Kimberly McCreight: “I’ve long marveled at how different each marriage seems.”

5 Questions With...

Kimberly McCreight
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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Kimberly McCreight and ask her five(ish) questions. Kimberly’s novel A Good Marriage is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Kimberly McCreight: Being married for 18 years myself and surrounded by so many friends who’ve been married for a similar length of time, inspired the core themes of A Good Marriage. I’ve long marveled at how different each marriage seems. Some couples still hold hands, some banter playfully, others fight openly—and yet most would probably say they are happy. But could they all possibly be? There isn’t a simple answer to this question, especially when you reflect on which marriages survive and which do not. And because every relationship is so different, you can’t know the truth of it unless you’re living inside it.   

Other aspects of the story were inspired by my fifteen years of living in Park Slope, Brooklyn—a place that I love—and the fact that I’m a recovered alcoholic. Also, the book is a true combination of domestic suspense and a legal thriller. I was excited to finally put my legal education to good use!   

What character do you most relate to and why?

Lizzie, the main character in A Good Marriage, is most like me on a fundamental level, though the details of her life—her marriage especially—are very different. But there is a small part of me in most of my characters. Which, come to think of it, is a little frightening. 

Why do you feel books with relatable and intriguing characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

As we are increasingly distanced from one another by technology, our chaotic lives, not to mention the current pandemic—we crave deeper and more meaningful connections. Books with nuanced, accessible characters provide a unique opportunity for a reader to feel understood, and to better understand the world.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

My new novel, A Good Marriage, is set in my neighborhood Park Slope and takes place over a week in the summer while the kids are all away at camp. Meanwhile, their parents are gearing up for the event of the summer, a sexually adventurous, adults only party. Adventurous, but fun. The party was always meant to just be in good fun.

But after this year’s party, a woman ends up dead. When her husband is quickly arrested he reaches out to Lizzie, a former law school classmate for help. Lizzie is an outsider to the neighborhood whose own marriage is quickly falling apart. As she’s drawn into Park Slope it soon becomes clear that neither her friend nor his wife are who they appear to be. But then, Lizzie is also realizing that maybe her own husband isn’t either.

A Good Marriage is part domestic suspense, part legal thriller—think Big Little Lies meets Presumed Innocent—but it’s also a genuine exploration of what it means to sustain a marriage over time, and the compromises some couples make—and the secrets they keep—in order to stay together, whatever the cost.

What’s next for you in the book world?

Hard at work on my next book! It’s a thriller about a group of troubled Vassar grads, reuniting a decade after graduation. They head upstate from New York City with the best of intentions, but the weekend ends tragically when old secrets resurface and violence erupts.

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

I could never pick one favorite—but I absolutely love everything Taylor Jenkins Reid writes. She’s a nimble, brave storyteller, whose use of voice is a master class in craft. Plus, her books are somehow smart and suspenseful and moving and thought provoking, all at the same time. I can’t wait for her next one!

Which character was the hardest or most interesting to write in your latest read?

The irony of Lizzie being the character I most relate to is that she was also the hardest to write. When a character is like me, I have a tendency to under-explain motivations and emotional responses. Because I understand them so intimately, I assume they will be self-evident to everyone. I worked hard to create enough distance between Lizzie and I so that she could be fully developed in her own right. She isn’t me, not really. I just had to work extra hard to let her be herself.

Your book is a suspenseful thriller, which I truly enjoyed. What makes for a good thriller?

For me, the most compelling thrillers are character driven. That way the twists and turns of a story are satisfying on an emotional level, as opposed to simply a complex mental puzzle—though the puzzle part has to be really good, too! Because that’s what I enjoy as a reader, I try to strike the same balance in my own books. I want readers to be genuinely surprised by the ending, but not utterly blindsided. Readers should be able to look back and realize they could have seen an ending coming, but did not.    

Who’s your favorite suspense author?

I have too many favorites to pick one—Mary Kubica, Megan Miranda, Jean Kwok, Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman are all at the top of my list. But Gillian Flynn is the only person who’s book—Gone Girl—has ever made me miss my subway stop.

Any writing rituals?

Too many to count! Mostly they involve a rigid writing schedule and daily word counts—which vary depending on where I am in the process. Having clear structure to my writing day, especially when I have a whole new book to write in front of me, is how I avoid feeling overwhelmed. I treat writing very much like any other job—I get up, get dressed and leave the house at the same time in the morning every day. I work at The Brooklyn Writer’s space, where I’m really attached to one specific desk. That can get complicated because each day is luck of the draw. Each day, I cross my fingers the whole walk there.

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