13 Questions With Karen McManus

We caught up with the author of the March Zoella Book Club pick, Karen McManus!

When did you first start writing stories?

I started writing at the age of eight, when my second-grade teacher gave us a creative writing project. It was so much fun, I kept going on my own. My first book was about a witch who couldn’t cast spells.

How many books have you written?

Four that are published or ready for publication (One of Us Is Lying, Two Can Keep a Secret, One of Us Is Next, and The Cousins), and a draft of what’s going to be my fifth book, You’ll Be the Death of Me. I also have three books “on the shelf” – two early novels that I wrote before I had an agent, which will never see the light of day because they have unfixable flaws, and a YA rom-com that’s cute but so totally off-brand that I can’t figure out what to do with it (add murder?). So I’ve written eight books total, but only five are published or will be published.

What are some of the best parts of your job?

For me, the early stages of drafting are the most fun part of the writing process – that’s when a book takes on a life of its own and I often feel like I’m just along for the ride. I also love being able to meet readers and other authors in person and getting an early look at exciting new books.

What are you currently working on?

In March and April I’m traveling to promote One of Us Is Next, while also gearing up to launch The Cousins, which is coming out December 3 in the U.S. I’m in regular contact with the film producers who have optioned One of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret. And I’m expecting an edit letter for You’ll Be the Death of Me soon, while also brainstorming something new.

What did you study at school/uni to help you become a writer?

I was an English major in college and a journalism major in grad school. Both were helpful in different ways; an English degree requires a lot of reading, writing, and critical thinking; while journalism teaches you how to build an effective story and—perhaps most important for the kind of stories I write—anticipate and address questions that readers are likely to have.

What are some of your all-time favourite books?

The Hunger Games, And Then There Were None, Vanity Fair, Gone Girl, A Secret History, and the Narnia series

What are you looking forward to reading this year?

So many books! Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu, Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon, and Admission by Julie Buxbaum are high on my list.

Who are some of your favourite new authors?

Rory Power, Phil Stamper, Justin Reynolds and Isabel Ibanez all had recent debuts that I loved.

Tell us about ‘One of us is lying’ and what inspired you to write it?

I was driving to work one day when the theme song from The Breakfast Club came on. I started thinking about that movie and its core theme of looking beyond labels, and then it occurred to me that it would be fun to write something inspired by the movie with a dark twist. The phrase “The Breakfast Club, with murder” popped into my head and stayed there. By the time I left work that day, I had all the characters down and the first few chapters outlined in my head.

If you had any advice for aspiring writers what would it be?

First, read a lot and read for craft; think about what’s working for you as a reader (and what isn’t) as you go along. Second, find critique partners—other writers who are at the same stage of the publications journey as you are—and exchange work with them.

What do you always carry with you?

Lip balm. I’m addicted.

What would your last meal be?

Ajiaco, chocolate lava cake, and a lot of wine.

What are you looking forward to most in 2020?

I’m excited to have two books out in the world, and I’m also excited that the second is ahead of schedule so I’ll actually have some down time to spend with my family!

Find Karen on Instagram here.