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This blog was featured on 01/02/2020
Karen McManus on Poking Holes & Finding Your Writing People
Written by
She Writes
January 2020
Written by
She Writes
January 2020

In 2017, Karen M. McManus burst onto the YA scene with her debut hit novel One of Us Is Lying. This month, to the delight of her devoted fans, she releases One of Us Is Next already listed among Seventeen Magazine’s Best New YA Books of 2020. The story picks up just as the Bayview four are finally able to move on from everything that happened in One of Us Is Lying. This time a new game starts up and the results are catastrophic.

“Karen’s readers have been clamoring for this book to see what happens next in the world of Bayview High, and they won’t be disappointed. Karen has delivered another addictive and compelling thriller that is shocking, exhilarating, and incredibly satisfying,” Krista Marino, Senior Executive Editor of Delacorte Press told EW.

On Getting Started

McManus’s background is in journalism – something she credits for helping her construct solid mysteries by poking holes in the story.

“That is so important when you’re trying to write this airtight plot that makes sense at the end,” she says.

In fact, she decided to shelf her first novel because there were just too many holes in the story.

The first practice novel was what she lovingly calls a “terrible dystopian knockoff” inspired by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series, which reignited in her the desire to write again after her husband’s death. And though she did notice an improvement in her narrative-crafting skills with her second practice novel, both had fundamental plot problems that McManus claims could not be fixed.

Her work didn’t all go to waste, however. She was able to reuse characters from those novels and incorporate them into her future work.

“There are all these little parts of life that you pluck from yourself and weave into each of your characters,” McManus says, “and they ultimately become their own people. But they have those little sparks of their creator inside.”

The excerpt above was originally published on Bookpage. Read the full interview here.

On Genre

McManus’s work falls into the darker side of the YA thriller category, however, they are not all sinister and death. She artfully mixes in lighter elements, humor and themes of strong relationships.

“Thrillers give teens a safe space to experience and process the world that we’re living in right now, which is full of conflict and fear,” McManus told Bookpage. “But life is all about balance, right? So I like to try to weave through my narrative the message that even though it’s sort of inevitable to grapple with pain and loss, there’s also room for growth, hope and optimism.”

On Advice

While McManus says that a magical formula for book success doesn’t exist, she does have a few tips for aspiring writers:

“Hone your craft constantly; be respectful and collaborative with all the writers, readers, bloggers, and other industry professionals you meet; and think carefully about the kind of career you want to have so that you can chose the right partners for your journey,” she said in an interview with Who Asked You.

And in an interview with The Spinning Pen, she said:

“Find your writing people. The friends you make as you’re querying and developing your craft are the ones you’ll DM frantically when you get The Call, and the ones who will pre-order your book as soon as it goes up on Amazon. And you’ll do the same for them. Writing can be a solitary business, but the community is so wonderfully supportive.”

On Querying

She also offers helpful advice on querying:

“First, keep it lean. I used to be the queen of the overlong query, but I learned to pare down to the bare essentials of hook, characters, conflict & stakes. Second, make it punchy! Some of the best advice I ever got was to write your query as though it was back copy for a published book. If someone were flipping through titles at a bookstore, would they stop at yours and want to learn more?”

This excerpt was originally published on The Spinning Pen. Read the full interview here.

On Her Movie Deal

Thanks to the incredible success of One of Us Is Lying, fans can now look forward to watching the story unfold on the big screen. Film rights have been optioned by Universal Cable Productions and a pilot order was placed for NBCUniversal's new streaming service. The pilot was cast last fall, and directed in November, McManus shares on her website.

No further information is available at this time, so, for now, we’ll sink our teeth into finding out what happens Next.

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