In the meantime, get to know Shari and her writing a bit better......
In Someone We Know, Raleigh, a teenaged boy, is the person of interest in a series of home break-ins. What inspired this character?
It was something I saw on the internet about a kid breaking into someone’s house in the middle of the night to use their wifi. I guess he’d had his own wifi restricted at home. It got me thinking about what a teenaged boy might do, and what the repercussions might be—and it just went on from there.
What was your inspiration for writing Someone We Know? How is it different from your previous thrillers?
As I said above, the idea was tweaked by something interesting I saw on the internet. That was enough to get me started. I knew the boy had to stumble onto something big—I needed a murder. It’s always easy to come up with a dead body—it’s how that dead body got to be there that’s more difficult, and a lot more interesting. That’s where the story comes in. In many ways, Someone We Know is similar to my other thrillers—it’s fast paced, it’s twisty, and you want to get to the bottom of it all. But this one focuses also on whole families, on parents and sons in particular, rather than focusing only on couples. It feels richer and deeper to me in that way.
Which character in Someone We Know did you have the most fun creating? Which one was the most challenging to write?
For fun, I’d have to say Raleigh, because he’s a teenager who’s got himself into a world of trouble. He’s a likeable mess, so you have to feel for him. The most challenging character to write was probably Robert Pierce, because it’s always tricky to get a probable psychopath just right.
The one I liked best was Olivia, Raleigh’s mother. I feel for her, I really do.
What is your process for developing characters? Are any of these characters based on anyone you know?
I never base a character on any particular person, although I’m sure I take the occasional trait here and there from different people I see and incorporate them into my characters as I see fit. I develop characters organically—I put a character into a particular situation—usually a difficult one—and see what they do and say. They grow and develop as the story goes on and they face ever greater challenges. There’s no better way to learn about your characters than to put them in a situation of conflict and see how they react. Much better than creating a chart with eye color and shoe size and how they take their coffee—although that would help to keep the details straight!
Do you know at the beginning who the killer will be or do you decide as you write?
No, I don’t know who the killer will be at the outset, but I know it has to be one of several people. I start with a situation with a lot of possibilities, one that can go in a lot of different directions, and then, as I develop all the threads, and as I come to the end, the best answer presents itself.
Your plots have many twists. How do you come up with these plot turns? Do you plan everything out beforehand or do you wing it and see where the story takes you?
The plot twists come instinctively, I guess. I’m not a planner, in that I don’t plan a novel out ahead and then write it. I start with an exciting premise, and I get inside the characters—they’re in a fraught situation, and they take things where they’re meant to go. The twists and turns just come. I really believe that the unconscious mind is working all the time. I believe that that’s where our ideas and creativity come from, and you have to be receptive to it. Practically speaking, I have to set up an interesting situation that could go in a lot of directions in the first place, with some characters with unknown backstories, so that these twists and turns can arise. Once I have my premise, I can get started and let things unfold as they will. Still, I think about things as I go along, how the situation might become more complicated, more difficult for the characters, and the different ways it might be resolved.
Why do you think your books have struck a chord with readers? To what do you attribute your ability to predict what thriller readers want?
It’s been such a thrill, really. I didn’t expect it. But yes, something about my books resonates with readers. I think with The Couple Next Door, there was something about the parental lapse of judgment that resonated with many, many people. A Stranger in the House didn’t have that sort of premise, but readers gobbled it up—and An Unwanted Guest too. I think generally speaking, what has made my books successful—and I’m going by what my fans say, which is almost always “I couldn’t put it down”—is that my books have a relentless forward momentum that they enjoy. They’re fast moving, and you just have to know what’s going to happen next, and you want the answers to all your questions—the answer to not just what happened, but why. And also, they’re twisty—and readers love to have their expectations upended.
Sounds good, doesn't it!? Read an excerpt of Someone We Know.