What better way to celebrate Friday the 13th than another chilling interview with another spooktacular author?
I am obsessed with suspenseful, mysterious reads and when I found out that Janelle Brown released a new book, I had to immediately add it to my bookshelf. I got the opportunity to chat with her and find out more about her exciting new book, Watch Me Disappear.
TYF: What were some of your favorite books and stories growing up?
Janelle Brown: I was a pretty voracious reader. When I was in high school, I tended towards mysteries and suspense – I loved Lois Duncan, and Steven King, and Agatha Christie, and pretty much read everything they had written — though I also liked a lot of classic fiction. I remember reading Anna Karenina in high school and being blown away. And I also went through a significant Ayn Rand phase!
TYF: Did these stories inspire any of your current work?
Brown: Well, I give a shout-out to Lois Duncan in Watch Me Disappear! My new novel is certainly influenced by my long-time love of suspense & mystery, more than my first two books were.
TYF: What is your writing process like? Do you like writing throughout the day or do you find yourself writing late into the night?
Brown: I have two small kids, so my writing hours are very circumscribed by their schedules – I work between morning drop-off and late-afternoon pick-up. I’m usually too shattered to write by the time they go to bed, but I do occasionally wake up at 4 a.m. and work for a few hours before they get up.
TYF: Do characters come first or plot?
Brown: I think they go hand in hand. I’ll imagine a story, with a character at its center; and then start developing the character more and as I do the story will often change. Character informs plot because the action has to come from character behavior.
TYF: The places where you have lived are the setting of your books. How have the places where you have lived inspired your stories?
Brown: I think places have personalities! I’ve lived in many parts of California, and I feel like each one has a tone/vibe to it; those tend to influence the stories that I set there. Berkeley was the perfect setting for Watch Me Disappear – the bourgeois bohemian nature of Berkeley really helped shape how I imagined Billie, Jonathan and Olive’s characters.
TYF: Congratulations on your new book, Watch Me Disappear! Your new book is a thriller and quite different than your past work. What made you want to write a thriller?
Brown: As I said earlier, I love suspense! Although honestly, I didn’t plan on this booking being a thriller – I was writing it as a domestic drama about a family coping with grief. It wasn’t until I was part-way through the book that I realized that I’d written a mystery at its center. And then I had to go back and edit it accordingly.
TYF: Motherhood is such a big theme in Watch Me Disappear, did you know that motherhood was going to play such a large role in the story?
Brown: It wasn’t really in the plan at the beginning of the writing, but as I wrote the book it became increasingly clear that the theme had come through in the writing. It’s probably not surprising considering that motherhood was on my mind, after having two kids.
TYF: In the spirit of Booktober, what are some of your favorite thrillers that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
The Secret Place by Tana French
The Fever by Megan Abbott
Descent by Tim Johnson
If You Were Here by Alafair Burke
Ill Will by Dan Choan
TYF: Lastly, what message would you like our readers to take with them after reading your new book, Watch Me Disappear?
Brown: The book is really about how we tell stories about our lives — that we write little narratives for ourselves (and the people we love) that are very subjective so that we can convince ourselves that our lives are the way we like to imagine them being. And that’s not always the only story. Who we want people to shapes how we choose to see them.
About the Author:
Janelle Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Watch Me Disappear, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and This Is Where We Live. Her journalism and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, Wired, Self, RealSimple, Lenny, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications. Previously, she worked as a senior writer at Salon, and began her career as a staff writer at Wired during the dotcom boom years, working on seminal Web sites like HotWired and Wired News. In the 1990’s, she was also the editor and co-founder of Maxi, an irreverent (and now, long-gone) women’s pop culture Webzine.
A native of San Francisco and a graduate of UC Berkeley, she has since defected to Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband Greg, their two children, and a geriatric lab mix named Guster.