Talk about a thrill ride! Riley Sager’s new novel, Final Girls, answers the question that fans of slasher flicks have forever wondered… what happens to the one girl who always survives?
Sager was kind enough to agree to a Q&A and, trust us, you don’t want to miss her answers!
TRBS: Where did you get the idea for this story?
Sager: “The idea for Final Girls came on Halloween while I was watching, appropriately enough, Halloween. It’s a classic example of the Final Girl trope—the last girl left alive at the end of a horror flick. While watching the movie, I started thinking about Final Girls in general and how these movies offer “happy” endings that are rarely happy. The main character survives, yes, but all her friends are dead and she faces years of trauma ahead of her. That’s what I wanted to explore—the life of a Final Girl many years after she survived the unthinkable. I envisioned a woman ten years after a horror movie-scale massacre. She’s created a new life for herself, even most of it’s been built on denial and Xanax. And just when she thinks she’s done with the past, the past returns to make it clear it’s not done with her. It struck me as being perfect for a psychological thriller.”
TRBS: How much research did you have to do before sitting down to write Final Girls?
Sager: “I wish I could say my research consisted of sitting down and watching scary movies, but it was less fun (and less interesting) than that. It was more looking up little, factual things, such as how to make pumpkin bread and the distance between Chicago and Muncie, Indiana. Very boring stuff that no reader notices unless it’s wrong. Then EVERYONE notices.”
TRBS: What’s your writing process like… do you outline your story first, figuring out all the twists and turns ahead of time – or do those things come to you while you’re writing?
Sager: “I’m a devoted outliner. And plotter. And thinker. For me, the best part of writing a book is that honeymoon phase when I’ve settled on an idea and just spend days on end in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee doing nothing but thinking about the book. Some might say that’s indulgent. I say it’s necessary. I need that time of mental processing before I can start to write. Then I plot everything out chapter by chapter and try to write the book as fast as I can. A thousand words a day in the beginning, more when I know I’m getting closer to the end. If things change—and they always do—it’s nice to have that outline to get me back on the right track.”
TRBS: Which authors have influenced your writing, and what books are currently on your nightstand?
Sager: “I’m sure everyone I’ve ever read has influenced me in some small way. But FINAL GIRLS is definitely influenced by the authors I’ve been compared to—a touch of Gillian Flynn, a dash of Megan Abbott, sprinkled with some Paula Hawkins. That’s not to say I think I’m anywhere near their league. I think all of them could write circles around me. But they were my primary influences as I was writing the book.
“As for current books, my TBR pile is growing higher each week. Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a ton of amazing books coming out this summer. It’s remarkable and exciting and a wee bit daunting to know I’m not going to be able to read them all. Still, I’ll try. The book on my nightstand right now is MAGPIE MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz, which I’m enjoying immensely.”
TRBS: Now that Final Girls is out, what’s next for you?
Sager: “I’d love to say on a monthlong vacation someplace tropical where all I do is read and drink pina coladas. But I’ll be in front of my computer, revising my next book. It’s another standalone thriller that shares some traits with FINAL GIRLS—a woods, a cabin, a very damaged woman at the center—but goes off in a new direction that readers will hopefully enjoy.”
Once again, we’d like to thank Riley Sager for doing this Q&A with us, and for providing such in-depth responses. As for her book, well, Final Girls is a wickedly entertaining mix of crime fiction and psychological thriller, with a few horror elements sprinkled on top. In the end, if you have any fingernails left once this one is done, you deserve a medal!