Q: In our last interview, you said you were working on a book about female rage. What inspired you to write The Collective, and how did you create your character Camille?
A: A lot of the book was written during the pandemic, and I think I was inspired somewhat by the anger, isolation, and fear that many of us felt at the time.
Plus, I often write about the things I dread most, and in reading news stories about children or young adults whose lives were taken, I often imagine how I would feel if I were their mother. The grief and rage would be unfathomable, and Camille is someone completely overwhelmed by both of those emotions.
In creating that character, I was hoping to write someone who identified first and foremost as a mother – and who was robbed of that identity.
Q: The writer Laura Lippman said of the book, “Alison Gaylin's The Collective feels like the book of the moment, the year.” What do you think of that description, and how do you think the book reflects the current moment?
A: I admire Laura Lippman tremendously, and I’m thrilled by that description! I think The Collective reflects the current moment in that it’s about the powerlessness we often feel as women, and as mothers, and how – like so many other things in this day and age -- it can be turned to rage and weaponized.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: Like most of my books, I knew how I wanted it to end, but I surprised myself a few times with twists on the way there.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope readers are entertained and scared and that they think twice before joining anonymous online groups of like-minded people. Also, the idea that no one is always absolutely in the right.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A book about a normal person who becomes the target of an online smear campaign – and has to figure out the source before she loses everything, including her daughter.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alison Gaylin.