Q: You've said, "I wanted to write about someone who was evil, despicable, but also relatable." How did you create your character Lucas in your new novel?
A: I decided from the outset that although Lucas was a criminal, he had to be human. I didn’t want to depict a one-dimensional caricature, but someone whose motivations people would understand and, dare I say it, someone with whom they could empathize at least a little.
Another requirement was that Lucas had to have a sense of humor. Not only because he could get away with his nefarious deeds more easily, but because I wrote this book during the pandemic and shortly after my mom passed away.
Because of Covid I couldn’t get to Switzerland to see her, and I needed a place to escape to where I could laugh when everything else felt so hopeless and awful. Lucas saved my sanity with his murderous yet humorous ways.
His voice and broader character requirements formed in an instant. After that I built out the backstory, how and where Lucas grew up, his family history, education, etc., so I could figure out why he’d become the person he was at the start of the novel. It gave me a great starting point for his journey and character arc.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I knew the ending right down to the very last word! It’s probably been the clearest storyline out of all my books, and it was such a joy to write. While I plot, I didn’t foresee every twist and turn – that’s part of the fun about writing. You never know where your characters will take you.
Q: What was it like to write from the perspective of the villain?
A: So much fun! My male protagonists have typically been good men with their hearts in the right place, so Lucas was the complete opposite.
It was so interesting to be fully immersed in the mind of a killer, to see everything from his perspective and have him justify everything he did with his witty sense of humor. Instead of writing a character who was trying to solve a mystery or crime, he was doing whatever he could to get away with murder.
That meant doing a lot of research and thinking like a criminal – how would I dispose of a body, how could I fool not only the cops but those closest to me, for years. It really stretched me as an author.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope I manage to surprise readers, and they keep thinking about the book long after they’ve finished the final page. I’ve always said my ultimate goal is to entertain readers, to provide people a form of escape and to leave them satisfied thinking, “I enjoyed that. It was time jolly well spent!”
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Book 7 (slated for 2023) is another psychological thriller. It’s about a woman named Frankie who has some anger issues, and writes a list of people she could work to forgive as a therapy exercise. She thinks nothing of it when she loses her list in an Uber, until one by one the individuals become victims of freak accidents.
Frankie desperately tries to determine if the tragedies are indeed accidental, and if not, who’s behind them before someone else gets hurt, especially as one of the names on the list is her own…
I’m so excited for this next novel and can’t wait for you to meet Frankie and the rest of my cast.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Here are five fun facts about Never Coming Home:
One of my favorite tertiary characters in the novel is Heinz. I think he should have a story of his own.
Lucas works in IT recruitment, an industry I spent 15 years in.
I decided to add Bobby Boyle’s non-swearing quirk because he had such a filthy mouth.
Lucas and I share the same birthplace (I swear that’s where the similarities end!).
My dear friend and fellow crime author Hank Phillippi Ryan has a cameo!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Hannah Mary McKinnon.