Peter Swanson is the author of the new psychological thriller Her Every Fear. He also has written The Kind Worth Killing and The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Atlantic and The Vocabula Review. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Her Every Fear, and for the book's title?
A: I’ve had the idea for many years although initially I thought of it as more of a love story than a murder mystery. I thought it would be interesting to have two characters fall in love with one another by living in each other’s apartment. I think it’s a much better story with a murder in it.
About the title, it was originally going to be just “every fear” which I took from James Fenton’s poem “A Staffordshire Murderer.” But I think “Her Every Fear” is catchier, and a better description of the book. Much of my main character Kate Priddy’s anxieties center on being a female.
Q: You write from the perspectives of several characters. How did you decide which characters' perspectives you wanted to include?
A: Initially it was just going to be from Kate’s perspective but as I went along, I changed my mind. This was partly due to logical reasons—I needed more perspectives in order to tell the whole story—but also because I love books with multiple perspectives. You can do a lot with that from a thriller perspective.
Q: Did you always know how the novel would end, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I had a basic idea of how the novel would end, but not the specifics. I always start with just the premise and then I begin writing. As I go along, I am always thinking a little bit ahead, but I never outline.
Q: The novel takes place mostly in Boston. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: It’s hugely important. I think Boston is a good location for a thriller, but I write mainly about Boston because that’s where I live. In Her Every Fear, I wanted to write something that felt like a gothic thriller, and to me, a large apartment building in Beacon Hill just felt right. That section of Boston feels a little bit trapped in time. It has cobblestones, and narrow streets, and several of the buildings still have stable doors.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A novel about a college graduate who goes to live with his stepmother after his father mysteriously dies. It is set in southern Maine and also has gothic elements.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: That Her Every Fear marks an unofficial trilogy of mystery stories in which Detective Roberta James of the Boston Police department plays a crucial role. She’s a minor character in my first novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart, and also plays a part in my second novel, The Kind Worth Killing.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb