Saturday, August 13, 2022

Q&A with E.G. Scott




E.G. Scott (the pen name for authors Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands) is the author of the new novel The Rule of Three. Scott's other books include The Woman Inside. They are based in New York City.


Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Rule of Three?


Greg: With each of our books, Liz and I put our heads together and figure out what themes we want to explore at that particular time.


The idea for this story came about as we were driving to a library event in Maine from New York City. Reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s death-by-hanging in jail had just hit the news, and there was a lot of speculation circulating about whether or not Epstein had died by his own hand, or if others could have been involved.


We’d been reading the media coverage separately, and spent most of that very long drive discussing all of the various power dynamics at play in a case like that. Epstein had connections to politicians, members of the royal family, media moguls, private equity tycoons, prosecutors, Hollywood producers, socialites, and billionaires of all stripes.


We were also captivated by Ghislaine Maxwell’s involvement in the case. Here was a woman who, by all accounts, had participated in the exploitation and trafficking of other women.


We did some research on Ghislaine, and it turned out that her father had also been a powerful figure mired in scandal and had died under suspicious circumstances, and that became another topic that we wanted to touch upon.


So, Liz and I set out to tell a story that explored a lot of the themes that the media coverage brought to mind: money, power, entitlement, accountability, and influence peddling, along with inherited trauma and the implications of vengeance and justice and self-preservation.


We also touch upon incidents of gun violence, and the political and societal reactions to what have become these all-too-common occurrences in our culture.


Q: The author Brian Selfon said of the book, “Twisty and wicked, The Rule of Three is a cautionary tale for bad husbands everywhere. E.G. Scott has a special gift for sneaking humor and timely social observation into gripping mysteries.” What do you think of that description, and what do you see as the role of humor in your novels?


Greg: We’re delighted by Brian’s assessment, as it provides a perfect distillation of what it is we aim to do with these novels.


The “timely social observations” he refers to in our work have included opioid addiction and serial murder, so not the lightest fare around. But we find that if we can package these heavier topics in a fast-paced and engaging story, it helps the medicine go down easier, so to speak. And humor serves a similar function.

So as not to get completely bogged down in grim story territory, we rely on our detective duo, Wolcott and Silvestri, to lend some levity and humorous banter to the proceedings as they work toward solving the case.


Ultimately, we set out to weave a suspenseful and entertaining whodunit that also explores some of the socially relevant themes that we spend our time reflecting on. And we hope that we’re able to do just that.  


Q: How do the two of you collaborate on your books? What is your writing process like?


Liz: For all three of our books, Greg and I chew on an idea that we are interested in and talk about it to make sure we are going to be suitably obsessed about it to spend the next six months to a year writing it.


If we find fertile characters emerging from those discussions, we start to build a story, and if we are equally excited in the spitballing process, we know we’ve found our next book. Then we divide up the characters that each of us are going to write and volley back and forth, with one character’s POV chapter prompting the next character’s response.


For the first book we improvised chapter to chapter alternating character perspectives without a story outline, but for books two, In Case of Emergency, and three, The Rule of Three, we had chapters mapped out.


Even with a synopsis in hand, the main goal of our process is to shock and entertain the other with plot turns, so we allow ourselves to deviate from the plans if we get inspired. We aim to enjoy the reading process as much as the writing piece.


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


Liz: Because we did a pretty extensive chapter outline for The Rule of Three, we had a general idea of where the book was going to end but left a lot of room for improvisation and variations on plot direction. In the spirit of keeping things interesting for ourselves and each other we never really know where things are going to end up with our characters or certain plot plans.


In The Rule of Three there were more than a few detours and twists on both of our parts that got dropped into the book, which we think made the story better than originally planned, or at least heightened the stakes and made for a very fun volleying back and forth in the writing process.


Q: What are you working on now?


Greg: Liz and I are working on a con game storyline. We’ve been enthralled lately with the breadth of confidence scams being reported on in the news and in documentary format, and are curious about the underpinnings of such endeavors: unscrupulous behavior, the aspirational model of social media, the evolving possibilities that technology provides, a widening economic gap, and, at the heart of all of it, the complexities of the human psyche.


We’re having a blast unfolding this story!


Q: Anything else we should know?


Liz: Because of the pandemic, we were barely ever in the same room for any of the planning or writing of this book, unlike our first two.


While we write each designated character individually and alternate the chapters in a call and response style, we’ve always had a lot of in-person time to spitball and hang out, which has been an integral part of our writing partnership and friendship.


So the pandemic lockdown for us, much like the rest of the world, drastically changed our working conditions and process. While it was a hard adjustment to do everything on phone or email, we were both still very grateful to have the escape hatch of working on a fictional world to take us out of all of the unknown happening off the page.


Luckily, we can still pull off writing a book remotely, and still have a great time doing it. But we are very happy that we can plot in person again!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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