the Book: Thank you so much for stopping by CBTB to tell us about your newest thriller, The Stranger Inside! In one or two sentences, what is this book about?
Lisa Unger: Rain Winter, an investigative journalist turned stay-at-home mom, gets drawn back into the case that almost ended her career. When a vigilante killer takes revenge on a man who got away with the murder, the story brings back dark memories from a trauma from in her own past, and even though going back is the last thing she wants — Rain finds that she just can’t let go.
CBTB: How did you first meet the character of Rain? Did she appear to you as a fully-formed individual, or did you find her growing and evolving the more you got to know her?
LU: A long time ago I stopped thinking of characters as people that I create and started thinking of them as people that I meet. When I first met Rain, I knew that there was another side to her beyond mother and journalist, I just didn’t know what. I discover my characters much in the same way the reader does, page by page, layer by layer. They come fully formed, but I just have to get them know them better — the same way it works with any new relationship. In some sense, that’s what novel writing is for me, trying to understand what’s happening to the people living in my head.
CBTB: The Stranger Inside is primarily Rain’s story, but you’ve crafted so many richly developed characters here that are worth talking about - my personal favorite being Hank, Rain’s childhood best friend. We need to have a moment for him! What should readers know about Hank going into this book? What does he bring to the table?
LU: Oh, Hank. It’s hard to know what to say about him and what to feel about him. He is the survivor of extreme childhood trauma, and in many ways he is irreparably altered by his experiences. In extreme circumstance, the psyche can split in such a way that stronger aspects emerge to protect the weaker. It’s a psychic survival mechanism. So there are multiple sides to Hank, not all of them healthy. But ultimately, I think there’s more good to him than bad. It’s complicated!
CBTB: There’s so much about this novel that feels so authentic and deeply researched, particularly when it comes to the psychology of your characters (and even one of your character’s background as a therapist!). I know from previous conversations we’ve had that you’re fascinated by the mind and how it works. What kind of research went into the psychological components of The Stranger Inside?
LU: My research into abnormal psychology is ongoing. I have a long-time obsession with Carl Jung. And this book is particularly fueled by my exploration of trauma and its impact. My questions about the human psyche and what makes us who we are drive all of my novels. I think of myself as spelunker, shimmying into all the dark spaces of the mind, shining a light to see what’s there. All research for my novels is three-fold. These days, everything starts with the internet. Then if I need more knowledge, I turn to psychology books and texts. When I need a deep dive into my subject matter, I find someone who will talk to me. In this case, The Inner World of Trauma by Donald Kalsched was an important source.
“My questions about the human psyche and what makes us who we are drive all of my novels. I think of myself as spelunker, shimmying into all the dark spaces of the mind, shining a light to see what’s there.” -Lisa Unger
CBTB: Speaking of psychology - this book left such an impact on me because of how deeply you delve into the mind of the story’s killer. I’m so curious, do you ever write characters or scenes that are so dark, they scare you, the writer, as much as they scare the reader?
LU: It might works the other way around. I write about the things that frighten me. In doing so, I hope to understand them better, to metabolize fear, maybe to exert some kind of control. I think most writers of crime fiction write about what scares them. And I think readers turn to crime fiction to find order in the chaos of real life. In books, there is a beginning, middle and an end, usually good triumphs over evil, or some kind of justice is served. Not so in the real world.
CBTB: Readers will quickly discover that this book isn’t a “whodunnit” - it’s more of a “whydunnit,” an exploration of the deepest motivations of its characters. I’m fascinated by this structure for a thriller! How do you craft tension in a story when readers know early on who the “bad guy” is?
LU: You know what’s funny? I never even thought about it that way. There are multiple layers to the story, and there are all kinds of bad guys — in this and in all of my novels. People are never just one thing. And even the so-called good guys are not exactly good by every measure. As a reader and as a writer, my fascination is with character journey. Who is never as interesting as why!
CBTB: You’re about to head out on book tour for The Stranger Inside! What are you most excited about when it comes to your upcoming tour?
LU: Oh my gosh, by far the best thing is visiting with readers, booksellers, libraries and all the amazing conversations I’m going to have with my writer pals Hank Phillippi Ryan, Joe Finder, Laura Lippman, and JT Ellison. I’m an introvert, so heading out on the road is never easy. But knowing I’m going to be spending time with such great people makes me happy. I feel so grateful to all my friends for sharing a stage with me and turning my STRANGER book tour into a FRIEND tour!
CBTB: What are you working on next?
LU: I just finished the novel that will publish in 2020. It’s all about — haha! I would never tell what it’s about! Not yet! I’m going to have to keep you in suspense — because that’s my job. But, of course, Crime By the Book will be one of the VERY FIRST to know! Thanks for everything you do, Abby, for books, for readers, and of course for writers!
Huge thanks to Lisa Unger for so thoughtfully answering all my questions about her newest book! THE STRANGER INSIDE is available now at your favorite bookseller.
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (September 17, 2019)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the books included in this post.