Lisa Scottoline, the thriller genre’s queen of suspense, is back with a heart-pounding new novel that follows a group of teenagers who are forced to live with a tragic secret that still haunts them two decades later in Someone Knows.
It all started when friends Allie, Sasha, David, and Julian found a gun near their Philadelphia neighborhood one summer, and decide to use it to pull a harmless prank on a new kid, forcing him to play Russian Roulette with the unloaded pistol as a form of “initiation,” into their group.
Instead, tragedy struck when Kyle Gallagher died from the self-inflicted .38 round gunshot to the head—an accident that haunts the remaining members twenty years later as they each guard their dark secret . . . until new evidence surfaces suggesting that Kyle’s death might not have been an accident, after all.
Scottoline, one of the most talented writers still working today, continues to bounce between nail-biting legal thrillers and tales of psychological suspense. This time around, she’s upped the ante in a big way. Someone Knows is one of her fastest, most twisting novels to date—and will have readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. Just when you think you have everything figured out, Scottoline yanks the rug out from under you . . . trust me, you won’t be able to put this book down for a second.
Just before heading out on her book tour, Scottoline (who is every bit as kind and funny as her fans might expect) went on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked her everything from what kind of research she did for this book to what’s next for her now that Someone Knows is finally set to hit store shelves. Scottoline, who was very generous with her answers, offered up some great tidbits, including offering advice to new and aspiring authors, and even teased her next book—which, as you’ll see below, will mark a new first for her in her writing career.
Read the full Q&A below, then make sure order your copy of Someone Knows, the latest must-read thriller from Lisa Scottoline, available everywhere April 9th.
TRBS: I don’t know how you do it, but you seem to get better and better with each book. I absolutely loved Someone Knows, and couldn’t put it down for a second. How did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Scottoline: how nice are you! Thank you so much for this interview. You’ve been so terrific to me on the phone and with your reviews. I truly am honored and I think you are one of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there, especially for female writers and I really really appreciate it!
That said, I really wanted to go dark with this book because I wanted to explore how past mistakes inform our present, and I think so many of us make mistakes when we’re younger. Certainly not illegal mistakes necessarily, but dumb decisions, and that’s me speaking from the heart, since I’m divorced twice. I’m a human being like everybody else and so I think when you get older you start to examine things you’ve done so you can prevent doing them again, and that’s really what I wanted to explore.
The four characters in the novel have played a terrible prank that goes heartbreakingly wrong, and I think that’s an interesting idea because the current climate has so much conversation about what is real and what’s not, fake news and real news, what is truth and what is falsity. People prank each other routinely, and young people do this especially, and I think there’s always an edge to it that is worth exploring. Pranks tend to reveal the dark side of where people really live, and I like to explore where that comes from, and that kind of psychological excavation is what I was trying to do in this book.
TRBS: What kind of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this book?
Scottoline: I love research and I do it as I go along, because you get questions as you’re writing especially if you’re like me and have a kamikaze style of writing which is that you don’t do an outline in advance. An essential question of this book was the hardest to research. As you know, I’m a lawyer and practiced law and also was a law professor, so I’m always interested in the contours of justice and I’ve written a lot of novels that revolve around the meaning of justice. We always have this notion that justice is when people get punished, but what I wanted to explore in this book was, what is justice when you can’t punish anyone? Or when the wrong goes unpunished? What happens then?
That is a very hard legal question, and without giving anything away, it formed the biggest research question in this novel. I wanted to see what the law would do with accidental death and killing, and I think you see the answer within the book. What’s cool about it, without giving it away, is that it taught me that justice is a question that encompasses a lot of emotionality, like what is love, and what is peace of mind, and what will cause someone’s soul to heal. For me the insight was that the inquiry is the same regardless of the perspective, in other words, the person who did the bad thing to someone is as troubled by what was done as the victim. That is, if the evildoer has a good heart, or is a human being, and in this case, she is.
TRBS: What is your writing process like, and how is writing a standalone thriller like this one different from a series book, like what you do with Rosato DiNunzio franchise?
Scottoline: My writing process is the same regardless of what I’m writing, and that’s probably the good and bad news. I wish I was one of these orderly people who had it all settled beforehand, did an outline, had all the research done, and had a whole bunch of index cards that plotted the book perfectly, so that I would know the ending. But I don’t. I don’t know the ending, I don’t know any of the twists, and I don’t know anything when I start, but I do think that keeps me guessing while I’m writing. I have a secret belief that that keeps the reader guessing too. I think the consciousness of an author meets the consciousness of a reader in the middle of a book, and if I’m nervous and excited, I think you’re going to be turning the pages.
TRBS: What advice do you have for new and/or aspiring writers?
Scottoline: I could go on and on about this, because I really want to encourage people to write if they want to. Everyone can tell a story, and everyone does, when you think about it. Whenever you go home, if you live with someone, sooner or later they will ask you, how was your day? And you will tell a story. That is all I do. Every single book, I sit down tell myself a story. I make it up as I go along. I think everybody has a book in them and probably even 10 of them. I really like to demystify the writing process and that’s why I’m grateful to be interviewed this way and answering these questions, and that’s why I’m doing it so honestly. We authors don’t have the keys, and the drawbridge is not up. Everyone is welcome to write, and that is what America is all about, to me. Diversity of voice, freedom of expression, and everybody talking to each other, sharing stories. My writing mantra is, “just do it!” And also, “get it down, then get it good”! And also there’s a wonderful quote by the genius playwright Stephen Sondheim who said, “Stop worrying if your vision is new, let others make that decision, they usually do. You keep moving on.”
Everyone is creative, and I meet so many people I think are smart and interesting, and able to tell a wonderful story. I hope someday they realize how amazing they are and sit down and write. And I also think that word quotas help, even if they’re not very large. For example, I write 2000 words a day, no matter what. But if somebody just writes 50 words a day, they will have a book after a while. And they will get in the discipline of writing and the practice of just letting their own words flow and getting out of their own way.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s for you now that Someone Knows is finally set to hit bookstores?
Scottoline: I am completely immersed in writing my first novel of historical fiction, titled Eternal, but the truth is, I’m writing it just like a thriller. It’s about a really exciting and heartbreaking time during World War II in Fascist Italy, which has not been written about in popular fiction. And again, I’m writing it the same way as my thrillers, trying to keep the pace moving, the characters lively, and the action fast and furious, so the readers turn the pages. I feel very very lucky to have readers who will follow the book to book! And thanks to you for always taking the time to speak with me! I truly appreciate it, I know how lucky I am.
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.