Author Interview with Suspense Novelist Rebecca Drake: Author of Just Between Us
tag: Author Interview with Suspense Novelist Rebecca Drake: Author of Just Between Us
As the end of 2017 was coming to a close I scoured my to-be-read stack for a great book to finish out the year. I took my chances on a fair-sized paperback. It was dark on the spine, with a hint of blue once I examined the cover, the image of a woman looking inquiringly out her window. Intrigued, I pressed fresh pages back until I found the first sentence, “Funerals for murder victims are distinguished from other services by the curiosity seekers.” And I was hooked. Just a few days later I found myself at the end of a compelling suspense novel with the mass of pages under my left thumb anything but untouched.
The publisher, St Martin’s Griffin, was kind enough to organize an interview between myself and the author, established suspense novelist Rebecca Drake. It is my extreme honor and pleasure to share this interview with you on the release day of that same dark-spined suspense novel, Just Between Us.
Book Description: Just Between Us
Alison, Julie, Sarah, Heather. Four friends living the suburban ideal. Their jobs are steady, their kids are healthy. They’re as beautiful as their houses. But each of them has a dirty little secret, and hidden behind the veneer of their perfect lives is a crime and a mystery that will consume them all.
Everything starts to unravel when Alison spots a nasty bruise on Heather’s wrist. She shares her suspicions with Julie and Sarah, compelling all three to investigate what looks like an increasingly violent marriage. As mysterious injuries and erratic behavior mount, Heather can no longer deny the abuse, but she refuses to leave her husband. Desperate to save her, Alison and the others dread the phone call telling them that she’s been killed. But when that call finally comes, it’s not Heather who’s dead. In a moment they’ll come to regret, the women must decide what lengthsthey’ll go to in order to help a friend.
Just Between Us is a thrilling glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia, where not all neighbors can be trusted, and even the closest friends keep dangerous secrets. You never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, or in their marriage.
BOOK REVIEW EXCERPT
Few writers can capture so perfectly the intricacies of female friendship. The secrets, the small confidences, the comfort, and the blistering insecurities that build after a thousand tiny judgments which can only come from your closest friends. Friendship, at times, is a conflict. A battle between who you are and who your friends portray you to be. When do secrets turn into lies? Who can you really know? And at what point does the bond of friendship break?Read the Full Review
Get to Know the Author
Rebecca Drake is the author of the novels Don’t Be Afraid, The Next Killing, The Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story “Loaded,” which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir. A graduate of Penn State University and former journalist, she is currently an instructor in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program. Rebecca lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and two children.
E-books or hardcopies?
I read both, and enjoy audio books, too, but I just love the feel and smell of physical books.
What do you use for a bookmark? An actual bookmark? Or any random scrap of paper you can find?
I use obituaries. Just kidding! I’ve got lots of different bookmarks, and my children made my favorites when they were in preschool, but a scrap of paper will do in a pinch.
Where do you write best?
Either at my desk in my cozy home office (I’ve got a big, old desk, a comfortable chair and a nice view), or at one of my local coffee shops.
How do you take your coffee?
Decaffeinated; sadly, I’m really sensitive to caffeine.
How many books are currently on your to-be-read stack?
Six physical books and loads more on my TBR list in Evernote.
Author Interview with Rebecca Drake on her latest suspense novel Just Between Us
What first gave you the idea for Just Between Us?
A comment made by a friend, who expressed his loyalty to another, mutual friend, by saying that he’d hide the guy from the police if he ever committed a crime. This comment startled me and prompted the question at the heart of the book—how far would you be willing to go to help a friend? I chose to explore that question in the context of female friendships because I was interested in how women talk to and about each other.
With a book based so deeply in the intricacies of female friendship, I have to ask—what qualities do you find most valuable in your closest friends? And how do those qualities relate to each of your characters?
Kindness, generosity, a great sense of humor, intelligence, and it helps to be an avid reader, too! I think each of my characters has many of these traits. They’re all intelligent women, although Sarah is probably the brainiest, and Julie is probably the kindest, and Alison is probably the most generous with her eagerness to help. I was also interested in the duality that’s part of personality; our most attractive traits can often have a flip side and these negative aspects might only be exposed under stressful circumstances. For instance, the flip side of Julie’s bubbly optimism is her unwillingness to recognize evil even when it’s staring her in the face.
I love that you’ve managed to create something relatable in each character. I feel that I know them or have known women like them. Which of your characters would be your closest friend? Was there a character you related to most? I’m partial to Alison myself and would most definitely treat her to some gossip over a cup of coffee.
I’m so glad you found them relatable! I related to all of the women, albeit in different ways, and it was fun being in each of their heads. I enjoyed conveying Julie’s breeziness, and Sarah’s snappiness, but I’m also partial to Alison. She’d probably be my closest friend.
I find that many novels tend to neglect certain, perhaps unpopular, layers of the female persona, namely their roles as mothers and wives. You, however, did the opposite. I admire the way you’ve crafted all four characters to be complete identities. The juxtaposition of their roles as friends versus mothers and wives only added a dramatic intensity to the result of their actions. I couldn’t help but think of their husbands and children and how certain acts could fracture that happy part of their lives. The result is a very real portrayal of the struggle most women face when navigating the role of their unique individuality within their family lives.
Over your writing career what have you learned most about writing great women in fiction?
I’m glad I conveyed that well, because I like to write about the reality of women’s lives and I really wanted to tell a story focused on women. Not that their husbands and other men in the story aren’t important, just that I wanted this to be a story about women’s friendships, and the lives we lead that are separate from the roles, like wife or mother, that we assume.
Just Between Us is so delightfully suspenseful that I read it over the course of just a few days. It’s clear you’ve got a knack for building tension. You’ve written four other popular mystery/thriller novels; Don’t Be Afraid, The Dead Place, the Next Killing, and Only Ever You. What most attracts you to the mystery/thriller genre?
I’m not really sure why I’m attracted to the genre, but I always have been. I’ll paraphrase the late, great P.D. James who once said, in response to an interviewer’s similar question, that she wrote crime fiction because she was more easily scared than other people. I think that’s true of me, too.
You did such a great job setting the scene at Crazy Mocha that I’ve become skeptical about the inhabitants at my own local coffeehouse, wondering what secrets they may be hiding. What real-life places influenced the setting in Just Between Us?
Sewickley is a real town and Crazy Mocha is a real coffee shop chain in Pittsburgh and I love them both. I decided to set Just Between Us in Sewickley because it’s the sort of beautiful, safe community that’s an ideal for a lot of people, and I’m always interested in what really happens behind the closed doors of places that appear perfect. I also really love the Sewickley Cemetery—it’s perched high on a hill, just like I describe in the book. I invented certain names and details, because no one wants a crime set in their own backyard. Sometimes you need to invent things to make the story work, and I also created amalgams of schools and police departments to avoid confusion, but otherwise I tried to give readers the flavor of the place and of the greater Pittsburgh area.
This being your fifth novel, what do you find to be the most important lesson learned about writing a book and getting it published?
As my mentor, author Nancy Martin, told me years ago—you need to learn as much as you can about the business in order to get published, but put most of your focus on craft, because ultimately the only thing a writer can control is the craft.
What’s next for you, Rebecca? Are you working on a new book?
Yes, I’m working on two books—one is another psychological thriller, and the other is a historical, which is something new for me. I’m very excited about both!
Favorite Quote from Just Between Us
The strange thing about a secret is it longs to be told.
Rebecca Drake, Just Between Us
Verdict: Buy It
Page Length: 384
Publisher: St. Martins Griffin (Jan 9, 2017)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this author interview with Rebecca Drake! It was an absolute pleasure to celebrate her release date with this interview. I’m sure you’ll have as much fun with this suspense novel as I did! Read my full review of Just Between Us here.
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Until next time,