Monday, September 4, 2023

Q&A with Jamie Lee Sogn




Jamie Lee Sogn is the author of the new novel Salthouse Place. Also an attorney, she lives in Seattle.


Q: What inspired you to write Salthouse Place, and how did you create your character Delia?


A: I have always been fascinated by cults and the idea that everyone thinks they would never join a cult. But of course, people never go into something thinking it’s a “cult.” I was wondering what would make someone knowingly join an insular community that might be “cult-like.” I thought that even if someone went in with eyes wide open to say, find a missing person, how long would it be until they inadvertently became influenced? 


The wellness industry is also interesting to me because it’s something we’re inundated with all the time, not to mention the fact that it’s an industry which inherently plays on the emotions and mental health of people, women in particular. It’s an industry that can feel very cult-y at times, especially when you look at brands that have been built around a particular person’s image or persona.


Growing up, I rarely if ever saw books, especially a thriller or mystery, with Asian American female protagonists. For Delia, I was excited to create a main character who, like myself, is biracial Asian American, and have that inform how she sees the world and interacts with it. The story is not about her race, but I wanted her mixed race to be a large part of who she is and also why she continues to look for her long-lost friend.


Q: The writer Lyn Liao Butler said of the book, “A masterful tale of lost and toxic friendships, Salthouse Place is full of twists you won’t see coming and will have you racing to the end in one more explosive, heart-pounding revelation.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love the description! I think it’s very accurate, especially about the lost and toxic friendships. The main character, Delia, is obsessed with returning to the past and solving the mystery of her lost friend. But as she learns more and goes deeper into this wellness community, she begins to also reflects back on the friendship and realizes it wasn’t really what she thought. And of course, I’m so happy I got to shock Lyn with some twists and surprises!


Q: What do you think the novel says about friendships among teenage girls?


A: Reflecting back on my own teenage years, my friendships with my girlfriends were always very strong and often felt emotionally intense. I think these friendships can so powerfully formative, because obviously these are when we are kind of beginning to find out who we are as individuals, but yet as teenagers we are so susceptible to peer and social pressure.


In the novel, each of the girls as teenagers are desperate to find acceptance and belonging in one way or another. I think that push and pull of extreme love and extreme jealousy in teenage friendships is very real and very relatable.


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?


A: I did know the ending before I began writing it! The very first scene and the very last scene came to me fully formed and incredibly, stayed pretty much the same from draft through to publication. Everything in between was kind of built into those moments in time as bookends.


Of course, besides the beginning and end, many changes were made to much of the story along the way, thanks to feedback from my amazing critique partners, agents, and editor, and the book is stronger for it.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on my second book now! It’s called Always the Quiet Ones and is about a young woman attorney who jokes with a colleague that she wishes her boss was dead, but then realizes too late her colleague wasn’t joking at all. It will be my second book with Lake Union Publishing and will be coming out fall of 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: As a debut author, I’m just so happy to be here and have this all happening is a dream come true! I’m excited for readers to discover Salthouse Place and I hope they love reading it as much as I loved writing it.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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