In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty-year-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.
Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.
Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.
Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.
Some Q & A with Emily:
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.
Growing up, I read voraciously, but then I dropped off a little when I got to college and had to read so much for school. In my early 20’s I worked for two soap operas, Guiding Light and As the World Turns, and wrote a spec script for an episode for GL. What I learned from that experience was a) writing for a daytime drama was much harder than it looks and b) I wasn’t that good at it. After that, I attempted a short film screenplay which I thought was fantastic. My boss read it and was really generous and nice enough not to tell me to give up forever. I wrote several screenplays after that and entered a bunch of contests, but I basically ended up banging my head against the wall that is Hollywood. Not an easy place to break in to. A feature script I wrote was shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and I was crushed when I didn’t get in. But that failure eventually led me to writing novels, which I’m actually better suited at, I think. Which is to say – isn’t it interesting how failure can lead you to the thing you are meant to do?
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I’m a huge TV/movie fan, love finding a fantastic new series to binge. I love to exercise (I do a boot camp) and hang out with my family. I love traveling but am really bad at making plans. I hate the planning phase, only the fun part. If I had a million bucks I would have a personal assistant who was strictly in charge of all that – plane tickets, AirBNB, rental cars. I would prefer that all those things just magically appear when the mood to go on a trip hits me.
Where do you get your ideas?
I took an aptitude test once and one of the things it measured for was this thing called “Ideaphoria,” essentially the rate of your flow of ideas. Apparently, my ideaphoria is through the roof. I don’t know where the ideas come from, but I will say, at times, it can be an onslaught.
Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
I think in a general sense, I could say that every single book I’ve ever read has contributed to my love of stories and my desire to write. And, now that I think about it, I really like that thought: that every book had a part in developing my style and desire. But I think on a literal level, there was a book I read – a YA paranormal by a childhood friend of mine, that just swept me away (The Die for Me Trilogy by Amy Plum) – and I thought, “Oh. This is a real person, a person I know, who wrote this book. Maybe I could do this, too.” Up until that point, I didn’t know any authors personally, and I think it was just a moment of connection in my brain that hadn’t happened before. She absolutely inspired me.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Well, I had to find an agent, and I wasn’t successful doing that with my first manuscript, so I ended up writing another book (which I scrapped) then another. On my third book, I got a wonderful agent. But then there was a ton of editing – I mean intense editing – and submission, which took, roughly, a year. I think the whole process taught me a lot about the marketing side of publishing. That publishing is actually a business, and any book I wrote was not just my personal “work of art” but was eventually going to viewed as a product that needed to be positioned in the marketplace and sold. It was kind of hard to wrap my head around that. Since then, I think I’ve gotten better at incorporating that understanding into the process of my writing, anticipating how the market will view the book.
How do you market your work?
I love to connect with real readers – on social media and at book clubs, to let readers know what’s going on with my books. I’ll do the occasional festival or convention, but mostly my publisher does the heavy lifting in terms of marketing.
What are you working on now?
A book about a woman who’s been hiding a secret from her past who accompanies her husband to a couples retreat up in the mountains and discovers the place and the doctor running it are not exactly what she expected.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I love all the Kitten chapters in the book. It’s supposed to be this iconic, not-so-well-written, horror novel from the 1970s that everybody went nuts for. I had the most fun writing the excerpts because I got to adopt a different writing style, one that was a little more formal and stilted. And I could just go all out with the horror and the kitschy 70s tropes. In preparation, I read and re-read several classic horror novels from that time: Carrie, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist. It was an interesting couple of weeks, to say the least.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Every writer is unique and has such different ways of approaching the work and marketing and the way they conduct themselves on social media that I don’t really like to get specific about the “how” of writing. I just know what works for me – when I need to write, when I need to rest and think, when I need to think in terms of the business of publishing, when I need to keep my head in that strictly creative, free space of making “art.” I will say, I think that no matter what you end up deciding to write, you have to understand that publishing is a business and publishing companies make decisions based on the bottom line, money. So, I think it’s smart to do your homework - understand why they buy certain books and promote certain authors. After you’ve educated yourself, you’re in a better position to make an educated decision about what you want to write.
What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
The way I see it, there are no downfalls. I love getting paid to write books and to know that I’m entertaining readers, providing them an escape from everyday life. It’s so fun. An absolute dream come true. Making up whole worlds and then playing in them like a sand box—what could be better?
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
I’d like to tell each and every person who read my book, THANK YOU! It really does mean so much to know people are reading and enjoying what you wrote. To everyone who reviewed my books, even if it was a negative review, thanks for taking the time. Seriously, it means a lot to us authors to have reviews. Now, if someone’s an actual FAN? I don’t know, that’s so hard to wrap my head around that. I think that instead of saying anything, I would just dance around them and toss flower petals.
Emily Carpenter is the bestselling author of two thrillers, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls and The Weight of Lies (June 6). After graduating from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication, she moved to New York City. She’s worked as an actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant for the CBS shows, As the World Turns and Guiding Light. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family.
Visit Emily at emilycarpenterauthor.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
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