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This blog was featured on 08/19/2019
An Exclusive Interview with Shari Lapena
Written by
She Writes
August 2019
Written by
She Writes
August 2019

We got the chance to chat with international bestseller and this month's guest editor Shari Lapena, author of Someone We Know. Get a look inside her process!

Describe your writing routine.

I have a fairly disciplined writing routine. First thing in the morning, I answer my immediate emails, then start writing about 9 am. I aim for 1500 words a day, and usually write five or six days a week when I’m writing a draft. This is often interrupted by travel to promote the previous book. I don’t even try to write when I’m traveling, it’s just too busy. I do a book a year, and every year my new book comes out in July. So that means I start writing a new book in May, and the first half of the year is spent writing the new book and promoting the book that just came out, then the next half of the year is spent in revisions. It always feels like a race to the finish.

What was the first/worst job you ever had?

The first job I ever had was working in the canteen at a hockey arena serving snacks. It wasn’t that bad. I think being a lawyer was a pretty bad job, at least for me.

You've talked about how you're more of pantser than a plotter. Was it harder to do with a larger cast of characters?

Actually, having a larger cast of characters kind of helps you out if you’re a pantser. If you don’t know where something is going, you can try taking the lead from more characters and see where they take you. When I’m stuck, I will often change point of view and the other character will come up with some new development. If you’re a pantser, there is always a lot of work to do in revision, of course.

What advice do you have for aspiring thriller writers?

My strong advice is to write what excites you. Don’t try to follow the market, you can’t. There’s no way to predict what a book will do. But if you write a story that really gets you excited, and write it in the way you want to, your own voice will come through, and that’s what’s important.

You wrote other books before The Couple Next Door. How/when did you know that book would be the one to make it out into the world?

I actually published two books before The Couple Next Door. They were what I call literary comedies. They both did well in Canada, but were not published outside of Canada.

I had no idea when I got an agent for The Couple Next Door that it would do as well as it did. But as soon as my agent took it to New York there was so much interest. It sold very quickly to Viking and then to another thirty or so foreign territories as well. Like I said before, you can’t predict what a book will do, what will resonate with readers. When it happens, it’s like a wonderful gift. I feel very lucky, and very grateful to my readers.

Share your biggest writing hurdle.

I think my biggest writing hurdle was when I had to write the second book, after The Couple Next Door. Couple did so well, so quickly, and I was under contract for the first time and had to produce another book within a year, while promoting Couple. It was also the first time I’d had so much editorial attention during the writing process. I’d written Couple on my own, in secret, without telling anyone until it was finished. It was a very different situation when I sat down to write A Stranger in the House. People talk about “the difficult second book” and I think that’s true. But once I got into it I was very happy with how A Stranger in the House came out. Now I’m over it, and getting used to doing a book a year.

What are the best ways women writers can support each other?

I think women crime writers, and crime writers in general, are very supportive of each other. They’re a very friendly, enthusiastic and supportive bunch. Reading each other, giving shout outs when you really love a book, and helping each other network are the best ways. Networking is so important. If you see something you love, you can suggest your agent read it, or an editor. I’ve done that. You can suggest people for festivals, readings, events—ways to help them get more exposure. And of course, lots of encouragement because writing is often difficult.  

Shari Lapena’s new novel, SOMEONE WE KNOW, was published by Viking on July 30. She is the internationally bestselling author of the thrillers The Couple Next Door, A Stranger in the House, and An Unwanted Guest, which have all been New York Times and UK Sunday Times bestsellers. Her books have been sold in thirty-five territories around the world. Before becoming the mega-successful thriller writer that she is today, Lapena was a lawyer and an English teacher. She lives in Toronto with her husband and family.

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  • Hyba Writing

    Fantastic interview! I found myself totally agreeing as I was reading about networking and supporting other women writers. It's so very important to create a community and network of writers that encourages and helps one another! It's also extremely motivating to hear about how Lapena writes one book per year - and she's a pantser, too!! I really hope to one day have the discipline necessary for that. As always, superb article. Thanks for sharing!