Cate Holahan is the author of the new novel One Little Secret. Her other novels include Lies She Told and The Widower's Wife. She lives in New Jersey.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for One Little Secret, and for your cast of characters?
A: My two daughters, ages seven and nine, had asked to join their friends at sleepaway camp for the first time ever. Camp wasn’t something I’d experienced during childhood. So, like any good journalist-turned-over-protective mom, I began researching the heck out of various facilities in Maine.
As I journeyed down the Internet rabbit hole of camp articles, I stumbled upon a 2016 New York Post piece about parents going wild after sending their kids to camp for the summer. Reading it gave me the idea of a group of kid-free type-A parents, with lives more entangled than they realize, behaving badly and getting into trouble.
Q: The novel is set at a beach house. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: The right setting not only helps set the tone of the book, but it can add a considerable amount to the tension, as well as allow for the emergence of some interesting themes.
I liked the idea of a glass house in a private place, where everyone can see in but the inhabits think their money and social status has shielded them from prying eyes. And then, of course, I got to shatter that.
Q: In our previous interview, you said this novel asked the question, "How well do you know those closest to you?" How do you think the book answers that question?
A: We live in a world of Facebook connections where we often see only the positive details of “friends’” lives, and I believe this same dynamic often plays out in suburban communities too. There is pressure to keep up appearances which can lead to superficial friendships. And communities built on superficial connections and polite conversation can harbor damaging secrets.
I think the book, perhaps, serves as a cautionary tale to a degree. Politeness isn’t enough for a real community. You have to have people that genuinely care about one another. You have to take the time to forge real friendships. And honesty is paramount.
Q: How was this novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: My publisher always changes my titles. The working title for this novel was The Shallows, which relates both to the friendships and the way one of the characters dies. I think One Little Secret perhaps conveys to the reader that this will be a twisty psychological thriller. And I think it is.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have finished a thriller about tech gaslighting. After a tragedy, my protagonist becomes glued to his home security cameras and other technology. But what he sees may not be real.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thanks so much for having me on the blog. I am thrilled about this book and I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Cate Holahan.