|Kit Frick, photo by Carly Gaebe Steadfast Studio|
Kit Frick is the author of the new young adult novel I Killed Zoe Spanos. Her other books include the YA novels All Eyes on Us and See All the Stars. Also a poet, she edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press.
Q: You note that the inspiration for I Killed Zoe Spanos came from Daphne du Maurier's classic novel Rebecca and from podcasts. How did you decide to combine the two, and how did you create your character Anna?
A: Yes—the initial spark came from a marriage between two obsessions of mine: Rebecca and true crime podcasts. I kept thinking: What if Rebecca de Winter had gone missing today, in the age of Serial and The Vanished and Bear Brook and all the other excellent true crime podcasts that have sprung up over the last five years? What would that look like in a YA context?
The character of Anna is inspired by the second Mrs. de Winter, who in du Maurier’s classic comes to the Manderley estate as Maxim’s second wife and finds herself confronted with an antagonist she can never live up to—the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca.
When Anna arrives to the Hamptons for her summer nanny job, she likewise finds herself the instant subject of gawking and scrutiny due to her uncanny resemblance to Zoe Spanos, a local teen who disappeared a few months prior. In the novel’s opening chapter, Anna walks into the police station and admits to playing a role in Zoe’s death—which of course opens an entire Pandora’s box of questions.
Q: The novel takes place in the Hamptons. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: Very! I love a vivid, atmospheric setting, and creating the fictional Hamptons town of Herron Mills Village—which is based closely on East End villages like East Hampton and Amagansett—was key for me as a writer to getting to the heart of this story. The setting is truly a character in its own right.
I took a research trip to the Hamptons while I was working on the book, and I also did a lot of research online. There are a plethora of in-depth virtual real estate tours of amazing Hamptons homes available online. I watched a lot of those. I watched Grey Gardens, which along with Manderley, served as partial inspiration for Windermere, the neglected estate next door to Anna’s summer abode.
Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I had the basics down before I started writing (whodunnit, and how, and why) but I didn’t know how the scenes would unfold, how information would be revealed.
Many writers despair of the “murky middle,” but it’s endings that give me the most trouble. Not because I don’t know where I’m writing toward, because I generally do, but because getting all the necessary information to the reader in a mystery novel in a way that is both organic and surprising is a real challenge. It took many drafts to get it just right.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?
A: I Killed Zoe Spanos deals with a lot of the questions I struggle with myself as an avid consumer of true crime media—whose stories get told, and how, and to what end. I hope readers will come away from the book thinking deeply about those questions while also experiencing the thrill of a twisty summer read.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My next book is still a secret! (Ssh.) I hope to be able to spill some details soon.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The first hardcover printing will have blue sprayed edges—so fun! And I Killed Zoe Spanos is also available as an audiobook featuring a full-cast recording! I cannot wait to listen to the podcast chapters in particular. It’s going to be killer.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb