|Jessica Strawser, photo by Carrie Schaffeld|
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Not That I Could Tell?
A: I lost a close friend to domestic violence nearly a decade ago, and have spent many sleepless nights since grappling with difficult questions surrounding the issue.
I wanted to put a group of characters in a situation where they had no idea what, if anything, was really going on next door, but found themselves similarly unsettled by that arm’s length vantage point: How much should we know about the behind-closed-doors lives of our friends and neighbors?
And if we suspect something is wrong, what is our responsibility to one another? In the unfortunate past tense, what could we have done differently? From there, the concept for Not That I Could Tell began to grow.
Q: You tell the story from several characters' perspectives, as you did in your first novel. How did you decide on the point-of-view characters for this book?
A: The story is told largely from the point-of-view of the two (geographically) closest neighbors to a missing woman. Only one of those was a close friend; the other is more of a curious bystander, and yet both were among the last people to see her before she vanished, and thus thrust into the scrutiny of the investigation.
I also wanted the missing woman to have a voice, and so she talks directly to the reader in short flashes throughout the book.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I did know how this novel would end, though I didn’t know when I set out how I was going to get there. It was a new experience for me, writing toward something so definitive, and I liked that it enabled me to add more nuance from the start.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: I seem to freeze up every time this question is posed, because I love so many authors. But since you let me off the hook with your “some of your favorite” phrasing, I’ll simply say I hang onto every word Maggie O’Farrell writes, love Liane Moriarty, even more for her lesser-known works, and adore Alice Hoffman and Jodi Picoult.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m under contract for another stand-alone suspense/women’s fiction novel with St. Martin’s Press, so I’m working my draft over now before it’s due to my editor later this spring.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love to video chat with book clubs that choose either of my novels to read and discuss (and if you’re in the Cincinnati area or near a bookstore where I have an event scheduled, I might even join you in person)! Simply drop me a line to check my availability to join your meeting (or to access a discussion guide).
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jessica Strawser.