Michele Campbell is the author of the new novel A Stranger on the Beach. She also has written the novels She Was the Quiet One and It's Always the Husband. A former federal prosecutor in New York, she lives in New England.
A: A Stranger on the Beach is a story of obsession. Wealthy socialite Caroline believes her husband is cheating, and indulges in a revenge fling with Aidan, the local bartender, who’s been hanging around the beach near her fabulous house. The fling means nothing to her, but everything to him. He begins to stalk her, and it descends into a nightmare.
My genius editor, Jennifer Enderlin, had come up with that great title. It evoked a story of deceit and danger and infatuation. The book is very cinematic and takes inspiration from films like Body Heat and Fatal Attraction as well as psychological thrillers like Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Q: You tell much of the story in alternating sections from the perspectives of Caroline and Aidan. How difficult was it to write the same experiences from two different points of view?
A: It was technically challenging. I needed to keep the details identical, so that readers would understand these were the same events told differently by two narrators. Caroline and Aidan see the same events in completely different ways. How is that possible? What is the truth? Is Caroline a liar? Is Aidan mentally disturbed? Both?
I really enjoyed the process of taking one character’s version of events and twisting it to see through the other character’s eyes. Readers will have the experience of questioning what the reality is. It’s a wild ride, and it was fun to write.
Q: Much of the novel is set at a beach house, and one part of the book takes place during a terrible storm. Why did you choose that setting?
A: The beachfront setting – in a fabulous house in the Hamptons, set partly during a hurricane --is simultaneously glamorous and dangerous. And that’s this book in a nutshell.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: This is a story about how far someone will go when in the clutches of obsessive infatuation. And how things like class, money, and age influence our romantic and sexual feelings. It’s a cautionary tale, but it’s also just a really delicious read. Mostly, I hope readers will sit on the beach or on their patio, get immersed and go on this wild journey with the characters.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My fourth book, The Wife Who Knew Too Much, is coming summer 2020. Inspired partly by that great classic of psychological suspense, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, it’s the story of a waitress from small-town New Hampshire who marries a wealthy man whose first wife died in an apparent suicide. But what really happened to the first wife? As the protagonist drawn deeper into the dark glamour of a life she’s ill-prepared for, it becomes clear to her that what a wife knows can kill her.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: There are Easter eggs in A Stranger on the Beach for readers of my other books. In particular, a secondary character who appears in this book appeared in She Was the Quiet One, and is the daughter of a secondary character in It’s Always the Husband. Can you spot her?
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Michele Campbell.