Renée Shafransky is the author of the new suspense novel Tips for Living. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Village Voice and Condé Nast Traveler, and she also has written screenplays and teleplays. She is a psychotherapist, and she's based in New York City and Sag Harbor.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of Tips for Living and your main character, Nora?
A: My mom loved mysteries, so I wanted to write I book she would’ve enjoyed. I had a disaster of a marriage, which was a springboard for Nora’s situation as a woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life after a heart-breaking betrayal. I'm a psychotherapist, so I also work with people grappling with these issues.
I wondered what it would be like to create a story about a woman who thinks she’s done with the pain and anger, but is pulled back into it when her ex and his wife move to her small town. Then they’re murdered!
Q: Your novel is set in a small town, Pequod. How important to you is setting in your writing?
A: Setting is majorly important. Pequod and the surrounding landscape are main characters in Tips for Living. I even made maps and drawings of the places I imagined.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I had the big arc and I knew who the killer was, but there were many, many changes. I would write myself into a corner and have to figure out how to escape. Much like a heroine in jeopardy. It was such a relief when I could run!
Q: Why did you decide to focus at least in part on the art world in this novel?
A: I was lucky enough to land my first job out of college at one of the foremost art galleries in New York. I met dozens of famous artists, wealthy collectors, critics and dealers there. My life took me in a completely different direction, but I wanted to put something from those years to use. I thought it would be great if I could sprinkle a little of that world into the book.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m just starting another Nora book called Current Disturbances. It’s set in Pequod at the height of hurricane season. All sorts of ill winds are blowing and Nora is in the eye of the storm.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb